Stokes Bay, Ontario, like most of the Lake Huron communities on the peninsula’s western shore, welcomed fishermen as their first non-native visitors. Today, if you are a fisherman, you will also probably want to try your luck landing a walleye, lake trout or any of the other game fish that live in the coastal waters of Lake Huron.
In the 1830s, the appropriately named Fishing Islands off the shore at Oliphant, just south of Stokes Bay, attracted the attention of fishermen from Goderich, Detroit and other areas.
Stokes Bay’s deep and protected harbour provided a safe haven from the storms that whipped the water of Lake Huron into a deathly frenzy. These factors probably led to the establishment of a summer fishing village at the present site of the community. A fisherman could set up drying and curing stations along the shoreline, which he would then vacate each year as the onset of winter marked the end of the fishing season.
Although some settlement may have occurred at Stokes Bay, Ontario as a result of these annual visitations by fishing fleets, it was not until 1870 that the land in the area was officially opened to settlement. In that year, the land in Lindsay Township was auctioned for settlement. At the same time the entire Bruce Peninsula was feeling the sharp edge of the lumbermen’s axes. The depletion of the forests in the French River region had led commercial foresters to the peninsula in their quest to satisfy the needs of a constantly growing market for forest products.
The natural harbour (another natural harbour) with its protection from the fury of storms on Lake Huron that had originally attracted fishermen to the area also lured lumbering interests to Stokes Bay. In the 1870s a mill was built on Tamarac Island, a stone’s throw from the mainland.
Tamarac Island rises to a height of thirty to forty feet above the lake level. The mill and its accompanying buildings were located on fifteen acres of land at the north end of the island. The complex included the mill, dock, boiler-house, office, barns, houses and a narrow-gauge tram-line.
Unfortunately, the mill did not prosper. One of the reasons may have been that the mill owner preferred to work with pine, a forest commodity which was not all that abundant in the area. Consequently, the mill was sold. Unfortunately, the new owners were equally unsuccessful and the mill complex was all but abandoned.
More than a century ago, the demand for hardwood for furniture making, led interests to investigate the possibility of re-opening the Stokes Bay mill. In 1899, after much study, the mill was purchased, and operations began, once again.
Sherwood Fox, in his book, The Bruce Beckons, suggested that the quest for hardwood was not the only attraction to the new owners of the mill. Instead, he felt that land speculation was at the root of the purchase. At that time F. H. Clergue, the owner of the Algoma Steel Corporation at Sault Ste. Marie, was promising to build a rail line to Tobermory. The prospect of the line of steel opening up the Bruce Peninsula was enticing to the new owners due to the fact that the Stokes Bay mill purchase included large parcels of timber land, which once cleared could be sold to prospective settlers.
The proposed railway never happened. But the company cut and sawed the wood in the area and shipped it to Southampton and other points south. Ultimately when the stands of wood were cut, and profitability decreased, the mill closed once again.
Today, Stokes Bay, Ontario is a haven for tourists and sports fishermen. Stokes Bay is a great place to spend a warm summer day and then enjoy a romantic Lake Huron sunset.
Getting to the Bruce Peninsula is a relatively easy driving trip. Here are driving directions from three regions to the peninsula.
Barrow Bay Ontario a Picturesque Georgian Bay Community owes its origin to the once-thriving Bruce Peninsula lumbering industry. Today it is a quiet summer get-away!
Bruce Peninsula Lumber History details the impact of the forest products industry on the development of the region.
Bruce Peninsula Lumbering provided the stimulus to develop and grow the pioneer economy on the newly settled Bruce Peninsula.
Bruce Peninsula Municipal Politics: No matter what the venue, or the issue, seldom is a popular decision made that suits everyone.
Bruce Peninsula Travel Routes were often a matter of debate because in the early years, land travel was virtually unattainable for settlers and lumbermen alike.
Aboriginal History: Bruce Peninsula has a long indigenous heritage not just for the native nation living there today, but for other native groups as well.
Aboriginal History: the 1836 Treaty made promises to the native peoples of the Bruce Peninsula which did not last long before everything changed again.
Aboriginal land history continues the story of aboriginal land issues on the Bruce Peninsula. How it happened is a point for discussion by everyone.
Settler Impact on Bruce Peninsula Natives was not only from the imposition of treaties, but also from British military plans.
"Half Mile-Strip" Treaty made it possible for a relatively smooth overland connection to be built between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.
Catherine Sutton: aka Nahneebahweequay was a hero, fighting for her Indigenous rights and those of her family.
Allenford United Church history details not only some important information about that community's church, but also about one of the founders of this Ontario community.
Colpoys Bay Vista - Awesome! A short drive from either Wiarton or Owen Sound is one of the most magnificent views to be found in the province of Ontario!
Dyer's Bay Ontario: Began as a Lumbering Settlement and today it is a wonderful vacation retreat.
Elsinore Ontario is the southern-most point on the Bruce Peninsula, located about half-way between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.
Forest Products on the Bruce Peninsula contributed greatly to the growth and development of that region of the province of Ontario.
Gillies Lake: aka Ghost Lake has a mysterious past as its original name, Ghost Lake, implies.
Great Grey Owls on the Bruce Peninsula was a surprise discovery for ornithologists and others. Sadly, the story of their visit had an unfortunate conclusion.
Pioneer Campers: Hope Bay mostly considered the peninsula untamed wilderness and some of the locals were not about to disappoint them!
A Pioneer Community: Driftwood Crossing, at the southern-most part of the Saugeen/Bruce Peninsula was at the midpoint between the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron coasts.
Pioneer Missionary James Atkey arrived on Colpoys Bay to minister to the native community near Oxenden until a treaty uprooted his parishioners.
Pioneer tourists first visited the Bruce Peninsula in the 1800s and the region continues as a great recreational and tourism destination today!
Pioneer Vacations on the Bruce Peninsula got an eerie start in the Hope Bay region of the peninsula.
Lighthouses Lighthouses were vital to Georgian Bay Sailing.
Sauble Beach Ontario has seen it all. A fishing outport; a sawmilling centre; and an internationally acclaimed tourist resort area!
Sauble Beach This popular beach is known as Canada's Daytona Beach.
Lion's Head Sailors often sought refuge from the stormy Georgian Bay waters in its well-protected harbour.
Park Head Grand Trunk Railway in Park Head Ontario was an important railway depot on the Bruce Peninsula when in 1894 the first train chugged through Park Head.
Stokes Bay Welcomed fishermen as their first non-native visitors. Today, if you are a fisherman, you will also probably want to try your luck landing a walleye, lake trout or any of the other game fish that live in the coastal waters of Lake Huron.
Tobermory Ontario has a rich history and, is the northern- most destination point for travellers visiting the world famous Bruce Peninsula.
Tobermory Ontario Tourism is focused on shipwreck diving which has become so popular that tourism has become an important part of that community's economy.
Tobermory pioneers experienced a life in a community that was anything but the tourism hive of activity that it is today.
A Flowerpot Island cruise is not only entertaining, but it is also very educational as you will see things that you have never viewed before!
Wiarton Ontario This historic community was a great place to live in the early settlement days and still is a busy tourist stop on your way up the Bruce Peninsula.
Wiarton had ambitions to Succeed but while success brought them a railroad and other ventures did not have a sweet ending for many in the town.
Wiarton Ontario’s First Newspaper A catalyst in supporting road construction and bringing the railway to Wiarton in hopes of making the town the economic leader of the area. But disappointment looms...
Wiarton news: 1890s, as seen in the pages of the local newspaper revealed problems typical of today's communities
Wiarton Beet Industry was to be a great boost to the town's economy. Instead, it left most people with a bad taste in their mouths.
Travel the Bruce: Owen Sound to Wiarton A wonderful journey from Owen Sound to Wiarton.
Travel the Bruce: Wiarton to Tobermory Relaxing and historic journey.
Bruce Peninsula The Bruce Peninsula is a compelling place, with a rich history, to visit. Once you have traveled there, we guarantee that you will return, again and again!