Annie Williams Memorial Park is located in Bracebridge, Ontario, the Heart of Muskoka, between Santa's Village Road and the Muskoka River. This beautiful serene 10 acre park features a dock and swimming beach, picnic shelter, amphitheater, and the newly built Brazier Family Memorial Playground. As host for numerous annual community events, Annie Williams Park is truly the hub of Bracebridge.
In early September 1926, the flags in Bracebridge were flown at half-mast and blinds were drawn in the windows of homes and businesses as a respectful acknowledgement of the passing of Dr. James Francis Williams. A resident of Bracebridge from 1895 until his death in 1926, Dr. Williams was a very community-minded spirit. One of three doctors practising in Bracebridge at that time, Dr. Williams had served in the Northwest Rebellion and again in World War I attending to the wounded. He was faithful to his patients, and would travel by horse and buggy into every corner of central Muskoka to tend to their needs.
Dr. Williams served the community of Bracebridge as a Magistrate, as a member of the Patriotic Fund (which provided for families of Canadian soldiers), as a conservationist (planting over 50,000 red pines in Oakley Township when he was in his sixties), as a member of the Methodist Church and as President of the newly formed Children's Aid Society. He also established a scholarship in medicine at McGill University, a fund providing ongoing financial support to his church, as well as a trust fund, which still exists today, for the needy suffering from cancer and tuberculosis.
Dr. Williams and his wife, Gertrude Annie Bird, were highly respected among the people of Bracebridge. They were generous, thoughtful and dedicated. They loved the outdoors, the land and all living things. As a lasting tribute, Dr. Williams left a trust of approximately 10 acres of land on the Muskoka River along with financial support for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of Bracebridge. A truly generous and amazing gift, Annie Williams Memorial Park, named in honour of his wife, has been a treasured part of our town ever since. Dr. Williams, his wife Annie and their only son, who died as an infant, are buried in a small family cemetery in the centre of the Park.
The funds set aside in 1926 by Dr. Williams' estate to care for and manage the Park may have seemed more than sufficient at the time, but were in fact depleted by the year 2000. Since 1973, the Bracebridge Rotary Club, the Bracebridge Lions Club, the Bracebridge Kinsmen Club, and more recently the Bracebridge-Muskoka Lakes Rotary Club and the Town of Bracebridge, have been overseeing the care and maintenance of the Park, and since the year 2000 have been supporting the Park financially as well.
Representatives from these community partners, functioning as the Annie Williams Memorial Park Board, have acknowledged the need to put a little polish on this gem. They seek to inform and engage the community in enjoying and supporting the legacy of Dr. Williams.
Many years ago, in comforting a Mr. Morley of Ufford as he lay dying in his little log shack back in the bush, Dr. Williams listened as Mr. Morley lamented that he had failed in achieving his dream of creating a nice home for his family, and that he was now dying a poor man. Dr. Williams looked around the room, at Mr. Morley's wife and several young children gathered there, and said "Mr. Morley, you are a rich man because, while you may not have a lot of money, you do have these children who all love you and will remember your work. I, on the other hand, have a lot of money, but my only child died when he was only a year old and I have no one to regret my passing the way your children will yours. No, Mr. Morley, you are the rich man and I am the poor one."