A lively book illustrated with archival photos, Secrets of Lake Simcoe is a valuable addition to local history collections and provides a refreshing way for anyone to view what some consider to be Canada's sixth Great Lake.
At the heart of central Ontario, Lake Simcoe has played an important role in the province's history for hundreds of years. Today a popular destination for pleasure-seekers and cottagers, it helped open up the region to explorers and fur traders, settlers and entrepreneurs.
The lake has secrets aplenty and this book offers a selection of stories of dramatic episodes from the lake's past. There are shipwrecks, stately resorts, vanished industries, forgotten forts and even murder most foul.
About the Author
ANDREW HIND is a freelance writer who lives in Bradford, Ontario. His feature articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers across Canada, in the United States, and in England. Andrew developed a passion for history early on, especially for unusual and obscure events that are typically overlooked or quickly forgotten. He hopes, through his writing, to bring these fascinating stories to light for a modern audience.
MARIA DA SILVA has always had a passion for history and ghost stories. Though she came from a country (Portugal) that is full of history and the unknown, she never dreamed that her future would lead her into writing about the forgotten and the unexplained. Maria's work, co-authored with Andrew Hind, has appeared in publications such as Fate and Mystery Magazine.
Read an Excerpt
Introduction Even a quick look at a map of Ontario reveals one inescapable geographic reality: Lake Simcoe dominates the central part of the province. It's big by far the largest body of water between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron and it's located right in the heart of the province. But not only does Lake Simcoe dominate the map, it dominates the history of central Ontario as well, and that's what Secrets of Lake Simcoe sets out to explore through a collection of fascinating and largely unknown stories. How many know that Lake Simcoe played a vital role in safeguarding Canada during the War of 1812, that explorer Sir John Franklin passed through it during one of his Arctic explorations, or that Ontario's original cottage country was located here rather than in Muskoka? Not many. It seems that the deep waters of Lake Simcoe guards its secrets well, as if jealously hoarding a precious treasure. And in a sense these stories are a treasure, as they tell much about Ontario's development. At 48 kilometres (30 miles) long and 29 kilometres (18 miles) wide and with a maximum depth of 41 meters (136 feet), Lake Simcoe is huge. Some have likened it to a sixth Great Lake. It certainly qualifies, if not for its size then for its historic importance: for centuries, in the era when there were no roads and the landscape was covered with impenetrable forests, Lake Simcoe was the most important waterway in the province. It formed a vital link between Lakes Ontario and Huron, helping open up the north and the west for natives, fur traders, soldiers, explorers, settlers, and industrialists. It's impossible to pinpoint when Lake Simcoe first began its rise to prominence. The lake played an important role in the lives of the Huron and Ojibwa natives who inhabited most of central Ontario and had done so for hundreds, likely thousands of years. The natives paddled its length in birchbark canoes while trading and conducting war, fished its depths to supplement their diets, and established settlements along its shores. The Huron called Lake Simcoe Ouentaron, or "the beautiful lake." To the Ojibwa it was Wahweyagahmah, "round lake." But whatever name they called it, to native peoples Lake Simcoe was an important element of their lifestyle. Seventeen-year-old Etienne Br l was the first European to see Lake Simcoe when he was sent to scout the interior in 1610. Samuel de Champlain, the famed explorer, followed a few years later in 1615. But while several Jesuit missions were established in the area to convert natives to Christianity, and there may have been fur-trade forts as well, in general the French did little to develop or exploit Lake Simcoe (which they called Lac aux Claies, "lake of the fish weirs," in reference to the native fishing fences at the narrows between Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching) during the two centuries it was part of New France. In 1763, at the end of the Seven Years War, Canada became a British possession and shortly after, Lake Simcoe became a hive of activity. Canoes and bateaux belonging to the North West Company, a fur trading enterprise, began to pass over the lake with ever-increasing frequency as the fur trade gathered momentum. Then, in 1793, Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe saw the lake while surveying the province's interior and gave it its modern name. Though some believe Simcoe egotistically named the lake for himself, in actual fact it was intended to honor his father, Captain John Simcoe of the Royal Navy. Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe was preoccupied with the very real possibility of an American invasion of Canada and began building Yonge Street from York (present-day Toronto) to the shores of Lake Simcoe as the first leg of an overland route to Lake Huron following the old native/fur trader route. Simcoe knew that traffic along Lakes Ontario and Erie could easily be disrupted by enemy ships, severing British ties to the West, but an overland route through central Ontario was far more difficult to sever. The wisdom of Simcoe's preparations was revealed in 1812 when the United States declared war and invaded: during the conflict that followed, Yonge Street and Lake Simcoe played a pivotal role in keeping the country from falling into American hands. After the War of 1812, settlement of Lake Simcoe's shores was not long in coming. Holland Landing, situated at the northern end of Yonge Street and with access to Lake Simcoe via the Holland River, became the gateway to the region and a thriving port community. From here, settlements slowly spread up the shores of the lake, and eventually further into the interior. For decades most traffic bound for or from the lake, whether it was people or goods, passed through this town. It was only with the arrival of rail lines in the 1850s that Holland Landing began to lose its position of prominence. While most settlers were common folk from the British Isles, the government encouraged retired military officers to settle the