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History of Central Manitoulin

We remember our history here.

The Central Manitoulin Historical Society welcomes visitors to the 19th century at the Pioneer Museum. Visit the Pioneer Museum and Welcome Centre on Hwy. 551 in Mindemoya. Pioneer Park Museum preserves artifacts and history of the pioneer life in Central Manitoulin. Many of the exhibits feature the history and culture of farming, fishing and lumbering in our area. The museum is open every day in July and August from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

The Discovery Centre preserves artifacts from the early history's of Providence Bay and Spring Bay. The artifacts and information is preserved by the Providence Bay and Spring Bay Historical Society. See the displays in person at the Discovery Centre 24 Mutchmor Street in Providence Bay. The museum is open every day in July and August from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm or by appointment.

The Municipality of Central Manitoulin was created in 1998 with the amalgamation of the Township of Campbell, the Township of Carnarvon and the Township of Sandfield.

The Township of Campbell

The unorganized township of Campbell Township was surveyed in 1867 and named for Sir Alexander Campbell. He was the commissioner of Crown Lands from 1864 to 1867 and Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario from 1887 to 1892. The area known as “Old Spring Bay” was actually in Carnarvon Township. The community of Spring Bay was originally known as Cavemount. Its post office was established in 1897 when Benjamin Bock became the first postmaster of Spring Bay (Cavemount). Until that time, the first settlers got their mail at Providence Bay. Benjamin Bock acted as mail carrier and postmaster for the first five years and was then succeeded by Thos. Ritching kept the office until it was moved to Spring Bay corner. The hamlet of Lonely Bay was founded when the Evans and Phillips families established shingle and sawmills in the fall of 1880. Between Lonely Bay and Spring Bay lies Grimsthorpe, named for Samuel Grimes, its first postmaster in 1889.

The Township of Carnarvon

Carnarvon Township was organized in 1879 with pioneers Francis (Frank) Wagg as Reeve and his brother Colman as Clerk. The first business in the Providence Bay area was lumbering. The first lumber company to come to Providence Bay were Messrs. Garland, Johnston, Munro and McNevin. Later, Mr. Ralph Mutchmor became a partner of the Providence Bay Milling Company and in time took over the whole business. The majority of the streets in Providence Bay are named after these pioneers and their families. Settlers began arriving in the Mindemoya area around 1875. In the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century, timbering was an important industry of this community. At the time, the Mindemoya River was a rushing turbulent river down which floated railroad ties and logs to Providence Bay.

The hamlet’s future was secured in 1879 when John Morrison established a general store. Alexander Howell also opened a grist, saw and shingle mill 5 km to the southwest. By December 1880 the hamlet was dubbed ‘Morrisonia’ by the local paper. In 1881 Coleman Wagg became the owner of the store property. The settlement then became known as Hopetown.

In 1880, a post office was opened in the Frank Wagg home and was named “Mindemoya”, an indigenous word for “Old Woman”. The name Mindemoya stuck.

Mindemoya is the home and birthplace of Manitoulin’s dairy industry, founded by A. J. Wagg (1875-1960). The Mindemoya Creamery was built in 1901 and operated by the Wagg family until 1981. After that the business was purchased by Farquhar’s Dairy.

The Township of Sandfield

Named after Sir John Sandfield Macdonald and was surveyed in the year 1870 by J.W. Fitzgerald. Sandfield Township became organized in 1880. The First Reeve was William Marshall McDonald with the first Council meeting held on May 24, 1880.

The Sandfield post office was established in 1880, with William McDonald, a flour and sawmill owner, as postmaster. In 1880 Sandfield was a bustling community with grist, saw and shingle, carding, and woollen mills as well as several lime kilns in the vicinity. Samuel Watson and Lucinda Gough Watson started he general store in Sandfield in 1886. The store was operated by five generations of Watsons. By 1880 the community of Silver Bay on Lake Manitou consisted of 35 families. In 1903 a fish hatchery was built in Sandfield and was in operation for many years. Farming, sawmills, woolen, grist mills and tourism were the major industries in the area.

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