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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

Catching a Game in Huronia (The Early Years)

Coming off the World Juniors, an extremely good show that our Canadian team should be proud of, it got me thinking of sports in our area. Where did the locals "catch a ame" in the day?

Sports you could say have been a long time fixture in the region. The first recorded people catching a game in Huronia were the Jesuits. Way back in the 1630s, the Jesuits caught a game, watching and recording a game the Wendat were playing with a stick and ball. This game the Algonquin called Baggataway, and the Iroquois' Twarathon, eventually morphed into what we now call lacrosse. The Jesuits were the first to call the game Lacrosse, some say because the lacrosse sticks looked like the Crosiers used by Cardinals.

Men and women both played a variation and it was often used to settle disputes. A lot of ceremony and religion surrounded the game, and it and it's progeny hockey, continues to be a religious event to this day.

They called Lacrosse the little brother of war, and used it as such. Disputes could be settled by getting out the sticks and competing. The game was held over long distances, with goalposts but no real boundaries. It could last from daybreak to nightfall and maybe days at a time.

Although not in the area, Sir John Franklin, on his expedition to the arctic on foot, which included two locals, or who would be locals in Cuthbert Amyot and Pierre Lepine, describes a game much like hockey that the voyageurs who accompanied were playing.

We are not completely sure of how many games were played similar to lacrosse and hockey, but game balls are found in local archeology.

In the early part of the 18th century, on the cricket grounds by Mud (St Andrews Lake) the on military property, you could take in a cricket match played by locals.

In a Dominion Day celebration in 1870 the Penetang cricketers were playing in Waverley at a picnic held there.

The Thompsons, Xavier and H.H participated, as did Dr Spohn, Jeffrey, Kennedy and Quigley, names who would continue in sports throughout the years.

H.H. Thompson, was still in the Fur Trade, although at that time it was the waning years.

Not to be outdone, the Waverley squad also had a Dr Blackstock, and the local Hotel (there were two hotels) owner in their President CC Davis.

Waverley would take a 77 to 29 lead in the first, before Penetang would come back following a run short. I don't believe any history of cricket grounds in Waverley exist, but they seemed to have been on par with a Penetang squad of the time. Well it looks good on the sport's pages the Penetang squad batted twice and the Waverley squad only once, and still won by one run.

The next year, 1871, Penetang would revenge the loss at the Dominion Picnic.

Waverley Cricket was reorganized in 1870 report

Penetang rd Villages Project

Of course they stopped at the Davis Hotel, he was the President of the Cricket team at one point. (It says here he acquired it in 1872, but this article says Davis Hotel in 1870, so...)

I makes you wonder if the baseball diamond behind these buildings down the hill, was once a cricket pitch?

Team sports like cricket was not the only sports participated in at the time. Regatta' were also held in the summer, with some travelling as far as Barrie to participate. They loaded their boats on the train or hauled their boats over the Penetanguishene Road, which had been widened and improved over the years.

Sailing on Penetang Bay was not limited to the summer as this picture shows an ice boat on the bay (from Library and archives Canada. )

Postcard courtesy Rene Hacksetter

In august 24th of 1876, we see a regatta and Baseball in Penetang. Three clubs, Penetang, Collingwood, Lindsay and Aurora coming to town to compete for the Silver Ball. (Wish I knew where the Silver Ball went!) Penetang was victorious in 1876.

There was also a regatta with two ships, one larger than 20 feet the other smaller. Many local names, Micheau, Dusome ,Langlois and Charlwood (Charlebois?) taking part. The winds were so low the race could not be finished by nightfall so they had to pick up the next day. At the time the "Village" of Penetanguishene was nicknamed the ancient village, although I am not sure if it was meant as an insult, research has proved it may have been.

Barrie Advance

1876 would seem to mark the transformation of cricket to baseball, as the Penetang squad faced the Collingwood crew in both cricket and baseball.

In 1879, there was a big regatta in Barrie where those participating came from all over. Many different types of races were held, including rowing and canoeing.

Edward Hanlon was known as Ned and was one of the first sporting heroes of Toronto. Which seemed to lag behind the ancient village of Penetanguishene. Civic holidays seemed to be at the whim of the local council, as it was set for the regatta. I can imagine the trains were busy that day, travelling to Barrie for the event.

In 1907, Payette was racing in the Barrie Fair. I'm not sure how to read the racing form here, but it seems he was always in fourth. There seems to have been a lack of individual names, but I think that is due to the naming practices of horses. (Taking the mare and the studs name somehow.)

Seen here in the background of this photo is where the Penetang ball park was located. Phil Marchildon pitched here before going on to a career in the major leagues.

I have roughly coloured in the backstop: dugout area in purple, infield in orange and outfield in green to give a better idea of how it was laid out.

Only in Penetang would we put a bowling alley on a steep hill like the Main Street (Penetanguishene Rd). But as this map shows, there it is. Captain Kens is now where the Bowling alley was.

At the end of Poyntz Street, between Main and Maria there was a mammoth skating rink. I am not sure if that was the name or the description of the building? I assume it was a building! I also assume no mammoth were skating there, but ya never know.

The building is very comparable to the rink we now have a block over and up on Chatham.

The arena moved from here downtown to the Beer store area, where it burned in the 40's. To be replaced by the arena now.

Art Duval Pipesmoke of the Past

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