Northumberland County Heritage & Culture

The retreat of glaciers about 10,000 to 15,000 years ago gave birth to the tear-drop-shaped drumlin islands in Rice Lake, and created the Oak Ridges Moraine, while Nomadic First Nations people roamed Northumberland following herds of bison and elk.

According to Cath Oberholtzer in the history book Rolling Hills of Northumberland, warring Indian factions resulted in the Mississauga First Nations people displacing the Iroquois by the late 17th century.  They remained in the southern part of the county until the time treaties with the Europeans closed off access to Lake Ontario, and these people went north to Rice Lake where the Alderville First Nation reserve exists today.

European explorer Samuel de Champlain, the first known European to travel Rice Lake, arrived in the early 1600's and some believed he followed an Indian portage from the western end of Rice Lake to Port Hope on Lake Ontario.

European settlement intensified with the arrival of the first United Empire Loyalists forced out of the United States following the American Revolution in the late 1700's, but the first settlers didn't come northward into the Rice Lake area until around 1830.

Commerce was initially dependent on Lake Ontario harbours and by 1856 the Grand Trunk Railway line was running east and west along it's shore.  A stagecoach run parellel to Lake Ontario predates this by about 55 years and some historical inns and taverns remain today as places of rest for weary, modern-day travellers.

Alderville First Nation Reserve includes several islands as well as waterfront property along the more easterly end of Rice Lake, plus both sides of County Road #45 at Roseneath.  Several Indian craft shops are in the area and more are sprining up all the time, along with a modern-day trading post and new art gallery.

The Alderville First Nation Annual Pow Wow in July is a colourful and spiritual experience shared with visitors.  Dancing and drumming, sacred sunrise ceremonies, along with craft and food vendors round out the weekend event.

The annual Alderville Regatta follows on the Civic Holiday weekend with swimming, canoe and boating races off Vimy Ridge on Rice Lake's south shore. 

Several years ago local native artist and botanist, Rick Beaver, worked with his community and band council to establish the Black Oaks Savanna and Tallgrass Prairie reserve.  Annual seed gathering and planting is open to volunteers and there are camping facilities for those wanting to take part in this on-going environmental project.

Some tourist organizations work in partnership with Alderville First Nation so visitors can learn more about the native culture and take part in events like sweat lodges.  Among these is Victoria Inn in Gore's Landing on Rice Lake who is also one of the partners in what links several First Nation communities and is known locally as Spirit Walks.

Gracious century-plus old houses, many historically designated to preserve the architecture of the time can be seen lining the streets of the towns and villages along Lake Ontario's northern shore.  Enjoy a self-guided walking tour in any of these communities to discover the unique features of these stately buildings with their columns, fabulous windows, roof lines and overall grand designs.

You'll find people are very friendly, wanting to share stories about the places in which they live.  Discover the historical municipal buildings in Port Hope, Cobourg, Grafton and Colborne which front on County Road #2 and are still in use and open to the public.

A visit to the dungeon of a former 1800s jail, a chance to glimpse Victoria Hall's long-dead lady of mystery and a short journey along the harbourfront as you listen to stories of marine misadventures are just some of the elements of the award-winning evening Haunted Ghost Walks of downtown Cobourg.  As the light grows dim however, it's not all spooky tales.  The 1 1/2 hour walk-about ends with the opportunity to quench your thirst and take on a little nourishment after your frightening experiences.


Tony Dekeyser

Tony Dekeyser

Sales Representative
CENTURY 21 All-Pro Realty (1993) Ltd., Brokerage*
Contact Me