Photo of sign
Old sign on the former store
©Jeri Danyleyko

Swords started out in the early 19th century as a simple, unobtrusive railway siding. Originally known by the far more attractive name of Maple Lake Station, the community changed its name in 1925 in recognition of the Sword family’s leadership and their many contributions.

The original Maple Lake settlement was quite scattered. Many of the original settlers had arrived via the Nipissing Colonization Road. Things began to take shape around 1894 after the arrival of the Long Lake Lumber Company. Once the lumber company was operational, they opened a store to service the needs of their workers. As was typical of the times, workers received their pay partially in tokens that they could use at the store in lieu of cash. A post office opened in 1897 with John Sword serving as the first postmaster.

In 1904, Mrs. George Waugh provided a loan to build the village’s first schoolhouse. The school was located on Lot 21, Concession 5, at the south end of the village. It closed in 1936 due to low attendance but reopened in 1941 after attendance increased once again.

In the early days, the Swords family operated many of the town’s original businesses and were responsible for much of its success. At the beginning of the 20th century, John Sword opened the Maple Lake Hotel. The hotel quickly developed a reputation as a favourite stopping point for American tourists seeking thrills and adventure in the “Canadian Wilderness.” P.D. Sword had interests in the Ludgate Lumbering Company and Thomas Sword operated the general store and post office until his death in 1923. Eliza Sword, known as Lyde, continued operating the store and post office until 1930, expanding the operation to include gas pumps. The Lawson family took over the post office and store in 1930.

Ironically, by the time the town’s name officially changed, its slow descent had already started. After the lumbering had ended and the tourist trains stopped, there was little else to keep Swords going. Swords’ decline dragged on through the 1950s. The school finally closed for good in 1958. The Maple Lake Club took it over. The post office and store lasted until 1966.

A number of Swords’ early vestiges still stand. A few of the old lumber company homes and other outbuildings lurk behind the foliage. The schoolhouse beautifully restored and now used as a community centre, sits about a kilometre south of the community. The old railway name board is nailed on to a tree. And the general store, once the centre of the community, still stands somewhat weathered, with the old tin advertising signs slowly rusting on the side of the building. The farmland in the area is particularly lush and a handful of residents continue to remain.

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