The original railway station, relocated and renovated.©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
The original community of French River began as small lumbering site in the Georgian Bay around 1875. It got its start with a small mill, a few seasonal cabins and post office. In 1883 the mill, timber limits and town site were sold to the Ontario Lumber Company who immediately began to expand the operation.
Once the mill was enlarged, other mills began to move in. The town site included boarding houses, three hotels, three stores, cottages and boarding houses. There were two churches, Catholic and Protestant, a school, and also a jail. One important addition was the lighthouse. At its height French River boasted a population of around 600 and a summer population said to be as high as 1,500.
The community thrived until around 1910, when the timber was becoming depleted. Environmental laws put a further strain on the company's actvities after they were convicted and heavily fined for dumping excessive sawdust into the waterways. The mill was then sold to the Pine Lake Lumber Company who carted it off to Pickerel Landing Village. Much of the town site was disassembled shortly after that. A few ruins and the lighthouse still remain.