Travelling on the Meteor in 1890

Travelling on the Meteor in 1890

The following account in the The Algoma Missionary News describes the Anglican Bishop’s visit to Lake Temiskaming in December 1890:

On the 16th September, 1890, the Bishop arrived at North Bay by the C.P.R., en route for Lake Temiscamingue, and took on board the Chaplain. They travelled along by rail as far at Mattawa, where they alighted, and went to the house of the Rev. Robert W. Samwell ….The following day they continued their journey up the Ottawa River. The first stage was by small steamboat with a scow attached to its side; and then when rapids stopped navigation, the boats were left behind, and all proceeded to portage in the easiest manner by means of a narrow-gauge one-horse tramway, the little rails of which were brought even with similar rails on board the scow by a little draw-bridge dock, and the flat-car with the baggage on the scow was drawn off by the horse, and on to the tramway. This tramway was built by the side of the rapids until navigation again opened, when another little steamboat with scow was in waiting to receive in similar manner the passengers and baggage-car. From Mattawa to the Long Sault at foot of Lake Temiscamingue is about forty miles, which composed the day’s journey, and in that distance they made portages in the manner described, four times. The last portage, however, some six miles, differed from the others in that, instead of the horse, there were a little locomotive engine and two covered cars. Arrived at the head of the Long Sault and at Gordon Creek, they put up in the French [Canadian] boarding-house, and there awaited the return of the steamer Meteor, Captain Percy, which plies upon Lake Temiscamingue. To their great chagrin they found that she would not start up the lake until the day after the morrow…. It is to be feared that the Bishop, when he did retire, must have slept very badly that night, for from the bar-room right underneath ascended the noise and the horrible words, in the French language, common to drinking saloons, and suggestive only of darkness and eternal ruin… The next day, Thursday, they looked around at the beautiful scenery of the Long Sault and Gordon Creek, and thought of going to see the Kippewa also, some nine miles away, but decided there was grand scenery enough on the Ottawa and Temiscamingue for one trip…. The next morning they started on the good steamer Meteor to ascend Lake Temiscamingue. For many and many a mile it was narrow, and with banks rising abruptly and high. The Chaplain remarked that it was like some grand and beautiful river, perhaps the Rhine.…

Just after dinner they arrived at the Hudson Bay Fort, but did not land or remain more than a few minutes. The Chaplain pointed out the buildings of the company at the Fort, and on the hill over it the picturesque little cemetery, where lie the remains of Father Laverlocher; and on the opposite side (Ontario), of the narrow channel, the now deserted Roman Catholic Indian Mission Station, with its neat wooden church, priest’s house, hospital and nunnery, all empty, decaying, and silent. About three miles further up they arrived at Priests’ Bay, where the Roman Catholic Church has a fine establishment, church, priest’s house, convent, and hospital, all of red brick, and agent’s house of stone, while stretching back for some miles in the Province of Quebec, there is a good well-to-do settlement of French Canadians. Here they parted from the Grey nuns with much regret, who were arrived at their journey’s end. They then proceeded further up the lake, keeping on the Quebec side until they came to the silver mine, which is just on the shore, and now being fully worked. The Bishop and Chaplain landed, and the superintendent showed them all over the works and explained the process throughout. The Meteor then crossed the lake diagonally at its widest part to the Ontario shore, and landed the Bishop and Chaplain at Haileybury, the farm and home of Mr. Farr and his family. This was the goal of their journeying so far, and here they met Mr. Marsh, of Wycliffe College, who had been laboring on the lake for several weeks before, in most earnest and arduous mission work. He made Haileybury a centre, and from thence visited the numerous families, a great many of them belonging to the Church who had taken up farms on the Ontario shore….

That night the Bishop slept at Haileybury, while Mr. Marsh took the poor Chaplain in a little birch-bark canoe along the shore in the dark to Mr. Lawler’s house, where they slept. These canoes are very easily upset, and so true to the Bishop’s definition of their danger, for his Lordship remarked that a man must have his hair pretty evenly parted in the middle, or it would be enough to overbalance one of them. The next day, Saturday, the Bishop stayed at Haileybury, the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Farr, and all hands had a quiet restful time. In the afternoon Mr. Marsh and the Bishop manned the canoe, the former paddling in the stern, and his Lordship paddling in the bow, and they paid the Lawlers a visit to their great satisfaction. …

Then after dinner the Bishop bade good-bye to all, and proceeded on up the lake in Mr. Farr’s large sailing-boat, the little canoe towed behind. The Bishop held the helm, Mr. Marsh managed the sails, and the Chaplain helped a bit in the bow, and looked gloomy and miserable, until rallied by his Lordship and made all smiles once more.…

[After several days visiting the widespread congregation by bush trails and canoes they] all proceeded once more to board the Meteor for the return voyage. The first night they stayed at Priests’ Bay, arriving about dark, and remaining there for the night, and all sleeping on board. That night they held a service in the state-room of the Meteor…

The next morning the Bishop complained that his bed, or rather bunk, was as hard as the soft side of a plank, and for him very little sleep in consequence. They then went on to the Hudson Bay Fort, landing then and looking through the buildings and store; and inspected the colossal canoe and a young moose. This creature had been ill with a cold, and looked truly miserable, poised upon its four long legs, and with its heavy head and Roman nose, and the most woe-begone expression of face and bearing. They then steamed down the lake to the head of the Long Sault again, but not to the French boarding-house, as all hands slept on the Meteor. But here also the Bishop held a service on board, which was well attended, Captain Jones, of the steamboat Argus, and his crew, being also present; and surely the poor people there seldom get such a treat and spiritual happiness….

The next day, Wednesday, they returned in same order, tramway and steamboats, down the Ottawa to Mattawa and again enjoyed there the hospitality of the mission house. They then set out to the railway station, the Bishop for Sault Ste. Marie, the Professor for Lindsay, and the Chaplain for North Bay.