Helen MacLeod 11
Centuries before becoming a charming lakeside town, Bayfield was home to the Anishinaabeg and Iroquois. They relied heavily on the area’s rich agricultural land and easy water access for travel, trade, and livelihood. Following the American Revolution, the area (later known as “Upper Canada”) became a primary destination for Loyalist refugees and U.S. settlers. With the Bayfield River feeding into Lake Huron, the land was ideal for agriculture. At the same time, the harbour was dual purpose, offering an excellent port for fishing and an opportunity to defend Canada against the Americans on the east side of Lake Huron.
With much land ceded by the First Nations to the Crown by 1791, the British established “The Canada Company,” a private land development corporation, to aid colonization. Dutch Baron van Tuyll (Dutch Ba-ron van Ti-le) purchased 1,500 acres from them in 1829, naming the piece of land “Bayfield” after Great Lake surveyor and British naval officer Admiral Henry Wolsey Bayfield.
The little village of Bayfield quickly became a bustling port and a point of entry between Detroit and Goderich – but the prosperity was short-lived. In 1870, Goderich won the right to acquire a rail line, offering a more accessible and economical method of transporting grain. Fishing became Bayfield’s most prominent industry, with markets in Toronto, Chicago, and New York for their whitefish, perch, pickerel, and herring.
While there are only two fishing firms in the harbour today, the foundation of the industry began with 12 local families. Buyers would anxiously wait on the docks as fishing vessels came in with a hefty haul. Competition within the industry grew strong – but price haggling almost always united the anglers with amusement.
Represented here is The Helen MacLeod II, a Lake Huron double masted schooner (a fishing boat), was built in 1925 by Louie MacLeod (1888-1961) in Bayfield. It had an overall length of 36 feet, a beam of 10 feet, and a 3-foot-6-inch draft.