Thomas Burgess originally from Scotland settled in the area of Bala in 1868. He named the town after the Bala Lake area in Wales. Mr. Burgess was the town's first post master when the office opened in 1872, the same time that the Musquosh Road joined Bala to Gravenhurst. Rail Service arrived in 1907. Bala consists of 3 islands connected by bridges. It was granted town status in 1914 at which time Dr. A. M. Burgess one of Thomas Burgess's sons became its first mayor. Bala is known as the cranberry capital of Ontario and has a cranberry festival in the fall.
Bush Watersports Park -Muskoka Lakes, Bala
Originally called Tondern Island in 1868, it's name was changed in 1873 when John Willmott and brother-in-law Edward Prowse purchased the Island. The community of Beaumaris got its name from a vacation spot the two families enjoyed which was a borough on the Island of Anglesey, Wales. The two divided the Island, Mr. Prowse taking the southern half and Mr. Willmott the northern. Mr. Prowse started the Beaumaris Hotel and in 1890 was attracting wealthy visitors from America and Europe who would later purchase properties close to the hotel and build large summer homes there. The hotel burned in July 1945.
Around 1870 Nathaniel Orchard and his family settled in a glen (Scottish for narrow valley with a stream) between Ada Lake and Butterfly Lake. He named the community Glen Orchard when he opened its post office.
Lake Joseph contains the district's deepest water recorded at approximately 93.8 metres. Hon. William Robinson, member of the House of Assembly and sat for the riding of Simcoe, later becoming Commissioner for Indian Affairs, named Lake Joseph after his friend Joseph Rousseau.
Milford Bay is located on mainland across from Beaumaris. An early settler by the name of Robert Stroud came to the area in 1873, farming the land and building to earn extra money. In 1887 he built a hotel at Huckleberry Rock called Milford Bay House, the hotel burned in 1933. Others built resorts in the area to capitalize on tourism.
The community of Minett was named after one of its first settlers, Charles James Minett. The Minett family, using the Free Land Grant in 1869, build their home and named it Clevelands House. The area post office had to change its name from Clevelands to Minett because of the postal mix ups that would occur with the city of Cleveland in the United States.
Duff's Cottages-near Mortimers Point
The area known today as Port Carling was originally inhabited by Ojibway Indians who called their village Obogawanung, which is now known as Indian Village. They lived and farmed the land by Indian River and Silver Lake. The tribe was relocated to Parry Sound Island in Georgian Bay when settlers began arriving. Alexander and Michael Bailey had claim to all the land in the Port Carling area. Alexander Bailey's son George Bailey was Captain of the first boat of the Muskoka Navigation Company and later ran the Sagamo. Benjamin Hardcastle Johnston who settled in the area in 1866 and opened the first post office and became its postmaster is the one who named the village Port Carling after his friend John Carling, the Minister of Public Works and Agriculture.
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Port Sandfield got its name in honor of then Premier John Sandfield MacDonald of Ontario. At the same time when it got its name a canal was made to connect Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau. In 1876 the first bridge was built to cross the canal. Later in 1884 a resort called the Prospect House was founded by Enoch Cox.
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Originally known as Helmsley, Rosseau was not really known about until Mr. W. H. Pratt built Rosseau House in 1870 at the north end of Lake Rosseau. It was Mr. Pratt who didn't like the name Helmsley and asked that it be renamed Rosseau, when he requested a post office be opened. Even though the name Rosseau was used the name was not officially changed until 1926, when the village of Rosseau was incorporated.
Skeleton Lake is believed to have gotten its name from the remains of two human skeleton's found on the rocks along the north shore that surveyors came across. Settlers asked an Indian Chief about the remains and were told that his people had camped on the site one winter. Normally the area had plentiful fish and deer, but none was to be found that year. His people had to move camp but many were already weak. A 14 year old boy could not move and was left behind but his mother, a young widow stayed with him so he would not die alone. The Lake was named in their memory a tribute to a mother's devotion to her son. Skeleton Lake is known for its clarity. The bottom of the lake is limestone caused by the impact of a meteor.
The Three Mile Lake area was mostly a clay based soil, the deep heavy soil is more fertile than any where else in Muskoka. The Sheas, Morleys, Sufferns, Gotts, Pickerings are known as some of the first settlers near Three Mile Lake, on land that is known as Jake's Point. December 1866 an orange lodge known as Gotts No.229 was built. The lodge was later known as Three Mile Lake and kept its original number. Methodists built a church at Ufford and Presbyterians built a church at Dee Bank. At Dee Bank there was a store, hotel and sawmill. John Shannon built a grist mill in 1871 and it was known to be one of the largest in the area at the time. There was also a school and church built in the late 1800's.
In 1869 William Torrance, Joseph Coulter and George Jestin from Eramosa near Guelph in Ontario went to the area to investigate the Free Land Grant the government was offering. They all returned a year later with their families and supplies and each bought 100 acres of land for 75 cents. William Torrance became the first postmaster so the community was named after him. Rail service to the area arrived in 1906. "Queens Walk Road" as the community calls it is the only stop that Queen Elizabeth II made in West Muskoka when she visited in 1959.
Walkers Point received its name by 1879 when four members of the Walker family from Gananoque, Ontario started farms there.
Windermere was named after a famous lake in England. Thomas Aitkens, Francis Forge and David Fife are responsible for much of what Windermere's development. Mr. Aitkens was the founder of Windermere House and post master for the community, later his son William would take over from him. Mr. Fife was also in the resort business and Fife House was later torn down around 1970. Mr. Forge was a successful farmer and worked for Timothy Eaton who had a summer home in Windermere. The men are honored in a memorial window in the Windermere United Church.
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