Friday, 26 August 2016

Nipigon Historical Museum Displays, 2016

Welcome to Nipigon Historical Museum, 2016.
The ever popular Beardmore Relics replicas.
The wildlife display with the Canadian Lynx the centre attraction.
Looking over the Archaeology cases to the Logging Industry.
Paddle carving by Bob Bearman; tikanogan; Military memorabilia;
 modern photo of Nipigon marina, by Art by Art.
Another view of Paddle carving, and cedar strip canoe.
Hudson's Bay Company sign on wall.
The Heritage Fishing Gallery
showcasing the World Record Brook Trout caught in 1915,
The Nipigon River
Before and After the Dams
Assorted replicas of the World Record Brook Trout of 1915.
 Record never broken in over one hundred years and counting.
Painting of historic Virgin Falls on the Nipigon River.
Now under water from Pine Portage Dam construction of 1950.
The "Sitting Room" with Woodland artist Isadore Wadow's "Fish".
Central to this is the hair-curling machine, popular in the 1940's and 1950's.
The Hudson's Bay Company sign
 on the Front Street store from about 1935 to 1982.
The Hudson's Bay Company business itself
 existed first at the waterfront and them moved to Front Street.
1859 - 1987 (its Nipigon Years)
A school desk with a pencil sharpener.

Paddle to the Sea Park, splash pad 2016

Downtown Nipigon Paddle to the Sea Park
 with 2016 Splash Pad addition.
August 26, 2016
Paddle to the Sea Splash Pad.
  If you want to get ALL wet this bucket will certainly do it.

View Over the Water, 2016


Views from Red Rock Marina, August 26, 2016.
Showing the hills and the islands in Nipigon Bay.
This is looking up river to Nipigon from the Red Rock Marina.
Showing the cliff to the East of Red Rock Marina, across the Nipigon Bay.
Islands starting to show on right, in Nipigon Bay.
La Grange being the biggest.

Cliffs on the Main land, rising behind Red Rock community.
Centre is Marina Interpretive Centre and Restaurant.
photos by B. Brill, August 26, 2016
This should help those reading View From the Water, 1823
 to see what that author was writing about.

Nipigon Bridge, 2016

View from Red Rock
The morning sun shows the cable stays
of new Nipigon River bridge that is under construction.
August 26, 2016
View from Red Rock Marina.
Long view of Nipigon bridge from Red Rock marina.
Nipigon homes seen on the hill to left, bridge centre, "picture rocks" to the right.
View from Red Rock Marina, Aug 26, 2016.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Nipigon Highway Bridge, 1937


Recounted by Lorne Oliver, Nipigon, Oct. 1, 1974

Four Young Men

It was a beautiful early morning in April in the year 1937 when four young men stepped off a freight train at the highway bridge construction site.  These men had spent the winter in Geraldton trying to obtain employment in the gold mines in that area but were not successful in obtaining steady employment.

Nipigon Bridge Construction Site

The foreman of Rayner Construction was approached as to job vacancies and they were asked if they could handle a wheelbarrow and all answered in the affirmative; the foreman said , “ I mean run with it”,  and he wasn’t fooling.

We were all hired at 30 cents an hour to wheel cement from a gasoline cement mixer to the river bank where a coal fired steam hoist lifted the cement to the peer site.  The construction of the steel coffer dams around the peers was quite a nerve racking chore.  Blocks and tackles were fastened to the top of the steel piling and the ropes held around the waist of 4 or 6 men while the steam driven pile driver hammered away driving the piling into the river bed.

Lesson Number One on Gambling

The foursome were well equipped with tent and camping out gear so the site selected was on the hill at the east end of the cemetery.  After one week of wheelbarrow running three of the lads decided to pack it up and travel elsewhere to find an easier way of making a living.  Now this created a problem as the ownership of our equipment was by individual contribution of various items.  One of the lads must have been a gambler for it was decided to cut cards and the winner take all.  Yours truly, of course was the loser as one of the three won and I was left without anything which is understandable when you look at the odds.  Lesson number one on gambling.

Single Living

There was a boarding house in the area, where the Legion Cenotaph is now located, run by an elderly couple from the prairies;  cost was room and board country style $1.00 per day including laundry.

All the single men on the bridge received a letter from the town advising they had to pay poll tax.  I had never encountered this before so naturally ignored it.  Not to long after, as we were collecting our weekly pay in cash at the shack used for an office, there was a tall slim fellow standing just inside the door, - I believe it could have been Bill Wade.  As we tried to exit this fellow had his hand out, poll tax, please or else.  No argument we paid it which I believe was either $2.00 or $5.00.

Mr. Everett, Salesman

Young people in those days did not dress too differently from those of to-day.  Our favourite attire for the weekly dances was a clean pair of jeans and T-shirt.  Here is where I ran into my first experience of high pressure salesmanship.  E.C. Everett’s Store was the place to go and this particular Saturday I visited his store to buy a new pair of jeans for the dance, expecting to spend around a buck.  Boy did I get the full salesman treatment, such things as appearances, clothes attract girls and all that stuff.  The net result was a three-piece fawn flannel suit with large outside pockets and half back belt, black shirt, yellow tie, and two-tone brown shoes.  Mr. Everett told me the shoes would probably out-wear the laces so I had better have an extra pair of laces and darned if he didn’t charge for them! What happened to my buck expenditure, well when I walked out Mr. Everett was $45.00 richer.  Don’t remember how I paid him but knowing Mr. Everett, paid I must have. Don’t recall the suit helping much with the girls.

Bridge Completion

The bridge was completed that fall and the highlight was the ribbon cutting ceremony, Sept. 24, 1937 and a motor ride to Rossport over a road that left a lot to be desired.  My transportation was with the couple who ran the boarding house.  They owned a Chev touring, the kind with the snap-on side curtains.  The road into Rossport was not too much different than now except it was gravel.  Cars were parked both sides of the road from the village to the bottom of the hill near the highway.  As we started down the hill the brakes failed so at top speed 20 miles per hour we parked the car in the bush. When we were ready to return to Nipigon a bunch of guys picked the car up and set us back on the road heading towards Nipigon.  Return trip to Nipigon, no brakes, however, we were able to navigate the hills with hair sometimes standing on end.

This I thought was the end of my stay in Nipigon at that time, however I was able to work a little longer of Claydon Construction pouring the basement floor in the Post Office.

How to end this story, well automation hasn’t changed things very much.  The old bridge (1937) with manual labour and primitive equipment was built in less time than the new on now under construction. (1974)

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Creating A Fur Trade Post, 1751

Creating a Fur Trade post, 1751

(Copy obtained by Government of Ontario from archives of the Department of the Marine and Colonies, Paris )

Grant of the Post a la Carpe, North of Lake Nepigon, and extending to the Shores of Hudson’s Bay:

Governor La Jonquiere to Sieur Simblin, 1751.



[Sieur Simblin lived in interesting times: - Gainsborough was painting his Masterpieces; Ben Franklin was playing with his kites and lightning; the Halifax Gazette was putting out its first edition; and France and England were mixing it up “big time” for the control of Canada.]

27th February, 1751

Seeing the Petition which has been presented to us by the Sr. de Simblin, second ensign in the troops of this colony, with the petition {? Plan} appended to it, after having given attention to the reasons contained in the said petition, and having seen with evidence, by the said plan, that the savage nations which are in the interior of the northern part of the said lands, and of whom certain are yet to be known, the French are obliged to supply their needs at Hudson’s Bay, and there to carry on their commerce with the English in passing by way of the three arms of the river marked on said plan, not being in position to carry on their traffic elsewhere.  We, having been assured that they have never carried it on at Nepigon, nor any other French Post, that it would be very possible to cut all commerce and connection of the savages with the English in establishing a fort at the lake called Lac a la Carpe, which has not been up to the present occupied by the French, nor comprised in the limits of any of our posts, and we not being able ourselves to refuse the invitation which a chief of the said savages has given us by the Sr. de Simblin, in the name of said nations, to found the said establishment.

Persuaded in other respects that the said establishment could not but be, in every way, very advantageous to the benefit of the King’s service, to the interests and to the service of the colony;

Taking into account the excellent evidence that has been given to us of the zeal , the fidelity, the experience, the credit which the said Sr. de Simblin has acquired amongst these savage nations, and that he is very capable of forming the said establishment, and the closest alliance between the said nations and the French,

We, in virtue of the power which has been given to us by the King, have received and receive the offer which has been made to us by Sr. de Simblin, to found the said establishment at his own expense;  and in consequence have appointed, and appoint him, under the good pleasure of His Majesty, to proceed next spring to the said Lac a la Carpe, there to establish a fort, a house, and a storehouse, the whole to be built of logs;  of which we have given to him, and by these presents, the command and the exclusive trade from the said Lac a la Carpe, extending from the shore of Hudson’s Bay in the eastern section, and from the west to 30 leagues of distance, for the time and term of six consecutive years, which shall commence in the spring-time of the year, 1752, and will finish in the spring-time of the year 1758.


First, that he will bear the expenses of the said establishment at his risk and with his fortune, without His Majesty being liable on anything, directly or indirectly;  that he will not lay claim to any annual indemnification during the said six years, nor to any compensation when said six years are finished;  that he will not carry on any trade except with the nations which shall go to said post.

Second, that he shall have caused the said fort, house, and storehouse, to be constructed in the spring-time of the next year, 1752;  that he shall have there during the said year, and until the end of his command, the merchandise necessary to carry on trade with the savages;  and that he shall not found any establishment nor winter on the River du Cassetete, having only the liberty to pass by the Lake of the Nepigon and the said River du Cassetete in order to proceed to his post;  and neglecting one of these conditions these presents will remain void.

And on this condition we shall send forward to him gratis each year, our permission for the departure of the canoes which shall make transport of the said merchandise, and it will be free to him to buy the bark canoes and his provisions at Missilimakinac for these purposes.  In testimony whereof, etc.,

Done at Quebec, etc.


Monday, 22 August 2016

View from the Water, 1823

View from the Water, 1823

From L.M. “Buzz” Lein’s archival collection (Nipigon Historical Museum)

From his research at Fort William Public Library:

Excerpt from: Dr. John Jeremiah Bigsby’s (1792 – 1881) “The Shoe and Canoe,  Vol II” published in London 1850

Reprinted Paladin Press, N.Y. 1969  L.C. #69-19549

 pages 223-228 (minus illustrations)

page 186:… “Having had our boat carted by oxen across the British Portage (Sault Ste. Marie) we commenced on the 19th of June, 1823, our coasting voyage, so easily made now along the north shores of Lake Superior as far as the Grand Portage a distance of 445 miles.”

Page 223:


From Cape Verd westward to Fort William (ninety to ninety-five miles by canoe) the north shore of Lake Superior is divided into three very large bays – Nipigon, Black, and Thunder Bays.  They require separate notice.

The first of these, Nipigon proper, extends to Gravel Point , on the great peninsula of the Mammelles, a distance of forty-six miles, outside of the islands soon to be mentioned.

Nipigon Bay may be roughly stated as thirty-six miles across from east to west, four to six miles deep at its east end, and sixteen on its west end.  Its wide mouth (or outer face) is closed up with a dense belt of large and small islands, which, taken together, are denominated “The Pays Plat,” a translation from Chippewa language , and refers only to the shallow black or red floor of the lake hereabouts. (According to the colour of the amygdaloid or porphyries subjacent. The lake, too, is remarkably transparent here: for miles from land we see its bottom.) [ Now that is something that I can attest to still being the case as I was puttering around in an out-board in that area in 1966.- B.B 2016]

It is true that there is one large island, very level in parts, and covered with shingle and loose rocks; but, generally speaking, it is an elevated region. I cannot describe this splendid bay and archipelago with any minuteness.  Mine was only a reconnaissance.  The surveyor and naturalist will follow.

The islands are numerous.  I made the circuit of the whole by going outside in June, and inside- page 224 – in the ruder month of September. St. Ignatius, the most westerly island save one, is much the largest.  There are three or four others, extending from it to Cape Verd, girded with some that are smaller.

St. Ignatius

The Island of St. Ignatius, according to Captain Bayfield’s map, is twenty-six miles long by twelve broad.  It is oblong in shape.  Its centre is table land, sometimes 1300 feet high, and dipping on all sides in rough declivities and precipices, whose features change with the component rock.  If this be porphyry (common here), we have long pilasters, beginning at the crest of some sterile height, and ending below on a slope of ruins, thinly wooded.  This we see on the south side of the island, in Fluor Island, at the west end of St. Ignatius, and in Stag’s –Home, Detroit. ( Fluor Island is in hummocks, and rises to the height of 1000 feet.) The high black cliffs of the latter are very impressive and gloomy.  If the cliffs be of red sandstone (often as hard as jasper, and fissured horizontally), they are only in patches at the very summits of lofty flanks buried in woods.

The islands east of St. Ignatius are often very high;  their sandstone precipices are occasionally formed nearer the level of the lake, and then they are worn by watercourses into singular shapes, - page 225- such as pillars, arches, recesses (for statues!) and window-like apertures, which not a little resemble a street of ruined chapels and chantries shrouded by mosses, vines and forest trees.  We have this fissured state of the rock both in the inner and outer routes.

Wherever the sandstone or red porphyry is found all the beaches and bare places are red; but as much of the Pays Plat is of black trap and amygdaloid, the colour there is rusty black.

On one of the islets at the west end of the Pays Plat we have a beautiful display of true basaltic columns.  A sketch was given me by Captain Bayfield.

The island called La Grange is in a fine open basin not far from Nipigon River, with a few others about it having flat tops.  It is a naked mass of trap rock, springing high and perpendicular out of a slope of coppice.  It is exactly like one of the long barns of Lower Canada, and thence its name.  We passed it on a lovely evening towards sunset.  Not far from this island I took as a memorial, perhaps unwisely, from off a jutting point, the skull of a bear placed on a pole.  It was as white as snow, and must have been there many years as a land-mark.

The trappose and amygdaloidal districts are here thickly wooded, but the trees – mountain ash (very common), - page 226- spruce, pitch pine, birch, etc. – are hide-bound and small, sheathed in the trailing moss called goat’s- beard.

Nipigon Bay and the River

The region around Nipigon Bay is full of enchanting scenery.  As we journey up this great water we have the ever-changing pictures presented by the belt of islands on our left; while on our right we have the Nipigon mainland, an assemblage of bold mountains from 900 to 1200 feet high, tabular, rounded, or in hummocks, or sugar-loaf, and only separated by very narrow clefts or gorges.

My sketches give a poor idea of all this, as I could only draw where I had opportunity, not in the finest situations.

The bay is a beautiful lake of itself, so transparent that we can, for miles together, see its red pavement, and the living and dead things there inhabiting.  It is sprinkled with a few isles of conical or tabular rocks, each with its girdle of verdure, in which are little coves, inviting to repose, with bright red beaches, reminding one of the Aegean Sea, or the Friendly Isles.

The Nipigon, Alempigon, or Redstone River, enters the bay at its west end.  It is from 80 to 100 yards broad at its mouth, and discharges a muddy grey water.  Its  length is ninety miles, and on it are seven cascades and three rapids.  It comes from –page 227 – Lake Nipigon (or St. Anne), which is sixty miles round, and in a barren country. [ Note – these are odd mileages, so he must be quoting someone – because the Nipigon River isn’t that long! – B.B. ]

Footnote; From Mr. Mackenzie of Fort Nipigon, who told me a singular story of the momentary resurrection of an Indian about to be buried without his arrows and medicine bag etc., some years before Beckford’s Italian legend of a similar kind was in English print.  It shows that human nature repeats itself all over the world, with modifications.


The Mammelles Hills are 21 and a half miles from Gravel Point, a well-known resting-place. There are several, but the two most conspicuous are cones of soft and beautiful outlines, at least 800 feet high, and close together at the south-west corner of the great promontory between Black and Nipigon Bays, being the southern extremity of a long ridge coming from the north.

The Mammelles district consists of this head-land and the multitudinous islands which are in front of it.  It bears a strong resemblance to the Nipigon country.  Space forbids our entering into a detailed description of it.

We slept, on the 23rd of June (1823), on the edge of a beautiful basin, two miles and a half south-east of the Mammelles Hills, and next morning plunged into a charming labyrinth of porphyritic, amygdaloidal, and sandstone islands, sheltered even from a hurricane.  From time to time we saw the free lake at the bottom of a long vista of pine-clad islands; and we were glad, for the sake of change, - page 228 – to come suddenly (nine miles from camp) into open water, opposite Thunder Mountain, seven miles from us, at Point Porphyry.


This magnificent headland is a principal feature in Lake Superior, and forms the north-west end of Black Bay. This Bay I am informed by Captain Bayfield, is forty-six miles deep, and extremely woody. It receives a large river.  The mouth of the bay is partially guarded by a great assemblage of woody, and for the most part low islands.

The high hills at the bottom of Black Bay are visible from its mouth, of course much depressed below the horizon.  Several islands occupy the centre of the bay.

It is not always that a boat can cross from the Mammelles to Thunder Mountain; but on the 24th of June the lake was as smooth as glass. We greatly enjoyed the gradual unfolding, as we approached, of the various parts of the great basaltic cape.
Footnote: Count Andriani, an Italian nobleman, about the year 1800 fitted out a light canoe at Montreal, through the agency of Messrs. Forsyth and Richardson, and circumnavigated Lake Superior.  He occupied himself in astronomical observations and the admeasurement of heights, mingling also freely with the Indians