Remembering the Festival at Fort Willow
For the past few years, the last weekend of September was designated for the Festival of Fort Willow. Although the festival has been cancelled for 2020, we thought we'd bring back some good memories from previous years, and talk about why we celebrate NVCA's Historic Fort Willow Conservation Area, and the nearby Nine Mile Portage.
The Fort Willow Conservation Area, situated on the Nine Mile Portage, was used as an important supply depot for the British army during the War of 1812. The Nine Mile Portage was the road that was used to deliver the supplies.
The British army discovered Fort Willow while traveling in the deep forest in the 1800s. They came across a plateau near Willow Creek and thought it served as a good vantage point for the army to see what was going on in the surrounding wetlands, forests and rivers.
They also took advantage of the Nine Mile Portage, a trading route used by First Nations for centuries, as an alternate communication and trade route for the British army. After the war, the portage route continued to be used
by local fur trade companies to transport goods.
Through archeological investigations by archaeologists Wilfrid Jury, Trevor Carter and his students, the locations of buildings and many artifacts were discovered in Fort Willow Conservation Area.
When you go to the Fort Willow Conservation Area now, you'll see outlines of where the buildings once were and interpretive signs explaining what each building was used for. In an attempt to preserve the skills commonly used during the early 1800s, pioneer carpentry methods — including mortise and tenon or dovetail joints — can be seen on select buildings throughout the site. Visitors can also access the Nine Mile Portage, which starts from Fort Willow Conservation Area and runs all the way to Meridian Place in Barrie.
During the festival, re-enactors would wear period clothing, setup canvas tents, cook with cookware from the 1812 to demonstrate what life was like during the War of 1812. Festival go-ers would muster-up and march in the King's army, learn about traditional blacksmithing, carpentry and candle making, and listen to the cannons roar.
Thank you to Springwater Township for the continuous support for the Festival at Fort Willow, to and the Friends of Fort Willow and the Barrie Rotary Club for restoring and maintaining the Fort Willow area.