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The area was originally inhabited by the Ojibwa and Odawa First Nations. The first European to visit this region was Étienne Brûlé, a French-Canadian guide who travelled through the Kawarthas in 1610–11 during Samuel de Champlain's expedition to Huronia. In 1818, William Buell built his home on an island in Bobcaygeon Lake (then known as Big Clear Lake). This is where "Buell Island" gets its name from today. In 1837, John Rolph established a lumber camp at what would later become Lindsay; he named it after Sir Francis Bond Head who had recently been appointed Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (now Ontario). Also that year Charles Rankin settled near present-day Fenelon Falls with his wife and two children but abandoned them due to illness shortly thereafter; they were taken into the care of local natives for several months before being returned home safely by another settler family from Peterborough County.