The History of The Lake
Ston(e)y Lake – an enduring community
This beautiful stretch of water, some 20 miles long from Young’s Point to the lake’s eastern shores encompasses over 1,000 islands and half a dozen 19th century settlements. Native people returned to its healing waters and fragrant pines at least two centuries ago and on-going historic research argues convincingly that Champlain travelled the area lakes, rivers and overland portages in the 1500s. The cottages we see today and the family names that recur generation after generation represent the heritage that so many Stoney Lakers cherish.
From the enthusiastic writings of Susannah Moodie and Catharine Parr Trail, the watercolours of early surveyors and the vast oral histories of settlers, steamboat crews and loggers and the diaries of summer cottagers, Stoney lake has a deep and varied history.
Lumbering in the mid 1800s led to loggers’ shacks perched on rocky outcrops; trains, tourist promotion of the healthy life among the pines and the ample supply of fish, encouraged entrepreneurial steamboat builders and mill operators. The opening of the Burleigh Road to the north brought would-be settlers to the rough pre-Cambrian rocks while luckier farmers on the south limestone shoreline eked out a somewhat easier rural life.
Development evolved naturally from travellers’ fishing or hunting stays at simple lodges to lengthier camping expeditions on the many islands. After the American Canoe Association meet of 1883 held on Juniper Island, many people from Ontario and the bordering U.S. states bought Crown land and built cottages. These were generally simple, one storey frame structures whose amenities were virtually non-existent. As well, those early settlers, at Young’s Point, Kawartha Park, McCrackens Landing, Mount Julian and others around the lake, found new sources of income by helping cottagers in many ways: ice cutting, building, guiding, boat repairs and domestic chores. Today those services are more sophisticated – and more expensive! Septic pump-outs, retro-fitting 100 year old structures, refinishing equally old boats, for instance. Marinas have replaced the former canoe companies’ liveries, but services and friendships are still as valuable and lasting as they were before.
The cottagers gradually formed their own associations, based on the land settlements such as Kawartha Park, or, in the case of the islanders, the Stoney Lake Cottagers Association with its property on Juniper Island. Over 100 years ago several men with great foresight rented, then bought, the half dozen acres at the north-eastern corner of the island. From a humble loggers’ supply shack developed the two-storey store, post office and living quarters (1892) pavilion (1896 and extended in 1911), steamer waiting station or pagoda (1911) and two-storey boarding house (1911), now headquarters of the yacht club.
Individual boats have replaced the numerous steamers, but cruise boats are carrying on the earlier tradition. Regattas have been held almost continually throughout this century. Artists, writers, musicians and all kinds of water enthusiasts have drawn inspiration from the lake. They in turn have helped nurture the eternal qualities of this water-based community.