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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Historical Sign

A local project spearheaded by the Oro-Medonte History Association which celebrates the historic communities along Penetanguishene Road has resulted in the placement of a sign that will raise awareness of the history of Orr Lake. The history of other communities along the road is preserved in the same way, from Kempenfelt Village to Wyebridge. The project was funded by a Trillium grant and undertaken by the local Women’s Institutes with the support of the Springwater Heritage Committee and Council, and the County of Simcoe, as well as other municipalites and organizations. An experienced core committee dealt with design, research, editing and co-ordination.

Highway 93, which winds its way northward from Barrie to Georgian Bay, along the eastern end of Orr Lake, is the second oldest road in the province. It was originally the old military trail to Penetanguishene, with the old Hamilton Inn near Orr Lake Forest Headquarters being one of the many stopover points along the trail for weary travellers. The lake itself provided a measure of relaxation and cooling on hot summer days.

While Orr Lake did not evolve as a village, like Hillsdale or Waverley, the lots along the road were settled early, and a community grew in association with the mills and the road. Hence, a sign was created in recognition of Orr Lake’s contribution to the early history of the area. It has been placed on the Old Survey Penetanguishene Road (South Orr Lake Rd) inside the community park. A fitting location, since it marks the only deviation that the original surveyor, Samuel Wilmot, conceded to the terrain in 1811.

An ad hoc member of the committee, Peter McEwen, undertook the task of the Orr Lake sign on the strength of a long standing connection. His grandfather, Alfred Benham, purchased waterfront here in the 1920s and became an early cottager and builder. In addition, he spent his childhood and adolescent summers at the lake and has relatives who remain on original lots.

Be sure to stop by the park to take a look at the new sign. An official celebration of the project will take place toward the end of September. Representation from the OLRA is welcome. Details to follow.

In 1987, Elsie F. Thomas wrote a publication entitled Recollections. The focus of this little booklet was to record the story of the Orr Lake Ratepayers Association from its inception in August of 1954 up to 1986. It includes a preface that details the early history of the area, and first years of the development of the Orr Lake community. Copies were made, and many of the older cottages may still have one tucked away in a drawer or on a bookshelf. Past president Ruth Woodcock expressed interest in updating the story to the present day and the current executive would love to assist with that endeavour. While we have plenty of records from which to draw facts and events of the last thirty years, we would also like to include a section on various families with longstanding ties to Orr Lake and the Association. Please contact us with your personal stories for consideration. It’s a wonderful way to leave your mark for future generations.

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