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The town is located on the southern shore of Lake Erie, and is home to a number of lakeside cottages. The largest freshwater beach in Ontario can be found at Pelee Island in the western part of Essex. It was also home to one of Canada's most famous amusement parks for over 60 years, Marineland (now closed). History [ edit ] Essex was first settled by Europeans around 1815 when William Buell built a house near what is now downtown Essex. In 1818 it became known as Sand Beach because that was where settlers would take their boats from Detroit and put them on wheels so they could roll across land into Lake Erie. In May 1819 it became the county seat for newly formed Huron County until March 3, 1820 when Goderich took over this role after being designated as capital by Lieutenant Governor Francis Gore.