POSTCARD MEMORIES: Lake Simcoe, a Vital Transportation Route Until the Mid-19th Century

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From 1812 to 1815, the Lower Landing was a hive of activity as a storage depot where materials were collected before being shipped across Lake Simcoe and further west.

Postcard Memories is a series of historic views, stories and photos of Bradford and the region, a journey down memory lane on a Saturday morning.

We take the Holland River for granted. Today, traffic flows there. Two centuries ago, traffic circulated there.

Until the mid-19th century, Lake Simcoe was part of a vital transportation route that linked Lake Ontario to Lake Huron and, by extension, to the west. The road had first been used by First Nations, then by European fur traders and finally by settlers and the British army.

From Toronto (then York), we traveled up the Red River, then followed trails to the Holland River. You then paddle along the river to Lake Simcoe, cross to the head of Kempenfelt Bay where present-day Barrie is, then portage nine miles to Willow Creek, which empties into the Nottawasaga River and eventually into Lake Huron at Wasaga Beach.

This road played a vital role during the War of 1812. When war broke out, the Americans quickly cut Britain’s sea lines of communication between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. Britain would have to rely on the land route to support her forces in the west.

Lower Landing, where the overland section reached the east arm of the Holland River, was located approximately three miles north of present-day Holland Landing. From 1812 to 1815 it was a hive of activity as a storage depot where materials were collected before being shipped across Lake Simcoe and further west. Extensive wharves were built and warehouses and living quarters were raised.

Hundreds of men and tons of supplies, ranging from payroll to food to ammunition, passed through there. Without these men and materials, Britain might have been defeated in the West, and today’s Canada would probably end on the shores of Lake Huron.

Even after the war, the landing continued to be used by the British to supply its naval base at Penetanguishene until 1825.

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