The First Peoples

As the glacial ice receded from the lakes region, nomadic peoples arrived in small family groups from the south to hunt. They came to hunt several species of large animals such as the mastodon and caribou, which traveled near the receding glacier and the Champlain Sea. We know from one artifact that hunters were on the north end of Bobs Lake. When the ice front moved further northward, the tundra and its animals moved further northward with it, followed by the people.

About 9,000 years ago, other ancient people hunted on all parts of the lakes. Their distinct stone tools have been found on several shores of the lakes and in the Tay valley. This indicates that by that time the lakes resembled their current shape and rebounding was probably complete, or nearly so. For many centuries after the Ice Age, the climate continued to heat up, encouraging a diversity of plants and animals to migrate to the lakes. These conditions would have encouraged habitation in the region.

By 5,000 years ago, people left evidence of their presence on the lakes in the form of stone tools and clay pottery. A few sites where settlements took place have been found as well as sites where small hunting parties made temporary camps. These people were ancestors of some First Nations people.

By 1701, the Mississauga were the dominant First Nation along the shores of Lake Ontario. At the time of European settlement, about 40 Mississauga lived in the Bedford region, at Wolfe Lake and southwards to Kingston. The British made two treaties with the Mississauga for land in which the lakes are located.

In 1842, about 50 Nipissing and 30 Algonquin people from The Lake of Two Mountains near Montreal arrived at Devil Lake in south Bedford to live near the Mississauga. They left their larger bands of about 300 people each who were having problems harvesting enough food on their traditional hunting lands on both sides of the Ottawa River because European settlers were disturbing the environment of the animals they hunted.

The significance of Bobs Lake to the Algonquin settlement was that their Chief, Shawainpinessi, (who adopted the name Peter Stevens) lived on an island in the East Basin of Bobs Lake probably settling there in 1837. By 1842, the Chief had two log houses on the island and would, on occasion, hold decision-making meetings at his home with the warriors (males over 15 years). The Chief requested from the Crown a 2,000-acre reserve at the north end of Bobs Lake, but instead was offered the old Mississauga reserve nearby at Wolfe Lake. However, the Algonquin did not occupy that reserve.

After 1852, most of the Algonquin and Nipissing people left Bedford, returning to their previous homes or settling elsewhere, although some remained in the region and are the ancestors of some local residents.