In the summer of 1859, as the Bobcaygeon Road was extended north from Minden, lots were bought and farms were cleared on either side of the road. To be able to access the land farther from Bobcaygeon Road, the Scotch Line Road was constructed in the mid 1860s. It ran along the line between concessions IV and V in Anson and Minden Townships. As more land was purchased, it was extended farther and farther to the east and west.
On the Anson side, the Scotch Line Road West had a gap in it. In lot 4, about 2 km west of the Bobcaygeon Road, there was a very steep hill that the farm wagons could not climb. So for many years, Scotch Line Road West stopped at the bottom of that hill and continued from the top at the western edge of lot 4. Starting in the 1870s, George, Alexander, and Elizabeth Hay had farms in lot 9, concession V and in lots 6 and 7, concession III. Well into the 1930s, farmers on the west side of the hill went south on a wagon path, called the Hay Road, that ran along the road allowance between lots 5 and 6. The Hay Road joined into a another wagon path (now Fleming Road) that led east past the Alexander Fleming farm to Bobcaygeon Road.
Walter and Harriet Smith received a land grant in 1874 to start a farm on the south side of the Scotch Line Road West in lot 9, concession IV in Anson. In 1892, they bought lots 9, 10, and 11, concession III. Their farm then extended south from the Scotch Line Road down to take in much of the north shore of Big Bob Lake. In 1901, they bought lot 10, concession IV.
The above map shows the lots and concessions in Anson Township, north and east of Big Bob Lake. The roads pictured would be from about 1905. Bobcaygeon Road is in black. The Scotch Line Road West is in red. The Hay Road is in green. The future Fleming Road is in brown. The future North Bob Lake Road is in orange. The full Smith farm is marked with the black cross-thatch.
Known as the son who stayed home, William Peter Smith took over working the family farm upon Walter’s death in 1908. In the same year, Bill Pete opened the first Bob Lake Fishing and Hunting Club at the south end of his farm close to where his log cabin is presently located. By then, there was a wagon trail running from Scotch Line, past their farm house, and down to the lake. With use, the trail became a bush road known as the North Bob Lake Road. The small, seasonal hunt club operated for about seven years.
A few years before she died, Harriet transferred all the Smith farm property to Bill Pete in 1925.
In lot 10 and part of lot 9, Bill Pete Smith sold, in 1926, the first three cottage lots on Big Bob Lake to Percy Hall, Arthur Darnell, and Medley Parlee. These three are the only cottagers to ever see Big Bob Lake in its original state (shoreline and water level) before the dam was built in 1931. There was a wagon path leading from the North Bob Lake Road towards the point to access their properties.
Medley had served in World War I in the Royal Flying Corps as an observer / gunner in F.E.b2 bomber / fighter planes. In 1917, he was awarded an Ace status. By 1926, he and Arthur were teachers at Upper Canada College. Arthur sold his property to Delbert Brown, Bill Pete’s brother -in-law, in 1930 and the Hall family sold their property back to Bill Pete in 1948. But Medley was on the lake for 40 years.
In 1929, on the western edge of lot 10, with help from friends and neighbours, Bill Pete built a lake front log house. It was put together from two sections of a barn that came from the old Hay farm on the north side of Scotch Line Road. This became the fourth cottage on the lake. The log house still stands and is currently being renovated by his niece, Dr. Laurie Brown, a retired veterinarian from Haliburton Village.
Bill Pete sold half of the farm, lot 10 concession IV, to Fred Stamp in 1930. He continued to farm the other half in lot 9 until the early 1960s.
Medley Parlee was involved in the only recorded shooting on the lake. In the summer of 1933, he and a friend, Henry Blunt, left his cottage to go hunting. From his point they rowed across the mouth of Bob Creek and hiked off into the woods. Henry tripped, fell, and shot himself in the leg with his shotgun. Medley managed to get Henry back to his cottage where upon Mrs. Blunt and Mrs. Parlee hurriedly drove into town to get Dr. Crowe and Black Maria, the town’s ambulance. At the lake, the doctor tended to Henry as best he could and sent him off in Black Maria to the hospital in Lindsay. It was reported that Dr. Crowe said that he was hopeful the leg would not have to be amputated.
About 1941, Bill Pete sold the other half of the farm, lot 9, concession IV, to Fred Stamp. In 1944, the Smith farm house burnt to the ground. Its hay barn was saved and stood for another 70 years. For a new farm house, Fred moved a log home from the old Hay farm on the north side of the Scotch Line to its present location across the road from the destroyed farm house.
Bill Pete was living in his log cabin when in 1945 he started another hunting and fishing lodge which he named the Venture Inn. It was based out of his log cabin. As part of the inn, Bill Pete built a number of rental cabins going west along the shore from his log home. In 1946 he gave one of the cabins, called Whispering Oaks, to his recently widowed, older sister Sarah Brown.
The North Bob Lake Road was maintained by the township and ended at Bill Pete’s log home. Renters paid for parking by the log cabin and then used a footpath to go further. After a few years, the footpath turned into a cottage road so renters could drive to their cabins.
In 1946, Bill Pete sold a large part of lot 9, concession III to a nephew, Cecil Brown, who in 1950 started to sell cottage lots on the east side of Bob Creek. In 1952, Keith and Alyce Yeo were the first to buy a lot which is now 1106 Shakespeare Drive. Until 1967, the few cottages that were built were water access only. Those cottagers docked their boats by Bill Pete’s log cabin.
Bill Pete sold a large part of lot 10, concession III to another nephew, Claude Brown, in 1948. Claude improved the road that led east from the North Bob Lake Road down towards Parlees Point and started selling cottage lots.
Also in 1948, Bill Pete bought back from Fred Stamp, the half of the farm in lot 9, concession IV. Bill Pete was comfortable in his lake side log cabin so he rented out his new log farm house (that Fred had moved into position) to tourists.
As the North Bob Lake Road was extended west along the shore, Bill Pete began to sell cottage lots and his three islands in lot 11. The two smaller islands Bill Pete had named Honeymoon and Linger On Islands. The Reg Garbutt family had fallen in love with Big Bob Lake while visiting friends who were renting the log farm house. So in 1952, the Garbutts bought a large lot from Bill Pete and built their family cottage called Rocky Roost beside Sarah’s lot. A few years later, they bought Whispering Oaks from Sarah who moved into the log cabin with Bill Pete.
Hydro was brought into the cottages along the north shore in 1952.
The picture below was taken by the famous Canadian aerial photographer Harry Oakman. He flew and took pictures during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. From his plant in Peterborough, Harry printed his photos into the famous Oakman tourist postcards.
Shirley Lynas bought her lot right next to the Parlee property in 1955. With a 35 ft frontage, her lot had the distinction of being the second smallest lot on the lake. It is now the smallest.
Bill Pete sold a small 100 ft by 100 ft lot that contained his log farm house to John Rickards and Irwin Colwill in 1955. The log house still stands and is owned by descendants of the Rickards, Welch, Snell, and a few other families. It is now called the New OSH Hunt Club and is used as a small, seasonal, private hunt club.
In the summer of 1956 local authorities visited Bill Pete out at the lake and told him he had to close the Venture Inn as he did not have the proper permits to run an inn. Bill Pete thought about the situation, got some black paint, and painted over the second ‘n’ in his sign. He then stood back and said that he wasn’t running an inn. The authorities left and Bill Pete continued with the Venture In.
Bill Pete’s larger island and its onshore lot were bought in 1957 by the Crichton family. There were seven Crichton family members so the island was named The Isle of Seven C’s. They built a rock and dirt causeway from their shore lot to the western tip of their island. After the dam was enlarged in 1961, their causeway was submerged in the spring but useable to walk or drive on for the rest of the cottage season.
Almost 20 years earlier, Art and Elizabeth Turner had purchased lots 12 and 13, concession III. As Bill Pete sold more property in lot 11, Art and Elizabeth extended the North Bob Lake Road (as a private road) westward into lot 12. In 1959, they surveyed and started to sell cottage lots on the north-western bay. The first to buy lots were Norman and Joy Mead and Joseph and Gayle Schwieg (now 1731 and 1735 Claude Brown Road). Soon after, the North Bob Lake Road Affiliation would have been started to maintain the road past the township’s part.
In 1962, Bill Pete closed down the Venture In. He and Sarah continued to live in the log house.
There were about 33 cottages along the north shore in 1965.
In November 1966, Medley Parlee died in the fire that destroyed his cottage. This would be the lake’s first recorded major cottage fire. Medley’s son built a new cottage close to the original site. From the late 1960s and through the 70s, Parlees Point was the scene of many, many summer parties hosted by Medley’s grandson Steve for the lake’s teenagers and then young adults.
Sarah Brown died in 1967. Bill Pete lived on his own in the log house until shortly before his death in 1971. Claude Brown inherited all of Bill Pete’s properties on the lake.
Limited telephone service along the north shore started about 1968.
The first Bob Lake murder(s) happened during the early winter of 1971/72 in a cottage on the bay at the northwest end (lot 12) of the lake. Hence, it is named Murder Bay. There are two versions of the story:
- Version 1: The owner of the cottage had a friend up snowmobiling for the weekend. They spent the evening in town drinking and returned to the cottage where the drinking continued until they got into a fight. The owner took a knife and stabbed his friend to death.
- Version 2: The owner and his wife had a friend up for the weekend. The owner went out and returned to find his friend in bed with his wife. He used a knife to stab both of them to death.
In both versions, he cut up the body or bodies and buried the parts in the old Hunter Creek dump. The owner was arrested and convicted of murder. While in jail, he learned a trade and when released, he got a job as – wait for it – a butcher!
The second Bob Lake murder, also at the north end, occurred in the winter of 1982/83. A 24 year old cottager was killed by an 18 year old youth. They had known each other in Toronto with the youth having a lengthy police record. The cottager drove the youth to his cottage where, after using drugs and getting into a fight, the cottager was shot twice. The youth left him to bleed to death in the cottage and escaped in the cottager’s car. He was arrested eight days later in the US. Brought back to Toronto, the youth was convicted of second degree murder and has spent the rest of his life going in and out of prison.
The county notified all cottage associations in 1985 that they needed to implement a standard emergency lot numbering system that encompassed their entire lake. For organizational reasons, the north and west Bob Lake associations had problems and the new lot numbers were not issued until 1993.
Steve Parlee inherited the family property in 1988. The next year, he sold most of Parlees Point which was then divided into five large cottage lots. The rough road, soon to be named Parlees Point Lane, was extended to the new lots. Steve kept a sizable lot which contained the family cottage. To this day, his new neighbours still talk about the shooting range that Steve had at the back of his lot.
The province stopped stocking Bob Lake with lake trout in 1990.
Steve Parlee sold the cottage and his remaining lot in 1991. This ended Bob Lake’s first cottager’s connection to the lake after 65 years.
About 1992, the Parlees Point Affiliation would been have started to maintain their cottage road.
The North Bob Lake Road was renamed the Claude Brown Road in 2011. The road ends at the large property in the southern part of lot 11 where Claude and wife Margaret cottaged for many years.
The lake’s fourth major cottage fire happened on the evening of August 24, 2019 behind the Isle of Seven C’s at the old 1952 Burton cottage. No one was hurt.
Since 2006, a growing number of lakes in Muskoka and Haliburton have reported algae blooms. The Ministry of Environment confirmed that Bob Lake had a small blue-green algae bloom in late October 2020. The bloom was tested and registered exceedingly low on the toxicity scale. It was located by the mouth of Bob Creek. But that does NOT mean that area was the source of the pollution – the pollution could have come from anywhere on the lake and just amassed in that area.
In the weeks leading up to the sighting, the conditions were perfect for an algae bloom; low water level, unusually warm weather, and very calm winds. Unfortunately, once a lake has had one bloom, it can easily get more blooms.
Thanks to the following who contributed photos to this chapter:
- Amy Booker, Bob Lake cottager
- Laurie Brown, great grand-daughter of Walter & Harriet Smith, Bob Lake resident
- Tony Donevski, Bob Lake cottager
- John du Manoir, Bob Lake resident
- Peter Glaser, historian, Bob Lake cottager
- Dave Roberts, computer guru, Bob Lake cottager
Have a comment or contribution? Just use the “Leave a Reply” form below or connect with Greg by submitting the contact form on The History and Stories of Bob Lake page. Go back to <<< Chapter 12 or proceed to Chapter 14 >>>
I am working on a History of River Drivers on the Gull River. You have some fantastic photos I have never seen before. Where did you get these photos?