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Historic Fort Willow – Just one of Simcoe County’s connections to the War of 1812

January 2023

A little-known British Army Fort dating back to the War of 1812 can be found a little west of Barrie, Ontario, in Springwater Township.

Situated along a historic trading route, the Nine Mile Portage, which was used for centuries by Indigenous Peoples, fur traders, explorers and missionaries, and located halfway between Kempenfelt Bay and the Nottawasaga River in Simcoe County, Fort Willow was constructed as a supply depot for the British forces.

The property is now a Provincial and National Historic Site, owned and managed by the Nottawasaga Valley conservation Authority. None of the old fort’s buildings remain today, but archaeological investigations have located the foundations of the buildings, which are now outlined by logs, creating a visual interpretation of what the fort looked like.

During the last weekend in September, the annual Festival at the Fort is held, a family-friendly event featuring historical reenactors from the Friends of Fort Willow, a volunteer community group, who bring to life the daily activities of British soldiers and Indigenous Peoples who lived in ​Simcoe County in 1812. 

It was the Friends of the Fort, then called the Fort Willow Improvement Group, who were responsible locating and outlining the buildings identified in a 1955 archaeological dig, along with constructing a palisade and defensive earthworks around the site.

Sources: https://www.springwater.ca/en/recreation-and-culture/fort-willow.aspx, https://www.nvca.on.ca/Pages/FortWillow.aspx, http://fortwillow.nvca.on.ca/index.html, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_(1789_ship).

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/historic-fort-willow/

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