History of McGregor Bay by Raymond F. Hunt, Jr.
McGregor Bay is named for Captain Alexander MacGregor, a Scotsman who settled in the McGregor Bay area about 1850. He was the first fisherman to develop commercial fishing in Lake Huron. Captain MacGregor settled near McGregor Bay and is buried near the mouth of the Whitefish River in the village of Whitefish Falls. He married a native woman and raised a large family. Many of the Indians in the area are descendants of his and bear his last name, which in the passage of time changed from MacGregor to McGregor. One son, Duncan, and his wife, Mollie, had a son Gregor, who was chief in 1910 at the time when non-natives began visiting the Bay to vacation. One of Gregor’s sons, Joe, was chief until 1973, when his son Jim, who ran J&G Marina now sons Harold and Jerry runs J&G Marina with his family..
Coming by boat from Little Current was the only way to get to the Bay until the railway was put through in 1914. The road from Espanola was built southward in stages and reached Birch Island about 1925. The original road was unpaved, single lane, hilly and winding.
Stuart Jenkins was among the first permanent settlers in the Bay. Before coming to the Bay, he ran the Little Current newspaper, The Expositor, and the Sudbury Star in Sudbury. He first came to the Bay about 1910 for a summer vacation. He and his wife, Nelly, stayed that summer in a tent on a wooden platform near the blasted channel at the west end of McGregor Island, on land rented from the Canadian government. Soon after that, he built a log house on the site now occupied by the Stier’s cottage, near the former general store. The first logs for this house were laid on Oct. 11, 1911, by Norman Campbell and his brother-in-law, Norman Steep. (The cabin was moved in 1927 to Garden Island, where George Eaton owned it from 1928 to 1950. The cabin is currently owned by the Hunts of Pittsburgh, PA.)
Stuart Jenkins acted as game warden and fire ranger for McGregor Bay and helped to develop the Bay in any way that was needed. He, more than any other person, was responsible for promoting McGregor Bay as a vacation resort. Stuart Jenkins died Nov. 4, 1945. His wife, Eleanor Aubrey Jenkins, died Aug. 3, 1943. Both are buried in what is now the St. Christopher’s cemetery. Stuart Jenkins’ daughter, Ethel, was the first to operate a general store. This was about 1917, when her husband, Ronald Kingsley, was overseas in the First World War. Before that, there was no place in the Bay to buy food and supplies. She started it first as a small operation. In about 1920, a post office was started at the store, with Stuart Jenkins as postmaster and Ethel Kingsley operating the store. After a few years, she also started a camp, renting cottages to vacationers. Her brother, Robert Stuart Jenkins, was killed in a hunting accident in 1927, at age 26. Thereafter, she operated the store, post office, camp and family farm. Next to her father, Ethel Kingsley was the person who most advanced the development of vacationing in McGregor Bay. She died on Oct. 1, 1973.
Mr. Kingsley was wounded in the arm in the war. After he returned from the war, he kept account books for a time at the lumber camp in the bay. He later left for employment elsewhere. Mrs. Kingsley married Henry J. Silva around 1932. He came from Pictou, N.S.
The Silva’s kept horses at the store to haul ice to the icehouse in the winter and to haul heavy boats in and out of the water in summer. They pastured the horses on Garden Island, even in the winter, during some years. At one time they had 25 to 30 cows and a barn for them behind the store.
On top of the hill behind the church is the only cemetery in McGregor Bay. The first to be buried in it were: Stuart Jenkins (1853-1945); his wife, Eleanor (Nelly) Aubrey Jenkins (1862-1943); their son, Robert Stuart Jenkins (1891-1917); their daughter Ethel Silva (1884-1973) and her first husband, Ronald Kingsley. Mrs. Silva bought the cemetery property and donated it to the Anglican Church. The cemetery was consecrated on July 4, 1951. Before that date, it was only a family cemetery.
The ground for St. Christopher’s Church was also dedicated on July 4, 1951, by the Anglican bishop of Algoma, the Right Rev. R.F. Palmer, with 80 people attending. Since then summer services have been held regularly and the church has been enlarged. The original pews were first used in the oldest church on Manitoulin Island, St. Paul’s in Manitowaning, and were later used in the Catholic Church at Birch Island.
Hydroelectric power was brought to the Bay in 1954. Before that time, cottages had only kerosene or propane lamps, except for a few larger camps that had their own power generating equipment operated by gasoline engines. The store was one of the first buildings to get power.