Steamer Captain and his wife founded Port Stanton in 1884.
In 1875, Captain Thomas Stanton who had earlier emigrated from England, settled with his wife Ellen and their young family on the west shore of Sparrow Lake. They lived in a log cabin and carved out a life for themselves. Captain Tom made daily trips upriver in his small steamboat ” The Pioneer ” to Severn Bridge (about 4.5 miles) for supplies for his family and other pioneers and campers on the lake. Around 1884, the Stantons moved over to the South shore primarily so their growing children could attend the new school in the area. They settled on the present site of the Stanton House Resort and proceeded to farm and make a living from steamboating. Captain Tom became active in municipal politics becoming Deputy Reeve and later Reeve of the township.
He continued his ‘Steamboat Service’ to Severn Bridge and when the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway arrived in the area he used his influence to redirect their line north about 1/2 mile, so it touched the shore of Sparrow Lake . He also donated his land for this diversion. In 1905, he and his sons Frank and Albert founded the Sparrow Lake Steamer Line. They built a 70 foot Steamboat in a bay 1/2 mile to the west out of their forest timber and with boards sawn on their Stanton Sawmill. This 70 foot boat was called the “Lakefield”, could carry 200 people and was to become the flagship of their fleet.
Campers and summer cottagers were well established on the lake by 1905 and Ellen Stanton began taking in boarders for the summer. This marked the beginning of a booming tourist trade which was about to unfold.
Picture to the right is the Stanton House in the early days. Notice the water tank for water pressure and the windmill that pumped the water up from the lake. The Stanton House today is operated by descendants of the early settlers.
It all came together about 1906 when the CNO railway reached the community and established scheduled runs for holidayers to the north. A Sparrow Lake Station was established 100 yards from the Government Wharf and the ” Stanton Bros Store “ owned and operated by Frank and Bert Stanton, was located between the station and dock.
A Post Office was added in 1907 and appropriately named Port Stanton. Frank Stanton became the first Postmaster and served until he retired in 1951. This area became the hub of the tourist industry, linking a mainline rail service to a popular waterway and Sparrow Lake was widely promoted by the railway as a fine tourist area for vacationers living in the cities in both Canada and the United States.
The Sparrow Lake Steamer Line took them to their destinations whether cottage or resort. The Steamers ” Lakefield ” and ” Glympse ” handled the major loads to resorts and cottages on the lake from 1906 to 1914. The ‘Glympse ‘ was another steamer purchased by the Stantons which could carry 35 passengers.
The up river trips to Severn Bridge were discontinued after the railway terminal was established. Roads into the lake were very primitive trails at this stage so automobile traffic was minimal until the 1920’s. The Stanton family was growing and establishing four resorts in Port Stanton to meet the needs of the expanding tourist influx. Tom Stanton’s youngest son George Stanton was now involved with the steamboat operation and the hotel trade.
Captain Tom Stanton died in 1907. His wife Ellen with the family’s help carried on the Stanton House Resort. She was a key figure in building and establishing the Anglican Church of the Good Samaritan located about 100 yards east from the Stanton Bros. Store. Ellen died in 1910 just weeks before the church officially opened. The Stanton House continues to serve guests today, owned by descendants of the original pioneer.The Bayview-Wildwood Resort to the west is similarly run by Stantons.
The Sparrow Lake Historical Society wishes to recognize the historic contribution this family made with their pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit to the development of the flourishing tourist industry that exists today. The railway trains still go by but do not stop. The Railway Station was dismantled in 1955. The evolution of motorcars and roads ended the need for a boat service. The little Church no longer has the swelling crowds of tourists each Sunday. However, cruising boats travelling the Trent-Severn Waterway still call in at the Government Wharf to gas-up or tie-up overnight and visit the Store and Restaurant. The Church of the Good Samaritan still holds summer services for the benefit of the tourists.
The Historical Society has created a memorial plaque to recognize and honor Captain Tom Stanton and his wife Ellen and their family who built this unique Port and contributed greatly to Ontario’s tourist industry development. This plaque was dedicated with a ceremony on August 22, 1999. Left to right – Vice President James Stanton and his wife Mary Lou, President David Stanton and his wife Ann.