Early days in Crozier

Editor’s note: The following was written by Miss Violet Stewart in June, 1943.
It was submitted by the Rainy River District Women’s Institute Museum in Emo in conjunction with Heritage Week 2010.
This year’s theme was “Our Changing Landscape.”

Alberton Municipality, of which Crozier is part, held its first council meeting in May, 1891 and in May, 1896 made its first record of births, deaths, etc.
In 1898, McIrvine Township withdrew from the municipality and formed its own separate organization.
The first Alberton meeting after the change took place was in April, 1898.
At this time, gold mines of the district were attracting people from everywhere. The depression in eastern Ontario and the Dakotas suggested a move to Northern Ontario, as did the desire on the part of some people for wooded farms, which were very expensive in the older sections of the province.
All of these reasons led my father to move westward in the autumn of 1898, with other members of the family following the next year.
In the course of another year, the right of way for the Canadian Northern Railway was procured and surveyed by MacKenzie and Mann, and construction began on the railroad.
This was an outlet for the settlers in the northern part of the township. I, Violet Stewart, and young companions enjoyed the fun of helping to gather and burn the great heaps of evergreens on the centre of the right of way.
And later, when the first train pulled through, we were wildly excited to see it pass by.
The coming of the railroad also meant the advantage of a post office, station, and store in due time, as well as getting out all kinds of timber to the railroad siding.
An interesting feature of the early days was the logging bee, when the men all gathered to clear up a piece of land, making a great pile of logs that had burned and fallen down in a sort of slash.
When they came in for dinner, their hands and faces were so black, but they did not mind. They were helping each other and having a sort of holiday at the same time.
In these days, the men used to make snowshoe trails, which would pack quite hard and one could run right over the top of the snow.
In January, 1904, Crozier schoolhouse S.S.#3 opened its doors with four pupils in attendance, and has continued with one intermission of a year or two when there were no pupils in the section.
In 1921, the first little school was burned but was immediately rebuilt and during the passing years, it had known the usual changes in enrolment as one generation passed on and the next one followed.
At the present time, there is only one of the original families living in Crozier (Mr. D.H. Stewart and daughter, Violet). The children of original settlers are living in Crozier.
In the years between 1902 and 1904, the community felt the need for Christian fellowship and at first met in different homes. Later, when the years brought changes, the hall and church were finally established.
It was not considered a hardship in these days to walk four or five miles to a meeting or to visit friends, and it was quite a luxury to ride in a buggy (at this time, many of the roads were not passable at all for a buggy).
The early missionaries walked on the railroad from Fort Frances to Crozier for an afternoon meeting, then walking on to La Vallee for a meeting in the evening, coming back to Fort Frances on the local train Monday morning.
When roads were frozen, horses were used with saddle, buggy, or cutter. About 1911, the first automobile made its way between Fort Frances and Devlin (Mr. R.J.F. Marsh drove to Stratton but shipped his car back to Fort Frances on the local train).
A car in these days was as exciting to watch as a circus parade, and no danger of accidents for everyone stood well back to admire.
One day in 1914, two ladies, Mrs. J. Carey Smith and Mrs. Thos. Richardson, drove in from Burriss and told us of the wonderful time the ladies of Burriss were having in being organized into a society known as Women’s Institute, and how interesting and profitable its meetings were every month.
Some of the ladies felt that this was just was we needed, too, so in October, 1914, a group met in the school and organized the Crozier Women’s Institute, which has been growing and flourishing without any lapse during the years until the present, working for “Home and Country.”
(The Crozier W.I. disbanded in 1960).