Sawmill ruins©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Byng Inlet was established in 1868 and named after the English Admiral John Byng, who was courtmartialled and executed for cowardice in 1757.
One of the earliest industries in the Georgian Bay area was lumbering. The abundance of timber, easy transportation along water routes leading to the great lakes and the extensive railway connections that arrived in the mid 1860s resulted in conditions that were ideal for the lumber industry. By the 1870s there were literally dozens of sawmills scattered along various rivers, streams and lakes throughout the area.
In 1888 the Holland and Graves Co. opened a brand new sawmill in Byng Inlet. It soon appeared the poor late Admiral Byng's sullied reputation was about to be vindicated as the mill quickly grew to become the second largest sawmill in Canada and the busiest in Ontario. Byng Inlet was on a roll and added a theatre, hotels, post office, bakery and a school. In 1912, the mill caught fire. It was rebuilt and in 1917 renamed Graves, Bigwood and Co. A second fire followed in 1920.
Unfortunately, Byng Inlet suffered the misfortune of being completely sustained by a single industry. When the mill finally closed down for good in 1927 the majority of workers and their families departed. According to some sources the mill was demolished shortly afterwards, however there are still plenty of remains lying along the shoreline.
Byng Inlet isn't completely abandoned. In fact, it's undergoing a modest revival, mostly seasonal and recreational. The stark reminders of Byng Inlet's history lie along the shoreline, devoid of life and littered with charred debris.