Tuesday, 20 November 2012


The conclusion of Martin Hunter's Snow-shoes and Snow- shoeing, written around the turn of the century (1900) - from the Nipigon Museum Archives

"There was never any stinting of provisions for these trips by the company, but we, the fellows who "hit the trail", hated like everything to carry an over-abundance. On a journey of 200 or 300 miles, a day's extra grub was taken, but if more was forced on us it was usually cached the first day out, and we abided the consequences."

"It is not generally known that continuous walking on snow-shoes lengthens a man's stride very considerably. I have known men whose usual summer step about the fort would be twenty-nine or thirty inches, to have increased by spring (after considerable tripping on snow-shoes) to thirty-three or thirty-six inches. This lengthening out is imperceptibly acquired and it takes then a month to get back to the short, quick step of the previous year."

"With good footing one gets over distances much quicker and with less fatigue on snow-shoes than he does without them. Men of the North prefer to wear their snow-shoes even on four inches of snow rather than be slipping about with their moccasins only. Four or five inches of snow on a good solid foundation such as ice or frozen muskeg, makes ideal walking, and a young, vigorous man will reel off the miles, three or four an hour and keep it up all day, yes, and for days on end. However, to keep this up one has to eat frequently to have the steam at the right pressure and prevent wear and tear. With trippers on the long trail the custom is to make a fire about every ten miles, or in other words, after walking steadily two and a half or three hours, one wants a little change from putting one foot before the other without ceasing and the body requires refreshment. It is a little bit out of the ordinary to be able to get the inevitable bundle off one's back and potter about boiling tea and frying pork, and then, seated on newly cut boughs before a cheerful blaze, with that relish and gusto one swallows incredible quantities of strong black tea, eats his share (and longs for more) of the fried bacon or pork. And then he and his "pard" alternately dip pieces of galette trans-fixed on the point of their sheath knives into the remaining grease in the frying pan. Grease or sugar is life in the cold woods and is never wasted."

"There is no work so exhausting as tramping on snow-shoes with a pack on one's back. It keeps a man as hard as nails, but in perfect health. A man in our service walked with me for several years. His weight all that time stuck pretty close to 160 pounds while mine varied very little from 145. In due time we both received promotion and our duties no longer required us to leave the posts. As a result he ran his weight up to 225 pounds while mine through the same inactivity has increased to 185."

"Yes, snow-shoes are of the first importance in the North country. Without them thousands would die of starvation and as so much depends on their being good and durable, the best are none too good."

Tying the Snow-Shoe

"I have omitted the tying of the snow-shoe to the feet. There are several ways of doing this and each tribe of Indians thinks its mode the best. The Montagnais Indians use no bridle for the toe, but merely pass one end of the string over the toe and through the post-hole of the other side. If the string's slack they merely loop the whole string over the toe piece and keep rolling until they have it short enough, or slack it if too tight. The Algonquins have a separate piece of leather for the bridle and it is laced in and out of the meshes of the main knitting each side of the toe-hole, and left slack enough where the toe goes in to allow of three fingers on edge being introduced beneath it. The snow-shoe string proper ought to be five feet long and three-quarters of an inch broad. Thick dressed moose hide is what is generally used, as once it is thoroughly stretched it remains so. Dressed caribou skin is used by the interior Indians, but it is not satisfactory, stretching to all lengths when wet and shrinking tight up to the feet with the frost toward evening. The best strings I ever used were strips of well dressed calfskin such as is used for uppers of boots. Once I had them adjusted they remained so for months without altering; frost or mild weather had no effect on them."

"To make the tie, place the toe under the bridle and draw the two long strands of the main string up through the post-holes until the loop sets comfortably on top of the heel under the ankle bone; pass the left side over to the right in front, passing the end under the bridle; take the right-hand side string and pass its end under the left-hand strand and on top of the bridle - this makes them crisscross with the bridle engaging the two. The strands are then looped one on each side of the foot, a little back of the band and the two ends carried and tied behind the foot out of the way."

"It is a great comfort to have one's snow-shoe strings so that one can slip the foot in and out in a moment without using the fingers in bitter cold weather. It is not necessary to tie and untie each time the shoe is put on or taken off. To take off, stand one snow-shoe on the other, bend the knee forward and the toes at the same time. With this action the front part of the foot will readily slip out sideways from the bridle and the whole foot slip from the double loop. The shoe is put on in the same way reversed."

Monday, 19 November 2012



By Martin Hunter, written around the turn of the century (1900), from the Nipigon Museum Archives

"Snow-shoes of commerce, such as one sees in city stores, are knitted out of almost any kind of skin, the skin of the horse, the cow, the pig, and even the dog. As the shoes are intended to be sold cheap the very poorest material and the most slovenly work is put in the construction. The frames are generally of ash, and sometimes sawn at that. At the very first wetting the knitting stretches into a pouch under the heel and the frames twist into the most grotesque shapes. A bushman would not risk his life off a macadamized road with them."

"A bushman takes the greatest care of his shoes. They are his dependence in covering great distances over deep snows and high mountains. If there are dogs with the party the snow-shoes have to be hung up out of their reach at night, as anything of leather or greasy, is not safe within their reach."

"As tramping on the long trail day after day and at times week after week would shorten the life of the shoes were they worn on the same foot, the careful bushman changes both his moccasins and snow-shoes from right to left each morning, thus insuring their even wearing."

"Being obliged to walk on wet snow often brings the netting up as tight as a drum, but when the deerskin netting is good and has been carefully put in the surface dries back into its ordinary flat state and is not left baggy as with a common pair."

"Men going far afield in the North Country, as a precaution in case of a break or a cut from an ax (which sometimes happens to the most expert axmen), carry with them a gimlet, crooked knife and a few fathoms of babiche, just as the same men traveling in summer, by bark canoe, would carry a small piece of birch bark, some prepared gum and wattap (roots). If a break occurs in their craft they have at hand the requirements to make at least temporary repairs."

Each tribe of Indians has different shaped snow-shoes, each kind being the best adapted for the country in which they are used. I have used during my winters in the wild, Montagnais, Chippewa, Ojibwa and Algonquin, and while each is best adapted to its own particular contour of country, yet for all-round handiness and comfort I prefer the Algonquin. Probably my choice in a great measure is accounted for by having used this make of shoe for fifteen years and thereby becoming more accustomed to it than the others mentioned."

"The Montagnais snow-shoe would be quite out of place in a wooded country from its broad and unwieldy shape. Walking on a clear, flat surface or climbing rocky mountains such as in the case of Labrador it is the best that could be used. It has some exasperating surprises for a beginner, by its bumping his ankles. To walk with this shoe requires practice. Each foot as it is advanced requires to be swung in a half circle to clear the foot that is stationary. This swinging of the leg in walking becomes so firmly fixed as one's mode of locomotion that even in the summer the same parenthetical way of moving the legs is continued. One can pick out an inhabitant of the Labrador by his walk, just as one can a sailor."

"For skimming over the hard, windbeaten, barren grounds of the far North the Chippewa snow-shoe is the best that could be used. Take such a make ( 7 or 8 feet long ) and try to get through a thick bush country or climb mountains, and the result would be a failure."

"The Ojibwa snow-shoe when in a modified form answers well, but the tendency of the young men is to have abnormally long toes (from the front bar to the end). As a result, to the novice, the shoe in a most unexpected moment will dive under the surface and the user takes an undignified cropper. This is practised out of all reason by the young men of the Montagnais tribe. They try to outvie each other by the breadth of their shoes. I knew one strapping fellow that broke the record by having his front bar 36 inches long, thus making his shoes 39 inches clear. He walked on them, it is true, but he was not a thing of beauty to behold."

'The Algonquins inhabit a mixed country of swamp, mountains and thick bush and a better snow-shoe than they use could not be manufactured. They are not too broad and yet have a good surface to resist the weight; neither are they too long, but can be snaked in and out through the thick trees with utmost ease."

When snow-shoes become wet through walking during a thaw or in the spring, they should never be dried near the fire, but by the night's frost or wind. The heat of the fire burns the babiche and the shoe will give out all over, thus necessitating the frames being newly webbed."

"The old trailer will always school the novice about the care of his snow-shoes. The giving out of a snow-shoe in the middle of a long journey is a calamity that affects the whole party, as a man cannot be left behind. Blistered feet and mal de raquette are two terrible afflictions to be visited with on the long trail. Ah! and yet another -  snow-blindness. Each of these can , by proper precautions be avoided, but generally the new arrival in the North has to learn by experience."

"The principal reason for blistered feet is having irritant socks and keeping the feet too warm. Properly tying the snow-shoe strings and bridle is a great help in preventing toe cutting. Some make the mistake of adjusting the foot so rigidly to the snow-shoe that the toes are bound to cut and blister. The great secret is play of the foot in the sock, with a loose moccasin over the sock. Play of the feet in the snow-shoe strings and freedom of movement under the bridle, this with ventilation about the ankle, i.e. only the leather shoe upper about it, and my word you can walk day after day without any discomfort."

"Mal de raquette is a terrible affliction to be visited with. It generally overtakes one when the snow is deep and heavy on the snow-shoe, which causes an unusual strain on the muscles of the lower leg. The veins become clotted by overheating and the blood being kept in the lower extremities. In a very bad case of neglect from the knee down (sometimes in one leg but more frequently in both) the limbs swell to two or three times their normal size and turn black; when the foot is moved an audible rasping sound is plainly heard at a distance of ten or twenty feet and the sufferer endures great agony."

Once, an Indian, my companion, got a heavy dose of the mal. We were 75 miles from our destination with no help nearer. He had to walk, but how? The pain was so great he positively could not lift his snow-shoes. We faced the problem in all its phases and decided we must go on. To remain by him till he recovered was for both to starve. I tied an end of my l'assumption belt to each snowshoe and passed the middle over his neck, and by holding the belt strand in each hand and lifting one shoe after the other he managed to follow. Of course this was all he could do; his back load was added to mine, but I was thankful he could even lift his feet. It took us three days to do 60 miles and there I left him with a good supply of firewood and the remains of our provisions, except a biscuit that I kept to eat at the middle of the intervening distance to the post, 15 miles."

"Once there I sent a man and a dog team back on my trail to haul him to the post. This young Indian was neglectful and careless; otherwise he would not have had the malady, because those used to walking long distances never take any risks of it overtaking them."

"The prelude to this disease is a numbness and tired feeling. When this is noticed the person should, after the camp-fire is made, bare his legs to his thighs and jump into the snow and stay there until it becomes unbearable, then come in front of the blaze and rub each leg vigorously with a coarse towel or an empty bag until thorough upward flow of the blood sets in. Next day he will be as fresh as if he had never walked on the previous day. Some men when the symptoms are but slight content themselves by suspending their feet on a strap or a pole and lie and smoke the after supper pipe while the blood flows back tot he body, but the former way is the more reliable and quicker."

"Each ill is the worst while one has it, just as each kind of fly is the most tormenting until the next breed comes on deck. So it is with the miseries of the tramp, but for downright agony  I think snow-blindness is the worst. This is caused and brought on by long traveling over open swamps, or ice-walking. The glare of the sun on the bright surface reflects on and inflames the eye. When this happens blinding hot tears run continuously from the eyes of the sufferer. Once at this stage the cure is rest in a darkened room or camp. A ray of sunlight or firelight striking the eye is like a stab from a needle. Of course, snow-blindness only happens during the long spring days when the sun's power has increased. Not only do these scalding tears flow, but the patient is actually blind; a foot from his face everything is a blur. We had one unfortunate once in our party who had to walk for two days between traces leading from the first tot he third man and the one behind had to tell him when to lift his foot to avoid a lump or to be prepared for a hollow. It was tiresome traveling for the others as well as the sufferer, but like other drawbacks and unlooked-for misfortunes, go we must, or starve."

To be concluded...


Another article by Martin Hunter from the Nipigon Museum Archives

"How the Indians of the North Make and Wear the Webbed Footgear which Makes Existence Possible in the Stern Country They Inhabit"

"Nothing is too good for the bush-dweller, be it the food he imports, the clothes he wears or the equipment which he requires for his daily calling. Cheap or shoddy goods such as can be made to answer the every-day purpose in civilization have no place with the people who inhabit, or pass into, the wilderness. Everything must be of the best; their very lives demand it. Imagine the consequence that would result to a lone hunter in the Northern wilderness, miles away from any human aid, should his axe break, his gun explode, his snow-shoes give out or his canoe buckle through bad material or faulty construction. His welfare, aye, his very life, depends on having things of the very best."

"This rule holds good right through every requirement where men have to transport their necessaries over long distances, on lakes, rivers and portages, or in the winter season by hauling them on toboggans, or packing on their backs. It is with the latter condition, and particularly the only means of travel, that this article has to deal."

"Let us begin with the first requisite in the construction of the snow-shoe, the frame. The Indian sallies forth into the forest and selects a straight-grained yellow or black birch - a young tree, even of sufficient size to give the required wood, is not chosen, because when worked up into shape the wood is not as durable and strong as from an older tree. The tree in demand is one of from eight to ten inches in diameter."

" The proper tree being found, the Indian cuts it down. Next he chops off a cut sufficiently long to give him the required length for his frames. This done, he inserts and drives in a the small end of the log a hardwood wedge. This opens the stick so it will split into equal parts. The same process is then gone through with halves and again with the quaters, if he desires a number of pairs. Splitting at the heart and at the small end always insures the pieces separating in even thicknesses."

"The Indians also make snow-shoe frames of tamarack, ash and white birch, but only when yellow or black birch is not obtainable. Tamarack, while a strong wood, is very heavy; ash frays easily on a crust and loses its shape in wet weather, while white birch though making a nice, light snow-shoe frame, is worn away very quickly when crust walking."

The wood obtained, the Indian right there at the stump axes each piece to almost the dimentions he requires, and, if his wood yard is far from his camp, may light a fire to thaw out the wood and there use his crooked knife till he gets that exact size and shape he wants. This lightens his burden in carrying the wood to camp - something his white brother would not think about."

"The bending of the frames is generally done at night. One reason for this is the man's time is too much taken up during the daytime procuring food for his family, and secondly, it helps him pass the long winter evenings."

"The frame having been knifed to the proper thickness, the heaviest part in the middle tapering off toward the tail ends, all is ready for the bending. A large kettle of scalding water is kept over or alongside the fire and with a rag mop the maker thoroughly soaks the whole length of each stick, every now and then slightly bending the wood over his knee toward the desired shape. This is done to gradually stretch the fiber of the wood, and this alternate immersion and bending is kept up without haste until the frame is quite supple. One piece of flat wood the length of the proposed breadth of the shoe is then prepared. This engages and extends the two frames at the middle. The maker now ties the pair of frames securely together, once at the tail end, once each side of the middle, and again at each side of the toe. When this is completed the frames are hung up to dry in the camp, but care is taken not to have them too near the fire. It is marvelous how uniform the two separate frames are when complete. The only tools used are the hunter's ax and his crooked knife to finish off with."

"In the complete snow-shoe the woman's work also enters. Preparing the deerskin is her province and it is done in this manner:
  • The green skin is put to soak overnight.
  • Her husband has shaped for her and planted outside the camp door a log of peeled wood having two legs, after the fashion of a tanner's "horse."
  • Upon this in the morning the woman places the skin in its wet state, hair-side up
  • With a shin-bone of the animal she scrapes down the hair, stubbles and impuries, going over a small section at a time until the whole skin is free and clean.
  • It is then turned over and the flesh-side gone over in a like manner.
  • The skin is then thoroughly washed in the clean water
  • Then examined once more over the "horse" for any place that may have been overlooked.
  • When perfectly clean of all fat and other impurities it is wrung out and put away in a damp state.
  • If in the cold weather it is stretched on a frame to freeze flat.
"The next process is the cutting of the skin into lacing , or babiche, for the netting of the snow-shoes. Most of the Indian women are very dexterous at this work. I say dexterous, because cutting the thongs up into strands of a uniform thickness and breadth, since the skin is thicker in some places than others, is only done by those with a sensitive touch and a quick eye. Some women cut the skin up beginning at the edge and working towards the middle, while others cut the skin intwo halves and work one side at a time into netting, and agian others divide the whole skin into quarters, finding the smaller piece of skin much more convenient to handle."

"The cutting of the babiche is done on a small flat board placed on the woman's knees. With a very sharp knife she severs the strand from the main piece of skin with great uniformity and quickness. With the knife held securely in one hand she revolves the skin with the other, finishing off with a residue of the size of dollar bill. If a frozen skin is to be cut up the work is done out of doors, where the heat of the hands just keeps it pliable enough for good handling."

"The toe and the heel of the snowshoe requiring finer strands than the foot or middle part, fawn skins are used for these parts. If the Indian has none, the flank or thin part of the heavier skins are utilized for the fine netting."

"After the strands are cut up the woman winds them into balls, stretching with her teeth and hands a length of a yard or so as she rolls the babiche. This is to prevent it shrinking and consequently slacking when worked into the shoe. The balls are then tied up in a piece of cotton or cloth and put in a damp place till required."

"Along with the frames which the man had put to dry in shape, are the four bars, knifed to the proper curve and size. These being ready, he marks off the places for the bars, makes his mortises and engages the bars. The frames are always dried an inch or two narrower than the shoes are intended to be when finished, therefore when placing the bars the spring is so that they go in with a click and remain firmly in place. The tails are, of course, sewed or screwed together before the bars are inserted."

"His next work is to bore gimlet holes about an inch apart, from one side of the front bar around the frame down to the end of the same bar at the other side. At each place the holes are two in number, about one eighth of an inch apart. The same is done each side of the tail part, back of the heel bar."

"Some tribes of Indians, especially for spring walking, bore down each side of the middle or foot part, but as a general rule the main netting is over the frame."

"When all the loles are finished the man (for it is considered his part of the work), taking a strand of uniform and selected babiche and starting from the end of one bar, going along the inside of the frames, laces his babiche out and in the holes as he comes to them, knotting his lace at each set of holes. This is the mounting or stay for the actual knitting to engage over. The frames now being ready in every particular they are handed over to the women."

"Among the interior tribes where the men are lords and masters and do nothing that could be considered a woman's work, they would not think of knitting a snow-shoe, but among those Indians near the frontier who are in the habit of seeing their white brothers assist at woman's work, some very expert snow-shoe knitters are found, doing work quite quickly and neatly as the women."

"Two needles are required, which are generally made of ivory and sometimes pass through two or three generations, from mother to daughter. The needles are of the same pattern, only one is somewhat smaller than the other, being used for the finer strands of babiche in the toes and heels."

"Putting good, careful work into the knitting of an ordinary size, general use snow-shoe requires a full day's work, but as the woman always does the small knitting of both shoes first, the pair takes two days' or four long evenings' work."

"Did I foresee a remote probability of any reader of this article requiring the knowledge to knit his own snow-shoe I would give it from start to finish. To a dweller in the far North country to "know how", in many things, is good medicine. The writer, years ago, through an accident, had to knit one  snow-shoe on Christmas Day, and that with a tight belt, but he wishes no such calamity to the reader."

Walking in Snow-shoes will be the next part of this article by Martin Hunter.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


One year, 4 months less 12 days and a couple hours to do it.



9999 PAGEVIEWS AT 10:10 pm



Please introduce one of your friends the the exciting history of Nipigon and let's make this an historic night!


ece 19-11
Sometime around 1944
Site for the proposed Red Cross Hospital in Nipigon.
John Salo contributed three building lots  and  a large monetary donation.

Laying the cornerstone.
ece 25-12

Quote enclosed in cornerstone: "We fervently pray that in the years between February 15, 1948 and the time when this script comes to light again, the hospital for which the committee and the people as a whole have struggled will have eased the suffering and brought comfort to all those of Nipigon and the district and their descendants who made it possible."
John Salo, standing, 1948
ece 143-4

The Nipigon Red Cross Hospital opened in 1949 .
Thanks to the Building Committee of 1944:
 Henry Swain, Chairman
Mrs. E.C. Everett
Mrs. H. Minnie
Mr. B. Manson
Mr. E. Corner
ece 25-10

Nipigon Memorial Red Cross Hospital, 1950
ece 25-9
In 1955 the Red Cross transfer of the Outpost Hospital to a Corporation was the topic of the day.

Application was made to incorporate the Nipigon District Hospital.

January 9, 1956 - 7:00 o'clock in the evening:

"The Chairman advised the meeting that the Corporation had been incorporated with a view to acquiring all of the assets of the Nipigon Memorial Hospital presently being operated by the Canadian Red Cross Society in the Township of Nipigon. He stated that the Canadian Red Cross Society has now prepared to transfer all of the undertaking known as the Nipigon Memorial Hospital to the Corporation."

Original members represented : Red Rock, Nipigon, Cameron Falls and Rossport

Wednesday, 14 November 2012



HERE in the midnight, where the dark mainland and island
SHADOWS mingle in shadow deeper, profounder,
SING we the hymns of the churches, while the dead water
Whispers before us.

THUNDER is travelling slow on the path of the lightning;
ONE after one the stars and beaming planets
LOOK serene in the lake from the edge of the storm-cloud,
Then they have vanished.

WHILE our canoe, that floats dumb in the bursting thunder,
GATHERS her voice in the quiet and thrills and whispers,
PRESSES her prow inn the star-gleam, and all her ripple
Lapses in blackness.

SING we the sacred ancient hymns of the churches,
CHANTED first in old-world nooks of the desert,
WHILE in the wild, pellucid Nipigon reaches
Hunted the savage.

NOW have the ages met in the Northern night,
AND on the lonely, loon-haunted Nipigon reaches
RISES the hymn of triumph and courage and comfort,
Adeste Fideles

TONES that were fashioned when the faith brooded in darkness,
JOINED with sonorous vowels in the noble Latin,
NOW are married with the long-drawn Ojibwa,
Uncouth and mournful.

SOFT with the silver drip of the regular paddles
FALLING in rhythm, timed with the liquid, plangent
SOUNDS from the blades where the whirlpools break and are carried
Down into darkness;

EACH long cadence, flying like a dove from her shelter
DEEP into the shadow, wheels for a throbbing moment,
POISES in utterance, returning in circles of silver
To nest in the silence.

ALL wild nature stirs with the infinite, tender
PLAINT of a bygone age whose soul is eternal,
BOUND in the lonely phrases that thrill and falter
Back into quiet.

BACK they falter as the deep storm overtakes them,
WHELMS them in splendid hollows of booming thunder,
WRAPS them in rain, that, sweeping, breaks and onrushes
Ringing like cymbals.

Duncan Campbell Scott  1862-1947

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


Written by Martin Hunter who lived and worked in the Nipigon area over a hundred years ago, and wrote about it.
From the Nipigon Historical Museum Archives

" I think from my personal care and supervision of Birch Bark canoes for thirty years that I am qualified to give advice as to wintering them successfully."

"I may say at the outset that the larger the canoe the more danger there is of the bark splitting by contraction from frost. A canoe of 12 or 15 feet, providing it has been in use a season and pretty well loaded at times requires no further precaution than to see it is thoroughly dry at the end of service and placed under cover mouth down, over a couple of beams in a hay loft is as good a place as can be got."

"A new canoe, however, of this size or one that has been little used, should have all the timbers well slacked back except the first three or four in the ends which are not necessary to touch. The ribs should be so slack that they almost tumble out. The best way to loosen them is with a piece of three-quarter inch board, four inches broad, and a couple feet long. The upper part can be edged off to accommodate the hand and the lower end left perfectly square and flat. This you guide along the edge of the rib and strike with a hammer or wooden mallet, being careful not to knock too hard or too frequently in one place."

"Commence by the timber in the middle immediately aft, or forward, of the middle bar, and work towards both ends of the craft doing two or three at each side of the centre as you go along."

"Begin your first blow where the timber bulges first from the almost flat bottom and slacken up to within six inches of the gunwale and the same at the other side."

"It may not be out of place while on the question of Birch Bark canoes to instruct the reader as to the proper way to bind or tighten his craft, as any violent treatment of the bark in the spring after its remaining in a dead, unelastic state all winter would surely lead to regrettable damage."

"First, don't be in too much of a hurry to put the canoe into commission in the spring unless you are to give it immediate use. Often in the month of April we have some very cold nights and a canoe newly bound tight and not used would surely rend."

"A favourable day in May might be chosen, preferably a day with warm showers and intermittent hot sunshine. Put the canoe out of doors, bottom up and let it undergo this wetting and drying process for half a day. The bark will then be soft and elastic. Now place her on a soft level sward or a couple of horse blankets on the barn floor, and reverse the order of knocking the timbers from what was done last autumn, i.e., commence at each END  working towards the middle and try not to hurry matters. Time taken in the hammering process is time well spent."

"The gum on the seams may have become cracked either from the frost or during the binding and extension of the bark. In such a case when your canoe is finished and tight-bound from end to end, turn her over and with a hot poker, or some other piece of heated iron, pass gently over the gum, rubbing the softened pitch with a wet hand behind the iron's passage."

"Here again two can do better work than one, one man manipulating the hot iron while the other follows smoothing the soft gum into the cracks."

"At some of the inland posts where canoe transport is carried on, as many as twenty or thirty canoes of different sizes at in use from a single man's hunting canoe of twelve feet long, up to bi transport ones of thirty feet long, the latter carrying a load of fifty-five hundred pound dead weight, a crew of seven men and provisions for the same for a couple of weeks, besides tent poles, cooking utensils and the personal dunnage of the men. And the large and useful vessel is made of Birch Bark, cedar lining and ribs, the only tools required in the construction are a crooked knife, awl and axe."

"The safest way we found to winter all canoes longer than eighteen feet, was to slacken the timbers moderately and winter them mouth up on a prepared sandy or soil bed, with a gradient of a few inches in forty."

"Each canoe as it was placed in position and the ribs slackened had some of the gum knocked off the lower end...this provided a leak or outflow for the melting snow in spring. Opposite each bar of the canoe on both sides, stakes were driven into the ground at such an angle that the end would just catch and engage itself under the gunwale. This kept the canoe in true shape and prevented her opening out from the pressure of winter snows for be it understood where they were placed at the end of the season of navigation, they remained until the next May, open to wind, snow and rain, and a better or safer way could not be found after years of trying different modes."

"It must further be explained that at each post there was a commodious building especially for the storage of canoes, but this was only used in summer after the canoes were taken from their winter quarters."

"We always had two or three new transport canoes on hand in case of loss in a rapid or some other accident, these were put into the canoe barn fresh from the builder's hands, without gum and the ribs only partially driven, and they remained there over winter suspended on poles, or beams, until required for use."

"Before the final binding and gumming the bark was subjected to liberal doses of hot water to soften it up, thus imparting a safe elasticity to ensure it from breaking."

"The first year a transport canoe was put into commission her work was to carry out to the frontier the valuable packs of pelteries, and return laden with dry goods, guns, ammunition, etc., thereby insuring their safety from the newness and staunchness of the vessel that carried them."

"Following this she transported for a couple of years flour, pork, lard, shot, hardware and other coarse portions of the trading outfit. The rest of her life was local trips or use about the post loading hay or wood to the establishment."

"Each canoe had a name or number and record of when first used, thus we knew the age of each craft and the work it had done."

"As one of the secrets of having a water tight canoe is in the gumming thereof and properly prepared gum, I would refer the reader to an article in "Recreation" published in New York, January, 1906, entitled "Canoe Gum" in which he will find valuable information regarding the kind of gum to use and the process of preparation."

End of article

Monday, 12 November 2012


NMP 6689
Abitibi Drive Crew late 30's
Somewhere on the Nipigon River


You had two girls - Baptiste -
One is Virginie -
Hold hard - Baptiste!
Listen to me.
The whole drive was jammed
In that bend at the Cedars,
The rapids were dammed
With the logs tight rammed
And crammed; you might know
The Devil had clinched them below.

We worked three days - not a budge,
"She's as tight as a wedge, on the ledge,"
Says our foreman;
"Mon Dieu! boys, look here,
We must get this thing clear."

He cursed at the men
And we went for it then;
With our cant-dogs arow,
We just gave he-yo-ho;
When she gave a big shove
From above.

The gang yelled and tore
For the shore,
The logs gave a grind
Like a wolf's jaws behind,
And as quick as a flash,
With a shove and a crash,
They were down in a mash,
But i and ten more,
All but Issac Dufour,
Were ashore.

He leaped on a log in the front of the rush,
And shot out from the bind
While the jam roared behind;
As he floated along
He balanced his pole
And tossed us a song.
But just as we cheered,
Up darted a log from the bottom,
Leaped thirty feet square and fair,
And came down on his own.

He went up like a block
With a shock,
And when he was there
In the air,
Kissed his hand to the land;
When he dropped
My heart stopped,
For the first logs had caught him
And crushed him;
When he rose in his place
There was blood on his face.

There were some girls, Baptiste,
Picking berries on the hillside,
Where the river curls, Baptiste,
You know - on the still side.
One was down by the water,
She saw Issac
Fall back.

She did not scream, Baptiste,
She launched her canoe;
It did seem, Baptiste,
That she wanted to die too,
For before you could think
The birch cracked like a shell
In that rush of hell,
And I saw them both sink -

Baptiste! -
He had two girls,
One is Virginie,
What God calls the other
Is not known to me.

Duncan Campbell Scott

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Saturday, 10 November 2012



This Sperry Rail Car ran the rails looking for problems.
 A big attraction to the children of Nipigon.
Now-a-days they have a truck on wheels.
CPR Station behind.

You can just make out the little ones sitting on the sidewalk.





Nipigon Historical Museum Archives
Interview with Joyce Gidding, 2006

"I came to Nipigon in 1938."

"I used to work at the Little Mill."

"I worked around here in Nipigon. I was working at the Nipigon Cafe. Then the Unemployment Insurance in those days rounded up everyone who was doing non-essential war work and , of course, my name was on the list. They never called me for a long while so I ended up working in the bush camps way out past Orient Bay."

"I worked there for two or three months doing non-essential war work in the Nipigon Lake Timber bush camp cutting logs when they called me. I walked from camp into Orient Bay on a road that goes where you can pick blueberries, which was near Macdiarmid. So I walked about two miles out and then flagged a company truck that had been going by and I got a ride into town."

"After, when I found out what they wanted, I went to town and joined the Armed Forces and was in the Navy. That was in 1943. I was only 23 years old when I joined. I was just a young chick."

"I was in the Navy for 26 month and then the war ended and so I was discharged at Port Arthur and came back this way for work. I went to the bush camp for two or three months at a time and then I'd come in and work at the restaurant for a while and then go back to the bush camps. I was moving all the time and I wasn't permanent anywhere but my address was Nipigon. When i didn't do restaurant work I did housework. Moving around and working doing that. There were a lot of people who wanted house cleaning and it was quite the town back then for that kind of work. I didn't mind it because I had money and meals so that was the way it went. So I stayed here and never went anywhere else to work except to the Wood office and see if they wanted any cooking at the camps."

"So that's how I come to stay here and you know there's lots of work in this town if they want to work. Right now I find it hard to get anyone to come and cut the grass and I got all the equipment and everything."

"I was always busy working so I never had time to really make friends. I knew pretty near everybody in town, but not now. I was always so busy doing housework and I was always too tired at night. I was never one to go out dancing or to go to the beer parlor or anything other than go out with a group or something like that."

"Canada Post was a lot different back then than it is now. When I worked there Mr. Dampier was the boss and Helen L. worked there and Lorraine W. and myself. They had an extra girl come in once in a while when we were on holidays."

"I didn't realize it was a night job. I used to pick the mail up off the train which was the CP rail. The mail came at night and in the morning. At night it wasn't dark yet and it came on the East-bound passenger train and the West. They brought the mail in bags and I picked them up off the train with my wagon and delivered it to the Post Office. It was quite a job especially in the winter. I had to shovel from the station to the road to get to the road with my wagon. Of course some smart-alecs in town would park right in the middle so I couldn't get out. It was quite a system there but i enjoyed it."

"I built this house in 1963. I bought this lot but the house wasn't here...just an old shack and I gave it to the neighbour. Frank Ruoho and Sam Barden built my house."

"I've been a Legion member since 1951 because they didn't have girls in the Legion before that. "

"When I was in the Navy I took my basic training in Gault and it was something like a jail but it was for girls that got in trouble and were hard to manage. There were lots of buildings there. Then I went down to Halifax which was where I stayed and I was in three different camps down there because I was an Officer Steward."

"I was involved with the Navy League Cadets here and I belonged to that for quite a few years."

Friday, 9 November 2012


LOG BOOK January 1950


"A demonstration model, built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors Corporation at La Grange, Ill, the 4,500 horse-power, 3-unit locomotive will be put through her paces, both passenger and freight service, under winter conditions in the rugged territory of the Algoma District and the heavy grades of the Canadian Rockies during the next three months."

"For the first six weeks, the power-packed giant will operate between Fort William and Cartier, Ontario, on freight service, with occasional passenger duty trips between Toronto and Fort William."

"Their high speed, heavy hauling characteristics, and on-time dependability as well as the inherent advantages of the diesel, to take curves faster due to centre of gravity, the reliability of power plants and a balanced design for maximum service availability marked by low maintenance costs are features of the diesel locomotive."

"The introduction of the Diesel Engine eventually will take over the tasks that have for so long been performed by steam power and will make a change for the men of the woods in camps along the railways and in stations. The cloud of smoke disappearing over the horizon and the steam whistle will be missed by all."

LOG BOOK  was a magazine of the Thunder Bay Timber Operators Association
The voice of the Timber Industry in Northern Ontario
This article was in their January 1950 edition
From the Nipigon Historical Museum Archives

Saturday, 3 November 2012


In 1949 the tug "Red Rock" sank in 75 feet of water in Lake Nipigon.

Diver 'Doc" Fowler was called in to raise it.

" This was a tricky job  as there was no equipment with which to lift the tug and so it had to be dragged a half mile along the bottom of the lake to shore. This was done by using the winch of a tractor and two alligators hooked to the shore with their winch cables hooked to the tug. The tug was pulled onto the shore, water pumped out and then towed to Orient Bay for repairs."

Source: Log Book, January 1950, page 7