Huntsville is a town in the Muskoka Region of Ontario, Canada. It is located 215km or 134 miles north of Toronto and 130km or 81 miles south of North Bay.
The area was first settled and founded in 1869 by George Hunt, who built a small agricultural centre there. In 1870, a post office was built and the area was named Huntsville after Hunt, who became the first postmaster. Huntsville's economic development was stimulated by the engineering of a navigable water route north from Port Sydney to Huntsville which opened in 1877. A railway route from Gravenhurst was built by the Northern and Pacific Junction Railway in 1885, which encouraged development and resulted in Huntsville becoming officially incorporated in 1886.
In the following year, the Muskoka Colonization Road reached this area. The central Ontario community became an important industrial area in the late 19th century and had several saw, planing and shingle mills, as well as a tannery. Today, the many lakes and hills in the area, combined with the town's proximity to both Algonquin Park and Toronto, make Huntsville and the Muskoka region a major tourist destination.
On October 8th, 2009 Huntsville lost one of its valued landmarks, the Empire Hotel. The first building erected at the site of the Empire Hotel was Jacob's Hotel, built around 1875 by James W. Jacobs. He later renamed it Dominion Hotel. Jacobs died in 1890 leaving behind his wife & eldest daughter, who both were named Emma. It is unknown which of the women married a McLaughlin man, but the McLaughlin family renovated the building after the horrible Main Street fire of 1894. A July 26, 1906 issue of the Huntsville Forester reported the sale of the hotel to Robert T. McNairney and D. Kehoe, who demolished it so as to expand it three stories. By 1922 the Dominion was owned by Bruce Simmons. Organized in 1933, the town's rotary club began to meet at the hotel, and would for many years. In 1945, the hotel was bought Louis Mascioli of Timmins. In 1947-1948, the Mascioli brothers renovated and expanded the facility, removing the porches, adding street level retail units and erecting the adjoining four-story red brick building. They also renamed it the Empire hotel. The first shops were a barbershop, a jewelry store and also a shoe store. Beilhartz shoes remained in business in the Empire Block until 1985. In the mid-80's, Jim Tumber, who acquired the building along with Gary Macklaim, obtained a grant from the Government of Ontario to help convert the now derelict building from a hotel into an apartment building. Dave Keay, the building's last owner, bought the Empire in 1999. Over the next 10 years he refurbished the basement bar and the 52 apartments, doing most of the work personally. The day the fire happened was the day that Keay had just finished the outside painting. The fire was believed to be caused by an electrical problem but the exact determination is still unclear. As of August, 2014, the lot is empty.
Ontario GenWeb has a sketchmap of the original townships of Muskoka County.
The map of Muskoka County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the individual municipalities, townships, city, towns and villages of the county.
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1915 are now available [October 2014]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada, known to Canadians as "LAC". Copies of original microfilms are online at the LAC website for all censuses up to 1911. Each census database is preceded with an explanation of the geographical area covered, the amount of material retained (some census division material has been lost), the questions on the census form, and whether there is a name index. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited. The 1921 census is only available through Ancestry.ca, but it is free-to-view.
E-books and Books