Osaca History (no, not Japan) Ontario

What does the word ‘Osaca’ mean and who named this village? In Japanese Osaka (spelled with a “k”) means “a large hill or slope”. In this little village in Ontario it might describe the pleasant drive mostly uphill north on Northumberland County Road 65 from Port Hope to Osaca village. Shown below is the local school house as it is today.

The school sits atop a hill and if you look northward you can see for miles around. This small hamlet was established on Lot 27 on the 5th and 6th Concession of Hope, approximately ten miles north of the town of Port Hope Ontario. The first settler in the hamlet was the family of James Elliott about 1830. In 1869, Elliott was elected as the Reeve of the Township. On his property he “erected upon the excellent water privilege of the creek” he established the Osaca Flouring Mills with a run of three stones, later carried on by E. J. Barker (Est. 1868). An early E. J. Barker ad: “The Osaca Flouring Mills, Hope, Ontario (Osaca) proclaimed “Merchant Miller, Wholesale and retailer in all the usual grades of Flour, Shorts, Chop, Bran, Oatmeal, Cracked Wheat, Graham Flour, Indian Meal, etc. The Highest Cash Prices paid for Wheat etc. With Promptness. E. J. Barker, Osaca, Hope”.

The Flouring mills were located north of the village on Bell’s Hill Road. This road has a few memories for the 2oldguys in the early days of exploring ‘No Exit’ roads when we parked the Bushwhacker’s four wheel drive truck on the side of this road. We walked a short distance north up this road trying to find the elusive old mill we knew was once nearby. We soon came upon two bridges across Ganaraska River tributaries, of course we forgot the cameras! Because we respect private property, we turned back to the truck and never did find any sign of a flour mill, it is likely that the ruins have been washed away in floods and ‘Mother Earth” has taken over the site. A few years later we retuned to the site and both bridges had disappeared. At one time Bell’s Hill did continue north to the next concession.

Hope Township was originally one of six townships of Durham County. An early Northumberland & Durham Directory of Osaca listed local land owners/tenants: 5th Concession: John Alley, E. J. Barker (Osaca Flour Mills), Edward Bone, J. Bissett, John Cinnamon, Alex Caruthers (Blacksmith), James Cathcart (Blacksmith), Douglas Salomon, John Deyell (Shoemaker), James Dodd, Nicholas Dodd, Jonas Friar, Robert Gilroy (Showman), James Parsons and John Murray Jr.

6th Concession: Edward Bone, Thomas Brimicombe, Hugh Caruthers, Thomas Dunn, John Elliott, Alexander Elliott, Thomas Elliott, H. Elliott (Township Reeve), Thomas Jeffery, John Murray Sr., Samuel Parsons, Roderick Mitchell, Richard Prouse and Roderick Rutherford.

A Post Office was soon established by David Gordon as its Post Master. At this time the hamlet population was about one hundred. Post Mistress, Miss Sarah Prouse operated the office between 1914 and 1933. There was at one time a General Store and Mr. Alex Caruthers was the “village blacksmith”. A short distance up the creek (Ganaraska River) was the sawmill of Mr. Samuel Parsons on the west side of the first bridge on County Road 65 north of Osaca.

A one room redbrick public school was built on a hill “with a large locust tree in front with Manitoba maples around its perimeter” at the north west corner of the village in 1873, Osaca S. S. 10. A 1948 photograph shows the school and its students listing the names: Jim Boughen, Lawrence Boyko, Helen Bojeczko, Ross Todd, Stella Bojeczko, Mary Kutrowski, Chester Fronz, Frank Kutrowski, Nyle James, Jimmy Soul and Philip Boyko. The teacher, Miss Joan Faircloth arrived in Osaca from Port Arthur at the age of nineteen. During the war years, grade twelve students were allowed to teach upon completing a six week course. Later teachers were Miss Bushy and Miss Ketchum. The students at this school came from Decker Hollow to the west, Forest Green to the east, Eden to the north and Prouse’s Hill to the south. Local farm kids, with additional children coming from immigrant farm workers who had left postwar Europe under contract to local tobacco farms, filled the school for many years. The school used standard text books and reader for each grade, texts were used for spelling, arithmetic and reading. A box stove fueled with split maple and beech wood, shielded by a metal guard on three sides was a great place to dry wet mittens and socks. School information: local historian, Phil Boyco. This brings back vivid memories of my years in a one room school in Camborne, in the winter, we would bring a potato wrapped in tinfoil and leave it on the stove for a great hot baked potato for lunch.

OneOsaca 2 sec

An interesting story on the above mentioned Decker Hollow: Today this hamlet is truly a ‘ghost town’. Robert Decker with four sons came to Hope Township in 1834 and erected a grist mill and a sawmill at the headwaters of the Ganaraska River on Lot 34, Concession 6. This pioneer village included a general store, a tavern (David Decker in 1867), a blacksmith shop and several homes.. The mills operated until 1870. From 1850-1870 drastic changes in local transportation such as the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Railroad (later named the Midland RR in 1857) and improved roads in the area greatly reduced traffic to the Hollow. When serious floods washed out the mill dams around 1870, the Oak Ridges Moraine had been fully depleted of its trees. More floods over the next forty years washed the village away. In 1847 the Ganaraska Forest was replanted which saved the watershed and Moraine from further damage. Today there is nothing left of this early village. Several years ago the 2oldguys on tour discovered the former Decker Hollow site. Ironically, today there is only a small roadside sign that proclaims “Welcome to Decker Hollow. Population 7”.

OsacaTwo 2 sec

Osaca village seemed destined to grow when the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) made its first passenger (free) inaugural run through the village in 1911 with several coaches leaving the Trenton station, picking up passengers along the route including Port Hope, Osaca, Starkville, Orono, Brooklin, Bowmanville and Oshawa etc. to Toronto. On reaching Toronto this train was hauling fifteen coaches with over a thousand passengers. Unfortunately the railroad was bankrupt by 1918 and the Canadian Government Railway was trusted with the board of directors of the CNoR, assumed control and appointed a new board of directors. In 1919, the Government owned Canadian National Railway was officially created. The Canadian National Railway took over many of the redundant and failing rail lines like the CNoR. In 1942, the Canadian National closed the Osaca and Brooklin stations. The railroads demise greatly slowed the village’s future growth. Today, this quaint little village remains largely a rural farming community.

Regards,

Ranger.

6 comments

  1. Ingrid Kern · · Reply

    Hi Old Guys, thanks for another interesting history lesson of rural Ontario. We’ll check it out.

    Could you correct the date error, in the 2nd last sentence. I assume that CN closed that line in 1942, not 1842. Cheers, Stay well, Ingrid Kern, loyal follower of your wonderful Blogs

    On Mon., Sep. 20, 2021, 8:32 a.m. 2 Old Guys Walking, wrote:

    > 2oldguyswalking posted: ” What does the word ‘Osaka’ mean and who named > this village? In Japanese it means “a large hill or slope”. In this little > village in Ontario it might describe the pleasant drive mostly uphill north > on Northumberland County Road 65 from Port Hope to Osak” >

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    1. Ingrid Kern, thanks for your reply, my ‘bad’, of course you are correct. I was only a 100 years off on this. You saved me a lot of possible embarrassment for our readers who read this post. Thanks again for your interest in our rural Ontario histories.
      Ranger.

      Like

  2. Patricia Davidson · · Reply

    Please note that the little community as well as the road name is spelled OSACA.

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    1. Patricia, Hello again. Comment is noted. The Osaca post explained that Osaca with a ‘K’ is the Japanese spelling meaning “a large hill or slope”. The road and community signs appear to be correct as Osaca or OSACA. Thanks again for keeping me on my toes.
      Ranger.

      Like

  3. Don Linton · · Reply

    I was acquainted with fine old gentleman, history buff Jackson Peacock who lived just NE of Elizabethville. He has passed on now however he asked if I knew how Osaca got its name. The local blacksmith made axes and I believe he said he had a sign ” Old Style Alexander Chopping Axes”

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    1. Don, great comment, this Osaca name could be just about as accurate as some others. Do you have any suggestions for where the tiny hamlet of Knoxville Ontario acquired its name?
      Ranger.

      Like

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