Thunder Bay District

Thunder Bay District: 1821 - 1892

Edited with an Introduction by Elizabeth Arthur
Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 313
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt15jvvtg
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  • Book Info
    Thunder Bay District
    Book Description:

    This volume is a pioneering excursion into the documentary history of the Thunder Bay area.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5637-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)
    William G. Davis

    “FORT William on Lake Superior” is a phrase still capable of of conjuring up a picture of colour and vigour, of doughty merchant adventurers and brave pioneer women. For several years the Thunder Bay region was an important funnel through which poured hundreds of men taking up the epic challenge of northern discovery.

    But once the spectacular days of the Nor’wester were gone, the idea of industry and commerce blooming in northern barrens seemed to falter. The picture of Fort William, in southern Ontario eyes, became that of a place and social order belonging to the past. All the early...

  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Elizabeth Arthur
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction

    • A. THE UNDISTRIBUTED MIDDLE, 1821–92: A PROBLEM OF JURISDICTION
      (pp. xix-xxxiii)

      If the Canadian nation exists in defiance of the rules of logic, the Thunder Bay area may be taken to represent the dubious middle term of a syllogism. The modern District of Thunder Bay is bounded by Lake Superior on the south and, for much of its extent, by the Albany River on the north. The surveys of the late nineteenth century established 91º longitude as the western boundary. On the east, the decisions concerning boundaries are less easily described. From Lake Superior north to a point just south of the 50th parallel of latitude, the line dividing Thunder Bay...

    • B. DREAMS OF POWER AND RICHES, 1821–55
      (pp. xxxiv-xli)

      In the generation after the union of the fur trading companies the Lake Superior District was haunted by memories of its past, reminded constantly of its decline from the promise of Fort William’s first decade, and, from time to time, aroused by hopes that wealth and influence might be recovered. It was all too easy for old Nor’westers and their sons to snatch at phantasmagoric dreams of the future. But the hard facts of the nineteenth century fur trade and the decline of existing transport routes offered little hope for the Thunder Bay area in the thirty years that followed...

    • C. TRAVELLERS AND RESIDENTS, 1821–55
      (pp. xlii-xlix)

      It was an inescapable result of the kind of economic activity that was carried on in the Thunder Bay area before 1855 that the people who lived there were transients rather than settlers. But there were degrees of transience. Travellers en route to the west, Hudson’s Bay Company officials arriving only for annual council meetings, members of the Boundary Commission appointed under the terms of the Treaty of Ghent – these may be classified as genuinely transient. A second group was made up of Company employees and missionaries whose work kept them in the district for a number of years...

    • D. THE COMMERCIAL REVOLUTION AND THUNDER BAY, 1855–70
      (pp. l-lxi)

      The opening of the American canal at Sault Ste Marie in 1855 transformed Lake Superior travel and, belatedly, brought the commercial revolution of the mid-nineteenth century to Thunder Bay. During the next decade came the surveyors and the prospectors. Individuals, companies, and governments pondered their reports, and made decisions of both economic and political consequence, for these were the years in which other parts of British North America were forced to reassess their position and ultimately to agree upon a political union. What gave the period a special kind of unity for Thunder Bay, however, was the concentration upon economic...

    • E. THE ZONE OF TRANSIT, 1870–85
      (pp. lxii-lxx)

      As recently as 1965 Arnold Toynbee generalized upon the significance of what he called “the zone of transit,” which he described as “a broad insulating zone of wilderness that comes down to the northern shore of Lake Ontario and stretches up from there to the Arctic Circle.”¹ For at least the District of Thunder Bay the Toynbee phrase has always had particular significance. The transport arrangements of the North West Company had focused attention upon the area, and even in the years of diminished importance after 1821 the old routes to the west had not been completely abandoned. Fort William...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • F. THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF ONTARIO’S FRONTIER, 1870–92
      (pp. lxxi-lxxx)

      As soon as Confederation had been accomplished there were signs that the new province of Ontario would promptly assert its authority over the distant region in which some of its businessmen were already interested. A number of decisions with respect to mineral lands’ policy were debated in the first sessions of the Ontario Legislature. Surveyors were despatched to a series of new townships, beginning with McIntyre in 1869. Provincial legislation in 1873 grouped several of these townships and the village of Prince Arthur’s Landing in the new municipality of Shuniah and, for the first time, the western part of Algoma...

    • [Map]
      (pp. None)
    • G. ON THE FRINGES OF SETTLEMENT, 1870–92
      (pp. lxxxi-lxxxvii)

      For all the economic activity that marked the 1870s and the 1880s in Thunder Bay, settlements remained isolated from each other and often short-lived. A shifting and impermanent pattern of settlement in turn imposed special administrative problems and involved rather tentative and unsatisfactory results for those upon whom Ontario civilization impinged for the first time. What became arrestingly clear in these decades was the extent to which large parts of Thunder Bay continued in their old routine, virtually untouched by changes taking place in particular areas. The correspondence between Osnaburgh and Martin’s Falls about the arrival of packets, the unreliability...

    • H. THE RIVALRY OF THE PORT AND THE FORT, 1870–92
      (pp. lxxxviii-xcvii)

      From the moment that Colonel Wolseley provided the name Prince Arthur’s Landing (which the exigencies of ticket and sign printing caused the Canadian Pacific Railway to alter in 1883) it seemed apparent that this port would become the centre for a developing district. Tiny as the hamlet was, it could still claim the largest concentration of population in northern Ontario, and the influx of settlers during the 1870s raised its numbers to about fifteen hundred at a time when no other centre in Thunder Bay could boast more than a fifth of that number. The Dawson Road began at its...

    • I. A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
      (pp. xcviii-cvi)

      In the pre-Confederation period it had been impossible for any sense of community to develop in Thunder Bay. The geographical barriers, the dominance of a fur trading Company in which the area was of secondary importance, the transient nature of the population, all served to divide rather than to unite. Sir George Simpson recognized this, but indicated also the possibilities of change, in a passage frequently quoted ever since by those urging development of the Lakehead area:

      Compared with the adamantine deserts of Lake Superior, the Kaministaquoia presented a perfect paradise. One cannot pass through this fair valley without feeling...

  6. Documents

    • A. THE UNDISTRIBUTED MIDDLE, 1821–92: A PROBLEM OF JURISDICTION
      (pp. 3-31)

      William Sax,² sworn. I am a surveyor. I am acquainted, according to a map which I have here, with the limits of Upper Canada, that is to say, of the old Province of Quebec; the western limit, the mouth of the River Ohio, is in longitude 88º50’ west from Greenwich, and latitude 37º10’ north. That appears by a map which I have made and have in my hand, to be the latitude and longitude of the junction of the Ohio River with the Mississippi.

      Chief Justice Sewell.³ – When you speak of the junction of the Ohio River with the...

    • B. DREAMS OF POWER AND RICHES, 1821–55
      (pp. 32-54)

      Sunday, 1st July [1821] At 12 we came to the great Traverse of Thunder Bay and at 3 o’clock arrived at Fort William where we were received by Mr. Norman McCloud,² Mr. Rocheblave,³ and Mr. McTavish.⁴ We were received with the firing of Guns, and the shouts of the Indians, Canadians, etc.!!! Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.’ Fort William is in Lat 48.15 Lon. 89.30w ...

      Fort William,

      July 5, 1821⁵

      The North West Company having made Fort William the principal Depot of their Trade have a very large Supply of Goods in Store and as from the Manner in...

    • C. TRAVELLERS AND RESIDENTS, 1821–55
      (pp. 55-82)

      The Black River is now at hand. Of the islands a little to the east, and seven miles from this river, named “the Slate Islands,” from their being of greenstone slate, I only know further that they are rather large and high. Captain Bayfield has visited them.

      We were enabled to examine the Black River for five or six miles inland, as the fog of the morning was succeeded by a storm of wind and rain, which kept us for two days near its mouth: into which, in fact, we ran our boat. On the sudden occurrence of a storm,...

    • D. THE COMMERCIAL REVOLUTION AND THUNDER BAY, 1855–70
      (pp. 83-111)

      Montreal,

      January 12, 1857

      There appears to be little doubt that the intention of the United States Government has been for some time past turned in the direction of the Red River Settlement but with what views is not clear. It is evident also that the large half breed population of which the settlement on the Red River is composed, is not easy to govern, and that the presence of the military there would aid the local authorities, and for other reasons doubtless be welcome. But whether these considerations are sufficient to overrule the objections to the Establishment of a...

    • E. THE ZONE OF TRANSIT, 1870–85
      (pp. 112-141)

      25 May [1870] turned out about 6 stopped at 7.40 near a silver mine on a small island to let off some miners.² Thunder cape in front of us 1300 ft high – got into “Prince Arthurs landing”³ at 10 am send by Col. W⁴ to examine land ½ mile to left of us to see if fit for a camp, found it was – a piece about 90 yds by 50 with a nice stream of water – busy all day putting up tents and getting ashore stores. in afternoon took a walk with Dr. Robertson r.c.r. 1½ miles...

    • F. THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF ONTARIO’S FRONTIER, 1870–92
      (pp. 142-172)

      On the 28th July, 1847, by chapter 67 of 10 and 11 Victoria, a company called the “Montreal Mining Company” was incorporated, with power to acquire mineral lands on the north shores of Lake Superior and Lake Huron and to explore, develop, sell, lease, and otherwise dispose of them …

      [In 1868] assays were made by Professor Chapman, Dawson and others which indicated the existence of silver ore on some of these lands and especially Silver Islet.

      The Honourable Thomas Ryan,³ then the President of the Company, endeavoured to procure the assistance of English capitalists in London, but reported on...

    • G. ON THE FRINGES OF SETTLEMENT, 1870–92
      (pp. 173-204)

      Martin’s Falls,

      March 16th, 1870

      The usual packet from Albany reached us yesterday afternoon & will I trust start for your quarters [at Osnaburgh House] tomorrow morning.

      I would now beg to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 3rd Jany under cover to Mr. Wm. MacKay by which I was sorry to learn that some of our Indians had gone to A/O [Albany and/or Osnaburgh?] although at the same time it must be acknowledged that you acted properly in supplying them rather than run the risk of their leaving the District, however I hope that you will give Cr....

    • H. THE RIVALRY OF THE PORT AND THE FORT, 1870–92
      (pp. 205-230)

      Prince Arthur’s Landing,

      30th Sept. 1871

      I beg to forward to you a trace of the working plan of the survey of Prince Arthur’s Landing shewing the subdivisions as far as the Survey is completed.

      I was obliged to deviate considerably from the projected plans in order to suit the streets to the nature of the ground and at the same time clash with buildings as little as possible.²

      So far nearly every lot is claimed and it will be necessary for me to subdivide another tier of Park lots to supply the demand in that locality.³ I purpose completing...

    • I. A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
      (pp. 231-266)

      At the east end of the village [Prince Arthur’s Landing] is a little river – McVicar’s Creek – round which are piles of lumber and log and clapboard houses. Close to the creek is the bark conical wigwam of an Indian. Along the shore boys pick up agates. The village site, with its scattered white houses, gradually rises. We pass up Arthur street, leaving the reservation for a park of some ten acres on our left, and the commodious grounds, residence and offices of Mr. D.D. Van Norman, Stipendiary Magistrate and Registrar, on the right, the land rising gradually, so...

  7. APPENDIX: ORIGINAL TEXTS OF DOCUMENTS
    (pp. 267-280)
  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 283-290)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 291-307)
  10. [Map]
    (pp. 308-308)