CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Sunday, March 6, 2011

History :CPR Spawns Sudbury

photo from about-art-decor.com
Sudbury at 4 yrs old

     A CPR railway work camp was set up in Ste. Anne des Pins in 1883 to begin the next stretch of the westward push .

  Prior to this , trade in furs was in full operation . Ojibwe villages of the area  were in the network that fed furs into the system that flowed east to Montreal .Since the area was further inland a post was not established close by . The nearest Hudson Bay Posts
 were in the La Cloche mountains near Manitoulin Island or toward the Big River at Mattawa .The main fur route was from the Ottawa River , Mattawa River , Lake Nippissing , French River into the Great Lakes and west . Aboriginal people off the main route brought their furs to the nearest fort or to meet up with the canoe brigades of voyageurs at designated trading locations .

  Jesuits ventured into the area in the 1700's but didn't set up a permanent mission until the railway camps were established . By early reports , the biggest role they played was in trying to prevent the smuggling of alcohol into the area in order to protect the Aboriginal populations . The CPR who wanted sober workers
also policed their system of supply and inevitable small business that trailed the railway into the area . Nursing Nuns followed the camp to establish a hospital to minister to the injured and locals . Many religious groups flowed into the area with the Railway camps.

Geological survey when forsts were plentiful
photo from collectionscanada.gc.ca
  During the building of the railway , ore rich in copper and nickel was discovered and prospectors entered the region . This discovery ensured the development of a town along the railway at Sudbury , as well as several smaller towns around this hub of commerce . When the railway worker camp was moved to Biscotasing , a small town was already in its permanent beginnings at Ste. Anne des Pins , named by Jesuits for the immense white pine forest in the area .

  Just as what happened in Mattawa , lumbering companies moved in with the railway providing the transportation  for the trees they cleared . Much of the forest was used for the building of the railway (ties and telegraph poles) taken out of the Rayside and Balfour areas which was opening up for settlement and farming ; but by far most met another fate .

   Prospectors exploring the rugged hills found that burning off the forest to see the rock below was preferable for quick location of ore . Great tracts of forest turned to ash in the search for copper and other precious metals .

 Turn of the century mines used massive trees for support .
 photo from tripadvisor.in

Smelter after wood
photo from langleytoday.ca

    Once mining companies were established , forest fell for use in supporting shafts and stopes inside mines , as well as the building of mining camps , homes and businesses . By far most of the cut forest was used to feed the great fires of smelting pits that , once loaded with layers of ore and white pine , burned for months to extract precious metal from rock . It took many square miles of forest to feed these pits ...and there were hundreds of pits burning . Forest within the reach of the smoke , died from the sulphur dioxide fumes which killed most plant life in its path . White Pine , which is especially sensitive to SO2 , died first . So when the hills were clear cut of the remaining trees , they were already dead . The ground was sterilized so new growth was not possible . Then the acid rains washed soil off the hills to fill spaces between and left barren infertile rock hills that became stained black from continued smelting .
 The Jesuit name for the town was replaced by the original name for the CPR railroad camp...Sudbury... after Superintendent of construction Worthington's wife's hometown in England .

photo from ontario.inetgiant.ca

photo from fast-autos.net

 By the turn of the century , there was good business for the CPR carrying in coal to feed newly built smelters , supplies for the towns , passage for people emigrating  for work , and transport of finished metal pellets .

 There was bad business for the Aboriginal people as the animals died from starvation or moved out of the area in search of shelter and food . Trapping was no longer viable to support their economy . The abundant lakes turned more acidic with every rainfall  and died , plant and fish alike ...the mainstay of Aboriginal diet . They could not leave because treaties made to gain access for the CPR restricted where they could live . They could not work because they were not citizens of Canada . The alcohol that Jesuits and the CPR tried to keep out was rampant on the native reserves as more and more of the their land designated by unfulfilled treaty disappeared around them for the benefit of everyone except them . 

circa 1942
photo from en.wikipedia.org


   When Mum and Dad moved into the area , Mum felt an immediate fondness for the stained barreness..." It reminded me of home ." She had come from Staffordshire , the Potteries , surrounded by the coal mines , sky filled with black kilns spewing acrid smoke that blackened the landscape and buildings . ' The Black Country ' as it was known in England . Sudbury was the same in early 1951 . Dad and Mum moved to Larchwood  , a small station 15km up the CPR line , just out of the prevailing winds of Sudbury , where the sun would shine .

All photos are found on Google Images: Sudbury , Ontario


thepowmill said...

The views of Sudbury remained unchanged until the building of the wide-dispersal Superstack which replaced all the smaller stacks and spread the smoke over a larger area . Very intense reclamation activity on a green belt along highways , tailing ponds and slag heaps give a healthier look to the area from the road . Behind this green belt , the land struggles to recover naturally . Without people , this won't occur for hundreds of years . Blueberries have had explosive growth since the super stack because they need little in the way of soil to grow and like acidic conditions .

thepowmill said...

Many people in Sudbury are sensitive to the image I have portayed here . But in 1950-51 , little had changed in the landscape since early 1900 . This was pre- Superstack and all the hard work of people over the last 30 years . There is much to see in Sudbury these days .