The original community of French River began as small lumbering site in the Georgian Bay around 1875. It got its start with a small mill, a few seasonal cabins and post office.
In 1883, the Ontario Lumber Company bought the mill, timber limits and the townsite. The company immediately began to expand the operation.
Once the mill expanded, other mills moved in. The townsite included boarding houses, three hotels, three stores, cottages and boarding houses. There were two churches, Catholic and Protestant, a school, and also a jail. One important addition was the lighthouse. At its height French River boasted a population of around 600 and a summer population said to be as high as 1,500.
The community thrived until around 1910, when the timber was becoming depleted. In addition, environmental laws strained the company’s activities even further. In 1910, the courts found the O.L.Co. guilty of dumping excessive amounts of sawdust into the surrounding waterways. Heavy fines followed which led to the closing of the mill. The Pine Lake Lumber Company later purchased the mill and carted it off to Pickerel Landing Village. A few ruins and the lighthouse still remain. Learn more