The Colonization Road, first called the River Road was the first road in Chapple. It was constructed to encourage “colonization” and followed the river bank through Barwick and Roseberry townships. Initially it was probably a path used by natives during the spring and fall when the river was unsafe for travel. This road had been located as early as 1875 (probably as part of the Dawson route) according to the report of the Commissioner of Crown Lands in 1885. Frank Yeigh writes: The Rainy River road which is some seventy miles in length, followed the course of the river on the Canadian Bank from Fort Frances to Lake of the Woods. The estimates of 1892 contain a further vote of $6,500 for additional roads in the vicinity of Rainy River.
Horace Theker, who came in 1882 and lived in Stratton before moving to Fort Frances, mentions getting support from Mr. Connor the MP, for the building of the River Road. He says: I worked on the new road until its completion and on several roads leading back into the country. William Westover’s road crew also helped build the River Road and many others throughout the district. The first roads in Chapple were just paths and trails which followed the high lands, wherever possible, and around the rocks and timber lots. The first settlers sometimes crossed muskegs by painstakingly laying logs or boards down, picking them up from behind and laying them down ahead until the got over the low spot.
One of the first promises made to the people of this district by the Ontario Government was the north-south roads would be built. In 1905 the Off-Lake Road was constructed. It served both Emo and Chapple, providing access to good timber areas and a gravel pit. Money was made available for the purpose, and road construction became a good source of added income for crews of men who camped out all summer building roads. Before the turn of the century, a Tote Road extended from below the Long Sault Rapids, up from Boucher’s store. It went east of Stratton to Granite Rock, which was visible for miles. It angled across Chapple up to Clearwater. It was built by the Mather family from Kenora who owned Rat Portage Lumber Company. Men and materials could be toted to the timber sources and the timer taken out. The road soon had many branches as settlers ties into the main route that was used by everyone for business, socializing, obtaining groceries and as a means for sending and receiving mail.
Around 1906, the Barwick Town Line, now called The Barwick Road was built. Basil Kilpatrick mentions being the water boy for the crew building “the highway between Blackhawk and Barwick” when he was eleven. A store ledger lists the materials purchased by foreman John Martin in May of 1906, for the building of the Sturgeon Creek Bridge. In the summer of 1907, the Dobie Road and the Mather Town Line, now called Mather Road West, were built by foreman Leach and the gang. George Wright and his crew built the Tait to Richardson line in 1909.
This construction all took place before the setting up of a $6,000,000 fund by the Northern and Northwestern Ontario Development Fund after the election of J.A. Mathieu in 1911. The Trunk Highway, also known as The Cloverleaf Trail, extended from Rainy River to Fort Frances. it was built in the early years of Mathieu’s political career. By 1915, quite a few cars were in use and people from across the district drove to the huge district wide picnic held at Weston’s in that year. The Kings Highway (Fort Frances – Kenora) opened in 1936 and at the south end, the Off Lake Road formed part of it. The work done in 1954 on Highway 71 was part of the Mississippi Parkway.
The CNR in 1886, with the objective of building a railway from Port Arthur to Rainy River, the Ontario and Rainy River Railway Co. was incorporated. Before they came, settlers were aware that rail service would be made available. Sir W. MacKenzie and Sir Donald Mann gained control of a number of railway companies and, in 1898, laid tracks from St. Boniface to Marchland, 1900, from Marchand to Spraugue, and on October 10, 1901, the tracks between Rainy River and Fort Frances were opened. On December 30, 1902, the track was linked to the east with a ceremonial silver spike at Atikokan.
The Old Barwick Station From Elizabeth Johnston
Time and technology have taken their toll on an old Canadian National Railway Station that served the area well, but now stands vigil, no longer in use, at a site north of Emo. The sun shines through two sightlessm uncurtained windows on the second floor of the station now resting beside a country road in Carpenter Township.
The station came into being at the turn of the century, with newlyweds, Agent Jack Arnold and his wife Delia (Fink) moving into to it in 1904. Located at Barwick, about halfway between Fort Frances and Rainy River, it served Chapple’s large farming community.
Prior to the Arnold’s arrival, a box car was used as the office from which train orders were dispensed as the old coal-burning steam engines slowed down for a refill at the water tank. Fast freight weren’t stopped, train orders being conveyed to the conductor by means of a hoop. Tow passenger trains, one east and one west, ran through at night, and so this CNR station boasted having a night operator. One or more bags of mail were brought out by the mail carrier to be handed to the mail car, which also contained the LCL (less carload lots) express.
The agent remarked once that he had never seen so many fifty- pound orders of Bologna and new tombstones. in the spring, boxes of 100 chicks would arrive from a hatchery to be cared for by the agent and the family until the owner could drive into pick them up. They were usually brought into the warm living room to be looked after.
As Dick Regina’s training program developed, his racing pigeons were shipped to Barwick in foot high wicker baskets with hinged lids. Enclosed instruction were: Please water the birds upon arrival. Release them on the platform, then wire the weather conditions, time of arrival and time of release. Family members stood quietly as the agent opened the crates. Within seconds, the pigeons flew straight up in quick succession and headed due west. This little ceremony took place at 6:00 a.m., with the girls wishing well and “to go straight home.” For a while each spring there are still pigeons scratching around hopefully for some grain at the vacant site of the CNR station.
Roderick MacLean owned and operated a small store at Mac’s Hill, 4 1/2 miles north of Barwick. Twice a month he made a Sunday trip, chugging along in his overland to collect his express from Western Grocers. He had to come Sunday while his store was closed or he might lose the sale of of one half yard of lamp wick at nine cents. However, Mac compensated for the Sunday morning disturbances by bringing spring bouquets of lilac and baskets of asparagus to the agent’s wife.
The CN station was the focal point of a lot of activity, with the cedar yard a few yards across the main and spur tracks . Tall prime telephone poles were hauled in to be sold by Black Bros. During the mild weather of spring, local natives, using spuds, peeled these 50 to 60-foot poles. Then they were loaded onto flat cars and shipped. the peeled bark was piled for burning, and the smoke aroma from the burning bark was a clear indication of spring.
The agent’s office was small. A wide shelf in the bay window held the typewriter Morse Code signal box, and a lever to hand- operate the wig-wag signal to stop approaching trains. On the side wall was a desk with pigeon hole compartments above for tags, labels, stickers, and other small items. It was at this desk that the Ruth Olsen learned about Santa Clause.
Ruth’s father was the station agent for 12 years, during which time his wife earned a great reputation for home-made angel food cakes. the Women’s Institute sponsored most of the social events; fall suppers, bingos and Saturday night dances. Money had to be raised for a curling rink, providing a good outlet for Mrs. Olsen’s culinary talent. Harry Olsen, his wife, and their two daughters were transferred from the Barwick Station to Emo. They were followed by Bill Johnston and family, and later the MacmIllans from Quibel.
News was distributed by telephone, telegraph, or “tell a woman.” Barwicks unique method of spreading news was to have the club secretary write an invitation or notice on a large blank card, and then have a schoolgirl take it from door to door.
Time brought changes, with diesel engines replacing steam, and the water tank disappearing. The section house, and finally the station, were put up for sale. In 1979, Ina Wilson bought the station building for a token of $1. The old station was to be moved to the Wilson farm. The cost of the operations was ” stupendous,” involving moving of hydro lines, telephone wires, and the use of heavy equipment.
This station may serve the public again someday, but for now it sits alone to hear the whistle of diesel engines in the distance. Today freight train’s just speed through.