Mattawa, Ontario Steamboats | Steamships: Canadian History in Vintage Postcards
Have a seat and relax! Here are some interesting vintage Canadian postcards of steamboats and steamships, and the importance of rivers in Mattawa history. This website highlights in vintage postcards the history of towns and townships in the greater Lake Nipissing and Lake Temagami areas of Northern Ontario, Canada, including the Nipissing District and portions of the Parry Sound district which are in the “Blue Sky Region.” These Canadian postcards are shown in digital, virtual museum format for educational purposes, and are not for sale. If you have images or historical information which you’d like to share with our virtual museum, feel free to do so. To navigate these pages, mouse over the top navigation bar. Drop-down menus will appear of the areas of interest. Click on the thumbnails for larger images. Close the larger image before opening another thumbnail. The occasional duplicates for sale can be found using the search box on the main (home) page of VintagePostcards.org. This is an ongoing project; comments and questions to the webmaster at webmaster - at sign - vintagepostcards.org are welcome.
Please note that while you are certainly welcome to visit the virtual museum as often as you’d like (and we encourage you to do so), these scans are owned by VintagePostcards.org and, as such, they are not to be re-used or re-purposed in any way, for any other reason — including use on another website, on social networking websites, in brochures or print-outs, etc. — without our prior express written permission. Under the terms of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act), such use without permission constitutes copyright infringement and intellectual property theft. We hate to have to make that so clear, as we want you to enjoy the museum and we put these images up due to our love of Canada, but the actions of a few have prompted this notice. For further information, please see the footer of this page.
Before good roads were built and before railroads came, travelers had limited transportation choices: walking, ice skating and snowshoeing (as seen in this c. 1907 Millard & Lang, Ltd. patriotic postcard, Series 3, “National Series 456,” MIL3-006 in Michael J. Smith’s The Canadian Patriotic Postcard Checklist, 1898-1928). Snowshoeing had its problems, as we learn on the moose hunting page. The other options were travel by horseback or travel by canoe or steamship. The first steamer to appear on Lake Temiskaming was the Mattawan, brought there in 1882 by Oliver Latour, an early lumberman. The Lake Temiskaming Colonization Railway (LTCR) brought the boat to Mattawa, as part of its operations to transport people and supplies from Mattawa to Long Sault Rapids at the foot of Lake Temiskaming. The Mattawan sailed to and from Mattawa to La Cave Rapids, while the Lottie’s route went from La Cave to Les Erables Rapids and the Charlotte traveled a Les Erables-Lake Temiskaming route. The Lottie was also used as a ferry around Mattawa, but both the Lottie and the Mattawan were destroyed by the same c. 1907 fire above Explorer’s Point. Captain John Belanger was one of the Mattawan’s captains. (The Charlotte was moved to Kipawa Lake in 1898, after she was purchased by Captain Patrick Kelly.)
One of the area’s largest steamers, which also had many ties to Mattawa, was the Meteor, the large white ship seen in the c. 1910 Azo Tri 1 real-photo postcard to the left. The steamer began life as the La Minerve and was owned by the LTCR. It’s been said that it may have been a paddle wheeler, which would have been rare for Ontario. While undergoing repair at lumberman Alex Lumsden’s shipyard at Opemicon Depot, La Minerve was sold to Lumsden in March 1888. The heyday of steamboat transportation was beginning in Northern Ontario, as immigrants (and the supplies needed to sustain them) poured into the region; La Minerve was renamed as the Meteor the following year and joined the Lumsden Steamboat Line.
Licensed to carry 130 passengers, the Meteor ferried most passengers and freight around Lake Temiskaming for nearly a decade. The fare was not inexpensive, with Haileybury founding father C. C. (Charles Cobbold) Farr (seen at left) noting in 1894 that the Meteor basic fare was $4.50 one-way from Mattawa, with an additional 85 cents extra per hundredweight of freight. To accommodate increasing numbers of immigrants, the Meteor was heavily remodeled and enlarged, beginning in 1895. By the time Lumsden’s workers were done, the steamer had been cut in half, lengthened by 25 feet, and rebuilt, becoming the largest vessel on Lake Temiskaming. It could travel up to 18 m.p.h. and carry 305 passengers. It set sail on 14 August 1897, with Captain John Patrick Redmond, Jr. of Mattawa at the helm. According to a great-grand niece, Pam Devine, Redmond was the Meteor captain as early as 1897. Redmond held that position until 1904.
Further information from Pam Devine indicates that Captain Redmond was born on 15 November 1863 and baptized in St. Patrick’s church in Fallowfield, Ontario. He was a telegraph boy in 1881. Captain Redmond married Mary Anne George in Mattawa in 1894. Miss George was from the Renfrew, ON area; the couple was childless. After his 13 November 1942 death in Mattawa, Captain Redmond was buried in Notre Dame cemetery in Ottawa. During genealogical research on ancestry.ca, Ms. Devine connected with a previously unknown third cousin, Brian Gorman, whose ancestor was Captain Redmond’s sister. Mr. Gorman has been told that Captain Redmond was quite wealthy, had a large cottage on Lake Talon, and had served as Mattawa’s mayor. Can anyone confirm whether or not the captain was a Mattawa mayor? To the left is a real-photo postcard showing the Meteor sailing from Temiskaming towards Mattawa.
The boat traveled a Temiskaming, Ville-Marie and Haileybury-Liskeard route. Interestingly, Lumsden had never opposed the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario (T. & N. O.). Railway. As mentioned earlier, the CPR had extended its tracks from Pembroke to Mattawa in 1881, so perhaps Lumsden saw the handwriting on the wall. To the left is a 1907-1915 split-view post card showing the T. & N. O. roundhouse and yards in North Bay. Founded in 1902 in North Bay as the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway Commission, the T. & N. O. was a provincial government railroad intended to facilitate Northern Ontario colonization from Lake Nipissing to New Liskeard on the northern end of Lake Temiskaming. Following Lumsden’s 1904 death from heart failure in New Edinburgh (now an Ottawa neighborhood), his widow, Margaret, sold the Lumsden Line boats on 15 February 1906 to Joseph Arthur Larochelle of Mattawa, a Lumsden Line employee who was forming the Temiskaming Navigation Company (TNC). The Meteor was valued at $12,800. But bellweather transportation changes had already occurred by 1905, with trains from North Bay sometimes carrying as many as 125 new settlers per day to more northerly areas such as New Liskeard, via the T. & N. O. There was really no need to order supplies via Mattawa anymore, or to have the steamers deliver them, when they could be had much more quickly via the railroad. Years of service to the Temiskaming area were coming to an end, although Larochelle seems not to have realized it.
Larochelle, whose family was from St. Anseline in southern Québec, likely came to Mattawa with the CPR, as he is known to have built a large scow in 1889 for the CPR. He was a works manager for the LTCR; it’s believed he went to work for Lumsden after the CPR absorbed the LTCR, as a maintenance worker and builder. He was active in promoting the area and was elected to Mattawa’s first council in 1892. Larochelle’s TNC incorporated on 20 February 1906, and was authorized to raise $99,000 in capital shares. An inaugural meeting of the directors was held in Mattawa in March 1906. Besides Larochelle, other Mattawa directors included Dr. Haentschel; in fact, most of the company stock was held by residents of Mattawa and the company’s headquarters was there. By mid-March, the TNC had gained title to the Meteor, as well as to three other Lumsden boats: the Jubilee, the Temiskaming and the Ville-Marie, as well as title to Lumsden wharves at New Liskeard, North and South Temiskaming and Ville-Marie. For the next seven years, Larochelle would serve as general manager.
The situation further deteriorated in 1911, after the Nipissing Central Railway Co., which had been incorporated in April 1907, came under ownership of the T. & N. O. in June 1911. Now, trolleys traveled to and from New Liskeard every 30 minutes and also ultimately served Haileybury, Cobalt and Kerr Lake as well. The scarce 1913 postcard to the left, printed by Curtis, Defoe Co. of Haileybury, shows a trolley heading up Ferguson Ave., with throngs of excited people looking on. Roads were macadamized in 1912 and there were eight cars in New Liskeard in 1913. In fact, in 1912, just about when mortgages to the Lumsden estate were paid off, the TNC had to take out mortgages totalling $13,000 on the Meteor and the Temiskaming. In Spring 1913, general manager Larochelle resigned for unknown reasons. It’s thought that he took a job with the Canadian International Paper Co. at Temiscaming, perhaps towing pulpwood logs in Québec. After that, nothing more was heard from him. The main office of the TNC was moved back to Temiskaming.
The TNC hired William Kervin of Callander as manager for the 1914 season. Kervin, known for his financial acumen, did his best but, in addition to all of the other woes, he was also up against the outbreak of WWI. Mounting casualties curbed enthusiasm for pleasure excursions, and Kervin only stayed for one season. Perhaps he wanted to concentrate on his own boating operations in Callander; Without giving any reasons, the TNC surrendered its charter in Spring 1917. Competition from more efficient transportation modes and diminishing profits were the bottom-line reasons for the TNC’s problems. One last try was made to keep a commercial passenger and freight service running on Lake Temiscaming. Télésphore Simard, a Liberal M.P. from Pontiac County, PQ, bought the Meteor and two other ships, receiving his charter for the Ville-Marie Navigation Co. (VMNC) in March 1917. For a little while longer, the Meteor and the Temiskaming continued to sail three times a week up and down the lake.
Richard Tatley, in Northern Steamboats: Temiskaming, Nipissing & Abitibi, writes that it was “still possible to dine in style aboard the Meteor. According to the recollections of Mme. Lucienne Paré, who as a young girl in 1917 followed her mother, Joséphine Racicot, as part of the steamer’s gallery staff, the breakfast menu consisted of crêpes, bacon and eggs and potatoes. Lunch featured ham, bacon, chops, or roast beef, with cake or pie for dessert. Dinner consisted of pork stew or chicken and vegetables, with cake for dessert. Fruits were also served, but only in the first-class dining room. The tab was fifty cents. All of the food was supplied from a store in Ville-Marie. The atmosphere in the first-class dining room was very sedate, but second class, which was usually full of boatmen and newly arriving colons and their families, was invariably noisy. One of the girls on staff looked after each of the dining rooms, including dishwashing, while the third attended to the staterooms on the upper deck — for $25 a month plus room and board. Joséphine, who became chief cook, received a comfortable $75. Her daughter Lucienne quite enjoyed her days ‘at sea.’ ” Perhaps this was the sort of good time the sender of our Meteor postcard had, as a note on the reverse reads: “…had a big dance last night ’til four o’clock this a.m. Am laid up with grippe today.” The private postcard to the left was mailed in 1914, although it’s an earlier postcard. It was published by the Stadelman Bros. of New Liskeard and Cobalt.
Gold discoveries in 1922 around Lake Osisko and in the Rouyn area in 1923 led to additional railway inroads. By September 1923, the CPR’s tracks extended to Ville-Marie. The VMNC decided to concentrate its efforts on the des Quinze River area, to carry prospectors and supplies to Rouyn. The Meteor seems never to have been in commission again. She languished, apparently at Ville-Marie, until some of her side planking, below the waterline, was condemned by inspectors. While being taken for repairs, she foundered at Mission Narrows, Ontario. The spring ice breakup pushed her higher ashore, dashing any hopes of salvaging the steamship. Scrap was removed and the hulk remained at the Narrows until June 1928. At that time, logging booms caught on the hulk and the Meteor’s remains were dynamited. She was gone.
In 1948, guests of the Bay Side Lodge in Deux Rivieres sent this real-photo postcard of a tugboat on the Ottawa River at Mattawa to a friend in Sarnia. The glory days of river boats and steamboats were over, though. Does anyone recognize this boat?
For collectors of vintage postcards, old postcards and the antique postcard. Deltiology, the hobby of collecting vintage postcards, is one of the fastest-growing collectibles hobbies. Old postcard collections interest collectors of antiques, memorabilia and ephemera; collectables such as old vintage postcards are used by museums and historians to document what was.