Mathieu was admired as an all-around man

Out at his 10,000-acre private park, our renowned millionaire and benefactor, J.A. Mathieu, kept birds and animals of all kinds on display.
The old lumberman, still popular here in his 90s, had peacocks running around his “Bonnieview” front lawns as well as ducks and swans in a series of ponds between the house and the adjacent river.
Some other logger had found a pair of orphaned moose calves to give him.
Invited to visit a New Brunswick ranch owned by his friend, Philadelphia industrialist Cyrus Eton, Mathieu could not resist this answer when Eton bragged about every one of his cattle and horses being of purebred stock.
“I’ve got nothing but purebreds on my place also—beaver, deer, and ducks,” J.A. told him!
One time when some Americans came from across the river and shot ducks in his ponds, Mathieu was furious. He told his park manager to carry a gun himself after that incident!
Building several dams, Mathieu managed to flood a large section of his park to promote bigger duck populations. Unfortunately, there were others claiming their property now also was under water, as part of an estimated 3,000 acres of submerged land.
Bonnieview ran from road to road where homesteads once were formerly located. Mathieu looked into this situation while serving as a district member of parliament and then made deals to lay out Bonnieview. He also managed to grab an abandoned native reserve.
His main career consisted of sawmills both at Rainy Lake and around Rainy River, where he owned a large white home while making lumber there.
His first Fort Frances dwelling was a big house he later donated to the Grey Nuns when they wanted to establish a training centre for nurses near their La Verendrye Hospital.
Mathieu then moved his family over by the old high school where a Dr. Hartry formerly had lived. There was a front yard pond.
Mathieu had two sons, Art, at the lumber sales office in Chicago, and Tommy, who helped operate the Rainy Lake sawmill. A daughter stayed with her mother.
Well remembered for many things, including charitable donations, J.A. Mathieu—even at a great age—kept an eye on much going on around town and district, and some of his efforts were legendary.
A close associate here was another local millionaire, highway contractor George Armstrong, who said he owed Mathieu much for helping him get started. Mathieu supplied bush work for Armstrong’s trucks and the pair were prominent together in Progressive Conservative party politics.
He had several grandchildren who became involved in his affairs, including a grandson lawyer whose home was in the Bahamas and another, Jimmy, who operated the Sapawe sawmill east of Atikokan.
A granddaughter married Dr. Bob Stinson, an optometrist.
When the Bahamas fellow notified “J.A.” that he would be moving into Bonnieview, the old man was at first delighted but then concerned over the fact that his prized living room furnishings out at the “farm” were being moved into the basement without his permission!
That move apparently was promptly cancelled. J.A. wanted his polar bear rug and grand piano to stay where he had them.
When I became involved as a regular Sunday dinner guest, it was because old J.A. had lost his driver’s licence after a small fender-bender beside his home. He hired a young chauffeur who could not be available on Sundays, but J.A. had to get back and forth to Bonnieview.
His solution was pretty good and indicated his reasoning was not impaired by age (about 95). He knew I lived about half-way out to Bonnieview, so he phoned every Sunday one summer to report he had told his housekeeper to roast another chicken from their supply out back!
And how could anyone resist that invitation?
So we ate while he talked of many things, and I listened and got to learn what millionaire or top politician from either Canada or the States had landed a plane on the river back of the house in the previous week.
J.A. could be extremely outgoing with information and a treat hear as he opened up concerning personalities he had met or employed.
Eventually, he no longer could keep going back to Bonnieview and left the world behind but still so full of life. I can imagine his end found J.A. still pondering much still to be done. Those peacocks swaggering around his Bonnieview lawns or the swimming pool might need his attention!
Did you know that peacocks cannot enjoy a perch that is not high enough for them to keep their long tail feathers off the ground? J.A.’s old crony, Arthur Smith, had just such a shed for them to winter in.
And if anyone wanted a Sunday picnic spot, why they would always be welcome out at Bonnieview. That beauty spot later was sold to folks from Switzerland.
• • •
I’ve been receiving holiday greeting phone calls from far-off places.
The lady who phoned from Vancouver Island is a former Emo resident, a sister of Doug Carlson, who was mentioned in my column concerning the diabetes marathon runners in Iceland. Only she walked the entire 26 miles.
We all wish Doug could become that healthy after his years in Emo hospital.
Then Mrs. Allan Tierney got word to me that she and he are both doing okay with their health down east. At 86, he is one of at least three former well-known brothers here.
Allan and Jim were among our Boy Scout leaders while Jack and I served with Jack Keenahan’s Wolf Cubs.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Uncategorized