Lillian’s Museum

Lillian's Museum

M'Chigeeng

A stone’s throw from the OCF, around the corner and east on Hwy 540, is the unmissable Lillian’s Museum, a dedicated space attached to Lillian’s Crafts’ large shop that holds owner Lillian Debassige’s prized 70-odd-year-old collection of Anishinaabe arts and crafts.

A big room is arrayed from floor to ceiling in unique pieces of local Anishinaabe art dating back to the 1940s: rare ash baskets woven with consummate dexterity and intricate quill boxes with lifelike animals and plants tufted in quills by artists Anne Pangowish, Rose Williams, Josette Debassige, Mildred and Melanie Aguonie and many others whose work is preserved here for posterity.

The distinctive and highly collectable paintings of Wiikwemkoong artist Leland Bell line the back wall; ceramic bowls, beaded hide moccasins with fur trim and skillful carvings of antler and bone, going back many decades, line glass cases. Lillian’s collection is far reaching but intimate, inviting viewers to appreciate the age-old techniques, materials and designs used in the creation of these cultural treasures.

Lillian’s Museum: 5950 Hwy. 540, M’Chigeeng, Tel.: 705-377-4987. Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6 pm; Saturday 9 am to 5 pm; Sunday 10 am to 5 pm. Admission by donation. http://lilliansindiancrafts.com

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

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Ojibwe Cultural Foundation

Ojibwe Cultural Foundation

M'Chigeeng

The modern architectural form of the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (OCF), fully situated in the present, pays homage to the everlasting traditions of the Anishinaabek–the Odawa, Ojibwe and Potawatomi of Manitoulin Island and the Great Lakes region.

Light permeates the open circular atrium that forms the heart of the entryway and of the building itself. Towering cedar poles buttress the room’s soaring canopy, lifting the spirit in the upward gaze. Activities radiate likes spokes from a wheel in offices, a large workshop and activities area, a Healing Lodge, also circular, that holds a sacred fire for ceremonies, Ojibwe language radio station CHYF-FM and a museum that reflects on the inexorable links between traditional creative expression and modern manifestations of Anishinaabek art.

Upon entering the OCF’s museum, a large dreamcatcher bathed in soft spotlight compels the visitor to consider the meanings it conjures. Originally crafted by Ojibwe mothers to protect sleeping children from harm, the dreamcatcher still acts as a symbolic filter, trapping evil and letting good flow through wherever it is hung. This dreamcatcher, in forged steel by M’Chigeeng steelworker artist Kathryn Corbiere, evokes the traditional uses and construction of this beloved cultural emblem, but seems imbued with even more than the usual resistance in its use of materials, perhaps in response to increasing modern threats to the environment, and thus to identity and way of life. A beautiful work of art, Ms. Corbiere’s Dreamcatcher is hung near the museum’s entry doors, a powerful sentinel, a steely reminder of what endures, its metal web perhaps shredding malevolent spirits to bits, allowing only positivity to pass into the museum experience beyond. It’s immediately the sort of cultural encounter that is repeated throughout the exhibits in myriad inspired forms.

“Anishinaabek art history is one of incorporating new materials, of playing with materials in continually re-interpreting traditional art forms,” says OCF Executive Director Anong Migwans Beam, who is a member of M’Chigeeeng First Nation and a widely exhibited multi-media artist.

We pause before two glass cases, each displaying an elaborately beaded1870s ‘bandolier bag’ gifted to the OCF; with a flat bag in front conceived “to show off a big panel of beaded design,” according to Ms. Beam, the bandolier has a wide beaded strap diagonally crossing the chest to one shoulder.  

Anishinaabe bandolier bags, modeled on rifle bags worn by Europeans, “evolved with increasing trade in the Great Lakes region and the acquisition of new materials such as cotton and wool cloth, beads and ribbons.” The tiny glass ‘seed beads,’ sewn densely in elaborate patterns onto cotton, wool or hide backing by the women, carpeted the bags in symbolic imagery and dazzling colour to be worn ceremonially by the men. “Beads allowed for curves in patterns where before, the use of quills did not,” says Anong Beam. “The signature floral patterns on these bags were made possible by the flexibility of the newly available materials.”

Beyond the antique bags, another bag is displayed close by, ‘beaded’ by contemporary artist Barry Ace, using salvaged computer components and copper wire to form complex floral motifs based on traditional designs. Says the artist: “I am referencing Anishinaabeg beadwork as a metaphor for cultural continuity, bridging the past with the present and the future, and as a demonstrable act of nationhood, resistance and modernity. My contemporary practice intentionally, yet respectfully, transcends and moves forward conventional Anishinaabeg cultural boundaries as a confluence between the historical and contemporary.”

Confluence is felt in all the Museum’s exhibits: in the art of Christian Chapman, entitled ‘Kings and Queens,’ that fuses silkscreen onto Woodlands-style paintings, in the traditional jingle dress side by side with one silkscreened all over in small faces, in the quill box made by Mamie Migwans and designed by Carl Beam (“she was the first to use toned-down colours in quill work,” says Anong) and in the large display of contemporary quill, black ash and textile art by members of today’s community next to a wall-size interactive introduction to Anishinaabe life precepts.

Anong Beam scans the visually evocative space: “With Anishinaabe art, there is a constant push for new expression. The push comes from a desire to build bridges between traditional and contemporary expressions, to show them together in a continuum of creativity.”

Ojibwe Cultural Foundation: 15 Hwy 551, M’Chigeeng, Tel: 705-377-4902. Open Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4 pm; Saturday 10 am to 4 pm. Admission by donation. https://ojibweculture.ca

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

Latest on Instagram from​ #ojibweculturalfoundation​

Centennial Museum

Centennial Museum

Sheguiandah

Two museums within easy access to each other, in Little Current and Sheguiandah, each distinctive, tell of prehistoric peoples, of the settlers of large homesteads, the builders of towns and villages, the entrepreneurs and their struggles to establish a foothold on largely forested Manitoulin Island beginning in the 1860s when the land was first opened to settlement.

Up the wide, old staircase to the second floor in Turners store on Water Street in Little Current, tucked into a far corner, is the tiny one-room museum dedicated to the Turner family and mercantile history of the last 140 years. A bit like stumbling upon a cache of treasures in great- (or great- great-) grandfather’s attic, the museum’s collection is stacked here and there throughout the little space in and on old glass store cases and counters; an ancient typewriter collects dust beneath the stern gaze of Turner ancestors whose framed photos cover the walls; yellowed newspapers proclaim achievements, wins in boat races and milestones in the business and political life of the town. 

When Isaac and Elizabeth Turner arrived in Little Current in 1877, they had only stopped to rest for a few days before continuing on their journey west in pursuit of advantageous land prices, but the aspect of the flourishing Manitoulin town pleased Elizabeth and she refused to move on. Two years later, Turners was established as a dry goods store, selling everything from flour to rubber boots, pots and pans and cloth by the yard.

Little Current was booming in 1879, having been surveyed in 1864-65, after the Treaty of 1862 removed the Indigenous residents, who had been living on their lands and operating businesses there since the 1850s, to the small nearby reserve of Sucker Creek (now Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation).

On the steamer route, Little Current became a market town, boosted by the huge trade in lumber. In about 1874, the first small sawmill was built, then the larger Red Mill in 1886 and two other large mills shortly after, hiring hundreds of men and sheltering them in boarding houses along the waterfront.

Later, Turners became widely known for its fine British china and wool; it was the place to shop for mohair sweaters, coats of camelhair, cashmere shawls, linens for table and bed and clothing for the whole family, all imported from England. “Canada’s oldest nautical chart dealer” still sells charts, reflecting the family’s passion for boating of Grant Turner who founded the Great Lakes Cruising Club, and of Jib Turner, a sailor of some repute. The iconic Turners map of Manitoulin was developed by Barney Turner in 1949 after he took a course in cartography; that map, with some improvements in the 1960s and in 2006, has been a big seller for seventy years, its vintage look a favorite of souvenir hunters.

Debby and Jib Turner are the owners of Turners today, in the same building the store has occupied since 1913 when it was built by George Strain, after Turners had occupied two other town locations. “We’re the fifth generation of Turners to carry on the family business,” says Debby Turner, “and we’re waiting on the 6th and 7th generations of customers who have shopped here since the doors opened in 1879.”

“Since the high import tariffs of British Trade Act were imposed in the 1970s, Turners has moved toward becoming wholly Canadian, specializing in more Canadiana and local art in the upstairs gallery,” adds Ms Turner. “Turners of Little Current is still in small part a department store but is mostly focused on quality Canadian products while our new store in Elliott Lake is truly a department store. In a way, Turners has come back to its roots.”

Turners of Little Current, 17 Water St, Little Current. Tel: 705-368-2150 Open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 5:30 pm; Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. www.turners.ca

Just 10 kilometres south of Little Current on Hwy 6, the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah offers a sweeping survey of this area’s origins, beginning with the earliest human activity. Artifacts on display, excavated from a quartzite outcrop nearby known as Sheguiandah Hill and carbon-dated by archeologists to 10,000 years ago, are evidence of quarrying by the first humans on Manitoulin Island after the last Ice Age. In 1954, the Sheguiandah archeological site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada, along with the habitation area that encompasses today’s village of Sheguiandah.

Large descriptive panels outline the anthropological periods here and the two excavations of the 1950s and the 1990s that definitively confirmed the age of the findings; glass cases hold the ancient spear points, hide scrapers and other prehistoric tools that define this museum as unique on the Island.

Like its neighbour Little Current, Sheguiandah was a lumber boomtown at the turn of the twentieth century, with three water-powered mills in operation by 1902: a grist mill (for grinding grains into flour), a sawmill and a woolen mill. A map available free at the museum takes visitors on a historical walking tour through the village of Sheguiandah, highlighting the mills, cheese factory, milliner’s shop, blacksmith, school, post office and hotel of olden days.

The luxuriant grounds of the Centennial Museum are filled with several log cabins furnished in period detail and turn of the century farm machinery; picnic tables and lawn chairs invite visitors to relax and soak up the history of this ancient place.

The modern building housing the Museum itself opens onto a hallway lined with photographs of the area’s first settlers, introducing visitors to the Heis, Nicholson, Skippen, Batman and Lewis families that arrived here over 150 years ago. A family feeling pervades the museum, with an authentic recreation of a cozy bedroom with beautifully hung starched cotton nightdress; other vintage clothing in rich-coloured, well-preserved fabrics dot the room among a selection of antique musical instruments: an elaborately-carved Newcombe piano, a violin and a concertina that enlivened homesteaders’ long winter evenings.

The Museum hosts a wide range of events each year: the annual Heritage Alive Art Exhibition runs from July 18 until August 15, and the Manitoulin Fine Arts Association Members’ Art Show from August 20 until September 8. The full line-up of summer and fall events is listed on the website.

Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah, 10862 Highway 6, Sheguiandah. Tel: 705-368-2367. Open 9 am to 4:30 pm every day from May to October. www.townofnemi.on.ca/places/museum

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

Latest on Instagram from​ #sheguiandah

Mindemoya’s Pioneer Museum

Pioneer Museum

Mindemoya

On Manitoulin, as each new township was surveyed after the still-controversial 1862 Treaty between the Anishinaabek and the Crown, the first settlers, mostly from the Collingwood and Coldwater areas of Ontario, homesteaded the land of Campbell (1867), Carnarvon (1867-70) and Sandfield (1870), former townships now amalgamated into today’s Municipality of Central Manitoulin.

The pioneer days of Central Manitoulin’s proud heritage of farming, fishing and lumbering are carefully recreated in the historically evocative outdoor settings and local exhibits of the compact Pioneer Museum, conveniently attached to the Welcome Centre on Highway 551 in downtown Mindemoya.

Last fall, the Central Manitoulin Historical Society hired the museum’s first curator, Caty Virostek, on a one year contract, recently graduated from the Museum Management program at Fleming College. Ms. Virostek, who is from the Sarnia area, has been cataloguing the collections and the many artifacts that are held in storage. “There are so many artifacts,” she says, “and no place left to put them. We need extra space.” The curator has re-designed the displays and labels to highlight unique items within organized themes, so that each exhibit has breathing room; a carefully curated selection of artifacts evokes the people, places and events of the early days without overwhelming the visitor.

Local farm histories, photos and mementos of early schools and businesses are evidence of the dynamism of the burgeoning community of the mid-1870s. Wagg’s Creamery, founded by A.J. Wagg in 1907, thrived until 1981, when it was sold to the Farquhar dairy family. The former stone creamery’s cornerstone now stands at the front of the Central Manitoulin Welcome Centre and Pioneer Museum. Inside the museum, a display case dedicated to Wagg’s business holds original butter boxes, milk bottles, a miniature Wagg’s delivery truck and a poster for “homogenized ice cream”; another reminder of the Wagg family is the forested parcel of 42 acres with easy walking trails called Wagg’s Woods, east of the town’s centre, around the corner on Highway 542.

One side of the museum’s bright room displays several survey maps of the first land partitioning, and on the opposite wall hangs a most unusual quilt hand stitched by the late author, activist and artist Marion Seabrook, a replica in cloth of a section of the ‘Landowners of Carnarvon Township Survey Map’ that Ms. Virostek found in storage.

For 40 years, from 1928 until 1968, Marion Seabrook’s parents, Joe and Jean Hodgson, operated a popular tourist resort on Mindemoya Island, Lake Mindemoya’s prominent landmark of Ojibwe legend. The Hodgsons bought the ‘largest freshwater island within an island in the world’ and re-named it Treasure Island. A resort brochure describes the fourteen two-and three-bedroom cottages and boasts of “no mosquitoes or blackflies!” Several histories of Treasure Island were written by this literary family, and are available for browsing: Jean Hodgson’s ‘Treasures from Treasure Island,’ and Marion Seabrook’s story of her grandfather’s arrival on Manitoulin in 1874, entitled ‘One Man’s Journey,’ and ‘Once Upon an Island’ and ‘Touched by an Island.’

In the peaceful, leafy park off the museum’s back deck, a dollhouse-like log cabin built by William and Agnes King in 1867, was donated in 1993 to the Central Manitoulin Historical Society by Jack and Marion Seabrook, who had had it moved first from its original site to their new golf course, Brookwood Brae. They spent four summers in the simply furnished two-storey cabin before bequeathing it to the museum.

A large barn with ‘1921’ emblazoned at its peak displays rare early farm machinery, pulled by oxen or powered later by steam, side by side with vintage examples of a ‘utility’ horse-drawn buggy constructed of plywood, of a more upscale ‘courting’ buggy with upholstered seats, and of a ‘democrat’ with a rear seat to accommodate more passengers, all much in use for chores and travel in the late 1800s; there’s a horse-drawn sleigh carriage in the barn, whose smooth, flat “skis” glided over icy roads and lakes in winter.

Across the way is the blacksmith’s log workshop with anvils and woodstove, walls covered in the old tools of the trade for the forging of horse shoes and iron and steel wagon wheel rims, hoes, rakes, nails, hinges and latches.

A covered bridge holds an open-ended gallery of genealogical histories of the first settler families who secured land grants for farms, established first a general store, then the saw and grist mills, wagon and blacksmith shops, school and churches of the growing community. Here, papering the inside walls of the bridge, are the long lineages of the Love, Kay, Fletcher, Wedgerfield, Galbraith, Hutchinson, Williamson and Bock families and of many other ancestors and descendants of the original folks who settled these swaths of land bordered by magnificent Lake Mindemoya, with a storied island at its heart.

Central Manitoulin Welcome Centre and Pioneer Museum

2207 Hwy. 551, Mindemoya

Tel: 705-377-4383

Open 9 am to 5 pm every day in July and August.

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

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Old Mill Heritage Centre

Old Mill Heritage Centre

Kagawong

Island community museums are filled to bursting with mementos of collective histories, gathered by dedicated volunteers and local families keen to foster appreciation of their area’s past. Kagawong’s Old Mill Heritage Centre Museum collections are housed in the former pulp mill, built of stone in 1925 at the edge of Mudge Bay to process the products of the booming logging industry; the atmospheric limestone enclave with its soaring ceilings and tall windows is a perfect showcase for the Billings Township memorabilia contained within.

Curators, by and large, are an enthusiastic lot and Rick Nelson, the Kagawong Museum’s curator, is a prime example of the kind of fervor that marks a successful collection. Quick to praise Billings council’s museum board volunteers’ initiatives and hard work, Mr. Nelson has been the face of the museum for the last 10 years, greeting visitors and orienting them to the treasures awaiting.

Immediately upon entering, the sound and images emanating from a film on the Indigenous origins of Manitoulin Island grounds the museum experience in earliest inhabitation. Further on, a little room holds the delicate line drawings of talented local artist Jenna Carter, each featuring one of the many intact historical structures within the village of Kagawong, with an accompanying map that describes the genesis of all the buildings–for a walkabout later. In the corner, a 1930s wooden radio cabinet plays WWII broadcasts, surrounded by sepia toned photos of local men and women who contributed to the efforts of both World Wars, their uniforms, medals and stories now behind glass.

A highlight in this section is the story of Don Freeborn, the Chapleau-born Manitoulin resident who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Lancaster Bomber pilot, attached to Britain’s Royal Air Force during WWII. His log book on exhibit documents his successful mission to bomb Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in the mountains of Bavaria. Next to his father’s log book is the log of Peter Clarke, the son Don Freeborn did not know, until the end of his life, he had fathered in England during the war, and who also had a distinguished military career in Afghanistan, Burma and undercover elsewhere for the British Special Forces. The uniforms of father and son are displayed crisply side by side.

Early settlers to the area, the Graham, Gray, Thompson, McGuiness and Lloyd clans, are posed in the stiff attire and settings of late 19th century photographs. New this year is the realistic recreation of a blacksmith’s shop from the days when horses were essential to settlers’ daily lives. The boat building activities of the Berry family are displayed in authentic period examples of their fine work for over a hundred years, renowned for the sturdy construction of commercial fishing boats, timber tugs and launches powered by steam boilers. Still located in Kagawong and operated by Oliver Newlands, great-grandson of founder Oliver Berry, Berry Boats carries on the family boat building tradition today.

One of Rick Nelson’s favorite museum exhibits recounts the tragedy of the scion of Detroit’s Dodge automobile empire, Danny Dodge, who, in 1938, suffered grave wounds in a spectacular dynamite blast at his Dodge Lodge in Kagawong, then drowned on a desperate rescue mission to Little Current by boat with his wife. Married just 14 days to “Gore Bay beauty” Laurine MacDonald, a romance and fantasy wedding that were trumpeted in local and US media, the unfortunate Mr. Dodge died at 21 but was destined to live on in local legend.

The 80th anniversary of the accident will be commemorated by the Old Mill Heritage Centre on Thursday, August 9 in the annual History Day presentations at 3:30 and 7:30 pm. Each presentation features two parts: a talk by guest speakers on the founding Henry brothers and their role in the birth of Kagawong will be followed by the story of the gripping disaster at Dodge Lodge.

Another ‘ghost story’ depicted in the museum and endlessly fascinating to Mr. Nelson is the one about Harbour Island. Off the coast of Kagawong and nestled in a bay of Clapperton Island, the 30-acre island was home to a luxurious resort in the 40s, 50s and 60s that berthed the yachts of Hollywood stars and hosted the likes of Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and countless sports figures and business tycoons. Clippings of the goings-on of the celebrity guests cover the wall near photos of the resort in its heyday; underneath is a photo of the sad state of the resort today. “There’s a happy ending!” crows Mr. Nelson as we gaze at the overgrown site and the derelict mid-century modern building. “The new owner of Harbour Island is a descendant of the original owners who is committed to restoring the property to its former glory. The Museum may consider perhaps partnering on a ‘living museum’ concept down the road.”

To whet the appetite for such a restoration project, the Mudge Bay Mystery Tour, a partnership between the Museum and North Channel Cruise Line, will lift anchor on Saturday, August 25 from Kagawong for a two-hour cruise to Harbour Island with dinner, bar and curator Rick Nelson’s onboard “stories and slides” of the famed resort’s past grandeur.

After a tour of the Museum, pause at the Billings Connections Trail Interactive Map on the wall by reception. In English, French and Ojibwe languages, the map shows the locations of historical plaques in the village and of the outdoor sculpture sites commissioned as a Truth and Reconciliation project in partnership with 4Elements and Billings Township “to highlight the local heritage and history of Anishinaabeg and settler residents.” A pocket-sized map is available to take on an exploration that continues well beyond the Museum’s steps.

The Old Mill Heritage Centre Museum, Kagawong

Open every day 10-4 (July-August)

Tel: 705-282-1442

www.kagawongmuseum.ca

Admission is free; donations are appreciated.

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

Latest on Instagram from #kagawong

Purvis Marine Museum

William Purvis Marine Museum

Gore Bay

Overlooking the distinctive V-shaped bay bordered by the lushly-cedared heights of the East Bluff on one edge and the town and the gentler slopes of the West Bluff on the other, the Harbour Centre extends a commanding welcome to Gore Bay’s waterfront.

Within, on two floors, is a warren of light-filled, wood-lined artist studios, galleries and shops offering all manner of Manitoulin-made fine art, glass works, textiles, soaps, jewellery and much else to browse. On the third, topmost floor, up a broad staircase to a bright lobby, is the William Purvis Marine Centre, housing the Town of Gore Bay’s huge collection of nautical memorabilia gathered by historian G. I. ‘Buck’ Longhurst during his long career on the Great Lakes.

Visitors, researchers and boating enthusiasts are treated to a unique display that comprises an impressively thorough history of commercial shipping on the Great Lakes. In the temperature- and humidity-controlled loft space, the lives of the legendary fishing, freight and passenger boats are laid bare in original log books, ships’ wheels, lanyards, flags, photos, shipping company cap and jacket badges and even little plates and coffee mugs decorated with a ship’s name, from a long-ago ship’s dining room; intricate handcrafted model boats dot the room, re-creating all the details, in miniature, of the great commercial sailing vessels of the past.

Mr. Longhurst is the curator of the collection, including an archive room of “17,000 slides and 20,000 prints and the history of practically every company and vessel that sailed on the Great Lakes,” amassed over a lifetime of working on their waters and shores.

But his love of the ships started way before then. “As a kid, I was always at the dock watching the boats unload. I watched all day as the boats came through, the boats I’d read about.”

After high school Buck went into the navy until Canada’s defense forces were amalgamated in 1965, then became a letter carrier and supervisor until 1970 when his life changed on meeting Jack Purvis on the waterfront in Sault Ste. Marie.

The marine museum is named in honour of William Purvis, explains Mr. Longhurst, the Scottish patriarch of the Purvis commercial fishing clan, who was appointed the first lighthouse keeper at Great Duck Island in 1872–13 miles from today’s Purvis Fisheries location at Burnt Island; by 1882, William had started to fish commercially with his five sons  

“The Purvis family is one reason why Gore Bay grew to be a boomtown in the 1880s and 90s,” says the historian. “They built the town, many of their huge old houses still stand today. The boys all were commercial fishermen. William’s son James started Purvis Brothers Fisheries, and he also ran the mail, snowplow and motorcar services, a livery stable and a dairy. The Purvis’s were the prime movers behind Gore Bay’s becoming the judicial seat of the Island. By 1934, they owned the largest independent fishing fleet in the Great Lakes.”

Buck Longhurst started working for Jack Purvis soon after their meeting on the docks, spending years on Jack’s ‘YankCanuck’ as a deck hand, crane operator and second engineer, earning his tug master and marine and hoisting engineer credentials as he went. In the museum, he proudly shows off the ‘YankCanuck’s steering column, wheel and ship’s bell below a photo of the ship as he fondly remembers it.

“I used to see all these old boats out there. With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, all the little canal boats, the small upper lakes boats, were disappearing. I started taking photos and whenever I got a vacation I’d be at Sarnia or the Welland Canal taking pictures or getting rides on boats and taking more pictures. My hobby turned into an obsession.” As he towed ships to their final resting places in the scrapyard, he’d salvage unwanted name plaques, keys, flags, log books and brass railings to add to his growing personal collection.

In the museum, there’s a model of the ‘Gore,’ the ship that got stuck in the ice of the bay until spring and gave Gore Bay its name, built by Buck Longhurst himself, along with his models of the SS ‘Manitou,’ the ‘Mindemoya’ and the ‘Langell Boys.’ The SS ‘Manzutti’ has a miniature crane on the deck, a replica of the very crane Mr. Longhurst operated for 20 years. “This model was built by a professional model builder,” he says, pointing to the fine detail work, “and cost eleven thousand dollars.”

The ‘Avenger IV’ display features a beautiful large model of the tug and the log book of her decommissioning trip to Gravesend, England in 1985. Yes, Buck Longhurst was on that trip, “as a crew member for 59 days. There was no heat on those English tugs.”

Here’s a model of the ‘Edmund Fitzgerald,’ immortalized in song by Gordon Lightfoot, tragically sunk in hurricane-force winds on Lake Superior in 1975, drowning all 29 aboard. “It’s a great song,” says the marine history expert, “but Lightfoot got some details wrong. He says she was fully loaded – she wasn’t. And that she was bound for Cleveland – but she was going to Detroit.” There’s no reason to disbelieve this author of eighteen books and fervent devourer of maritime lore.

Buck Longhurst remembers the long-gone days when “you couldn’t get a semi-trailer truck onto the ferries until the 1960s, and they’d only get as far as Espanola on the north shore. The road from Espanola to Little Current “was impassable in all seasons” for trucks, and was nicknamed the Drunken Snake Trail. “Supplies were hard to come by and costly. Boats got through where cars and especially trucks could not.

“When I look around today I can say, ‘I dredged the marinas at Gore Bay, the Sault, at Spider Bay in Little Current. I put in the helipad at Gros Cap Lighthouse, built the Lafarge docks at Birch Island. In Gore Bay, all the boats in the marina are making use of the work I and others did; it makes the toil and hardship worthwhile. If you helped to shape the face of the area, it’s great to know your work means something.”

William Purvis Marine Centre: Third Floor, Harbour Centre, 40 Water Street, Gore Bay. Hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10 am to 4 pm; Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm, admission by donation. https://www.gorebaymuseum.com/marine-museum

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

Latest on Instagram from #gorebayontariomarina

The Net Shed

The Net Shed Museum

Meldrum Bay

Nearly 150 years ago, Meldrum Bay began to be settled by Scots coming to Manitoulin Island from southern Ontario, attracting fiercely dogged, independent-spirited types drawn by cheap, plentiful land covered in virgin forest and the immeasurable waters of Lake Huron teeming with fish.

Working with the first survey party of 1876 in Dawson township, the original settlers staked their claims, under which conditions they had to clear and fence five acres and build a house (usually a two-room log cabin) before they could own their land’s title. Then, they would venture over the water to Cockburn Island’s land office to acquire their patents–two settlers drowned on that treacherous journey–or by foot in all-weather through bush to Gore Bay’s land office. The hardships, the harsh winters and lack of even the most basic supplies, the isolation and backbreaking work of survival, the innovations and small victories of those days are stuff of legend. No roads, electricity, telephones, doctor or dentist softened the tough, often brutal, way of life.

In the early 1880s, lumbering quickly became a thriving industry everywhere on the Island, with sawmills built in all the feasible ports for easy transport of logs and lumber by boat to the US and England. Meldrum Bay’s fist sawmill was built in 1880, situated where the marina sits today, hiring hundreds of workers to process the huge quantities of wood being harvested up, down and around the Island’s western tip.

Fishing also became big business; fish abounded in these Great Lakes waters and the 1890s saw fishing stations built to supply the boats from Collingwood and Sarnia with as much as 24 tons of fish weekly.

Several net sheds ringed the bay, their rooms and attics large and airy workshops in which to dry and repair nets; the day’s catch was packed for shipping and the fishermen prepared for the next morning’s pre-dawn start on the lake. In a few short years after settlement, Meldrum Bay was a boomtown with stores, hotels, blacksmiths, school and boarding houses to service the flourishing community.

Now home to the Net Shed Museum, the last remaining net shed in the bay, built by fisherman Joe Millman in about 1902, stands resplendent in its lighthouse-red, original cedar shakes. The long, rustic building offers itself to be savoured as a unique historical artifact in its own right.

Inside, small windows on three sides and wide screened doors on the fourth side let in a surprising amount of light through gauzy curtains; the wide plank floors, heavy log rafters and poles supporting the ceiling testify to the handmade origins of the structure.

Founded in 1967 by the Meldrum Bay Historical Society as a Canada Centennial project, the museum is maintained scrupulously inside and out by a dedicated band of community volunteers. Across the road in Joe Millman’s old family home lives the treasurer of the Historical Society, Dawn Marie Wickett, a descendant of Millman’s through marriage into the Millman/Wickett families. She can look out her front windows and keep an eye on the net shed all year long while her husband Mark keeps up with improvements. Nephew Adam George Wickett is this year’s summer museum intern who greets visitors and keeps the place spiffy; a high school student, he lives in Brampton and loves to re-live Meldrum Bay summers and  stay with his grandmother. The president of the Historical Society is Liz Durham, who lives just up the hill and has been active in the museum since its founding, taking part, with other volunteers, in the annual opening of the museum in spring and closing in fall and in dreaming up fundraisers such as the popular annual beef barbecue.

Community members donated all the museum’s artifacts: jewellery, beaded appliqués and sewing baskets, photographs, linens, washtubs and irons, butter churn and moulds, quilts, school desks and blacksmith and farming implements. “Remember,” says Liz Durham, “electric power only came to the village in 1950. Until then, people used coal oil lanterns and phones were hand-cranked.” One donation, from the Joyce family, was of two large steamer trunks full of beautiful clothes and trimmings that had been owned by their “two elegant Irish dressmaker cousins.”

Toward the back of the shed, artifacts from the steam mill, a leather blacksmith apron and tools lead the way into the marine history room, centered by a library table covered in scrapbooks for browsing. Models of Millman’s tugs, named after his daughters, sit in glass cases; memorabilia from the ‘Alberta’ include a hand-fashioned horse motif weather vane and steam whistle.

The vast waters of Lake Huron lapping the rocky shore just a few feet outside the windows provide the nautical backdrop to one of the greatest marine mysteries of Manitoulin Island. Here, laid out in timbers and chains and fascinating found bits, is a display of ‘Le Griffon’–a French ship that sank in the Mississagi Straits in 1679. Or did it? Stories have proliferated over the years, of how the ship, navigating by compass, was drawn helplessly into the infamous magnetic shoals; of the skeletons of crew members found in a nearby cave, including a “very large” skull, said to be that of the pilot, Luke the Dane, known to have a very large head; of the found watch case, buttons and coins stored for years in the Mississagi Lighthouse before vanishing. It is a story that has fascinated people in these parts and abroad for centuries and remains an unsolved puzzle to this day.

Even now, Meldrum Bay retains the spirit of rugged determination that marked its beginnings. The Township of Dawson is officially ‘Unorganized’ – there is no municipal council, nor reeve, to run things. Says Liz Durham, “All public works in the township and the village of Meldrum Bay are done by volunteers. The Dawson Citizens Improvement Association raises money and volunteers to put the marina docks in and take them out every year; we applied for and got grants for the re-installation of gas tanks and pump-out service. A Service Board collects taxes to pay for snowplow and dump contracts; there’s no water department, everyone has their own water. When we need to get things done, we do it ourselves, together.”

The Net Shed Museum is a moving testament to the resolve and perseverance of the generations who pioneered here, and to a very large extent in this faraway outpost, still do.

1 Water Street, Meldrum Bay. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 12 pm to 4 pm and to 9 pm in July and August.

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

Assiginack Museum

Assiginack Museum

Manitowaning

A plaque at the entrance of the Assiginack Museum recounts the years of the ‘Manitowaning Experiment.’ After the Manitowaning Treaty of 1836 formally acknowledged Manitoulin Island as belonging exclusively to the Odawa, Ojibwe and Pottawatomi in perpetuity, the village of Manitowaning–Ojibwe for ‘den of the Great Spirit’–became the centre of the Canadian government’s Indian Department to ‘Europeanize’ the Native inhabitants, with an Anglican clergyman, a doctor and a teacher in residence.

The treaty of 1862, still controversial today, revoked the previous treaty, removed the Native population to assigned reserves–except for Wiikwemkoong that was, and remains, Unceded Territory–and opened the Island to settlement by Scots and Irish immigrants from southern Ontario. The ‘Experiment’ failed, and by 1867, the Indigenous residents had moved out and non-Native entrepreneurs moved in, building mills, homes, general stores, churches, hotels and setting up shop as blacksmith, cabinetmaker, tailor, bootmaker, doctor. By 1879, when The Manitoulin Expositor newspaper was founded and published there, Manitowaning was a most prosperous town.

The Assiginack Museum and Heritage Complex, opened as Manitoulin Island’s first museum in 1955, commemorates the origins of the town of Manitowaning and the Township of Assiginack on its grounds, in its limestone lockup and home for the jailer built on Arthur Street in 1878, and in the adjacent temperature-controlled exhibition and research facilities built in 2000 as a millennium project. This newer space is where curator Kelsey Maguire, who has a degree in English from the University of Guelph, a certificate in Museum Studies from the Ontario Museum Association and a special interest in genealogy, directs visitors who are looking for genealogical information on the area’s early families and their descendants, or for records of old properties.

The archives in the air-conditioned and heated facility are open to researchers by appointment year-round; catalogued are census print-outs, obituaries, family trees, files on existing headstones in cemeteries, records of family farms and properties. “The first Manitoulin Expositor is here,” says the curator, “and most all the hard copies of the paper. Although some are missing, the archive is mostly complete.”

In the exhibition hall below, a large collection of early iridescent lime green ‘vaseline glass’ glows in a glass case and rare china pieces that once graced the grand dining rooms of Manitowaning tastefully attest to the wealth of the townspeople in those days. Most of the museum’s extensive collection has been donated by local families whose ancestors settled here in the 1860s and later. “The biggest part of our collection is the china and glassware,” says Mr. Maguire, and there are enough display cases throughout the museum of the most fanciful blown glass and now-vanished porcelain patterns to amaze today’s visitors with perhaps more ‘minimalist’ domestic tendencies.

The spacious reception room features the affectingly executed scale model boats of Jacob C. Shigwadja; the late model-builder handcrafted large replicas of Manitoulin’s first ferries, including the Normac of the 1930s, the Norgoma and Norisle of the 60s (the latter ferry is berthed just down the street in Manitowaning Bay), and a five foot long cedar model of today’s Chi-Cheemaun, launched in 1974.

The original rooms house tools, taxidermy–no home of distinction was without at least a stuffed loon or fox somewhere–and early domestic implements, all witness to a long-gone way of life. A WWI and WWII military display shows rare vintage photographs of Manitoulin’s uniformed contributors to the war efforts; another room houses the last telephone switchboard in Manitowaning, in use until 1973 when dial phones took over, operated for a time by the Assiginack Museum’s former curator, Jeanette Allen.

We pause before a display of early children’s toys, including a gangly, crudely carved wood doll with hand-painted eyes and mouth: “This one,” says Kelsey Maguire, “was made by my great-grandfather, Jim Leeson, for my grandmother Amy Maguire, nee Leeson, circa the 1920s. It was loaned to the ROM’s Ethnology Gallery ‘Dolls’ Exhibit in 1979. It’s a ‘dancing’ doll. If you sit down and hold a wood shingle off your knee and bounce the doll up and down on it, the hinged legs make it look like it’s dancing.”

Among the picnic tables around the grounds are a restored one room log schoolhouse (1878), moved from Ten Mile Point, a driving shed and a blacksmith shop with authentic period settings in which to imagine life back then. One tiny log cabin, belonging to Philomene Lewis, was moved here from Wiikwemkoong. A photographic history of the area’s first schools is a paean to settler industry in establishing education early on. Here are Budge’s Settlement School (1874), Manitowaning’s Continuation School (1880), the Union School in the Slash (1883) and many more.

The curator, born a Haweater, has always lived in Manitowaning, and he is in his element here, amidst the local mementoes handed down through the generations: “This is my family,” he says, taking in the whole museum complex, from hardscrabble beginnings to later grandeur.

On Friday mornings in summer, a lively market and performance by Debajehmujjig theatre group fills the historic setting with local food, crafts and frolic.

The ‘Historic Walking Tour of Manitowaning’ map, available free at the front desk, lists over forty places of interest in the town.

Assiginack Museum and Heritage Complex: 125 Arthur Street, Manitowaning. Tel: 705-859-3905. Hours in July and August: Monday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. www.assiginack.ca/assiginack-museum-heritage-complex

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

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Gore Bay Museum

Gore Bay Museum

Gore Bay

Tucked into a hillside in the town of Gore Bay, a complex of limestone buildings was erected in 1889 when the town became the judicial seat of Manitoulin Island: a courthouse, a land office and a home for the jailer—with jail cells—perched on the lower slopes of the West Bluff, visible from every vantage point.

Today, the large courtroom in the classical-style building at 27 Phipps Street still hears the cases for the District of Manitoulin every week of the year. The jailer’s home, a quaint farmhouse-style stone structure at 2 Dawson Street around the corner from the courthouse, now houses the Gore Bay Museum.

The former home of the jailer and his family, and the ‘lockup’ part of the house—four tiny jail cells with a high barred window, narrow barred cell door and barely enough room for a cot—were separated by a thick wood door. Nowadays, this part of the museum, home and jail, accommodates early settler artifacts, furniture, lace bedspreads and table runners, dolls, toys, dresses, hats and kitchen implements in its perfectly preserved, original rooms; a noteworthy collection honours the career of local photographer Joseph Wismer with exquisite prints made from his glass negatives taken between 1900 and 1930. The prisoners’ wood refectory table, off-limits to photographs, is a moving memorial to the men who carved their names on its surface.

A new wing, designed by architect Brian Garratt and built in 2005, beautifully accentuates the old jailer’s quarters, and has also expanded the museum’s role in the community as host to artist exhibitions, lectures, concerts, book launches and readings within the wide space and, in summer, also outside on the long, stone-column-lined ‘porch’ on two sides.

Recognized with the Ontario Historical Society’s 2014 Russell K. Cooper Living History Site or Heritage-Based Museum Award for ‘heritage-based excellence in programming, ingenious problem solving, or site development,’ the Gore Bay Museum has presented unique cultural offerings for over 30 years.

Since 1987, Nicole Weppler has been the director of the museum, overseeing continual improvements as well as the building and programming expansion that then led to the development of a ‘satellite’ site on the waterfront, the Harbour Centre, dedicated to showcasing local art and artists in their studios, galleries and shops and the William Purvis Marine Centre on the third floor.

“Nothing beautiful happens without a multitude of people helping,” says Ms. Weppler, who works with the Museum Board of Gore Bay’s town council and many community volunteers to stage multiple events–with homemade donated catering–every year to benefit the community and raise funds for the preservation of the historic museum building. For the last three years, Cheyenne Barnes has been the able summer intern greeting visitors, clearly enjoying the “great environment and people experience” and showing her anime-inspired drawings in the gallery gift shop before she heads to Laurentian University in the fall for zoology and music studies.

This summer, until September 30, the large, modern space is showing two local artists’ fine works in traditional and modern media: ‘Confluence’ is an exhibition of brushwork paintings in Japanese Sumi-e inks and Chinese watercolours on Japanese and Italian fine art paper by Lynne Gerard. The artist, whose studio and shop is in the Harbour Centre, merges her considerable skills in painting, poetry and calligraphy to create each artful, enlightening meditation on birds, horses, ravens, hummingbirds, a bicycle ride home after work, life, art.

Another gallery is dedicated to the memory of Donald Moorcroft (1935-2015), a photographer who summered for years at Ice Lake; a former professor of physics at the University of Western Ontario, he was a hobbyist at first. On Manitoulin, he said, he could “suddenly see what was in front of my eyes.” His work is of deep contemplation of patterns, textures, landscapes and feelings in Nature: lichen as you’ve never seen it, mesmerizing veins in rock, a forest melting in golden fog.

Slipped in behind the gallery is the ‘dental office’ with two dental chairs and all the grim accessories necessary to the gruesome procedures available then. There’s a ‘grocery store’ display with cash register and typewriter on the clerk’s desk and boxes and cans of popular old brands of household goods stacked on the shelves.

Step over the door sill that separates the gallery from the home and jail to be transported into Gore Bay and environs of the late 1800s. In the warren of original rooms, upstairs and down, little dioramas are created, each a surprise to come upon. A child’s bedroom resonates with the care of the painstaking hand work in the lace bed cover and embroidered nursery rhymes. In the jail, one cell is exactly as it was then, cot overlooked by barred window; other cells are arranged as curio cabinets of fascinating relics of bygone days: clothing, dolls, wash bowls and jugs ordered from the Eaton’s catalogue.

At the Gore Bay Museum, the legacy of yesterday seamlessly melds with contemporary artistic expression, tomorrow’s cherished heritage.

Gore Bay Museum, 2 Dawson St, Gore Bay. Tel: 705-282-2040. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 4 pm, Sunday 2 to 4 pm. gorebaymuseum.com

Harbour Centre, 40 Water Street, Gore Bay. Open Tuesday- Sunday 12 pm to 4pm. gorebaymuseum.com/harbour-centre

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

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Little Schoolhouse Museum

Little Schoolhouse Museum

South Baymouth

It’s a little harder to imagine now, looking around the busy ferry transportation hub that is South Baymouth in the summer, the two-family fishing base of 1878 that became the foundation of a booming fishing industry, when the village became known as ‘The Mouth.’

The original fishing families, the Ritchies and the Wilmans, joined by other pioneers, also built the first school in 1891. Heading south to the ferry, that school is the last building before the terminal–a bright red wood structure, trimmed in white, with belfry and bell, it is now part of the complex known as the Little Schoolhouse and Museum, just the place to explore the humble but ambitious beginnings of the port village.

The Little Schoolhouse was in use until the 1960s and is fully furnished with all the accoutrements conducive to learning–small wooden desks, blackboards behind the teacher’s desk and cards along the top with the perfect cursive writing all pupils had to master, a globe, a wall map of the world, a woodstove, all authentic to Manitoulin schools in the 1940s.

The separate Museum building a few feet away, opened in 2001, is a large, bright space holding captivating displays on all sides and curio cases in the centre that feature this community’s important role in the development of the Island economy. Highlighted are the early activities of catching, salting and shipping fish, the subsequent commerce in fresh fish, the families, Green, Chisholm, Sim, Owen, who joined the original two in building South Baymouth’s thriving fishing industry, the beginnings of regular ferry service to and from Tobermory with the 14-car ‘Normac’ in 1932.

Among the mounted photos of early settlers, mills and scenes of home and farm life are a hundred-year-old ‘Log Cabin’ quilt, an alcove honouring spinning and weaving arts, the community’s first telephone switchboard, and photos and artifacts of WWI and WWII donated by local veterans’ families.

The Museum devotes a section of the exhibition area to the enduring story of the ‘ghost town’ of Michael’s Bay; the site of the old mill town lies 15 kilometres west of South Baymouth. Here, in the place of a former Odawa settlement that dates to the 1600s, as soon as Tehkummah was surveyed in 1866, a mill was built on the rushing Manitou River that before long cut and shipped millions of feet of pine, squared timbers and lath; in 1879, a town plot was laid out. Called ‘Stumptown’ for its only major commercial activity, timbering (which some say account for the rapid rise and fall of Michael’s Bay), it saw the building of boarding houses, stores, a hotel, taverns, a bakery, a school and soon spawned such occupations as millwright, cooper, carpenter, lighthouse keeper, fisherman. By the mid 1880s, the population of Michael’s Bay had grown to 400 souls.

The whole settlement burned in 1914, razing the mill and the homes and businesses to the ground; the booming town that had appeared overnight similarly vanished in smoke. All that is left today is a large expanse of flat field next to the falls where the mill stood, now almost totally hidden by large trees.

The mandate of the Michael’s Bay Historical Society (MBHS) is “dedicated to preserving the history and restoring the Michael’s Bay Townsite …. with the goal of purchasing the land.” The MBHS seeks to protect the five found cemeteries from development; one of these, a Methodist burial ground where 43 graves were found, is roughly signed on Michael’s Bay Road and may be visited by taking a short path leading into an overgrown, leafy glade where underfoot, little white crosses now bloom in the dense ground cover.

For now, the Michael’s Bay town site is under the auspices of the Federal Government due to an ongoing series of complicated previous land dealings; the old ghost town is closed to public access. Outstanding issues, including the Indigenous burial grounds and Anishinaabe land claims, must be resolved. 

The Little Schoolhouse Museum is the repository of the old survey maps of the town plot of Michael’s Bay and of records, photos and artifacts of the time of the lumber boom, the bust years that followed and of the ultimate tragic fire. There’s not much left now but the poignant memories and artifacts of Manitoulin’s first lumbering town and of the dreams and aspirations, not only of the early builders of South Baymouth and Tehkummah Township, but of those of seek to preserve them.

The Little Schoolhouse and Museum, South Baymouth. Tel: 705-859-3663. Open daily (May to October) 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Admission by donation.

The Michael’s Bay Historical Society welcomes inquiries and new memberships ($10 annually) by mail at P.O. Box 7, South Baymouth ON P0P 1Z0

Article by

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry

Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally. Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine. Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.

Latest on Instagram from #southbaymouth