The History of the Temiskaming Region

History buffs can quench their thirst for knowledge by discovering the history of the Temiskaming region in Ontario as well as the region of Temiscamingue, Quebec.

Nippissing First nation pow wow

First Nations

Aboriginal people have inhabited these lands for over 6,000 years. Lake Temiskaming, the headwaters of the Ottawa River, has always occupied an important place as a trading route between First Nations. A large territory surrounding Lake Temiskaming has traditionally been occupied by the Algonquin people. Today, Algonquin nations are mainly found in the Temiskaming region.

In Temiscamingue Quebec:

Wolf Lake First Nation

In Ontario:
  • Nipissing First Nation, situated on the shores of Lake Nipissing near North Bay, is comprised of people of Ojibway descent.
  • Temagami First Nation is located on Bear Island in the heart of Lake Temagami. Its businesses include tourism operators (accommodations, marina and general store) and the sale of Aboriginal arts and crafts.

Temagami First Nation

Visitors who take the tour of Lake Temiskaming can discover the rich indigenous culture by participating in a traditional Pow Wow or by visiting one of their galleries. The Timiskaming First Nation, near Notre-Dame-du-Nord, holds its annual Pow Wow in early June, while the Nipissing First Nation’s Pow Wow is held on Labour Day.
Pow wow Timiskaming First Nation
Mattawa giant statues

The Fur Trade

In 1613, Étienne Brûlé was the first white man to travel through the Lake Temiskaming region. Since that first visit, thousands of explorers have traveled the area in canoes or across dirt roads. In Mattawa, a small town at the junction of the Ottawa River and Mattawa River, visitors can relive the travelers’ journeys, as there are giant statues of the people who shaped the region’s rich history. 22 of these giant sculptures are positioned along the streets of downtown Mattawa and along Highway 17, ready to share their adventures with interested tourists.

Fort Témiscamingue was a strategic location during the fur trade era, as it was the halfway point between Montreal and James Bay. Located a few kilometres off Highway 101, south of Ville-Marie, the fort was an important trading post for more than 200 years. Today, the site has a wide range of historic exhibits and attractions, including the Enchanted Forest, pebble beaches, Amerindian cemetery, partial reconstructions of historic buildings, and a cultural and natural heritage visitor centre. From the point of Fort Témiscamingue, one can see the Old Mission, a Catholic Mission operated by a group of Oblate priests in the 1800s, located on the Ontario side of the lake.

Fort Témiscamingue National Historic Site

Sturgeon River House Museum

The Sturgeon River House Museum in West Nipissing was created in order to preserve the culture and heritage of the fur trade between 1623 to 1879. A variety of events and activities are organized throughout the seasons, allowing visitors to discover the region’s history and learn about the fur trade.

Today, the fur trade is still present in the region. The largest fur trading centre in the world is located in North Bay. This is where trappers, fur brokers, wholesalers and manufacturers from around the world come together to sell their harvest and/or to buy high quality fur for the fashion industry. A visit to the centre is available with a reservation.

The Railway Industry in the Region

The City of North Bay was founded in 1882, with the expansion of the Canadian Pacific Railway to the West. The community gained prominence in 1889 with the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway from Toronto, making the city a hub for rail transportation. With the convergence of these two rail lines in North Bay, the city became a junction for the transfer of passengers and goods between east and west.

In 1902, Northern Ontario became accessible by rail when the Ontario government built the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway. The history of this section of the railway is available in the old North Bay station, which is now a museum.

Discovery North Bay Museum

Heritage Railway Company in North Bay is a miniature reproduction of the first train that arrived in North Bay. It is located in Memorial Park on Lake Nipissing. One can enjoy the atmosphere of the first steam trains by hopping aboard.

Railway Museum of Temiscamingue, Québec

Another page in the history of the railway industry is showcased at the Railway Museum in Temiscamingue, Quebec. A permanent exhibition allows visitors to trace the development of the station, since its inception in 1927 to its restoration in 1996. In addition to the history of the railroad, the museum tells the story of the town of Temiscamingue and its pulp and paper industry. You can finish your visit by taking a tour of the old penstocks, which reveal a forgotten industrial heritage.

Railway Museum

Around Lake Temiskaming, you will encounter many historical railway stations such as the ones in Temagami, Cobalt and Englehart, which have beautiful architectural details and are attractions for tourists as well as local residents. In 2016, it will be possible to visit the newly renovated Cobalt Station, consult the interpretation centre, have a treat at the café, and browse at the gift shop.

Mining history in the region

A stop in the small town of Cobalt, the cradle of the mining industry in Canada, is a must for people who are interested in mining development in Northern Ontario. A visit to this small community of 1,500 inhabitants provides visitors with a glimpse at a century of history.

The 1903 silver rush in Cobalt and the arrival of the railroad greatly stimulated the development of the rest of Northern Ontario. In recent years, some well-deserved honours were awarded to the city: in 2001, Cobalt was declared the most historic town in Ontario by the TVOntario television channel; in 2002, it was named a National Historic Landmark; and in 2003, a dollar coin was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of silver in Cobalt.

Cobalt mining heritage

The Cobalt Mining Museum has the largest collection of silver ore in the world. Underground mine tour, which are organized by the museum, are well worth the time. This tour allows visitors to see and understand the precarious conditions in which the miners were working at the time of the silver rush. Another interesting attraction is the Silver Heritage Trail, a self-guided tour that is best taken by car or bicycle. Following small secondary roads, it leads visitors to old mining camps. There are 20 sites along the route, each with signage explaining the history and mining practices of this prosperous location.

Cobalt Mining Museum

Another attraction worth mentioning is the walking tour, which allows visitors to explore Cobalt’s rich history. Developed by the Centre culturel ARTEM, the circuit is accessible via a downloaded application called TIC (Temiskaming Interactive Ciruits). The application can be downloaded from a smartphone or tablet. The capsules are also available on the website.

The wealth and knowledge gained by the silver rush in Cobalt propelled the gold rush of Elk Lake, Matachewan and Kirkland Lake. The Sir Harry Oakes Chateau museum in Kirkland Lake recounts the fascinating history of the mines and of the prospectors, many of whom came with few pennies in their pockets and walked away millionaires.

For those who wish to relive that time, the Presidents’ Suites in Haileybury offer evenings and historical treasure hunts during which, through role play, the characters of the Cobalt silver rush come alive.

In Eastern Temiscamingue, Quebec, another heritage tour, available with the BaladoDiscovery app for smart phones, will transport you to Belleterre. Explore the history of this city that was born from the discovery of a gold deposit.

Agricultural History

On the Quebec Side

In Ville Marie, in Temiscamingue, Quebec, discover the history of Brother Moffet, also known as the Father of Agriculture, in Témiscamingue. By visiting Brother Moffet's House, which he built himself in 1881, one can get to know this great man who shaped the history of agriculture and settlement in Témiscamingue.

Maison du Frère-Moffet

Do not miss the chance to explore the charming town of Ville Marie; city tours are offered on bicycle taxis.

The Guérin Museum (evidently located in Guérin) takes you into a rural parish from the 1940s and 1950s. The site, which is made up of the farmer’s house, the former presbytery, the barn and the church, gives you a better understanding of the lifestyle at the time.

Guérin Museum

The Interactive tours of Eastern Témiscamingue also offer a heritage tour in Fugèreville and Laforce, which tells the story of agricultural colonization.

The Ontario Side

The Little Claybelt Homesteader’s Museum preserves the history of the first settlers in this great agricultural area of Ontario.

Little Clay Belt Museum

"100 years of agriculture in Temiskaming", an interactive tour developed by the Centre culturel ARTEM, also recounts the story of these men, women and families who, through their shared agricultural history, have always been at the heart of development in the region. Today, agriculture is still vital to the economy of the Temiskaming region.

History of the Forestry Industry

In the second half of the 19th century, the forestry industry around Lake Temiskaming was developed through the Ottawa riverway system. The Ottawa River and its tributaries provided access to large tracts of forest, and allowed timber to float long distances at a time when there was no road or rail system available. In Angliers, in Témiscamingue Quebec, the tugboat T. E. Draper, a 100 tonne ship, is drydocked and provides visitors with the opportunity to relive the era of the log drive on Lake Temiskaming.

T.E. Draper tugboat

In Angliers, the “Chantier Gédéon” unveils the life of lumberjacks to visitors. It is a reconstruction of a lumberjack camp from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s with a dormitory, a kitchen, a foreman’s camp, a stable and a "jobber’s camp."

Chantier Gédéon

Marten River Provincial Camp in Ontario also has a re-creation of a 19th-century logging camp. Here, you can discover the museum, camp buildings, and logging equipment of that time period.

A short drive north takes you to the Town of Latchford, on the shores of the Montreal River, which played a significant role in the logging and forestry industry of Ontario. You will find the Ontario Loggers Hall of Fame, which highlights the leaders of this industry. On the site, you will also find historical buildings representing the industry during the 1940s.