Haileybury

Which northern Ontario town had its own street cars, was home to the guy who wrote the Hardy Boys, had the most millionaires in Canada, was the first home of the team that would become the Montréal Canadiens, and then promptly had its prosperity wiped out by a massive fire?

Streetcar Norhtern Ontario, Haileybury, Highway 11

Back off St. Clair Avenue West…Haileybury has had streetcars too!

The thing that makes Haileybury really northern is its history.  The rise and fall and apparent rebuilding is really interesting and, in my opinion, totally characteristic of northern Ontario.

Lumber boat in Haileybury, ontario

After Longlac and Opasatika, let me guess this is a lumber boat?

Once known as Humphrey’s Depot, Haileybury was founded in the early 1900s by a former fur trader on the shores of Lake Temiskaming.  He named the town after the school he attended in England.  He tried to attract settlers with the usual propaganda leaflets, but as northern Ontarians know, there’s no better way to get the country settled than a gold rush.  And that’s what it took to get Haileybury off the ground.

Haileybury, downtown, Highway 11 Ontario Lake

Haileybury road leading into Lake Temiskaming. (Credit; User P199 at Wiki Commons.)

Despite being named after a place in England where wealthy parents got rid of their kids, Haileybury is the start of francophone north-eastern/central Ontario.  (Or it is the end, depending on which way you’re traveling on Highway 11.)  Approximately 80 percent of Haileyburians are French-first, which is interesting given that their neighbours are primarily anglophone, particularly in New Liskeard (70 percent) and Cobalt (almost completely unilingual.)  As you go north after Haileybury, the towns almost alternate – anglo, franco, etc.

The discovery of silver in Cobalt in 1903 started a population explosion in Haileybury, as the town became a bedroom community for prospectors and mine owners.  So successful were some that a street in Haileybury was dubbed Millionaire’s Row for the wealthy people it housed.

Haileybury, Ontario on Highway 11But of course, this all had to come to a tragic end with the fires of 1922, which killed 11, displaced 3500, and razed the town completely alongside New Liskeard, Dymond, and possibly Cobalt. In order to survive, many families had to hide in wells, lakes, and even down mine shafts. Many of those who escaped to the mines died when the fires, passing over the mines, sucked out the shaft’s oxygen, asphyxiating those who sought refuge underground. The town commorates the fire with a sculpture at its waterfront park, pictured below on the left.

Haileybury Today

With 4500 people, Haileybury (pronounced locally as Hailey-berry) is the second largest part of the Tri-Towns and Haileybury is the seat of the Temiskaming Shores municipality, which includes New Liskeard and Dymond.  It is a quiet lakeshore community that is worth a stop if you’re not in a hurry.

Pioneer Monument, Great Fire, Haileybury, Highway 11

Monument to pioneers that survived the Great Fire by hiding in swamps, lakes, and wells

I really like the waterfront.  There is a nice little pavilion with the Pioneer’s Monument (pictured) honouring the fire of 1922.  There is a little beach and a modern marina as well.  The view is nice across the lake to Quebec and in the summer you’ll see a number of boats on the water as Lake Temiskaming is the end of the scenic Ottawa River route, which is popular with boaters.  The waterfront is worth a drive, if not a full stop.

Haileybury on the shores of Lake Temiskaming

Haileybury on the shores of Lake Temiskaming

In terms of tourism, there is a fair amount to do.  The Haileybury Heritage Museum was built to chronicle the history of the town and tell the story of the fire.  The museum features a restored 1920s streetcar, as well as an old firepumper and a preserved tugboat that used to ply the waters of Lake Temiskaming.  You can also visit the “world famous” Haileybury School of Mines.  Haileybury is also home to the Temiskaming Art Gallery.  You can see different types of ores at the Rock Park Walk, while there is camping and golf in town as well.

I don’t remember a lot of places to eat, and I think the only Tri-Town Tim Horton’s are in New Liskeard and Dymond.  Accommodations include the Leisure Inn, Edgewater Motel and Cabins, the Haileybury Beach Motel, and the Les Suites des Presidents Suites, an upscale bed and breakfast.  New Liskeard has more places to stay and eat.  Personally I find that Haileybury, despite being very pretty and having stuff to do, is still something of a bedroom community.  It doesn’t have the same downtown nor the same ‘feel’ that New Liskeard does.  And it’s nothing like Cobalt.  At all.

Downtown Haileybury

Back to History

Haileybury was also home to the team that would become the Montreal Canadiens.  The club played the 1909 NHA season and left for Montreal.  It would become the Canadiens only two years later.  I think that’s pretty neat.

Haileybury’s streetcars were part of the Nipissing Central Railway that connected the Tri Towns, which would definitely make it unique in the north.  Heck I’m sure it ran faster then than Timmins transit does today.  Toronto also donated 87 streetcars after the great fire to help shelter the homeless.  Today there is one restored streetcar left at the Haileybury Heritage Museum.

And, to finish, Haileybury was also home to Les Macfarlane, who wrote many of the Hardy Boys novels under the pen name Franklin Dixon.

Thanks to Johnny O for the info on the Tri Towns.

The Hardy Boys's Sleuth, in Haileybury on Highway 11

I never liked the Hardy Boys. Too All-American. Too serious. Too predictable. Sure, you knew that Encyclopedia Brown was always going to figure it out too but at least he had a sense of humour. But, anyway, this is a replica of the Hardy Boys’s boat, in Haileybury.

Thornloe

Thornloe is a largely francophone hamlet on Highway 11 that is famous for cheese.

Thornloe Cheese Factory, Highway 11 OntarioIts cheese is relatively cheap, well made, and is particularly known for its cheddar and hot pepper colby, as well as its curds.  It has been known for people to travel from North Bay, and Timmins, and beyond just for Thornloe cheese.  The Thornloe Cheese Factory is so popular that the Ministry of Transportation gave the factory its own turning lane on Highway 11 for safety’s sake.

2006 protest in Thornloe, OntarioIn July 2006, Parmalat International announced that it was going to shut down the cheese plant.  This started a storm of anti-Parmalat sentiment in the area, and residents (battle-ready from Adams Mine and Bennett Incinerator fights) were mobilizing quickly. I was in the area at that time – it was a really big deal. I’ve been back since, and it seems they’ve done some renovations. There is a new sign, the cheese has neat new Thornloe-specific packaging – it’s all pretty well done. The cheese was good too – my partner and I devoured some curds, making sure to save some for the next day.

Twenty kilometres north of New Liskeard, Thornloe is a tiny quiet strip of farms with a population of about 120.  Established in 1916, Thornloe is about five minutes west of Highway 11 and always smells like a fall fair.  There is a gas station right on the highway.  There is a playground, an outdoor ice rink, and two churches in town (one of which is for sale.)  There is a pioneer cemetery that I didn’t have a chance to stop at.

Thornloe Cheese, Highway 11

This is where the magic happens!!!

Thornloe is cute, but there’s really nothing to see other than the nice green hills and the acres and acres of farms.  I saw a wonderful orange sunset in Thornloe.  The Temiskaming Farm Belt may not be exciting, but if you like rural farm country then it sure is beautiful.

Thornloe Ontario Highway11.ca

Maybe I’m nuts, but places like this just make me feel all warm and cozy.  Before I visited Temiskaming, I never expected scenes like this in northern Ontario (Credit: P199 at Wiki Commons)

Note that the Thornloe Cheese Factory is often closed after six pm, depending on the season.

Church for sale, Thornloe, Ontario, Highway 11

Church in Thornloe was for sale when I was there in 2006

Earlton

You can tell you’re in farm country in Earlton – 1) it has a John Deere dealership, and 2) the Earlton Country Store isn’t a craft outlet, it’s a real country store complete with seed, fertilizers, and farm tools.

Earlton hosted the International Plowing Match in 2009

Earlton hosted the International Plowing Match in 2009.  (Photo credit: Highgrader Magazine)

Earlton is a francophone farm hamlet of about 800 on Highway 11.  I love Earlton.  It reminds me of southern Ontario.  Upon driving in to Earlton you see the grain, corn, and dairy farms (I think they also grow some potatoes and berries up here too.)  Depending on the direction of the wind, the town sometimes smells like a barn.  But that’s why it is so neat.  Heck, there are cows practically right in the town itself.  Earlton is so cute – I love it.

Cow traffic jam!  Cattle graze near homes in Earlton, Ontario on highway 11

Honestly, these were right in the middle of town

Earlton is kind of the half-way point between North Bay and Cochrane, being about 200 kilometres in between both.  Earlton is about 30 kilometres north of New Liskeard. Earlton is the home of hockey’s true number 99, former Maple Leafs player Wilf Paiement, who recently appeared in a pretty-cheesy-but-not-unfunny Leon’s commercial (“You can make three easy paiements…”)

Earlton used to be well known for the Earlton Zoo – the only place in Ontario north of Toronto to have zebras and other African animals.  However that morphed into the Temiskaming Wildlife Centre, which took care or orphaned or rescued animals from across the north.  Apparently, according to posters below, the Centre is now shut down.

Earlton, Ontario on Highway 11 highway11.ca

(Credit: User P199 at wiki Commons.)

There is also Manitou, the famous bison statue that is (if I am correct) the world’s largest sculpture of a bison or buffalo.  If you get up close, you’ll see that it is made of everything from sheet metal to fibreglass to nuts and bolts (as hair.)  It is even anatomically correct, which I’m sure leads to many rude photos and pranks.

Earlton, Ontario Highway 11 Bison statue

Earlton’s anatomically correct bison

Earlton hosts a number of festivals.  As a farming town, Earlton hosts a farm fair the weekend after Labour Day.  Every July 15 and 16 Earlton hosts its annual Steam Days, where old steam powered machines are resurrected and displayed.  There is also the yearly Temiskaming Drag n’ Fly drag racing event held at the airport. Earlton was also the home to the 2009 International Plowing Match – the furthest north the IPM has ever been held. (Scroll down for a few IPM photos – thanks to Highgrader Magazine for the International Plowing Match photos.)

Earlton, Ontario 2006 protest

Local businesses and residents fought the closure of the Thornloe Cheese Factory, and won

In terms of services, Earlton has a caisse, a Scotiabank and Chartrand’s Grocery.  Hotel LaSalle (“the friendly place”) has takeout and dine-in food.  There are also two chip stands, a little bowling alley (it is northern Ontario still!) and a motel.  There is a baseball diamond and recreation centre at the west end of town.  There is gas just off Highway 11, and Real’s Barbershop is in town should you need a haircut on your roadtrip.

Earlton is definitely worth a stop, especially on a summer evening to watch the sun set over the local farms.  You’ll swear you’re in Perth County or Essex County, not Temiskaming.

Earlton, Ontario rural airport, highway11.ca

Earlton’s little airport, surrounded by countryside. (Credit: User P199 at Wiki Commons.)

Earlton, Ontario 2009 IPM Highway 11

2009 International Plowing Match. (Photo credit: Highgrader Magazine.)

Elk Lake

Elk Lake is a community of about 800 people at the junction of Highways 65 and 560, on the banks of the Montreal River.  Equally anglophone and francophone, Elk Lake sits at the western edge of the Temiskaming Clay Belt and is primarily a forestry town. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for more photos.)

Elk Lake, Highway 66, Ontario

Random photo at the Domtar mill in Elk Lake, with random worker from a random website

According to Museums North, remnants of pictographs on rocks show that the Elk Lake area was along trade routes used by the Cree and Anishnabai people. These routes were already well established prior to the establishment of the Fur Trade of the mid 1600s. Remnants of an Aboriginal graveyard that can be seen on the south side of town indicate that Elk Lake was settled long before Europeans arrived. The local Ojibway peoples named the lake after the huge herds of elk that roamed the area at this time.

Elk Lake church

Church in Elk Lake

Although forestry had been going on in the area since the mid 1800s, Elk Lake didn’t become settled by Europeans until silver was discovered in the area in 1906. The town was set up in 1909, road connections to Elk Lake were built (previously, you could only get there by steamboats on the Montreal River, from Latchford) and eventually there were 30 active mines in the area, and the town peaked with a population of 10 000. A line of the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway was built to the town in 1913.

Elk Lake Today

Today, Elk Lake is home to about 400 people. The town straddles the shore of the Montreal River, which makes for some beautiful views, especially when the sun shines off the shimmering water. I was pretty impressed with how clean and tidy Elk Lake was – the village could make for a nice getaway if you’re willing to go off the beaten path in search of quiet, solitude, and relaxation. It’s also not too far from Long Lake, which has even more hunting, fishing, boating, and swimming opportunities.

Elk Lake River

Elk Lake River

Elk Lake’s major employer is the Elk Lake Planing Mill, owned by forest industry giant Domtar. You can call 678-2210 to go for tours in the plant. Mining has all but disappeared, although high metals prices have re-ignited exploration in the area. Being at the western edge of the Temiskaming Claybelt, there is also some agriculture in and around Elk Lake, largely beef and horse farms.

Bison farm, Elk Lake

The fence doesn’t inspire…

Elk Lake, surprising to some, has gotten a bit of a reputation for being a community with a green outlook. The town is known as a proponent of sustainable forestry. It is also the site of the Elk Lake Eco Resource Centre, a conference/banquet/retreat/hotel facility which was built with local economic and environmental sustainability in mind. Citizens of Elk Lake were also instrumental in the fight against Adams Mine, when the Ontario government was proposing to use the former Kirkland Lake mine site as a dumping ground for Toronto’s garbage.Farm country, Elk Lake, northern Ontario

As for services, I’ve only been to Elk Lake once so I can’t comment too much. In addition to the Eco Centre, there’s a chip stand (year-round!), an LCBO, gas, some motels, a small grocery store and an outfitters. I know there are a number of tourist camps, lodges, and cabin rental places in the area that offer outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, snowshoeing, canoeing, and camping. Elk Lake is also home to a cross-country ski club that maintains about 15 kilometres of trails. The municipal campground has a boat launch, a beach, and hiking along the Bear Creek Rapids. The town is also close to the northernmost point of Makobe-Greys River Provincial Park.
In 2009, the Township of James (in which Elk Lake is situated) will celebrate their 100th Anniversary.

WOODPiLE! Elk Lake

Finally! It’s been so long since I’ve seen a woodpile!

Hayden – Elk Lake Serenade

Elk Lake, I think, is also the inspiration for the title of Hayden’s CD Elk Lake Serenade, which I can say (and can many others) is probably one of his best albums. (Hayden is a Toronto-based folk-rock musician, who was heralded as the next Beatles in the mid 1990s when he released a home-made tape recorded in his bedroom. Evidently, that level of fame never panned out, however, he is still a fantastic musician nonetheless.)Elk Lake River

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Matachewan

Matachewan is a largely francophone town of about 350 about 60 kilometres west of Kirkland Lake on Highway 66 (we are continuing our detour off Highway 11 for a bit).

On the shores of the Montreal River and near Mistinikon Lake, Matachewan is a Native word meaning ‘meeting of the waters.’

Matachewan had its European start about 8 kilometres north, when the Hudson Bay Company founded Fort Matachewan to trade furs with the local population.  The area around Matachewan had been populated for a long time before Europeans arrived.  Approximately 13 kilometres north of Matachewan are ancient Aboriginal pictographs which indicate trade routes that were used in the area.

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Virginiatown / Kearns

Continuing our detour off Highway 11, Virginiatown and Kearns are two villages (population approximately 800) northeast of Krugerdorf via Highway 624.  V-town is just a tad west of the Quebec border on the northeastern shore of Larder Lake.Virginiatown and Kearns, OntarioBuilt in the shadow of the great Mount Cheminis, the area known as Virginiatown is comprised of three different villages – Kearns, North Virginiatown, and Virginiatown proper. I would have done separate pages for all three but a) I don’t have a tonne of info, and b) I’m not sure where one village ends and the next one begins on a map. I think North Virginiatown is north of Highway 66, Virginiatown is south of it, and Kearns is just a kilometre or two east.

Virginiatown is actually much closer to Rouyn than Timmins or any other larger centres in Ontario. Therefore, (and I might be wrong, but) I’m pretty sure that V-town, as it is affectionately called, is a largely francophone community which had its heyday with the northeastern Ontario mining boom in the early half of the 20th century.  So, I checked this fact.  Statscan tells me that Virginiatown and area is largely francophone.  But emailers and posters (before I lost all the posts) tell me that nearly no one speaks French in V-town.  So, I don’t know.

Virginiatown, Ontario

Highway 66 traveling east into Virginiatown, with Mount Cheminis in the background

Virginiatown sprung up with the expansion of the mineral rush which began in Cobalt in the early 1900s and drove north founding towns like Kirkland Lake and Larder Lake. V-town was famous for the Kerr Addison Mine, which at one time was the richest gold deposit in North America. The gold from the first Canadian 5 ounce gold coin was mined from the Kerr Addison. Today, a coin monument stands to commemorate this Virginiatown achievement.

Like all boom towns, this had to come to an end eventually. The Kerr Addison Mine shut down in the 1990s, and while there is still exploration and some smaller gold ventures in the area, Virginiatown is pretty sleepy nowadays. Check out the link to Louie Palu’s photos below, it contains some fantastic shots of mining life in Larder Lake and Virginiatown mines.

Virginiatown coin, Ontario

Does V-town’s big weird coin outdo Larder Lake‘s flying fish?

There is a boat launch to Larder Lake, and you can access nearby Labyrinth Lake where you can catch northern pike, bass, and walleye. According to google, there is a ceramic shop in town as well. You can visit the Virginiatown Heritage House for a history of the town and its mining past, or hike the Heritage Gold Trail to view underground mining equipment.

Mount Cheminis is, in my opinion, the coolest thing in the area. Shooting up from the trees like the bum of a thick marker, it rises majestically above V-town and is visible from Highway 66. You can hike up the summit from local trails. Check out some of the nice pictures in the links below. Andre emailed to let me know that Mount Cheminis (known as Mont Chaudron in French) is techhnically in Québec.

Mount Cheminis, Virginiatown, Ontario

Mount Cheminis. Awesome!

Services in town include gas (Guy’s Service Station), a small grocery store, and the usual small-town-northern-Ontario stuff like the Bear Creek Bait and Tackle shop and a curling club. Chez Lucie is a drug store, convenience store, and video rental in one, and Armando’s “Le Bar” is a local diner and watering hole. The Cheminis Lodge provides bed and breakfast facilities and lodging, as does the Hilltop Inn.

The only time I drove through Virginiatown was en route to Rouyn. I was on a schedule, so I stopped to take a picture with the big coin and that’s it. Please help me add to this page – send personal anecdotes, history, photos, and advice to info (at) highway11 (dot) ca.

For an archive of the 30 comments that were posted to Highway11.ca’s profile of Virigniatown/Kearns between 2008 and 2012, please click here.

Larder Lake

Unlike Kirkland Lake, there is actually a Larder Lake in Larder Lake. Larder Lake is a former mining town about 10 kilometres west of Virginiatown on Highway 66 (not Highway 11 – detour still in effect), and 20 kilometres from the Québec border.

Larder Lake was first settled in 1906 after the silver boom in Cobalt pushed people further north in search of more mineral deposits. Gold was found in the Larder Lake area, creating a boomtown in the bush.

Larder Lake Ontario fish

Larder Lake’s entry in the “some big weird thing” contest: a big fish

I’ve been to Larder twice but never really gathered much intel. There are some camping and picnic areas, a beach, and a 30 slip marina. Larder Lake also has an LCBO, a service station, a public library, a post office, a motel, and a restaurant.  Unlike its largely anglophone neighbour Kirkland Lake, approximately 40 percent of Larder Lake residents are francophone.

Ashley emailed to let me know that there is the Raven Beach Campground run by the town, and the most northerly skill hill in Ontario (along with Timmins‘ Kamiskotia.) He also advised that, on the way to Larder Lake from Kirkland lake there is Fork Lake Resort, that has a campground, cabins and a beach strop. But here’s the most important part: apparently, there is a really good restaurant where they serve the most excellent pie in the area – just make sure to call ahead to make sure they’re open

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Ramore

Ramore is a quiet community about one minute east of Highway 11 on road 572.  It is 15 kilometres south of Matheson and is made up of three streets (Fergus, Timmins, and one other street I forgot to write down.) Ramore, surprisingly, was the home of two air bases, part of the Mid-Canada and Pinetree Lines.

Ramore, Ontario church off Highway 11

Church at sunset in Ramore

Predominantly francophone, Ramore (and its cousin Holtyre) reminds me a bit of Val Gagné – small, quiet, clean, about 40 houses (probably more) – except with more agriculture.  The area is surrounded by farms – some fallow, others still producing – which gives the area a relaxed, summer feel and some pretty fields and old barns. (And for some reason, there’s a house with a Canada flag and a Barbados flag.)

Ramore was a railway town, forestry centre, and agricultural area, but in 1950, the Americans came to town and built a Pinetree Line radar station – not by accident. The mountain the radar site was located is a high-point in the region. The mountain next to it on the west side of the highway is called Kempis Mountain. Both are prehistoric volcanoes that are long dead. Near the Radar Base, is an airstrip – not widely known. Most still think that the military built it, but that is not so. The airfield was built in the 1930’s as a make-work program during the Great Depression. It was part of some sort of larger aerial mapping program. The strip was built, but WWII came along. Not sure how much use it really got, until the Air Base was built, nearby.

Ramore church shrine, Highway 11 Ontario

Shrine at the church in Ramore

The Air Base played a large role in the area, both socially and economically, from Kirkland Lake to Matheson. In 1962, the Americans turned the base over to the Canadians. It was part of a deal that resulted due to the cancellation of the famed Avro Arrow Program. Canada would “lease” 66 F-101 Voodoos and take over 12 Pinetree Radar Bases – this included Ramore. Supposedly due to budget cuts and changing technology, the Base was closed in 1974. A similar base at Lowther was dismantled in 1984.
Interestingly, up until the mid-60’s, Kempus Mountain had a small “air base detachment” separate from the Ramore base. This is because, Kempus Mountain was part of the Mid-Canada radar system. Kempus was a relay station for the Mid-Canada line (which was a different line of radar stations than the Pinetree line), which operated generally around the 60th parallel. This is one of the few places in Canada where the Mid-Canada Line and Pinetree Lines met. As the site of two former air bases, one can say, that Ramore had a very strong connection to the Cold War. Today, one of the bases lay abandoned and some people still explore it, however it is not recommended due to the physical hazards and the potential of running into harmful contaminants.  (Click here for photos of a visit to former base location in 2002.)

South of Ramore on Highway 11 is the Ramore Flea Market.  Albeit small, this is a real flea market, not like the North Cobalt Flea Market.  I haven’t had a chance to look around, but it’s worth a stop since it’s right on Highway 11.
Raymore also hosts a Country and Western Festival every September, complete with concerts, demonstrations, and competitions.  I don’t know if there is a midway.

Ramore Flea Market, Ontario Highway 11

Drove past at least 20 times. Always wished I had stopped by.

Ramore has a church, a baseball diamond, a small library, a caisse, and Bouchard’s Grocery and LCBO outlet, which is more like a convenience store with food.  Just south of the town is Rolly’s Motel and Home Cooked Meals, which has rooms and food but no gas.  There are blueberry stands both north and south of Ramore, as well as a family that sells vegetables from a stall.

Thanks to Dwight for the info and for pointing me towards the photos of the radar base.

For an archive of the 40 comments that were posted to Highway11.ca’s profile of Ramore between 2008 and 2012, please click here.

Holtyre

On the other side of the Black River, Holtyre is ten minutes east of Highway 11 on road 572.  Like its cousin Ramore, Holtyre is a tiny three-street (Euclid, Gleason, Pearl) francophone hamlet.

Holtyre, Ontario farm off highway 11

A farm in Holtyre

Dwight emailed me to tell me that Holtyre was built in the early 1930’s after gold was discovered. The town was named after 2 mines: Hollinger and Macintyre – hence the name Holtyre. The mine had high grade gold which was mined from 1935 to 1988 – over half a century.

Up until the late 70s there were 2 stores, a large hotel, bowling ally, 2 schools (English and French – K to 8) and gas station. There was (and is) a larger school bus business that first started by transporting miners to the Johns Mansville Asbestos mine site between Holtyre and Matheson after WWII – the business evolved from there.

Dwight also emailed to tell this story: supposedly in the mid-70’s the gold mine changed ownership and it was decided to save costs, close the smelter, and truck the raw ore to Timmins for smelting. Sounded logical, and for nearly 20 more years, this is what happened. In order to make room on the property, they decided to simply burn the old smelter building down – after all, it was over 40 years old and well used. The thing is, that inside of the structure had been in place since 1935 and was made of wood. Gold dust from the smelting process had been building in every crevice and crack in the old building. When they burned it down, there was enough pure gold that had melted into clumps on the ground, that when it was collected (as I understand in quite a surprising panic!), the new owners paid for the mine – that day. It was clear profit from then on. Who would have guessed – certainly not the previous owners !

Holtyre, Ontario

Does photography count? Uhm, probably…

I noticed some interesting houses with two level front balconies, kind of like in New Orleans, but less extravagant.  I wanted to take a photo, but Holtyre is so small that I felt oddly conspicuous and didn’t take any photos directly in town. (And hey, on my journeys I’ve been taking photos of everything and anything, so if I feel too out of place, then you know I felt weird!)  I think it was because the community was just so small and was also off the road.  I had no reason to be there, so it felt a bit weird.  So instead, I took some shots of a local farm. The tiny photo doesn’t do it justice…it was such a great summer evening the first time I was in Holtyre.

Holtyre has its own church, a playground, and an inordinate number of school buses.  I think there is a school bus operator in town, but there were also old buses in a few fields and yards, so I wonder what’s up.

I didn’t see any stores in town, but then again I skirted around and didn’t stop too long.  I’m sure there’s a variety store.  I don’t think there is a caisse or a gas station.  There is an abattoir outside of town, if you happen to have any animals that need butchering.

For more info, check out J. Charles Caty’s excellent history of Holtyre or the 25-minute documentary from 1971 on Holtyre that is online – you can watch it here, on Youtube.

Holtyre boys Highway 11

Photo of some cabin builders, maybe late 50s early 60s (posted at the request of a reader)

1966 Holtyre, Ontario public school photo 1-4

December 1966, Holtyre Public School Grades 1-4

HOltyre, Ontario public school photo 1996 5-8

December 1966, Holtyre Public School Grades 5-8

 

For an archive of the more than 450 comments (yes you read that correctly.  More than four-hundred and fifty!) that were posted to Highway11.ca’s profile of Holtyre between 2008 and 2012, please click here.

Monteith / Val Gagné

I suspect that Monteith Correction Facility used to be a source of ..."interesting" comments on this page before I upgraded the comment system.

Given the number of crazy posts I had on the old Monteith page, I suspect that Monteith Correction Facility used to be a source of …”interesting” comments before I upgraded the comment system.

Monteith is about 20 kilometres northwest of Matheson (on Highway 11), and 11 kilometres south of Iroquois Falls. Most people see places like Monteith as dots-on-the-map, but if you look behind the map you’ll find that places like these often have some pretty neat histories.

Monteith was founded in 1916 as Driftwood City (the ‘city’ part obviously debatable to some ) but was destroyed by fire soon after.  The town (‘town’ less debateable) was then rebuilt as the home of a demonstration farm.  I’ve been told that the town was named Monteith after a former Provincial Minister of Agriculture.Val Gagné is a largely francophone hamlet of about 50 houses 30 minutes south of Iroquois Falls.

Monteith's church.

Monteith’s church.

The demonstration farm was eventually converted into a military training centre, which was then used as a boarding school, which was then turned into an abandoned boarding school, which then turned into a jail, which then turned into a World War II Prisoner-of-War camp, which then turned back into a jail.

Today Monteith is known for being the home of Monteith Correctional Centre, a medium security prison that bears an eerie resemblance to my old high school.  The facility is pictured here (Monteith, not my old highschool.)

Paul emailed in to tell me that during the summer of ’64 or ’65 there was an iron ore discovery north of Timmins. This was quite a rich find, and was followed by a huge smelter being built just outside of Timmins. The find of iron ore sparked speculators and claim staking in an area of approx. 40 – 50 miles all around Timmins. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of claims staked.

Apparently, a Toronto Star reporter with a vivid imagination described the exploration boom with the following headline: “Startled guards at the Monteith Correctional Centre discovered miners tunnelling underneath the jail in search of iron ore”.

  Of course it wasn’t true. Apparently somebody must have fed that reporter quite a line, but it was good for a few laughs. (I guess they didn’t check sources in those days).

I’ve only been to Monteith once, so I haven’t done a tonne of exploring. I counted maybe 20 houses (there are probably more, I always seem to under-count and get emails later) there is the Mary Magdalene Church (pictured), an old playground, a pop machine, and oddly enough a totally random garden centre. There;s probably more I just didn’t get to see it that day.

Val Gagné

Val Gagne isn’t directly on Highway 11 – it’s about a 10 minute drive east of the main highway.  Val Gagné is one of many tiny little farming communities that typifies northern Temiskaming.

National Tavern, Val Gagné, Ontario

The National, Val Gagné’s watering hole

In town, Sunshine Café and Variety on rue Principale serves cold beer and also has an LCBO outlet.  Last time I was there the store was for sale (I know a lot of people who would love to own their own liquor store, just maybe not in Val Gagné.)  There are a few other businesses, including Guay’s Garage, a caisse, a foodmart, and of course, a church.

I took a photo of the old National Tavern as a tribute to the town’s past.  I thought it was shut down and boarded up, but in fact I’ve been told that it’s still open.

Val Gagné apparently has one of the nicest baseball fields in all of Ontario and hosts an annual baseball tournament on the August long weekend named Val Gagné Days.  There is also an annual corn roast that attracts 10 000 people from across the north.  If you explore the cemetery there is a statue to be found commemorating the people who died in the Great Fire of 1916.

A former Val Gagné resident emailed me regarding the website and alerted me to the fact that I’m making their hometown (and many others) seem like a “ramshackle collection of abandoned huts”. While that’s definitely not the case, nor the intent (at least not on purpose) there may be more to the town than met my eye that rainy afternoon in August.

(Photo are “pour” to incessant rain.)