Surveyors make mark on community

In 1991, Jewell Sutherland of the Fort Frances Times wrote, “Surveyors have very historical background.” The centennial of the Ontario Land Surveyors was the opportunity to reflect on the important role they had played in the development of the district.
The first mapper/surveyor/explorer in this area was Pierre Gautier de Varennes, Sieur de LaVerendrye in 1732. Following the lead of early explorers, he was searching for the “Western Sea.”
His mark is still in the community today with La Verendrye hospital and the replica Fort St. Pierre named in his honour at Pither’s Point Park.
His arrival in the area lays foundation for our claim of being the “earliest settlement west of Lake Superior.”
Other early explorers followed the water route, including Sir Alexander MacKenzie in 1789-93. David Thompson journeyed through the area in 1797 as surveyor of the international boundary, and noted visiting the Rainy Lake House of the Northwest Company.
Dawson & Hind published exploratory surveys between Lake Superior and the Saskatchewan River in 1859.
It wasn’t until 1875 that the town plot of Alberton was surveyed. Mr. CC. Forneri was responsible for much of these early surveys. The Dominion surveys were conducted in 1886, opening up the area for settlement.
Early surveys were concerned with mining and timber claims–the wealth of the district.
From the late 1800s, Douglas John Gillon was responsible for much of the surveys, conducted in the area. The Nov. 25, 1948 edition of the Fort Frances Times notes, “Mr. Gillon knew the District of Rainy River better than any other man. As Ontario Land Surveyor, he not only plotted nearly all of Fort Frances but he also surveyed the greater part of the district. He also came to this district in 1896, travelling over the old Tower route, when the district gold boom was getting underway.”
The Town of Fort Frances honoured Gillon with the naming of a street, forever recognizing the role of D.J. Gillon in the development of our community.
Submit your story of your family’s contribution to the community to the Centennial Community Scrapbook being compiled by the Fort Frances Centennial Book Committee.