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Lumber baron's Idler ferried people from Geneva Park to Orillia

In the 1880s, John Thomson increased his family's land holdings in Longford to include Geneva Park, which was eventually sold to the YMCA
181 W. Thompson Idler boat 1913
William Thomson's boat, The Idler, is shown in this photo from 1913. The boat was used for short excursions from Geneva Park to Orillia.

Postcard Memories is a weekly series of historic postcard views and photos submitted by Marcel Rousseau.

Some were previously published by the Orillia Museum of Art and History and in the book Postcard Memories Orillia.

In 1860, John Thomson bought up all the land in Longford Township and created a lumber empire. His land holdings in Longford stretched from Lake St. John to Lake Couchiching. He built his mill on Lake St. John and used a tramway to transport the lumber to Lake Couchiching for shipping.

After John’s death in 1881, his son William took over the business and increased the land holdings to include Geneva Park. William retired 20 years later and, for the remainder of his life, gave generously back to the community. 

William was a long-time supporter of the YMCA and allowed them the use of his land, free of charge, before selling it to the National YMCA in 1922 to establish the Geneva Park training centre.

William Thomson owned the 82-foot steamer Geneva built in 1905 that was used for excursions around the lakes. This smaller launch, the Idler, would have been used for short excursions to town and back and, judging from the number of passengers on board, would not have been idle very often.