Otty Lake History
Learn Otty Lake History While You Cook
A special book was created in 2016 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of settlement in the Perth area, “Our Table to Yours”. This cookbook is collection of recipes, stories, photos and historical notes from the Otty Lake community.
The first and second printings quickly sold out. So we have made the book available through this website. It is a large file so will take a minute to load. (Note: Link works in Chrome, Mozilla and Edge, but not in Safari.)
Other Sources of Historical Information
Here are a few other places to look if you are interested in the history of Otty Lake and this area.
➡️ David Code’s “A History of Otty Lake”
➡️ “Burgess Wood: Evolution of a Community” by the BurgessWood Property Owners Assocation, 2011
➡️ Linda Tufts Davies’ “Postcards from Otty Lake”, 2018
➡️ Kay Roger’s “At Home in the Tay Valley”
➡️ Jean McGill’s “A Pioneer History of the County of Lanark”
➡️ Past issues of Captain Otty’s Log
Do You Have Tales to Tell?
We know there is lots to tell about early farms and settlers, businesses from days gone by, celebrations, how the islands got their names, even the the history of the OLA itself. If you have a tale to tell, we’d love to hear it. Just use the contact link at the right to send an e-mail to the webmaster. Here are some historical notes of interest:
➡️ Captain Otty – the lake was named for a British naval captain who had no major ties to the area
➡️ Anna McLaren – born Anna Gemmell in 1884, an early resident of the north shore
➡️ Otty Lake Place Names – how some of Otty Lake’s features came to be named
➡️ History of the Otty Lake Association – how our association came to be
Water Quality in the 70's
Otty Lake water quality had reached a crisis point in the 1970’s, which led to the establishment of the Otty Lake Pollution Control Committee. Here are a few stories from the Perth Courier that represent the situation at the time. (Left: a 3.5 x 5.5 inch sticker distributed to property owners back in the day.)
208 Sewage Disposal Systems Found Faulty – Perth Courier, Jan. 20, 1972
Plan Drastic Action to Fight Pollution at Otty Lake – Perth Courier, July 12, 1973
Otty Lake Written Off, Gone Beyond Saving? – Perth Courier, July 18, 1979
Anna McLaren Descendent Revisits Otty Lake
In 2012 the OLA published an article about Anna McLaren, the remarkable woman who lived alone on Otty Lake North shore for 37 years after her husband died in 1932, in the area that is now BurgessWood but was then mostly rocks and trees and an abandoned mine. Much of the source material and the personal recollections of Anna McLaren came from Doreen Maxwell, Anna’s niece, who visited her aunt as a teenager. Doreen revisited Otty Lake in October 2014 after decades of absence.
In 2012 the OLA published an article about Anna McLaren, the remarkable woman who lived alone on Otty Lake North shore for 37 years after her husband died in 1932, in the area that is now BurgessWood but was then mostly rocks and trees and an abandoned mine. Much of the source material and the personal recollections of Anna McLaren came from Doreen Maxwell, Anna’s niece, who visited her aunt as a teenager. Doreen revisited Otty Lake in October 2014 after decades of absence. She was guided around the site where she spent happy summers with Anna by Grover Lightford who developed BurgessWood; Roy MacSkimming who wrote the history of BurgessWood; and Don Beattie who co-wrote the OLA article. Doreen was happy to see that Otty Lake is still beautiful.
In the photo: Roy MacSkimming, Doreen Maxwell, Don Beattie, and Grover Lightford at the BurgessWood waterfront. Photo: Steve Maxwell.
Captain Otty Just Passing Through
Captain Allen Otty, an officer in the Royal Navy, for whom Otty Lake is named, really didn’t have a close connection with Otty Lake. Allen Otty was born in North Yorkshire, England, in 1784 and began his career in the Royal Navy at age 19, first arriving in Canada in 1814. On May 16, 1816, Colonel Cockburn, Captain Otty and several others set out from Brockville for the Rideau Lakes area. Writes Jean McGill in A Pioneer History of the County of Lanark, “They traveled down the Lake to the “Carrying Place” [Oliver’s Ferry, now Rideau Ferry] where they left their sleighs, and crossed the neck of land to an inner lake which Colonel Cockburn named Otty Lake after the Captain.”
They walked there by snowshoe. Cockburn is also credited with naming the stream that led out of the lake into Pike Creek (later the Tay River) “Jebb”. Later that month Captain Otty returned to Kingston. He and Lieutenant Joshua Jebb of the Royal Engineers investigated water communications between Kingston and Ottawa via the Rideau Lakes that spring. But from there Captain Otty had other duties on Lake Ontario.
Barbara J. Griffith took up the challenge of finding out more about Captain Otty and produced a detailed biography of the captain in 2000. Captain Otty was granted various properties in Upper Canada, but after marrying in 1818, settled in New Brunswick and became a prominent citizen, farmer, and entrepreneur. He and his wife Eliza had ten children, and he died there in 1859 at age 74.
Two other places in Ontario bear the Otty family name. Otty Point projects into Lake Ontario east of Port Hope, and there is an Otty Island in the St. Lawrence River’s The Navy Islands, close to Gananoque.
Anna McLaren: Otty Lake Pioneer
by Don and Shari Beattie
Our story of Anna Lees Gemmell McLaren opens in the winter of 1937, when a teenager named Grover Lightford saw Mrs. McLaren pass his family’s cottage on the north shore of Otty Lake. She was a woman of 53 years of age, driving a horse and cutter through the snow. Grover recalls that she was wearing a beaver coat and hat, and was wrapped in a buffalo robe. Grover never forgot his first sight of this remarkable woman, who lived a solitary life in the woods. Years later he would buy Mrs. McLaren’s land beside Otty Lake to form part of the Burgess Wood subdivision.
So who was Anna McLaren and how did she come to be living at Otty Lake when there were few cottages and no permanent homes on Otty’s north shore?
Otty Lake Settlement.
The history of the area is detailed in David E. Code’s “A History of Otty Lake”. The first inhabitants of the area were the Iroquois, Huron and Montagnais. The first white settler purchased land in 1805. The first summer cottage was built in the 1880s. Most waterfront development took place between 1950 and 1980.
Otty Lake Place Names
The origin of place names brings forth some interesting tales from the past. Some names have been officially recognized and appear on maps, and others have come into local use but have never been officially recognized, e.g. Beavertail Rock.
Read about the origins of the names of some of the islands and other local features from some past Captain Otty’s Log submissions.
Historical Accounts You May Enjoy
At Home in Tay Valley
An anthology in honour of the 200th anniversary, edited by Kay Rogers.
Burgess Wood: Evolution of a Community
Even “new” neighbourhoods have histories!
A Pioneer History of the County of Lanark
By Jean S. McGill, 1968. Available in local libraries and book stores.
History of Otty Lake by David E. Code
One copy of his book is available for lending from the Perth and District Union Library.
Jebbs Creek, the main outlet for Otty Lake was names for Sir Joshua Jebb, a British Military Engineer, who, along with a party than included Captain Allan Otty, survey waterways from Kingston to the Otty River.