Monday, 1 August 2011

A Short History of the Occupation of the Nipigon


Anthropologists like to use neat words to classify people by their lifestyles.

Archaeologists see a change of tool - lithics(stone), copper and ceramics(pottery), as a reason to change the name of the people.

From 7000BC onward the Nipigon People remained hunter gatherers until the coming of the Europeans created social and cultural upheavals.  In 1665 the Nipigon District was leased to the Company of 100 Associates and the Fur Trade began.  The missionaries arrived two years later.

In the autumn of 1727, LaVerendrye took command of a fort already at the mouth of the Nipigon River (somewhere on our waterfront). That winter, here in Fort Ste Anne, while the local people were out hunting and gathering furs, Pierre was listening to stories of a Western Sea. Right here, in the Land of Nipigon, Ochagach drew him a map and Pierre's ambition to be an explorer moved into high gear.  In 1729 he took the next post west, Kaministikwia. For almost two hundred years fur trade posts occupied the waterfront at Nipigon. The last was the Hudson's Bay Company, Red Rock House, that burned in 1891.

But, Nipigon wasn't just a fur trade post in the 1880's.  Changing modes of transportation from canoe to Steamboat to steam locomotives brought in construction workers, surveyors, miners of rock, tourists and timber barons.

In the 1870's fishing had become big business in tourist outfitting and in 1916 Nipigon 's River got the world record listing in Field and Stream, that has never been broken for the largest Brook Trout.  Catch date was likely July 21, 1915.

1885 saw the CPR  bridge the Nipigon River and the railroad became the primary source of transportation of goods, services and people.  The town-site migrated from the waterfront and settled along the tracks.  In 1909 Nipigon incorporated.

The Timber Industry was growing. Railway workers were settling on homesteads in the area and becoming woodcutters.

Industry required POWER.  The Nipigon River was harnessed at Cameron Falls in 1920. An original turbine can be seen at the Nipigon Waterfront.  Alexander Dam was next and Pine Portage Hydro Dam started operations in 1950.

The highway bridge had its official opening in 1937 and the first car drove over the Nipigon River.

In 1948 the Red Cross Hospital opened its doors and cared for the people of Nipigon until 1993 when it moved into a new building on Hogan's Road. That same year, 1948, My Wild Irish Rose was the first movie to be shown at the Plaza Theatre.

In 1959 the Trans Canada Highway built a by-pass around Nipigon.  That same year Nipigon fell victim of a freak rain storm that created a flash flood in the little Clearwater Creek that meanders through town.  It toppled a two story house and washed out railway tracks and streets.

The NIpigon Historical Museum opened in 1973 in Dr. Bryan's first headquarters built in 1905 as the Transcontinental Railway Survey Office and Doctor's Office on Second Street. In 1990 that museum was destroyed by fire. Seventy-five percent of the collection was salvaged. In 2004 the musem reopened on Front Street.

About the Hunter Gatherers?

Well, the people of Nipigon are still hunting (moose), and gathering (Blueberries), every year.  After 8000 years we haven't changed a bit!

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