The Environmental History of the Kawarthas
When the first migrants started to arrive in the upper reaches of the Trent Watershed in the 1830s, they were embarking on an enormous collective project. They had set out into a world that could not sustain them as it then existed. A couple of Ojibwa villages, totalling about two hundred people, had lived from gathering wild rice, fishing, hunting and harvesting wild plants. But as the natives watched thousands of new neighbours stream to the region, everyone understood that a new way of life had to emerge.
The settlers, and Ojibwas to a lesser degree, set about recreating the countryside of the Kawarthas into an agricultural landscape. Working almost entirely by muscle power, this revolution entailed such an overwhelming amount of labour that the first generation of farmers would not live to see the agricultural landscape created.
The permanent exhibit at the Fenelon Museum shows how settlers and Ojibwas refashioned the Kawarthas through farming, hunting, fishing, tourism and logging. It begins with the region's environmental history over millennia. Starting with the glaciation of the Kawarthas, visitors are taken though the archaeology of the region to the history of local Ojibwas, who had villages on Chemong, Scugog and Rice Lakes.
The exhibits detail the surveying of the region, and the challenges of turning these grids into reality. They show the local gentry that emerged around Cameron and Sturgeon Lakes, their business ventures and mills. The homes, stories and tools of early settlers are on display, as are photographs of the steamers from the early years of Kawartha Lakes tourism. Maryboro Lodge has an extensive collection of agricultural implements, logging, carpentry and blacksmith tools. Housed in the oldest remaining structure in the area, the Fenelon Museum also depicts nineteenth century household furnishing and domestic life.