There are many definitions of culture but for our purposes we have selected the following concept. A culture is a way of life of a group of people - the behaviours, beliefs, values and symbols they accept, generally without thinking about them and that are passed on from one generation to the next. There are layers of culture, national, regional, and local. We are focusing on the local culture that you can expect to experience in this area. A little bit about the beginnings of this very special place...
Land O’Lakes, known as the Frontenacs, a place of hills, farms, lakes, rocky outcroppings, streams and wetlands is the Canadian Shield. This is a very unique geological land mass comprised of thousands of lakes and a massive shield of granite stone billions of years old.
In the beginnings this area was home to the Algonquins. “When the European settlers came to this area in the early 1800s the Algonquin people had already inhabited the area for centuries.”(1) Their migration from Montreal up the Mississippi and Madawaska Rivers was in search of good hunting and fishing. They settled in this region for its resources; the same resources that are enjoyed today. Algonquins still play a very significant role in this area as part of an integrated community. Non-native settlers began arriving in the 1830s. These settlers were Irish, Scottish, English and United Empire Loyalists of Dutch and German descent from New York State.
Movement in this region was extremely challenging because of the topography of the land. The development of good roads through very tough conditions was essential to growth. In the 1860s the Pioneer community was comprised of subsistence farms and large families with up to 12 children. Families were isolated by distance. There were very few businesses and area governments were just beginning to form. Soils in the area were difficult for cultivation. As a result the area has no large farming operations sparing the lakes from many of the animal and chemical pollutants that other lake areas suffer.
The Pioneer forests were spectacular with hundreds of years old white pines but by 1900 these white pines were mostly depleted. Lumbering to the British Navy, who purchased the timbers for ship masts, left forests relegated to mostly smaller trees. The forests of the Frontenacs have been timbered over the years but the area boasts mixed forests with both coniferous and deciduous trees. Logging is still part of the culture. By the 1860s Land Agents appear and by 1895 summer cottages begin to appear.
In 1916 the railroad, the Iron Horse, made its debut travelling through the Frontenacs and intersecting in the Village of Sharbot Lake. There really was no population base until the railroad stopped in a particular location. When a railroad station was established there was soon a stretch of houses, a post office, a general store, a blacksmith, a hotel and a Village began to immerge. To this day the charm of the area are the collection of unique villages that were once bustling little railroad communities. These communities are still proud to showcase their heritage. Villages Beautiful is a movement of community members who gather throughout the year to plant flowers, trees and enhance their own community for the pleasure of visitors and themselves. The Village of Sharbot Lake has a very active Historical Society and a Railway Museum Committee establishing a living museum of artifacts on display around the Village.
In the height of railroading three lines crisscrossed the region. The well known Kingston Pembroke Line, the Ottawa Toronto Line through Mountain Grove and the Lakeshore Line that ran through Crow Lake. There is only one active line at this time but the two defunct lines have been purchased/leased and form thousands of miles of recreational trails travelling north, south, east and west. These trails travel into the hinterland where abundant birds and wildlife can be seen in their natural environment.
Building of the railroad in the 1880s created new jobs in the logging and mining sectors. People came, settled and established strong institutes, churches and service groups many of which are very much alive today. By the 1900s, mobility by train and new roads supported a boom in tourism. Exceptional scenery, dramatic landscapes, pristine lakes - cottage country was born. Hotels, lodges and resorts housed many American fishermen who to this day return for their annual visits. Outdoor recreation took flight in the 1950s as that generation’s lifestyle turned towards the 'back-to-the-land' movement.
As you enjoy our backroads, you will note many of the names on the mailboxes are the descendants of the original Pioneers who bravely settled and developed this beautiful region. Drive north of Highway 7 and stop for a picnic on our Crown Land lakes where the Algonquins first settled. They are as peaceful now as they were then.
Take the time to enjoy a community event such as a pancake breakfast, community fair or an artisan tour where you will meet the people who live and play here. It is the land, the lakes and the people that make up the culture of the area. It is a place to adventure and explore!Footnotes
(1) Back of Sunset, A History of Central Frontenac Township by Michael Dawber
Note from the Writer: Much of this material for this article was drawn from the above noted book. Much appreciation to Michael Dawber and his tale of the Frontenacs.