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Our History

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Thousands of years ago migrant family groups followed the 320 kilometre Mississagi River in search of food and shelter. Their stays were not long and they moved on as the seasons and the hunt changed. The richness of the land, the river and the moderate climate of the North Channel always brought them back. The Mississagi River was rich in sturgeon and provided the Ojibway (known as 'Anishnawbe') access to Algoma's hinterland. The Anishnawbe made contact with the first Europeans in the 1600's and during this time Samuel de Champlain and his followers prospected for 'shiny' metal and furs.

The explorers' quest led them to discover Lake Huron and the North Channel which later became renown as part of the voyageur route. French fur traders, loggers and miners followed to seek the vast wealth of natural resources of the North Channel. A fur trading post was established by the Northwest Company in 1789 at the mouth of the Mississagi River. When the fur trade began to slow down (about 1820), the Hudson's Bay Company purchased the Northwest Company. A number of trappers settled along the banks of the rivers flowing into Lake Huron.

Blind River Train Station

One of these rivers, just three miles east of the Mississagi mouth, was called 'Penewobecong' which translates to 'Smooth Rock or Sloping'. The voyageurs named this river the Blind River because the mouth was not visible as they followed along the canoe route. The name, 'Blind River,' was adopted by the settlement that grew at the mouth of the river.

The logging industry developed because of the easy accessibility of timber along the Blind River and Mississagi watersheds. This industry was spurred on by a copper discovery in the mid 1800's in Bruce Mines. The first sawmill was built beside the mouth of the Blind River at the current site of the Old Mill Motel. The protected estuary of the east arm of the Blind River as well as the deep water offshore offered a good location for the mill. The sawmill provided timber and planks for the copper mine. By 1906 when Blind River had been incorporated as a town, a second larger sawmill had been erected on the west arm of the Blind River. Today the west arm is the location of the Blind River Marine Park.

Blind River Train Station 1973

In 1929 the Carpenter Hixon Company built a state-of-the-art pine sawmill producing 89 million board feet of lumber in its first year. Through boom and bust the mill survived under the name 'McFadden Lumber Company' for over forty years as the largest white pine sawmill east of the Rocky Mountains. It was the Great Mississauga Fire of 1948 that led to a depletion of timber, difficult economic conditions and the eventual closing of the mill in 1969.

In 1955 Uranium was discovered near Blind River. The first Uranium mine began operation as the Pronto mine in Algoma Mills. Although its life was short-lived, its significance was that it led to the discovery of the entire Blind River-Elliot Lake Uranium mining camp. In 1983 a Uranium refinery was built just west of Blind River. This uranium refinery is owned and operated by the Cameco Corporation which processes uranium concentrates from all over the world into uranium trioxide. Timber Village Museum

McFadden Lumber Company 1964
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