Hello everyone and welcome back to our continuing series “Touring My Town”! Today we will continue a bit with more history of our town and local area. As previously mentioned, mining (mainly gold), and lumber, were the two main industries here after the initial fur trade era. Many gold mines opened in the late 1800s but didn’t last more than a few years since the gold didn’t go deep into the rock. But some did last longer going for a few decades. The Sultana gold mine was the largest and remained productive the longest of all the gold mines.
Gold was shipped by boat to Rat Portage (Kenora), and from here was shipped out by train. One interesting bit of news occurred in the late 1800s. A large gold shipment was being shipped by boat to Rat Portage and a storm came up. The boat hit some rocks and sank, but the captain and crew survived by swimming to a neighboring island. Oddly, the captain and crew couldn’t remember where the boat went down and the gold was never recovered. The captain and crew all left the area not too long after. People have looked for that gold shipment for many years without success. Should be an easy guess where the gold went however.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was built through the area, and right through town, being finished in 1882. Having the major Canadian railway, at the time, coming through town really helped this town to grow quickly. Right from it’s early days Rat Portage was a rough frontier type town. The gold and lumber made this a very thriving, prosperous town in those early years.
One oddity of this town back in the late 1800s was that Rat Portage was claimed by Ontario and our neighboring province of Manitoba. At one time the provincial boundary between the two provinces ran right down our main street. The east side was Ontario and the west side was Manitoba. Both provinces had their own government offices, police force and jail. Finally the dispute was settled in Ontario’s favor around 1900.
There were 3 major flour mills that located here, due to the fact of having the railway and abundant water needed by the mills. These mills were instrumental in getting the name changed from Rat Portage to Kenora. The flour mills just didn’t think a name like Rat Portage would give a good image to the mills, and the new name of Kenora was adopted in 1905.
Next time we will move ahead to what Kenora is like today and I will show you around my little town. I hope you all have a fantastic week and God bless!
Steve and Muffin.
© 2020 Steve McLeod.