Figure 1: Sturgeon Bay, from Delta Drive
In 1832 steamer service on Georgian Bay began. This helped bring a huge increase in travelers, settlers and freight to this area.
In 1844 the Sturgeon Bay Road was opened between Coldwater and Tay Port, at the mouth of the Sturgeon River. Here a blockhouse was erected, a shipping depot established and docks installed. Early steamers made Sturgeon Bay a port-of-call as it served as the terminus of the Coldwater portage and the point of embarkation for travellers going to the upper lakes.
Figures 2 and 3: The Steamers Gore And Kaloolah
The steamer Gore (125′ x 16′, 160 tons) was the first steamer to make regular trips in connection with this port, and indeed with any other port on Georgian Bay. The Gore was built at Niagara in 1839. After 1845 she ran regularly from Sturgeon Bay, stopping at several ports on her route to Sault Ste. Marie. Reverend John McDougall told of travelling from Coldwater to Collingwood on the Gore in 1851. She was scrapped in 1861. The navigation aid at Gore Rock to the east of Methodist Island recalls this early steamship.
In 1853 another side wheeler steamer, the Kaloolah, was put into service; 188 ft. long she provided one private stateroom. Her other berths were entered off the saloon and the ladies’ lounge. On his arrival by stage in Tay Port, an English traveller in 1854 described the other passengers as “a large and non-descript cargo of passengers – emigrants from Europe, speculators from the States, tourists from all parts of the world, rough backwoodsmen, and mysterious characters journeying towards the limits of civilization for reasons best known to themselves.” (Barry, James P, p 116)
From an article in the Barrie “Northern Advance” from 17 May in the same year we learn that “The steamer Kaloolah had to put back yesterday by reason of considerable amount of ice having drifted into the Bay from the direction of Owen Sound. She had about 150 passengers on board, many of whom were emigrants who had passed the winter at Sturgeon Bay having been intercepted in their route westward, last fall.”
The Kaloolah was wrecked in 1862.
With the development of the Bruce mines to the north, the lake traffic here grew rapidly, and Sturgeon Bay flourished. Owing to this boom, a town plot called Port Powell was surveyed in 1846 on lots 9 and 10, con. 9, Tay, and building lots placed on the market. This activity continued until 1857 when the Northern Railway reached Collingwood and it replaced Tay Port as the port for the Bruce mines. Port Powell did not develop.
Figure 4: Sturgeon Bay Dock and Port Powell Survey
Small steamers such as the Maid of Midland ran regularly between Coldwater and Penetanguishene before the Midland Railway came to Midland in 1879.
Figure 5: Maid of Midland, c1878
For more detail on Tay heritage sites visit https://taytownshipheritage.wordpress.com
Barry, James – Georgian Bay the sixth great lake, Clarke Irwin and Company Limited, 1968
Barry, James P., Georgian Bay an Illustrated History, the Boston Mills Press, 1992
Dominion of Canada – Illustrated Atlas of the Provinces of Canada, Simcoe County of Ontario, WH Belden and Co 1878
Hunter, A. F. – A History of Simcoe County – Barrie Ontario, County of Simcoe 1909. Volume 1, Public Affairs, Chapter 8: The Beginning of Lake Navigation http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/CAN-ONT-SIMCOE/2000-04/0954739770
Maritime History of the Great Lakes http://www.maritimehistoryofthegreatlakes.ca/GreatLakes/
Porter, C.A. – A History of the Community at Sturgeon Bay, 1999
Tay Heritage Committee http://www.tay.ca/en/your-municipality/tay-heritage-committee.asp