The Summer of 1844
Was No Picnic

The summer of 1844 was definitely not a picnic for the early settlers in the Georgian Bay region around pioneer settlement that would become Owen Sound.

Summer is my favorite time of the year. It is a time for golfing, fishing, hiking and many other outdoor activities. Besides these activities, I like summer because I can barbecue! Hamburgers, chicken, ribs, steaks, corn on the cob, and my favorite, roasted onions, all taste better on the barbecue. Unfortunately for the early settlers none of these delicacies was available to them.

Throughout the history of the Georgian Bay region picnics, barbecues and other similar. events have been an important aspect of the summer months each year. The availability of fresh farm produce and meats combined with the warm weather and scenic surroundings make this area a haven for picnickers. 

However, the summer of 1844 was anything but a season of culinary delight for the inhabitants of this area. Today when we decide to have a picnic or a barbecue, there are many sources where we can purchase the necessary produce for the event. Because of good transportation connections, our stores are always stocked with the freshest produce. As well, our region is not only a tourist mecca, but also rich in agricultural production. 


The Summer of 1844

That summer, more than 17 decades ago, the only connection with the outside world was by water. Because settlement in the area was less than half a decade old, not enough land had been cleared to provide an adequate form of agricultural production beyond the subsistence level. These two factors created a tenuous situation for survival in the infancy of development in the area. 

In the summer of 1844, the settlers in the region experienced first hand the thin line that they walked between survival and disaster. After the long winter in which most of their supplies were depleted, the settlers waited for the arrival of vessels laden with produce to sustain them until their crops were harvested. However, weeks went by without the arrival of one of these ships. Out of necessity, families shared their meager food supplies. Gradually, these ran out and the settlement was faced with the possibility of disaster due to the lack of food. This circumstance led to the creation of a dish which became the staple part of the diet in many pioneer households. 


Summer of 1844 -
 Recipe for Survival

Two products that were still available to the pioneers were flour and milk. The enterprising settlers used these commodities to create a substance called "pap". It was created by stirring flour and water in a cup. Then scalding milk was added until it thickened into a paste. This culinary delight was prepared one meal in advance of consumption. When it was served, milk was once again added. Because of the shortage of food in the settlement, "pap" was often served three times a day in many pioneer households in this area. 

Each day, the settlers of the Owen Sound and area anxiously looked out over the bay and scanned the horizon looking for the sails of one of the long overdue vessels. Probably the main reason for the look of the anxiety on their faces was due to their fears for their continued survival without the arrival of produce to sustain their efforts in making a new life. However, their pained 

countenances may have also had something to do with the thought of another meal of "pap" awaiting them when they sat down at the dinner table that night! 

Today, we enjoy living in the Georgian Bay region. The majestic scenery of the shorelines and the escarpment which serves almost as a spinal column for the area, combined with the pastoral landscape of the interior hinterlands provide us with wonderful surroundings to enjoy our summer activities. But the experience of the settlers in the summer of 1844 once again illustrates how their fortitude in the face of devastating circumstances made all of this possible!


Georgian Bay Shipping

List of Lighthouses on the Great Lakes: If you have names and/or pictures of Great Lakes Lighthouses please submit them along with details of their location.

Hindman Transportation Company was a well-known Great Lakes shipping company for many years. Here you will find pictures of many of the Hindman ships

Owen Sound Harbour – A Photographic History, by Robert A. Cotton is a book that interests my historiographical curiosity.

Commercial Great Lakes Fishing  It is probably safe to suggest that the commercial fishing industry was an important part of the early growth of this region.

A Georgian Bay fishing vacation has long been a popular attraction in the Bruce Peninsula region. During fishing derbies, the regional waterways are dotted with fishing boats of all shapes and sizes. 

The Georgian Bay Mackinaw, designed by William Watts of Collingwood is an example of a Georgian Bay innovator creating a vessel to service the needs local mariners.

Great Lakes fishing is an asset that is protected and developed, not only for its economic potential but also for those who just enjoy spending a day by the side of a river or in small fishing boats trying to catch “the big one”!  

Great Lakes Fishing History is not without its controversy. The impact of the fishing industry was such that it played an important role in the development of communities along the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron shoreline.

Georgian Bay Travel Before the Winter Freeze-Up could be a dangerous time for mariners in the early years in this region.

A Harbinger of Spring on the Great Lakes in pioneer times, was the eagerly awaited news that a lighthouse had been lit and shipping traffic could begin sailing from port to port.

Lumber Hookers  Lumber hookers and tugs were an important innovation to improve the transportation of lumber on Georgian Bay. 

Mapmakers on Georgian Bay were also explorers. They mapped the Georgina Bay shoreline noting safe harbours, dangerous reefs and other guides for sailors and pioneer settlers looking for a place to call home.

Paddling Georgian Bay & Pondering: traversing parts of this great waterway in a canoe leads one to wonder about the ships of a bygone era battling the rough seas they encountered.

Parry Sound Shipping History: The Parry Sound area has always been connected to the southern regions of the Province of Ontario by a system of good roads. Or has it?

Parry Sound’s shipping history 2 is more than the tragic sinking of the Waubuno or the later catastrophe surrounding the sinking of the Asia. 

Sailing Season Closing: A Frantic Time on Peninsula as ships raced from port to port delivering and picking up passengers and produce before the waterways froze.

Ship Captain Andrew Port was not only a dynamic and brave Georgian Bay mariner, he was a personal favourite historical character of mine.

Ships Stuck in Ice: The Oak Glen was icebound in 1996 but this sailing hazard has been impacting vessels on Georgian Bay since the beginning of time.

Lake Huron shipwrecks, the Hibou often occurred in the Georgian Bay region of that Great Lake due to the often violent waters that could strike unsuspecting vessels like the Hibou.

Shipwrecks: The "Asia" wrecked off the eastern coast of Georgian Bay taking all but two of the more than 100 passengers to a watery grave.

Masters, Mates, and Pilots Association created its first Canadian chapter on Georgian Bay, providing maritime safety education, and other seafaring issues to better inform its membership.

Pioneer Travel Aboard the Fly  Tells the story of a sailing vessel as the tenuous link between survival and death in a pioneer settlement in the 1840's in Upper Canada.

Sailing Stories: the Captain Who Smelled his way into Port The Captain Who Smelled his Way into Port details how pioneer seamen on Georgian Bay safely sailed the rough waters without the aid of the modern technological tools so readily used by today's mariners.

Sailing Story: The Voyage of the Prince Alfred the incredible voyage of the Prince Alfred, fraught with danger for both vessel and the crew in the winter of 1880.

Sailing stories: Owen Sound Shipbuilding Sailing stories date from the earliest time of settlement in the Bruce Peninsula region. Busy shipyards dotted the Owen Sound bay where shipbuilding took place, sometimes at a feverish pace. They are interesting adventures often providing enlightening views of the nature of the human race.

Shipbuilding As the southern Georgian Bay region became more populated shipping traffic increased to meet the needs of an expanding market place.

The Summer of 1844 was No Picnic for the early settlers in the pioneer area near what would become Owen Sound on Georgian Bay.

The CPR Grain Elevator Fire of 1911 spelled the end of Owen Sound's role as the eastern terminus of the CPR Great Lakes Fleet.

Georgian Bay shipping occurred long before the first Europeans paddled these waters. But the fur and timber trades opened Georgian Bay to shipping in a big way! 

  1. History Articles
  2. Georgian Bay Shipping
  3. The Summer of 1844 was No Picnic