Tunis / Nellie Lake

One my drives up Highway 11 after Iroquois Falls, I didn’t see much in Tunis, at least not much that was directly on the highway itself.

Dutch from Kitigan emailed me to tell me that Tunis, was the home of a huge church that was used as a vacation retreat for Catholic priests and nuns. About 25 years ago, the church sold everything, and left. New owners tried to run a motel out of the complex, but it soon went under, and burnt down five years later.

About 15 years ago, a large power plant was built not far south of Tunis, financed by the Ontario Teachers Retirement fund.

As far as I could tell, Nellie Lake consists of a gas station, a few houses, and an an abandoned motel/gas bar complex along Highway 11.

However, according to some helpful emails from Sarah, I seem to have missed all the fun. Nellie Lake requires that you leave Highway 11 to truly find it.

Nellie Lake (the town) is largely a small cottage hamlet off the highway. Worth checking out is the lake itself, which has beach facilities and apparently picturesque and transquil surroundings. Cameron’s Beach and Trailer Park borders Big Nellie Lake and offers camping and trailer services alongside the water.

36 thoughts on “Tunis / Nellie Lake

  1. Hi, Funny, I was told pretty much the same story. My grandfather, Charles Cummings was a prospector in Northern Ontario in the early 1900’s and his wife, my grandmother was named Ellen, but he always called her Nellie. We were always told that he named it for her. Guess we’ll never know. 🙂

    • I wish to tell you that Eva Verbanz, our loving mother, past owner of Newmarket restaurant, Tunis (Devonshire) is in her final hours of life at St Catherine’s Hospital. Family is with her.

  2. My grandfather was a superintendent with the railway during construction from 1908 to 1813.

    We were told that they lived in the Cochrane area and that a siding was named after him;Holland now Tunis. Not sure exactly where he lived . His wife’s name was Ellen but was called Nellie. Any one know the origin of the name of Nellie Lake. Any chance they were named after her? I was told she may have been one if the first white women in the area. Thoughts?

    • Brown’s Siding may well have been at Belleek just 2.1 miles south of Matheson. If I remember correctly Mr Brown was in charge of a construction crew when the T & N.O. Railway was built.

  3. Two of my sisters were married in the church in Tunis, the grotto is still there. The land was owned by my brother in law until his passing 2 years ago

  4. Does anyone remember the barn being moved from the church property or have photos.

  5. When I was Young I lived in Potter and when I started school we went to a small public school in Potter and we would walk to school . We had M. Real Châtelain has our teacher and then M. Christ and after Miss Alice Cox. After they closed the school and then started sending us to public school in Ansonville.The concession where I lived was full of Bertrand family’s of which today is named Bertrand concession road. My wedding was at the Church in Tunis, and right after I followed my husband to Québec. I really have great memorys of Potter and Tunis.My parents when I was young had à grocery store until it burned down. There was Shirley Pender who also had à small grocery store after my uncle Lucien Bertrand.We would often go swimming at the Highway Beach which today does not exist anymore

  6. I was born in Nellie Lake on our farm on Seaton Road just off Berlinghoff Road. I remember going to Tom Badgley’s store for groceries and spent the first three years of school in the one room Nellie Lake schoolhouse. I think the teacher at the time was Miss Burton (this was from 1958 to 1961). So many fond memories growing up near my cousins the Greniers, my classmates Brian Prince, Jerome Berlinghoff, Orland Kelly to name a few. I remember our “school bus” was a car but I can’t remember the gentleman’s name who drove it.

    • Hi Reg,
      I am one of the Dennis’ that lived at Wings Road and your name caught my eye. Our family is spread all over now and I am interested in knowing if Bea is still around. Could you please get back to me?


      • Hi Judy,
        Bea lives in Val Gagne ( last name Bourgeois) I’m sure she would be happy to hear from you

    • Hi,
      I am doing a project on Cochrane District postal history. For a while the Nellie Lake post office was located in the Badly General Store. Could you tell me what road that store was on relative to Highway 11. Thank you for your help.

  7. I grew up in Tunis from 1990’s to 2006. Our family used to live on Fortier Road which was Con. 3&4 at the time and got changed in the early 2000’s. I remember always seeing the Virgin Mary Statue from the Highway 11, and my mother telling me there used to be a Church in that area.

    Our house was located just past a couple of feet where the pipeline was situated, which crossed through our property. Con. 3&4 was also the location of the Cemetery for Tunis and areas.

    If anyone have any information about the past of Tunis, I would love to hear it 🙂

  8. Must mention the airbase at Nellie Lake right beside Hwy 11. Abandoned in the 1960s?

    Also there is a siding on the T&NO / ONR at Nellie Lake that was used extensively in the early 1930s during construction of the Ontario Hydro water control dam on the Fredrickhouse River just 10 miles or so west. My father landed his first paying job on the winter tractor train that hauled materials from the rail siding to the dam during the winter of 1934.

    • In fact, the Porquis Airport is owned and to this day still operated by the Town of Iroquois Falls.

    • my father and grand father hauled stuff to the dam on the dam road went past seaton road. and my grandmother live on that road too

  9. Hello I don’t really have experience or anything living in Tunis but it looks to be a nice area ! I do have a question that I can’t find the answer to and that no one seems to know when asked either . At this convince store location on the highway does anyone know if there used to be a gas station there at one point ? I would really love to know the answer to this … Thx so much in advance

    • Yes there was a Husky gas station, post office and general store. My family owned and operated the business for almost 40 years. The store certainly was the focal point and gathering place as it was located next to the “Christ Roi” church.
      Great memories of my stay in Tunis Ontario!!!

  10. Does anyone remember my Uncle Edmund LeBlanc he lived many years on Nellie Lake. We would visit him at his cottage (if I remember correctly by a little canal on Nellie Lake)
    every summer. He lived there permanently for many many years. I loved going to visit him, he would play his fiddle for us and cook baked beans which were delicious!

    • I don’t know if you’ll see this as I am answering 2 years later! I remember him well. My cottage was across the road from him. My brothers and I would visit him often and he would give us ice cream cones and other treats. He was so nice to us always.


  11. I used to live at the Nellie Lake Trailer Park in the 60\’s. Two of my sisters and I went to the 1 room school house that was close to there. I remember the teachers name was Mr. Shuttleworth. I still have an old black and white group school photo taken in front of the school. I also remember the trailer park had its own outdoor movie theatre as well as an early version of a water slide. It was a long metal sheeted slide with water running down it into the lake. A lot of pleasant childhood memories there.

    • I went to the one room school house on Berlinghoff road near Nellie Lake. We were moved to the Porquis 4 room school around 1960 or so.

    • Hi Kirk, I hope you see my note all these years, my husband Ed who grew up in Tunis and lived on Concession 5/6 now known as Bertrand Road, went to the Nellie Lake one room school in grade 1 and also had Mr. Shuttleworth as his teacher and would really like to see the school picture as he thinks the two of you were in the same class. I am not sure if there is any way to post a picture here or not. Best wishes, Kathleen

  12. the name nellie lake reminds me of my father picking bluberries in a place called Nellie Lake.The pickers were selling basketful of blueberries to a trucking business One day some funny guy stole my dads entire harvest he had so laboured to gather with a tool called blueberry picker

  13. My father lives on Nellie Lake. Its a great spot to relax and enjoy a good swim. I had great summer vacations out there as a child.

  14. I lived on a cottage on Nellie Lake every single summer for 17 years. I loved the whole area. The town grew with time and so did the population.
    I still try to go up every other year to visit and still smile and relax getting away from the city.

    I live about 6to 7 hours away. Before the roads improved and expanded it took about 10 to 11 hours to get there. It was all worth the drive to arive to see the sign that said Welcome.

  15. My aunt and uncle owned Nellie Lake Motel in the 1960s. I have many fond memories of spending time there.

  16. Hi Collette Grant of Barrie
    Would appreciate seeing your collection of photos.If possible to use in future stories of the area. I am willing to cover reasonable costs of copying and mailing. You will notice my first story on this page Lorne.
    PS PLease provide any information on the photos also.

  17. I have visited Tunis on many occasions since my Grandparents Eugene and Alberta Cloutier owned and operated a small general store and post-office located next to the Church on Highway 11. The Church which was named L’Eglise due Christe le Roi and was built on a large track of land which was donated by my grandparents for the purpose of building a church for the community which was largely francophone at that time. My grandfather Eugene Cloutier was a jober who had camps and employed as many as 100 men to cut wood and sell it to the paper mill in Iroquois Falls. Next to the Church, a Grotto was built and housed the Virgin Mary where mass was said in the summer months. Cottagers came from all over the district to attend Sunday mass. The Church was known for its weekly bingo and a bus of players would come from Iroquois Falls. I recall seeing the church bell when it was taken down after the sale of the church. I also believe the bell had a slight crack in it. I was later told that it might have gone to the local Catholic Church in Iroquois Falls (Ansonville) although I have not confirmed this fact. There were numerous homes and farms in the area covering Tunis, Devonshire, Holland and Potter. Family names such as Bertrand, Gervais, Cloutier, Rondeau, Morrissette, St. Jacques only to name a few, were common names in the area. The train tracks followed Highway 11 and would drop off the mail on a daily basis. The outgoing mail was sacked and hung on a big hook by the tracks, the train worker would use a long pick and would sweep it into the train while the train was moving at full speed. The incoming mail was then thrown off the train in a large sac. I recall helping my grandfather on countless occasions to find the mail sacks by the side of the tracks and sometimes in the ditch. My family has a substantial collection of photographs from that area if anyone is interested in posting them.

    • Hello Collette, I’d really enjoy seeing your families collection of photographs. Do you know when your grandparents home store and post office was built

    • Hi Collette,
      I loved reading your stories about Tunis. I grew up in Tunis from 1990’s to 2006. I remember the post office, but was closed while I was very young. I would love to see those photographs, my mother lived there from 1969 til 2006 also I’m sure she would love to see those memories again 🙂

  18. The Tunis area was also known as Holland and Devonshire. The name Tunis was given to the area to Honour Lord Alexander Governor General of Canada for his victories in North Africa during the second world War.
    Many trips were made by this location on the train and highway but I never had the opportunity to vist St. Christopher’s as it was known.
    Father Vezina was the Redemptorist
    priest from Quebec who had the monastery and church built between 1943 and 1945. A bell was obtained for the church steeple and rang out on October 13, 1946.
    It was a unique bell as it was solid bronze and across the hip was inscribed LEROYER FONDEUR a PARIS 1855. How did it happen to end up in Canada ?
    The bell stopped ringing in July 1970. Maybe on a still night echoes from the past may heard across the black spuce tress in the area.

    • I was born and raised in Tunis. My wedding was the last one in the big beautiful church in August 1969. It was sold shortly after. But in 1972, when my father died, the owners let us use the hall for the reception after the funeral. I have good memories about living in Tunis and picking Blueberries at the airport, swimming at Highway Beach. The neighbours were great.

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