In 1846, Methodists gathered on the shore of Lake Ontario on land owned by J.B. Bowslaugh in a ten day temperance rally. Starting in 1859, this area became the site for regular summer events. Tents and sermons became the norm until 1875 when J.B. Bowslaugh deeded 12.5 acres to the cause, and the Ontario Methodist Camp Ground Company was started. Cottages built by J.B.’s brother, Edward Bowslaugh, began to populate the newly divided lots. Steamships and rail lines allowed for easy transportation and visitors started staying for the whole of the summer season.
Ontario Methodist Camp Ground
|The Ontario Methodist Camp Ground Company became a popular resort for people all over Ontario and other nearby areas. Science, politics, and arts were the subject of many lectures. Visitors could expect musical acts, theatre performances, sermons, and lawn bowling and baseball. Two hotels were opened within the resort. According to the 1885 program, over 50,000 people had visited the resort in 1884. The Temple was built in 1888 and cottages and people continued to come to “The Pride of Canada”.
The popularity of Grimsby Beach continued to grow and company and family picnics became a group to which the campground catered. Starting in 1906, one of the largest picnic celebrations was held annually on Emancipation Day.
In 1909, the Grimsby Park Company Ltd went bankrupt. A Cleveland man, H.H. Wylie, purchased the area and started a radical transition for the area. No longer were the strict rules of temperance enforced. Now there were roller coasters, the “Electric Lady”, and balloon ascensions. Company picnics continued to be a major source of income for the company.
Remnants of the Chautauqua
Grimsby Beach continues to echo with the charms of its storied past. In fact, these cottages built for the summer residence of a temperance camp, remain the most prominent connection to the rich history of the area. Now, the intricate fretwork and colors of the cottages inspire a vibrant mood at the beach which is a reminder of the spirit that once built the area.
Though the Grimsby Chautauqua is no longer a physical presence within the community, its spirit remains and is evident throughout the town. A desire to create and support lifelong learning, provide a holistic approach to healthy community living, enrich the quality of life, while combining mind, body and soul and promoting volunteerism and awareness among community groups are goals commonly shared by many of Grimsby’s organizations and Town services.