Memories of Baptiste Lake:   Now and Then’

By Mavis Irwin  




My first visit to the lake was July, 21st 1946. It happened to be Reverend A.M.Irwin’s 80th birthday! The ‘Birch Point’ cottage was literally built in 1922 by his six sons –Karl, Paul, Dean, Norman, Ross and Ralph! I married the seventh son- Roy.


       The location was chosen by Rev. Irwin who had viewed the lake from Bowers Point on one of his ministerial visits to the northern outposts and loggers camps. He was apparently enchanted with this particular point, as it had many birch trees and a beautiful view of the lake…and would make an ideal hunt camp or summer cottage for the family.


       On enquiring about the purchase, he was informed that this particular land was under water, but when he mentioned that he had in fact stood on that very property, it was sold to him for $10.00.


       Frank Lavalle, an Algonquin native, and his wife,  Mary Baptiste, lived in a quaint log home farther down the point.

        Frank made birch bark canoes, one of which is in the Bancroft Museum. His wife made moccasins from deer hide…a pair of which was given to Lillian Irwin (Rev. Irwin’s wife). That pair is also in the museum.

        Frank Lavalle died at 94 years of age ,on June 28,1954,in his home, apparently having fallen down his stairs while carrying a lantern, thus setting his home ablaze. Mary died much earlier on July 6th, 1948.

       In those earlier years, the train came to Baptiste via Trenton and Belleville, dropped off the mail at ‘Grant’s Store’ where Mable and her tiny little mother looked after the local store and post office. Mable would always treat the children when we shopped for groceries or collected the mail.

       Roy and I, having purchased the cottage before his father died, spent many wonderful summers with our family at ‘Birch Point’…myself and the children spending entire summers there!  (Roy Irwin, being a family MD, could not leave his practice in Oshawa for long periods of time.)

       There were no ‘sea-doos’ or ‘bass boats’ to alter the pristine solitude that one desires at a cottage!

       The eerie sounds of the loons at night and the call of the whip-poor-wills, the hot muggy days picking blueberries and wild raspberries…are some of the joyful memories of Baptiste Lake!

       One unusual sighting for me was the ‘Old Puffer’, a paddle wheeler or ‘alligator’, as it was called…belching out smoke and sparks while struggling down the lake hauling a boom of logs to the ‘Old Mill’.

       As time has progressed, some significant changes have occurred on the lake. On the same location as Grant’s Store…a new building, strikingly impressive, called ‘Country Fare’ has been established. Also, the number of cottages have increased and many more year round homes now occupy the shoreline.

       In place of the Old Mill, is the marina…a real asset for the many boaters on the lake.

       Other than that…Baptiste is Baptiste and there is no substitute!!                                                         I have four children (John,Chris,Cathy & Bob)and they all own property on Lake Baptiste…need I say  more?