Saturday, 10 August 2013


Not dated - Buzz likely wrote this in 1981 as in the 70's  Donnie Evans had coined the phrase "Nipigon - of all places"  It still pops up even though Nipigon has gone through times of being "Nestled in Nature" to the current brand  "The Natural Edge".

By L. M. "Buzz" Lein

During the late and unlamented ice age, ice to the depth of a mile and a half piled up over the land of Nipigon.  About the only good thing about it was the climate was most discouraging to the blackflies; mosquitoes; sandflies; deer flies and horse flies.  Otherwise, Mother Nature did a snow job on a grand scale.  Over a period of millions of years the area was scratched, ploughed, shoved, pushed and squashed.  All our best dirt was shoved away to the south and is only now coming back via television.

The ice advanced and melted repeatedly.  At one time, things were so bad, that if you lived in Chicago, you would have had to carry water about 150 miles because that was how far the water was from the shoreline. It would have served you right for living in that place, because Chicago is a word from the Ojibway and means skunk.

About 10,000 years ago, give or take  a few days, somebody got tired of the erratic behaviour of these piles of ice and decreed that, as of at once, there was going to be a change.  The temperature increased dramatically in both Fahrenheit and Centigrade degrees.  That huge pile of snow and ice cubes turned into floods of melt-water.  There were horrible floods and mud all over the place.  The water went wherever it could find a place to go.  There were probably as many as 8 outlets from Lake Nipigon to Lake Superior to the south.  One of these routes follows closely the route selected for Highway 11 from Orient Bay, Ontario to Highway 17 at Nipigon.

The water flowed all over the place. There were creeks, rivulets, rills and rivers in places you wouldn't believe.  It was the best of times for mud turtles, frogs and small boys and girls.

After the big melt had been under way for a sufficient period of time, some immigrants showed up from south of the border down Minnesota way.  These fellows liked all the mud and water, and not having anything else in particular to do and being short of work -time to qualify for Unemployment Insurance, just stayed around to see what they could see.  We don't really know much about these guys.  They were here during the period when Lake Superior was considerably higher. They left behind few artefacts along the 800 foot contour level.  A few artefacts are occasionally found on the site of the oldest glacial beach just below the terminal moraine on which McKirdy Avenue was built.
(ed.- that's a street in Nipigon)

Some forty-odd years ago when Railway Street was being built and in the area closest to the Nipigon River, the construction workers discovered that they had cut through either an ancient cemetery or a well-lived-in camp site. The Look-out on Railway Street was then ( in glacial melt time) at the water's edge.  The construction supervisor saved all the copper artefacts found and is supposed to have sent them to the R.O.M. in Toronto where they got lost in the shuffle. (ed. - No artefacts have ever been located in any museum - and we have searched both by letters and in person)

Meanwhile, the water level in Lake Superior was down again.  Cliffside Cemetery and Front Street are both on that geological curiosity known as the Nipissing Beach. It has been accurately dated at 4,000 years old.  In 1981 it is approx. 100 feet above the present 602 foot level of Lake Superior. (ed. - talking above sea-level) It will be higher in the future years because this area is still recovering from the pushing down that it got from the glaciers.  It will be rising about 50 centimetres per 100 years.  So, along with the price of groceries, cars, houses, gas, taxes and clothing, even the ground is going up.  It's a good thing the ground is rising, else there would be no place for either the cemetery or Front Street.

About the middle of July, 1500 B.C. the local geography had reached a point when it refused to change anymore, so now what you see is like it was.  This means that Nipigon country is a young and immature country.  The glacial scars are everywhere.  Lake Nipigon and its watery tributaries are also young, geologically speaking.  In their present state they are only some 5000 years old.  Just think.  It only took us about 100 years to ruin both the lakes and the tributaries to say nothing of Lake Superior.

From 1500 B.C. to 1500 A.D. life in the land of the Nipigon was ho-hum.  Small bands of Indians camped on the big lakes in the summer; broke up in family sized groups for the winter sports.  In the winter they kept warm mostly by chasing caribou and trapping smaller animals so they could use their pelts to keep them warm.  The animals did not think highly of this when they thought about it at all.  In this same period there were Indians from Lake Nipissing who trekked north to Lake Nipigon for the summer and returned to the sunny south in the fall to harvest whatever crops came up from whatever they planted before they left for the Nipigon.

About this time - 1500 A.D. - north central Ontario was probably Cree country.  To the west of Lake Nipigon, the people were probably Assiniboine. At this early date there was evidence that the Ojibway were on the move, coming into the area from the south-east.

No matter where the people lived, the tools and implements that they needed to survive were made of stone.  They either had to make these or do without.  Spear points, arrowheads, knives, scrapers, pot-smoothers, drills, awls - they made them. Much of it was done artistically.

The writing stops here.

It may seem in the air to a reader, but this is more or less what Buzz would be saying as he toured visitors through the Archaeology Room of our first Nipigon Historical Museum on Second Street.
The visitors would then look over the displays of our "Pre-history Exhibit".
These artefacts survived the fire of 1990 but our new Nipigon Historical Museum on Front Street has display cases rather than rooms.

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