This book, released in 2004, is the first in a series of three books about the Chapleau area, written and published by the author.
The Chapleau Game Preserve is a 2,000,000 acre sanctuary where hunting, trapping and the possession of firearms have all been prohibited since 1925.
William McLeod (1872 1940) was a Chapleau merchant, fur trader and pioneer tourist outfitter who persuaded the Government of Ontario to set aside the Preserve. Mr. McLeod, grandfather of the author, was alarmed at the declining populations of fur bearing animals. He wrote a brilliant paper on the business of the fur trade that included numerous recommendations on how the fur trade could be rescued. Almost all of the recommendations were passed into law and they remain virtually unchanged nearly a century later.
Chapter Three covers the early years of the Game Preserve including the expulsion of the Brunswick House Band from the Preserve and what happened to them in subsequent years until 1973 when they were re-located in a new reserve at Duck Lake near Chapleau,
Subsequent chapters describe developments in the fur trade in north eastern Ontario and how the Game Preserve evolved over the years. It served its intended purpose and then gradually became a place where animals were live-trapped and relocated to other areas of Canada where the animal populations had dwindled. The Game Preserve eventually became a giant outdoor research laboratory and is now a popular eco-tourism and fishing destination.
The Murders and the Disappearance of George Weeden and Merle Newcombe
This section of the book describes six murders, a strange disappearance and the goofy goings on of a Sudbury fur buyer. For a small, isolated and sparsely populated region, there seems to have been an extraordinary number of violent crimes. The first victim was Jack McKee (1922), followed by Willie Saylors (1937), Dan Tessier (1946), Jack Hargis (1948), Steve Klapouschak (1954) and Erwin Stocken (1957). The killers of Jack McKee, Willie Saylors and Erwin Stocken were all charged with murder but acquitted by juries. No one was ever charged with the murder of Dan Tessier. Two drifters were convicted of murdering Jack Hargis but their convictions were set aside by the Ontario Court of Appeal and they walked.
In the late fall of 1959, George Weeden and Merle Newcombe, two Chapleau Railroaders, set out for Amyot, Ontario for a weekend of moose hunting. They were seen one day after arriving at Amyot and then disappeared off the face of the earth and, in spite of massive searches that fall and the next spring, they were never heard from again.
Jacob Isaac "John" Glick was a fur buyer who operated out of Sudbury. In the spring of 1938 Glick and a number of accomplices accumulated a large booty of furs, many of which were probably illegally trapped inside the Chapleau Game Preserve. He was caught when trying to smuggle the furs out of the Northern Ontario wilderness and into Quebec. He also served time for the 1935 attempted murder of William Denomer of Oba, Ontario. Interesting man.
The Indian Schools and the Old Age Home
From about 1908 to 1948 two Indian Residential schools were located near Chapleau. Both were run by the Anglican Church. George Prewer who was principal of both schools for many years had a reputation for being a very harsh disciplinarian and stories of Prewer's beating of children appeared frequently. When the church decided to close the school in 1948, some of Sudbury's politicians got the not so bright idea that they should ship Sudbury’s old people to Chapleau and house them in the recently closed Indian School. Thankfully common sense prevailed and the school was sold to a private businessman and eventually demolished.
The Fires of 1948
It was impossible to search the newspapers for Chapleau stories without coming across numerous accounts of the terrible forest fires that turned much of Northern Ontario into a virtual inferno in the spring and early summer of 1948. There were actually three fires. Two separate fires that eventually joined burned a huge area from about 43 miles south of Chapleau well down into the Mississaugi River valley. The third fire started north of Chapleau and, at one point, it was feared that the town itself would burn. Fortunately, the rains came in time. After the fires it was imperative that every effort had to be made to harvest the partially burned timber before it was destroyed by insects. This necessitated the building of roads, the most important of which connected a road that stretched south from Chapleau about 40 miles to Horton Lake with the McFadden Lumber company roads that were used to service the company's lumber camps as far north as Aubrey Falls.
For the first 63 years of its existence, Chapleau was without a road connection to the "outside" world. The only way in or out was by train and later by plane. That road connection was a political football in almost every provincial and federal election until well after World War II. Chapleau's isolation ended in the winter of 1949 when what would become Highway 129 was made passable enough for the people in Chapleau to drive south and connect with Highway 17
Another road contention was the building of Highway 101 that eventually connected the communities of Timmins, Chapleau and Wawa, completed in the early 1960s.
The roads in the area are still an issue. Since the 1950s, there have been various lumber roads that connected Chapleau, Sultan, Ramsay and eventually Highway 144. The people of Chapleau have been lobbying the Provincial Government to take over some of these roads, and upgrade and pave them. The Provincial Government, for whatever reason, has resisted. Perhaps eventually they will relent and Chapleau folks will have a faster, safer and more modern access to Sudbury and points south. And motorists traveling to western Canada will be able to bypass the section of Highway 17 that runs from Sudbury to Wawa.
Much of the book deals with some pretty heavy duty history and times, people and events that were anything but pleasant. For that reason some lighter aspects of Chapleau's past seemed in order. Ten anecdotes that range from history to humor to whimsy make up this section of the book. For a complete list of the anecdotes, click on the Table of Contents link below.
If You Go
The book concludes with "If You Go" -- a travelogue of sorts. The drive from Thessalon to Chapleau along Highway 129, The Budd Car run on the C.P.R. between Sudbury and White River, canoeing in the Game Preserve, the historic town of Missanabie and the equally historic Missinaibi River, the C.N.R. trip to the village of Elsas and the characters who live and lived there make up the latter part of the book.