Peterborough, Ontario is situated along the Otonabee River, about 40 km north of Lake Ontario. Incorporated as a city in 1904, Peterborough is a hub for cottagers and vacationers to the Kawartha region of Ontario and is the largest city along the Trent-Severn Waterway.
In the early 1800's the area around Peterborough was known as the Indian Plain. The land was guarded by a great Indian Chief, named Jack Cow. Jack Cow earned the nickname of Handsome Jack because he was considered the handsomest man among the Chippewa. Handsome Jack would allow white settlers to hunt for deer and partridge in the Stony Lake area but was very protective of his trap lines and forbid any white man from hunting fur bearing animals.
Handsome Jack was the proud father of two beautiful daughters, Baby Cow and Polly Cow. When Polly Cow became ill and passed away at the age of sixteen the Indian chief was distraught. The grieving father chose a burial site for his beloved daughter on the southernmost of three islands which would become known as the Polly Cow Islands. Jack's Lake and Jack's Creek would be named in honour of her father.
In 1818 a small party of men headed by Adam Scott crossed Rice Lake and headed up the Otonabee River to where the city of Peterborough now stands. Scott was looking for a site to build a a grist mill and the Otonabee served his purpose perfectly.
Several years later, the Hon. Peter Robinson undertook the arduous task of settling over two thousand Irish immigrants to Peterborough County. On the voyage from Ireland fifteen of the emigrants died and in the first year in the new land eighty-seven more perished. The settlers were poor hardworking families hoping to make a prosperous life for themselves and their children.
The newcomers travelled from Kingston to Cobourg by boat. From there Robinson constructed a 12 mile road to Rice lake where he built a batteau, a flat bottomed boat sixty feet long by eight feet wide that would carry the settlers and their meagre belongings up the Otonabee to Scott's Landing, as Peterborough was then known as. In 1831 a second large group of immigrants was sent from Britain and given free land grants to settle in the County of Peterborough.
Many of the settlers found the soil poor and the land difficult to farm and found work in the lumber industry which was prospering in the area. In 1892 William H. Hill and Elihu Edwards founded the Peterborough Canoe Company. From their factory located at the corner of King and Water Streets in the city of Peterborough, the company produced quality wood and wood-canvas canoes and sporting goods until 1961.
The Peterborough Lift Lock along the Trent-Severn Waterway was officially opened to the public with great fanfare on July 9th 1904, and remains in full use to this day.
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