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History of the Romany Ranch Cottagers’ Association

In its early days, the property that became Romany Ranch was pasture land for Wildon Imrie and his family, who built the brick farmhouse which, today, stands vacant at the top of the Balsam Grove hill. After the Imrie family had moved from that farmhouse in 1919, they maintained the mile of lakeshore property for summer pasture, and every May drove their 70-75 head of cattle the 16 miles from Woodville to Balsam Lake. They first built a cottage on the shore in 1930, later renting it out to other families when a new (the current) Imrie cottage was built in 1947.

In 1938-39 the Imries negotiated to sell all but 300 ft of the lakefront property to A.M. Fulton, a lawyer from Lindsay, who subdivided the remainder into cottage lots and offered them for sale. Beach lots sold for $5.00 per foot in 1938, rising to $7.50 by 1941 as demand set in. Mr. Fulton also sold the remaining land to cattle rancher, Arthur Webster. For a number of years, a kids’ camp, called Romany Ranch, was situated on the road, and that is how the road acquired its name.

Lots of families were drawn to build cottages at Romany Ranch in those early years during World War II. Dave Murray recalls that his father was attracted there from their spot on Sturgeon Lake by the beautiful clear water and abundance of fish. Many helped each other clear their land and build family cottages, a number of which remain (if somewhat updated) today. Wives usually came up at the end of June with the kids and stayed all summer, while the husbands made the long journey from work in the city on weekends. Grocery shopping was often done by boat or canoe. Milk and ice were originally delivered by Hector Heatherington, who had bought the Imrie farmhouse and land up the hill. The residents took turns meeting the mailman and delivering mail to each other, and electricity was installed about 1945.

The cottagers of Romany Ranch started holding a Labour Day corn roast to celebrate the strong community that their collective efforts had engendered. The Romany Ranch Cottagers’ Association was formed in 1941, with its first meeting around Scobies’ pump. The first executive (believed to have been Spencer Murray, Harry Long, Jack Douglas, Ken Strangway and Jim Magee) planned the first canoe and boat races and the corn roast, which later became a picnic. Subsequent years saw activities like children’s races, the famous “greased pole” event and bingo added, as well as a golf tournament. The Association also negotiated milk and bread delivery to Romany Ranch each year, as well as snow plowing and garbage pick-up, and looked out for the fishing and environmental interests of the cottagers on Balsam Lake. Many of its current members are the children of the original executive, who have themselves been very active in the RRCA over its 70-odd years. The special sense of community that arose here from the experiences of those families sustains the spirit of the RRCA even into today.

 

This article was written by Karen Perry.   Thank you Karen!