By Michael Walmsley
Cann Street runs E-W from John Street to King William Street
In 1862, a hunter and trapper by the name of William Cann built a shanty on a rise of land overlooking the west bank of the river running through what would later become Huntsville. His cabin actually stood on the future site of All Saints Church and remained standing up until 1892.
William’s land was his under the settlers’ squatting act but, in 1869, Captain George Hunt, a captain in the British army stationed in Sorel, Quebec, was given the rights to the land on the east bank of the river by order of the Ontario Free Grants and Homestead Act of 1868. William Cann was originally dead set against the settlement destined for the prime hunting lands he roamed in the Huntsville area. Indeed, he rebuked George Hunt’s efforts to help him build a village on the spot where their land claims met and Cann eventually sold his parcel of land.
Cann continued to reside in the Muskoka area and in 1874 he apparently saw the light – Huntsville was a good place to settle and build a community. Cann regained his original lands from the Crown and on September 11, 1875 he filed Huntsville’s first plan of subdivision which set out a core commercial area bounded by West Street and the river.
During the 1870s, Cann built and operated the Toronto and Nipissing Hotel at the corner of what is now Brunel Road and Main Street East. Cann’s change of heart eventually resulted in him bankrolling the newly incorporated Town of Huntsville in 1886 with a $300 no-interest loan until taxes were collected. He even became the town’s first treasurer.
Unfortunately, Cann’s good money sense did not extend into his personal investments. By 1888, bad financial dealings wiped out his wealth and caused him to sell all of his property. He left Muskoka, went to work in the cotton fields of Kentucky, and died at the home of a nephew on August 13, 1902.
Cann Street exists as a reminder of William Cann’s efforts to make Huntsville the community we have come to know.
Michael Walmsley is a retired elementary school principal who resides in Huntsville. He enjoys looking at things with a bit of “outside-the-box” perspective and totally believes in living today with a hand on the past and an eye on the future. He has published articles in Kanawa and Adventure Kayak magazines and has recently published a book entitled The Joy of Kayaking – Including the Kayak Quiz.
During this past year, as president of the PROBUS Club of Muskoka North, he has written a weekly article to the club’s membership which has included a focus on Huntsville’s streets. These articles have been combined into book form which will be published in the summer of 2021.