and the Ghosts of The Old Hastings Road
The wee village of Ormsby is one of six 'ghost towns' that exist along
The Old Hastings settlement road between Madoc and Bancroft. While
Umphraville, Thanet, Murphy Corners, and Glanmire have all but
disappeared, Ormsby still survives, situated as it is on Hwy 620, five
minutes east of Coe Hill.
called Rathbun, after the logging company, the town thrived in the late
1800s as the last stop on the Central Ontario Railway. On
a Friday night it wasn't unusual to see 30 teams and wagons pulling in
at the station to load supplies dropped from the train. Settlers,
farmers, hunters and trappers came from all around, many stopping at
the hotel bar until the wee hours, perhaps contributing to Ormsby's
reputation as a wild town.
Maybe it was the need for a
'sobering' influence that led to the establishment of 3 churches along
with 2 hotels, 3 stores, a school, a blacksmith shop, an Orange hall
and a Sons of England hall.
Kate & Billy Park circa 1915
As the railroad was extended to Bancroft in 1900, and the lumber
industry disappeared, most of Ormsby disappeared as well. The Park
family ran the general store from 1915 to 1975 and soon after all that
was left were a handful of homes.
Jean Park at the Ormsby train station circa 1930
Since 2003 however, interest
and activity in the village have returned. Of the five century buildings that remain, the
general store is now The
Old Hastings Mercantile & Gallery, the one-room school has been
restored and given new life as The Old Ormsby Schoolhouse “Educated
Dining” & Tea Room,
while the Catholic church continues weekly mass.
The Presbyterian Church has also
been restored with oil lamps,
wood stove, and tin walls and ceiling.
Renamed The Old Ormsby
Heritage Church, it is now open
daily to the public in the summer, and is used for anniversary and
Christmas services, as well as weddings and special concert events.
While described in 1925 as "one long trail of abandoned farms,
adversity, blasted hopes, broken hearts and exhausted ambition", the
Old Hastings Road continues to attract interest as a winding, rugged
monument to the early pioneers who tried to settle this difficult but