Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Historical Meaford Harbour

The key contribution of the Bighead River was the harbour for Meaford.  And in times past it was much more a focus of industry than now.  Agriculture and forestry dominated the early economy, with exports of grain and hay on the one hand, and furniture or similar manufacturing on the other, similar to many small towns in this part of Ontario.

I did manage to find a local history book, Pictorial Meaford, which is an amazing collection of photos.  This one shows the old grain elevator on the dock, and a freighter tied up to take on grain.  Bigger harbours have outdone Meaford, and no more freighters arrive here; the grain elevator was taken down decades ago.

This is as close as I could get to the same view to day.  Not much sign of industry except for the working barge with its cranes.  Instead it's sailboats and floating docks up on the shore for the winter.  At one time the harbour was surround by industries, but there is very little left to see, but chasing down these pictures will give me a lot more appreciation of where I am when I go walking out to the pier.

This anchor sits in front of the Harbour Master's Office, presumably tangible evidence of the big old freighters that once docked here.

I do see the tug R.A. Hoey docked on the far side of the harbour regularly.  Don't know what it does at all yet, but at least a little evidence of a working harbour.

Two historic buildings remain.  This is the Netshed, a used book store stocked by donations and run by volunteers to support the local library.  And yes, it is an old netshed, right on the harbour.

Across the road is the town's old pumphouse, refurbished and now serving as a museum.  It has a room devoted to models of old Great Lakes freighters.   Lots to learn there I expect.

There's only a little evidence of former industry even away from the harbour, but this hardwood flooring mill still stands.  The railway tracks ran right past it.

Here it is today, sitting vacant I believe, but this was once a thriving business that exported hardwood flooring around the world.

Nowadays it's a recreational harbour, full of sailboats in the summer.  A typical but large shift in the economy of this small town.

I do like the fact that we have the Coast Guard Station for Georgian Bay, a little bit of legitimacy for this harbour.  Tomorrow - the railway.


I did find one online report from the Ministry of Environment that described the Bighead River 40 years ago, and it was a pretty positive report, to quote:

"The Bighead watershed is one of the highest quality watersheds in the Southwestern Region of Ontario. The watershed has good base flow conditions, and much of the watershed is characterized by cool, clear streams which provide good trout habitat. In general, the watercourses are favorably low in plant nutrients; hence there are no aesthetic problems resulting from excessive plant growths. The Rocklyn Creek tributary, Walters Creek tributary, as well as the main Bighead River upstream from Bognor, are of particularly high quality and support excellent invertebrate communities."  

I'm sure that some of this high quality is due to the widespread presence of forests and wetlands in the watershed and the relatively low impact of agriculture.


  1. A wonderful excursion into the past and present. Thank you for introducing me to all the different uses this harbor has incurred. I look forward to learning more. :-)

  2. Thank your for a tour of the harbor, both past and present.

  3. Thanks for the tour. Our mill has downsized internally (lots of paper machines have been shut down and the craft mill section has been closed) but the outside remains the same. There are a lot of upgrades to the historic townsite built by the mill in the early 1900s. An old store is becoming a cooperative for small businesses and a climbing wall, in the brick former Federal building, and a medical marijuana grower in the mill's old administrative building. That was a bit controversial but it is bringing jobs and income to the community. - Margy

  4. It is going to be interesting reading what you find as you explore this area. I love that old pic at the beginning...

  5. It should be interesting for you to explore the past of this area. Amazing shift in the economy of our part of the world which allows so much money to be spent on recreation.

  6. Hello, I enjoyed the tour and photos. I always love the harbor scenes, reminds me of Annapolis Md. Enjoy your day!

  7. An interesting history lesson. Love seeing the sailboats and the tugboat! Will be interested to see them out on the water in the Summer. Glad some of the old buildings have found new purposes. The museum should be a lot of fun to explore.
    Merry Christmas!

  8. Excellent shots! I do like seeing comparisons between then and now like this.

  9. Nice history and tour of your home port.

  10. Thanks for another history lesson. : )

  11. Looks like a huge amount of change in a relatively short period of time. Really interesting, and fun to go back and research what things used to look like!

  12. Civilizations always seem to proceed from hunting to agriculture to industry to leisure to failure. :(