History of the Stewart Cottage

Oct 14, 2013

By Malcolm Stewart

The Stewart cottage is situated on 2-acre Masson Island named after the original owners, Thomas M. and May C. Masson, who owned it from 1926 to 1956. The island lies about 50 metres west of the peninsula at the northeast corner of Bible Island. The closest neighbours are the Segers, whose cottage (formerly owned by the Wiley‘s until 1996) is on the aforementioned peninsula. The extended Bible family, whose cottages are at the northwest corner of Bible Island, are the next closest. We can see the Kissman cottage at the bot-tom of the narrows and a dozen or more on the Henniger Road to the north.

history-stewart-cottage.jpgIn the 1950‘s my Dad, Donald Stewart, was practicing pediatrics in Ottawa, and in the summer of 1955 he was the doctor-in-residence at Camp Mazinaw, a boys camp on the lake by the same name. I was a ten-year-old camper there at the time and had travelled on Skootamatta (then Loon) Lake by canoe on the way to Topper, Sheldrake and Partridge Lakes. I remember camping under the stars on the North Shore before there were any cottages. ?Stevie? Stevenson, (Darien Kissman‘s father and a good friend of my parents from Ottawa), told them that an island on Loon Lake was for sale. They went to look at the property but were not initially interested. However that fall the seller, Tom Masson (who was the manager of Aikenhead‘s Hardware in Toronto) wrote to them, offering to low-er the asking price, and they decided to buy it. Thenceforth as my sisters and I grew from school children to teenagers with summer jobs to young adults with careers and families of our own, and our parents gradually changed from hard-working adults to active retirees to elder advisors, our family en-joyed weekends and vacations at the cottage every summer.

The original cottage is situated on the north side of the island. It is a poplar post and shiplap structure featuring a large stone fireplace, built by the Masson family in the mid-1920‘s using local materials. For many years Dad and I did our best to maintain it, patching the roof every summer and finishing the interior. Then, in July of 1969 -- as the US was landing on the moon – some friends and I rebuilt the bedroom wing in preparation for my forthcoming honeymoon with Marilyn that August. In 1978 my parents hired Ray Wills, a skilled builder originally from St. Catherine‘s who had retired to Northbrook, to build a cinder-block boathouse topped by a one-room cabin on the east shore; and in the 1980‘s they hired Brian Boys, who ran a business at Trails End Landing for several years, to add a veranda and kitchen/ dining area to the main cottage.

As a boy I reveled in the ubiquitous sounds of nature on and around the island: =loony tunes‘ in the evening and whip-poor-will wake-up calls in the morning; woodpecker percussion and birdcalls everywhere; cricket-cicada sopranos during the afternoon and bass-tenor-alto frog choruses in the evening. Startling beaver tail-whacks. Wolf howls. I still do!

Pictured on the left Harry Hull one of the Owners & Operators of Camp Mazinaw with Alexandra Stewart age 2 and the man on the right is unidentified— tell us if you know who he is!!

Our first boat (essential for any water access cottage) was a heavy lifeboat (one of many used on the lake at that time) that needed to be caulked in the spring. It was a temperamental, air-cooled outboard motor without much power. I suppose it was better than rowing, although we sometimes had to revert to that. In 1957 our parents had a blue plywood runabout built in Arnprior by the Ayling and Ramage Company. We dubbed her the ?Queen Mary?. She had a Mercury we could water-ski behind. A few years later we had the bottom clad in fiberglass, a new material in recreational boating, and she lasted several more years.

In those days there were lots of pickerel to catch. We ate our meals by the dim light of Aladdin and Cole-man lamps and drew water in buckets from the lake. Later we pumped it by hand. We cooked on our old Finley woodstove and a two-burner Coleman camp stove. For excitement my sisters and I chased bats around the cottage with brooms, fended off plywood-eating porcupines and captured huge bullfrogs in the marsh at the back of the island. We enjoyed swimming, canoeing, sailing, tetherball water skiing and visit-ing friends. Of course, there were lots of black flies and mosquitoes… some things never change!

My sisters Catherine and Alexandra spent many summers on the Lake as teenagers, and later with their own families. Now they have their own cottages on other lakes, but we all enjoy occasional family reunions at =Skoot‘.

Major changes on the Lake during the past fifty-odd years included the development of the North Shore, Narrows, Hughes Landing Road and Sheldrake Bay. Ironically, the attendant population increase did not prevent the closure of one business after another: Harold Maybee‘s store; the Hughes Landing store & ma-rina; the Bombardier sailboat business; the Country Roads restaurant, store & gas at Trails End; and most recently, Loon Lake Lodge. Other changes we‘ve noticed are fewer porcupines (good); the disappearance of whip-poor-wills (bad); high-speed mobile and Internet service since 2011 (good) and a seriously reduced pickerel catch (bad).

Several memories come to mind from cottage days past. For example, as a busy physician, Dad enjoyed the solitude of island life and relished the fact that we had no telephone. However as one of the few doctors on the lake he was frequently called upon to treat minor infections and injuries, many involving jack knives and fish hooks. Some of his patients know who you are!

Dad had always been an avid fisherman, but was not at first an accomplished boater. On many occasions as we approached the island, often in windy conditions, he became adept at finding each hidden rock and shearing pin after pin. Finally he bought a whole boxful.
One morning he and I got hopelessly lost in the fog somewhere between the island and Trails End Landing. It seemed like hours before the fog lifted and we found ourselves =way off course – an unnerving experi-ence!

We engaged in an ongoing struggle with various destructive pests. One night I woke in the dark to hear Dad urging Mom to ?Shine the light over there… no, over THERE!?. There was a bang and a scuffling sound, then ?#@%!! I missed!?. The porcupine had escaped to live another day!
One day Marilyn and I succeeded in trapping a small porcupine under a washtub. After sliding a sheet of plywood underneath, we managed to flip the whole thing over and put a rock on top. We debated what to do next and finally decided to take the little guy across the lake and let him go where there were no cottages.

On another occasion our Mom, Helen refused to allow MNR to spray our island to control a gypsy moth in-festation on the Lake. Instead, she enlisted the whole family to help her remove by hand, the cocoons that had appeared all over the island on tree trunks and buildings. There must have been thousands of them. What a job!

We have a large family collection of photographic memories of cottage life as well as several 8 mm color movies shot at the cottage by Dad. Much of the film was transferred to DVD and print photos scanned by Catherine and Alexandra.

With the arrival of our parents‘ first great-grandchild we are now entering the fourth generation of Stewart cottagers on the island. What a privilege it is to spend our summers on one of the most beautiful lakes in Canada!

Category: Lake Tales

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