The history of Magnetawan alone could fill a book by itself. In the Indian dialect, Magnetawan meant, “swiftly flowing waters” and was first spelled with an extra “a” Magnetawan. This was changed at the time the village was incorporated in 1918, but no one knows if that was on purpose or just a “typo”.
The Township of Chapman was surveyed in the summer of 1870 by a surveyor by the name of Henry Lillie from Brockville, Ontario.
The first settlers came to Magnetawan about 1870. The Presbyterian Church was built first.
Henry Lillie surveyed the school grounds. (one acre of land set aside).
About 1882 an Orange Hall was built of logs. The first school was held in it. It stood where the Orange Hall is now.
About 1875 a school section was formed and a school built. It was a log building. It is still standing yet. It was in the centre section in those days. It stands south of the Lutheran Church. The first teacher was Siris Grassslie.
The first Post Office was held in a little store kept by James Miller, then John Kennedy. The mail came from Rosseau, a 34 mile drive by stage.
The first settlers came in from Rosseau on the Nipissing Road. They crossed the Magnetawan River on a floating log bridge built by the Dodge Lumber Company whose headquarters were called the depot on Ahmic Lake near what is called Depot Creek.
They had a large farm there. The early settlers used to get their supplies from them before there were any stores in Magnetawan.
About four families of Indians made their home at a Magnetawan in summer and mid winter after the fall trap was over, leaving again for the spring trapping season.
Thomas Stewart, a young Irishman, held Sunday School at his home when he first started his farm. The young Indians used to come to Sunday School along with the white children.
The first boat in Magnetawan was called the Premier. It was a small boat and drew its load on a Scow. It came to the Island, freight was transferred to a small boat below the rapids.
About 1878 the first passenger boat was started. The first locks and jail were built in 1878. Allen Kennedy was the first lock master then Frank Stewart. He was lock master for 29 years.
The Armour was the first passenger boat then the Wenonah then the Glenada. The passengers left Burk’s Falls at 7:30 AM arriving at Magnetawan about noon, aster stopping at Youngers, Ashdowns and Ballams landings on the river at Midlothian, Geddes and Cowans wharf on the lake when it was flagged or had something for them. The Magnetawan River was once a popular route for steamboats. During the 25 year period between 1886 and 1910 the lockkeeper at Magnetawan recorded the passage of 17,590 steamboats.
The mail, merchants’ supplies and tourists all came by boat in summer, the boat going as far as Ahmic Harbour, calling at the tourist wharves along the lake. It was a real treat to take a trip from Burk’s Falls to Ahmic Harbour by boat. Many Sunday School classes came by boat for their annual picnic. Moon light excursions used to come as far as Lake Cecebe. Young people would dance on deck.