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Burnt River is a hamlet located in the middle of the former Township of Somerville, in the City of Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, Canada. The community is on the Burnt River.
Originally settled in the 1830s, the first name of the community was "Rettie's Crossing," after a local settler's family. Another town further upstream was called "Rettie's Bridge." Mixed-up mail shipments continued until some time in the 1920s, when an unfortunate accident occurred.
At the time, there was a Shell Canada gas station located in the centre of the village, across the road from the current post office. A gentleman arriving in his Model T Ford smashed into the gravity-fed gas pumps and severed the lines connected to the above-ground gasoline storage tank. The gasoline was almost immediately ignited, and flowed like a river, down the main street engulfing everything it touched in flames, until it poured into and spread across the fast-moving river.
Fire equipment was virtually unheard of in the little hamlet at this time, and although there was a well-organized fire brigade, there was little that could be done to save the town, until the 2 o'clock train arrived. The train was stopped across the main crossing, shielding half the town, while the water in the tender was used to extinguish the remaining flames on the south side of the crossing. If you look carefully, you can see the modern construction on one side of the village, while dwellings on the other half consists of older wood and stone masonry.
According to local legend, there were 18 miles of "Burnt River" stretching from there to Cameron Lake. Shortly after this, the Post Office changed its name to "Burnt River," and the former village of "Rettie's Bridge" to the north became known as "Kinmount."
Burnt River is home to two churches, a post office, a branch of the City Of Kawartha Lakes public library, a general store, and a community centre. Many cottagers enjoy the tranquil waters of nearby Four Mile Lake. Farming, forestry and aggregates are continuing industries in and around Burnt River.
Shipments of pine from the Somerville Pinery continued by rail until circa 1982 when operations on the Haliburton Subdivision of the Canadian National Railway was abandoned by Railway Transport Committee order. The line and its rails and appurtenances were removed and sold for scrap in the summer of 1983.
Today, that rail line has been preserved as a recreational trail reaching from Lindsay all the way to Haliburton.
Burnt River can be reached by travelling Ontario Highway 121 north from Fenelon Falls, County Road 44 east from Coboconk or Hwy 121 south from Kinmount. The population of Burnt River in 2005 was 250 people.
Infamous cult leader Roch Thériault once had a commune in the area. His brutal story was immortalized in a film called "Savage Messiah".