Saturday, 11 April 2015




APRIL 4, 1977

Colonel D. H. C. Mason

…Toronto, Ontario

Dear Sir;

I have but this day been told by the Archives of Ontario that the above is the address of the Mason who travelled Lake Nipigon and presumably the Nipigon River in 1907.

1907 is a long time ago but I have a tape recording of an interview with a chap in Guelph who was in Nipigon in 1907. About ten years old I would imagine.

However, I am retired to this place after spending more than 40 years in the more remote area of Canada but nearly 35 of them on the North Shore of Lake Superior and on the shores of Lake Nipigon.

About ten years ago I became interested in the History of Nipigon and the Nipigon area when it became apparent that no one knew anything about it. In that time I have gathered a tremendous amount of information ( for this area, that is ) but am short of turn-of-the-century information. In fact the history of Nipigon is everywhere but in Nipigon.

The Archives people have told me about a diary that is on microfilm and about  many photographs that they have (?) or copies thereof. I may be able to get a microfilm copy of the diary but I have no access to a microfilm reader. Hopefully, I may be able to see these photos but I won’t be getting very many capies. They want $1.50 each!

If you are the right Mason, it would be real good if you could oblige with a cassette taping of your memories of Nipigon and the Lake Nipigon. I am only interested in Nipigon town – Nipigon River – Lake Nipigon – Jackfish River area – at this moment.

Any information that you may let me have will end up in the historical files of the Nipigon Museum of which I am the summertime Curator.

I am also in communication with a young woman who was on Lake Nipigon in 1910. She seems to be in remarkable physical condition.

If you would like to communicate with me, I am at ….

Yours truly

L.M. Lein

For reference – Mr. Robt. Loughlin, Ontario Forest Industries


L.M. Lein to Mrs. D.H.C. Mason, Toronto

April 28, 1977

Dear Madam;

I was so pleased that you answered the letter I wrote.  In the process of getting historical information,  I write many many letters without getting that many answers.

The Rose Park area seems to have an affinity for people who have known the north. We have Mrs. Norman Grace who, if she wasn’t born in Nipigon, Ontario, lived there in her early years. My records indicate members of her family being there before 1910. They ran a boarding house and it is quite probable that your late husband might have enjoyed a meal there in 1907.

Also on Rose Park …, young Paul Dandaneau lives. I don’t suppose that I should call him “young” but I do that to distinguish between him and his father who was  Superintendent of Ontario Hydro’s Cameron Falls development on the Nipigon River in the early 1920’s.

From the people in the Archives, I have received a few words about the diary – sounds more like a day-book – and a very brief comment about the photos that they have. All other things equal, I will be going to the Archives to have a look at the photos and read the diary.  From the names quoted by the Archives, some of the descendants of these people who are still in the Nipigon area are going to read with  much interest what I will be writing  after I have seen the material.

What I would like to have is a thumbnail biography of Col. Mason and a photo of him from the 1925.  This material will be in the historical files of the Nipigon Museum.  It is true that there are probably pictures of him in the Archive collection but I am familiar with pictures like these ( got many myself) and they rarely show the  character of the person in whom we are interested.  It would be of great interest to know what impelled Col. Mason to make a trip like this in 1907.  Ordinary men didn’t make trips like these away back then.  It took stamina, nerve and a fair amount of money that was worth a lot more then than now.  And in those days they had no fly dope to ward off the winged fighters.

Anyway it would be most gracious of you if you would send the photo and the biography to us. I will be herein Midland until the first week of June.  After that I will be at the Nipigon Museum.

Yours truly

L.M. Lein




Col. Mason trip to Hudson’s Bay via Lake Nipigon 1907

Typed script as read off his diary which is in the Archives of Ontario, 77 Grenville Street, Toronto

Account 4014, MS 143 (micro film)

Mason was no ordinary tourist.  Before he even took this trip he had it all plotted out.  He had a complete list of things that he took with him and nothing was overlooked.

He had some canoeing experiences somewhere, because he had ordered his canoes to be built so that a tump line could be used to help the portaging of them.  Apparently, it was something new in the Nipigon District in 1907.

It was possible that Mason’s trip was a graduation present because he had just graduated from S.P.S. at the University of Toronto.  He must have been a member of a family that was a little more affluent than most, because in 1907 you just didn’t do things like making a trip to Hudson’s Bay via Lake Nipigon.

In the true sense of the word what Mason kept was a day book and not a diary.  HE was good at reporting names and conditions.  

What follows now is a transcript of Mason’s day book as read into a tape recorder by me on May 16, 1977 and typed the end of May and early June.

By L. M. (Buzz) Lein, May31, 1977

Wed. July 24, 1907

9:30 P.M. left Lake St. Joseph for Perry Sound by C.N. O with most outfit. Expected to find William Whitney Lailey, hereafter known as Whit, on the train but didn’t. Put up at Mansion House. Next Morning.

Thurs. July 25, 1907

Went down to ferry, intending to go over to the depot harbour but met Whit on the dock. He had come up by an earlier train and had gone to the depot the night before and had just returned.  The Ottawa (steamer), Capt. Birnie, was , he said, not in port. Decided to take everything over there and wait for her hoping that someway, we should be able to get a passage on her or someother freight boat.  Went to see the O’Gormans and spent the afternoon helping Mrs. O’Gorman and Mrs. Westcot, the English Church minister’s wife, prepare ‘the Hall” for an ice cream festival.  In the evening, attended the festival.

July 26, 1907

Got up expecting to see the Ottawa in the harbour, but she didn’t arrive until about one o’clock.  Mrs. O’Gorman laid siege to the Captain and, in the evening, having suffered heavily from a second bombardment and some sharpshooting of the Doctor O’Gorman’s , he capitulated. We are to go aboard tomorrow morning. Had tea at the Westcots by the way.

July 27, 1907

Went down to truck all our stuff to the Ottawa.  Got the last load aboard just before she sailed.  Repacked it all. Everything O.K. except the bags Michie used in packing. They were ridiculously flimsy.  The two Butterworth girls, Nellie and Agnes, from Depot Harbour are going up on a pass.  They are quite nice, the Captain is a corker and the whole crew could scarcely be improved  on.  All together, we have landed forcibly on our feet.

July 28, 1907

Woke up to find ourselves going up the Sault River.  It gets very pretty as the Sault itself is neared.  Locked through about 11 o’clock. Weather sunny and showery by turns. Sat up on the bridge with the Captain and the girls watching things;  the navigation of the channel was might interesting.  In the afternoon it rained off and finally we ran into a fairly heavy fog bank.  The Captain told us a short story of his life.  He has a farm near Sarnia, where Mrs. Birnie, the second , hangs out. He is a big solid older Scotchman, quite jollier and is as kind hearted as any man I ever saw.  There being no room vacant for us, we are living very comfortably in the hold.  A corner of one hatch is up for light and air and there is plenty of room.

July 29, 1907

When we got up Isle Royale was just in sight. Packed our stuff and came up on deck to watch things. A most gorgeous morning – clear and a light breeze.  We were passed by the C.P.R. Steamer Manitoba and the Plummer racing to Port Arthur. The latter is the fastest freighter on the Lakes and had gained two hours on the Manitoba after leaving the Sault.  Took two photos of the party and watched Thunder Cape which is certainly grand.  Docked at Port Arthur at noon, trucked our stuff up to the C.P.R. Station.  Nobody about and he refused to do anything for us. Made a few purchases in town, finally got our things checked and went over to Ft. William where we found the girls and Captain Birnie and said goodbye to them. Got our hair cut.  Hunted up Mr. Jarvis the C.P. appraiser, at the laying of the cornerstone of the new English church – St. Paul’s. He very kindly came into town with us, and introduced us to the Hudson’s Bay Co. manager who cashed father’s check for $150 giving us $100 in the form of a letter of credit on the Hudson’s Bay Co. posts.  Looked up John Chisholm, now a balding practitioner in Fort William. Had dinner at the new Avenue hotel with John and Mrs. John and Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis.  Heard the Ft. William side of the Port Arthur Fort William disputes.  Went over to Port Arthur met Glen Macdougall who had a pretty fair practice there.  Heard what fools the Fort Williamites were.  Train late so went over to the club and pow wowed with Glen.  Train at 12:00. Reached Nipigon at 3 o’clock, eastern time and put up at the hotel.

July 30, 1907

Wakened by the porter at 8 o’clock.  After breakfast hunted up the McKirdys and the Hudson’s Bay Co. Stores. Mr. McKirdy is in Port Arthur and Barker  the Hudson’s Bay Company manager not up yet.  Neither canoes nor Indians have arrived.  Had tracers sent after canoes. Later saw Barker and on his advice wired E.O. Taylor a chief at Mattawa. He replied “Indians have not yet arrived.”  Whit up for lunch.  Made a few purchases at McKirdy’s . Met Mrs. McKirdy and the two boys, George and John. Latter was at St. Andrews last winter. Nice people. The hotel pretty sad. $2.50 per day.  Decided to camp across the river but were driven out by mosquitoes and blackflies. Accepted kind invitation to stay with the McKirdy’s for the night.

July 31, 1907

Got our tent made mosquito proof with cheesecloth. Made more purchases and repairs.  Met Mr. McKirdy who returned durning the night – very nice man.  Stayed for lunch. The weather both yesterday and today has been most peculiar.  At times the sky is quite clear, and usually is quite bright but during each day half a dozen more or less heavy showers of rain have fallen. (After lunch loaded what we required of our stuff into one of McKirdy’s 18 foot canoes and paddled down to a place just above the Picture Rocks just at the mouth of the river on the east side where there is an old landing for pulpwood.  Camped there and found flies scarce and wood plenty.  Had a leisurely meal, trying out our new outfit.  The baker worked well and made some nice biscuits, were visited after dinner by Stewart McKirdy and a couple of friends who were on the Grand Trunk Pacific staff. Here Whit tried to fish  but unsuccessful.  Scenery here very pretty.  Thickly wooded with medium sized Spruce and Balsam with a few Birch and Poplars and Cedars. Red perpendicular cliffs of considerable height showing here and there. The river here is about a half mile wide and the C.P.R . runs along the other side close to the water; It crosses the river just above the village.

Aug. 1, 1907

Weather fair. Have breakfast and lunch in one, and paddled up to Nipigon. Got Mr. Barker, the Hudson Bay Factor to wire Biscotasing and see if by chance any of the Indians recommended by Ken Ross were available.  Found they were not. Mr. McKirdy however, has a man, Joe Martin, who is a good full blooded Indian, speaks English, has been   over the route, has a son who is alright and who would come with him. Paddled back;  had a bang up dinner and sat around the fire singing “Jap?” and other songs for awhile.

August 2, 1907

There being a heavy north wind, we paddled across the river and walked to Nipigon on the railway tracks for a change.  No one gave us a … Walked around the country a little, ate a lot of oranges and chocolate and walked home.

August 3, 1907

Paddled around the point to the Picture Rocks. Rather interesting.  A high wall of Red Rock rises from the water with a ledge five or six feet above this there is a row of hieroglyphics in rather faded red; not very different from the colour of the rocks, but easily seen when one noticed.  There are a couple of canoes, a number of crosses, lines and dots etc. and a queer looking buffalo or something with a number of dots after it or in front.  The figures are about four to ten inches high. Paddled up to Nipigon and back.  Canoes expected anytime.  Got a letter from Peterborough Canoe Company to say that they were having them traced from that end and the agent here , a very decent man, is doing all he can, I think.

Aug. 4, 1907, Sunday

While washing dishes, we noticed quite a number of small fishes off the dock and tried them with flies.  They jumped to perfection at a brown hackle and we landed a dozen – eight of which ran over half a pound and were worth keeping.  About two o’clock the two McKirdy boys came in from the Bay. They had gone out before we were up to try the fishing up a certain small stream to the east and came back with a half dozen trout averaging two pounds.  They stayed and had dinner with us and we all paddled or rather sailed up the Nipigon together. Whit feeling rather groggy chills and things so we were not sorry when Mr. McKirdy insisted on our staying for the night. We got Whit to bed under about a dozen blankets at once.  I listened for an hour or two  to interesting tales of the river by the McKirdy family , specially Mr. McKirdy. [William} ed.

Aug. 5, 1907

Up at six o’clock (a.m.) after a sleepless night with young John McKirdy, one quarter of whose bed I attempted to occupy.  Pouring rain. After breakfast helped Mrs. McKirdy wash the dishes. The Indian maid having gone home over Sunday and not yet having turned up on account of the rain. Judge Bun and two other Americans are due today. The whole McKirdy family is busy getting their outfit ready for them. Just after lunch they arrived by train and in due time started up the river with four big canoes and eight Indians. The Judge is 78 years old and has come here for three weeks every summer for years.  He was as keen as a ten year old boy. We hung about all day fixing up our stuff, helping the McKirdys and reading  “Moosiva of the Boundaries”. Whit slept until noon and is much better now.  Tried to have dinner at the hotel but were kidnapped by Mr. McKirdy. After dinner , Whit played tennis for a while to the admiration of the local populace and then we paddled down to camp.

Aug.6, 1907

Rained hard during the night but cleared off about eight. Had breakfast and lunch in one, did a little work to our outfit and paddled up to town. Our canoes are between Chapleau and White River and the agent has wired White River to have them expressed on from there if they are not likely to be sent right through. They should be along the day after tomorrow. Oh crushing blow! Joe Martin has backed down and refused to come with us.  Mr. McKirdy doesn’t know of anyone nearer than Lake Nipigon and can’t be sure of anyone there though he knows some good men there who should be available.  …Clarke, a mail carrier for Revillon Bros. and he has a corking good man, a white man, Jack McKecknie, who gave us a few minutes of very instructive conference. On the strength of what he told us, we got Barker the Hudson’s Bay Co. manager here to wire Missinaibi to see if  they could send us two good men. Have not yet heard reply. We intend to get to the Bay if it is at all possible, weather much milder.



Aug. 7, 1907

Gorgeous morning, though we had a shower during the night.  About ten a breeze from the south sprang up. Spent morning much as yesterday plus a little experimental cooking. Paddled up to town about 2:30 p.m. The agent says our canoes should arrive tomorrow. Saw Mr. Barker. The answer he got from Missinaibi was “Sorry, no men were available.” Got word of two good men, McLaren and another  one from Fort William who went around this year with the officials who pay the treaty money.  They went in near Dinorwic, down the Albany and up by Missinabi. Wired the Indian agent at Fort William to see if they could be got. Saw a party off up the river. Leach, the Chief Fire Ranger of the Reserve (Nipigon Forest Reserve)ed. With a couple of his men, the local Dr. Bryan, a lad in the Grand Trunk Pacific office, Cairns, was going up for a holiday and four girls – Mrs. Bryan, a daughter of Leach’s and some others – they are all going up to Nipigon House on the steamer(Ombabika) for  a week. Paddled home and had a bang up dinner; sat around the fire until driven in by rain about 11:30 p.m.  This has been the finest day we have had yet, bright and warm with a nice breeze from the south. Warmer weather is bringing the mosquitoes back. We have to smoke the tent out every night.

August 8, 1907

It must have rained nearly all night, but not hard, the tent was quite dry but the mosquitoes got in in spite of us.  Paddled up to Nipigon in the afternoon. The agent promises our canoes to-night. Hung around until they arrived about nine o’clock p.m. The railway people have handled them pretty roughly.  The stern of the upper one was cracked in one place.  The Peterborough people, have placed the bow and stern tharts about a foot and a half too near the center.  Alright otherwise and much admired by the populace.  Paddles quite satisfactory. Stayed at the McKirdy’s for the night.

August 9, 1907

Puttered away most of the day at the canoes repairing the damage, moving the thwarts and putting in straps to hold extre paddles, axe handles and fishing rods. About four o’clock Stewart called to say Mr. McKirdy had a guide for us.  It turned out to be Andrew Alexie (Andrew Lexie). Mr. McKirdy’s  best man who had just come in from Long Lake, where he had been to get canoes for the “French” company. Mr. McKirdy thinks we could not have got a better man in this part of the country.  He is very reliable, speaks good English, is a rattling good canoeman and keen on the trip.  He went up to the Albany (Fort Hope) once by this route with Mr. McKirdy.  Frank Buscher, a young man but recommended by Mr. McKirdy will make second man being the best available.  We are lucky to get Andrew and he will manage Frank all right. He is busy tonight getting his things ready.

August 10, 1907

Intend to start today or bust. Got Andrew at the canoes. Went over the outfit with him.  Wrote to the Peterborough Canoe Company to make claim for damages to the canoes estimated them at $10.00 Wrote Christofferson about the Indians mentioning Watson Bains proposed visit to his post. Asked him to send the railway I sent him to Gerald Campbell.  Wrote E.O. Taylor to stop the Indians, if necessary and send the tickets to Gerald and wrote to tell him so. Wrote an account of our doings to father.  Finally got everything packed and left Nipigon after a tender farewell to the McKirdy’s at 4:30 P.M.  Paddled through Lake Helen and up the river about three miles and camped in an Indian clearing on the left bank about six o’clock.  A good place except for a half dozen cows each which is blessed with a bell and a deep interest in our tents. Turned in at 10:30 mighty glad to have got started at last. Rain fell after dinner.

August 11, 1907

It rained and thundered off and on during the night but cleared by the time we got up at six thirty a.m.  Hot off at 8:30 a.m. Hope to do better hereafter.  Paddled up against a fairly swift current reaching Camp Alexander at 10:15 a.m. Passed a party of tourists coming down and at the portage met Mr. and Mrs. Hobbs.  Americans who left Nipigon a half hour before us.  Took a little over two trips on the portage which is not long and leads to a little stream [ Fraser Creek L.M.L.] tributary to the Nipigon on the right bank(?).  Up this stream about a quarter of a mile we took the long portage at 11:15 a.m. We left Frank here to get our lunch ready and the rest of us started over with our loads and took them about three quarters of a mile, coming back then for lunch. Wood very wet and scarce and Frank not at all recovered from the good time he has been having in Nipigon, so we didn’t finish lunch until 1:45 p.m. Took the Long Portage, two and a half miles, in three stages which kept us busy until 4:45 p.m.  Whit and I walked over to the rapids near Lake Jessie and they were worth it.  Took a photo of them from a high bluff overlooking them. Andrew and Frank had never seen a canoe portaged with a tump line before and thought that the thwart in the center of the canoe… until we showed them how to use it. They say now that it is a fine arrangement.  Lake Jessie is much like parts of the St. Joseph River.  This part of the country has been burned over and the growth is mostly smallish birch and poplar.  Weather now is fine.  Mild and clear with west wind. Camped 6:30 p.m. the Narrows, on the east side, between Lake Jessie and Maria, just above the swift water. A newly married couple from St. Paul are camped just across the river with two Indians, just across the Narrows. The man came over to see if we had a mosquito net for him from Mr. McKirdy which we didn’t.  Got my first speckled trout – two of them- in the rapids and had them for dinner.  Never tasted better fish.  Turned in at 11 o’clock after inspecting the new moon.

August 12, 1907

Up at 6:30 a.m., rather cloudy but the clouds well broken. Continued so all day and only rained a drop or two once or twice.  Under way at 8 a.m. Split Rock Portage is in one of the finest parts of the river.  Lake Maria narrows down at the north end to a very steep rocky gorge, Caribou Mountain being on the right side. An immense wall of reddish rock with birch etc. scattered over it and a fringe of spruce  along the top. A quarter of a mile up, the rapids occur, being split in two by a towering rock.  Photographed the west rapids from below.  The clouding prevented further photographing. Began the Portage on the west bank at 9:30 and finished at 9:50. The next portage was Island Portage, over an island. Reached there at 10:30 and left at 11 o’clock. Our first small accident – Andy dropped our canoe and dented the side on a rock. Applied a little stop leak and will put a wooden patch in later.  Never saw such a batch of Juneberries  (Saskatoons?lml)  , stopped there for a while, while all hands filled up on them. At 11:20 reached Pine Portage, one and a half miles.  A tourist party was just leaving there coming down.  Found a very surly man there in charge of a team and wagon who demanded three dollars to take our stuff over. Dumped the stuff and prepared to add one canoe when the man objected saying that would be another load.  Told him to go to blazes and dumped the stuff out again.  Andy and Whit started over the first half of the portage while Frank got lunch and I fished.  No fish to be seen.  Whit and Andy came back with the boss of the team, who gave the surly man blazes, and induced him to take the canoe.  Our friends of last night arrived. They are very green and can’t make much out of their Indians. Ask us to get them information about camps etc.  After lunch, to which Andy , with our consent offered an unaccepted invitation to the surly man loaded our stuff on the wagon and crossed the portage.  Half way found Judge Bun’s party encamped and Tony Evans and the Major Bonnycastle, fire rangers, building a log house and photographed them. Finished the portage at 1:40. Little Flat Rock Portage(two hundred and thirty yards) at 2:10. Camp Victoria Portage at 3:15. Finished at 3:50. Andy then brought us up what is known as the backways by means of a couple of  lakes to the east of the river.  Two very short portages, two little lakes and a three quarter mile portage landed us above Virgin Falls on a Bay of Lake Nipigon just 40 miles from Nipigon. Camped there in a magnificent birch and poplar forest with Revillion Bros steamer in sight.  After a much needed dinner, Andy and I paddled over to fish but fell in with Leach, Dr. Bryan and Cairns party who were very comfortably camped there. They all agree that Andy is the best man in the neighbourhood.  They are going up on the steamer on Wednesday and as it is blowing great guns, I daresay we are too. To bed at 11:30 p.m. as we don’t have to do much tomorrow.

August 13, 1907

Up at 8:30 with a cold west wind blowing.  Got out for breakfast in sweaters and warm clothes. After breakfast, we puttered around camp, washing clothes, dubbing shoe pacs, cooking etc. while Andy and Frank went over to the rapids to try and get some fish.  They returned with two pike ( or pickerel as we call them in Muskoka) which we had for lunch.  After lunch, Whit tried to shave with Frank’s razor which he sterilized carefully.  He also boiled the brush whereupon all the bristles came out.  Nothing daunted, he went ahead with the family nail brush and tar soap which left a sticky layer on his face.  Finding the razor was unable to plow through this, he sharpened it up on a whetstone and then after several attempts managed to clear off a square inch on one cheek.  The effort, however, was too much for him and he sank fainting to the ground.  He has since pacified rank for the loss of his brush by showing him how much sharper the razor is now.  Photographed Whit shaving and also the camp.  Had a visit from Cairns who offered to lend Whit a real razor. Paddled over to the steamer where we found half a dozen fire rangers building a log shack.  They are camped down below the falls on the west bank.  Walked down to the falls, taking a photo of the rapids, above the falls.  One of the falls from the brink, and one of Whit fishing with the falls and fire ranger’s camp in the background. About 6:15 p.m. our Indians appeared paddling upstream.  They had visited a camp and got a tin full of minnows – shiners- Andy rigged up two hooks on a line, one of which he put through the head  and the other trough the body.  We stood on the point below the rapids and threw the minnows into the swift water letting the line play out very fast as it went down. At the second cast, he hooked a beautiful trout that weighed five and seven eighth pounds an hour after catching. He was wildly excited and ran up to the  camp to show it off and to weigh it.  They had no scales there but Mr. Leach asked him for the skin. We got four big pickerel, one of which we threw back. The other three weighed six pounds.  Unfortunately, Whit and Frank had gone back to camp with my Kodak but I photoed Andy and his fish on return there.  Had trout for dinner and it just went around. The Indians liked it best boiled but Andy fries it very well.  About 9:30 Whit and I paddled over to the camp where they were all sitting around the fire singing.  There are five Varsity men among the rangers, al being unrecognizable on account of their beards. The part reminded me very much of the old Muskoka photographs.  Robinson of S.P.S. with whom I have worked all year in the lab, didn’t recognize me nor I him.  After a few Varsity yells etc. , we came home and turned in very late – midnite.  Fortunately the mail is not arrived so the boat will not be able to start before about ten o’clock.  Beautiful night. Clear and no wind. Almost feel like paddling up but we can’t afford to be laid up.

August 14, 1907

The mail didn’t arrive last night.  We had lots of time, so we got up at eight-fifteen.  After breakfast of rice flapjacks and pickerel which was the best yet. We packed up etc. and went over to the steamer about noon.  The mail arrived but we waited for Donald Murchison, the Hudson’s Bay Co. factor at Nipigon House , who finally arrived with three canoes.  Photographed him in one of them. Also the Leach, Cairns and Bryan party on the stern of the Ombabika.  The weather is beautiful no wind. Almost wished we had taken a chance with the canoes, but it is just as well as we cannot afford to take chances.  Had a pretty fair meal on the boat.  Finally started at 3:30 p.m. The Islands around the river are pretty and this place should be a second Muskoka sometime.  Quantities of beautiful birch.  Found quite a sea running from the mouth west on the open lake.  Glad we didn’t paddle.  Murchison has about seventeen of his Indians on board and a lot of freight.  Old Wilson, the oldest Indian at Nipigon House is a great looking old card.  Writing rather difficult on account of the vibration from the single cylinder engine.  This is the first boat on Nipigon Lake. She was built here, the boiler etc. being hauled up in winter – an awful job. The United States Steel Company have another boat called Pewabic.

Reached Nipigon House at 8:15 in broad daylight.  Old Donald Murchison having a very credible load of Scotch, (and also Leach), was very excited over his arrival and insisted on the whistle being blown continuously to rouse his people, some of whom began  firing off their guns in the neighbouring wigwams.  He goes out once or twice a year and makes the most of his time. He has been here for seventeen years and has a very pretty post, with large poplars around his house which he planted himself.  Great time  getting the boat into the warf.  A wild crowd of Indians met us and we went up to the store and ate mixed candy.  Went over and visited the chief’s wigwam.  The Indians here have no tents.  Saw a couple women making fish nets.  Bark wigwam very primitive but comfortable and most picturesque.  Birch snow shoe frames drying outside. Ojibway pattern.  The Indians here are a weird looking crowd.  Not physically equal to Grand Lakers.  Use flint and steel and flintlock guns somewhat. Slept in dining salon, one cot between us, which, by toss, fell to me.

August 15, 1907

Waked at 5:30 by the cook getting breakfast. He is John Michelson, son of the old man at Nipigon.  Born north of Moose Factory, gave us some information about Moose and Albany.  The captain is Jack Hunt, a fine man, quiet and the coolest I ever saw, knows the lake like a book. (Cold damp morning, very low clouds; rained during the night).  Got away at six o’clock.  A beautiful bay surrounded by some high islands, heads of some of them in the clouds.  To the west, Barn Island is tabletopped.   Grand Trunk Pacific cache; two cache keepers a couple of fire rangers in tents and across the bay a couple pairs of wigwams where the Indians are making canoes.  Got some fresh vegetables for the boat – nice peas, lettuce, carrots and radishes.  The channel is very narrow as with most of these rivers there is a sand bar.  To turn around, we had to run up of the river (Wabinosh?) to an expanse.  Passed close to the north Barn Island from which point it is so shaped. A magnificent rock. Wish the light was better for a photo. Reached Mud River at 10:45, began to paddle ashore to see the Grand Trunk Pacific cache, but the two cache keepers and two fire rangers came off to the steamer so we returned.  Left 11:15.  In crossing to Ombabika Bay got the full sweep of the eastern side of the Lake and were glad not to be paddling. S.W. wind and a big sea.  The captain ran in close to the south peninsula of Ombabika Bay and we took our canoes and after bidding a tender farewell to the Ombabika  and photographing her. We paddled along in the lee of the point as far as possible and then struck across for the mouth of the river.  Found it by the black water, that of the Bay being muddy. Got rather wet coming across but no harm done. Andrew knows his business and is not afraid of a little sea. Stopped at the ache at the mouth of the river to empty out water and met a mighty fine lad – Judras – from Ottawa. French and most cheerful  and decent man I ever met.  He is all alone as his partner is having a holiday.  The fire rangers have gone up to the post. Accepted an invitation to a meal. Excellent bread – his own make.  Gave him our new net and he gave us twenty feet of good light net which delighted Andrew.  Departed at 5:15 with many handshakes and promised to meet in Toronto.  The Ombabika is not a large stream, not much more than 100 feet wide, deep and slow current.  The banks are thick wooded to water.  Frequent mild, small rapids. The geological survey map shows these very well.  First to the left three or four hundred yards and then one to the right about the same length which we left at 7:30 although Andrew wanted to camp. Paddled till 8 o’clock before ( passed three Indians at the first portage, from whom Andrew got some information), we found a place to camp on a small island in a wide part of the river, scarcely a lake, river this far very pretty.  The monotony of the shores is relieved by outcrops of grey rock. Flies and mosquitoes are very bad.  Couldn’t bother coking anything.  Managed to keep them out of the tent. The weather is very warm.



August 16, 1907 (They are on the Ombabika River)

The river after this very crooked and monotonous muskeg shores, very large tamaracs and spruces near the river and smaller ones inland. Passed the Grand Trunk Pacific line. Camped at 7:10 on a spot of dry land, probably near Pigeon Lake. Old Indian camp.  Indian inscription on bark hanging on bush by water. Neither of the Indians can read it.

August 17, 1907

Made portage at 11:00 o’clock and found Pete Hot and six other Indians just finishing the portage.  They are coming from Mud Lake to Nipigon House on some business  for Murchison.  Whit and I gave them  P.C hone(?)  home(?)

August 18, 1907 is Sunday and they are getting farther up the Ombabika all the time. At 10:20 a.m. , they came to a portage across a horseshoe of rapids.  And here they found  Thomas Jim, Mr. McKirdy’s trader with two men.  He is a Cree from Fort Hope.  He is married and lives at Nipigon. He is a very lively individual, about twenty-seven, and evidently a cracking good man.  He greeted Andy with piercing yells and much hand waving, and on request gave him much valuable information and drew a map from there to the Ogoki. He (Jim) has gone down the Albany over to Moose and returned by Abitibi.

Excerpt: By the way, while sitting around the fire at Summit Lake, a night hawk persisted in sitting down with us.  Frank said that if you hit, or tried to hit one of these birds, there would be thunder, nevertheless he persisted in throwing sticks at it.  Of course he attributes the present storm to this. At the same time we heard a partridge drumming continuously after dark. Andy says this means high water in the fall.


August 19, 1907

Excerpt: …at ten o’clock in the morning we passed another small stream coming in from the left and a little while later came upon two young Crees from Fort Hope, with their wives. They had stopped for lunch and the women were cleaning fish  and scouring pots. They had a large bark canoe – about three fathoms – painted red.  One man was going to the mouth of the Ombabika for some supplies that he had left there, the other right down to Nipigon and the wives were going along to see the Country…

August 20, 1907

Excerpt: … the Geological Report says that it is four and a half miles from where we are now to the Ogoki.   We reached there at 9:30. It is a pretty river with great lagoons along the north bank.  Saw several poles bearing bear skulls and bundles of bones.  Andy says this is to ensure catching a bear next year. He says they also put up tobacco and other valuables with the skulls.  Near French channel passed a deserted wigwam and soon after beheld the old man in his red handkerchief, head and shoulders appearing above the gunn’ls of a very small and narrowly barked canoe.  Andy hailed him and drew  into the bank for a pow-wow.  He told Andy a little about the channel and stated that he was going to get some moose meat he had left at his old wigwam and offered to give us some.  We gathered that he was living up near the channel.  Whit went along while Andy and I waited. Andy said the old man was his mother’s brother, and didn’t know him, which he considered a great joke, especially since he had forgotten to introduce himself.  The introduction came off when the old gentleman came back, and we received his present of Moose meat and gave him a couple of plugs of tobacco, and a pound or so of flour and a little salt.  The meat looked like mummified leather and we took about two pounds, including bones.  The old man – Kechanee – is over seventy . He lives almost entirely on rabbits and fish, but lately he has had a little flour occasionally from passers by in exchange for meat and fish. He is too old now , to visit a post and get his clothes from the travelling traders… attire almost exclusively in red.

August 21, 1907

Andy discovered some houses a hundred yards back in the bush so we went back and examined them.  Thomas Jim, McKirdy’s trader, had a store there last winter and a couple other families had log shacks near by.  The shacks were very warmly built of round logs, roof and all, plastered over with mud and grass.  There was a wigwam frame beside one, the bark rolled and placed on a scaffolding .  Windows glazed with cotton, roof covered in places with tar paper and log dog houses behind.  Several small snowshoes with frames made of two pieces and twine lacing at the end.

August 22, 1907

We reached Eagle Rock Lake at 4 o’clock. At 5:15 with a good wind from the south west we made a portage into Lake Abazotikichuan.  About half way down we met a party of Indians from Revillion Bros. on their way from the new post at Fort Hope to the Ombabika post. Andy was delighted to see them because one of them was his nephew. All camped together at seven o’clock on a near by point on the west shore of the lake.


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