Hearst

There’s something really interesting about Hearst.

Hearst is the frontier of northern Ontario – you either live in Hearst, east of Hearst, or you live waaaaaaaaaaaaaay west of it.  It even has a Northern Store (how’s that for remote.)

Hearst, Ontario on Highway 11

Hearst from the air

Where else would a town of 6000 have so many bars, the “northern ballet”, and yet still have four or five churches?

What other place keeps you in their town by telling you just how far away everywhere else is?  I mean, Longlac is 210 kilometres west, with nothing in between.  Hearst has the last McDonald’s for 500 kilometres – I know it because I checked, in person. There isn’t another McD’s until Thunder Bay

The tourist office in Hearst. Highway 11

The tourist office in Hearst. So awesome.

I once applied for a government job in Hearst, but never got an interview.  To be fair, I realize now that I was woefully underqualified.  I swear that the ad had listed French as “an asset”.  Well, no French isn’t an asset – in Hearst, it’s a requirement.

One of the most interesting things about Hearst, however, is that it is the most francophone community in Ontario – something like 85-90 percent.  Hearst even has residents that only speak French, and no English.  Rue George is the downtown drag and it’s really cute, with small shops, a library, a diner, and a movie theatre showing French-language movies.  It’s reminds me of Penetanguishene, but more with more French.

Hearst, OntarioI (h)EART (h)EARST

Erst (as it is pronounced locally) is a pretty special town.  It has:

•    The motto: “The Moose capital of Canada” (or so they boast)
•    The only tin man on Highway 11 (he keeps watch over an appliance store)
•    The most millionaires per capita (or so someone emailed, apparently it’s due to the local forestry?)
•    The largest moose sculpture on Highway 11 (Believe me, I’ve seen them all)
•    The most suburbs (two) of any small town Highway 11 town (take that, King Kirkland or Geraldton East)
•    The most truckstops per capita (or so I’ve calculated, roughly)
•    The biggest woodpile on Highway 11 (I’ve seen them all too)

Trust me.  When it's not getting snowbombed, Hearst's downtown is super cute

Trust me. When it’s not getting snowbombed, Hearst’s downtown is super cute.  The problem is that it gets hammered all the time.

Heck, I’ve been to Hearst three times.  Most of the photos here are from the first time that I hadn’t been snowed in (because it was August.)  Both other times, I was stuck for three days in storms even that locals found nasty.

Set on the Mattawishkwia River, Hearst is a forestry town (hence the massive woodpile.)  It also has a tourism industry set around hunting, outfitters, and its proximity to three Provincial Parks:  Fushimi Lake, Missinaibi and Nagagamisis.  It is also the end of the Algoma Line, which runs fall colours rail tours from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst.

Despite its francophone heritage, Hearst was once the site of a Slovak settlement.  Bradlo, nestled 11 kilometres south of Hearst, the community persisted until the 1950s when the residents realized that the land was agriculturally marginal, and wouldn’t support farming in a modern economy.

Sculpture jsut outside of Hearst

Hearst is so cool, this wolf vs. moose sculpture doesn’t even count as their “some big weird thing”…

Hearst tin man, Highway 11

…instead, this does!

Food and Fun in a Frontier Town

Hearst is a center for most of the little communities west of Kapsukasing, and is the largest town between Thunder Bay and Kapsukasing on Highway 11.  And probably for Hornepayne on Highway 631, about an hour and a half south.  (Head off-route and take a trip along 631 here.)

No McDonald's for 500 km in Hearst, Highway 11

I’ve used this photo about a twenty-two times on this website and it never gets old

Therefore, Hearst has an abundance of services.  It has the only McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s that you’ll see until Thunder Bay.  In addition to the 24-hour garage and towing company that is advertised throughout northern Ontario, there are shops downtown and food everywhere.  Hearst also has an overabundance of places that serve Northern Ontario Chinese Food.

Hearst has something for everyone – the northern ‘hotel’ scene (the Waverly or the Windsor), cafés (although Café Duo doesn’t serve coffee, go figure), fast food (McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, and the only Pizza Pizza west of Timmins), authentic chip stands (Micko’s is great), sit down restaurants (Mom’s, John’s, Pizza Place has ok pasta), fine dining (you can find filet mignon, steak, and Cuban cigars at Ailleurs), and even a little night club (OK, fine, it’s the bar at the Companion.)

Snowstorm, Hearst, Highway 11

Highway 11 in Hearst, getting walloped, again

There are motels aplenty in Hearst so you should have no trouble finding a place to stay.  (A note to those staying at the Queens Motel, keep your kids away from the funny channels at the end of the TV dial there!)  There is also hockey in the winter – in fact, Hearst is the hometown of Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers superstar, as well as Pierre LeBrun, a hockey commentator who has appearanced on TSN, ESPN, and Hockey Night in Canada. Hearst is home to the local team les Elans de Hearst. And, there is bowling.

Come on, it’s northern Ontario. Of course there is bowling!

Super awesome Hearst woodpile, Highway 11

Hearst – simply the best woodpile of any Highway 11 community

Hearst, Ontario highway11.ca

And this is what happens to a woodpile on Highway 11, in Hearst (Credit: Wiki Commons contributor P199)

 

Hearst, Ontario airport

Not sure why I took a photo of Hearst’s airport

83 thoughts on “Hearst

  1. Home is where your heart is and if some prefer to bash a community rather than live through some of the disadvantages then you are not from that place. Yes, we might be considered to be different and might be lacking in certain amenities, but if you look hard enough you just might find beauty and what makes a Northerner tick, and yes, hunting, fishing,and enjoying the great outdoors is a big part of who we are.

  2. I was born there and left at a year old to go back there in the early 70′s. It was still quite French and it was always very cold and lots of snow in which I don’t miss at all. My mother was from there and moved back there in the 70′s after my father passed away. I still have a brother and sis there and I have gone back a few times nothing seems to change there. I don’t mind visiting but would never move back there just too remote for me but it is what it is. A small town where everyone knows everyone. You either fit in or you don’t. My sister has lived there most of her life and loves her hometown. It is a person’s choice to live there. For those of you that put this town down, I think that you have nothing better to do with your time. It is a small community and like many other small towns, it is normal that people stick together and yes you either fit in or you don’t. It is a town where you have everything you need and when you are missing something there is always Thunder Bay where I have spent about 25 years and loved it. hi to my family that stills lives there.

  3. I was born and raised in Hearst and left in 2010 to pursue post secondary education. Not sure how old this article is but a lot of these photos are outdated and most of the businesses named here have closed their doors.

    Seeing all the comments of people who loved living in Hearst is pretty surprising. So I guess I’ll be the black sheep here and say that living in Hearst really sucked and you’d have to pay me a lot of money in order to get me back up there.

    Hearst has a very small and homogenous community. Everybody thinks they know everyone and rumors spread like wildfire. If you’re not French and a fan of Hockey and outdoor activities you’re most likely fucked depending on how attractive you are. People will fucking shun you just because you don’t fit in perfectly. A friend of mine and I have been laughed at, pushed around, ignored or glared at and hatefully labeled, not just by other kids, because we had long hair. A lot of people turn to drugs for entertainment. I’ve heard of popular 13 year old girls (aka “preps”) doing cocaine regularly. But hey, it’s ok right? Daddy’s a doctor or a lawyer, of course it is! Oh that kid from the trailer park whose parent’s can’t get a job because their not French. Fuck him I guess! LOL

    Hearst is redneck town desperately trying to survive. It’s a shit whole. If you don’t like Hockey, hunting and fishing (and winter of course) and you don’t speak French, you should definitely forget about it.

    P.S. Still better than Hawkesbury I’ve been told.

    • wow. how dare you. CLEARLY you were a loser growing up. as if you have the guts to go and bash such a special place that is so rare to find nowadays. just because you were not part of the in crowd and you were probably a freak of nature, does not-by any means give you the right to bash a geographical place. to differ from your absurd comments, NO—INDEED NONE OF THE PLACES MENTIONED ARE CLOSED, whatsoever. just because you had a bad experience growing up there (obviously because of your lack of sociability and popularity) does NOT give you the right to bash a very special place on earth. get.a.life.LOSER.

    • Dear Patrick, I totally agree with your comment. I have lived in Hearst as well and the heavy drug abuse and bullying was unbelievable. I was part of the cool kids and you are right about how they treat people. It a pretty tough place. I was lucky to have family members in a good place, I would never live there again. Too much isolation makes people crazy!!!!

      • yes..maybe some. especially those who don’t know how to use the outdoors and experiences all of the activities and fun it has to offer.

  4. nice to see some stories about Hearst and pics yellow truck with Godzilla if i recall wasnt MOMO the owner of that big yellow beast…..??? i was born in Kapuskasing raised in Hearst,,, great memories in childhood Hearst is not big on crime you wont see Homeless wandering the streets ,,, Hearst has issues as many other towns do but the farming and hospitality is rare to find in such a small community ,,, french and english ,,,languages the closest FN reservation is constance lake also known as calstock i have many friends and family that have left Hearst to pursue careers, life, dreams and just plain elsewhere but Hearst,,, still have family n aquaintances in Hearst have moved away since fall of 2002, went back for a short visit in 2004 and the night for partying for me after my seperation was companion hotel ,,, i never was 1 tooo party when younger ,,, i always went out but nnever drank always made sure evey1 else got home safe even if they were mean and nasty drunks they were hospitable and thankful for the favors,,, Miss my family that is still there i now live in Kenora surrounded by nearly 1000 lakes great bass tournaments, hockey and much here more thn Hearst lived sudbury lived in ottawa nothing beats the smaller communities reminds me of home …….so a big hi alll hearst towners left and a big from the west here

  5. wow! So many memories from Hearst and surrounding areas! I met my husband there and my youngest son was born there, I loved living in Hearst and still have in-laws there. I was secretary for Clayton Brown Public School around 1969 before my first born. We loved camping at the provincial park, hitting the beach in summer and snowmobiling in the winter. My husband was a logger, but sadly a few years later, he was killed at work logging in BC. It was a good life in Hearst in those days and I thank you for the trip down memory lane. Salut tout le monde de Hearst! Un morceau de mon cœur reste là avec vous autres.

  6. I lived in a small village north of Hearst, namely Lac Ste Therese, known as “au Lac” until 1971. My father had a dairy farm and was active in the local community.

    One very important fact missing from your outline is that Hearst boasts the smallest university in the world; this institution of high learning had the original goal of forming priests; in that respect, it may not have been a roaring success, but it nevertheless offered an opportunity to countless youth of the area to pursue an education in their language without leaving the community they so loved. The community and the entire area has benefitted greatly from the College’s contribution of many professionals and locally born educators, who may not otherwise have afforded an education, not to mention a heightened cultural scene. Thank you, Le College de Hearst!

  7. Born and raised in Hearst, was there for 34 years till 1985. Still have most of my family up there. One memorable moment was on July 1st 197??? we were in the Queen’s restaurant and we looked out the window and it was snowing. What I miss the most is the fishing and hunting.

  8. I live in Hearst 37 years ago.Moved to Penticton B.C.22 years ago.We love Hearst.No work and nothing for teenager.Cold winter lots snow.we like to go in holiday for visit nice friends and family in Mattice.We miss our friends and family.xxoo.

  9. I live in Hearst to until I was 38 years old.I moved in Penticton B.C.21 years ago I did not regret.Nothing in Hearst for work and for teenager.I love to visit sometimes I have lots friends in Hearst nice peoples.I have family in Mattice .I am really happy to visit them.

  10. born and raised in Hearst Ontario and bilingual as well moved away from there a few times and went back but moved away from there since 2001 and been back there to visit a few times but i loved living there when i was a child growing up and all have tons of relatives that lived there and some still do live there to this day …but i am gladly living in Sudbury Ontario and like it here

  11. I was born in Hearst in 1972. My dad had a dairy farm. They sold when I was 16 and moved to Ottawa. I moved at 23. I had the best chidhood there but I’m sure glad I moved. Hearst is it’s own little world…i’m sorry but there’s so much more to see and do…elsewhere.

  12. I was born in hearst in 1973 I left when I was very young but all my family is still there and try and get back there at least once a year summer or winter it dont matter its one of my favorite places to be

  13. We lived in Hearst for 11 years , i could says that when we moved away july 2014, a part of us stayed in this little town and i can say that this little town i can surely say its still HOME for us … People are very friendly.

  14. I wonder if you have been to Hunta, northwest of Cochrane on Highway 668? I also wonder if any of your readers are are descendants of the Slovaks who settled there in the 1920s-1940s. I am trying to get in touch with as many of them as I can, so that I can record the Slovak history of Hunta as accurately as possible.

    • Send me your email address and I’ll put you in contact with Ernie Bies. Ernie has done a lot of research on the Slovaks near Hearst. He has a wide network. Terry

  15. Hi…I was born in Hearst in 1937,…….lived some time out in Casgrain on a farm.Dr.Arkenstall was our Doctor…Bill Rouse,the Girouxs,the LaRoses, the Greelys, are some of the names I remember…We left about 1946 for Folyet..WOW.
    I visited Hearst again in 1983 and the old farm is still there….cheers…..gh

  16. Wondering if anyone has pictures of workers and engineers who worked on the railroad between 1946 and 1957..my dad Paul-emile Carrier was an engineer there,he also played violin and guitar in hotels,,maybe someone has pictures of their grandparents with him,,I do not have any pictures dated in that time frame

    • Hello Suzanne….not sure if I have any pics of your dad, but have a FB site with over 3000 pics to what I call Old Hearst that includes older type pics of the surrounding communities as well…..check them out and you just might a ic that you are looking for…

  17. I grew up in the Slovak Settlement of Bradlo and went to school there in the 50s so should know some of you posters.

    Webmasterplease correct your info on Bradlo. It was a Slovak community started in 1930 and our family was the last to leave in 1957. Most of the other settlers left by about1952. There was another Czechoslovak community at Opasatika, named Tabor that existed from about 1924 to 1930.

    If you want some good history of the pioneers of Hearst get a copy of Clayton’s Kids, Pioneer Families of Hearst Public School, available at the school and on abebooks.com. (or from me)
    Hearst also had a third NHLer, Rmun Ndur, who was born in Africa but learned to skate in Hearst where his father was a Doctor for many years.

    And yes I am writing a book about Hearst.

    • I was born and raised in Hearst. My family is still there. My grand-father, father and uncles use to own the International dealership called Hearst Central Garage. You also forgot the great community centre ” Clause Larose” who is my mother’s cousin. He played for the Montréal Canadiens,St-Louis Blues and the Minnesota North Stars. He is credited as the first NHL player from Hearst. I still say that groing up in Hearst was very special !

    • I understand there was a great fire there and a government building that housed census material burned. Would you have any information when and what was damaged?
      Susan Rocco

  18. You forgot to mention that there is another NHL hockey star from Hearst: Claude Larose. Played many years with Montreal Canadiens. Now retired.

  19. Bonjour/Hi,
    My brother and I are going to be skiing across all of Canada next winter (2012-13), an we’ll be passing through the James Bay frontier and Hearst. We’re Canadian-American halfbreeds. We plan to follow the railway line from La Sarre, Que, to Cochrane, Kapukasing, then on to Nakina, Savant Lake, and eventually Winnipeg. Are there any skiers or sledriders who can tell me if the railroad makes a good trail? Any comments about its conditions or things we should know. Any comments are welcome, in English or French. If you’re interested in reading about our cross-country ski trip have a look at http://www.bigski.org. You can conact me through that site too. If you’re a cross-country skier from the Hearst area and want to join us skiing for a while, that’d be great too.

  20. I lived in Hearst, Ontario from 1963 to 1967. From the age of 5 to 9. If you attended Hearst Public School during that time, I would love to hear from you.

    • Hello Tracy, I might vaguely remember you, but I think your dad was an O.P.P. Was your dad Trudy (not sure if name is spell right)….I have many old pics to Old Hearst in my FB albums with some older type O.P.P. pics as well……

    • Je suis née à Ryland, 10 miles à l’ouest de Hearst. Je suis allée au Hearst High School 1964 à 1967.Mon père, Jos Roy, est un des fondateurs de la CO-Op agricole de Hearst et de la laiterie de Hearst.
      J’ai été reine du carnival de Hearst en 1966
      Je suis l’épouse du fils du Dr Penu Chalykoff qui a pratiqué à Hearst et de Ella Aubin-Chalykoff, fille du Dr Louis-Arthur Aubin, un pionnier de Hearst.
      Il ne faut pas oublier que Hearst est surnommé “Le p’tit Québec” à cause de sa population francaise!
      Enseignante à la retraite, j’ai fondé une bibliothèque francaise, la seule du Sud-Ouest ontarien. Je suis présidente de la Fédération des ainés et retraités de la Région du Sud-Ouest. Ontarien. Je suis très impliquée dans le développement de la francophonie du Sud-Ouest Ontario grace à mon amour de la langue appris à Hearst!
      Quels beaux souvenirs je garde de ce village!

  21. hi i live in hearst and i have to say this iss one of the best town you could live in or visit! I LOVE IT HERE! :)

  22. Is there an upleasant or criminal element in Hearst, does anyone know? I am thinking of moving there. I’ve been to Kap and Cochrane and I wouldn’t want to live in those places.
    The website creator says there are many bars and “northern ballet”.

    • Froze my ass for 2 and half years, you are eaten by black flies and clouds mosquitos during spring and summer. Drugs they all smoke dope and the Indians hang around pestering you for money. Unless you are trying to disappear or have mental problem Hearst is the place for you.

      • Why would you bring up the First Nations people? They don’t bother anyone, it is the people of Hearst that have stereotyped the entire First Nation culture to be some drug addicted, money begging group, when really they have no education on what these people are experiencing. Try helping them heal from the pain they have endured, instead of judging them and putting them down even further!!! Only negative things I have to say about Hearst is: Unless you are french you wont find work, most people of Hearst oppress those who are not from here and do not speak French. It has been listed worst place for immigrants to move, highways are not maintained and they are treacherous in the winter months. It is a good place if you like the outdoors, but if you like to shop or go out a lot, this is not a town to move to.

      • Born and raised in Hearst. Moved away to be closer to my grand-kids. Yes we get bitten by black flies and skeeters in the summer and bitten again by the bitter cold of our winters, but, you in Aussieland must know that there are no perfect places in th world. I for one would rather face a horde of black flies than encounter any of the dozen poisonous or otherwise dangerous wild critters of Australia…no such thing in Hearst, unless you’re dumb enough to go play with the bears at the local dumpsite. And, what to say of the gang wars and crime rate of most modern cities…no such thing in Hearst. We do have some drug related crime, but not of the type involving street shoot-outs between rival gangs. As for those pesky natives, of course if you are an intolerant pale skin, you will run into problems with the ‘Injuns’. Learn to accept their differences, learn their culture, treat them as equals and they will likely respond in kind… Same goes with Aussieland’s native, I believe…
        Wishing you a nice life in Bristow, and if ever you come back to Hearst, we will still welcome you as a friend until you prove otherwise! Gidday to ya!

  23. I am native from Hearst & my family and some friends around the area. I moved to Saskatchewan in 2006 to be with the person I love and to adventure in the business of beekeeping with him. I miss my family & friends & the people of the small town of Hearst. I go back 2-3 times a year & I love visiting everyone. On a positive note, there is always new aditions to the amazing community spirit. We can say that it’ s still a very friendly & peaceful town. ;-)

  24. This is a great page, thank you! I treeplanted near Hearst in 2001 and we had some fun times on days off, we usually drank at the Waverly and always stayed at the Northern Seasons. There was a great thrift shop called the “depot” which had an amazing selection of very nice three piece suits. I also recall a large yellow monster truck named “Godzilla” it used to cruise all over town, I guess gas was cheaper then.

  25. We own property in Hearst and visit there each summer. The people are always friendly, and helpful. We always have fun. And, yes, there are lots of services available.

  26. I have been to Hearst several times in my life as I have lots of ants and oncles and a multitude of cousins that live there. It is a nice little town with very friendly people, everyone knows everyone. I remember sleeping at my aunts house right next to the O.P.P station like over 20 yrs ago. I have not been there for a long long time and will finally be going back this June and again in August. I can’t wait.

  27. Hello, Just to answer your question Mrs fex passed away last year in 2009, Her daughter is a teacher at Clayton brown public scool. The O.P.P. House just had a brand new building in 2009.

  28. I was born in Hearst, my dad was an OPP officer there in the 1950′s. Donn’t remember much as I left at age 5yrs. I do remember Mrs. Vex, the O.P.P.houses…does anyone know if they still exist?

    • My dad was Chief of Police back around the 50′s, in Hearst, his wife, a teacher for many years taught at Clayton Brown Public then St. Therese School amongst a few.

      • I sed to bump into your dad quite often at the grocery store…I started a FB site with tons of old pics to Hearst and he told me that he had a few that he would share, but we just never got around to digging them up…then he was was gone from Hearst in a flash….

  29. I first visited Hearst in September of 1987. I recall being met by two French girls with a 1962 Cadillac limo from the Hotel where I’d reserved a room, the Northern Seasons. It was a delightful town, a delightful train trip up from the Soo. I revisited in 2002. The French girls are probably 50 by now, the 62 Cadillac was gone, and the lobby in the Northern Seasons has been relocated to the opposite side of the building. It’s still a nice place to stay and the town is just as interesting, but the railroad is not as friendy since it’s not really owned by Algoma Steel any longer. They don’t allow you off the train for ice cream at Hawk Junction like they once did. But all in all, still yet another memorable trip, and looking forward to coming back again someday.

  30. I was driving from Thunder Bay to Hearst and realized too late that I would run out of gas about 80km from Hearst. I found a construction crew that sold me 20 liters for $40(CAD) or about $7.50/US gal. They aren’t kidding when they say there is nothing for 250km west of Hearst on Hwy 11.

  31. A couple of years ago I was snowmobiling in the area and saw a sign on the edge of town with a hockey logo. I think it was a Hearst Bantam team with a capital H and a Moosehead. Can you tell me the name of the team and if they still play?

  32. HI there..just wondering if anyone was attending Hearst High between 72-75.Yes I used to live there but I’m downunder
    Cheers

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