"It's been a wonder": Baysville residents celebrate community's 150th anniversary

·3 min read

Joy Seymour says she grew up in a Baysville of dirt roads, wooden sidewalks and where the old proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" was the community's ethos.

“Baysville has changed a lot in my lifetime,” said Seymour, 72, who has lived there since she was a young girl. One thing has remained the same in the community: its core values of resilience and connection.

“The closeness, the people, the friendliness of the people,” she said. “If you have problems, they’re right there to help you.”

This year, Baysville is celebrating its 150 anniversary since its founding in 1871. Despite COVID-19 putting a damper on in-person celebrations, a team of Baysville locals are hosting online campaigns to commemorate Baysville’s past and present.

Jacqueline Godard has been living in Baysville since 2019, and is on the 150 celebration’s six-person committee formed in March 2019. She said the group spent over a year planning in-person events for 2021, including guided tours and potluck dinners. Because of the pandemic, plans changed.

“We’ve had to be very creative,” Godard said. “We could’ve said no, let’s hold off, but we didn’t.”

They’re hosting a monthly online series interviewing Baysville’s key figures and longtime residents and sharing fun historical facts about Baysville every week on Facebook.

“It gives people an opportunity to find out more about Baysville, the history,” she said. “People can watch from their homes.”

Seymour is one of several Baysville residents with deep roots in the community: her parents were born and raised in Baysville and their parents lived there much of their lives. She lives on Burlmarie Road, named after her great-uncle Burly and his wife, Marie, she said.

“It’s been a wonder,” she said when describing her life in Baysville. “You think back about the changes that have happened. When they’re happening, you don’t really think much of them, but then all of sudden, you look back and think, ‘Oh, my goodness. Things have really changed.’”

According to the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario, William H. Brown founded Baysville in 1871 when he received three lots of land, now part of Baysville. Brown was a Sawyer from the vicinity of Brantford.

In the mid-1870s, Brown built a sawmill, which became “the nucleus” of the community. Lumbering became the first economic activity for settlers coming to Baysville, as they found the land, advertised as prime farming grounds, was not a good place to grow food. Soon, it grew into a hot-spot for tourists and cottagers.

“The history of Baysville really attracted me,” said Godard. “They were so resourceful.”

Arguably, it’s that same resourcefulness that’s helped Baysville weather its issues over the years, including their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been very careful, helping each other, shopping with one another, checking in on our neighbours,” she said. “I’d say we’re pretty resilient in Baysville.”

While the celebration committee has no official plans for a big party, they’re continuing their efforts online. This June, they plan to launch a book with submitted stories of people’s life and times in Baysville.

Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com