Tuesday, 26 June 2012

PAGWA and the REVILLON FRERES

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
HOW THE PAGWA POST CAME TO BE

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.

HEADQUARTERS ARRANGEMENTS

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

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