The Lakefield Canoe Co. Ltd.
Lakefield, Ontario


Excerpt from the catalogue of the Lakefield Canoe and Boat Company (1923 to 1928):

Long years ago the Indians used the Otonabee River and the waterways known as the Kawartha lakes for the canoe routes between Lakes Huron and Ontario. Champlain and his Indians traversed this route three hundred years ago and are said to have camped near where the village of Lakefield now stands. At Lakefield, some sixty years ago, some of the early settlers conceived the idea of building canoes of light, strong board, combining the strength and swiftness of the dugout with the lightness of the birch bark. The necessary tools were bought and the first Lakefield Canoe was built by one of the founders of the present company. The original manufacturers of the canoes were Thos. Gordon and members of the Strickland family. 

In June of 1904, “The Lakefield Canoe Building and Manufacturing Company, Limited” came into being from the amalgamation of “Thomas Gordon, Manufacturer of Canoes” and the Lakefield Canoe Works, known formally as “Strickland & Co.” Its patent authorized it to “manufacture, sell and generally deal in boats and canoes of every description and to carry on the business of contractors for the erection of houses and other buildings.”

The principals were Edmund Rolliston Tate, lumberman, John E. Richardson, canoe builder, George A. Baptie, William J. Baptie, both carpenters, and H. G. Fitzgerald, hardware merchant, all of Lakefield. Thomas Gordon was the major shareholder and held the office of President. Gilbert Gordon (also a boat and canoe builder and a son of Thomas Gordon) was a small shareholder, as was another veteran canoe builder by the name of C.H. (Charlie) Grylls.

[The Lakefield Canoe Co. Logo]   [The Lakefield Canoe Co. Logo]

In February 1916, the original name was changed to the more familiar “The Lakefield Canoe Company, Limited.” The patriarch Thomas Gordon died soon after in July of 1916. The company subsequently endured hard times, and in 1919 it was forced to cease business. One has to consider that the First War raged from 1914 to 1918. Some companies which built things prospered or at least survived, but not Lakefield Canoe Co. Someone must have seen an opportunity in the company though, for soon after in October of 1919 a new group of investors (all from Toronto) emerged and took over the assets and business previously carried on by “The Lakefield Canoe Company, Limited.” The new company resumed its usual business under the slightly altered name “The Lakefield Canoe and Boat Co., Limited”. This latter company was dissolved in December, 1940 (these dates and business styles from the Archives of Ontario, Toronto).

Because it was a combination of Gordon and Strickland, and because the Strickland name especially is associated with the first days of European settlement in the area, it is not surprising to find among the models (hull shapes) offered by Lakefield Canoe Co. such favourites as the slightly flattened “Pioneer,” the very round-bottomed “Canuck,” the flat-bottomed “Gordon” and the in-between “Strickland.” We also find, all the way up to the late 1920’s, the traditional Lakefield styles of construction like the open rib-and-batten, the flush-batten, the close rib and metallic joint, the longitudinal strip and its showy variation the light-and-dark strip canoe in butternut/pine, for example, or redwood/cedar or again walnut/cedar. In the late 1920’s Lakefield also offered the popular style-canoe of the period; the “Torpedo-deck model.”