Dover Ontario



by kind permission of the Dover Mercury, (KMG) 8th November 2007



Palm Beach

Palm Beach

Ontario is physically in the centre of Canada, as is the capital, Ottawa. The Great Lakes make up much of the province's southern border, separating it from the US. Erie is the southernmost and fourth largest, of the Great Lakes. Port Dover is on the north shore of Long Point, which is on the west side of Lake Erie.

Before the Europeans came, the Erie Nation lived along the southern shore and along the north, the Attawandaron. These, along with other Native Americans there, were virtually wiped out in the 1655 Beaver Wars, by the Iroquois Confederacy. The Confederacy consisted of five nations, the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Seneca, who sought to expand their territory and monopolise the fur trade, particularly with the Europeans

The Dutch, earlier in the seventeenth century, were the strongest trading partners with the Confederation, who traded guns and ammunition for beaver furs. These were not only used against other native Americans but also desecrated the beaver population, which escalated conflicts. Other Native American nations, such as the Erie and the Attawandaron, to the north, were still hunting beavers the old way, and selling the furs to the French. The Iroquois moved north and soon there was conflict between them and the French.



Fishermen on Lake Erie

Fishermen on Lake Erie

However, the first Europeans to the area were Dover Port is now situated were two French missionaries, François Dollier de Casson and René de Galinée.

In 1670, they wintered near a fork on what are now called Lynn River and Black Creek. There, along with five colleagues, they built a hut and a chapel and a settlement, thriving on hunting.

Nearly a hundred years went by when the American Revolution (1776-83) forced sides to be taken. Although many European settlers, of what we now called Canada, remained neutral the Iroquois supported the British. After the Revolution some 15,000 loyalist refugees, crossed the St Lawrence River or the Great Lakes from the south, to find sanctuary and one such group arrived in the vicinity of where the French missionaries had been.

This was about 1794 and the refugees had come from a place named after Dover, England, called Dover Mills. The Americans had razed this to the ground. The settlers built a harbour and in 1835, Israel Wood Powell registered a village plan for Port Dover.

Over the next fifteen years, improvements ensured that the port was the principal one on Lake Erie. This was followed by the establishment of shipyards, tanneries and a woollen mill, all of which led to a thriving economy. In 1879 the Port of Dover became an incorporate village with a population of 1,100.

The land surrounding Port Dover is the most fertile in Ontario and together with a mild climate and lengthy growing season, the economy diversified into roses and flowers. Indeed, from 1906 to 1993 the town became home to Thomas A Ivey and Sons, one of the largest wholesale florists and rose-growers in Canada, and was the Port Dover's largest employers.

During the 20th century Dover turned to fishing and at one time hosted the largest freshwater fishing fleet in the world. However, over fishing devastated Lake Erie's fish population but it was pollution that finally killed it off. In the 1960s and 1970s Lake Erie became so polluted, from the industrial cities in Ohio, that the lake actually caught fire and this motivated the U.S. Congress to pass the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Since then Lake Erie has recovered and the town, which in 2006 had a population of 5,500, has turned to tourism. This was helped, in 1986 when Long Point, on which Dover Port is situated, was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO - the 25 miles spit of land and plays an important part in eastern North American bird migration. During the summer Dover Port is popular as a centre for commercial lake fishing, boating, swimming, duck-hunting and thousands of tourists enjoy its beach, riverboat tours, numerous tourist shops, hotels, cafes and restaurants.

The town also plays host every Friday 13th to motorcyclists who, along with spectators, travel to the town from far and wide. This started in 1881, and, according to the information I have, on 13 May 2005, an estimated 75,00 bikers and spectators crammed into the Town!