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May 15, 2009

More Mattawa Matters on their 125th



In my April 17 article I wrote  about the Regional Historica Fair with a photo of Mathew Bennison and his La Cave/Otto Holden Generating Station project.  I mentioned his current project on his great great grandfather the Honorable Henri Morel MPP from Mattawa  His Morel project made it to the Regional Fair at Nipissing University on May 1 where I had a chance to chat with him.  He did a great job on the project as did the many other students on theirs.  A photo of Mathew and his project made it to the front page of the Nugget where it deserved to be. 

I hope to work with Mathew and build on his research on this important historical figure. Mathew had to deal with one early problem – the proper spelling of his great grandfather’s first name.  The name was spelled Henri, Henry & Harry depending on the source.  He chose Henri, the French version. 

Henri Morel

Some of Mathew’s information came from the book The Meeting of the Waters the  Mattawa history book written by Leo Morel a Morel descendant.  Henri became a butcher in Mattawa at age 11 and owned his own shop at age 18.  Henri was born on July 23 1867 just three weeks after Confederation.  He died in 1934 at age 67. 

Henri Morel’s home in Mattawa in 1930s as it looks today.  D. Mackey photo.

Henri became the area MPP in 1908 and won in 1911 and 1914.  He lost in 1919 but won again in 1923, 1926 & 1929 – a remarkable record.  He ran federally in 1930 and lost and became Superintendent of the huge Trans Canada Highway project that established that critical travel corridor through the area. 

Mathew has collected much more information on Henri which .some of which we will report here in a future article.  I should add that Henri owned the well known Trans-Canada Hotel in the 1930s, and lived in a beautiful home a minute walk away behind the Anglican Church. There is a road named after Henri in North Bay but little recognition in Mattawa where many relatives remain .If anyone has information on the history of the family we would be pleased to receive it at the address below. 

Colin Rankin 

In my article on Mattawa’s Explorer’s Point a couple of weeks ago I mentioned one of Mattawa’s best known names Colin Rankin, who was the Hudson Bay Post Factor.  When researching his history I saw reference to him being in Mattawa in the 1840s and in the 1890s which was confusing. 

Colin Rankin (1826-1921) Chief Factor, Hudson Bay Company Mattawa, The Beaver Magazine

After I wrote the article I recalled an article on Rankin that John Whalen at the Mattawa Museum sent me and looked it up.  It  had a good picture of Rankin late in life and pointed out that he was appointed in 1848.  He then went on to numerous increasingly important roles in the Company.  In 1873 he was placed in charge of the Temiscaming District.  When the Headquarters was moved to Mattawa he returned to Mattawa and along with his other duties became a leader in Mattawa politics serving several times as Mayor – a cause for celebration during Mattawa’s 125th anniversary this year. The Colin Rankin Papers in the Hudson Bay Archives are a great source of information. They are quoted extensively in Calvin townships history book. There is a street named after him in Mattawa. Rankin died in Montreal at age 94 in 1921. 

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