Parry Sound Local History

If you travel across this country it is not hard to find people who have been to Parry Sound.  Both major rail lines and the Trans Canada Highway run through the town and until recently it was an important port of call for Great Lake's passenger ships.  You could hardly venture anywhere east or west in Canada without passing through Parry Sound.

The area was first inhabited by natives.  It was located on a natural canoe route that snaked through the thirty thousand islands and connected the interior to the St. Lawrence River and on to the Atlantic Ocean.  The early European explorers used the route to open up the north and west to the fur trade. The century between 1660 and 1760 was marked by bitter Indian warfare.  The Iroquois eventually destroyed the more trade oriented Hurons.  There is still a strong native presence in the area with thriving communities at Parry Island, Moose Deer, Gibson and Shawanaga.

Originally the only settlement on this side of Georgian Bay consisted of a sawmill and a few shacks at the mouth of the Seguin River.  You might see an occasional fur trading post or a band of wandering natives.  The most dramatic sight would be the miles and miles of virgin pine.  So much pine that the loggers of the day thought it could never be logged over.  They proved themselves wrong and by the early 1920's the huge stands of pine were completely gone.

By 1867 primitive roads had been built but by far most of the traffic to isolated settlements was by steamer.  The treacherous storms of Georgian Bay claimed many of these vessels like the Waubuno, sunk with all hands lost off Copper Head in 1879. 

The most important single person in development of the town of Parry Sound was "Governor " William Beatty.  He, his father and his brother James brought out William Gibson, a Willowdale surveyor who established the first saw mill in 1856.  Beatty surveyed the townsight, built roads, ships and churches and encouraged settlers.  He was a man of exacting moral views and enforced his own brand of prohibition under what came to be known as the "Beatty Covenant".

In 1868 the Free Grant Lands Act was passed.  This brought an influx of settlers and by 1874 the entire area was settled.  The McKellar and Dunchurch areas boast the better farming land.  The thin soil, large quantities of shield rock and the harsh winters defeated a great many of the early settlers.

Over the years industry has come and gone.  Some notables are Canadian Industries LTD and Dominion Industries at Noble, Rockwell Industries in Foley Township and the still present Shaw Almex.  Tourism, however, has become the mainstay of the community.  The area's Festival of the Sound is a major event that brings visitors from all over the globe.  Our year round recreation facilities and accommodations are world class.  By far the most spectacular part of a Parry Sound experience is the Georgian Bay.  It only takes one cruise among the thirty thousand islands to see why people return time after time. 

So if you are visiting the area for a few days or just passing through, take a good look at Parry Sound.  Check out the scenery, historical buildings, ghost towns and other attractions.  It may be an experience you'll never forget.