SOME LOCAL HISTORY
by Edgar J. Lavoie
The Municipality of Greenstone
The municipality came into existence on January 1, 2001, and included the incorporated towns of Geraldton, Longlac, Nakina, and Beardmore, and the unincorporated villages of Jellicoe and Caramat, as well as a considerable portion of the unorganized rural area.
The five wards of Greenstone are comprised of the four former towns, and the rural area. All wards are linked by reasonably good roads. The main link with the rest of Canada is Highway 11. Some regional facilities and services are located centrally, in Geraldton, such as Greenstone Regional Airport, Geraldton District Hospital, Geraldton Composite High School, and Greenstone Fire Management Headquarters.
Each former town has a business sector, and offers services to travellers such as food, gas, and lodging. They also have many active organizations such as recreational societies, French clubs, and Senior Citizens groups, and sponsor annual events such as Canada Day celebrations.
In wintertime, a snowmobile trail links all communities, part of the network of Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs. In recent years, the municipality has opened up and/or maintained a network of hiking trails and canoe routes.
The Greenstone Region is also home to several aboriginal communities – Aroland, Ginoogaming, Long Lake 58, Sand Point, Rocky Bay, and Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek (Lake Nipigon).
According to Statistics Canada (SC), in 2001, the Municipality of Greenstone had a population of 5,662, with 2,702 dwellings spread over 2,780.5 square kilometres.
Sometime after 1914 the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway (CNOR) established Beardmore as a flag station (that is, trains had to be flagged down before they stopped). The community got a real boost during the Sturgeon River gold rush in 1934-35.
On July 6, 1936, Beardmore received a post office. After several producing mines closed in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the forest industry became the community’s mainstay. Commercial fishing, charter boat operations, and tourism in general help sustain the local economy. The population in 2001 was 347 (SC)
Beardmore offers a Lake Trout Hunt every July. On Lake Nipigon, Poplar Lodge Park and High Hill Harbour offer many seasonal campsites. Other recreational opportunities include tennis courts, a community gymnasium, a playground, a baseball diamond, a curling club, and an ice-skating arena.
Visitors to this community often have their pictures taken beside the world’s largest snowman.
In 1914, the CNOR created a divisional point named Hector. It had the usual roundhouse, shops, station, and section house. In 1916, the station was renamed Jellicoe in honour of the British Admiral John Rushworth Jellicoe, who had distinguished himself at the Battle of Jutland in the Great War.
Jellicoe’s heyday came during the Sturgeon River gold rush of 1934-35. However, no big producers established in the immediate vicinity, and after a devastating fire that swept the community in 1939, the village never recovered its former size.
Jellicoe’s population numbers around 115. Private homes are spread over a large area. Most have “backyard access” to fishing and hunting opportunities. Many of the residents are employed in the forest and hospitality industries.
The discovery of gold on the shores of Kenogamisis Lake in the early 1930’s led to the founding of Geraldton. A historical marker is located on the west side of Main Street in the downtown area.
The discovery of the Little Long Lac mine in 1932 meant that the Canadian National Railway line (formerly the CNOR) was soon delivering carloads of supplies and equipment to Kenogamisis Lake. A road (today’s Main Street) developed between the mine and the tracks, crossing Barton Bay. A townsite sprang up on both sides of the road and railway.
Newspapers referred to the new town as “The Muskeg Metropolis” because it rose so quickly from the swamp. By 1947, Geraldton had benefited from ten gold producers within a 10-mile radius.
As the mines closed down, Geraldton came to depend on the forest products industry as the main resource industry. Today, there are no operating mines, but mineral exploration activity continues apace.
Geraldton was incorporated as a Town in 1937. In 1939, a highway link was established with points west and south, including Thunder Bay. In 2001, the population was 2,224 (SC).
Visitors can avail themselves of hospitality services and a well developed retail sector. Annual events include a popular trade show, a fish derby, a music festival for local talent, a music jamboree with imported talent, and the popular Bergstrom golf tournament, played on an 18-hole course.
A good place to begin a visit is the Heritage Interpretive Centre at the junction of Highways 11 & 584.
In 1914, Nakina was a flag station on the newly completed railway line between Cochrane and Winnipeg. In 1923, the CNR constructed the Nakina Cut-off, joining its most northerly line with the one through Longlac.
The divisional point of Grant was transferred 16 miles west to Nakina. In 1957, Highway 584 linked Nakina with Geraldton. In the early 1960’s, the CNR began cutting back operations in Nakina. For almost twenty years, Nakina fought off the inevitable “run-through”. The old railway station has been transformed into the Heritage Centre.
In the 1970’s, Kimberly-Clark of Canada Ltd. began permanent harvesting operations in the area, an event which somewhat offset the decline in railway employment.
In 1978, the community incorporated itself as a Township. In 1993, Nakina acquired a coat of arms with the motto “Resolute, Strong and Firmly Established”. In 1999, a nearby facility began operations, the state-of-the-art maximizer lumber mill of Nakina Forest Products.
In 2001, Nakina’s population was 645 (SC). The community offers visitors such conveniences as campgrounds, boat launches, and a public beach. A popular festival is the Annual Bass Derby in August.
The R. Elmer Ruddick Nakina Airport has scheduled flights north and south. VIA Rail offers passenger service, travelling either east or west, every second day.
Nakina prides itself on the fly-in operations and outfitters that have opened up the vast wilderness “North of 50”.
The region’s recorded history begins with the fur trade in the distant past. In 1921 the Hudson’s Bay Co. post moved across the lake to the railway at Calong, near the centre of today’s town. The completion of the Nakina Cut-off in 1923 increased local railway operations.
The arrival of Pulpwood Supply Co. in 1937 gave a major impetus to Longlac’s economy. The company floated pulpwood through lakes and rivers south to Lake Superior. In 1942, the highway arrived from the direction of Geraldton.
In 1947 the company, operating as Longlac Pulp and Paper Co. Ltd., began shipping wood to its new Terrace Bay mill. The company also operated a local sawmill. In 1957, the company name changed to Kimberly-Clark Pulp and Paper Co. Ltd. In 1966, Weldwood of Canada Ltd. established a plywood plant. Today the forest products industry remains the town’s economic mainstay.
Longlac’s population was 1,748 in 2001 (SC). An historical monument (“the voyageur canoe”) faces the highway. Visitors can sample Longlac’s hospitality in the many motels and restaurants. The waterfront development offers first-class facilities for boaters, swimmers, picnickers, and campers. You are welcome to enjoy the tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and playgrounds.
Annual events include a popular trade show, the Summerfest festival in July, and the Moosecalac winter carnival in February. Cultural institutions include a History Centre and Chateau Jeunesse, a regional secondary school for francophones.
Longlac is the gateway to many outfitters, wilderness camps, and lodges. Visitors are welcome to the “Gateway to Northwestern Ontario”.
Caramat began as a flag station on the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway, its only communication with the outside world being the trains, the telegraph, and the Royal Mail. Today a paved road links it to the rest of the Municipality.
Caramat became a headquarters and a dormitory community for the local forest industry. Today Caramat has a population of about 125. The biggest annual event is the Caramat Fish Derby in July. Many residents still work in forest-related jobs, and some cater to visitors interested in outdoor activities.
- October 2006
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