Massey Area Museum Newsletter
May 2017 by Florence Erikson
Did you know that before there was a highway or railroad through this part of Ontario, the only way to
reach the settlements along the Lower Spanish River was by boat?
The river was a busy waterway. Logs which came down the river were corralled into booms of logs
waiting to be towed to the sawmills. The Boom company held a monopoly on the Spanish River
navigation rights. This kept passenger and freight boats off the river for much of the year.
In 1906, a group of local men, including Henry Sadowski, John Sheets and Charlie Hamilton were
determined to break this monopoly. In Owen Sound, they found an old steamer, the Arctic, and bought it for about $300. At the time the boat was bought, the logs were blocking the mouth of the Spanish. This area was called the tug gap. The situation had gotten so out of control that the river was blocked for four or five miles. The Arctic was caught in the log jam when it was bring brought to Massey. Freeze-up came, and the log booms and the Arctic were frozen in until the next spring. Each morning, Charlie Hamilton would steam up the Arctic and blow the whistle for the men to open the gap. It could not be done. The owners of the Arctic sued the Boom Company for damages for each day the boat was held up. The Court ruled that they had a right to use the river and awarded the owners $100 per day for each day the boat was blocked. In the spring, the Arctic was moved to Massey.
That fall, the logs began to jam again. The Arctic was taken down the river, once again became locked in
the jam, and spent another winter in the tug gap with the owners collecting a handsome fee. The Arctic
was badly damaged in the break-up that spring and could not be salvaged, but the little steamer had
done its job. It had broken the Boom Company’s monopoly on the Spanish River.
Later, navigation rights reverted to the Crown.
Submitted by Ellen Mooney
Robert John and Ella Mooney were not the first in the family to move to and settle in the Massey area. RJ’s sister and brother-in-law, Mary and Frank McIntyre came first. and they convinced RJ and Ella that Temperance Valley was the place to farm.
In March 1899, Robert John and Ella and their two year old son Manson, came from Guyon, Pontiac County in Quebec. They packed up their belongings and livestock and loaded it all on a boxcar in Arnprior, Ontario and headed for their new home in Massey. RJ rode in the caboose so he could tend to the livestock.
Shortly after settling in, Dora May was born on May 7th and they went on to have ten children in total: Manson, Dora (McLaren), Keith, Arnold, Grace (Walford), Marjorie (Clarke), Bernice (Thornton), Allen, Wallace and Edith (Wolgemuth).
At first they rented a small log cabin but, by summer, a house had been built and about three acres cleared and seeded with grain and potato’s. By years end, a barn had been built for the livestock.
Robert John had a comprehensive interest in the community, church, school and municipal government and served as reeve of the municipality for many years, as secretary of the local school board and as an elder of the Massey United Church.
My grandparents were true pioneers. They hacked a hole in the bush to build a home and farm.
A farm that, 3 generations later is still in existence today.
Jonella Farms, a successful dairy operation is a proud tribute to what my grandparents started 117 years ago.
This summer (2016), Mooney’s will have a reunion to celebrate and remember our family heritage.
Page 26 - Wednesday, September 28, 1988
Edith McKinnon was married to Carl Emiry in 1931.
Edith moved to Massey from her family farm in Paisley, Ontario in 1924 for a teaching job. She had plans to stay only one year in the area.
Edit taught at Massey schools for 21 years.
Carl and Edith's sons, Mack and George, now run the farm.
Mack's and his wife Beth's 20 year old son, David, is planning on helping out after he finishes a degree in Agricultural Science at New Liskeard.
The dairy farm has grown in its 75 year existence to more than ten times its original size. It is now comprised of 1,900 acres, 600 of which are being farmed. Over the past 30 years, the Emirys have purchased five other nearby farm properties.
"I don't know if it's a good trend," Mack Emiry told the Monitor, and added that larger farm operations are inevitable. Because of large farms, the agricultural community has shrunk. As there are fewer farmers in the Massey area, there are no farm machinery dealers or farm services in the town any longer.
Edith Emiry said the larger size of farms affect the community socially as well as economically.
She wrote, "In 1931, when we were married, there were more close neighbours than now. Gradually, over the war years, farms became larger, and neighbours fewer. This is an unhappy aspect of mechanical and technological growth."
Until the early 1940s much of the farm labour was done by man or horse power.
Cows were milked by hand, bottles were washed, filled with milk, sold and distributed by the Emirys. Milk was also sold through dairies such as Piquette's of Espanola an Palm Dairy of Sudbury.
"You wouldn't know it's the same business," said Edith.
As well as selling milk, Edith can remember her mother-in-law making butter and selling it door to door with garden produce and eggs. Pigs, turkeys and potatoes were still raised and sold when George and Mack were growing up. Now the farm "is too busy with cows".
Turnips were grown for cattle feed which required that they be pulped twice a day. Now grain and commercial mixes feed the cows.
Grain farming owes a lot to agricultural science said Edith. Because of the development of earlier maturing varieties, a farmer can harvest two or three cuts of a crop in one season with the use of fertilizer.
Harvesting of the fields has changed also according to Edith. She writes, "In the 30s and earlier threshing machines moved onto your farm. Neighbours gathered to help. Often crews of 16 to 20. Neighbour women came to help prepare the food."
The 85 to 90 milk producing comes on the farm now supply a steady amount of milk to satisfy quotas set up by the marketing board.
Since 1965, the marketing board has the authorization to raise or lower the quota of milk required from each dairy farmer. Farmers now own the right to produce and market milk as opposed to previous local arrangements between dairies and farmers.
A milk truck comes every second day for milk - which usually gets sent to Espanola.
Mack says he has "seen lots of changes in my time". The operation is producing a lot more milk than 20 years ago never mind in the Depression when it was going for six cents a quart.
In 1975 a milking pipeline was installed in the barn complete with a tank which cools the milk to one or two degrees Celsius within 45 minutes. Feeding is also automated.
by Carl Emiry, circa 1970
In 1913, the year my father George Emiry left Manitoulin Island, there was no railway or highway to Little Current from the mainland as there is today. The only way you got off the Island in those days was by boat over to Cutler in the summer or over the ice with sleighs and teams of horses in the winter as soon as the ice was strong enough to carry a load. In the summer, the boat from Gore Bay made daily trips to Cutler and Spanish Mills, where you could catch a train to other points. This boat, called the Winona, was owned by James Purvis of Gore Bay. In the winter, the "horse and stage" as they called it, made daily trips over the ice to Spanish, hauling passengers, mail and freight. A large stable for the winter trips was owned by James Purvis as well. The Burns was another outfit that travelled the ice in winter.
In June 1913, my father (George Emiry), purchased the 160 acre farm at Massey where we are living at the present time. At that time, there was a small dock on the Spanish River in Massey. It was located right where the new bridge over the river is now. My father chartered a boat, the "John Hagart" to bring everything he and my mother owned to Massey from Gore Bay. Their belongings included more than twenty head of cattle, four horses, pigs, hens, and turkeys as well as all the farm machinery and household furniture. The boat my father chartered had been condemned for lack of sea-worthiness. This fact caused my mother a good deal of concern. It was a flat-bottomed boat, so it didn't need water as deep as other boats did. There is a sand bar at the mouth of the Spanish River where it empties into Georgian Bay, so it was necessary to have a flat bottomed board to come over that.
Our farm on Manitoulin was five miles from Gore Bay. It was a sizeable job getting everything down to the dock to load when the boat came in. They started loading it in the late afternoon of October 12th. all the cattle, horses, and heavy machinery were put on the bottom deck. Other things were piled higher. There was even a democrat ties to the die of the boat by ropes and chains. It was quite a load! Dad had lots of good help from so many good neighbours, and some of them were pretty good on the bottle too. There was lots of noise and drinking going on that night in Gore Bay. One man, a neighbour, fell into the lake and they had to fish him out. My mother was really worried. She got after my dad and wanted to know if the boat crew was drinking too. Some of the men worked hard and drank hard too.
At five o'clock in the morning of October 13th, 1913, the boat pulled away from the Gore Bay dock for the trip to Massey. It was a perfect day with no wind, and we came over with no trouble at all. One sow, though, chose to producer her litter of little pigs on the way across the water.
My mother, sisters, brothers and I travelled on the other boat to Cutler, and came down to Massey on the train.
When the boat arrived in Massey, it was unloaded and the cattle corralled in the pine trees there. We milked the cows and there for the night. The next morning they were driven out to our farm.
Believe it or not, all my father paid for that boat was $100.00 for the whole trip - but those were the prices of sixty years ago*!
*written circa 1970
PHOTOS FROM THE EMIRY FAMILY COLLECTION
"Mickey Dyell and his cousin Bill Wilson Jr. in est. 1939. They are sitting above Grove Street (near First Street) two doors east of the present library. Did the white church (Presbyterian) next to the library use to have a bell tower on top? I see some sort of tower just to the right of my dad’s ear. Also, to the left of my dad looks like the back side of the old Dyell house on Imperial St., and maybe the back of what is now the Legion Hall. The black house (on the right) is now white and sits on First and Grove Street." -Donna Larson
"This does look more like Imperial Street South than Grove Street. The church steeple looks like the Zion Lutheran church. The house below would have been Mrs. Jessey Burnside." -Pauline Roy-Lachance
"The building after the post office was the town hall, and the jail. My great grandfather Narcisse Dorion was the police officer during the Depression, and he used to let people passing through Massey sleep at the jail. Crest hardware is still the hardware store (Home Hardware). The abandoned building (torn down in 2015) to the south of the hardware store was the grocery store. The post office is torn down, and the Dragonfly (Restaurant) is where the town hall used to be." -Bonnie Brash
"This is the house on Castle Street that I was raised in. It originally belonged to my great frandparents Wilfred and Elizabeth Houle, and when my mom and dad ( Fan and Tim Houle) were married, they moved in with them. Strange to see the board sidewalk and dirt roads. The house still stands in the same spot but doesn't look like this picture." -Marjorie Houle Powell
You can see what the Immaculate Conception Catholic Parish on Darby Street looked like back in 1908. The convent, long since gone, is seen to the right of the church.
DO YOU KNOW ANYTHING MORE ABOUT THIS EVENT?
The settlement of the Massey area was directly connected with it's waterways. The first nations people were the first residents. Artifacts found along the banks of both Sable and Spanish Rivers near Massey and appraised by archeological experts have run the full gamut of archaelogical time. They have been estimated to date as far back as 4000 B.C. and predate the pottery of age on Indian culture, indicating an area much travelled by the First Nation people.
It is only since 1850 when the Spanish River Indian Reserve was established by the Robinson Treaty, South west of the present town, that Ojibways have resided on a pennisula bordering on Lake Huron on the South and Spanish River on the North. Some of the early explorerers evidently passed through the are via the French River and the North shore of Lake Huron. In 1761 Alexander Henry Sr. reported reaching "an island called La Cloche because there is a rock standing on the plain, which being struck rings like a bell". Roderick Mackenzie also visited here in 1789.
As nearly as can be determined, the NorthWest Company established a trading post on the La Cloche River to trade furs with the Natives about 1790. This post was included in the amalgamation of the Hudson's Bay , and Northwest companies in 1821. It was considered on a direct route from Montreal to the West.
The post operated a full century from 1790 until 1890 and was used as a headquarters and was the principal and only permanent post in the Lake Huron district.
Riverboats plied the Great Lakes with settlers and freight well before the twentieth Century and it was via Lake Huron the first white settlers arrived in this area to clear the land and build farms along the banks of the Spanish River west of the present town in the area which is now known as River Road. The first white cemetary was built there with some of the early gravestones still standing.
Enter the Lumbermen to the area with early camps in this area and at Spargge, Spanish Mills and little Detroit. Both the Spanish and Sable rivers provided easy water transport of logs and several lumber companies located around the mouth of the Sable. A lumbering tote road was built northward parallel to the Sable River. At least seven different lumber companies had their headquarters in the town and it was a common practice to float the logs down the Sable River and hold a sorting jack on the Spanish in the spring to form separate booms for the various companies according to the stamp marks on the logs.
This ongoing blog is a collection of articles and photos written by volunteers, staff and you, about the history of our region!