Lake George

 A Quick History

(See detailed report at Report on Lake George - 2010 - Margot Malenfant)


           

                     

 

            This illustration is one of the early attempts at mapping the lake and the land grants that border the original road.  The name at that time was "Seven Mile Lake",  perhaps representing the best guess of the day of the distance from the St. John River.

           

The obvious first peoples to live on and around the Lake were the aboriginal people, the Maliseets who made their homes along various tributaries of the St. John and watercourses between the St. John, the St. Croix and the Penobscot in Maine.  It is a shame that those first lake people left no written records, but early representations and sketches by cartographers and geological explorers show portages between Magaguadavic Lake and the St. John, including Mud Brook and Mud Lake and over to our lake or the Pokiok Stream, and also from the northern tip of Harvey Lake to Lake George. 

            The first recorded land grants were to Scottish settlers who came to Canada after the Napoleonic Wars.  Among the first grantees in 1818 was John McGeorge who received 200 acres in the area of the Mic Mac Trailer Park.  His grave can still be seen near there today.  (More on John later)    Next to McGeorge on the western side was John Rae, who was granted 200 acres at the end of Sunset Cove.  West of that, which became known as Murphy's Point or Murphy's Island, went to James Morris whose lands totalling 500 acres extended along the shore from the outlet to near the Lake George Family Campground.  McGeorge and Alex Lawson had petitioned the Lieutenant Governor for parcels of land in the parish of Prince William bordering Seven Mile Lake after arriving from England in 1817.  They had sailed across the Atlantic to land at Saint John, proceeded by steamboat to Fredericton and then walked to the vicinity of what is now Kings Landing.  They then followed an Indian trail to lake. 

            To the east of McGeorge on the northern shore was Alex Lawson and members of the Lawson family are also buried in the nearby cemetery.  Further along the northern shore were Jeremiah Shea  (1823), John Nicholson (Nickolson) (1826) and John Nicholson Sr. (1831) about to where the Donnelly Settlement road reaches the shoreline.  All the remainder of the northern shore was granted to Cornelius Duggan in 1831).  Oddly enough, the nearby community became known as Lake George, the lake was called George Lake and even "Lake George Lake".  The original grantees, whose descendants still reside here, including the Lawsons, the Nicholsons, the Donnelly's and their extended families are included among the many people who have come to call Lake George their home over many generations.

             The origin of the name "Seven Mile Lake" is somewhat obscure.  It might have been a translation from a native name or perhaps a distance along the outlet, the Pekuyauk shown on old maps or Pokiok Stream as we know it today.  Conventional wisdom says it's the distance from the Lake to the original shoreline of the St. John River which was considerably farther north than it is today with the headpond which resulted from construction of the Mactaquac dam.

            Colourful stories and speculation surround the origin of the name "Lake George".  The following account is in a history of the Village of Harvey and Area. 

            "John McGeorge was one of the founders of Lake George.  He and his family survived primarily on hunting and fishing.  One day in 1822,  McGeorge shot a deer outside of his homestead.  An Indian appeared demanding the deer.  He had been tracking the animal for three days and his family was starving.  McGeorge refused to part with any of the meat, and the Indian went back into the woods. 

            The following day, McGeorge's brother-in-law John Rae noticed that McGeorge's cow was out of its pen.  Rae went over to investigate.  He and McGeorge went out to the barn and saw two Indians by the door.  There was a flash of light and McGeorge fell to the ground, fatally wounded.  A hue and cry was ordered for the arrest of Peter Pennard.  A huge manhunt was formed and Pennard was captured.  There are conflicting stories as to whether he was acquitted or hanged." 

            This story and other versions, along with the name "McGeorge", gave rise to a popular theory that Lake George was named for him.  There are other theories, however, perhaps with more foundation.  One is that a large tract of lake at the western and southern end of the lake covering many acres and much shoreline was at one time owned by a William George.  However, his grant was much later, 1882,  well after the community of Lake George was recognized.   Perhaps the most popular theory is that a large part of the territory to the north and west, following the American Revolution and the influx of many British troops, became known as Prince William Parish, after the son of the then monarch, King George III, and the lake and nearby community therefore became "Lake George".  This name shows up on a plan of 1819, well before John McGeorge met his fate.  Another historical reference says "possibly named in association with Lake George in New York where Loyalist forces defeated the rebels during the American Revolution.  Another reference refers to the community being named Scotch Settlement. 

             Large areas of land south and west of the St. John River between Woodstock and Oromocto were granted to soldiers and loyalists.  Prince William, who later became William IV, was the patron of the King's American Dragoons and the military grant to this regiment stretched from the mouth of the Pokiok down river to Long's Creek.  Lists of these early settlers are available. 

            In 1847, in the Geological Survey by Abraham Gesner, is the following: 

            "The lands of Prince William, first settled by the King's American Dragoons, are very hilly and the intervales more limited in their extent.  This parish contains several inland basins of water.  The largest of these is Lake George.  The settlement at the lake contains two saw-mills, a flour and oat mill.  From it descends a rapid stream called the Pokiok.  Having passed over a rocky bed, this rivulet plunges into the St. John through a chasm twenty-five feet wide, seventy feet deep, and a furlong in length.  The water falls over a perpendicular ledge and bounds from step to step, through a dark channel, until it is

lost in the more tranquil water of the main river which glides along unruffled by its noisy tributary.  Lake George has clearings upon its borders.  In this quarter, there are also two other thriving settlements, Magundy and Pokiok.  Still further south, the whole surface of the country over a wide expanse is in its natural state, and since the destruction of the beaver, it is seldom visited, even by the Indians.  Moose, carriboo, Virginian deer, bears and wolves are plentiful.  The district is interrupted by the chain of high and broken lands; yet there are fine valleys and slopes among the mountains and hills, to which agriculture might be successfully applied." 

            Various texts describe the development of the road system in the St. John River/Lake George/Magaguadavic Lake/Oromocto Lake area.  From Fredericton and Lake George the incentive for road construction, besides connecting the settler's homesteads, was to get to St. Andrews.  Ganong's Origins of Settlements in New Brunswick, speaks of construction projects in the 1833-34 period, and says "About this time a new road to St. Andrews (explored 1826, 1827) by way of Hanwell and passing west of Oromocto Lake was laid out.  After 1840....one from Prince William through Magundy and Magaguadavic Ridge was later extended down the Magaguadavic to the St. Andrews Road."  Later, Ganong speaks of settlements on good tracts of lands, commonly ridges and new roads being built to such places.  These settlements included both native expansion and immigrant settlements and among the important ones he lists Magundy, Blaney and Magaguadavic Ridges along with Pokiok Settlement and Lake George.  The Pokiok Settlement Road, leading south from Dumfries, didn't always turn sharply towards Lake George and end near the Pokiok outlet on Rte. 635.  Originally it ran straight down to bridges over the Pokiok and Magundy streams and on through to a more westerly junction of Rte. 635 at Magundy." 

            Again, in an item in the Harvey history; "According to the Morning News on September 12, 1862, John Henneberry of Indiantown (?) discovered antimony at Lake George.  The mine operated for several years and employed residents from the surrounding areas but is currently closed.  It is the only antimony mine in the Western Hemisphere."  Another history says "in 1876 the Lake George Mining Company was formed to mine and treat antimony ore.  The antimony mineral Stibnite was exposed during road building about the year 1863.  Antimony metal was produced from hand cobbed ore.  The Hibbard Antimony Company built and operated the first concentrator in 1880 and so antimony was produced.  Various veins were explored intermittently during the years 1907-1910, 1915-1916, 1917-1920, 1927-1931 and 1938." 

            The mine was closed during the mid-part of the 20th century, but reopened for a few years.  The shafts were pumped free of water and an environmental concern was raised over contamination of wells between the mine location and the St. John River.  In the late1980's, an attempt was made to establish a processing plant at the mine site for the production of Antimony Trioxide but a groundswell of opposition from area residents forced the company to back down.

            It was mentioned earlier that the settlement at the lake contains two saw-mills a flour and oat mill.  The outlet also reveals evidence of dams which were known to exist, probably to create a spillway to power some of the mill equipment, and also to allow for the floating of large logs from the shoreline to the outlet.  Even a casual examination of the water in the lower part of the outlet reveals one dam of boards driven into the bottom, and another nearer Rte 635 where a permanent blockage was created leaving only a narrow opening.  Upstream under the water can be seen several sunken logs which obviously represent logging activity rather than sunken tree trunks.  Further evidence of the impact of the dams can be found in the berm of rocks and gravel which shows up on much of the lake shoreline.  The berms would have been pushed up by the movement of ice in the spring. 

            There are countless ways to access the lake through private and public property, but basically there are seven access roads leading to clusters or "sub-divisions" of cottages and homes.  The first area of any consequence was opened up in the 1930's with the extension of the Donnelly Settlement Road down to the lake shore area known as Sandy Beach.  The cottage road was and is located adjacent to the shoreline and is now called Lakeshore Road.  In addition to cottages, there was also a canteen,  a dance hall and a drinkable water source at a public pump. 

            Next shoreline to have building lots likely was the Lake Road, or Route 636 which leads to Harvey Station.  Properties included the Ranger Station and Tool Cache established in the 1950's, which later became the site of a Provincial Park and is now known as Lake George Family Campground, operated on a government lease by the non-profit Harvey Improvement Association.  Most of the shoreline cottage and home lots were originally sold by local resident Malcolm Bell. 

            Ewart Hyde Lane, leading to Sunset Cove, was built in the 1950's by Mr.Hyde who farmed on the other side of Rte 635.  He built the road so cottage lots could be sold on the road and on his lakeshore property.  Included among the customers were the original inhabitants of what is now known as the Mic Mac Trailer Park which also owns a beachfront property on Sunset Cove open to its members. 

            MacMurray Road, off Route 636 and leading to Cottage Lane, was opened up in the late 1950's by Guy MacMurray who then proceeded to develop the cottage lots north and south on Cottage Lane as far as the Provincial Park property.  Mr. MacMurray is said to have planned his access road along the shoreline, but was convinced by a prospective buyer to move it back.   

            Russell Bell Lane at the southwestern end was a 1960's project where an old sawmill was originally located.  Mr. Bell and all subsequent developers had to conform to new sub-division rules calling for larger lots to more properly accommodate wells and septic systems. 

            Hazen Lane, again in the southwest, was named for its owner, farmer Hazen Cleghorn who operated his farm including a field on the lake in the 1940's and 50's.  He began selling lots in 1975 while cows still browsed in the field.   

            McGeorge Lane, leading to Loon Lane and Lakeside Crescent, is a road that many people predicted could never be built.  It led through a swamp to the point of land which was part of the original James Morris grant, acquired by the MacMurray family and sold and developed in the 1950-60's period by Floyd Murphy and the area in question came to be known as Murphy's Island.  A considerable amount of fill and gravel was employed not only to build the main road and cottage roads but also to fill many low areas.