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

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


December 11, 2009

A Bonfield Township Trip

I wrote recently about Chisholm Township where I live and mentioned that one of our neighbouring townships was Bonfield. Chisholm touches Bonfield for 2 concessions on its north-eastern boundary. I, like many others, visit Bonfield regularly or pass through to points east, primarily to Mattawa. I spoke to Bonfield’s First Spike Committee in February and their Community Policing committee and at the Knights of Columbus banquet in November so have been able on these three occasions to get to know some of their fine citizens.

Map from Family & Community Life in Northern Ontario book by Francoise Noel.

As the map shows Bonfield and east Ferris share Lake Nosbonsing where many people reside. The lake slightly enters Chisholm’s northern boundary. In the late 1850s when the area was inundated with lumbermen J.R.Booth came down the Nosbonsing River into Chisholm from Lake Nosbonsing and established a depot where millions of logs were taken out across the lake to Bonfield and down the Kaibuskong River to the to the Mattawa River and on to his Mills in Ottawa.

The community of Bonfield with the same name as the township is located where the Kaibuskong leaves Lake Nosbonsing.

Booth harvested trees from Chisholm, Bonfield, and Boulter Township. An early road through Bonfield and Chisholm Townships and points east joined the communities. Later there was a road along the Mattawa River to North Bay and in the 1900s the Trans Canada was built.

The height of land through Chisholm and East Ferris kept Booth from getting his logs from the Wasi River watershed in Chisholm to Lake Nosbonsing. Booth dammed the north side of Wasi Lake to raise the water so he could establish a canal to the Nosbonsing River and on to Ottawa. This flooded Chisholm’s centre core and was soon curtailed. Booth then took his logs on the Wasi River to Lake Nipissing and built a railway to take the logs 8 kilometers to Lake Nosbonsing and on to Ottawa. Booth’s vast fortune was partly built on the millions of logs he took from Lake Nipissing shores and on the various rivers entering Lake Nipissing. The whole of Bonfield Township was well logged by Booth as well.

The first Spike Caboose in Bonfield arrival in 2004. Doug Mackey photo

When the Canada Central Railway became the Canadian Pacific Railway in Bonfield in the early 1880s Bonfield township prospered. Recognition of Bonfield as the place where the first spike of the CPR was driven was recognized in 2002 in the Railway Hall of Fame. Bonfield was named after James Bonfield a well known lumberman and Member of Parliament from the Eganville area. In 2008 a plaque was posted on Explorer’s Point in Mattawa recognizing the contribution of the many French Canadians including those in Bonfield who helped with the development of the CPR. There has been some talk among area mayors about the possibility of a Museum facility in Bonfield with an emphasis on the railway – possibly on the Trans Canada highway in Bonfield - as an economic development initiative. A great idea!

Bonfield Township today has some 2000 residents centered on the town of Bonfield. Many also live on the shores of Lake Nosbonsing and along the Kaibuskong. There is also an active community centered on Rutherglen on highway 17 and nearby on Lake Talon. Manyalso live in the Grand Desert area in the south west corner of the township.

Knights of Columbus banquet at Parish Hall Bonfield November 28, 2009. Doug Mackey photo

When I spoke briefly at the Knights of Columbus banquet last week I held up the latest copy of the Community Voices which featured a story of the Girl Guides’ concern over the closing of their 17 acre camp Camp Caritou on Lake Nosbonsing where among other things winter camping takes place. In other news the drag strip project which split the township recently is in the courts. The Columbia Forest Products mill is an important part of the economics of the area and it has suffered. The recent government announcement of more fibre availability may be the answer to a resurgence.

The Bonfield School Reunion

I recently met some of the key players in the planning of the reunion of the public school at Rutherglen scheduled for July 2010. I will provide more details later. They already have an excellent response and have produced a pin and reunion T-shirt for the event. People from far and wide have shown an interest. For further information check their website www.rutherglen2010.ca

As I said in my article on Chisholm, Bonfield Township is also worth the trip – drop by and see some fine country living.

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