Bell Ewart, Ontario L0L 1C0, Canada
Lat. 44° 16' N Long. 79° 33' W
Bell Ewart is located on the western shore of Lake Simcoe, approximately sixty kilometres north of Toronto. Although it has now dwindled in size it was once the commercial centre of the region. The place took its name from a local landowner James Bell Ewart.
In the mid-1800s the town was an important distribution point, having connections with the Northern Railway and with commercial and passenger shipping on Lake Simcoe. A large sawmill was built there in 1852 by Sage and Grant from the USA. This accidentally burnt down a few years later, coincidentally with the impending exhaustion of nearby timber supplies.
In the railway steam era spring-fed Lake Simcoe was reputedly the purest body of fresh water in Canada. In 1876 the former lumbering community was well placed to become important in the ice harvesting business. Just when the large sawmill burned down to signal the end of the lumbering era and impending ghost town status, Bell Ewart came back to life with the massive ice harvesting industry.
When the growing city of Toronto became too large for its local ice supply, a businessman named Fairhead established the Springwater Ice Company in 1876 at Lefroy, about a mile away from Bell Ewart, at the closest railway point.
Alfred Chapman followed in 1891 with his Belle Ewart Ice Company, adding the "e" to the village name to make it sound more quaint on Toronto delivery wagons. His facility was located on the water's edge beside his competitor, and the two of them generated enough business to justify re-laying the railway spur in 1892.
The lake's growing reputation spawned a name change two years later, when the former Springwater Ice Company became the Lake Simcoe Ice & Fuel Company. Twelve years later in 1906, the Knickerbocker Ice Company was set up at Bell Ewart, and the heyday of ice harvesting was underway.
By 1953, however, numbers of customers for ice were dropping steadily. By September 1954, local residents were petitioning to have the eyesore ice house removed from the Bell Ewart lakefront, and it soon disappeared.
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