A BRIEF HISTORY OF EIGHT MILE POINT
Compiled by Susan T. Sheridan
Eight Mile Point was initially sold in the late 1920’s by the Cotton Brothers. The land, formally used for grazing cattle and growing potatoes, was purchased by George McLean and Jack Warner.
In 1930, the Hazlett sons (from Line 15) were hired to build a road that continued along the lake side of the point. This endeavor lasted over a year and extended to lot #58.
In the summer of 1932, Archie McPhee Sr. was hired to chain and cut trails in to allow the surveyors to measure and calculate the lots size. Archie McPhee Sr. walked 2-3miles from his home, near Highway 11, towards the lake and cleared land for a daily wage. Archie was paid $2.00 for eight hours of work. The McPhee family is an historical asset to Eight Mile Point. Archie Sr. often rescued owners during the winter months by pulling their vehicles out of the ditch on either side of the narrow road called Cahiague Drive. Young Archie, as he was referred, followed in his father’s footsteps taking care of the ‘needs and concerns’of the point. Today we are fortunate to have the third generation legacy of the McPhee family, David and Terri. The McPhee’s continue to assist families around Eight Mile Point with services including lawn mowing, snow removal, repairs and other projects. After the required survey, George McLean and John Warner became partners, owning the registered subdivision consisting of 149 individual lots and a large piece of property, 62 acres, in the centre.
In the early years, the centre property had a seven hole golf course and single tennis court. If one looks closely, cedar trees defining these sports spots can still be seen. At one point, before World War II, an ice hut was built to encourage the sale of the lots. The golf course was not successfully used and later, a baseball field was set up. Eventually, the idea of a regulation double tennis court on the bay side was sparked. The first courts were built on the present ‘cottagers’ lot (#99) on the bay side.
Both the ‘Cottagers Lot’ and the ‘Centre Property’ were purchased from the estate of George McLean and John Warner by the Trustees of the ‘Eight Mile Point Trust and Cottagers’ Association in 1954. The ‘Eight Mile Point Trust and Cottagers Association’ was organized in 1950 and officially established in 1954. The original Trustees were: R. L. Algie, William Belt, Kenneth Monntizambert and Frederick Pollard. William Belt has recently passed away but there are relatives of both the Algie and Pollard family that are still at Eight Mile Point.
After the purchase of the centre property, it was voted to name the acreage the “McLean Reserve’ to commemorate George McLean who made this parcel of land available to the association for the price of $12,500. What we know as McLean Crescent was titled Lot A, while the Centre Property was titled Lot B.
For many years, Lot A was filled with cattle and sheep grazing in the warmer months. Prior to that time, Natives from Coldwater and the Rama area would fish for lake trout and white fish on the point. For many years primitive fishing tools and other relics were found.
Between the years of 1931 and 1945, the first property owners (approximately chronological) were the following families: McLean, McCulloch, Ross, Delagran, Awrey, Richie, Mould, Gardner, Taylor, Turnbull, Soward and Sheridan.
When the ‘bayside’ road was finally cleared to meet the narrow point on the ‘lake side’ road, it stopped around lot #34 and was connected by a path (still in use today) to lot #96. For many years, the dusty, gravel roads were a welcomed relief for ‘city’ folks making their way to ‘cottage country’. Drivers never tail gaited as the dust caused a complete white out. In 1994 the road was re named from Cahiague Drive to Eight Mile Point Road. The point extension was then named McLean Drive.
By John McCulloch – Summer resident since 1934 (written in 2003)
This is a story of Eight Mile Point, written about events and developments since 1931, with some minor history thrown in for good measure. Hopefully, the facts and dates as presented are correct – we beg pardon for any discrepancies.
The name Eight Mile Point is found on a map dated 1881. The “Eight Mile” probably refers to the distance from the narrows at Atherley to the tip of the Point. When the property was sold for development in 1931, the project was given the name “Point Cahiague”. Cahiague was the name of an aboriginal tribe that had an encampment off what is now Highway 12, north of Warminster. Incidentally, an archeological dig has been conducted at this site intermittently over the years. The native name disappeared in the mid-forties, possibly because there were some problems in spelling and or pronunciation.
The property that lies south of the cross-road, running from Carthew Bay up to Lake Simcoe and lot 1, was sold to Mr. George McLean Sr. and Mr. Jack Warner, both of Orillia, in September 1931. The vendor was Mr. Noah Cotton, a farmer who lived in a stone house on the east side of Concession 13 between the Ridge Road and Highway 11. At the time of this writing, the house is occupied by Mr. Marshall, a son of Mrs. Marshall, nee Cotton. Mr. McLean Sr. was a real estate and insurance agent in Orillia as well as Liberal M.P. for the town, 1940-1945. Mr. Warner was known to be an affluent retired lumberman.
Up to 1931, the Cottons drove their cattle down the 13th Concession (hopefully consulting the railway schedule in advance) and left down to the bay, along what has recently been named Lakeshore Boulevard. The herd was driven along the beach, onto the Point property and fenced in by fencing from the bay side to lake side across the narrowest point. Well-fed and watered, the cattle returned to the home farm in the fall. One of the participants in this cattle drive was a young lad by the name of Archie McPhee. It is possible that some of the top flight lawns, flowers and vegetable gardens, found around the Point are beneficiaries of a legacy from the Cotton herd.
The lowing herd and drowsy tinklings are no longer heard in our land. We have compensated for the loss of these rude bucolic sounds with man-made sounds more in harmony with our culture – the gentle chuckling of the chain-saw, the fine-tuned hum of the lawn-mower, the thrum of the leaf-blower in autumn, and more recently, the rolling chorus from jet-skis. As Napoleon was heard to say, while returning from a winter holiday in Russia; “Tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse.”
In the fall of 1931, the McLean Warner Group enlisted the services of local farmers to put in the road. Two of these farmers were the Hazlett brothers, Creswell and Norman, whose family owned and worked the land now developed as Maple Wood Estates. The initial road went up the bay side from Lot 128 to Lot 95. This road went through two swamps and was well built. A cross road was put across the centre property from Lot 95 to Lot 37 and this road enabled Mr. Delagran, in 1932, to truck in building materials to construct his cottage, on Lot 34. Mr. William Delagran still owns this cottage.
By 1933 the road went up the field and through the woods, still on the bay side. This road stopped about Lot 55 and continued as a wagon track across the field on the lake side and on through the woods. The road was made more evident by the occasional passage of a car or a truck. About Lot 32, the road, such as it was, made a sharp right turn to the lake where it continued, after a fashion, across the stone beach. The road on the lake side was completed by 1938, when Mr. and Mrs. McLean built a cottage on Lot 19. Apart from minor straightening, ditching, some widening, and cutting down too many trees along the road allowance, the road was as it is today.
The road through the four swampy areas was strictly a one-way passage. Many an unwary (or foolish) driver slid off the road into the swamp, trying to pass an on-coming car.
Speaking of roads, how did people get from Toronto to the Point? No matter how fast your car could go, it was still a two hour trip, provided you wished to arrive in one piece. The road, Yonge St. or Highway 11, was a two-lane highway that ran from downtown Toronto to North Bay with a speed limit of 50 mph (80 kph) – 30 mph (50 kph) through towns. And if you think the Don Valley Parkway is bad at 8 a.m. on a weekday, try Main St. in downtown Barrie at 12 noon, July 12 1936!
Immediately beyond Barrie’s eastern limit, Highway 11 made a long curve north in the direction of Crown Hill. Just before Crown Hill the highway turned east into what was then, as now, is known as Gasoline Alley. The highway continued its north-east direction toward Orillia much as today but with a lot more curves until arriving at the Hawkestone sideroad, where it made a sharp left turn up to East Oro. A right turn took Highway 11 across country to end at Oak ridges. A left turn took the highway through Forest Home and on to Orillia past ‘The Buildings’, previously known as the “Hospital for the Feebleminded” and earlier still; “Asylum for Idiots”. There was no bridge across the across the highway beyond Forest Home – because there was no highway – just a hill.
Old Highway 11 is traversed for a short bit by those coming from Orillia via the Oro-Orillia Town Line (Oro-Medonte Line 14). A very pretty drive it is, up the hill to East Oro and beyond. Those interested in antiquities can find remains of old Highway 11 at various places – south-east corner in East Oro, behind the Schoolhouse Gift Shop and other places.
We have digressed. In the early days most people drove on Highway 11 to the 13th Concession, down a very dusty road (unless it was raining) and down the hill toward the lake and across the tracks to the cross-road. After learning the local geography, many Torontonians heading for the Point cut down to the Ridge Road at Hawkestone. Some who were tired of the highway rat-race could pick up the Ridge Road at the east end of Barrie and go all the way to Concession 13, through Shanty Bay, Oro Station and Hawkestone.
The first two cottages built in 1932 were Wainwright and Delagran. In 1933 Mr. C. Awry, a lawyer from Windsor, built on Lot 64. In 1934 Mr. C.V. Bennett built on Lots 59, 60 and 61. Lot 60 and the still extant cottage, sold to John McCulloch Sr. for a sum less than today’s annual real estate taxes.
McLean and Warner, as they had promised, installed a nine-hole golf course in the center property. This was done in style, with board-walks through the swamps to enable the golfers to get from one hole to the next tee. The course was maintained until the war, and then abandoned. The greens can be identified today by the quality of the grass compared with the fairways. It is a fine-blade grass.
Of more use to young people was a tennis court, located just up the hill from the present courts, in the centre property. This court was probably sited better than our two courts, running north and south – and out of the wind.
It is easily visible as the level, (now treed) area of land part way up the hill just north of the Cottagers’ Lot.
By 1940 there were approximately 22-23 cottages on the Point, with the majority on the bay. From 1946 there was a slow but steady build-up on the Point. Sometime about 1955 Mr. McLean had the distal portion of the Point surveyed and located the roadway in the middle of the property. This produced 23 Lots.
MEMORIES AND TRIVIA
Indians from Rama would come out in the spring and set up camps on what is now Lots # 22a and 23a. They would go out in canoes or rowboats trolling for lake trout. There is no memory of any motors on their crafts.
A small pop stand was operated by Mr. Orville Leigh across the road from the existing Carthew Bay Store. The latter was built by Mr. Leigh in 1952. The General Store has been enlarged at least once.
The railway was much busier then than now. Hearing the steam powered locomotives struggling up the grade from the Asylum to the 13th – particularly in the wee small hours – made the awakee want to get up and give it a push. This auditory nightmare was not helped when tent caterpillars wandered at night onto the warm tracks!
As noted in the Globe and Mail of 1934, electricity was available. Well- yes and no, sometimes… maybe. With the first dark cloud on the horizon, the power would falter. With the first flash of lightening or rumble of thunder – finito – and the power would be off for ‘x’ number of minutes, hours…once for 24 hours. This state of electrical disrepair lasted through to the fifties.
Ernie Banbury would drive around the Point, sometimes twice a week, selling fresh meat and vegetables in the 50s. He drove a black pick-up truck, with the back covered with a white tarp. The truck dripped water from the melting ice surrounding the produce. He built his highway store circa 1960 on the east side south of conc?
There was a drilled well in the center property located 20m in from the road, opposite Lot 64 and was equipped with an ‘armstrong’ pump. Is it still there?
A question; Where are all the leopard frogs, the toads, both grass and water snakes and the fireflies, of yesteryear? Could it be that the various pesticides used on lawns have caused these species to disappear? Or is it merely the destruction of their lake-side habitats?
The cross-road, now the footpath (running across the center property from Lot 35, MAS#71 through the center property to Lot 96, MAS# 205), was important to the early cottagers. On the south side of the road McLean and Warner had built an ice house, and had it filled annually with genuine Lake Simcoe Ice in 50 lb blocks. It was free to the Point cottagers – self-serve only – no delivery.
The 14th Concession, the Town Line was a mess in the thirties – it was impassable in 1934; probably neglected because there were no farms, or more likely, Oro and Orillia did not have enough money to fix it. When they got around to it, the big obstacle was the hill on the north side of the tracks. The engineers opted for the less expensive route and ‘took the low road’, putting a diversion to the east, around the base of the hill. Sometime in the 1960s they chopped the hill down to its current height in order to straighten the route.
In 1954 Mr. McLean Sr. made a most generous offer to a most hastily formed Eight Mile Point Cottagers Association. The offer was to sell to a trust the center property for, I believe, $13,000. This property has greatly enhanced our community and made it unique for privacy and peace and quiet.
Mr. McLean was a fine man. Any one of the early residents who had dealings with him – real estate or insurance –remember him as an honourable, decent gentleman. His foresight and generosity in the matter of the center property has indeed made our Point “ a place of beauty and a joy forever”.
Our thanks to his memory.
MAP OF EIGHT MILE POINT COTTAGER’S FROM 1975
CARTHEW BAY STORE HISTORY
The History of Carthew Bay Corner Store