Wednesday, 25 July 2012


By L.M.Lein  (1984)  from the Nipigon Historical Museum archives

If an historian were to be asked to document the history of our town, his chore would be a lengthy one and challenging too. The historian would have to ask himself many questions and reflect on what the readers or listeners would want to know or hear.
  • Should they be informed of all aspects of Nipigon's history?
If so , here are some possible questions and thoughts he might have. The historian might begin with some prehistory of the region. He could ask:
  • "What compelled the Palaeo Indians to migrate and live in this region some 7000 years ago?"
  • "How did their small groups of people survive near glacial lakes using only primitive tools to kill roaming herds of caribou?"
  • "What caused their ancestors some 3000 years later to discover the use of copper to make needles, knives, spears and bracelets?"
  • "How did it come about that 2500 years later pottery became an important tool of the native people?"
  • "How did all these native people survive the harsh winters armed only with stone, wood, or bone tools?"
  • "How did these talented people live indeed?"
The coming of the Europeans would start another chapter in our time obscured history. From what is known, we could reflect and ask these questions:
  • "What motivated Jesuit Claude Allouez in 1667 as he ascended the Nipigon River to celebrate the First Mass ever in the area?"
  • "Why was it important to Sieur du Lhut to set up a post on Lake Nipigon in 1684, over three hundred years ago?"
  • "What promises of furs and wealth id Sieur de la Verendrye have in 1727 which prompted him to set up a post in the Nipigon Area?"
  • "What fortunes were the Hudson's Bay Company hoping for when they built their Fort Nipigon at the Ombabika River in 1775?"
  • "In 1859, why did the Hudson's Bay Company set up a post on the right bank of the Nipigon River?"
  • "Was its only purpose to prevent competitive traders from getting access to Lake Nipigon or was it to be an important trans-shipment point where schooners and lake steamers could unload their cargoes en route to Lake Nipigon or did someone in the company have foresight of what was to come?"
By the year 1869, Red Rock House had become important, for trading English goods, such as awls, blankets, capots, combs, guns, kettles, needles, and medicinals to the native people in exchange for goods and services.
  • Was this the only enterprise for the H.B.Co.?"
Not quite - tourism and real estate played a significant role in the Company,

By the 1870's sport fishing was very popular in the Nipigon Region. The rich and famous came to catch our abundant square tails.
  • "Did the H.B.Co. realize that they were to be the first of a long line of tourist outfitters?"
In essence, the H.B.Co. supplied all the needs, physical and human in order to satisfy the dreams of the early fishermen who fished our famous river.

Even Canadian Pacific surveyors used the H.B.Co. post at Red Rock House. By 1873, store houses and trade shops at the post were being used.
  • "Did the future railway have plans for Nipigon?"
By 1874, the area around Nipigon was surveyed by A.B. Scott. Since the H.B.Co. owned most of this land where present day Nipigon lies, it was in their interest to be in the real estate business and sell lots to prospective settlers. IN 2010 THE NIPIGON HISTORICAL MUSEUM ARCHIVES RECEIVED ONE SUCH DEED OF LAND PURCHASE COMPLETE WITH THE GREAT SEAL OF  LONDON ON IT.

In 1875, disaster struck Nipigon as it was passed over in favour of Prince Arthur's Landing (at Thunder Bay ) as the C.P.R. terminus.
  • "Did this mean the everlasting doom of Nipigon as a potential city?"
A new Chapter might be started again by the Historian. With the completion of the C.P.R. in 1885 of its North Shore route, Nipigon became more accessible to other parts of Canada. At about the same time, the beginnings of Nipigon's Main Street and commercial establishments started with an Hotel, McKirdy's Store, and the First C.P.R. Station in Nipigon.
  • "Was this the beginning of a new community?"
  • "Why did some of Red Rock Post workers want to homestead at Nipigon after their contracts were up?"
  • "Was there a fortune to be made or found in the region by mining or fishing or did they sense it as a decent place to settle and live?"
After all, fishing was a major industry along with mining of marble and granite for export to the U.S.A. I wonder now if these first permanent settlers realized at the time, that they were to be the roots and beginnings of a new permanent settlement. In 1885, the present Anglican Church was built. (now replaced by a modern one) In 1899 the First United Church was constructed.
  • "Why did the H.B.Co. in 1899 decide to change the name of Red Rock House to Nipigon?"
  • "Was it because there was a post office named Red Rock in Eastern Ontario, or was it because the railway had named their stop Nipigon?"
At the same time, the H.B.Co. decided to move their warehouse to the Hudson's Bay present day location, on Main Street (since closed ) in order to compete favourably with the independent stores.
  • "Did the formation of the Main Street as the business centre mean the doom of the Nipigon Trading Post?"
After all the Main Street commercial area now even contained the First School house with J.J. Robinson as the First Teacher. By 1090, the H.B.Co. transferred its headquarters to Fort William leaving its retail sale shop in the blossoming village of Nipigon, but terminating its fur trading post at the present- day dock.

So ended another Chapter and another Era.

But, before this Era had ended, another Era and Chapter had begun by the railways.

In 1904 the Trans-continental Rail Road was begun.
  • "What role was Nipigon to have in this venture?"
Surely the building of the Nipigon Tramway, a railway from Nipigon to South Bay, would provide opportunities for the residents and merchants.

The building of the first permanent Catholic Church in 1906 in Nipigon gave another indication of the permanence of the community. We must assume that this feeling of a community must have motivated the good residents of Nipigon to petition a judge in order that an election could take place. On the evening of January 10, 1909, the First Council meeting was held in the school house. One must wonder what prompted William McKirdy to become the First Reeve, or, J. Ashly Fife to be one of the Councillors.
I'm sure what motivated our First Town Father to run for office, also has motivated all subsequent reeves.

After the incorporation of the Township of Nipigon in 1909, more precise records were kept. The Historian could start other chapters:
  • Early 1900's Finns arrive in Nipigon in great numbers
  • 1900? Coca Cola Bottling plant opened in Nipigon
  • 1918 Spelling change of Nepigon to Nipigon
    Hydro station at Cameron Falls started
  • 1923 First Lutherann Mission service held
  • 1925 Nipigon's first Dairy operated by A. Maatta opens
  • 1929 C.P.R. station built to replace original
  • 19?? First phones in Nipigon
  • 1937 Nipigon River Highway Bridge opened
  • 1941 Large Forest Fire destroys two of Nipigon Dairies.
  • 1943 O.P.P. Detachment opened in Nipigon
  • 1947 Completion of Nipigon's Consolidated School
  • 1948 Building Pine Portage
    Nipigon Red Cross Hospital built
  • 1950 First Fire Truck for Nipigon
    First Curling Rink built
  • 1952 First Lutheran Church built
  • 1953 Nipigon has a new Municipal Building
  • 1955 St. Edward School built
    Arena built
    Plywood Mill opens
  • 1956 Nipigon District Memorial Hospital Incorporated
  • 1959 By-law creating Public Library
    Great Flood
  • 1960 Delivery of local dairy milk ceases as Ruoho sells to Palm
  • 196? Dial phones arrive in Nipigon
  • 1964 Greenmantle School built
  • 1967 Public Library moves into its Centennial Project home
  • 1973 Nipigon Museum is Opened
    River drives down the Nipigon River cease

1 comment:

  1. I have a some Nipigon bottles.
    1] coca cola bottling works "Nepigon" ontario - coke bottle.
    2]August Maata dairy bottle with the wooden milk carrying case.
    Been trying to nail down the years of them and this page has got me closer. Thanks Joe Imhoff