Saturday, 30 June 2012


Nipigon Museum Facebook album "Building the Highway" put up today.

I'll try to get a link put in here:











Thursday, 28 June 2012


Conclusion of Ken Switzer's 1971 PAGWA  presentation to the Lions Club of Longlac:
From the Nipigon Museum Archives:

In the second period, after 1920, the scows were made up into flotillas of eight or ten and guided down and towed back by the large gas boat and a smaller boat was used to get the furs back from Mammamattawa to Pagwa.

There was a third period towards the end of the operation in which individual scows were guided only as far as the Big Rock (seven miles down) and tied up there until picked up by the small tug from Mammamattawa.

The scows were expendable, and except for one or two returned each year with furs, the rest were taken apart and the lumber used for building.

Once arrived at Fort Albany the crew left the scows to be unloaded by the Albany establishment and they returned promptly to Mammamattawa or Pagwa.

In the period where the scows were combined into a unit one man would be stationed with an axe to cut the joining ropes in case of trouble at the few fast water areas. Cutting the ropes was seldom necessary but it did happen on more than one occasion.

The large tug would make four trips to Fort Albany in a normal season. In those years that the water dropped too quickly to get the furs back from Mammamattawa to Pagwa they would go up first thing in the following spring. There were no low water problems from Mammamattawa to Fort Albany.

In years of low water they had to take about 5 tons off each scow to get through the Limestone Rapids and load again below the rapids. There were a couple of years when the water was so low that most of the supplies had to be shipped back to Montreal. In those years the new boat, the 'John Revillon" took the supplies in by sea.


On James Bay the Revillon Company had a boat for the distribution of supplies and the collection of furs, the "Anna Sheel" under Captain Neilson.

There was an engineer - mechanic by the name of Kenney, an English chap from Montreal, who worked on the Pagwa boats through-out the summer and would then finish each season working at Albany.


About 1919 the Hudson's Bay Company set up an establishment on the west bank of the river just below the railway and they normally sent down four scows each season.

In 1926 the Hudson's Bay Company aquired 51 percent of the stock in Revillon Freres Trading Company and bought the company outright in 1936.


The Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (now Ontario Northland Railway) was completed from Cochrane to Moosonee in 1932. This made the Pagwa river transportation redundant and there was little or no activity down the river after 1932 for the northern posts could now be supplied more readily and much more cheaply by railway to Moosonee.


Bob Guthier returned to Pagwa as a free trader in 1922 and built on the east bank of the river and south of the railway. While he was there, there was another small merchant, Tom Metcalfe, who had lost an arm. Joffre Gauthier recalls that when even pennies were scarce he sold chocolate bars for ten cents each, 2 for 15 cents or 5 for 25 cents. Mr. Gauthier sold out to Hugo Ericson in 1932.

In 1931 the Rev. Neville R. Clarke, presently (1971) Suffragan Bishop of Moosonee, went to English River as a student and moved to Pagwa in 1937. While there he built an Anglican Church and established a school in 1938. He continued to hold regular church services and teach school until he moved to Nakina in 1943. The school and church have continued to the present (1971) but are now served by others.

In the early 1940's when Trans Canada Airlines flew east from Winnipeg via Armstrong, a series of emergency landing fields were constructed along the north line of the Canadian National Railway and one of these was at Pagwa, about two and a quarter miles west of the river and north of the railway.

In early 1959 the United States Airforce completed a radar station there ( one and a half miles west of the river and north of the railway) and this continued until May, 1963 at which time they transferred the base to the Canadian Services and this was dismantled and sold in 1969. (Buzz has notation "dismantled by Keatley")

Father rolland conducted regular Roman Catholic services in Pagwa from September, 1959 until May, 1963.

Mr. Ericson sold out in the early 1960's to a man by the name of Petty who presently (1971) operates a tourist outfitters business there.

In the early 1960's, too, Hugo Ericson took the initiative, with much help from the American Airforce, of pushing through a road from Pagwa to Highway #11. This was improved by the Department of Highways in 1969 and there is now road access to Pagwa.

Like a plant or like the life of man himself, such was Pagwa. One is born, blossoms for a brief period, then dies. C'est la vie. ...A.L.K. Switzer April 27, 1971


Continued :From Ken Switzer's Pagwa presentation to the Lions Club of Longlac, 1971

There were two distinct periods in the Revillon operation. While Mr. Gauthier was in charge no power boats were used. Some time subsequent to his leaving in 1921, power boats were introduced. The following description of scow and boat building spans both periods and the reader will have to use judgment in relating the remarks to the proper period.

About mid-September of each year a special operation, not common to other posts, was begun, with part of the work being carried on independently of the weather in a tent several score feet in length. Under Mr. Shave's supervision a boat builder from Nova Scotia steamed, bent and fashioned oak and other woods to make power boats of various sizes and with "tunnel drive" for shallow draft operation. Each year too, up to as many as 42 scows were built for the transport of supplies onnthe spring flood to Revillon's various northern posts.

Scows were made of Douglas Fir lumber . (Buzz Lein questioned the reason for this specific lumber in 1984 but no reason was forthcoming). Each one was 12' x 44' x 4' in depth. Framing was of 2" x 4" material. They were made with a double floor, the bottom of each scow being of 2' x 6' planks and the balance of the floor and walls of 1' x 8' lumber. All joints were caulked with oakum and pitch. There was a 6' space between the two floors for the protection of the cargo against wetting.


Each spring about mid-April (approximately two weeks before the ice was expected to go out) up to 150 men were assembled at Pagwa from such centres as Chapleau, Nipigon, Longlac and augmented by those who lived locally. This large crew was needed to launch and load the scows and get them away on the crest of the spring flood that usually occurred in early May.

In the early period (1916 - 1921) these men had several weeks work as the scows were floated down all the way from Pagwa to Albany with supplies and usually two were brought back laden with furs. On the return trip they had to be lined and poled all the way.

In the later period after power boats were introduced, the scows were floated individually from Pagwa to Mammamattawa (English River Post) and these were made up into units of eight or ten scows controlled by one large gas boat. The gas boat then brought the fur scows back to Mammamattawa and a smaller boat with tunnel drive and draft of not more than 18", took the furs from there back to Pagwa. In this second period the large temporary crew of men was required for only a one week period after the ice went out as their task was simply to load the scows, man them as far as Mammamattawa and return to Pagwa - one trip only, and this required but two days down and one day back on the power boat.

Pagwa River Barge
reference S11487 Ontario Archives
nmp 6504

Wages paid in 1920 to the scow handlers were approximately $150 to the foreman and $100 per month for each of the regular crew. Board for the regular crew was $1.50 per day. The normal work day was from daylight to dark. Trippers received $75 plus all expenses for the short trrip from Pagwa to Mammamattawa and return.

On the spring flood the water level in the Pagwa, English (Kenogami) and Albany Rivers was good. There were some comparatively shallow stretches, however, where the scowmen had to "read" the water and guide their charges accordingly. The first of these was the 'Big Rock" about seven miles below Pagwa followed by a shallow limestone slide known as the "Loimestone Rapid" about thirty miles below Pagwa and another stretch just above Mammamattawa.

Everything was in readiness each year so that full advantage could be taken of the spring flood. Scows were ready for quick launching as soon as the ice would go out, usually about May 5 or 6.

Loading the scows with up to 20 tons of supplies and equipment was accomplished with the aid of a funnicular railway. As the loaded car descended from warehouse to wharf the empty one was pulled up by the descending one, using a block and cable arrangement.

Each scow was fittted with tarpaulins to cover the cargo, a tin pump for keeping the bilge water pumped  out, a long sweep and two long oars for guidance and a crew of two men. The scows tied up each night wherever they could along the shore and the crew ate and slept on the scow or the shore according to circumstances and their choice. Often their families accompanied them.

John Ferris, an experienced local resident who knew the river well, was always in charge of the lead scow, followed by others at about ten minute intervals.

In the early period the scows were guided individually from Pagwa to Albany Post. From Mammamattawa (about 69 miles) was a one day trip, and from there to Albany Post progress was at the rate of about 100 miles a day and the trip (230 miles) took the best part of three days. The return trip was a gruelling one by scow, or York boat and required ten days of hard work from Fort Albany to Mammamattawa. When the first flood receded there was usually a bare track left on either side of the Albany (river). Along this track a crew of seven men with shoulder harnesses and attached to the scow or boat with light lines about 150' long tracked the boats upstream. In addition, there were men aboard using oars and pushing poles. Also there would be other men aboard resting to relieve those who were working. These men who took the supplies down and the furs back were known as "Trippers".

Conclusion to follow: Pagwa after 1920

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


In 1971 A.L.K. Switzer gave an address to the Longlac Lions Club. In 1984 Ken sent Buzz Lein a copy for the Nipigon Museum Archives.
Mr. Switzer did extensive interviews with people who had either worked for the Revillon Freres Trading company or had lived some time at Pagwa.
  • Jim Abraham
  • Jos. Bananish
  • Antoine Bouchard
  • Emile Cote
  • Bishop Neville Clarke
  • Mrs. Gilbert Ferris
  • Mike Finlayson
  • Jean Romeo "Bob" Gauthier
  • Joffre Gauthier
  • Hugo Alexius Johnson
  • Alf Leonard
  • Tom Otiquam
  • Alice Marwick
  • Father Alexander Rolland S.J.
  • Walter Shave
  • Richard Solomon
  • Abraham Tookenay
  • Jos. Towegishig
  • O.T.G. Williamson "History of the Revilon Freres Company pp 18-19, Ecyc. Canadiana, 1960
  • Personal visits to Pagwa by Mr. Switzer
  • Personal visits to Ma-ma-wi-ma-da-wa by Mr. Switzer

Taken from Mr. Switzer's address:

The first Canadian posts were established on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River and at the Northwest River in Labrador.

After many mishaps, a series of 14 posts were established from Ungava through Hudson's Strait to James Bay. A central warehouse and wharf was constructed on Strutton Island in James Bay, just East of Charlton Island where the HBCo had their depot for many years.

Strutton Island remained the distribution point for Revillon Freres until after the start of WWI. Then the "S.S. Adventure", their main supply ship, was requisitioned by the British government, lent to Russia and was subsequently sunk by a mine off Archangel.

Since the ship was irreplaceable at that time a new supply route became essential. The National Transcontinental Railway from Quebec City to Winnipeg had just been completed in 1915 and so it was determined to open new communications using the Pagwachuan River from the new railway to James Bay.

In 1915 the Revillon Trading Company sent a Mr. Coward and he surveyed the river from Pagwa to Fort Albany to determine its suitability for navigation. He found it satisfactory and that same year, two Swedes were hired to dynamite rocks in the shallow stretch from Pagwa to English River Post (ma-ma-wi-ma-da-wa or Mammamattawa on some maps) - a distance of eighty-five miles. Most of this work was in the first 15-20 miles immediately below Pagwa.

According to Mr. O.T.G. Williamson's account in the Encyclopedia Canadiana (1960): "In May, 1916 a fleet of 27 barges of 15 tons each left Pagwa for Fort Albany." end quote.

The Company established a store and their main warehouse in Cochrane. When the great holocost of July 29, 1916 destroyed most of the town of Cochrane these establishments also disappeared.

They re-built the store but decided to place their main warehouse at Pagwa and accordingly sent their Cochrane clerk, Jean Romeo "Bob" Gauthier to Pagwa as their fur trade manager. He built a combined house and store north of the railway and on the east side of the river. Mr. Gauthier was in charge of the store and fur trading activity from 1916 - 1921. A Mr. George Shave was responsible for scow construction and river transport.

When "Bob " Gauthier left Pagwa to set up a Sporting goods store in Cochrane he was replaced by W.B. Bentley, who in turn was succeeded by Jos. Allen.


There was a large warehouse north of the railway on the east bank of the river. Trains would stop for hours at a time unloading supplies. Freight was passed down a slide from the freight car to the warehouse and, when ready to go on the scows, was transferred by small cars on rails.

Supplies for each post were segregated in the freight car and were carefully kept separated in the warehouse.

There was a combined store and Manager's residence, a small carpentry shop, a small bunkhouse ( to sleep about 6 men) to accommodate the camp staff and a much larger bunkhouse south of the railway, to accommodate the temporary "trippers" hired for a brief period each spring. There was a moderate size cookery north of the tracks presided over by the very capable cook "Charlie Fung Yung" and miscellaneous other buildings including George Shave's home and those of several Indian families.

Although Pagwa was just a flag stop on the railway a telegraph operator was stationed there for the active period of each year.

The normal complement of the Post was not large. Water had to be carried up from the river using pails and shoulder yoke, buildings maintained, furs and supplies handled, firewood procured, and the normal duties of any fur trade post carried out. This, of course, was a transfer post where supplies went out for several posts on the English and Albany Rivers and James Bay including Mammamattawa, Ogoki, Albany, Moosonee, Prince Rupert and several others. There were no horses and all firewood had to be hauled in on hand sleighs in the wintertime. The larger buildings were heated with large drum heaters taking wood 40 inches in length.

Food was plain but good. Fresh meat and pork were available in the cold weather but tarred hams, peas, beans, flour for pancakes and bread, and similar dried and preserved foods formed the staples. There were no cows in camp and no fresh milk.

The only ladies in camp were the wives of Bob Gauthier and George Shave and the wives of the Indians  resident in the settlement together with their daughters. Social events were scarce to non-existent.

Parkas had not come into general use at that time. In the winter time women wore a shawl on their heads and men wore high-collared mackinaw coats. Moccasins and moose hide mitts for winter wear were of local manufacture as were the snowshoes, toboggans and sleds that were used. Caps and coats of rabbit skin were common and the Indians kept warm while sleeping beneath rabbit skin blankets, the original sleeping bag.

Men brought in to work on the scows had to supply their own sleeping gear although, while in camp they had a single bed with spring to sleep on.

Train service at that time consisted of one passenger train each way daily, a way freight and numerous through freights.

To be continued in SCOW BUILDING

Sunday, 24 June 2012

PAGWA photos


Bishop Neville Clarke photo 1941
The Church is Anglican.
View to the north.
Courtesy A.L.K. Switzer
Photo copied by L.M. Lein March 1984

Pagwa, Ont. ca. 1921
Revillon Freres freight dock at river edge
where goods brought down funicular railway were loaded into the waiting scows
. Note tracks and barrels beside. Looking north before ice-out in spring.
Original photo by Emile Cote and was in possession of A.L.K. Switzer
Copy by L.M.Lein March 1984

Scow building operations of Revillon Freres. All scows built in winter;
 to be water-tight and ready for spring loading
 and descending the Pagwa River to the Albany and out to the posts at the mouth.
Foreground: a Mr. Kane, construction foreman.
He was in charge and came from France.
Completed scows are stored out of the picture.
A.L.K. Switzer Longlac/Orillia
Copy by L.M.Lein March 1984

Pagwa, Ont. 1941
Bishop Neville Clarke photo
Junction of Pagwachan River and the C.N.R. tracks.
Funicular Ry tracks and scow loading wharf at river's edge on the far side.
The original Church was the HBCo cookery of 1932.
Courtesy A.L.K. Switzer Longlac/Orillia
Copy by L.M.Lein March 1984

Loading dock with a scow load.
The woman and child are at the river end of the funicular railway.
It was here that the goods were loaded into the scows.
Date: early 1930's
Photo by Bishop R. Clarke
Was in possession of A.K.L. Switzer Longlac/Orillia
Copy made by L.M.Lein March 1984

Revillon Freres scows moored on near bank.
HBCo moored scows on far bank.
The power boat on the far bank is HBCo. It burnt two years after acquisition.
Circa 1925 Emile Cote Photo and information
A.L.K. Switzer  Longlac/Orillia
Copy by L.M. Lein March 1984

Pagwa River at Pagwa c. 1921
Revillon Freres power boat. 150 hp engine with propeller in tunnel.
Used between Pagwa and Mammamattawa.
Mr. Coward, manager for Revillon Freres on the bow and wearing shirt and tie.
Emile Cote holding the pole on the stern.
Coward was en route to James Bay to make an inspection of Revillon posts.
Original photo was in possession of A.L.K. Switzer
Copy made by L.M.Lein March 1984

HBCo scow being readied for loading (1941)
and eventual dispatch to Hudson's Bay -  down the Pagwa
to the mouth of the Albany River.
Bishop Neville Clarke Photo
Courtesy A.K.L. Switzer Longlac/Orillia
Copy by L.M.Lein, March 1984
Albany Post, James Bay, about 1941.
Sailing vessels on James Bay. Main lug sail and jib.
One of the ways in which freight was distributed
 from Albany River to other posts on the Bay.
This is how the goods from the Pagwa scows reached their ultimate destination.
Only a couple scows would return to Pagwa laden with furs.
The remainder would be salvaged for timber and building materials at the Bay.
A.K.L.Switzer Longlac/Orillia
Copy by L.M.Lein March 1984

Saturday, 9 June 2012


The C.P. photographs that may have gone with some of the S.O.S. presentations.

The old CP Station in the distance

1916 the water tower is visible just to the top right of the building.

Sheds along siding 1946

Photo of Front Street taken from the water tower, the spout is lower left.

Water tower right. Consumers Co-Op centre.

Water tower 1948. Consumers Co-Op left

Men waiting on CPR lawn near station.

Men waiting at the CP station

More men waiting to go somewhere.

When Bill Milne talked about places not being there anymore..
.the building left and centre are what he is talking about..
 This is the Railway Street, Fifth and Sixth Street corner.

CP Station and landscaped right-of-way, 1960.

Mr. Otto took a lot of photos for post cards around 1964.
This shows Lake Helen with a log boom, at the top;
the Lagoon to the right;
and the Canadian Pacific railroad running through Nipigon.
The bright green top right above the lagoon, is the cemetery.

The Railway Police Force

The water tower on its last legs, 1970

E.C.Everett didn't need a train to do business
 before the highways went through.

Winter was a challenge.

looking west across the Nipigon River. The Canadian Pacific Railway Bridge.
Across the river the Canadian National (CN) line runs under the bridge.
The highway bridge crosses the river on the other side of the railway bridge.
1963 was the official completion of Highway 17 from Nipigon to Sault Ste. Marie.

The original C.P. station, Nipigon

The new station built in 1929.

Water tower in operation.

The new Nipigon Library and municipal offices,
 built to resemble the demolished CP Station.

Friday, 8 June 2012


Second presentation, this time to C.P. reps: March 18, 1982

"A couple of years ago, CP notified the Township of Nipigon that they proposed to replace the existing facility with a modern, suitable shelter that is more economical to heat and maintain than the present station.

Once the new facility was completed in 1982, they would be pleased to sell the old station for a nominal sum, provided it was removed from CP property.

When there was little reaction from its townspeople, CP wrote again to request a Council resolution stating that there were no objections to the demolition of the building. Council gave them that resolution. Reaction was swift then. We wrote immediately, and Council forwarded that letter to you at CP suggesting that any plans to demolish the building should be held off for the time being.

Then we swung into action. As there were so many groups and individuals expressing an interest in the station, we dug in and did some homework on it. We contacted the community groups for their opinion in writing, and we asked the kids of Nipigon to tell us what they thought.

Recently, we had our public works superintendent and a local electrician inspect the building, with CP's cooperation, and they came up with some ballpark figures for making the place habitable.

Meanwhile, on the political front, our federal and provincial MP's were giving us a hand, with Jack Stokes and Jack Masters both supporting our efforts. When Jack Masters contacted CP, Mr. D.C. Colman replied..."It is company policy developed over many years of experience that older, uneconomical-to-maintain railway buildings be removed from the property when they are no longer required. The Nipigon station has become very expensive to maintain and operate, and therefore, must be replaced. Our experience has been that there are no uses of such a facility that are compatible with live railway operation and for the interests of the general public and the Railway, the building must be removed."

So, here we are. And this is our case.

Although Nipigon was settled by Europeans long before the 1679 to be exact, CP has been a major partner in the town's growth. You came along in the late 1880's on your way west. You found a little hamlet here with a commercial district that had grown up along the portage route from the Nipigon River to Lake Helen.

With the CP mainline going right through town along a portion of this old transportation route, the station was in an ideal spot, right across from the stores, hotels and outfitters on our main street.

Then in 1929, you put up a new station just a few yards away from the original one, on the other side of the tracks...and this is the station we are talking about today.

As you can tell from the slides, the station has always been not only the geographic centre of town, but the emotional one as well. That railway construction marked the beginning of modern-day Nipigon, and most people in town looked upon it as a community affair, then and now.

Now we understand that sentimentality is not always good business. Nobody expects CP to put money into an old building that's no longer useful to you, just because people are attached to it. We'd like to take your white elephant off your hands. We'd like you to sell it to Nipigon. If a fence is required to keep people off your tracks, then we'll build a fence - large enough and strong enough to do the job.

Our preliminary estimates of work required to make the place useful for the summer months prove that we can raise the necessary funds in short order. It says every window needs either glazing or new putty...all the doors need attention...plaster panels inside need to be replaced or recovered...we'll have to replace all the plumbing fixtures... and there's more of that sort of thing in the report. All of this we can handle.

There are a dozen groups who are interested in using that space during the summer months ...that we can handle.

And because it looks like a railway station, we'd like to use part of that space to pay tribute to the people who built it - the men who pushed the line through - by incorporating that history into the art and photo displays in the building.

So you see, we're interested not only in taking the station off your hands, but also in using it to celebrate a very big and very important part of the country's heritage: the railway. We figure you could use the place to "toot" your own horn a bit for the benefit of all the summer visitors we have here. You have a history of country-building to be proud of.

You will gather that we have a history to be proud of too...and because we have so few landmarks to remember the past by, we are willing to turn somersaults to work out a compromise with you on the building. We need to know from you what the drawbacks are to keeping the station where it is. You've said through Mr. Coleman's letter that you can see no use compatible with a live railway operation. We can see compatible uses. And CP itself has experience with compatible uses. Here's one of CP's old stations, this one in Banff, operating as a restaurant and bar...and on the other side CP conducts its business as usual.

In Nipigon your trains will continue to travel through town, your waiting room can be constructed and operated for passengers, and the old station can stay there...possibly as an art gallery, photo gallery, meeting rooms, tourist information bureau, craft shop , and maybe even library displays.

Fenced off from the tracks, there will be no danger of people falling out of doors onto the tracks. The two operations can exist side by side...and make everybody happy.

Our inspection of the building showed us that the floor beams are set right into the poured concrete of the foundations. This report tells us that moving it would be a disaster for the main floor, and a considerable expense for the town, not to mention that there is no logical spot for a train station turned community centre. The building by itself is not all that important. The building where it is , is the important thing to us. As the Cuesta Camera Club said in its presentation to our committee, "The fact that the building is , in itself, a landmark, and has historical value, is important enough cause for the decision makers to hesitate and ponder again the seriousness and far-reaching effects that could result. The CPR in Canada has contributed immeasurably to the growth and development of our country. We would like so much to keep a symbol of that historical value within our own boundaries. We want to build on established historical riches, not tear down...we desire to contribute to and enhance our community, not withdraw from it...and last but not least, we need to appreciate more, not eliminate that which we hold dear, emotionally and historically, as an integral part of our lives and our community. What better site to portray this than where the station has always stood, managing to wedge its personality and character into the community and the people's affections. The site and the building together, have become one. Any withdrawal of one will create a dire loss in the other."

CP doesn't want it... the Township of Nipigon does. We'd like to hear your side of it so that the process of compromise and mutual benefit can begin.

The CPR station sign is on display at the Nipigon Historical Museum...2012


THE FOLLOWING IS BILLY MILNE'S NARRATIVE to the Save Our Station Committee's first slide show presentation to the Nipigon Town Council in their 1981-82 battle to keep the C.P.R. Station.

"Ever since the C.P. came to the north in the late eighteen hundreds, the train station has been the landmark in just about every little town along the north shore. Ours has always been the centre of town, and for a while it was the centre of life too."

"It was for me anyway. I was born in the old station on the other side of the can see it there on the left. The "new" building was ready for us in 1929, when this picture was taken by old Mr. Everett... Young Mr. Everett, then."

"And boy was it the pride of the town when it was built!  B.C. fir beams, all hardwood floors, that beautiful gable roof. I figured I was the luckiest kid in town - to be living there. My Dad was the station manager in those days. That's him in the picture, with Bill Wade, and tall Ture Petersen, and Fred Vivone."

"It must have been opening day for the building, 'cause they're all dressed up. It was a busy station, too, with trains coming and going at all times of the day and night. Too bad we can't hear one of those old steam engines when they used to chug through here at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. Those days are long gone."

"Nipigon really boomed when C.P. finally reached this neck of the woods. It wasn't easy pushing that line through."

"And there are still a few old-timers around who can tell you stories about the early days of the C.P. and that old bridge across the Nipigon River. Those piers and foundations were built to last. I just wonder how many pounds of steel have run across that bridge?"

'This little building on the west side of the bridge was the special CP Depot for the Chalet Bungalow Lodge. Now it's Toivo Laurila's house on Fifth Street."

"It wasn't so long ago that everyone used to line up to wait for the passenger train to come through. That was before television and late night bars. See the old fire hall in the background? Another landmark gone."

And here's another one. All trains used to fill up their water tanks here from our old reservoir. That disappeared in the late sixties."

"We were really the centre of transportation then... there's the bus depot at the far end of the street, and maybe that old cruiser meant our Nipigon policeman was stopping the train looking for dangerous criminals. Sometimes the passengers would get off the train while it was stopped at the station, just long enough to run across the street and get an ice cream cone or a soda pop."

"And during the "dirty thirties", an awful lot of rod-runners were picked up in Nipigon. We had thirty-five railway cops here at one time."

"Mr. Everett swears that this was the only time the flag was ever raised at the station...opening day! Or was it the day the Royal entourage came to visit and stopped for a chat with the town dignitaries?"

"There were some places that the trains just didn't go, and neither did the buses or cars. When the Mounties had to get there man, or the lumber companies had to get supplies to their camps, they used an old favourite method of transportation - dogs."

"Time has made a lot of changes in Nipigon, and a lot of changes at Canadian Pacific. The CN came later, with a spur line from Longlac down to Lake Superior... here it passes under the CP bridge at the Nipigon River."

"The highways came later, Highway 11 first linking up the country's east and west by road, and Highway 17 along the north shore of Lake Superior much later in the sixties."

"But the rail line isn't going to disappear. Traffic is not going to stop on the mainline. The trains will continue to travel through Nipigon and over the Nipigon River."

"They may have  a new name for the train, but it's still doing the same job of transporting people and things."

"Canada bent over backwards to get the railway through, and lots has been written about that superhuman effort."

"Right across the country, you'll find prime pieces of real estate set aside for the railway, and given to them free of charge just to sweeten the pot and get the trans-Canada line in. We did it, and it was worth it, but somehow you feel we should all have a bit of a say in what happens to that land and that history when CP is through with it."

"We don't want to run their business, but you have to admit it was a real community affair from start to finish. CP may be a private kind of company, but it's such a big part of our lives here that maybe it IS our right to make comments."

"They've taken good care of their train station here over the years. New insulbrick siding in 1954 - it was the style then, and later a new roof. But now they'd like to tear it down and put up a pre-fab waiting room, something like a little trailer."

"It's expensive to heat; there's been a lot of vandalism, and the place doesn't look so classy any more... and CP just doesn't see any way to make use of the old structure."

"They didn't feel the same way about this CP station at Banff. Looks good doesn't it? It's a restaurant and bar and it's really been fixed up. And on the other side, it's still a train station, just like it's always been. It was a landmark in Banff, the structure was good, so they compromised."

"Well, I am not the only one who feels strongly about our little station. It was at the centre of town when I was born there...and it's still the centre of town, the town's heart. It sits there waiting for adventurous travellers to get off the train, facing a long main street with food, rest, and provisions."

"It was the centre of activity for lots of people then, and it could be still. This is the window of our dining room, but it could be a photo gallery."

"This was my old bedroom when I was a kid. The Silver Club could be meeting there right now."

It's certainly sturdy enough, with a foundation that won't ever crumble, beams and joists that have never seen a termite. And its even good looking - better with just a little spruce-up."

"We spend so much time building new things, we sometimes forget it's cheaper and better to hang on to a handful of old things, just to help remember where we came from."

"CP says we can keep it, but we have to move it. Moving it means changing the heart of our town, and I'm sure we can come to a reasonable compromise if we want to bad enough. It will take a lot of people working together to convince CP that we mean it, and it'll take a lot of strong leadership."

"We think our history, and our cultural heritage, is worth it, and we are hoping you'll agree with us."

End of First Presentation

MARCH 18, 1982


This narrative now becomes the history of the S.O.S. Committee's efforts and dreams. The station was destroyed  in October 1982. (next post)

Thursday, 7 June 2012


DECEMBER 17, 1948

Port Arthur-Fort William

From: The Fenwick Papers - the Nipigon Museum Archives

Reports Holes Drilled by Farmer


Fourteenth century Vikings may have visited America before Columbus, but the famous Kensington runestone doesn't prove it, a college professor said today.

Dr. J. A. Holvik, professor of Norse at Concordia college here, cites two reasons for doubting authenticity of the runestone, a 202-pound slab found in 1898 near Kensington, Minn. One reason relates to certain characters in the Runic message chiseled on the stone.

The other reason involves peculiar holes in another large rock still lying on the shore of Lake Comorant, near here. Dr. Holvik said that contrary to the belief of many students, these holes were not drilled by Vikings for use in mooring their ships, but by a 20th century farmer bent on building a house.

Dr. Holvik says he has a signed statement from Willie J. Anderson, 73 -year-old Swedish farmer, which clears up the mystery of the holes. It was in the winter, about 1908, that Willie spied rocks along the lake. He planned to use them for the foundation of a new home. He drilled hole preparatory to blasting. But a thaw came before he could get to town for dynamite and with the snow gone he found plenty of small stones for the construction job.

As for the Runestone, Dr. Holvik thinks three capital letters, in the message "AVM" do not date back to the 1300's "I have found no record tha "AVM" was ever used in the Scandinavian countries in the 14th century as an abbreviation of any name or expression," he said in an interview.

Dr. Holvik did not offer a theory as to who inscribed the Runestone. One translation of it reads:

"Eight Goths and 22 Norwegians upon a journey of discovery from Finland (that's what the paper wrote) eastward . We had a camp by two skerries (rocky islands) one day's journey north from this stone. We were out fishing one day. When we returned home, we found 10 men red with blood and dead. AVM save us from evil."
"Have 10 men by the sea to look after our vessels 14 days journey from this island. Year 1362."

The Runestone is now at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. (1948)


MARCH 12, 1948

from: The Fenwick papers - Nipigon Museum Archives

Washington, March 12, 1948 (AP)

Smithsonian Archaeologists, announcing acquisition of Minnesota's famed "Kensington Stone" said yesterday they believe it is authentic.

The carved stone contains a message ostensibly written by a party of Vikings in 1362, more than a century before Columbus' day.

It relates in Norse characters that a band of Swedish and Norwegian explorers had reached what is now Minnesota - and then ran into trouble , presumably Indians.

It is a tale of blood and death - and Smithsonian scientists see " a very high probability" that it was the despairing message to posterity of the doomed men.

The message as translated with some reconstruction is as follows:

"(We are) eight Goths (Swedes) and 22 Norwegians on (an) exploration journal from Vineland through (or across) the west. We had camp by ( a lake with) 2 sker ies (one day's journey) north from this stone. We were out and fished one day. After we came home (we) found 10 (of our) men red with blood and dead. Avm. (presumably 'Hail Mary") Save us from evil. (We) have 10 of our party by the sea to look after our ships 14 days journey from this island. Year 1362."


- continued  : Wednesday February 8, 1939

If the Norsemen in their stay here in Vinland for hundreds of years were driven to use copper spears and tools they had apparently good reason for doing so. Because it is quite clear that from about 1300 they had difficulty in getting anything from Europe. The King of Norway had agreed to send his ships regularly to Greenland when Greenland in 1261 gave up its republic and became part of the Norwegian realm. But it is recorded that the last King's ship , the "Snorren," was lost about 1378 and after that Greenland fared badly for imports. The settlers there did a little blacksmithing but their supplies of iron must have been meagre and they had practically no fuel. We even read of whalebone axes being used. What could have been more natural than that the Vikings should use the native copper that existed in such quantity on Lake Superior. The Indians, according to the Jesuit missionaries with them, regarded pieces of copper in the 17th century, as something sacred - household gods more than anything else. It may indeed be argued that till the white man came along with his tools the Indians lacked the means of making some of the copper articles now recovered here-abouts.


Thus a possibly new angle of the Norse influx may develop. It can be assumed that the Norse discoverers of our Great Lakes did more than drop spears and axes around them. The handle of the Jacksonport, Wisconsin,  sword is reported as of copper that has the hardness of brass - copper hardens of itself in the earth. The owner of the sword may have worn out its original handle, and may possibly replaced it with copper.

The sword never was used by any Indian tribe - it connotes an open approach to an enemy that is foreign to Indian strategy. The Indian word that we translate "warrior" really means "scout." They always made a stealthy approach from cover or ambush with the bow and arrow as the principal weapon, and an avoidance of personal combat till it seemed propitious. But the Norseman and his sword were never backward about coming to close quarters.



While time has passed and scientific testing puts most of our copper artifacts at around 3500 years ago or even older , this article by J.W.Curran in 1939 tries to explain some of them in his time.

The News Chronicle
Port Arthur-Fort William - Westfort - Schreiber - Nipigon
Wednesday, February 8, 1939
page 1

From: The Fenwick papers the Nipigon Museum Archives


Belief That Only White Men Could Have Produced Some Articles Heretofore Credited to Indians

By J.W.Curran
Sault Daily Star

The list of Norse relics found in the Great Lakes area is impressive - thirteen in all with good hopes of at least two more that are known but not yet proven.

The list is as follows:

State of Minnesota

  • The runic stone at Kensington, Minnesota, found in the roots of a tree in 1898.
  • The axe at Norway Lake, Minn.
  • The axe at Erdahl, Minn.
  • The axe at Brandon, Minn.
  • The fire steel at Climax, Minn.
  • The hatchet at Thief River Falls, Minn.
Province of Ontario

  • The sword at Beardmore, Ontario, 1930
  • The axe at Beardmore, Ontario, 1930
  • The shield handle at Beardmore, Ontario, 1930( the above all lay together 200 yards from the Blackwater River)
  • The spearhead at Gros Cap, near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Superior, 1938
State of Wisconsin

  • The sword at Jacksonport, Wisconsin on the west shore of Lake Michigan, 1912
  • The spearhead at Whitehall, Wisconsin
The State of New York
  • The spearhead at Sodus Bay, on the south shore of Lake Ontario
Thus three of the relics were found on the shores of the Great Lakes, and the rest near rivers. The place where the Kensington stone was found , is believed to have been formerly a small lake.

Of the three on the Great Lakes two were found in hardpan rubble, and the Jacksonport sword in sand. The Sault Ste. Marie spear rested on a rock ledge a foot or so below water.

At Sodus Bay, a shore excavation was being made for the foundations of a boat house, and at Jacksonport for an ice house. At the Soo two boys swimming, lifted a stone on the shore and saw the point of the spear.

None of the relics were recognized at first for what they were, and most of them were not identified for years afterwards. It was not till about 32 years after the Kensington stone was found that Mr. H.R. Holland's study of it began to be accepted. The Sodus Bay spear, found in 1929, was only identified a month ago. James Edward Dodd's find at Beardmore failed to get recognition for six years. The Jacksonport sword was found in 1912, and identified only a couple weeks ago. Now that the public is awake to the historical value of relics of the Vikings, a quick decision on finds may be had. Any rusted piece of iron will get attention.

Reports still keep coming in - a buried foundation here, an old axe there, a strange unknown tool found in the wilderness. All of the Great Lakes relics were at good waterside camping locations with some shelter for boats. More will undoubtedly be found, and it is likely there may be a few lying around Great Lakes homes awaiting identification. If it is old and unknown to this generation, it is worth looking into. An examination by an expert will cost nothing. They are anxious to get the chance.

What did the Norsemen do for weapons when they lost so many? The answer may lie in the 13 and a half inch copper spear found be Mr. Earl Alton in 1932 on the old Duncan Mining location, near Echo Lake, Ontario. He picked it up on an old  logging trail there and its partially shown point above ground "looked like a piece of horse strap". But its workmanship seems too good to have been used by Indians. It has a discernible ridge down the centre of the blade - which is a feature of Norse spears. The writer asked Mr. Chas. E. Brown, of the Wisconsin State Museum, who has had thirty-five years experience in copper artifacts and he replied that the suggestion was new, and in his view worth considering. Because as far as is known all Norse weapons were made in Norway, Iceland or Greenland. With the plenitude of Lake Superior native copper, and no iron to use to replace lost weapons  it may have been that the excellent spearheads found were really made by the Viking visitors. Or possibly by the Indians from Norse models. Mr. Brown had often wondered at the excellent workmanship on some of the copper relics he has seen.

Mr. Alton's spear blade is long with an unusual shape. The handle and back of the blade (1-16 inch) are in a straight line. The edge starts at two inches wide close to the handle and tapers to a a point. And how account for the excellent work on the copper 'spud", found near Portlock by Mr. Chas. Grasley, ( a "hoe" for use in planting), which weights three and three quarters pounds, a most unusual size? The spear and "spud" must have been made by experienced workmen, as they are not like the average copper relic found in Algoma. These are very numerous in the Lake Superior copper area. Once French iron arrived about 1670 the copper artifacts fell into disuse.
After typing this newspaper report of the spear, I recalled the "sword"?
 that had been at the Lakehead University Archaeology meeting last March 2012.
 It had been found near Thunder Bay in THIS century.

to be continued...


Port Arthur - Fort William - Westfort - Schreiber - Nipigon
November 11, 1938  page 9

From: The Fenwick papers - Nipigon Museum Archives

Soo Star Editor Addresses Toronto Service Club on Norsemen in North America

By Canadian Press

Toronto - Nov. 11 - Belief the Norsemen landed in North America more than 1,000 years ago and visited the area about the Great Lakes was advanced again today by J.W. Curran of the Sault Ste. Marie Star. Mr. Curran has made extensive study of relics, thought to be Norse, found in Ontario, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The usual belief among historians, he told a Toronto service club, was the first Vikings had settled on the Atlantic coast somewhere between Florida and Labrador. This was contrary to Norse writings, which located the Norse "Vineland" southwest of Greenland. That bearing would touch James and Hudson Bays, from which there was an easy water passage to the Great Lakes regions.

Other excerpts from Norse sagas tell of country similar to Manitoba and the river regions near James Bay, he said. "Self-growing" wheat, of which the Vikings spoke was in his opinion Prairie grass, because wheat was unknown in North America until the conquest of Mexico by Cortez centuries later.

Another point Mr. Curran stressed was the naming of a Norse battleship, launched in 1027, with the Norse word for Bison. He argued if the Vikings had landed on the Atlantic coast instead of penetrating the lakes region, they would never have heard the Buffalo mentioned.

The relics found in the Great Lakes area were a suit of armour, said by authorities to be of 11th century stamp, found near Lake Nipigon in 1930, a spear-head found in Sault Ste. Marie in 1938, and a runic stone found in Minnesota in 1898.  (F)our axes were also unearthed in Wisconsin, some 360 miles from the suit of armor.

Every evidence of the Norse visits, Mr. Curran said, has been found in the Great Lakes areas.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


The News Chronicle
Port Arthur - Fort William - Westfort - Schreiber - Nipigon
October 22, 1938 page 1
From the 'Fenwick Papers" collection Nipigon Museum Archives


no by-line

J.E. Dodd, who is now being credited with a bona fide find of Norse relics at Beardmore, is home from Toronto with an interesting story of his experiences in company with Fletcher Gill, who was also his companion in the Beardmore venture.

Mr. Dodd and Mr. Gill left early Sunday morning last and arrived in the provincial metropolis early Monday morning.

Evidently the newspapers of that city had been tipped off about the arrival of the men who had upset the more than 400 years old belief that Christopher Columbus had discovered America.

Reporters were at the station to meet the northern prospectors who had come into fame and to demand that they pay the penalty thereof.

'They wanted us to pose for photos," said Mr. Dodd, "but we told them they would have to wait until we had a chance to clean up a bit. The reporters were after us all day long. They telephoned my brother's home continuously, but we didn't stop there. However, we did give them something, but not much, because we have already told all we know and it has been printed all over the country, but they made some good stories out of the little we did say."

"The autograph hunters were at us in force and i never had so many pretty girls around me at one time in my life. It was just a pity to have to dismiss them by signing their autograph books. We were invited to dine and to accept other entertainment but we hadn't much time for that as we had other business to attend to."

"One of our purposes was to go to the Ontario Museum, where the relics from Beardmore are on display. We went in the front door and soon found the Beardmore sword in a case near another which contained a similar instrument taken from the Thames River. One found at Paris, France was in another case. Guides were there and told us about the things we had found, explaining their belief that they were genuine. After a time professor McIlwraith came a long and introduced us to the guides and they were quite surprised."

"Because our pictures were in the papers we were recognized on the train coming home and again had to sign a number of autographs and answer all sorts of questions. It certainly was an interesting and exciting trip. I don't know whether I like that kind of fame or not."

Mr. Dodd added that plans were being made to protect the site of the finds and there were to be movies made of it. He and Mr. Gill had been invited to get in the pictures, but he wasn't sure what he would do about that.


The News Chronicle
Port Arthur - Fort William - Westfort - Schreiber - Nipigon
October 19, 1938  page 1

From the "Fenwick Papers" Nipigon Museum Archives

Dodd Tells How Pieces Now in Museum Were Thrown Out at House-Cleaning Time

By Canadian Press

Toronto, October 19 - J.E. Dodd, Port Arthur mining man, who discovered ancient pieces of iron in Northwestern Ontario, said yesterday the implements, believed to be Viking relics, were once considered as "a pile of junk". Dodd said the relics, now in Royal Ontario Museum here, were re-discovered after house-cleaning.
"My wife thought they were a lot of junk," he related, "and she threw them out in the yard after they had been around the house for a while. It was only after a school teacher from Kingston became interested in them and said they might be Norse relics that I went and got them again."
'If anyone had offered me a couple of packages of cigarettes the day I found them i would have handed them over like a shot. I was fresh out of smokes that day."
Dodd's discovery of the implements has started a widespread controversy. Many believe they were left by a Norseman who died near Beardmore in the 11th century. Dodd suggested the national monument board of Canada ought to create a historic site at the place the discovery was made.
Fletcher Gill, his partner in the Beardmore mining claim accompanied Dodd to Toronto. Gill said he found a " relic" on the property and used it as a pick until it was lost.

CLAIM NORSE RELICS FOUND continuing the Fenwick Papers

The News Chronicle
Port Arthur - Fort William - Westfort - Schreiber - Nipigon
October 18, 1938 page 1
From the Fenwick Papers collection Nipigon Museum Archives


Port Arthur prospector and railroad man says he first thought Norse Sword and Armour part of Indian grave.

by Canadian Press
Toronto, October 18  - James Edward Dodd, Port Arthur Prospector and railroad man, told yesterday on a visit to Toronto of his discovery of relics which many authorities declare were left by Norsemen in Northern Ontario in the 11th century.
Since he came upon Viking weapons seven years ago while tracing a vein near Beardmore,Ontario, Dodd has received considerable support for his claim that the relics establish a contention Norsemen were in Northern Ontario 900 years ago.
" I had just set off a couple sticks of powder to loosen the over-burden in tracing a vein," Dodd said, "and with my son was shovelling the dirt away."
"The sword came up in one shovelful and I tossed it to the bank without looking. The sword rolled back into the ditch and I thought at first it was a rusty old lining bar - a piece of drilled steel used in mining. I picked it up and found that it was flat. Then I saw it was a sword of some kind."
Dodd thought at first the relics constituted part of a grave of an Indian chief. They are now in the Ontario Museum here.
The prospector expressed hope the site of the discovery some day would be a tourist mecca. He thought a monument should be erected at the spot.

Saturday, 2 June 2012


The first among many.

The store front changes.

Juggling was always part of of his promotion technique.

This is not his first store, this is 1955.

E.C.E. in the middle with staff.