Name of Event: Faire at the Fort/Festival at the Fort
Location of Event: Fort Willow Depot Historic Site, Minesing, ON
Re-enactment Event Dates: September 16th & 17th/2011
Contact Information: David J. Brunelle (705) 716-7124 or
Short Historical Description of Event and significance to the War of 1812:
History of the Nine Mile Portage Trail - By: Lyn Downer
The story of the nine mile portage cannot be done justice in a few minutes,
however, those few minutes of reflection on our past does bring an
appreciation of what, and who, came before us. From the earliest times to
the present, from Native Canadians, to Voyageurs, to British troops, to
explorers and adventurers, to teamsters and settlers, to us here today, the
nine mile portage represents a window into the history of Canada. This
trail that linked Lake Simcoe to Georgian Bay through Willow Creek and the
Nottawasaga River was originally a trade route for natives that lived on the
shores of Lake Simcoe and those who lived to the west on the Niagara
Escarpment. A mode of transportation that allowed a link between these two
bodies of water, and between native cultures.
Over time, the nine mile portage evolved, as most things do, but it still
remained a vital transportation link. Its evolution was determined by the
times at hand. During the early 1600's it evolved into a trade route to
transport goods via voyageur. Hardy types who carried two 90 lb packs on
their backs the whole distance of the portage, and then returned for their
canoe. Later, after the defeat of the French and the arrival of the British
forces in the mid 1700's, the route was still one of transportation, but now
the emphasis turned to defence. John Graves Simcoe made military security
and economic development his primary goals, and accordingly set out to
establish a naval base at Penetanguishene that would be supported by the
transport of goods and services via the nine mile portage. Simcoe's concern
of defence was born out later when the war of 1812 broke out. As the war
raged on, and the British forces lost control of the upper lakes, the nine
mile portage evolved again as a vital transportation link between British
forts in York and Kingston, and the fort they held at Michilimackinac at the
head of the lakes. With this fort in peril from American attack, the nine
mile portage was used in a relief expedition of 200 members of the Royal
Newfoundland Regiment that marched from Kingston in the winter of 1814. They
opened the nine mile portage into a more useable roadway for easier passage
of goods, and created at the other end, what we now call Fort Willow. The
relief expedition was a success, and the portage proved a vital part of the
process that saved the northwest from falling into enemy hands.
From war to peace, the portage evolved again. Following the war of 1812, it
remained the route of choice for military supplies. By way of example in
November of 1814 a partial inventory of supplies at Fort Willow consisted of
over 50,000 lbs of flour, 64,000 lbs of Salt Pork and 13 gallons of rum, all
transported down the nine mile portage. By this time the trail had been
widened to handle ox carts, and traffic along it increased with trade and
settlers coming into the area. It was also a source of employment as many of
the area's settlers found work on the Portage. In fact, Barrie's first
settler Alexander Walker was a well-known and successful portage teamster.
Many wearied themselves on the Nine Mile Portage - Huron/Ouendat, Iroquois,
Ojibwa, soldier, sailor, settler, priest, voyageur to name but a few, most
live in anonymity, but some achieved greatness. In 1824, David Thompson the
great geographer traveled along the route on his way to Montreal from the
west. In the service of the North West
Company he had explored and surveyed the Nelson, Churchill and Saskatchewan
rivers, their surrounding territory and Lake Athabaska. He explored the
upper Assiniboine, the Missouri and the headwaters of the Mississippi. He
surveyed and defined the international border from the St. Lawrence River to
the Lake of the Woods from 1816 to 1826. The year after Thompson, John
Franklin and his party passed over the Portage on their second overland
expedition to the Arctic Ocean. They stopped long enough to establish the
longitude and latitude of the Nottawasaga Portage.
An all too brief look at the history of the Nine Mile Portage, but one that
provides us all with an opportunity. Today we have the opportunity to step
in their footsteps, to literally walk through the mists of time, to travel
along the same historic route that has contributed so greatly to the
creation and defence of this nation. Walk along and reminisce, and we'll
meet you nine miles from here at Fort Willow in a celebration of our
Description of planned activities:
On Friday, Sept 16th & Saturday, Sept 17th, 2011the Township of Springwater,
the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and the Friends of Fort
Willow will once again be celebrating the significance of Historic Fort
Willow Depot by retracing the steps of our forefathers/mothers in the
development of our communities and to the history of Canada.
The Nine Mile Portage, an ancient native trail, once formed a land bridge
between Kempenfelt Bay and the Nottawasaga River enabling a continuous trade
and transportation route from Lake Ontario through to Georgian Bay for many
centuries. During the War of 1812, the British military improved the route
for the transport of supplies and personnel as Lake Erie and Huron were
occupied by the Americans. Following the War, the route remained active and,
what was known as "the portage landing", grew into the community we know as
Barrie. Today, you can follow the portage route by starting at Heritage
Park in downtown Barrie to its terminus at the reconstructed British supply
depot, Fort Willow, located in Springwater Township.
Billed as the largest nineteenth century pleasure faire in Simcoe County,
this heritage extravaganza boasts authentic, hands-on activities and
entertainment sure to please every generation. Exceptional musicians, period
uniforms and clothing, foods, beverages, workshops, and story-telling,
combined with cannon/musket demonstrations, military encampments, a
voyageur/native area, sutlers and merchants make this an exemplary heritage
opportunity, not to be missed!
Visitors to the Fort will be greeted by living history re-enactors from
another century, setting the scene as one steps back in time walking along
the entrance trail. Once inside the fort grounds visitors will discover that
everywhere one turns there is something exciting happening, something to
watch, sample or take part in.
. Re-enactors who are setting up and staying over on Thursday may
begin to set-up any time after 12:00 noon.
. There will be no straw or running water at Fort Willow as it is a
rural site with no water or electricity hook-up. There are no modern
washrooms other than two permanent outhouses and there will also be portable
toilets and one sink unit.
. Firewood is provided and there will be a large portable water tank
on site for those who need access to fresh drinking water.
. Please do not dig fire pits as digging on the historic grounds is
prohibited. Metal fire plates will be provided for those who wish to have a
fire. Also please confirm with me the location of your fire.
. Please ensure you check with me about where you are setting up your
encampment especially if you are attending Friday's education day. There
are 31 stations spaced in sequence throughout the fort grounds and proper
positioning is crucial.
. I would like all Friday's education stations to be ready to go by
9:00am. If you are arriving on Friday morning please allow yourself enough
time for travel, set-up and move your vehicle off the historic grounds.
. Re-enactors will be allowed to park their vehicles on site at Fort
Willow on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Re-enactors vehicles must
be moved to the parking lot or the road on Friday and Saturday morning for
. If you have any questions regarding parking please let me know.
. Food and drink services provided by the Rotary Club of Barrie &
Springwater will be available for sale at Fort Willow on Friday and Saturday
from 11:00am till 3:00pm.
. Fort Willow will be officially open to the public at 9:00am to
3:00pm on Friday and 10:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday.
. Directions to the site are as follows - Take Hwy 400 North or South
to the Dunlop Street Exit also known as County Road/Hwy 90. Proceed west
along Hwy 90 for 5 km and turn right onto George Johnston Road. When you
come to the traffic lights at the railway tracks you will turn left onto
Portage Trail and proceed for 3km until you reach Fort Willow. The route is
well signed. If you have any questions or require alternate directions
please let me know.
. As in past years we will once again be having a pot-luck dinner on
Friday and Saturday evening. Please bring whatever you can and remember it
does not have to be cook period style. Chicken wings, pizza as well as pie
and other great foods are welcomed. Any questions please let me know.
. For your viewing pleasure I have obtained a copy of the new WNED/PBS
documentary "The War of 1812" which we will be pre-screening on Friday
evening at Fort Willow. It does not air on Television till October 10th,
2011 so this will give everyone in attendance an opportunity to critique the
production before it officially airs. Bring snacks, drinks, a chair and
perhaps a blanket as we will be showing the documentary rain or moonshine.
. If you have any specific questions regarding the event please
contact me anytime by e-mail or my cell at 705-716-7124.
Thursday, Sept 15th/11
12:00pm till Dusk - Set-up of Encampment
8:30pm - Meeting - Discuss Friday Education Day Activities - Questions &
Friday, Sept 16th/11
7:00am to 9:00am - Re-enactors set-up encampment at Fort Willow
9:30am till 12:00pm - Education Day - Morning Component
12:00pm till 12:30pm - Re-enactors and Participants Lunch Break.
12:30 till 3:00pm - Education Day - Afternoon Component
6:30pm - Pot Luck Dinner
8:00pm - Meeting - Discuss Saturdays Activities - Questions and Answers
8:30pm - Pre-Screening of the WNED/PBS documentary "THE WAR OF 1812"
Saturday, Sept 17th/11
7:00am to 9:30am - Re-enactors set-up encampment at Fort Willow
10:00pm to 4:00pm - All re-enactors at Fort Willow are actively presenting
to the public.
6:30pm - Pot Luck Dinner
Sunday, Sept 19th/10
10:00am to 4:00pm - Encampment Breakdown and Departure
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