Discover Ontario's history as told through its plaques
2004 - Now in our 13th Year - 2017
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Burwash Industrial Farm
Photo by contributor Kal Biro - Posted September, 2006
The District of Sudbury
The Township of Burwash
Exit Hwy 69 at the Hwy 637 interchange (35 km south of Sudbury) then head westbound toward Killarney. No sooner are you off the interchange and onto Hwy 637 then you will turn right onto Burwash Farm Road North (the old 2-lane Hwy 69). It is about 6 km to the plaque which is on the north side of the road about 17 m before the stop sign.
(New directions August 2013 from contributor Blair Olsen)
Coordinates: N 46 15.795 W 80 48.710
Burwash Industrial Farm was established in 1914 based on the revolutionary premise that low-risk inmates would benefit from the exercise and skills learned while working outdoors at self-supporting institutions. Burwash Industrial Farm accommodated between 180 and 820 minimum and medium security offenders with sentences of three months to two years less a day. Over time, it grew to occupy 14,100 ha owned and 40,800 ha leased, housing three permanent camp sites, several temporary ones, and a town of prison staff families with a population of 600 to 1,000 people. Prison inmates provided labour to build the entire community and ran an extensive mixed farm, a tailor shop, and a prosperous logging operation. Burwash Industrial Farm was one of the largest reform institutions in 20th century Ontario. It closed in 1975 because of changes in correctional practices.
Related Ontario plaque
Related Toronto plaque
Don Jail 1859-1864
Here are the visitors' comments for this page.
> Posted January 29, 2017
Hi. I am looking for a list of inmates that were at the Burwash prison/farm. Can anyone help me? Maybe between 1950-1970.
Thx Valerie firstname.lastname@example.org
> Posted June 22, 2016
Hello, I have accidentally come across this site. I have letters dated Burwash 1947 from an inmate named Lloyd Nichollas (not sure of spelling or inmate number). This man, if still alive, would be about 94 years old. My interest is that in the letters, he claims to be my father. I would appreciate any suggestions on tracing him, dead or alive.
Sincerely, Lorraine Cannon email@example.com
> Posted September 19, 2015
My dad was in Burwash as an inmate in the 60's. I find myself visiting places my dad had told me stories about after his passing, like the town he was born in. I recall a few stories about Burwash and felt the need to go there, but in my journey I was not able to find the town. This correctional facility did educate and help some. My dad was one. He started to learn about Stationary Engineering in Burwash and ultimately became the youngest Chief Stationary Engineer in Ontario. It would have been nice to find the town and feel just a little piece of my dad's memories. I just thought I would share a little bit of good that I know of that came from this correctional facility.
> Posted August 16, 2015
My name is Steve Smith I escaped from burwash in 1971. I'm writing a book about the consequences.
http://captain-anatine.tumblr.com/. Scroll down to captain anatine. It's blog format so it's not in proper order but it begins with the Jon Ronson intro.
> Posted July 14, 2015
I was at Burwash when the plaque was dedicated with many Burwash people and old MPP Monte Kwinter. They had a gathering in Sudbury and the people brought many old relics from Burwash. I worked at another big provincial prison farther south in the province. I got carried away with Ontario correctional officers who died in the business. A few died at Burwash. Ira Sefton Smith was one, Charlie Oxby was another. There was also a fellow by the name of Stephenson who I would like to find out about too. I was so fortunate to get in contact with Charlie Oxby's daughter before she passed away. She passed on from cancer but just before she died she had her husband send me some info and papers of Charlie's. Vince Murray got me involved with searching out correctional officers for the Parliament Hill Memorial in Ottawa some years ago. Vince has now passed on but I'm up to about 20 Ontario correctional officers who have died on the job. I'm pretty sure I'm missing one or two from Burwash.
Scott Robnerts - Guelph firstname.lastname@example.org
> Posted April 7, 2015
I have a question but 1st a blast from the past.
I grew up in Sudbury during the 60's and every summer my family would drive Hwy 69 to Toronto to visit relatives. I recall asking my Dad as a 10 yr. old in the back seat of the car "why we couldn't pick up hitch-hikers" along the Burwash stretch of Hwy #69. My Dad told us many stories about Burwash. For instance escaped inmates would be eaten alive by black flies during the summer months and escapee's would beg Guards to let them back in the prison after a night in the bush! Of course Dad would stretch the eaten alive part. According to Dad, bad inmates were intentionally left in the bush for one night and of course they never misbehaved again. Another was "you can always tell the difference between real hitch-hikers and Burwash hitch-hikes by their chicken pocks" [black fly bites to their faces and hands]. Dad would end his stories by saying ... "so don't get on the wrong side of the law son, otherwise Burwash it will be"!
I have a question. Does anyone know if there is any public record of inmate names serving time in Burwash during the 1960's?
David Burgess email@example.com
> Posted March 29, 2015
Hello. Does anyone know my mother Syliva (Fong) Brennan who lived there in the late 50's/ early sixties?
Regards, Sara firstname.lastname@example.org
> Posted July 31, 2014
I have just recently visited Burwash jail. I was in awe with the history the building spoke. I will be returning to visit the areas I couldn't visit due to water. We were able to gather a few assumptions on rooms. Of what they were etc... currently there are no longer any toilets standing and only one cell door. The remainder are unfortunate gone. There is a lot of vandalism and fire damage. Visiting this historic place has created an itch to visit more of its kind! Truly a magnificent building of history. I would love to visit the town if anyone knows how to access the town. Fyi!- I capture pictures of memories not items. email@example.com
> Posted May 24, 2013
I am a student at Cambrian college and I come from the chemical valley near Sarnia. Let me tell you we have nothing like Burwash where I come from and camping here has been a massive experience for me. The freedom at Burwash is clean and unpolluted by anything. Burwash forever strong and free.
> Posted January 26, 2013
I grew up in Burwash, was there from 56 to 66. My name is Robbie Charles. I would like to hear from the past.
My email address is HARDRUNNER97@live.com
> Posted October 5, 2012
I have fond memories of Burwash as an inmate in the 60s and 70s..I actually did walk out with my Masonry ticket. However my memories are somewhat different than those of the "villagers". I too am glad to see Bison standing but disappointed by all the damage caused by the paintballers..That was actually a very nice building as jails go and one could even say homey. I was there in 69 and 72 and worked in the tailor shop...In 72 the Bluebird bus would take us every morning to "Mr Bill's" masonry shop at Main Camp...I remember Lt Russell the Scot.."Tay up yer boots lad" was his famous quip......I had a lot of fun there I will disappoint some of you by saying .. My life is vastly different now though not one bit of that can I attribute to the correctional practices of the day ...When I see it now it just reminds me of the end of the movie Papillon as the camera pans over the overgrowth.,.Good riddance to it all...With respect to your memories ..We may have been on opposite sides, but we shared one of the most beautiful and magnificent parts of this country and world ..It was pure and rich ..
Garry Sullivan firstname.lastname@example.org
> Posted July 7, 2012
I used to hang out there as a teenager! Ohhh some 27 yrs or so..lol. I lived out in the valley (Hanmer, ON) about an hour away. Back than the town was still standing around 1986. It was a really cool place to explore as a teenager. The big huge built-in bookshelves in the living rooms on either side of the beautiful fireplaces. I was amazed that a whole town was still up and in such good shape and yet the government wasn't cashing in on this??? Well that didn't last long as we are all aware. And you can be certain that I was raised with enough "respect" to NOT vandalize anything. I am so disgusted by the lack of respect from viewers. Do we not all want to still keep coming and showing it off ...maybe even to our own children? I have but it certainly isn't the way I got to experience it. It's such a shame! I remember once going into the large gymnasium that was boarded up but with a busted door on it...I walked in and it was pitch black. I could feel the hardwood floors under my feet buckled up and the warped wood curled like I was standing on the ocean's wave. Then all of a sudden I looked up and saw thousands and thousands of red dots. As I tried to focus in the dark I suddenly realized what I was looking at...1000's of bats!!! Well stupidly, I let out an automatic scream like a teenage girl and they exploded all around us! That made things worse for my over active mind...my long hair! Oh no, they're gonna get caught in my long hair! I bolted out of there faster than my feet could take me! One time we went inside this green house . We still refer to it as the green house . It doesn't exist anymore but when we entered it, there was an overwhelming bad evil-like feeling all around us in there. The funny thing is, there were 4 of us there and we all felt it and we all felt incredibly uneasy, but only when I decided to speak up did my fellow friends let out their breath. They were holding it and all exploded with yeah, I feel it! We dared each other to go down in the basement because that is where I could literally feel the energy from but neither of us was brave or should I say, stupid enough! Whef! I'll never know what happened in that green house but I do know that the energy in that house was thick with evil. It literally made your heart race with anxiety. I also remember going up to the old barn. That was cool too! It was so picturesque! Oh and the old country white church with the beautiful stained glass windows. Even the church pews were still in there! But there was vandalism back than too, just not to the extent it is now. And I remember how incredibly disrespectful to vandalize a church! Even the jail cells still had all their doors and toilets back then. Now everyone of them is smashed beyond recognition! It's just a shame what people have done to what little we have left.
> Posted June 19, 2012
This plaque was only put in place because of the persistence of some of the former residents of the village. The Government had completely washed their hands of the site until these citizens, with Bill James as the spearhead, started lobbying for a plaque in recognition of a big piece of Ontario's correctional history.
Norma (Frizell) Beauchemin
> Posted April 11, 2012
My grandfather was a guard in Burwash and raised my father and their family there. My father took me there to visit before it was bulldozed and I'm glad he did. It was a revolutionary program for corrections. My paternal family line was the Larocque's and my maternal was Jarbeau (from Field).
Email address: email@example.com
> Posted July 31, 2011
I was born in Burwash and have the most happy memories of being raised in a safe place were a community was one happy family. Now I drive by on 69 --- our home --- is now bush everything bulldozed away because of political sway at the time because of not being a useful entity as a prison a place where the inmates could get their electricians' papers, stationary engineers papers, mechanics papers, learn about animal husbandry, become skilled carpenters and painters. They made clothes for other prisons as well as Burwash etc. Now they just languish in cells most of the day.
> Posted March 26, 2011
My Dad Charlie Kelly (Ireland) was a guard there in the early 50s.
> Posted December 6, 2010
My dad taught school at Burwash,grade 7 and 8. We moved there in 1956 and dad taught til it closed in 75. Does anyone know where Elizabeth Cook is? Her brother Chris was a friend of Raymond Dore. I would appreciate any leads,
Thear Clark, email@ firstname.lastname@example.org
> Posted October 24, 2010
I remember as a young man, I made many trips from Toronto to a small town mid-way between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. I knew I was nearing the Burwash farm when I started seeing signs that said, "Do NOT pick up pedestrians". The signs, of course, disappeared a LONG time ago.
> Posted October 7, 2010
As a history student in the northern Ontario, I find this site fascinating and wish to visit in the near future!
> Posted June 18, 2009
My father-in-law grew up in Burwash, Ontario where his father worked as a prison guard. This is where we also spread his ashes after he had passed away. If anyone is ever out that way look for a lone tree that has a well off to the side and that is where he rests. Peaceful and a beautiful scene. I would like to see more pic's of the old days and see if I can find a photo of my father-in-law and his dad at work.
> Posted March 31, 2009
Very interesting.I lived in Burwash from 1947 to 1962. I would like to find a record of people who worked in Burwash over the years from start up to closure. My Dad worked there from 1946 to 1967.
William (Bill) Cartledge
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