Going north off the River Road, the area was first accessed by logging trails and then a wagon track for Robertson’s farm. The dam construction in 1931 would have improved the first few hundred yards of the wagon track. It did not appear to have an official name; some called it the Robertson’s Farm Road but most called it the Bob Lake Road. It is marked in blue on the map below.
The body of water heading down towards the dam is definitely part of Bob Lake but since the start of cottaging it has been called “the river”. In the last 15 years or so, some cottagers and probably some real estate agents began to call it the “arm of the lake”. The first narrows is at the bottom of lot 11, concession II and the second narrows is at the bottom of lot 12, concession I.
In 1888, the Dickson Lumber Company bought lots 12 and 13, concession I in Anson. Their loggers would have started the trails going up the west side of the lake. The lumber company definitely constructed a wooden logger’s dam and log chute at Rackety Falls to go from Little Bob Lake into Gull Lake. The company probably had a wooden dam where the present Bob Lake cement dam is located to float their logs into Little Bob Lake.
Henry Robertson bought lot 14, concession I in 1894. Then in 1897, he added lots 12 and 13, concession II for a relatively large farm.
John Delameres bought lots 12, 13, concession XIV in Lutterworth in 1918. The Delameres family already had land south of those lots so the family now owned a strip of land 2 lots wide from Rackety Falls on Gull Lake up to the south end of Big Bob Lake.
In 1920, the Gull River Lumber Company leased parts of lots 12, 13, concession XIV in Lutterworth from the Delameres to add to the rest of the land around the south end of Big Bob Lake that they already controlled. For the next nine years, they and the Dickson Company logged in the area.
With the end of logging in 1929, Henry Robertson bought lots 12 and 13, concession I from the Dickson Lumber Company. Henry joined them to his lots 12 and 13, concession II to make a very large farm on the southwest side of the lake. He would have expanded the logging trail into a wagon track and then into a farm road which became known as the Bob Lake Road. The laneway to his farmhouse ran along the township line between Anson and Lutterworth and is now Ralston Road.
The Trent Water System constructed a cement dam at the south end of Big Bob Lake in the spring of 1931. This drastically raised the lake’s water level. The construction crew would have improved the first few hundred yards of the Bob Lake Road to get to the dam site. This was the beginning of using the cleared area next to the dam as a possible boat ramp.
In 1943, the Robertson family sold the farm to Earl and Helen Holmes. Earl was not a farmer, he owned the Uptown Tire & Battery Service Company in downtown Toronto. So he hired a Scandinavian couple, Andy and Eva Borg, to manage the farm.
From an army surplus auction, Earl acquired two Bren Gun Personnel Carriers which he had trailored up to his new property. Andy used the tanks as extra tractors for farm work. Earl used the tanks as big ATVs to run around the farm.
In 1944, Earl severed a five acre lot (now 1390 Bob Lake Road) on the west side of the first narrows which he gave to his daughter Audrey McCann. He used his tanks to carve out a path from the farmhouse diagonally across the fields to access that lot. There Earl’s son-in-law Louis McCann and Louis’s father built a log cottage. This would have been the eighth cottage on the lake. It was the only cottage on the west side of the lake or down the river for the next 18 years.
For years, Louis came up to the cottage on weekends and for his two weeks of holidays The rest of the summer Audrey and her two daughters, Louise and Lisa, were on their own with no hydro, no telephone, and no car. This was typical of many 1950s cottage families. Louise remembers that summers were wonderful but very lonely. Occasionally Louise and Lisa would boat down to the Bigbob Lodge store for an ice cream treat. Even though it was closer, they never visited the Venture Inn.
Until the hydro came through, Bill Pete Smith cut blocks of ice from the lake each winter to stock their ice house for the summer.
In 1945, Roy Sawyer bought the farm on lots 14, 15 and part of 13, concession XIV in Lutterworth. He and Earl shared the farm laneway with Roy’s farmhouse directly south of Earl’s. The laneway would later be named Ralston Road.
The Holmes family has lots of stories about Earl. This 1948 story involves Earl, the Dominion Hotel, and Big Bob Lake. Earl was a very social guy and in the late 1940s he and the Dominion Hotel owner got to be good drinking buddies. Back then, hotel bars were called beverage rooms and had very strict rules and hours. From Monday to Saturday, beverage rooms were open from 10:30 am to 2:00 pm and then reopened in the evening. One day, Earl stayed after the 2:00 pm closing and the owner was caught serving drinks to him. The town fined the hotel by shutting down the Dominion’s beverage room for a week. The next day, the owner loaded his truck with cases of booze, drove out to Earl’s farm on Big Bob Lake, and stored the alcohol in Earl’s ice house. He and Earl then set up the ‘Dominion’ bar in Earl’s barn. Every evening for the rest of the week, the field beside the barn was packed with cars.
Tired of going cross country to get to the cabin, in 1951 Earl and Louis used the tanks to carve out a very rough, private road from the start of the farm laneway directly up the shore to the McCann cottage.
The Bob Lake dam was enlarged in the spring of 1961, greatly increasing both the high and low lake water levels.
In the summer of 1961, the Holmes estate sold the entire property, minus the McCann cottage lot, to John Roberts, John Robinson, and their silent partner Ron Sanderson. The two Johns stayed at the Rockcliffe Hotel as they extended and expanded the McCann’s private road into a semi-reasonable cottage road. Going north from the Sawyer farm laneway, they subdivided the waterfront into 60 cottage lots. They brought hydro service in as they started selling their lots in June 1962.
David and Mary Low (now 1011 Right Fork Lane) and Sydney and Dorothy Cooper (now 1486 Bob Lake Road) were the first to buy lots in June. Bruce and Mary McRae (now 1382 Bob Lake Road) bought in August. John Archibald Moss (now 1062 Loggers Crossing Lane) bought in December 1963.
Over the next four years, the two Johns sold nearly all of their 60 lots. They would live in one cottage as they built the next. Known as the Roberts Development, this was the fastest growing section on the lake.
These west side cottagers would have been the first to regularly use the boat ramp beside the dam. Over the years, more and more cottagers, marinas, the MNR, and even the OPP used the ramp. Everyone just assumed that it was the lake’s public boat ramp. Eventually the Township started to maintain the ramp and even advertised it as the public boat launch on Bob Lake.
In 1965, there were about 46 cottages going up the west side of the river and lake.
By the summer of 1966, the private cottage road to Roberts Development had degenerated so that it was on the verge of becoming impassable by cars. In September, the cottagers organized a group, called the Bob Lake Association, to deal with the situation. John Moss was chosen its first president with Bruce and Mary McRae as his assistants. In October, Mary wrote a letter to the township reeve asking that the township take over the private road and its maintenance. The letter also asked for a garbage dump to be put in for the use of Roberts Development cottagers. At a hotel in Oshawa in February 1967, township and cottage representatives met to discuss the private road. The township rejected both of Mary’s requests as too expensive. Instead, the township proposed that the cottagers each pay, to the township, an annual fee of $20 into a ‘road repair fund’ and the township would supervise the work. The cottagers agreed. The road repair system lasted for over 10 years.
For about $2,100, Jim and Betty Hederson bought one of last empty lots in the Roberts Development in November 1967. The next summer, the family built a 12’ by 16’cabin (shown below) to live in as they built their cottage.
Phone service started up in 1969.
With the county doing some major construction work on the River Road in the summer of 1972, the entire road on the west side of the lake was officially named Bob Lake Road. The River Road was renamed Deep Bay Road.
At the 1972 Toronto Boat Show, Louis McCann bought a DIY pontoon boat kit similar to the one shown below.
Louis attached lawn chairs, a card table, and a cooler to its plywood floor. The family called it a catamaran. It would have been the first ‘party boat’ on the lake.
About 1978, the township ended its ‘road repair fund’ deal. The newly named West Bob Lake Association took over the maintenance of Bob Lake Road.
In 1996, Earl Holmes’s granddaughter Louise Folks became the owner of the McCann cottage. She still happily summers there, making Louise the cottager with the longest tenure on Bob Lake.
In 2003 with the implementation of the provincial 911 lot numbering system proceeding, the various laneways off of Bob Lake Road were named Right Fork Lane, Caldwell Trail, Ralston Road, Loggers Crossing Lane, and Goose Down Lane.
The Bob Lake dam was renovated in the winter of 2014-15
The very south end of the river was still undeveloped. The land around the dam had been up for private sale for a few years. In the spring of 2016, the Township realized and Bob Lake cottagers learned that the boat ramp and the dam were actually on private property. Parks Canada (TSW) had access to the dam but the boat ramp was no longer to be used for public access to the lake.
The property at the dam was sold in the spring of 2017. The new owner firmly closed the boat ramp and is building a cottage on the east shore just above the dam.
Thanks to the following who contributed photos to this chapter:
- Louise Folks, Bob Lake cottager
- Scott Hederson, Bob Lake cottager
- Dave Roberts, computer guru, Bob Lake cottager
- Doug Thompson, ex-Bob Lake cottager
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