Huronia Museum – Looking Back 60 Years in North Simcoe – August 1st to 7th, 1961

The photos found in this blog post are the property of Huronia Museum, Midland, Ontario. Any reproduction for commercial use without permission is prohibited.  Any other distribution must credit Huronia Museum.  Please contact the museum with any questions you may have.  


Free Press Herald headline of Wednesday August 7, 1961. 
The body of missing scuba diver David Phipps of Toronto was found about 3.30 p.m. yesterday about four miles from the spot where his boat was found. Provincial Police at Victoria Harbour said the body was discovered near the shore of a rocky island just south east of Red Rock. Some summer cottagers, whose names are not known to police, found it floating in the water and informed Harbour OPP. Sgt. Blake Ball and Constable Jack Ambeau, who commenced dragging operations in the Pine Island group, near Go Home Bay, yesterday, received the message shortly after the body had been found when they made a phone check to the Harbour detachment office. The search for Mr. Phipps, about 40 years of age, began when his wife reported him missing. A search revealed his boat, the 28-foot cruiser Viking, was anchored near Grey Island. There was no sign of Mr. Phipps, an experienced scuba diver. A quantity of diving equipment was found in the boat.  

    Present indications are that the Officers Quarters Museum at Penetanguishene may set an attendance record this year, according to the museum committee treasurer, Miss Annette Brunelle. Admissions up to last weekend indicate well over 2,000 persons have passed through the turnstiles. This number could easily be doubled, as there is no charge for children when they accompany their parents, it was stated. In addition to paid admissions, more than 100 busloads of school children visited the museum during the month of June. On the basis of approximately 30 per bus, this would mean well over 3,000 children visited the museum. 

    An historic plaque, commemorating the founders of Midland and specifically, Baron Von Hugel and the founding of the Midland Railway, is to be erected by the Ontario Department of Travel and Publicity and unveiled this summer. Possibly the man whose connections with early Midland go back farther than any living citizen today is Harvey E. White of 182 Seventh Street. Present CPR agent in Midland, Mr. White is the grandson of the late Jabez Dobson, one of the four men generally recognized as the first pioneers of Midland. The other three were Richard Murphy, Tom Smith and John Hartley.  According to George R. Osborne’s book, “A Story of Early Midland”, Jabez Dobson came to Midland in 1862. He owned all the land between King and Eighth Street, including the water lots as far as Ottawa Street, which he purchased from James Tudhope for $200. Hugel Ave. was the southern boundary of the farm. Before coming to Midland, Dobson had been in charge of a farm at the |Boys Reformatory in Penetang. There he met Jane Ganton, who was to be his future wife. After working for a time on a Medonte farm he married her in 1861. Her home had been on the Scotch Line of Medonte. When the young couple came to Midland there were only three other houses, belonging to Murphy, Smith and Hartley. Land in the vicinity was not very productive for farming so it may be assumed the four families eked out a precarious living. Oxen supplied the motive power for tilling and for transportation. There were many drawbacks and disadvantages, not the least being the depredations of bears and other animals, which frequently carried off calves and the family porkers, not to mention ruining crops. Mr. Dobson was pathmaster for the district and one of his jobs was supplying logs for the corduroy road along King Street which, at that time, was little more than a path through a bog. Mr. Dobson eventually sold his farm, the Midland Railway securing the waterfront and the rest going to the Midland Land Co., Baron Von Hugel and Dr. Spohn. This was in 1871. At that time Midland had been decided on as the terminus of the Midland Railway, which was to link Port Hope with Georgian Bay. In 1879 the name of the town was changed from “Munday’s Bay” to “Midland City”. There were ten children in the Dobson family, all born in their log-cabin home at the corner of Dominion Ave. and Third Street (in 1961 a vacant lot across from the municipal building). “In this primitive setting” wrote Mr. Osborne, “the story of Jabez Dobson is a saga of hardy pioneering in what was then the newest northern settlement”. Mr. White, whose CPR office is on land once owned by his grandfather, cannot remember Mr. Dobson, although he does recall his grandmother. 

    Penetang Parks Board officials are curious. They would like to know who the person was who wanted steel drums so badly, he stole them from the Bayfield Park float. Chairman Andy Vaillancourt said the theft is believed to have taken place sometime Sunday night. Platform of the float was left high and dry on the beach, the steel drums having been removed. 

    Although not entirely pleased with the idea of having another municipality’s garbage dumped in the Township of Tiny, council Thursday gave approval to the town of Midland to use the Dragoman property as a sanitary land-fill garbage disposal site. Midland council was represented at the special session by Mayor Charles Parker. Reeve Percy Crawford and  councillors Walter Woods, Oliver Lesperance and Bill Thompson. Clerk Wm. Hack accompanied the delegation. Reeve Montcalm Maurice, probably expressed the feeling of the majority of his council when he said, “personally I don’t like the idea of having someone else’s garbage dump in the township, but I understand it is not always possible for a municipality to dump within its own limits, so we have to give and take a little.” Strongest objection to the plan came from Deputy-reeve Doug Holt who voted against the approval resolution when it was tabled. Deputy-reeve Holt felt quite certain the water table in the area is too high for a sanitary land-fill dump. At one point he said. “I still don’t like the site I’d stake my life you’ll hit water no lower than six feet.” 

    Penetang Bottling Co. Limited was the first independent bottler in Ontario to put the new “Fanta” drink on the market, according to Mrs. Helen Booth. A product of Coca Cola Co., the new drink is being produced in three flavors. Mrs. Booth said her information is that the “Fanta” name originated in Coca Cola plants in Germany during World War II. Apparently the German plants were unable to obtain Coke syrup, and in order to keep -production going, manufactured a drink from supplies that were available. The name Fanta was put on the drink and it was produced throughout the war until syrup of regular Coke became available. The new drink has been on sale in the United States for some years, and was only  recently brought into Canada. At present it is available only in a few zones of Ontario and Quebec. Mrs. Booth said the local plant has been able to put the drink into Barrie, Orillia, Midland and Penetang. “We can’t get a sufficient supply of bottles at present to cover any more than the four towns,” she said. “The resort areas will obtain the drink as soon as the supply of bottles permits it.” [Still not reliably available in Canada although I bought 355 ml bottles of Fanta pineapple last week.] 

Midland Public Utilities Commission’s new Queen Street hydro substation was put into operation. * * * Port McNicoll’s village clerk, B. J. Brownell, was notified by government officials that the village’s qualified voters would vote Sept. 27, whether or not the village would have a brewers’ retail store. * * * Discussions were taking place between Midland and Penetang on the advisability of consolidating new hospital accommodations. * * * Midland’s municipal rest rooms, located on Elizabeth Street, behind the fire hall, were opened to the public. * * * The third annual quilt and rug fair, sponsored by Simcoe Arts and Crafts Association, was held in St. Paul’s United Church, Midland. * * * By a 7 – 1 margin, voters of the area adjoining Wasaga Beach turned down a proposal to authorize Sunday sports. * * * Principal James Robinson of Wiarton Public School was presented with gifts on his departure to take up new duties as principal of Midland’s Sixth Street Public School. * * * Definite proposals from Premier Leslie Frost reached Penetang council and chamber of commerce concerning the development of the Officers’ Quarters Museum on the Ontario Hospital grounds. * * * Representatives of the Dominion Travel Bureau and the National Film Board were in the Midland – Penetang district taking pictures for use in Canadian government advertising and publicity. 

This sylvan setting in the Black Lake area in the Severn River district is symbolic of the peaceful havens of recreation which exist in Huronia and South Muskoka. Many of the cottages erected along the shores of Black Lake have been completed within the last few years. 

The top sign, located along William Street in the Wireless Hill area of Midland, motorists claim is a mastery of understatement. The lower sign, tacked underneath by some witty individual, recommends the remedy for the condition, which has existed for more than a year and a half. 

Acting on direct orders from their Commissioner, OPP officers in this area are conducting an all-out campaign to lower the traffic toll on highways throughout the district. Here Constables Les Fraser (left) and Glenn Gracheck conduct a safety check of cars using Highway 12, near Martyrs’ Shrine.  Commissioner Clark has issued orders that appropriate charges be laid against motorists whose driving, or the condition of their vehicles, create road hazards. 

The newest cabin cruiser anchorage on Georgian Bay is this set-up at Petaguashene Beach on the Northwest Basin of Penetang Bay. Although not all visible, seven craft were tied up when this photo was taken.

Whipper Billy Watson retained his British Empire wrestling championship at Midland Arena Monday night by taking two falls out of three from challenger Stan Stasiuk. Here Whipper Bill has not only Stasiuk but referee Joe Golab his “gentle” embrace, against a corner post. Wrestling cards are held at the arena every Monday night under the sponsorship of Midland Minor Hockey Association. 

“Guck”, such as that seen at the lower left-hand corner of this picture, is the despair of Harbormaster Jack Blackburn and chamber of commerce officials, anxious to attract more visiting craft to Midland harbor. The small boat in the background seems actually to have cut a path through the debris-strewn waters of the central slip. 

When Mrs. Andre Robillard of Penetang marked her 92nd birthday recently, five generations of the family were present The five generations are left to right above Mrs. Andre Robillard, her son Ligourie Robillard, 71, his daughter, Mrs. Armand Brunelle, their daughter, Mrs. Don McPharlin, and six-month-old Janet McPharlin. 

Among the fastest  growing sports in the country these days are trap and handgun shooting and North Simcoe is well equipped to entertain devotees of these sports. TOP: Dietrich Nebelung (left) and Pete Abraham try their luck on the range of Huronia Handgun Club, just west of Midland Golf and Country Club- LOWER: Members are seen enjoying an outing at Penetang Gun Club, located on the back road from Midland to Penetang. Visitors are welcome to attend sessions of either club, held every Thursday- night. — Rolfotos


County Herald headline of Friday, August 4, 1961.
For the second time in about a year, a seventeen year old Victoria Harbour youth has averted drowning tragedies by rescuing children when they got into trouble in the water. The unassuming hero is Douglas Brodeur, son of Mr. and Mrs. Sib Brodeur of Victoria Harbour. In his earlier years, Doug was a Boy Scout. The Harbour youth’s latest life-saving feat  took place about a week ago, this newspaper was informed yesterday. Doug was sitting on the dock at Victoria Harbour when 10-year-old Gary Kaus of the Harbour came along the dock on his bicycle. In some manner, the bicycle struck one of the bollards on the dock and the young boy and bicycle toppled into the water, about eight feet deep at that point. When young Kaus did not come to the surface soon after the plunge, Doug dived in after him. He discovered the boy’s foot was tangled in the bicycle and he could not get free. By the time the youth freed the lad and got him to the surface, the Kaus boy was gasping for life. He recovered shortly afterward, however. About a year ago, Doug also saved the life of a pre-school age girl when she got beyond her depth while playing in the water. 

    As a result of what has been termed “a railroading attitude” by county council, in establishing the new registry office in  Barrie, Orillia council this week agreed to form a special committee to explore the possibilities of seceding from the county system. One Orillia alderman claimed the town, the largest single tax contributor to the county, had been “sold down the river” in the registry Office move. He said he had had numerous complaints as to why Orillia did not get preferential treatment by county council when the $300,000 registry office, “with its $60,000 rumpus room”, was voted on at the June session of county council. Reeve J. C. McDonald said the county council vote was 40-4 in favor of the Barrie location. Mayor George McLean said he was under the impression county council had already decided where the new registry office was to office was to be located before the Orillia delegation of 13 lawyers and others approached the council. 

    Robin Benson, a violist in the Midland-Penetang District High School orchestra, will be among 95 outstanding young instrumentalists from all parts of Canada who will present a concert in the Stratford Festival Theatre August 20. Included on the program will be the Roman Carnival Overture (Berlioz); Fourth Symphony (Dvorak); Tryptich (Pierre Mercure); and other works. 

    Among the early pioneers of Midland whose names are still carried by descendants in the town is H. S. Ruby. The town’s first baker, his name is perpetuated by Miss Shirley Ruby, a granddaughter living at 176 Elizabeth Street, and Henry Sargeant Ruby, who resides at 268 Queen Street, a grandson. The first H. S. Ruby, according to Midland historian George R. Osborne, arrived in Midland on foot from Barrie in June, 1875. Deciding to stay, he obtained the services of Jabez Dobson and a farmer named George Osborne. They went back to Barrie, loaded Mrs. Ruby and the seven Ruby children and all the family effects on two hay-ricks, and returned to Midland to stay. At that time Midland was still practically a swamp. King Street was just a corduroy road when “H S.” started the ’’City Bakery” on Midland Ave. (The building still stands (1961) and is used by an automobile parts firm.) It is recorded that the only residence on the west side of King Street at that time was the little log house of Jabez Dobson. The only places of business were two stores, operated by Nelson Courtemanche and John and Alex Waterson. There were also two hotels, one operated by James Duncan (the Queen’s) and the other by Charlie Rankin. A bush road (now Queen Street) led to the only sawmill, operated by H. H. Cook. Mr. Ruby’s first batch of bread was made from 50 pounds of flour secured from John Lummis of Wyebridge. By the end of the year, Mr. Ruby was using two barrels of flour a day. The only help available was that of his wife and family. Midland was incorporated as a village in 1879 and Mr. Ruby was appointed its treasurer. For fairly good reason, it seemed. There were no funds to meet the expenses of the infant, and struggling village, so Mr. Ruby,  along with a few others, had to bear the expense of the charter. He also, from time to time, was forced to advance his own funds to carry on the work of the village. After 21 years as a village, Midland became a town in 1900 and Mr. Ruby was one of its early reeves. The population around this time was about 4,000, indicating a fairly regular growth. Mr. Ruby, who lived to the venerable age of 93 years, also served the town in county council and as a school trustee. His son, the late A. W. Ruby, carried on the bakery after his death. “H. S.” was responsible for one important “first” in the history of Midland. His was the first telephone in town, and the year was 1880. It connected the bake shop on Midland Ave. and the Ruby store on King Street, adjoining the Georgian Hotel. Made in Detroit, the early-model phone was purchased from a travelling salesman. Operation of the phone was simple. A person in the bakery wishing to call the store (or vice versa) rang the bell at his end. The only “wrong numbers” were caused by birds perching on the wires, or mischievous boys hitting the wires with sticks, which caused the bells to ring. The advent of the telephone in Midland preceded by only one year that of the first electric light, which, it is claimed, was also the first in the entire province. It was installed in H. H. Cook’s mill. So unique was the electric light, powered by a plant imported from Scotland, that many excursions were chartered to Midland to see it in operation. 

Dear Editor:
The wooden day – passenger ship “WINONA”, official No. 94717, was built in 1902 at Port Stanley by John Ellisin for Geo. K. Crocket, president of the Navigation Company of Port Stanley, and was registered in the name of this company. Her length was 101.2 feet, width 22.9 feet and depth, 6.8 feet, gross tons 230.54.  She had a fore and aft compound engine with 16-inch stroke and two cylinders of 12 and 24 inch diameter, built in 1902 and boilers built by Polson Iron Works  of Toronto in 1902. On May 25, 1906, she was sold to James Playfair, Midland, Ont., and on August 3, 1906, he transferred her registry to Midland. On August 23, 1906, she was sold to Isabella D. White, of Midland, and on May 13, 1907, she was sold to James Purvis, of Gore Bay, Ont. In 1919 she was rebuilt at Wiarton and re-registered with length 110 feet, width 22 feet, depth 8.9 feet, gross tons 232.81.  Her closing entry reads as follows: Registry closed 4th December 1931, on receipt of information from Capt. H. C. Boyd, Gore Bay, Ont., that vessel was destroyed by fire at Spragge, Ontario, on November 13, 1931.


The Toronto Marine Historical Society researched Winona for their “Scanner” publication, ship history #207. They concluded that Playfair probably had no involvement with Winona, that it was case of mistaken identity with the Midland steamer “Winnanna” built in 1906 at Midland and captained by Wm. White, which burned at Tobermory in 1909. The first hand records from the Purvis family at Gore Bay made no reference to Playfair or White in regard to Winona. But, the official registry, Dominion List of Shipping 1907 to 1918,  does show Isabella E. White as owning Winona, Isabella being the wife of D. L. White of Midland, partner of James Playfair. (The Winona was a wooden passenger steamer that spent most of her service life in the North Channel, she would have been similar in appearance to our Midland City.)  

    Ten-year-old Paula Fecteau, a member of the senior girls division of Midland’s summer playground program sponsored by the Midland Y’s Men’s Club, submitted the best essay on “Water Safety”, swimming instructor David Seaton told this newspaper this week. The essay, which was to be 300 words or less, was a must for swimmers seeking to pass their tests. About 56 essays were submitted, Mr. Seaton said. 

This odd looking odyssey — a boat crossing the road —isn’t really a mirage. It is actually a boat crossing the highway — four of them — on the marine railway at Big Chute. After several days of enforced idleness because of mechanical failure, the novel railway is again transporting large numbers of craft “over the hump” to the upper reaches of the Severn River and the Trent Canal system. 

One of Midland’s “grand old men”, Thomas A. Sharp marked his 86th birthday Tuesday. He was guest of honour at a birthday party staged by his neighbors in the back yard of his fine home, 215 Queen Street. 

One of the most impressive visitors, in size at least, to Midland Harbour so far this year is the 68-foot cruising yacht “Ceramic”. The American yacht is seen above at Great Lakes Boat and Machine dock on the north side of the harbour. 

Huronia is a colourful, history holidayland. Local color is even preserved in highway fingerboard signs as illustrated in the top sign pointing to Granny White’s Road. Apparently Mrs. White was a Tay pioneer. 

Graduation exercises were held in St.  Paul’s United Church Monday night for 11 members, of the first Certified Nursing Assistants’ course sponsored during the past year by St. Andrews Hospital. Left to right are, front row, Mrs. G. Marchant, Mrs. M. Okenka, Mrs. J. Wilcox, Mrs. W. Bramah (instructress), Mrs. N. Genier, Mrs. L. Steer; back row, Mrs. M. Magloughlin, Mrs. A. Moreau, Mrs. B. West, Mrs. M. Gibson, Mrs. M. Reynolds; Miss Joyce Leon.


2 thoughts on “Huronia Museum – Looking Back 60 Years in North Simcoe – August 1st to 7th, 1961

    • Brent, the article as we posted it is verbatim from the Free Press Herald, August 2, 1961, front page, whose archive is the property of Huronia Museum. The reporter who wrote the article probably took information from Harvey White and the newspapers other historical records. The Dobson family history is widely known and available and we applaud the professional manner in which Mr. Hackstetter presents our local history to the public.

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