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A Brief History of Muskoka: Part 5 – Milford Bay & Beaumaris

February 29th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 1 comment

Did you miss Part 4? Read it Here

Milford Bay

Milford Bay is a small town on the northeastern coast of Lake Muskoka, built on a section of lake named (you guessed it!) Milford Bay; an inlet sheltered from the rest of Lake Muskoka by Tondern Island. Established along with the rest of Muskoka in the second half of the 19th century, thanks largely to The Free Grants and Homestead Act of 1868—which allowed settlers to claim up to 100 acres of land, provided they met certain conditions regarding the development of the land; 200 acres in extenuating circumstances—Milford Bay grew alongside Tondern Island, to which it has been connected by bridge since the 1870s. Capitalizing on Muskoka’s growing tourism industry, Robert Stroud; an early settler of Milford Bay who moved to the area in 1873; built the Milford Bay House in 1887, on a plot of land known as Huckleberry Rock. While a popular destination for new settlers and tourists alike, Milford Bay House was unfortunately burned to the ground in a terrible fire in 1933. Today, still a popular spot among tourists and cottagers, Milford Bay provides an important link to Tondern Island.


Beaumaris is a small settlement located on Tondern Island in Lake Muskoka; which, as mentioned above, is strategically linked to the mainland by a bridge at Milford Bay as it has been since the 1870s. Tondern Island, with a total area of 338 acres, was originally purchased from the crown by Paul Dane, an Irish immigrant, in 1868 for a total price of $101. Upon his death in 1871, ownership of the island passed to his nephew Maurice John McCarthy, who sold the island to brothers-in-law John Willmott and Edward Prowse in 1873. Prowse and Willmott are attributed with developing the settlement on Tondern Island, which they named Beaumaris. This included the construction of a bridge, connecting Tondern Island to the mainland at Milford Bay; the clearing of a section of forest to be converted to pasture; and the installation of a dock, which led to Beaumaris becoming an important transit point during the steamship era. As Muskoka became an increasingly popular tourist destination and word spread of Beaumaris’ natural beauty and excellent fishing, Willmott and Prowse profited through further calculated developments: Willmott opened an eponymous general store; and Prowse established the Beaumaris Hotel, which saw great success thanks its location midway between Port Carling and Bracebridge, and the rapid increase in steamship travel coupled with the majestic pier he built near the hotel. As many patrons of the hotel were known to spend entire seasons there, and demand for purchasable land increased, Willmott and Prowse began parceling and selling lots to vacationers seeking permanent residence. Thus the first cottages on Tondern Island were developed. As for the Beaumaris Hotel, it remained a popular getaway among vacationers until July 21, 1945, when it was burned in an act of arson by Edward John Van Buren, who was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 2 years in prison. The hotel was never rebuilt. Instead, the land on which it once stood is now part of the Beaumaris Golf Club. In addition to the golf club, Beaumaris is also home to the Beaumaris Yacht Club and the Beaumaris Marina. Tondern Island is one of the most desirable locations for vacation property in Muskoka, and certainly not one to be overlooked.

This concludes our brief history of Muskoka series. We hope you enjoyed it!

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One comment

[…] Skeleton Lake   Skeleton Lake is a crystal clear spring-fed lake 17 km west of Huntsville, with a rich history rooted in aboriginal folklore. While surveying the north shore, workers happened upon two human skeletons lying on the rocks. Local inquiry into the origin of the skeletons led settlers to an Ojibwe tribe, whose chief recounted the story of how his people had camped on the north shore of the lake one particularly harsh winter. Food was scarce, and the tribe had to move on or suffer continued starvation and death. An adolescent boy, too weak and ill from starvation, was unable to make the journey and needed to be left behind. His mother, unwilling to abandon her son, remained with him while the tribe left in search of food. Both died and Skeleton Lake was named in their honour, as a reminder of a mother’s undying love for her son, and of the ultimate sacrifice she made for him.   The lake is thought to have been formed when a meteorite struck the area over 800-million years ago. Altered by several glacial periods, what now remains as Skeleton Lake is a gorgeous, limestone-bedded lake, with clear shining waters; and—with fewer and less distinct bays and peninsulas—the largest body of truly open water in the Muskoka area, making it ideal for water sports such as windsurfing and sailing.   Continue to Part 5 […]

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