The First Twenty-Five Years
The Story of Minnicock Lake
By David Naylor
Editors Note: We are indebted to David Naylor, son of Bert and Patty Naylor and grandson of Pat and Madge Montgomery, for contributing this account. David is a third year journalism and communications student at Carlton. September 1988.
Since September 1988 marks the end of the first quarter century of Minnicock Lake as a lake for cottagers and vacationers rather than one for hunters and woodcutters, this history had been prepared for those wishing a look back.
I hope it will help us to understand where we now are, and may possibly be of value in looking into planning for the future.
I have relied heavily on memories (I came to Minnicock at age 6, a log kept by my grandmother and lent for reference and dates, free access to my grandfather’s voluminous Minnicock file and frequent extensive conversations with those best qualified to know. I am using first names for my grandparents as this is the way, I believe, the lake people know them.
On September 15, 1963, Madge and Pat came, with Merv Mintz (whom many will remember) in a dilapidated truck as far as the Rockslide. The road was a mere brush trail and Madge and Pat walked more than they rode. They had brought a canoe, which Merv shouldered and strode, through the woods reaching the lake at what is now Litt’s point. Here they met a Mr. Emmerson (father of Morris and grandfather of the well-known Wayne). Emmerson owned Lot 32, Concession XV which was for sale.
Madge and Pat were sufficiently impressed to return (via Merv) on October 20. This time they brought Nat and Jim Hubbard and Nat’s parents, their long-time friends. It was at Nat’s parents, cottage in Algonquin Park where Jim and Pat had first discussed investing in Lakeshore Properties.
Jim and Pat decided to make an offer, which was accepted, and they obtained title in 1964.
On July 27, 1964 Pat, and my Uncle George, and Bob and Mary Davis with baby Kathy made the long trip in (again with Merv). Mary and Bob decided they wanted to buy the first lot to be sold. They are true Minnicock pioneers, camping there for parts of 1967-5-6-7 while awaiting a survey. Sometimes they came via Loon Lake when the other road was impassable. Newcomers will know from this why the road to the eastern cottages is called Davis Drive. On October 13, 1967 their lot was surveyed. All other lots on the lake are surveyed from their stakes and theirs was the first cottage built.
Jim and Pat seemed ideally suited for this kind of venture. Jim’s experience of camping and working in Algonquin gave him a genuine respect for and appreciation of the great outdoors, made him an expert canoeist, skilled him in conservation and woodsman-ship etc. Pat had long cottage experience. He and Madge used what was to be their honeymoon funds to buy a lot on Stoney Lake (Kawartha Chain) in 1933. They left when Stoney became over-populated. Their cottage on Kushog where I learned to swim, was sold when a water-ski slalom course was established nearby. They loved quiet cottage life.
Jim and Pat had no problem on agreeing on how the lake should be developed. Preservation of the environment was their priority.
Their most important decision was to survey 200 foot lots at the time when 100 foot lots were the norm and certainly the more profitable. They also agreed on those restrictions attached to our deeds. These have served well. Most important perhaps is the 5 horsepower clause. After all these years virtually every property owner signed the petition to Glamorgan Council asking for the recognized general approval by all who use the lake.
A recent tour of the lake to evaluate the acceptance of restriction regarding the cutting of trees near the lake and preservation of the “sylan aspect” showed almost unanimous acceptance of this principle. As well, the other restrictions have generally been observed.
Pat and Jim agreed also that when the lakeshore lots were sold they would give the backlands (over 400 acres) to the cottagers to be held in perpetuity as a forest wildlife preserve. After years and years of discussion and the incorporating of a holding company “Minniecock Estates” in which all property owners were to be shareholders, this proffered gift was not accepted. This was a difficult period in the history of Lake Minnicock.
Realizing the restrictions meant nothing unless they owned all of the lakeshore, Pat went to work to track down the other owners and persuade them to sell. Township lot 33 east end was owned by two American airmen, one of whom lived in Truxton, New York. They had bought it, after the war, for a place to hunt. Lot 30 and 31 one were owned by one Tom Roach whose father Pat Roach had bought them for taxes in 1942. A hunt camp with the unsavory but appropriate name “Elstinko” was established there. It was not easy, but eventually both properties were acquired (33 in 1967 and 30 and 31 early in 1968).
There was a relatively new (Viceroy) building on Lot 30 which replaced a former hunt camp which had recently burned. Richard Burt, Jim and Pat spent a full day cleaning out and burning the overstuffed furniture and about thirty mattresses. Further cleaning, much paint, and some carpentry and plumbing from Merv and it became quite livable. For the next five years the “green cottage” served as a Northern Vacations office and was used by all the sundry as a shelter from the elements, a party headquarters, a meeting place, etc, etc. It was sold in 1973 to the LeCler’s who sold it to Ludski’s who sold it to Ron Johnson. All new owners made extensive improvements and it is now a cottage to be proud of.
In 1967, Northern Vacations Limited was incorporated with Pat and Jim having an equal number of shares. Richard, with one share of stock, became the necessary third member and acted as secretary and advisor as well as doing all the legal work for the company. He soon became a cottager himself and worked hard, with others, to make life more pleasant around the lake.
A chance meeting between Pat and Molly and George Baker on a Haliburton corner led to the sale of eleven lots. Present owners include DeGroot, Anderson, Aubrey and George himself. The sale of fourteen lots can be traced directly to Gordon Freer. Close to s dozen more came from Richard and others associated with his law office.
During the early years, Madge and Pat went to every council meeting from spring to late fall, always with the same message. “Improve out road, we will sell lots. You will get more and more taxes.” The council was gracious but skeptical. Eventually they instructed the road superintendent to walk in with them. They met at the Buckhorn and Madge set a pace the superintendent could not keep up. Only the promise of a bottle of Gin hidden under a stump near Bob’s persuaded him to finish the walk. He arrived next day with a grader.
Those who enjoy the luxury of today’s “near-highway” can hardly conceive of what it once was. Madge’s log shows that she and Pat were stuck not less then eight times, sometimes for hours. Several times they were hauled out by truck or heavy equipment with severe damage to their ancient Mercedes, parts of which were left behind along the way. Always they carried axe, shovel, crowbar and winch as indeed did most. Since their first trip our old nemesis, the big beaver pond has broken its damn five times, the last one being the monster break of 1981, which is blamed for many lake problems.
Except for the trail into “Elstinko” there were no cottagers roads. Starting June 25, 1970 Merv built the road into the cottagers dock and established a parking lot. In 1974, Billing built the road for the east-end cottagers ($7000). After this, these cottagers no longer used the road to the dock. The parking lot was abandoned and a new smaller parking lot established near the lake.
One of the more difficult tasks in developing a cottage community is in getting Hydro and telephone service established. Minnicock was no exception. The hydro manager in Minden was nearing retirement and couldn’t be less interested. Besides he had near heard of Minnicock. However, when Doug Campbell, young, knowledgeable and business-like was appointed he was willing to listen. At the same time, Bell Canada was taking over Haliburton private phone companies, one Ken Buttery, being in charge. Pat got Campbell, Buttery and the road superintendent together at Minnicock, October 29, 1970. A verbal agreement was reached. Northern Vacations would provide 54 contract guarantees and do the brushing; Bell Canada would survey and set poles between Loon Lake and Minnicock and Hydro would rent space on Bell poles to carry their lines. Some canvassing and a bowle party at Ruscoe Crescent, Weston provided the necessary fifty-four contracts. (Each north-shore owner guaranteed a double contract) Northern Vacations gave Bert Main the contract to do the brushing during the winter of 1970-1971. The poles were delivered in October 1971 and installed in November. In May, 1972 Hydro workers went on strike-no hydro in 1972. The current started to flow in July 1973, a major event.
Hydro came with agonizing slowness to the south shore. Since hydro depended on Bell for poles and Bell decided not to bring the telephones to Minnicock there were delays. In September 1977, the Bell District Manager and her chief engineer drove from Peterborough to inform the Montgomery’s (who had become something of a nuisance) that there was no chance whatsoever for telephones at Minnicock in the foreseeable future and they might as well accept that as a fact. Shortly after they were persuaded to change their minds and attitude. Bell surveyors spent much of the summer of 1978 in laying out the line. The poles arrived in October and work continued throughout most of the winter. When Hydro finally came, it came with flourish and style. A helicopter carried and placed the poles and took across the wires and transformers etc. It provided an entertaining spectacle.
The telephone line coming all the way from the Buckhorn was expensive to Bell Canada out of all proportion to the possible revenue that could be expected. Ten times the number of cottagers, they insisted, would not justify the cost. Still, telephones we have, although not all cottagers became subscribers.
The phone soon proved its worth. On March 20, 1979, exactly five days after the installation of the Montgomery-Freer Protector phones, a frantic lady implored Pat to help her find her husband who some hours earlier has disappeared into the woods near and across from Montgomery Drive. He was, she stated, elderly and had a serious heart condition. Pat, who had just walked through mud out to the Buckhorn and back, explained that since it was late afternoon and very overcast, and result on his part would result in two people lost but a phone was available. The police were called. They procured the services of Bert Main, the local expert at finding lost persons. One of Bert’s first questions was “is your husband right or left-handed?” It seems that hand dominance could determine the direction a disoriented person might take. Some hours later the police phones Pat with the good news that Bert had once again done the job. The man was found exhausted, but alive.
Editor: We hope to have further accounts of Minnicock life. Is there someone who will write up the regattas, church services and other events of note for the spring newsletter?