A Short History of Collingwood

First known as Hen and Chickens Harbour, with Hurontario Mills and the mill pond located at the east side, Collingwood was renamed in 1854 to honour one of Britain's most noted naval heros, Admiral Lord Cuthbert Collingwood, second in command to Admiral Horatio Nelson. By 1843 settlers had arrived and located on the shores of Georgian Bay near to where Collingwood is now situated.

A saw mill and a flour mill were erected on the shores of the bay by 1846 near the mouth of the Pretty River on the east side. The mills were a blessing to the settlers, since previously they had to carry their wheat and grains for grinding on their backs to Barrie, a distance of more than 36 miles.

While the townships around Collingwood were sparsely populated with few immigrant families as early as 1832, the settlements were far apart, with miles of dense woods between them. Although there had been talk for years of connecting Collingwood and Toronto by railway, it wasn't until 1851 that a company was formed and money obtained to begin the actual construction work after Collingwood was chosen as the northern terminus for the Ontario Simcoe and Huron Railway line (later the Northern Railway of Canada) out of Toronto.

It was the arrival of the railroad in 1855 that cemented Collingwood's worth as a centre for shipping and shipbuilding, since the rail line offered the ability to transport goods, materials and people easily and efficiently through the Great Lakes and points west.

Shipping began to gain importance with Collingwood being an early transfer point for emigration to the United States or western Canada. Freight and passenger traffic between American ports and the town was so heavy at one point, that Collingwood boasted a United States consulate. Shipping by water meant that local wooden boat building flourished during the 1850's and 1860's.

Following the completion of the Queen's Dry Dock at the foot of Hurontario Street in 1882, corporate shipbuilding industry prospered. By the turn of the century Collingwood was fast gaining an international reputation for consistent quality work and innovative design under the banner of the Collingwood Shipbuilding Company.

Shipbuilding continued to play an important role in the fabric of the community's economy, with more than 1,000 employed during peak periods. While the closure of the Yard in 1986 dealt a serious economic blow to Collingwood, recovery was swift and stable.