Stokes Bay Boomed in the Past
The village of Stokes Bay is situated on the shore of Lake Huron, about halfway up the Bruce Peninsula. Through the village runs a river which widens at the mouth to comfortably accommodate the fishing boats. Bridges span the river at two locations. In the early years the river was much wider and was known as Big River.
Most of the early settlers came to Stokes Bay by land or by sail from Ripley, Kincardine and Goderich. They received land from the government for a small down payment, which would be all they could pay for many years.
A man by the name of John Shute started the first general store. Then when the people decided they should have a post office, Mr. Shute agreed to keep it in his store. However, the settlers were informed by the government that they must first name the village. A meeting was held and there it was decided that, since the first white man to sail into the village was a man by the name of Captain John Storke, they should name it Storkes Bay. Unfortunately, when the papers were returned from the government, an error had been made and it was named Stokes Bay. It has been known by that name ever since.
Timbering was one of the big early industries. In the late 1800s and early 1900s many saw mills were in operation. Hemlock trees were stripped of their bark, which was sent to the United States to be used in the process for tanning leather. The trees themselves were left to rot or to be burned. Clearing the land for cultivation was a long hard job.
In those early years, Stokes Bay was a booming village. There were three stores, two sawmills, a livery stable, a blacksmith shop, a post office, a dance hall and two hotels.
There was no formal school in Stokes Bay for a number of years. Finally classes were started in the Orange Hall. These were taught by unqualified teachers. However, in 1903 the first real school was built and classes were held there until 1964 when the new Eastnor Central School was built. Then the Womens Institute bought the schoolhouse to be used as a Community Centre.
In 1902 the Knox Presbyterian Church was built with a great many donations of lumber and many bees. It was the only church until 1950, when the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints was built. For many years previous to the building of the Presbyterian Church, prayer meetings were held in the homes and the church services were conducted in the Orange Hall by both Presbyterians and Anglicans.
Shortly after Stokes Bay was settled, commercial fishing became one of the industries. Everything was done by hand in the early years. Since that time, the boats have improved and all fishermen now have steel tugs with motor driven lifters.
The tourist trade has become a source of income for Stokes Bay and area. On the other hand, timbering and farming have gradually declined over the decades until now there are no sawmills and only one farm is left within the village.
Page 33 of Benchmarks
A History of Eastnor Township and Lions Head
Compiled by The Eastnor & Lions Head Historical Society