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


  1. In 1932 my parents ..on their honeymoon ... took the barge from Pagawa to Fort Albany. My father was goingto Fort Albany to take charge of the Anglican (Church of England) mission there. They would be in Albany until 1944. Both my sister and spent our early childhood in Albany. I was born in 1936 ,my sister in 1940.
    In the spring of 1944 we returned to Albany ,having been out to Toronto in the winter, by scow perhaps not from Pagawa though. !944 was the year of a major spring flood at Albany.

    Roland Joselyn My parents were Rev. "Reg" Joselyn and Helen

    1. Are you on the Pagwa Village site...I just joined...awesome history and people

  2. Hugo Ericson is my great-grandpa :)

  3. Brian Donnelly22 May 2018 at 23:54

    Beck, are you related to Hugo through his daughters Linda or Eileen? I went to Kapuskasing High School with them and their friend Alice May Clark (Varpio) in the late 1050's. If so, please write to me at
    Brian Donnelly from Kap, now in Vineland ON.