Lambton Heritage Museum
Grand Bend, Ontario

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Grand Bend - Our Stories, Our Voice
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OAKWOOD PARK/OAKWOOD INN & GOLF CLUB

By the late 1800's, Grand Bend was well on its way to becoming a summer resort. One of the men who realized the potential of the area was Clayton McPherson Walker, who purchased a small tract of land fronting on Lake Huron, mostly sand dunes and scrub oak, from Joseph Ravelle in the summer of 1919. He soon purchased several more parcels of land adjacent to the shoreline from the Canada Company, as well as a farm on the east side of Highway 21, eventually owning 200 acres and 3/4 of a mile of lake frontage. Walker dreamed of a resort with a cluster of cottages nestled in the oaks, fanned by the breezes of Lake Huron. But his property, being useless in agricultural terms, made the locals dub the transactions as "Walker's folly."

A subdivision plan was ready for the 1922 season, and Walker began selling cottage lots. This was the birth of Oakwood Park. He also built a hotel structure that same year, Oakwood Lodge (later to become Oakwood Inn), in partnership with his son Fredrick. The next season, a nine-hole golf course was constructed on land that at one time had been a market garden. A second hotel building, joined to the first by a wooden bridge known as the Catwalk, went up in 1928 and the dining room was built in 1931.

Fredrick Walker, owner of the Oakwood Lodge, lived in Oakwood Park year round. He was referred to as one of the "four horsemen of St. John's by-the-Lake," along with Colin C. Scatcherd, William C. Dance and Stuart L. Gunn. These four men petitioned the Bishop of Huron to form a congregation of the Church of England in Grand Bend in 1949. These same four men were instrumental in successfully canvassing the community for funds to build the church. Each of the men was dedicated to the church until no longer able.

Colin C. Scatcherd donated the land across from Oakwood Park on which St John's sits. In 1957 the Parish Hall was dedicated in memory of C. C. Scatcherd. His wife Audrey was equally active in the church. The Scatcherds were summer occupants of the cottage that Colin's mother Kitty Labatt Scatcherd bought in Oakwood Park in the late 1800s until they builta permanent retirement home there. It is their descendants who run the Oakwood Inn Resort & Golf Club as a popular vacation destination today.

A noted summer resident of Oakwood Park was the former Premier of Ontario, John P. Robarts. He and his family spent many weekends at Oakwood Park, in a getaway they named Oakhaven. Robarts was blessed with a great sense of humour. On a particularly hot, humid Labour Day weekend, Premier Robarts and three others set up a card table and four chairs in the lake and spent the afternoon playing bridge. The Premier was an avid sailor, and on calm days his 30 foot sailboat would be seen in front of his cottage.

 

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