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December 13th, 2018 
Carmela Rzhevsky
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York Region Map

Innisfil is a town in Ontario, Canada located on the western shore of Lake Simcoe, immediately south of Barrie and 80 kilometers north of Toronto. It has historically been a rural area, but growth in the Barrie area and the Greater Toronto Area has meant greater residential development in Innisfil. Innisfil is now one of the fastest growing communities in Ontario.

Demographics

According to the 2006 Statistics Canada Census:

  • Population: 31,175
  • % Change (2001-2006): 8.8%
  • Dwellings: 12,822
  • Area (km².): 284.18
  • Density (persons per km².): 109.7

Significant communities in the town include:

  • Big Bay Point
  • Cookstown - southwest
  • Alcona
  • Stroud
  • Lefroy
  • Gilford
  • Churchill

History

The history of Innisfil, spans a period in excess of 170 years. The Township was hewn from almost unbroken virgin forests which had been home to the Huron Indians, and was first surveyed in 1820. The area encompassed 68,653 acres (278 km²), including the villages of Allandale, Tollendal, Painswick, Minets Point, and Holly at the time.

The first settlers were the Hewson family who came by way of the East Holland River and Lake Simcoe to settle at what they called Hewson's Point (later named Big Bay Point) on March 30, 1820.

The first sawmill in the Township was built at Tollendal by George McMullen in 1823.

John and George Warnica completed the clearing of the bush between Barrie and Churchill and assisted John Clayton to complete his contract between Churchill and Bradford. This opened the land route, known as Penetanguishene Road, which later became Highway 11 and is now Yonge Street. This route between York (now Toronto) and Barrie was completed in 1827.

Along this road the settlers came, and spread out along the concession lines to clear the lands and develop their farms. There had been those who came ahead by way of the river and the lake; many settled near the shores of Lake Simcoe and Kempenfelt Bay. The only channels of communication were the public roads, and these were scant and poor.

The pioneer farms cut from the forest were mostly self-sustaining. What few products there were for sale found a market in nearby Barrie, which was then little more than a village. Distant York was reached in the winter when the ice and snow made for better roads.

During this period, post offices, churches, and stores were established; also a form of local government performed by commissioners was appointed under a provincial act. The first post office, then called Innisfil, was located at what is now called Barclay's Corners. The first school was located at Victoria. The first church was also at Victoria, and was of Methodist denomination.

Milling in Innisfil was first done at Tollendal in 1835. The need for a grist mill to grind wheat is an indication of the progress toward an agricultural community.

The earliest official record of a census shows that by 1842 the population of Innisfil was 762.

Establishment of Innisfil

The year 1850 marked the end of the old commissioners rule. The population had increased to 1,807 nearly tripling in under a decade. The first municipal council was established, replacing the government of appointed commissioners. The Corporation of the Township of Innisfil was born.

The settlement of Allandale became more prominent with the construction of the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway (later the Northern Railway) from Toronto to Collingwood. The first train from Toronto arrived in Allandale October 11, 1853.

The continued building of public roads, together with the railroad and the lake navigation, resulted in the establishment of more flourishing hamlet settlements.

Bell Ewart was formed in 1854. Henry's Corners, now Thornton, was formed in 1833. Perry's Corners, now Cookstown, was formed around 1859. Hamlet settlement also resulted in a burgeoning resort development along the entire shoreline.

In 1891, 500 acres (2 km²) of Innisfil became incorporated as the Village of Allandale, now part of the City of Barrie. Barrie annexed a further 500 acres (2 km²) in 1897.

Innisfil flourished over the years and by 1950, had a population of 3500. However, paved roads, the automobile (the first recorded in the Town was 1912), the price of fuel, and the cost of housing outside Toronto encouraged commuter residents. This in turn gradually changed the nature of our shoreline development. Seasonal housing evolved to permanent residential. Now, about 90% of the shoreline is permanent residences.

Modern development

Cookstown, at the south-west extremity of the Township, became an incorporated village in 1962, with 100 acres (400,000 m²) of Innisfil becoming part of Cookstown.

In 1967, 597 acres (2.4 km²) were annexed from Innisfil by the City of Barrie to accommodate the establishment of the Formosa Spring Brewery. This facility was purchased by Molson's and has since been closed and sub-let to other businesses.

On January 1, 1982, 8623 acres (35 km²) were annexed to the City of Barrie, with a further 737 acres (3 km²) to be annexed January 1, 1987. As a result of the annexations, Innisfil's population was reduced by approximately 26.7% to 12 153 permanent residents, and its total assessment was reduced by 20.4%.

On January 1, 1991, by virtue of the South Simcoe Act, the Township of Innsifil, a north section of the Township of West Gwillimbury, and the Village of Cookstown were amalgamated and incorporated as the Town of Innisfil.

The County of Simcoe Act provided for further restructuring of Simcoe County on January 1, 1994 when the Village of Thornton was amalgamated with the Township of Essa and a small section of the Township of Essa, adjacent to Cookstown, was amalgamated with Innisfil.

As of 2005, Innisfil has a total permanent population of 31,000 and an estimated seasonal population of 4,000 people. Having begun as a community of seasonal homes for people living in Toronto, it is now a popular place for permanent residents-mostly families and empty nesters-and, indeed, most of the "cottages" along the lake shore have since been converted into year-long homes.

Georgian Downs Harness racetrack and casino is located on the 5th Sideroad near the Highway 400 interchange at Innisfil Beach Road.

Sports

  • Innisfil Lakers of the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League
  • Innisfil Wolfpack of the Ontario Junior C Lacrosse League

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