In 1875 Captain Thomas Stanton, who had earlier emigrated from England with his parents, settled with his wife Ellen and their young family on the west shore of Sparrow Lake. They lived in a log cabin and carved out a life for themselves. Captain Tom made daily trips upriver in his small steamboat “The Pioneer” to Severn Bridge (about 4.5 miles) for supplies for his family and other pioneers and campers on the lake. Around 1884 the Stantons moved across to the south shore primarily so their growing children could attend the new school in the area. They settled on the site of Stanton House Resort and proceeded to farm and make a living from steamboating. Captain Tom became active in municipal politics becoming Deputy Reeve and later Reeve of the township.
He continued his “Steamboat Service” to Severn Bridge, and when the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway arrived in the area he used his influence to redirect their line north about 1/2 mile, so that it would touch the shore of Sparrow Lake, and he also donated his land for this diversion. In 1905 he and his sons Frank and Albert founded the Sparrow Lake Steamer Line and built a 70-foot steamboat in a bay 1/2 mile to the west out of forest timber with boards sawn on their Stanton Sawmill. This 70-foot boat called the “Lakefield ” could carry 200 people and was to become the flagship of their fleet.
Campers and summer cottagers were well established on the lake by 1905, and Ellen Stanton began taking in boarders for the summer, which marked the beginning of a booming tourist trade. Notice the water tank for water pressure and the windmill that pumped the water up from the lake.
It all came together about 1906 when the CNO railway reached the community and established scheduled runs for vacations to the north. A Sparrow Lake Station was established 100 yards from the Government Wharf, and the Stanton Bros Store, owned and operated by Frank and Bert Stanton, was located between the station and dock.
A Post Office was added in 1907 and appropriately named Port Stanton. Frank Stanton, 2nd son of captain Tom, became the first Postmaster and served until he retired in 1951. This area became the hub of the tourist industry, linking a mainline rail service to a popular waterway, and Sparrow Lake was widely promoted by the railway as a fine tourist area for vacationers from cities in both Canada and the United States. The Sparrow Lake Steamers Lakefield and Glympse handled the major traffic loads to resorts and cottages on the lake from 1906 to 1914.
Albert Stanton, oldest son of Captain Tom, went on to build the Lakeshore House to the west of the Stanton Bros. Store. The up-river trips to Severn Bridge were discontinued after the railway terminal was established. Roads into the lake were very primitive trails at this stage so automobile traffic was minimal until the 1920’s. The Stanton family established four resorts in Port Stanton to meet the needs of the expanding tourist influx. Tom Stanton’s youngest son George Stanton became involved with the steamboat operation and the hotel trade.
Captain Tom Stanton died in 1907, and his wife Ellen with family help carried on the Stanton House Resort. She was a key figure in building and establishing the Anglican Church of the Good Samaritan located about 100 yards east from the Stanton Bros. Store next to the hotel. Ellen died in 1910 just weeks before the church officially opened.
The Railway Station was dismantled in 1955, although the trains still pass by every day. The evolution of motorcars and roads ended the need for a boat delivery service, but cruising boats travelling the Trent-Severn Waterway still call in at the government wharf to gas-up or park overnight to visit the Stanton Bros. Store and Restaurant. The Church of the Good Samaritan still holds Sunday services for the benefit of the tourists in the summer. The Sparrow Lake Historical Society commissioned a memorial plaque to recognize and honour Captain Tom Stanton and his wife Ellen and their family who built Port Stanton and contributed greatly to the development of Ontario’s tourist industry. The plaque was dedicated with a ceremony on August 22, 1999.