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HomeNewsSecrets In The Soil-Digging Up The History Of Local Inns And Taverns

Secrets In The Soil-Digging Up The History Of Local Inns And Taverns

Written by Jeffrey Burke

KAWARTHA LAKES-Back in the day, the township of Ops was a hub for travellers and locals alike looking for a good drink, a cozy room, and some lively conversation. The main roads in the township, leading to the village of Lindsay, which became a town in 1856, had over a dozen inns and taverns lining the busy roads, Ops Township was a bustling centre of commerce and entertainment.

The site of the old Kelly’s Inn on Highway 7 between Peace Road and Lilac Road.
According to historical records, one of the most famous inns in the area was Kellys Inn, which stood on the now Highway 7 between Reaboro and Omemee (on the south side of the road). The inn was beloved for its hearty meals and comfortable accommodations and was a popular gathering spot for travellers passing through the area by horse-drawn carriage.
Inns and taverns in the 19th century functioned similarly to today’s hotels with bars but with a few key differences. Whereas today you can visit a hotel and enjoy the privacy of your own room these inns were generally smaller than your typical house and provided food and drink on the bottom floor with a dormitory-style sleeping area on the top floor and a livery for horses in the back.  Guests were often charged by the night, and meals and entertainment were available for an additional fee.
Both inns and taverns were commonly used by travellers who needed a place to rest or wanted to be in the company of others while eating and drinking. However, there were also long-term guests who stayed at an inn for weeks or months at a time, often paying the innkeeper for supplementary services like laundry or tailor-made clothes.
In the 19th century, innkeepers and tavern keepers were typically held in high regard in their communities, and their establishments were considered important social institutions. They would often serve as a gathering place for local residents, as well as for travelling salesmen, politicians and other visitors. Taverns in particular were considered the backbone of early Canadian political life, serving as meeting places for political groups and also as popular haunts for orators and anyone who wanted an audience.
In 1850 the Council of the Township of Ops was formed and it was the duty of the council to regulate Taverns and Inns and appoint licensed inspectors, charging a license fee of Five Pounds and Ten Shillings.  For several years there were a number of licence inspectors.  Their duty was to inspect the Inns every three months and see that licences were renewed and fees paid.  There were a number of by-laws which were passed by council which are on record.  In March of 1869, a by-law (184) was passed in which the age of a child who could buy liquor to drink in the tavern was raised from ten years of age to 12 years of age.
Because of the interesting history of Ops Township metal detecting enthusiasts, like myself, have been combing Ops Township to search for treasures from this bygone era. In the present day, most of these structures have been torn down, but those who seek to revisit history and discover hidden treasures are using metal detectors to uncover the secrets that are buried in the soil.
These detectorists scour the countryside searching for lost coins, buttons, jewelry, and other relics that can provide a glimpse into the past. Recently my focus has turned to the former inns and taverns in Ops Township, where artefacts from the 19th century can still be found.
Some of the interesting items that I have found so far include antique keys, coinage personal belongings like cufflinks, porcelain (which of course is not metal, but it can be found in abundance at these sites), a pocket knife, and the occasional silverware. Metal detecting with another enthusiast around the old foundation of Kelly’s Inn he located a 1776 shilling, still in excellent shape.
While metal detecting may seem like a relatively new phenomenon, its roots go back to the 1800’s with Alexander Graham Bell (yes the chap that invented the telephone) experimenting with metal detection as a way to locate the bullet that killed US President James Garfield in 1881. Though I long to go metal detecting over in the old world, where there are thousands of years of history layered on top of each other even here in Ops Township it is demonstrated that there is still so much to be discovered from the past, and metal detecting enthusiasts like myself continue to be determined to unearth those hidden gems that can connect us to a different time.
If you own or live in an old century home, or property of any historical significance, please feel free to reach out to me at 58jeffrey@gmail and I’d be happy to explore your property for treasures buried in your soil.


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