The Meteor’s Early History

The Meteor’s Early History

The Lake Temiskaming Colonization Railway and its boats provided the first organized transport to and through the Lake Temiskaming district. A year after the CPR extended its tracks from Pembroke to Mattawa in 1881 the S.S. Mattawan became the first steamer to appear on Lake Temiskaming. The Colonization Railway brought the boat to Mattawa to transport people and supplies from Mattawa to the foot of Lake Temiskaming. The S.S. Argo arrived a year later. Although both boats ferried settlers, loggers, and freight, their primary role was the timber trade, moving large bodies of logs on slow-moving water bodies.

In the winter of 1886-7 the Société de Colonization du Lac Témiscamingue commissioned the building of a steamboat at Ville-Marie, and named it La Minerve in honour of the Montreal newspaper La Minerva which supported the patriots in the 1837-38 Rebellions and, more recently, praised the benefits of settling around Lake Temiskaming. Under Captain Morin in 1887, La Minerva serviced settlers between Gordon’s Landing (South Temiscamingue) and Baie des Peres (Ville-Marie) twice a week. Late that year the steamer ran aground near Fort Temiskaming and damaged its propulsion plant. Alex Lumsden subsequently bought La Minerve on 6 March 1888, towed it to his shipyard at Opemican for repairs and remodeling, and renamed it the S.S. Meteor. For the next eighteen years the Meteor was a key member of the Lumsden Steamboat Line.

Alex Lumsden was a self-made man who began work as a mill hand in the Ottawa area in the 1850s before branching out on this own. By 1885 he headed the Lumsden Steamboat Line which owned the rights to tow logs from head of Lake Temiskaming to Ottawa. Soon, he owned a saw mill and shipyard at south end of Lake Temiskaming, timber limits on both sides of the lake, a large hotel, an electric company, and a bank. In 1898 he was elected to parliament as the MLA for Ottawa. With as many as sixteen steamers, Lumsden monopolized the passenger and freight business on Lake Temiskaming. When this millionaire died in 1904 at the age of 65, his death made the front page news in Ottawa and his funeral was attended by Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier, the Mayor of Ottawa, and his fellow Ottawa lumber barons.

In 1888 Lumsden’s towing business was booming and he was looking for steamboats with more cargo space and greater towing capabilities. He thus purchased La Minerve — it had more passenger and cargo space than the Mattawan – which would also allow the company to use the Argo for full-time towing on Lake Temiskaming. As the number of settlers into the area increased the demand for the Meteor’s services, Lumsden bought the Temiskaming steamer in 1899. It took the same route as the Meteor, but on alternate days. Four years later the Jubilee joined them.

Following Alex Lumsden’s death, his widow Margaret and son John ran the company until 6 April 1906 when they sold the Meteor, Temiskaming, and City of Haileybury steamers to former employee Joseph Larochelle of Mattawa who formed the Temiskaming Navigation Company. The new company also owned the Jubilee, the   Ville-Marie, as well as Lumsden’s wharves at New Liskeard, North and South Temiskaming, and Ville-Marie. Most of the company’s stock was held by prominent Mattawa businessmen, including Henry Timmins and his brother-in-law Arthur Ferland, and merchants in Ville-Marie.