Photograph courtesy of County of Prince Edward Public Library and Archives
PICTON HARBOUR WAS THE ECONOMIC HUB OF THE COMMUNITY throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century. Local products were loaded and unloaded from three large wharves onto schooners that waited in the bay under the watchful eye of the local customs official.
The harbour had a number of advantages for entrepreneurs: its sheltered location protected it from the rough Lake Ontario waters and its proximity to the U.S. markets made it especially appealing. The harbour served the early lumber trade, the barley trade and the canning industry but, with the arrival of improved rail service, its days as a commercial port were limited.
When its waters froze over, the harbour played a different role. It became a community skating rink, a launching station for ice boats that glided across the bay and a place for children to slide down its steep slopes onto the icy shoreline.
When asked about the schooners that lay frozen in the harbour in this photo, Jack Rose, an old-timer who grew up in Picton, remembered skating in the harbour and also noted that the hulls of the schooners shown in the photo were most likely made of steel – not wood – and wouldn’t have been crushed by the ice.