The Town of Bracebridge is situated along the northern branch of the Muskoka River within the District Municipality of Muskoka. It is a popular four-season vacation destination and is known as "The Heart of Muskoka".
In 1858 the Muskoka Colonization Road was begun at Washago,and connecting with the Peterson Road at Muskoka Falls by 1861 it had reached the north branch of the Muskoka River. At this time there was a single inhabitant John Beal was the only inhabitant. He had ventured this far north by canoe before the colonization road had yet reached this point. John Beal built his tiny log cabin where Manitoba Street is today.
The Free Grant Land Act of 1868 saw the area open up to settlement and R. J. Oliver, a land agent from Barrie, Ontario became Crown Lands Agent for the Muskoka District. James and Robert Cooper were contracted to extend the Colonization Road and set to work building a bridge to replace the large pine tree that had been laid across the river. James Cooper would also bring his family and erect a boarding house to accommodate the men hired to work on the road.
Once a road had been built more settlers arrived. Hiram James McDonald built a tavern on the south side of the falls named The Royal Hotel. David Leith, another early settler built a house on the north side of the Falls. A few years later he sold this property to William Holditch, who had it surveyed into town lots.
The first wedding ceremony performed at North Falls (Bracebridge) was by a Methodist minister named Reverend Wilson in 1866. The bride was his daughter, Elizabeth and the bridegroom was William Holditch.
In 1864 a post office was established and Alexander Bailey, a local entrepreneur was the first postmaster. The settlement known as North Falls was renamed Bracebridge by William Dawson LeSuer, a secretary of the Postmaster General's Department. It is said that he took the name Bracebridge from a book he was reading at the time by Washington Irving called "Bracebridge Hall".
Bracebridge soon became the metropolis of the Free Grant District, with businesses springing up to cater to the needs of the settlers. The village was incorporated in 1875 and became a town in 1889. In 1894 Bracebridge became the first town in Ontario to have its own hydro generating station.
Manitoba Street, Bracebridge, Ontario, c1910
Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library
Region 1: Southwest Ontario • Region 2: Niagara Canada • Region 3: Hamilton, Halton and Brant • Region 4: Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington • Region 5: Greater Toronto Area • Region 6: York, Durham and the Hills of Headwaters • Region 7: Bruce Peninsula, Southern Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe • Region 8: Kawarthas and Northumberland • Region 9: South Eastern Ontario • Region 10: Ottawa and Countryside • Region 11: Haliburton Highlands to the Ottawa Valley • Region 12: Muskoka, Parry Sound and Algonquin Park • Region 13a: North Eastern Ontario • Region 13b: Sault Ste. Marie – Algoma • Region 13c: Northwest Ontario