EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pioneer citizen Elizabeth Holding a 'vital part' of Chapleau development for over 50 years

Elizabeth Holding was "a vital part of the development" of Chapleau for more than 50 years, according to a tribute in the Sudbury Star after she died in 1959.

Although the writer is not named I assume it was Margaret Costello who was writing for the newspaper in 1959 as Chapleau correspondent.

The story notes that St. John's Anglican Church was "blanked with flowers and filled with friends to pay final tribute to one of Chapleau's earliest and well loved residents." The funeral service was conducted by Rev. J.G.M. Doolan, the church's Rector.

Born in England, the daughter of Robert and Louisa Holding, the family arrived in Chapleau in 1890. For the first six weeks until their belongings arrived, "wooden boxes served as tables and chairs while the floor served as beds."

 Her first schooling was in a tent located beside the present Trinity United Church, and continued in the first school house on Pine Street beside the Anglican church rectory. Her teacher there was Miss Charlotte Weller, who would become the wife of G.B. Nicholson, Chapleau's first reeve, and prominent businessman, later a Member of Parliament.

Apparently she was an excellent student as the article notes that "her keen mind absorbed readily what she was taught" and "her school work bore the stamp of care, order and attention " that were evident through the years in her daily living.

Her father, Robert Holding, built a house on Beech Street calling it the Crusoe House, recalling a seafaring experience he had when he was marooned on an island.

On July 1, 1900, she married Charles Frederick Vice, who was an engineer on the CPR. They lived in Crusoe House.

"During the early years of the railroad wrecks were not uncommon. Survivors were brought to Crusoe House for food, shelter and care. There was always room for those in need of help."

Now Mrs. Vice, she started to become active in community affairs and when Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson built St. John's Parish House in 1919  in memory of their son Lorne and his friends who were killed in World War I, (now the Royal Canadian Legion Hall),she and her husband became its supervisors. She also became the librarian.  The building was officially opened in 1920.

Very active in the life of St. John's Church, she sang in the choir, taught Sunday School, and was active in the Women's Auxiliary and member of the Nicholson Bible Class. This class was taught by Mr. Nicholson for more than 25 years, assisted by Mr. P.J. Collins, the father of Charles W. Collins.

In the wider community, Mrs. Vice was a charter member of the Ladies of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Orange Lodge, the Canadian Club and other organizations.

Her father, along with other business ventures, was a prospector with great faith in the future of Chapleau and area and his daughter showed public   spirit and great interest in the growth of the community, the article noted.

Frederick James Annand, a friend of her husband's arrived on the scene, and he and Mr. Vice worked on the construction of some of Chapleau's oldest buildings. Mr. Vice was a stonemason by trade.

Mr. and Mrs. Vice somewhat later moved to Swayze for a for a  time, and a newspaper reporter covering the gold mine story interviewed them. Mr. Annand who had left the area saw it and got back in touch.

In 1942, Mr. Vice died and Mr. Annand once again saw the story. He got in and in 1947, he and Mrs. Vice were married, and moved to the United States, but her life always remained "entwined with Chapleau's development."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Chapleau fire brigade holds fundraisers for dress uniforms in 1962 along with arrival of new fire truck

Margaret Costello was "drifting across town", likely in her Volkswagen, one evening in early 1962, heading for a council meeting which  had been postponed, but discovered a bingo game underway in the Town Hall basement.

Better known as "Maggie" she was the local reporter for the Sudbury Star, and later the Sault Daily Star for many years.

The bingo game in progress downstairs had more people playing then she had seen in a long time, so she went to find out what it was all about.

She asked C.O. 'Olie' Carlson, the township clerk and fire truck driver, "Whose bingo is this?," she asked.

"The fire brigade's", he replied, Margaret wrote in her Sudbury Star column. Just a quick aside. For many years, the township clerk was also the fire truck driver and lived in an apartment above the old fire hall on Pine Street. T.R. Serre and Vern Goldstein, two of the previous township clerks had lived in the apartment.

Margaret chatted with Fire Chief Adam Andrews to find out why the fire brigade was holding a bingo.

The fire chief explained that the bingo, along with  other activities, was to raise funds to provide the firefighters with dress uniforms.

She wrote they would add "distinction to our already outstanding fire brigade by providing members with uniforms, smart and individually tailored."

But, they were not for fighting fires but for special occasions in which they participated. From this beginning in 1962, the fire department members, have been present at so many special occasions and functions in Chapleau, the most recent being the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in World War II on April 9. Thanks to Pat (Purich) Russell for providing me with photos from the Chapleau ceremony at the cenotaph.

In talking with Maggie, the fire chief commented, "And it's not costing the taxpayer a cent", as fundraisers were being held.

Maggie pointed out that the chief had good reason to be proud of the work of this brigade and of the acquisition of a new fire truck which would also mean a saving to taxpayers in the form of lower insurance with better equipment to fight fires.

She complimented the fire brigade on it promptness and efficient performance.

Chapleau township council had approved a new truck and "this monster" arrived by December 1961.

The truck carried a 500 gallon tank, a 625 gallon per minute pump for where water was available, breathing apparatus, hoses, ladders and equipment for firefighters. They spent two days training in the use of the new equipment.

In 1958, Chapleau saw a great improvement in its fire alarm system. The boxes found on many street corners were replaced with a new system installed in the old pumphouse by Bell Telephone. Apparently it was the first in Northern Ontario.

A special phone was installed in the home of all fire brigade members. When the pumper received a call, he went to a special booth and placed call, and provided exact information on the location of the fire. It also determined how many firefighters were available. Also in 1958, Adam Andrews succeeded George Collinson as fire chief.

ERRATA: In my recent column about Prime Minister  Lester Pearson sending telegram to Chapleau telephone operators extending congratulations on their work during the forest fire of 1965, the gremlins were at work. I wrote that acting chief operator was Mrs. Mary "Bowles". Not so! It was Mrs. Mary Bowes, and I apologize for the error. Thanks to her son Bob Bowes, for his email. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Prime Minister Lester Pearson extended congratulations to Chapleau telephone operators, 'unsung heroes' of 1965 forest fire

Prime Minister Lester B Pearson sent a telegram of congratulations to Chapleau telephone operators on their efforts during the forest fire that threatened the community in 1965.

Mr. Pearson, who also served as Member of Parliament for Algoma East which included Chapleau, wrote in the telegram to Mrs. Mary Bowes, acting chief operator, "I shared in the relief I know all of you must have felt when the winds shifted and the rains finally came averting the destruction of Chapleau.

"May I congratulate you personally and the members of your staff for your coolness and bravery.

"You have every reason to be proud of your role in a situation which proved the fortitude of the citizens of Chapleau."

While many Chapleau citizens were being evacuated, the telephone operators remained and were working 24/7 handling a record number of calls on the system which had been in use since 1951 when operator assisted calls replaced the dial system.

The Chapleau Sentinel reported that the telephone operators were "unsung heroes" throughout the fire that ravaged the area and seriously threatened the town.
Operators busy during fire

In turns they "took an hour off here and an hour off there and grabbed something to eat whenever they could" and then rushed back to work.

Mrs. Bowes, who was replacing chief operator Mrs Myrtle Delaney who happened to be out of town on business commented  that the operators "seemed to realize there was a crisis and it must be met".

The newspaper reported statistics for the weekend showing that ordinarily the system would handle about 3000 local calls --- they rose to a "staggering 32159" within the community.

Outgoing  long distance calls would usually be less than 500 on a weekend but rose to 3695 with almost the same number incoming during the forest fire threat.

However, the days of the operator assisted system were numbered as construction was being completed on a new facility at the corner of Pine and Young streets and the community would be returning to a dial system, although long distance operators would still be on duty. The operators worked out of a building on Pine Street at one time the Orange Hall and later the by-law office.
Marcel Bourgeault on left Bonnie (Babin) Desbois shows new equipment

After midnight on December 4, 1965 a switch was thrown and the new system went into effect.

At the official opening Councillor Marcel Bourgeault, the acting reeve, brought greetings and extended congratulations to Bell on the new system and facility.

I have been receiving messages since my column  last week from folks sharing their telephone numbers, and from operators and family members who worked in Chapleau during the 1950s and 1960s. Thank you all so much.

The telegram from Prime Minister Pearson pointed out the importance of the telephone operators during a major crisis in Chapleau. In fact, on a personal basis, their efforts to keep lines of communication open, affected me too. I was working as a newspaper reporter In Toronto, but my mother Muriel E (Hunt) Morris and my grandmothers Edythe Hunt and Lil Morris were in Chapleau. I was able to get through to Mom, and even though they did not evacuate, I was able to stay in touch by phone.

All these years later, I am able to share the story of the "unsung heroes" -- the telephone operators in Chapleau! HAPPY EASTER TO ALL!!  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Going backwards to go forward as Chapleau returns to operator-assisted telephone calls in 1951

Some Chapleau citizens felt the community was taking a step backwards in 1951 when the dial telephone system was replaced with a "common battery operation" where calls were placed through an operator.

The Chapleau Post reported that Chapleau was "believed to be the first town in Ontario to boast a dial telephone system' in 1924 but effective on August 21, 1951, the dials were removed and a manual system installed.

The Chapleau Automatic Telephone Company was formed in 1924 and shares were sold to each subscriber with each required to purchase three shares at $50 each

The newspaper explained that it "may appear like a backward step" but the size of the exchange did not warrant  a large enough dial system to handle the volume of traffic.

By 1950 with 300 subscribers no new ones could be added. The system had reached capacity. Charles W. Collins, secretary-treasurer of the Chapleau Board of Trade announced that negotiations were underway for improvements.

As the operator assisted exchange was being launched, E.M. Patton. president of the Chapleau Telephone System announced: "This new step in the improvement of Chapleau's telephone service will provide more people with a better local and long distance service."

Directions were issued for using the new system which  advising customers to "lift the receiver and give operator the number", be aware that certain numbers were changed and to follow instructions in the new directory.

We did not have a telephone at our house before 1951, but did  shortly thereafter, but at first it was a party line, but in due course we got our own number which was 188. Amazes me how I recall that number more than 60 years later.

A rate increase was met with some opposition but again the Chapleau Post supported it pointing out that it was the first in  more than 20 years in Chapleau, bringing their business in line with present costs of doing business.

The monthly rate for an individual home phone rose to $3.35 from $2.58, while the business rate rose to $5.30 from $3.83.

The telephone company defended the rate increase by pointing out that a central office with new equipment had been established on Pine Street. The telephone equipment had previously been located in the old Town Hall basement but was now in the former  Orange Hall on Pine Street. In later years that became the by-law office. It also noted that it had to keep pace with Chapleau's growth in the 1950s.

Township council approved the rate increase as did the Ontario Municipal Board.

And so, in 1951, Chapleau phone users were able to hear the "cheery voice" of the telephone operators, "Number please."  Mrs. Myrtle Delaney was the chief operator.

This is the first of two articles on the telephone history in Chapleau. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Chapleau Women's Curling Club winds up successful 1959 season with banquet and awards night

The Women's Curling Club wound up their 1959 season with a banquet and award presentation at Renison Hall in St. John's Anglican Church.

President Mrs. D.J. Broomhead reported that it was the best in the club's history. Although there were no outside bonspiels scheduled, there were two senior 'spiels and a colt spiel during the season.

A short note of some historical interest. The first attempt by women to become members was in the mid 1930s but their bid for membership was voted down, and it was not until about 1949 that women were accepted into the club. As in many aspects of Chapleau history, exact dates are hard to confirm, but the women's club had come a long way in its short history.

Readers will also  note that in this column married women are referred to as Mrs., with her husband's first name or initials while the first name is used for single women. This practice continued into the 1990s and was in effect when I taught my first university studies courses in Commuications at College of the Rockies --- but the times they were starting to change!

Back to curling.

Mrs. Broomhead also noted in a Sudbury Star story that while the women polished up on their curling technique the social side of club membership also held a high place.  After the banquet, the members adjourned to her home for a social evening.

Winner of the Leo Racicot Trophy for the first senior bonspiel was a rink skipped by Mrs. Yvon Morin, with Mrs. Gerald Garmes as vice skip; Carol Travers, second and Mrs. Milton Schroeder, lead.

The runner up rink was a rink skipped by Mrs. Romeo Martin; Mrs. Vince O'Hearn, vice skip; Berryl Rowntree, second, and Prudence Beechey, lead.

Second senior bonspiel winner was rink skipped by Mrs. Alf Gervais with Carol 'Babe' Chambers as vice skip; Mrs. Garmes, second, and Mrs. Henry Pellow, lead

The Korpela Trophy for winning the Colt bonspiel was skipped by Carol 'Babe' Chambers, with Berryl Rowntree, vice skip; Mrs. Norman Glennie, second, and Mrs. J.G.A. Burns, lead.

Runner up was rink skipped  by Rita Roussel; Mrs. Leonard Ridstill, vice skip; Prudence Beechey, second, and Mrs. Alf Gervais, lead.

In the election of officers Mrs. Broomhead was returned for another term as president, while Mrs. J.D Macfarlane continued as vice president. Secretary was Mrs. J.G.A. Burns and treasurer Mrs. Leonard Ridstill.

Major renovations were underway at the curling club on Pine Street led by men's club president George Collins. Completed in 1960, artificial ice came in 1962. Curling apparently started in Chapleau during the winter of 1885-86 on a sheet of ice on Lorne Street across from the CPR operations. That later became the site of the "old old arena".  The curling rink on Pine Street opened in 1928.

My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ontario Provincial Police open "modern" headquarters at Chapleau in 1957

A "modern" headquarters for the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) headquarters at Chapleau was officially opened on the outskirts of the municipality  in November 1957, Margaret Costello wrote in the Sudbury Star.

The OPP had an officer stationed in Chapleau for many years prior who either used part of his home as an office, or was located in buildings in the downtown area.

 I still recall visiting Harold Kennedy, (my uncle) when he was the OPP officer in Chapleau in the early 1950s at his office in the building where the Northern Credit Union is today -- he lived in a small room behind the office. (Harold met and married my aunt, Marion Morris, while he was stationed in Chapleau.)

Maggie wrote that the new headquarters housed a courtroom, two offices, a cell block, two car garage, and living quarters  for an officer.

The courtroom did not seem to work out too well, and was moved to the Royal Canadian Legion Hall where provincial court was held on a monthly basis for many years.

However, the cell block replaced the "town jail" located for years below the fire hall. Despite the  new headquarters, the OPP did not replace the municipal police force until 1967 when it was disbanded by the council.
Ron Lewis

Ron Lewis was the officer in charge when the new headquarters was opened, being promoted to Corporal, and remaining in Chapleau until 1971. It became a two officer detachment with the arrival of John Craig. Ron finished his OPP as an inspector located in Kenora.

Although the only highway out of Chapleau in the 1950s, opened in 1949, was Highway 129, the OPP had a huge area to cover as they were responsible for the small communities near Chapleau which were becoming very busy with lumber companies establishing operations throughout the area. They would also travel by CPR to communities west of Chapleau to about White River.

At the official opening of the headquarters, Ontario Attorney General Kelso Roberts pointed out that it came at a time of major construction for the OPP in both Southern and Northern Ontario. Mr. Roberts said Chapleau was one of the "strategic locations.

It also came as Chapleau was experiencing what is often referred to as its "boom years" with expansion by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and lumber companies arriving after the huge forest fire of 1948.

Chapleau Reeve Leo Racicot took the opportunity to push for a highway to Foleyet, and on to Timmins, having a number of provincial dignitaries on hand for the opening.

"It would be a natural tourist route ... around by Timmins, and I am sure it would benefit all concerned," Mr. Racicot said.

Highway 101 to Timmins officially opened in 1962.

Participating in the opening ceremonies from Chapleau were the reeve, Father A. Marchand of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church and Rev. Frank Leigh of St. John's Anglican Church. A dinner was held catered to by the ladies of the Senior WA of St. John's with Arthur Grout as chairman.  Former Chapleau resident E.D. Wilkins, who was now the Crown Attorney was also present.

My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Doug Greig recognized importance of community's cultural history and passing it on to future generations

For almost eight years now, I have been writing a weekly column about the life and times of Chapleau, and although many people have provided research assistance, Doug Greig is surely at the top of my list.

Some years ago, Doug took over providing content for chapleaupubliclibrary.com the successor to a site established by Hugh Kuttner, taking it to the next level as an incredible resource for all of us interested in the history of Chapleau.

The site itself recognizes Doug's enormous contribution in "meticulously digitizing more than 54,000 pages" about Chapleau.

Since learning that Doug had died on March 6. 2017 in a car accident, I have visited the site often, reflecting on the passion Doug had for the community in ensuring that its story will remain alive for generations to come.

I had my first chat with Doug at the 90th anniversary reunion of Chapleau High School in 2012, when he was a member of the committee, and also sitting on the municipal council. He served several terms on council.

Ever since, Doug has responded to any requests for assistance that I needed as I wrote my columns.  I have also accessed information from the web site.

In 2015, when I was home for the launch of "The Chapleau Boys Go To War" which I co-authored with my cousin Michael McMullen, I was chatting with Doug again, and asked if some time he could provide me with  digitized copies of The Chapleau Post and Chapleau Sentinel.

Hours later, before I left town, Doug delivered them to me.

Doug was also of great assistance to Michael and I when we were working on our book. We noted that he provided "incredible research support. Doug seemed to be available 24/7 in responding to requests."

He was also a staunch supporter of the Chapleau Centennial Museum.

Another significant contribution he made to Chapleau's history were his very complete histories of J.E. Martel and Sons Lumber Ltd, A and L Lafreniere Lumber Ltd. and Sheppard and Morse Ltd. all available in Chapleau Trails, edited and published by Dr. William R. Pellow.

I extend my most sincere sympathy to his wife Anne, his family and friends, who have lost one of the community's most passionate citizens ever! However, his legacy will assuredy include his efforts to make its history available to future generations. 

I asked Ian Macdonald if he would contribute his thoughts about working with Doug, and I extend my thanks to him for responding so quickly. Ian attended Chapleau Public and Chapleau High schools, and has a continuing interest in Chapleau and area. He is Professor Emeritus and retired head of the department of architecture at the University of Manitoba.

 Here is Ian:

"Doug Greig recognized the importance of recording the cultural history of the community and the importance of passing those expressions of living from generation to generation.

"Doug’s passion clearly was developing chapleaupubliclibrary.com into the website of choice for anyone seeking any information on the history of Chapleau. This multi layered website provides both information and insight in to the life and times of the community from before the time it was established in 1885 to the present day.

"Doug understood the challenge of posterity and the importance of accuracy. Many of our e-mail exchanges over an article or a photograph were directed at establishing the correct date and proper identification of individuals to make the context of the image as informative as possible.

"Doug also understood that overlaying items of information with personal bias or speculative interpretation of events would ultimately render information useless.  He had excellent editorial instincts but, at the same time, resisted the urge to be judgemental and avoided any personal editorials other than “this might be of interest”.

"During the time I was exploring something for publication, he would continually forward items from the archives that he thought might be relevant or of interest. My most recent exchange of information related to an article that Mike McMullen and I did on the hauling of supplies from Chapleau to the crews building the Canadian Northern Railway at Elsas in 1912. I’m afraid that I’ll always associate that particular story as my last collaboration with Doug.

"I only met Doug in person briefly at the Library in Chapleau on three or four occasions when I happened to be in town. We got to know each other over time through the e-mail exchange of images, articles or archiving protocol.

 "I felt his loss, however, as deeply as if he were a family member as did many colleagues of mine who still research and write about the community. Chapleau has lost an important citizen and highly respected community advocate."

Thanks Ian... My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Chapleau High School Friends Facebook Group indicates great interest in reunion to celebrate 100th anniversary of the school in 2022

CHS Field Day. Dr Karl Hackstetter walking off field on right
When Janice (Corston)  Whitely started a "Chapleau High School Friends" group on Facebook, she was not intending to launch a movement towards a reunion to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Chapleau High School in 2022.

But it happened in short order, as the group passed 2,000 members by Friday March 3 within a couple of weeks. It was still growing as I wrote this column.

In the interests of full disclosure though, I was invited to join and found myself inviting Facebook friends to become members too -- and like Janice, with no thought of a reunion, at least in the beginning.

I chatted with Janice, the daughter of Irene and Charles Corston, about what happened.

She advised that what was "so funny about this" was that she did not intentionally start the group with a thought of a reunion.

"I don't know how it really got started. The fact that it has reached 2,000 people is quite amazing. My take on it is, it must be meant to be.
This building renovated became CHS
"I'm sure many people are interested and would attend. Chapleau was a special place and remains strong in our memories. Solid friendships helped us navigate through were formed there. I am grateful that some of those friendships are still a very important part of my life."

So, although Janice didn't plan to start a movement towards a reunion, she added that the "momentum to make it happen seems strong" given the interest in the Facebook group.

"As in previous reunions I am sure many would love another opportunity to tread those paths and spend time with family and friends who helped create some special memories," she added.

Although the response to the group has been amazing, and great interest has been expressed in having a 100th anniversary reunion five years from now, it is far from a done deal by any means.
1181 CHS Cadet Corps circa 1926. A E 'Gus' Evans on left

Graham Bertrand, who chaired the last reunion on the occasion of the school's 90th anniversary in 2012, and has been involved in all major Chapleau celebrations, and other major events for more than 40 years, and I had a chat about the possibility.

Although Graham is interested, he pointed out that to make it happen will require "old and new blood" who would sit on a committee and make a commitment for five years.

"It took over three years to get the last one done so commitment is a big part of it. Once involved, you can't stop now in the midst of the planning."
The girls of CHS circa 1926

He added that the support of the municipal council would also be required for an undertaking of this magnitude.

Graham noted that to have 2,000 names already is a big plus.

 Graham would not commit to serving as Chair. commenting that "maybe there is someone that wants to chair. I have no problem working with new blood."

But he is interested as always, and "can't self appoint myself," Graham said from Florida where he is on vacation, and was expecting nine family members to join him.
Graham at opening of 2012 reunion. MJ behind him

However, upon his return to Chapleau, further discussions will take place.  Graham says "Keep Smiling!"

Since the group was formed, and interest grew, I have received messages from folks pointing out that not everyone is on Facebook so plans would have to be made to reach beyond social media. Although I use social media, most of my Chapleau friends from my growing up years there are not using it.

In 1994, I taught my first new media course, Writing for New (Social) Media at College of the Rockies, a year before we launched our graduate program in New Media Communications.

Over the past couple of weeks, since Janice invited me to join the Chapleau High School Friends group, I have seen a great example of its positive use, as the membership grew, bringing people together who may not have been in touch for many years -- in fact in my case almost 50 years.Wow!

Let me conclude with a short anecdote about the Chapleau High School Boys Volleyball team who won a championship in the 1979-80 school year. I posted a photo of the team on the group, and in no time at all, many of the players had responded --- they were having a virtual reunion, kidding each other and chatting like they were back at CHS -- including where were their orange jackets!
The Volleyball champs. Names Below

The photo "brings back great memories. Still grateful... Best experience ever," one player commented. One of their fans commented: "A wonderful bunch of guys .. the source of a lot of laughter in my teens..." and much more, all in great fun.

I have included a photo of the volleyball team, and also some from the school's early years. Thanks Janice for the group, and all the best to Graham and those who will work make the 100th anniversary reunion happen. As Graham reminds us, "Keep Smiling". 

Stay tuned for more news. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

THE 1979-80 CHS TEAM --Volleyball champs: Back row from left Steve Cavalier, Dan Morin, Dan Tebbutt, Don Swanson, Rob Serrre, Brad Gilbert, Steve Millson. Front from left Tim Morin, Billy Hong, Larry Martel

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Supplies from Chapleau for Construction of the Canadian Northern Railway 1912 and 1913

CPR staging area at Rossport (McKay's Harbour) 1884 CP Corp Archives
NOTE: Here is another article by Ian Macdonald and Mike McMullen on activities from the early history of Chapleau and area. Thanks Ian and Mike.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

 by Ian Macdonald and Mike McMullen       

 The routes of Canada’s major transcontinental railways were largely determined by how easily roadbed construction activity could be supplied with materials and equipment.  Sir Sandford Fleming, who was Engineer in Chief for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1877, recommended to the Government at that time that the most favourable conditions for railroad construction through Northern Ontario were north of the height of land.

These recommendations were subsequently rejected by the government in favour of a route for the CPR along the north shore of Lake Superior where construction activity could be more easily supplied with materials and equipment by lakes streamers and sailing vessels to various construction staging points along the north shore of Superior such as Mazokama (Kama), Rossport (McKay’s Harbour), Heron Bay and Michipicoten... see photo above

 This was coupled with the decision to construct the roadbed east of Lake Superior along the height of land largely between White River and Cartier. Tracklayers under the direction of Harry Abbot progressed west from Biscotasing to Girdwood which was 39 miles east of White River between October 1884 and April 1885 at an approximate rate of ¾ mile per day. Tracklayers were supplied by work trains following behind which was the standard way of building railways in the roadless world of late 19th century Northern Ontario.
2, Trailblazers: CPR tracklayers west of Sudbury (1884) CP Corp Archives

Eventually, Fleming’s original 1877 recommendations to build north of the height of land were finally adopted by the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) when the company began construction of a new 617 mile rail line in 1911 between Capreol and Port Arthur. The line would be located approximately 60 miles north of Chapleau.  Speed of construction was of paramount concern for CNoR who rejected the traditional method of roadbed construction used by the CPR in 1884-85 as being too slow.   see photo 2 above

It was determined that the only way to meet construction deadline challenges was to haul supplies north from the CPR at a series of construction staging points along the line, which would be stockpiled with supplies and equipment during the winter of 1911-12. These supplies would subsequently support the army of men and horses engaged in the real construction operations beginning in the spring of 1912 which progressed east and west from each construction staging area. Completion of the line was scheduled for January 1, 1914. 
3. Rail Bridge: CN bridge over Nemegosenda River near Elsas. (1953) ian Macdonald
 One of these construction staging areas was where the CNoR line crossed the Nemegosenda River near Elsas.  The possibility of supplying the work forces at this location from Chapleau emerged as an appealing opportunity for Chapleau merchants and other Chapleau businessmen to consider. The challenge was how to do it.  See photo 3 above

In 1962, The Chapleau Sentinel carried an article written by Charles Austin, youngest brother of James McNiece Austin, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Smith and Chapple Limited in 1937. Included was a description of the effort to develop the supply network from Chapleau to Elsas for the CNoR work crews. It was led by business partners James McNiece Austin and George Nicholson despite the fact that they were not at that time directly involved in the transportation of retail supplies and materials. 
4. Description of supply route (2011) Ian Macdonald
 The concept of the network was that supplies would be moved from Chapleau north on the Kebesquashing River to the Robinson Lake portage (18 mile rapids). They would then be transported by horse and wagon over a new 11 mile tote road constructed from this location east to the southern tip of Nemegosenda Lake. They were then moved north up the lake to where another three mile tote road had been built to bypass rapids on the Nemegosenda River about fourteen miles north of the northern tip of Nemegosenda Lake.   See 4 above

Motor boats were then used to convey supplies from this point north on the Nemegosenda to the construction camps near Elsas. Charles Austin wrote that over 100 teams of horses were worked at one time during the winter months.

An article in a 1965 issue of the Chapleau Sentinel describes how this challenging supply problem was dealt with from an operational point of view. In 1912 and 1913, Edgar Pellow was contracted to haul freight, mail and other supplies to the contractors, James Stewart and Son and Courtney and Conmee, who had contracted to cut the right of ways and lay rails in the vicinity of the present hamlet of Elsas during the spring, summer and fall seasons. Tom Godfrey and Harry Pellow freighted the goods by motor boat and scow from Chapleau to Robinson Lake Portage. (18 mile rapids).

Charlie Leon and Sev Martin hauled the goods over the 11 miles of road from the Chapleau River to Nemegosenda Lake with horse drawn wagons. Bill Newsome then took charge and hauled the freight by boat from the landing on the afore mentioned Lake which was just about opposite where the Nemegosenda River empties into the Lake north to the rapids on the Nemegosenda River where a three mile tote road had been cut around them.

On this tote road, Mr. John Blackburn was in charge, assisted by his son Peter, a well known retired Chapeau railroad conductor. From there, motor boats took the supplies on the last leg of the trip to the construction crews. A stop over place was established with a cookhouse at the end of the eleven mile road on Nemegosenda Lake. This was in charge of Mrs. LaCasse who with her young son and daughter looked after the place during the first year.

The last spike of the Canadian Northern line between Capreol and Port Arthur was driven by CNoR President, Sir William Mackenzie, on January 1, 1914 at Little White Otter River approximately 60 miles north of White River on the CPR.

The concept of supplying and stockpiling supplies from the south proved to be successful for CNoR inasmuch as 617 miles of railroad had been built in less than two years. Sir Sandford Fleming’s early recommendations about the route also proved correct and resulted in the lowest graded railroad on the continent with a grade of four-tenths of one percent with an almost perfect alignment. 

See video taken from the cab of an eastbound CN locomotive crossing the steel truss bridge over the Nemegosenda River. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBG9ecEKF68

The heavily indebted railway was nationalized by the Canadian Government on September 6, 1918 and eventually merged into the Canadian National Railway System in 1923.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Rustic Bear Den Café and Market officially opens in St John's in Chapleau

The Rustic Bear Den Café and  Market, located in the basement of St. John's Anglican Church on Pine Street,  will hold its official opening on Saturday February 25.

From noon to four p.m., enjoy snacks and the craft market, while there will be live music in the evening.

In 2016, Chapleau residents were asked to reimagine a building with which they were very familiar, yet in some cases had not been inside of it for years. St John’s Church on Pine Street is a well-known and well-loved fixture of the community, but was ready to enter a new chapter. As a pillar of the community, the most important task in imagining that new chapter was to prioritize an open, vibrant community use of the space. But what could that use be? The best way to find out, of course, was to ask the community for input.

The original St. John's was located on the site of the old tennis court and was officially opened on July 1, 1886. The first service in the present St. John's was held on March 29, 1908, and the final cost of building it was $18,000.

An  August 4th Open House resulted in many ideas about how the basement of the church could be transformed to fill gaps or address needs within the community. What about a bakery, a gathering space, a craft market, or a small business incubator? What about movie nights? A patio by the waterfront? The wish list that was collected was imaginative, inclusive, and inspiring.

Well, that wish list has now become reality.

The Rustic Bear Den Café and Market will officially open on February 25, in the basement of the St John’s church. The new manager, local businesswoman and artisan Tanya Keech, has organized a vibrant collective of local craftspeople to showcase their handiwork, and is operating a café with snacks and drinks to bring some warmth to walks along the winter waterfront. Tanya is organizing markets every other weekend and is working to bring in a regular dining feature on Fridays and Saturdays. 

“It’s a very unique building, and we’ve kept many of the unique features like the posts and wood beams,” says Tanya. “The central location near the waterfront is also great.”

 Jason Rioux, who bought the church in 2016,  partnered with Toronto-based community consultants small to help organize the community Open House in the summer. Small is affiliated with ERA Architects, a heritage architecture firm, who joined the project to help with the design of the renovated basement. Anglican services are still held upstairs.
Heather Campbell photo

ERA’s Max Yuristy was at the August open house and is thrilled to have been part of the design process. “We were able to take the ideas the community had and bring them to life, which is extremely rewarding from a design perspective,” said Max. “It will be great to be back in Chapleau on the 25th to see people enjoying the café and exploring the market.” 

"Preserving the historical character and meeting new building codes proved to be a huge effort,” says Jason. “A big thank you goes out to all the local tradesmen and suppliers who did a
great job in transforming the space into something we can all be proud of.  I look forward to the many entrepreneurs that will be able to flourish in this space going forward.

“If we don't try, nothing will happen.”

It has been open for a short time, and I visited the Facebook page. The reviews, so far are most encouraging for the new venture.

Here are some:

"Love the atmosphere. Going to enjoy coming back often".

"Cozy atmosphere and a warm open feel. Honestly I had the best pumpkin latte of my life. Staff is extremely friendly and fun.

"Had a wonderful time."

They pointed out that while the basement space is now open, that doesn’t mean the work is finished. There are still some improvements to come, such as a wood stove for chilly winter afternoons, and, a back patio is still on the wish list. Of course, community support is also required for these new wishes to also turn into reality. If you’d like to give your input attend the Open House on February 25th.

Here are some details: The Rustic Bear Den Café and  Market is located at
4 Pine Street West, Chapleau, in the basement of St. John's Anglican Church. Ph: 705-870-4587. It has a Facebook page that is updated regularly.

I extend my thanks to Jason Rioux, Heather Campbell and Tanya Keech for their assistance. On a personal note, I extend my sincere congratulations to them on this venture. My family, both Hunt and Morris, has a connection to St. John's going back more than 100 years, and my great fear was that the church may be demolished. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Joy (Evans) Heft shares 'lasting memories of our treasured roots" in Chapleau remembering Harry 'Butch' Pellow

Butch, Joy, Sharon Swanson at 2012 CHS Reunion
NOTE: Joy (Evans) Heft captures not only memories of our mutual friend Harry 'Butch' Pellow, but also of growing up in Chapleau in the 1940s and 1950s. I vividly recall the games we played in the neighborhood, especially hockey in their back shed and of course, "going down the lake." I lived on Grey Street, just one back lane and back yard  away from Aberdeen. Joy brings back "lasting memories of our treasured roots" in Chapleau. Perhaps amazingly, many of us are still in touch all these years later.   Butch died on December 13, 2016. Thanks Joy.

And the wheel comes full circle in more ways than one. When Joy and I were both attending Chapleau High School, we collaborated on a weekly  high school column for the long gone Mid North News. My email is mj.morris@live.ca MJM

By Joy (Evans) Heft
Butch grew up at the corner of Birch (Main) and Aberdeen Streets two doors from the Evans family home on Aberdeen. In fact at one time their back yard backed onto our side yard but sometime before my recollection there was a smaller home moved to the property which was lived in by the Lapp and Moyle families and later the McEachren family. Butch was a bit younger than my brother, Jim, and a bit older than me. I remember playing with the neighbourhood children, mostly out-of-doors. Sometimes the girls and boys played together – i.e. the girls were allowed. Kick the can and hide and seek numbered among the games and I remember one fierce water pistol fight when I would have been about ten. I think I got called in by my mother likely because it seemed unbecoming.

Our back shed was a frequent venue for some of our games and the loft provided a great hiding place as well as a place to explore to discover what was stored up there. Jim and his friends used the shed more in winter when the boys were a bit older to play hockey or take shots on goal there. When I occasionally played in the Pellow home I had a terrified fascination for the bear rug in one of the rooms.

One of my memories is of a solar eclipse when our family, the Moyles and the Pellows congregated in the Moyles’ back yard early in the morning with our rolls of film through which to view the sun moving behind the moon without damaging our eyes. I think we were about ten at the time and it made a lasting impression.  Butch and I reminisced about this event during a recent visit.  
Another of our activities was going as a group to the Saturday afternoon movies.

My Aunt, Sister Gabriella, recounted an incident which she found very cute. Butch had come over to our place before some of us were heading off to the ‘show’ as we called it. Butch piped up, ‘I have Joy’s  money’. Why he had my money, a dime at the time, I think,  is anyone’s guess, but it presaged his lifelong habit of generosity  from which many of us benefited in many ways, not the least of which were the number of Chapleau parties held at his and Brigitte’s Toronto home, the most recent in October  2014.

CHS "Girl Cadets" from 1950s with CO Neil Ritchie
Another act of generosity that sticks out in my mind was a much later occasion when we returned to Southern Ontario together after a long week-end. I had gone up to Chapleau by train and Butch by car, so he invited me to accompany him  back by car with the plan that I would take the bus from Toronto to Oshawa where I was then teaching. He insisted on driving me on to Oshawa after that long trip  then himself back Toronto. He married shortly afterwards, I believe, and I attended his wedding, but our paths crossed much less frequently in the years to follow. 

Butch, Jim Evans, Doug Slievert, Roger Mizuguchi, Donna Lane, Alison McMillan, Joanne Moyle
Butch attended public school while the Evans children were at the separate school. We met up in high school, though, and once again were part of the same entourage as we dated mutual close friends. Once thing I recall, in particular, was that he loved dancing as we all did and that his favorite song was ‘Stardust’. When I think of it now, it seems like a sentimental song for a teenager, but that is another of his trademarks. I  recall his fondness of the song whenever I hear it. As most know Butch created a wonderful collection of photographs featuring many of his contemporaries in the numerous activities we participated in, a lot of them in the great outdoors  during the summer ‘down the lake’.

Butch and Roger at the Eighteen
One of those was a trip to the eighteen mile rapids for a picnic with a fairly large group. One of my own pictures from that event features Butch clutching an LP (Stardust, perhaps?) about to put it on a portable record player as we called them. 

Butch with record player, Gordon Bolduc, Mabel Doyle
Once we headed off to university we met up occasionally in Toronto – my brother Jim lived with Butch for a short time during that period - and I recall one party Butch invited me to quite a distance from the residence I was living in where the curfew was midnight; the trip to and fro on public transit took more time than we spent at the party and I was docked an hour the following week as a five minute late penalty. In retrospect I reflect upon the gracious stride with which he took the harried return trip, typical of him, really.

During ensuing years when Butch and others of us were young adults home working in Chapleau for the summer we would ‘hang out’ together enjoying our  freedom in the Northern landscape creating lasting memories of our treasured roots.

His appreciation of that youth and the personalities that enhanced it were evidenced in many ways for me not the least of which were the letters he wrote regarding some of my own family members at the time of their death  in which he recalled some of their attributes and/or idiosyncracies and the events involving them that impacted his own life. That he would take the time from his busy schedule to share these is again a mark of his enduring generosity of spirit.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Chapleau Village Shops window display features winter carnival activities

The Chapleau Winter Carnival. "A Taste of the North" is underway from February 14 to 19, and Chapleau Village Shops got into the Carnival spirit with an incredible window display.

After seeing photos of the display on Facebook, I contacted Lucy Bignucolo who gave permission to post them here.

The art work was done by Cara assisted by Nancy.

Chapleau winter carnivals were first held in the 1930s during the Great Depression, and "A Taste of the North" was added to its name in 1974 when Walter Wilson was the chair.

For full program details, contact Joel Langelier at the Chapleau Recreation Centre.

Another upcoming celebration will be Canada Day focused on the 150th anniversary of our country!!!  Reunion anybody?????

Thanks Lucy!!!!!!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

'Hi'ya neighbour' greets Chapleau contingent as it reaches Thessalon as Highway 129 opened in Winter of 1949

Tom Godfrey
"Hi'ya Neighbour", and with this "breezy" comment, Mayor Cork of Thessalon greeted a Chapleau contingent who arrived in his community to celebrate the official opening of Highway 129 between the two communities.

The date was January 29, 1949, a day later than planned because of the sudden death of Thomas Godfrey, the day before just after declaring "This is the happiest day of my life," as a cavalcade of cars had just passed the Chapleau portion of the highway on its way to Thessalon.

Mr. Godfrey, a "pioneer builder" of the highway, according to the Chapleau Post, had achieved part of his objective --. ""Bucking snowdrifts and biting winds, and driving over a rugged trail where no cars had ever passed, he had driven completely over the Chapleau end of the road and was on the McFadden road leading to Thessalon when death halted him."

The cavalcade returned to Chapleau after Mr. Godfrey died but another attempt was made the next day as Arthur Grout and Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Vice started out at 6:30 a.m. with the "avowed intention of t rying to get to Thessalon that day..."even though the weather was brutal."

The account of that trip is contained in the Richard Brownlee Papers kindly loaned to me by Margaret Rose (Payette) and Bobby Fortin.

"It was about 35 degrees below zero and one minor trouble after another was encountered, such as the motor freezing up, chains giving trouble, and, then -- something really serious happened. In going to open the trunk at the rear of the car, the keys were dropped in the snow. It was a matter of grave importance that these keys be found promptly because all of the party were getting extremely cold and were at least twelve miles from any assistance.

"After searching through the snow with bare hands  for some time, and just about despairing of ever being able to find them one key was found. It turned out to be the motor key and to their very great delight the motor started promptly and although it was overheating because of a misplaced fan belt they got through to Standard Paving where they got repairs."

They met Tom Carter of Carter Bus Lines who claimed that in all his driving experience he had never had such a trip as the one he had from Thessalon the previous day. He recommended they wait until snow plows cleared the highway. There had been a "howling blizzard."

But the party decided to continue the trip and "proceeded very cautiously so as not to get off the narrow road into the snow-filled ditches." They made to Lessard's Camp where they had turned back the day before after Mr. Godfrey died.

Then, to their delight, they discovered that the snow plow had started out ahead of them, and from then on they were able to enjoy "the scenery and the winding twisty nature of the road."

"As they got down towards the Mississaugi River it was noted how closely the road clung to the edge of the river and at times skirted around high rocky bluffs or steep sloping walls of gravel>"

They arrived safely in Thessalon at about 3:30 p.m and were greeted by Mayor Cork and other dignitaries. Great sympathy was expressed on the death of Mr. Godfrey. A civic reception was held at the Stinson Hotel.
Earle Sootheran, Mr Godfrey, Oliver Korpela

As a matter of historical interest, the first car to make the trip over Highway 129 was not a car "travelling out" from Chapleau but was a northbound car travelling "in" owned by Frank Korpela and driven by Tom Carter. They arrived at Lessard's Camp on January 28 just after the Chapleau party had headed home.

They stayed there overnight and made it to Chapleau the next day reporting bad road conditions and heavy with snow. It was necessary to stop and clean the snow from the grille of the car several times. It was a new coupe driven up from Toronto equipped with snow tires and chains.

The opening of Highway 129, although it was often called a "turkey trail through the bush" was an important moment in Chapleau history, providing highway access to Thessalon and beyond,  and also to American tourists. 

Travelling Highway 129 was always an adventure, and despite many improvements over the years still is. I was over it in 2015 with Alison (McMillan) and Michael McMullen when we travelled to Chapleau for the launch of 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War." My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE