If you have artifacts from Michaels Bay or pictures or printed material that we could copy, we’d like to hear from you. To contact the Michaels Bay Historical Society call Ben Lenter at 705-          or Ed at 705-859-2333


Help us uncover the history of Michael’s Bay. If you know any information about the history of Michael’s Bay, and would be willing to share it with us, please contact Ed Sagle at 859-2333 or Kelsey Leeson at 859-1551 or email us at Michael’s Bay Historical Society. Thank you!



Reminiscences – Grace McDougall Remembers

(The following was written in 1969 by Grace McDougall who along with her father Ronald McIntyre were born in Micheals Bay, he in 1870. It was edited by Bryan Gleason.)
The first settlers were the Wilmans who settled at what is now called Big Bay between Michaels Bay and South Baymouth, the latter being where they eventually resettled. At one time Michaels Bay was the largest village on Manitoulin Island. The first council meeting was held in 1881. The first school was made of logs and built in 1874. It was later replaced by a frame structure with wood siding.
Some of the teachers were J.R. Thompson, Miss Florence Hammond, Miss Pearl Lewis, Miss Nora Clarke, Miss Mary Jane Turnball and Miss Annie Martin.
The first hotel was owned by Hiram Tinkus, another by Edward Snow and Edward Leach. There were two stores, one owned by Ed Leach and Company and the other by the Michaels Bay Lumber Company.
There were two boarding houses, one blacksmith shop, a bakeshop and a lath mill, shingle mill and a saw mill. the mills were operated at different times by the Michaels Bay Lumber Company, the Toronto Lumber Company, Playfair and White, Kilgore Brothers and the Rathburn Company.
The lighthouse was built out on the point to guide ships in to pick up lumber. There was a tram running from the mills to the dock.
There are two cemeteries, one on the east side of the Manitou River and the other where the school stood.
There was a fire in 1914 and it destroyed nearly everything in the village. By this time however, nearly everyone had moved away to other places brought on by the demise of the town’s only industry. Ned Martin was about the last to leave. There was never any attempt to rebuild the village. Dr. S.E. Foster, a dentist from Wiarton built a cottage there but it later burned.
Manitoulin Expositor, February 21, 2001
Reprinted with permission from Ed Sagle
Michaels Bay Historical Society





William Bowerman Sr. remembers
A Trip to Michaels Bay.

The first time I saw Michaels Bay, I was eight. At that time we lived at the five corners. Archie Lockheart, who worked in Michaels Bay, boarded and spent weekends with us. My mother washed and mended his clothes. If he didn’t have a ride back to the village he had to walk, so my brother and I were to drive him to the ‘New House’ a boarding house at the intersection of the Michaels Bay and Government roads. We took him all the way instead, even though we weren’t supposed to go that far. It was a rare event when we got away from home and we were determined to make the most of it.
The road was excellent, hard packed as a city street. The air crisp and clear and the snow had that peculiar squeak by which one knows that it is very cold. We had no bells on our horse, which resulted in our meeting Robert Sims Sr. and his sleigh on the long narrow ‘S bridge’ that traversed a swamp and creek which flows from Cranberry Lake into the Manitou River. Mr. Sims was quite incensed that we had no bells to serve as a warning. We passed safely and went into town, which, to our country-boy eyes seemed quite a place. After looking it over, we headed for home.
That hard-packed road impressed me. There was lots of traffic over it, loads of logs going to the river, skidways and freighting of supplies from Manitowaning for the lumber camp. It was travelled too by the people of the surrounding area as Michaels Bay was the trading centre for them. I used the word ‘trading’ as cold cash was not so plentiful in those days and most of the dealing was done by barter.
Farmers took their produce such as grain, hay, butter and eggs to exchange for sugar, tea, flour and tobacco. Not so much flour was traded as most grew wheat and had it ground into flour at the grist mill. After the deal was made there might be a few cents left to buy a swatch of calico for the wife or a bag of candy for the kids. Many of the farmers with their horses worked for the lumber company in the winter. They charged their purchases and this was deducted from their wages paid in the spring.
Fishermen from South Baymouth sometimes took their catch there to exchange for the necessities of life. They came by boat, when the weather permitted, or by the eighth line road. This road was also used by people from the ‘Slash’ and those coming in from Hilly Grove and Manitowaning. Two creeks crossed it, the Blue Jay and Black creeks both spanned by bridges long since gone. Hugh Gallagher’s mill was located on the Blue Jay and the Hilson lumber camp was on this road also.
Manitoulin Expositor, March 7, 2001
Reprinted with permission from Ed Sagle
Michaels Bay Historical Society





Reminiscences – William Bowerman Sr. remembers
Working in Michaels Bay

Like many of the young men from my neighbourhood my first job away from home started at age 17 working at Michaels Bay in the lumber camp. The wage was $18 a month or $12.50 and your board. During the time I worked there I had a variety of jobs. I drove a team, worked in the bush, in the mill and at the dock, etc.
My first winter there I was teamed with Bill Emory, Comfort Hughson and John Coe. Of course we were not complete greenhorns as any boy brought up in a pioneer situation is well qualified to swing an axe and has a liberal education as a woodsman. We had to put 200 posts a day on the skidway. These would be put in the river after the spring breakup and floated down to the bay where they would be loaded on boats.
After the cedar trees were cut and limbed, they were sawed into post lengths then peeled and drayed to the skidway. I was the drayman. The freshly peeled logs were wet and slippery and I had a dickens of a time with them. Although they were bound with a chain, they slipped and slithered all over the place. I finally discovered that after the posts had dried for a day or two that I had no trouble with them. This was our first job and we gave it our all; we worked like Trojans and ate like pigs. It is an unwritten law that lumberjacks do not carry on a conversation at the dinner table, but I do remember hearing, “please pass the apples,” or “please pass the prunes,” in an Irish or Scottish brogue. Dried apples or prunes were always on the lumber camp menu and the reason for the no talking tradition may have been that hard work and fresh air make for hearty appetites.
The larger logs were cut into lumber which was shipped by boat, Because there was no railroad everything went by boat. Besides lumber there were shingles, lath, railway ties, pavement and hop-poles. The pavement was short lengths of cedar about a foot long. These, when stood on end, and fill put around them made pavement for city streets. The hop-poles were small cedar poles about six feet long on which hops were trained to grow. Boat loads of these were shipped to eastern Ontario and the USA.
Before the railway ties were shipped, they were hacked and hewn to the required size. A frame a proper length and width was placed on the log to get the correct measurement. The hacker, with a regular axe, made large cuts along the side and the hewer, with a broadaxe, followed and flattened it.
Manitoulin Expositor, March 21, 2001
Reprinted with permission from Ed Sagle
Michaels Bay Historical Society






Loading boats was demanding physical labour. Labour saving devices were unheard of then. We carried the timbers, ties and posts from the beach to the water. We could water from 300 to 1000 depending upon the weather. We made a small boom and secured it ashore. Into this we dumped the timber and hauled it over to the waiting vessel.
There was a log float and usually a five stage platform at the side of the boat. To get the timber to the top of the boat was an assembly line job. A man with a pike pole kept the logs near the float. Two men with picaroons pulled it up onto the float. It was then lifted by hand to the first stage of the platform. Two more men lifted it to the next stage and so on until it reached the last one where two men threw it over into the boat. For this we were paid $1.50 a day. Those were the good old days!
Stowing away was an exacting job as the load had to be perfectly balanced so it would not shift and cause the boat to list. This could be very dangerous especially in bad weather.
I remember watching a boat, its deck loaded high with pulpwood going out from South Baymouth. I could see that she was listing as she neared the mouth of the bay.
Suddenly she lurched to one side and wood went rolling into the water. I was sure she was in for trouble in that narrow channel but she rolled to the other side and the wood on the other side went overboard too. Ever so nicely she righted herself and went steaming into Lake Huron. The captain knew his business and that I venture to say was a scary learning experience for captain and crew. The odds were certainly against him making it.
Manitoulin Expositor, April 4, 2001
Reprinted with permission from Ed Sagle
Michaels Bay Historical Society





Wm. Bowerman Sr. remembers
Close Calls and Tragedies

I remember the time I helped run logs from White Lake down the Manitou to Michaels Bay for Andrew McDonald. The river of course was much higher than it is at the present time.
In the river gang were Walter Chisholm, Jack Johnson, my brother Jack and myself. All went well until we reached a bend in the river below the New Bridge where a log became wedged on a rock. This was bad because it caused a jam to form. The gates of the dam at Sandfield were raised to allow more water to flow but this did not relieve the situation. As a result the only thing to do was to free the logs in front of the jam. Each of us found a good log to ride and with our pike poles tackled the jam gingerly. We had to be prepared to take off early when the jam let go.
The banks were high leaving no chance of an easy escape at a critical moment so we had to rely on our log steeds and the current to get us out of danger. We succeeded in freeing the logs and were riding downstream at a lively clip. Suddenly, a log loomed directly in front of me. I managed to pole my log clear and shout a warning to Walter who was behind me. With the peevee stuck in the log he was crouched low and concentrating on riding that log. It hit a stone, head on, and he turned about three somersaults before he hit the water. Other than losing his cap and peevee and getting a good ducking he suffered no damage.
The first place I loaded boats was on the west shore north of Michaels Bay. I left there in a small sailboat with three other fellows. It was windy and raining hard. Eventually the wind subsided and we had to row. That was not enough as the boat began to leak. All we had in the boat with which to bail was a wooden bucket. One of the men had a bottle. He and one of the other fellows began to tipple. It was not long before they were both in an argumentative mood. It became so hot that one fellow broke the bucket over the other man’s head. With no bailer and the boat leaking badly we had to go ashore. There was no shelter from the inclement weather. Fortunately there was a lot of cedar ties along the shore. With some of these and our upturned boat, we made a shelter. We gathered cedar boughs and bark to make a bed, got a fire started and cooked our grub. The bill of fare was salt pork, which we called Chicago bacon, bread and tea. Next morning we made our way overland to our destination.
My father came to Michaels Bay in the early 1870s to work before he brought his family here. I remember him quoting a popular saying at the time, “Manitoulin is such a healthy place they had to kill a man to start a cemetery.” In fact, two men were killed in the mill and were buried on the south bank of the river near the site of the old mill. A baby was buried nearby.
Two men were drowned at the dock one fall. George Williamson and Jim Frampton were drawing lumber to the dock with a sleigh. The back half of the bob-sleigh went over the dock and, in the scramble that followed, both men lost their lives.
Phillip Clark, Ronald McIntyre, Jack Pyette and Tom Ellis disappeared on their way back to Michaels Bay from Providence Bay. The beach was searched for miles in hope of finding some clue to their disappearance. They were rescued four days later near Wiarton. The St. Agawa went aground on the west shore during a bad storm. We stood helplessly by as she was mercilessly beaten by huge waves. Fortunately the crew survived the ordeal.
Manitoulin Expositor, April 18, 2001
Reprinted with permission from Ed Sagle
Michaels Bay Historical Society





William Bowerman Sr. remembers
Surveying Michaels Bay

According to F.W. Major’s book, “Manitoulin, Isle of the Ottawas,” Tehkummah is the name of a prominent chief of the Wikwemikong band, whose name is on the treaty as ‘Sikhummah.’ “Tehkummah township was surveyed by G.B. Abrey in 1866, and again by J.W. Fitzgerald in 1870.” The Town plot of Michaels Bay was surveyed in 1880, and South Baymouth in 1901, by T.J. Patten.
In the 1870 survey the two gore concessions were cancelled and made to conform to the rest of the township. The area is 34, 121 acres of 42.32 square miles. It is situated in the south east corner of ceded portion of the Island.
In the early 1900s, I helped T.J. Patton resurvey at Michaels Bay. I knew where to find the northwest corner stake of the town plot. From there we ran a line to the northeast corner. Mr. Patten said that there should be a witness tree nearby if the line were true. Sure enough in a clump of cedars about four feet from the stake we had driven we found the witness tree which is on a corner and blazed on three sides.
There are approximately 400 acres in the Michaels Bay town plot. On the eighth line road there is an old stake which some think is the south corner of the town plot. A survey by the Indian Affairs surveyor, S. Bray, shows the line running to the shore.
Fire destroyed most of the buildings. At one time an area around the town plot was cleared of trees and brush as a precaution against brush fires but this was allowed to grow up. The last fire I believe was in 1910. It began innocently enough as a brush fire. Sam Murray who lived near the eighth line road had cleared some land and was burning brush. It got out of control and the wind carried it toward the remaining buildings. Three were left after this fire; the manager’s home, the Mitchell boarding house and the school. The boarding house and the school were eventually torn down and taken away but the manager’s home was to last for years. Robert Gault was the last manager to live in it. It was occupied for a time by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Martin, then by Mr. and Mrs. Tom Bonus and family.
Later it became a hangout for hunters and fishermen. The old demon fire finally got it too. Nothing remains but the stone foundation surrounded by lilac bushes.
Manitoulin Expositor, April 25, 2001
Reprinted with permission from Ed Sagle
Michaels Bay Historical Society





The Michael’s Bay Ball
In the late 1800s and early 1900s entertainment was hard to come by. Television was unheard of, even radio wasn’t invented and movie theatres didn’t exist in this part of Canada. Books and newspapers were available for those who couldn’t read. In Michael’s Bay you could get grog at the hotel and gossip no doubt flourished there and at the store and post office.
Social gatherings of the time centered around the church, school and events like a barn raising. Dances were very popular events as evidenced by the poem below by The Sneak. If you can identify the author, the society would like to hear from you.

Michael’s Bay Ball
In the District of Algoma-Manitoulin Island
(from the Tehkummah Tweedsmuir History)

There was a ball at Michael’s Bay,
The best you ever saw,
The boys were there from far and near,
And some from Tehkummah.

There was a boy from Big Lake town,
Got washed on Swash’s daughter,
He swears that he will marry her,
If it costs them each a quarter.

Charlie McDONALD, he was there,
And dressed up very handsome,
He thought no other girl was fair,
Except Miss Bella CRANSTON.

We’d lots of pie and cake to eat,
And plenty of good turkey,
And a couple that set down,
They numbered nearly thirty.

Professor CRAIG, he rubbed the strings,
And so did Phillip SMELTZER,
Walter CHISHOLM played right good,
And Jim HILSON more than belched her.

Townline Sandy McPHAIL, he was there,
And danced just like a whale,
And when the beer was passed around,
He drank about a pail.

There was a dude from Collingwood,
Who thought he just knew all,
But the boys who live on Manitoulin
Can show him how to call.

Tehkummah Albert was on hand,
But sat there like one dead,
Perhaps the reason of this was,
The beer went to his head.

There’ll be another on Wednesday night,
Just down at Fossil Hill.
And if you want to have a dance,
It is there you will get your fill.

So I think I’ll end my ditty now,
For I’ve nothing more to say,
But if you want a right good time and dance,
Just go to Michael’s Bay.

Manitoulin Expositor, May 23, 2001
Reprinted with permission from Ed Sagle
Michaels Bay Historical Society




Michaels Bay news from ‘The Conservator’ April 25, 1907

Mr. and Mrs. R. McINTYRE and children spent Sunday in town.
P.L. CLARKE and Charles CLARKE were visitors here on Monday.
W.A. McLEOD and C.L. WEDGERFIELD spent Sunday in Manitowaning with their families.
John McCUTCHEON of Sandfield and Wm. TILSON of Tehkummah came in on Thursday with their teams and are busy hauling logs for the Company.
Many horses in this vicinity are laid up with distemper.
A large quantity of saw logs are being delivered to P.L. CLARKE’s.
Many farmers in this township are preparing to build new barns and additions to their buildings already erected.
Some of the farmers in this neighborhood are a little short of feed but will be able to pull through if spring is not too late.
John PENNIE made a flying trip to Manitowaning. John captured two lynx last week.
James HILSON has recovered from an attack of la grippe and is again busy
hauling logs for the Company. Thomas YOUNG and his brother Norwood YOUNG left for their home at Big Lake on Friday. The boys went the winter in camp here but had to go home to do some cutting and teaming before sleighing breaks up. They were both very able young men and will be very much missed by their comrads in camp.
David MARTIN, Jno. PAYETTE and Jas. FRAMPTON have contracted to cut quantity of wood for the Company. They are also making up what tie lumber there is on these lots. Wood to be delivered on dock. Ties and chingle timber at the mill.
Thomas COE is busy breaking in the steers while William and Thomas SAGLE are cutting the wood. They wore a splendid foot path down from Thomas SAGLE’s last Monday but since the heavy storm it has changed its course. Can’t you break it again Nathan?
Thomas OVERFIELD and Nathan CASE have gone back to the camp where they are taking out an enormous amount of timber for James RITCHIE. Thomas and Nathan think if they get in this week they will clear themselves.

Manitoulin Expositor, May 23, 2001
Reprinted with permission from Ed Sagle
Michaels Bay Historical Society




Love Letters

In the age before telecommunications how did the men who were working away from family and their sweethearts keep in touch? The answer of course was by post. Incoming mail from the south no doubt came bay way of the boats bringing in supplies from perhaps Owen Sound or Collingwood and outgoing letters went on the same boats ferrying out the lumber the mills produced.
The post office at Michael’s Bay was opened November first 1872 and was closed September fifteenth 1916.
The first postmaster was that jack of all trades and entrepreneur Robert A. LYON who held that position until October 1879. He was followed by James B. WHITE (January 1880 to March 1882), D. KENELBROOK (July 1882 to November of that same year), Robert McGEE (November 1885 until June 1886), John S. MORRISON (July 1887 to November 1889), John LYON (March to September 1890), Walter CHISHOLM (December 1890 to January 1894), A.R. KITTS (June to November 1894), Walter W. CHISHOLM (April 1895 to January 1900), H.H. FLETCHER (March to October 1900), Robert GAULT (July 1901 to December 1906), Edward LEITCH (January to September 1907), Mrs. Edward MARTIN, the first and only postmistress there (November 1907 to April 1910), Philip L. CLARK (August 1913 until it closed in September 1916).
Perhaps the remuneration wasn’t that good because most did not hold the position very long, the longest being Mr. LYON who had other sources of income. The post office did not reveal why Mr. GAULT left the job after almost five and a half years. With the exception of Mr. KITTS whose tenure ended with his death and Mr. MARTIN who lost his job when the office closed, the rest all resigned. Note too that in an age of poor communication it often took several months for a new postmaster to be named.

Manitoulin Expositor, May 23, 2001
Reprinted with permission from Ed Sagle
Michaels Bay Historical Society