This early photo of Commanda is taken from the south looking up the Nipissing
Road over the Commanda Creek toward what became highway 522 on the horizon.
The large building in the centre behind the small house is the general
store that was relocated and became the Museum. --------------------------------------
If you want to spend a pleasant day in the country and take a step back
in time and visit a variety of studios and shops, consider the Commanda
area in Nipissing-Pringle Townships.
||August 25, 2000
A visit to Commanda’s yesterdays and today
Take highway 522 west from Trout Creek on highway 11 for twenty-one
kilometres. Check for alternate routes to Commanda.
From a heritage perspective, Commanda served the local population and
was a stopping place for weary travelers on the Old Nipissing Road from
the 1870s until the Grand Trunk Railway came through Trout Creek and drew
Store now museum
The community, especially the general store that is now the Museum, continued
to serve the community in Gurd and Pringle Townships well into the next
Gurd became part of Nipissing Township after annexation in 1970.
The village of Commanda was established on both sides of the Commanda
Creek where the creek crosses the Old Nipissing Road. The original settlement
road to Trout Creek in South Himsworth ran along an old Indian trail just
to the north of highway 522 and became the old Barrett Settlement road.
After the railway came, a better tote road was developed where 522 is
today. The tote road dropped south of the current highway as it approached
After 522 went through during the Depression, a more direct route was
established to connect with the road leading west to Golden Valley, Arnstein,
Loring, and beyond.
The beautiful High Victorian Commanda General Store was originally built
on the Nipissing Road about a half a kilometre immediately south of the
It was built in 1885 by James Arthurs, an ambitious nineteen year old.
He lived there and ran the store from 1885 to 1906.
He also developed stores in Powassan and Parry Sound and ran a large sawmill
operation in Restoule, a few miles to the north. Arthurs later had a distinguished
military career and was the federal Conservative member of parliament for
eighteen years, and later became a Senator.
Arthurs was the first of five owners of the store before it was developed
as a museum by the Gurd and Area Historical Society in 1980.
The store was moved to its present location on highway 522 and the Nipissing
Road in 1934.
Since the store was on a steep hill, it was broken into four parts and
pulled on rollers by horses across easier terrain to its present location,
where it was then re-built. The Museum is centred on the store with a pleasant
tearoom in the west wing and an artisans shop in the east wing. The artisans
shop has various exhibits of local artists and craftspeople.
The museum was closed temporarily in 1999, but had a grand re-opening
in May this year with a new board and many new volunteers. They have a
plan for a considerably expanded complex. It is open daily from 9:30am
Several special events are scheduled, such as their Harvest and Labour
Days, August 30th to September 5th, a Quilt Experience, September 14th
to 26th, and a Showcase of Artisans, October 11th to 15th.
The original schoolhouse in Commanda was located about a mile north
of the Museum on the Nipissing Road.
It was replaced by a frame school just north of the Museum, and is now
a private residence.
A United Church sat immediately across the highway from the Museum.
The old log school and the church were sold and relocated.
The Lutheran Church on the Old Nipissing Road just south of highway
522 is still used two Sundays a month.
The source of the name Commanda-as seen on the village, creek, lake
and cruise ship-comes from an Algonquin chief who brought his people to
the area in the 1830s.
The Chief, who spoke English, led a band of Native troops in the war
of 1812 and picked up the name "commander" which later became Commanda.
Due to overcrowding in his hunting and trapping area near Montreal, he
traveled to the mouth of the South River on Lake Nipissing. Over the years
he and his people traveled throughout the area, hunting and trapping, usually
following the rivers and creeks.
His second in command was named Genese, and this named was given to
the South River tributary called Genese Creek (now Genessee Creek) and
Genese Lake (now Genessee Lake) in South Himsworth where there are records
of their presence.
The Commandas eventually located in the Beaucage Reserve of the Nipissing
First Nation. Wayne Lebelle's book, West Nipissing Ouest (1998) pp. 107-110,
tells the story of the Chief's grandson Simon (known as Semo), who was
claimed to be Canada's oldest man when he died in 1938 at 110 years of
Part of Relay 2000
Commanda became a part of current history when the Trans Canada Relay 2000
stopped at the Commanda Community Centre (see photo) on August 1st, before
heading down the Forgotten Trails and Nipissing Road to the south, making
it part of the Trans Canada Trails System.
||Nipissing Township Reeve Ted Day signs the Trans Canada
Relay 2000 book on the table with the two water bottles carried by the
relay. MP Bob Wood on the left looks on with a large group of interested
guests. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Duquette.
The woman sitting in the centre of the picture is Eileen Eckensviller,
a volunteer at the museum who provided me with a lot of the history of
Commanda including the old photo above. She is a member of the Booth family
who have a long history in the area, including a turn of the century halfway
house on the old road from Trout Creek.
Her brother Art Booth, standing on the right, was the local water carrier
for the recent relay through Commanda. The man seated by Art is Frank Pilger,
now in his nineties, and one of the most respected residents of the community.
Numerous volunteers and representatives made the event a day to
Heritage Perspective Home Page