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December 17, 2010

The J.R. Booth Depot in Chisholm in 1885


Robert A. Phipps, the first Clerk of Forestry in the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture traveled through our area in 1885 and reported on the trip in the Canadian Lumberman Newspaper on May 15th 1885. Part of the trip was a stay at J. R. Booth’s Depot in Chisholm Township and a side trip to Booth’s dam on the Wasi River.


He traveled on Booth’s steam tug NOSBONSING built in 1884 to tow logs from the “Booth Track” (where Astorville is now) 7 miles to Bonfield (then called Callendar). She had a single deck, square stern, an 8 hp. Engine, weighed 18.67 tons, was 56.6 feet long and was painted white with green trim. The following is an abridged version of the report from Callendar (Bonfield) to the “Booth Track” at Astorville with a stop in Chisholm.


On Monday we left Callendar in the small steamer owned by the Booth company, and passed along the shores of a beautiful little lake, called Nosbonsing, its waters bright with sun-light, its banks on either side heavily clothed with forest. Here a dark pine forest fringes the shores, its great trunks deepening into blackness till lost in the heavy gloom within.


Beyond this, a stretch of hardwood wreaths the water’s edge with gold and crimson. While we admire its beauty, it is past, and all the shore is clothed with low dense masses of balsam and cedar. Then again for miles the bank will show poplar and birch alone. It will grow, as long as we choose to preserve them, successions of magnificent trees, and, in the fast approaching scarcity of timber, these will form a valuable crop.


Early map of Chisholm showing the Booth Depot & farm beside Depot Creek (The Nosbonsing River). The dotted line shows the trip to the Wasi River. The photo shows the original house and barns.-Submitted photo.


But now, over the broad waves, through the purest air, the little boat, brilliant with white and green paint, puffs rapidly along with dark masses of foam tipped water rolling from our prow till five miles are passed, and we land half way to the head of the lake, where a wagon awaits us, its team of black horses quite un-manageable as the steamer nears. Three miles of a ride through a forest of birch, poplar, maple, balsam and spruce, bring us to the lumber depot, a farm of nearly two hundred acres, with many log buildings, great sheds with hundreds of lumber sleighs piled therein, and a comfortable house. Here we dine, and in the afternoon go by wagon to another lake (Wasi) beyond, where two stout oarsmen French and Irish row us a couple of miles to a river (Wasi River) mouth where are camped a gang improving the dam, their house of logs and log-roofed, with a great opening above as a chimney, whence rises the smoke from the fire built in the centre of the floor. It never, we are informed, smokes. Out-side is the cooking apparatus, immense pots and frying pans on great burning logs. The dam is examined and shows the effect of lowering the creek two feet for five miles, so that a gang of men clearing it out for next spring’s drive can blast the stones in the bed. We embark again, and row, as evening shadows the lake, across its waters, with wild ducks floating unconcernedly near us as we pass. All around a border of dead balsam trees, gaunt and bare, fringe, the shore, and above them rises high a broad embossed ribbon of the yellow and red of the birch and maple. No clear inland water this, it is dark and brown with iron and copper pyrites; in our wake is a muddy foam. The depot is reached again, and in the morning we again meet the steamer at the rustic landing, and sail on Nosbonsing to its termination, whence a railroad, just built by the Booth company, leads to Lake Nipissing, five miles away.


North Bay Civic Square Going Ahead


In an article on September 10, 2010 I profiled the plan to develop a full fledged Civic Square in North Bay with the Museum Heritage Gardens, Carousels, Mini-train. It appears now to be a done deal with a 6 million dollar contract awarded. There will be a clock tower, brickwork, lights, trees, etc. The city contributed 2 million and the Community Waterfront Friends raised 1 million. Another million is required and a $500 donation will put donors into a Leaves of Inspiration Pergola. It should be done by 2011. The Discovery North Bay Museum will be active in the project. Something to look forward to.


Cuthbert “Cup” Gunning


Prolific author Cup Gunning died on December 1 in Thunder Bay at age 83. He wrote 9 history books and 1 children’s book. Most of his books were focused on North Bay. In the Millenium year he wrote a weekly column called Our History Our Heritage looking at North Bay’s past.


Before he began to write he was a librarian at Nipissing University. In 1994 he received an honorary doctorate from Nipissing University for his contribution. His books are widely available in libraries and bookstores including Gulliver’s Quality Books & Toys.

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