GRAND BEND REPORTS PROSPERITY IN 1908 (Louis Ravelle & William Oliver)
The following, letter published on January 2, 1908 in the London Free Press, was written by Louis Ravelle, a Grand Bend merchant, and William Oliver, Constable.
At that time the Township of Bosanquet was holding a vote on "Local Option," and the letter was written to enlighten the voters of this northerly summer resort.
We are quoting parts of the letter as we feel it is of interest to our readers and particularly to so many Grand Bend residents.
"Grand Bend is one of the most famous as well as one of the finest summer resorts on the shores of Lake Huron. The place during the winter months has a population of about 200, during the summer months this is increased to at least 750 or 1000 persons, and besides this there are picnics almost every day from the surrounding towns, villages and country, which will number about from 100 to 5000 persons.
"The village supports 2 general stores, public school, 2 churches, 2 blacksmith shops, 1 tailor, 1 saw mill, post office, 1 baker, 2 confectionery stores and two hotels, one of which is situated in the County of Huron on the main road directly opposite the bridge over the Ausable River which forms the boundary between Huron and Lambton. The other, the Hotel Imperial, is situated within 150 yards of the lake and is built in one of the finest groves to be found anywhere.
"The fishing industry furnishes employment for quite a number of persons at this point both spring and summer. The A. W. Selkirk Fish Co. of Port Huron having a tug, on the lake to collect fish, which calls three times a week during the season. The fish from 4 or 5 miles on each side of this point are sorted here and easily loaded on the tug from the pier which was built by the Dominion Government.
"The grove is divided into 4 different parts, two in Huron and two in Lambton. The one south of the canal known as the London side contains some 12 or 15 fine cottages. The part lying between the canal and the county line, known as the Parkhill grove, contains some 35 or 40. Directly across the road from here is the Exeter side which contains 20 or 25 cottages, and north of this is Maple Grove, which is a beautiful park owned by Parkhill and London business men. Here are built 10 or 12 fine cottages; in all some 80 or 90 cottages have been erected here, besides a large boarding house, for the accommodation of summer visitors."
[The "grove" was the entire Grand Bend area of that day. The "London" side, occupied mostly by people from London at that time was south of the Ausable River, as far as Lake Road. The "Parkhill" side, occupied mostly by summer residents from Parkhill, was south of Main Street and north of the Ausable River. These two were in Lambton County. The Exeter side was north of Main Street, then Maple Grove, owned by London and Parkhill businessmen, was north of the Exeter part. Both of these were in Huron County.]
"Some 5 or 10 additional cottages are built each year. It is estimated that at least 25,000 to 30,000 people visit Grand Bend each year and quite a number of them remain from 1 week to 3 or 4 months. In fact during the months of July and August every available room is occupied, the hotels having to turn people away on account of not having sufficient accommodation to take care of the crowds that flock to the lake at this spot.
"On looking through the register of the Hotel Imperial we find persons who have come to spend their holidays at this popular resort, registered from such cities and towns as New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Chicago, Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, Saginaw, Port Huron, Ann Arbor, Alpena, Mt. Pleasant, Mobile, Cheybogan, Watertown, N.Y., Wayne, Neb., Minot, N.D., Vincennes and Hobart, Ind.; Brandon, Winnipeg, Moose Jaw, Toronto, Windsor, Galt, Berlin, Waterloo, Goderich, Listowel, Woodstock, Ingersoll, Sarnia, Watford, St. Marys, besides scores of neighbouring towns and villages.
"Also the register shows that some 10 to 40 guests are accommodated daily from the beginning of May until the middle of September and on such days as Dominion Day meals are served to 700 or 800 persons.
"This hotel is owned and operated by H. Bossenberry who has made many improvements and it is modern in every respect."