Saturday, 9 January 2010

Ghosts from the Day -Part 1

Hubby brought home a terrific book the other day. Yes, from the library, I wish we could support all the local authors and artisans, but I still have 1300 books of my own to sell!!

The book is called, Vanished Villages: Discover whistlestops, old mills, lost hamlets, relics and ruins of Ontario, by Ron Brown (1996)

Picture the 1600s, with native villages. Palisades and longhouses created an time and place guided by tribal laws, an economy and a strong consensus government.

Until the colonies determined that there were gold, furs, ancient pine forests, which they felt all needed mining. At that point, The Hudson Bay Company (HBC), desperate for beaver felt, fought for territory with the Northwest Company (NWC).

The NWC mined the natural resources south of the Great Lakes watershed, while the NWC exploited the shore and watersheds of Hudson Bay. Between them they built over 600 Ontario trading posts. It wasn't until 1821 that the rivalry was assuaged with amalgamation, and by the end of that century trading posts were reduced to 52 locations.

This book covers all of Ontario, but what interested me, for this blog,
was the section on the 'Vanished Villages' around Georgian Bay. Read more in Post 2!

The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the men and the ship heralded by many - especially Gordon Lightfoot, celebrates a life long gone.

Many ships, sunk near Batchawana Bay, marked on the map. 
I was amazed with all the small towns across this province and, obviously, across this continent, that have disappeared over time. Places where the trains no longer have whistle stops, forts and ports no longer have a purpose, miners and manors no longer dig or build, lumber mills and wood burning locomotives no longer need the massive pines.

Fur trading posts are abandoned and haunted by skeletons of ancient ghosts, furriers and farriers, missionaries and pioneers and decaying barns
lumber barons drank their whiskey in fine establishments

The railway, of course, changed the land forever. The animals disappeared off of the land, being plundered as never before.

The small cabins, as described in my grandmother's stories, disappeared in far off locations, replaced by larger towns and outposts.

  The map shows the North Channel (We stayed in Blind River) and Manitoulin Island, Georgian Bay on the east, off of Lake Huron. These were mainly fishing villages, small communities in which fishing and the lumber industry, as well as mills provided a working living for many.

But it was the mills that did the environmental damage. It was the farmers who drove Natives off of rich hunting lands. See post 2 for more information.


Ontario Visual Heritage Project

Ghosts from the Day - Part 2


Cathy Olliffe said...

Hi Jenn: glad you're enjoying Ron Brown's book. I LOVE that guy's books. 20 years ago I spent a week (with friends) visiting some of northern Ontario's ghost towns, including Nicholson (only accessible by train), Burwash (a prison farm near Sudbury), Jackfish (a fishing village and whistle stop on the shores of Lake Superior) and various mining communities, including a spectacular empty, modern community near the Manitoba border. It was an unforgettable vacation. We mapped our trip using Brown's books, Ghost Towns of Ontario, as well as his Ghost Towns Atlas. I'm so glad we went because some of those places have completely disappeared. Burwash, for example, was used by the army and firefighters for training purposes and then bulldozed. What a waste. What a crying shame to erase such an interesting chapter in our history.

Vagabonde said...

Your area is beautiful but it must have been quite something to see before the immigrants came. I don’t think saving the land and the animals were on their radar screen – only surviving and making money. From what I read, at least on the United States, it’s not only the animals which disappeared, many native tribes disappeared as well. I have a very old book on Christian oratories and in it one of the pastors is asking the congregation how many Indians did they kill that week – just like if they were rabbits.

The Lucy and Dick Show said...

We all have such a rich local history that I'm glad you've presented this.

The Lucy and Dick Show said...

Whoops! hit enter when I shouldn't have! As our small hamlets and villages are getting swallowed up by the municipalities, we need to keep their origins and existences alive!

Jenn Jilks said...

I've done that, L & D! I am pretty forward thinking about it all. There comes a time when you have to either move to find a job, or make a change. I took a very difficult teaching job (Anger Management students) in order to live and work near Mom and Dad who were failing. I don't like handouts, and think it wrong to have tax dollars subsidize industry depleted by dwindling resources or market share.