Did you miss Part 4? Read it Here
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!
Settlers began moving to the Three Mile Lake area in the mid-19th century assisted through the promotion of the Government of Canada’s Free Land Grant: a system awarding property as an incentive to encourage development of sparsely populated areas; and one that led directly to the Muskoka Settlement era of the mid-1800s. Jake’s Point was the first developed section of land surrounding Three Mile Lake, and was first settled by only a few families: the Morleys, Pickerings, Sheas, Sufferns, and Gotts. In 1866, Gotts Lodge No.229 was built; a bright orange structure that drew the attention of onlookers and became an iconic part of the landscape; later being renamed Three Mile Lake 229. Dee Bank was the next area surrounding Three Mile Lake to be developed; with the construction of a general store, hotel, sawmill, and Presbyterian Church. As the Presbyterians settled in Dee Bank, the Methodists built their own church in the Ufford area. In addition to the aforementioned developments, John Shannon built one of the largest flour mills in the area, on the banks of Three Mile Lake in 1871, which added to the local industry, and boosted development of the area, evidenced by the construction of a schoolhouse at the end of the 19th century. With a 31.2 km of shoreline perimeter, and 8.8 sq. km of surface area, Three Mile Lake is significantly smaller than any of the Muskoka Lakes, which is an appreciable feature for anyone interested in a quieter cottage experience. With roughly 620 waterfront properties, Three Mile Lake is nevertheless a prime destination for cottage living, water skiing, tubing, and fishing; yet it offers a more relaxed atmosphere than the larger lakes in Muskoka.
Did you miss Part 1? Read it Here.
Located on Bala Bay, on the western coast of Lake Muskoka, and marked by many bare outcroppings of the Canadian Shield as well as the famous Bala Falls, lies the town of Bala; settled by Thomas Burgess in 1868, who opened a sawmill and general store to serve the settlers scattered among the area. Burgess named it after the town of Bala, in the Bala Lake area of Wales. Bala’s first post office opened in 1872, with Burgess as postmaster. Unsuitable for farming given its rocky Canadian Shield geography, Bala’s economy began to decline with a downturn in the logging industry. However, with the expansion of the railway bringing rail service to the area in 1907, Bala was reinvigorated as a tourist destination, and a popular location for summer resorts and cottages. The town incorporated in 1914, and A.M. Burgess, son of Thomas Burgess, became the first mayor of Bala, which was, at the time, the smallest incorporated town in Canada. It remained so until it amalgamated with the Muskoka Lakes Township in 1971. Known as the Cranberry Capital of Ontario; with cranberries being the one crop that really thrived in the area; the town hosts the Bala Cranberry Festival during harvest season each autumn.
The community now known as Torrance was settled in 1870 by three men; William Torrance, Joseph Coulter, and George Jestin; and their families—all originally from Eramosa, a small community near Guelph, Ontario. Torrance, Coulter, and Jestin traveled to Muskoka in 1869 to investigate a Free Land Grant offer made by the Government of Canada. After realizing the sheer beauty and boundless potential of the area, they relocated their families to start life anew in Muskoka; each purchasing 100 acres of land for $0.75 apiece. William Torrance, as the first postmaster of the community, was honoured when the town was given his name. By 1906, the railway had reached Torrance, expanding its potential as a tourist destination and summer resort community. Torrance is proud of its history; and as the only stop in West Muskoka on Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Canada in 1959; the community named Queen’s Walk Road in her honour.
With a name almost as unequivocally English as “The Shire”, it comes as no surprise that Windermere was named after a lake in England—situated in Lake District National Park, it is in fact the largest natural lake in all of England. Windermere, Ontario, on the other hand is a small, scenic village on the eastern coast of Lake Rosseau, originally settled during the Muskoka Settlement in the latter half of the 19th century. The development of Windermere was headed primarily by three men: Francis Forge, a successful farmer and employee of business magnate Timothy Eaton; David Fife, a businessman working in the resort and tourism industry, and founder of Fife House (unfortunately demolished in 1970); and Thomas Aitkens, community postmaster and founder of Windermere House, once a prestigious boarding house, now a popular four-star resort and vacation destination. Unfortunately, in 1996, at 127 years old, the original Windermere House burned to the ground during the filming of The Long Kiss Goodnight. It was faithfully rebuilt in the original Victorian style in 1997. Windermere is also home to the stunning and beautifully maintained Windermere Golf & Country Club. Forge, Fife, and Aitkens are honoured in a memorial window mounted in the local Windermere United Church, for their contributions made toward the development of the area.
Continue to Part 3