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Fairy Lake Notes from the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre
  • Fairy Lake between 1890 and 1900
  • Tannery on Fairy Lake
  • Two men working in the tannery
  • Little Lake
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Fairy Lake Notes from the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre

Prepared by Adrienne Mason

In the year 1905, Samuel Matheson, an Ice Harvester, was on his way home from the famed Walker House, on a dark and blustery winters night. He was well fortified against the cold, as he trudged along the shore of Fairy Lake, making his way home.

As he passed he saw and heard something very unusual in the middle of the ice covering the Lake. It was a bonfire, and around it he heard Fairies and Goblins singing this tune:

Round and Round the happy Chorus
Round and Round the Fairy’s ring
Round and Round til sleep comes o’er us
Then to beds, in bands we’ll wing 

The next day, sadly, as his trusted horses Clumpy Dumpy and Old Mick towed his harvesting wagon across the lake, just at the spot where the fire was seen, the ice cracked and the whole team went under. With luck some neighbourly wood cutters managed to pull Sam free of the ice and coldwater, but they could not save Clumpy Dumpy and Old Mick, who were lost to the depths of the lake. 


The Average Depth of Fairy Lake has been measured to be about 1.7m, but the silt and soft loam can be measured to reach 3.5m in depth before a solid bottom is found.

The basin of Fairy Lake was a former Channel of the Saugeen River during the end of the last Ice Age, when melt waters flowed over the surface of Bruce County into what was then Glacial Lake Algonquin.

In an 1857 survey map of the area, a body of water called Small Lake was drawn. This same year a sawmill operated from the outflow of the creek downstream of what is now called Fairy Lake. The Tannery operated by Issac Bowman and Henry Zinkman gained permission to take water from the east bank of what was then Little Lake in 1880 to use to produce their hides.

Later in 1941 a 16ft control dam was erected by the Junior Conservation Club Boys (aged 11-16) and a Conservation Officer Jerry Harvis. After the construction was complete they released 6 pairs of geese, 1 pair of swans and 8 pairs of ducks into Fairy Lake. They also, unfortunately trapped out several snapping turtles at this time, some of them weighed over 20 lbs. In 1990 it was also found that a family of beavers had taken up residence in the Lake, and today it is home to snapping, red-eared slider, and painted turtles. Often families of wood and mallard ducks can be found raising their young on the Lake in the spring and during the migration period, flocks of mergansers often stop by for a rest.  

Green and great blue herons can also be spotted on the shores hunting for green and leopard frogs. Keep your ears peeled in the spring, as well, for the eastern grey tree frog and spring peepers.