A complete view of the former town site.©Copyright: Yvan Charbonneau
Michael's Bay was a small lumbering town built on the former site of an Odawa native settlement that dated back to around 1600. The town got its start in after Robert A. Lyon and Associates of Toronto were granted a timber licence covering a 22 square mile limit in Tehkumah Township.
In 1866, the granting of the islands' first timber licence was controversial partly due to lack of surveys and partly because of political boosting. One associate, D. Lyon of Milton, Ontario, who also happened to be Robert Lyon's brother, spent two years at Michael's Bay overseeing the mill's start up in 1862.
Initially employing 20 men, the mill would grow to produce two million board feet per year by 1868-69, as well as squared timber and lathes. The small settlement grew to include 60 residents that included mill workers, lumbermen, fishermen, a millwright, a carpenter, a lighthouse keeper, three coopers and a blacksmith. Around this time, cutting rights were extended to 120 square miles. In 1871 the lighthouse was completed. The firm attempted to increase its limits once again, but this time permission was refused. Debt ridden and unable to continue on, the company's licence was transferred to the Toronto Lumber Co. in 1878.
After the takeover by the Toronto Lumber Co., the business climate seems to have improved. A town plot was laid out in 1879. Production levels were good. The shingle and sawmill were producing 3,500 board feet alongside 20,000 shingles per day. A road, running 23 miles (about 33 kilometres), was constructed to Manitowaning, which reduced travel time to three and a half hours.
In 1882, the Toronto Lumber Company was sold to the newly incorporated Michael's Bay Timber Co., and once again Robert A. Lyon was back at the helm, this time as manager. Unfortunately, the small timber limit of 37.9 square miles was insufficient to generate long-term profit and by October 1888 the company was suffering from a serious debt load and folded.
In its heyday, during the mid 1880's, Michael's Bay was a prosperous place containing an active lumber port, two stores, boarding houses, a hotel, taverns, a bakery, blacksmith shop, school and about 15 frame homes. However once the mill closed, there was nothing left to sustain it. The community, that once counted 150 or so residents, and a seasonal population sometimes reaching 400, was doomed. By the year 1900 only a sparse population was left. The post office that first opened in 1872 finally closed in 1916 for lack of use. All that remains today is part of the King Street Bridge and a few foundations and cellars. The area is heavily overgrown.