[Home page] [Who is Past Forward ] [Contact Us] [Publications]

Past Forward is now on Facebook "LIKE" us to keep in touch


August 25, 2000

A visit to Commanda’s yesterdays and today

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.

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 people there.

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 century.

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 Commanda.

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 present location.

It was built in 1885 by James Arthurs, an ambitious nineteen year old. He lived there and ran the store from 1885 to 1906.

Other stores

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 to 5:00pm.

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 age.

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.
Trans-Canada Relay 2000
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 remember

Heritage Perspective Home Page


Past Forward Heritage Limited: 

330 Sumach St. #41, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3K7   Tel. (416)-925-8412


Copyright © Past Forward Heritage Limited