Byng Inlet was an early lumbering community, first established in 1868. Inspiration for the community’s name came from the English Admiral John Byng, court-martialled and executed for cowardice in 1757.
Lumbering was one of the earliest industries in the Georgian Bay area. The abundance of timber, easy transportation along water routes leading to the great lakes resulted in conditions that were ideal for the lumber industry. Consequently, by the 1870s, literally dozens of mills dotted the shorelines of various rivers, streams and lakes throughout the region.
The Holland and Graves Company opened a brand new sawmill in Byng Inlet around 1900. It replaced an earlier sawmill, destroyed by fire in the previous decade. In 1906, following restructuring and the addition of three new partners, the mill became known as the Graves Bigwood mill. The mill quickly grew to become the second largest sawmill in Canada and the busiest in Ontario. The late admiral’s poor, sullied reputation was certainly undergoing a rejuvenation.
Byng Inlet was on a roll. The company added medical services (required by law), a school, an Anglican Church, housing and a company store. Private individuals stepped up to the plate with a bakery, boarding house and a theatre, which was incredibly popular.
The mill caught fire in 1912. The following year, it was back in operation. A second fire followed in 1922. As a result the mill finally closed down for good in 1927. All things considered, the majority of workers and their families departed. Without any other industries to sustain it, there was little reason for Byng Inlet to continue. A number of people still live in and around the Byng Inlet area. Additionally, the area is popular with vacationers and recreational enthusiasts. The Sawmill Lodge, an attractive-looking fishing lodge built in the 1930s, is still in operation. The stark reminders of Byng Inlet’s history lie along the shoreline, devoid of life and littered with charred debris. Learn more