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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

All roads leading to Penetang(A Travelers Guide through Time)

I will probably go back and piece the different routes to Penetang, but this comes from research I have been doing. This is from my research at the Barrie Newspaper archives. My intention was to go back to the Simcoe archives and fell in some of the information. But now I am limited to sitting at home so I hope this is still good enough.

Penetanguishene seems to have always been. There is evidence of prehistoric villages on its banks from time immemorial. In its earliest times, the people came (and went) to areas of St Lawrence by travelling west to the French River, North along the French River to Lake Nippissing, eventually finding their way to the Mattawa where they would travel to the Ottawa River and back down to St Lawrence where they would trade with the peoples there.

This trade was continued from the days when they were once neighbours to those people that lived along the St. Lawrence, before migrating to Georgian Bay. But this trade was not limited to that address. Commonly found in Wendat graves are conch shells (seashells) so the Wendat also had trade partners along the ocean.

Another ancient route is the Carrying Place Trail. The Carrying Place Trail was an ancient trail which led to the fish weirs in Orillia. This trail which begins along Lake Ontario led north, to Lake Simcoe across the lake by canoe and onto the weirs.

Route from Barrie to Penetang by the Nine Mile Portage

To get to Penetanguishene instead of the more pronounced trail to the narrows, you'd turn left and go to the Nine Mile Portage. The Nine Mile Portage led you to the Nottawasaga River and Schooner Town (Wasaga Beach). Following the shore, by boat or on foot you would get to Daoust Bay where a trail would lead you to Penetanguishene. (This travels over the longest freshwater beach in the world)

This trail was used for quite a while, even after the construction of the Penetanguishene

Road, as the poor quality of the early road, made it seasonally unusable. Early settlers would resort to the old ways of the Nine Mile Portage route.

Eventually in the middle part of the 1800s, the road became good enough to have a regular stagecoach run from Barrie to Penetanguishene. The road had been the responsibility of the landowners adjacent to the road. However because no roadbed had been laid down, the timber was cut and little else, it still flooded regularly.

Approximate route of early Communication between York and Penetang

Previous to this the mail was carried by Eli Corbiere. He would pick up the mail in York on foot and deliver it along the way. Mail that arrived in Penetang that was destined for further out into the Lake Huron, Georgian Bay area would be carried by Micheal LaBatte (as told to us by AC Osborne in the migration journal).

The stages sufficed for a while, but the town of Penetang and environs lacked a good method to ship or receive produce. This made any type of industry a moot point. The early days of Penetang were fueled by the British Military and still concerned with the Americans and later pensioning military. The people of Penetang were satisfied with a contact by steamship to Coldwater and along the shores of Georgian Bay.

The stage would give way to the railroad, but not before having fought off a potential foe in the way of a canal between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. Could the Trent Severn Waterway be the new method of conveyance?

It would not be a simple process of getting a railway to Penetanguishene either. A line was proposed from Beaverstone to Mundy's Bay, and much debate was had over the years before a line came to Penetang.

Northern advance

The powers that be applied to have a railway service Penetanguishene.

And a By-law was issued to make a debenture of fifty thousand dollars to make it so.

The Barrie advance was in support of the railway, as it was excited to have all the products come through Barrie.

Lex, although not happy with the amount of money Penetanguishene would put into the product, supported the endeavour as well. I wonder who Lex was?

The Northern Advance fretted in 1875 that the line would be taken up by the Northern Railway and connect it to Hamilton while using their labour. It would, but it would seem local labour was used as well.

In February of 1879, a special train was sent to Penetang to celebrate the completion of the railroad into Penetang. (link to article It's dark and hard to copy.

Many prominent people were on-board, the president of the Northern Railway, Mr Thompson, the passenger agent Mr Harvey, and the Simcoe County Council. The Reeve, Orson Phelps made a speech at a stop in Phelpston, Mr Harvey was next in Elmvale, and after a brief stop in Wyevale, they were on to Penetanguishene.

In Penetang after the dignitaries strolled around the town, they proceeded to the Georgian Bay Hotel. Which was on the corner of Main and Robert in Penetanguishene. Mr Charles Clarkson, the proprietor served a sumptuous meal and more speeches were made. The Reformatory Band played and Dr Spohn representing the locals also toasted the completion.

So a train would now go to and fro from Barrie to Penetang, although it would seem one would have to get up early! As the train arrived in Barrie at 625 am.

Here you can see that the Midland railway came from Orillia and the Penetanguishene railway came from Barrie. There was often talk of joining the two, some going straight across from Midland to Penetang and others going around the point. The two communities never got together, the towns were never connected.

Tiny township recognized the importance of the railway and gave their support, both officially and monetarily early one. This may have influenced the railway going through Tiny.

I was fortunate enough to see Landrigan Lake, which leads into the Creek that the Railroad follows. (Yeah it's still there even though nobody sees it.)

Of course, this wasn't good news for everyone, as some coach drivers would be out of business. I also assume many of the Hotels along the old Penetang Road would see their business come to an end.

It was not all easy going, in 1881 the train had to reverse its way back to Wyevale, as Penetang was unavailable due to a bush fire.

The railway would bring in businesses such as the Breighthaupt Brothers and Company in 1882, who would operate a tannery along Penetang Bay.

The railway also seemed to make small towns like Wyevale boom.

Ironically, the road was improved, now called Highway 93, it became once again the main route into Penetanguishene. Trucks replaced rail cars and the railway stopped, eventually pulling up the tracks. So that was how the travellers would come to Penetang, in brief at least.

Penetang station

Art Duval Pipesmoke of the Past

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