Dominion Day

Local History Down the Line

Local History Down the Line

Confederation was accomplished when the Queen gave royal assent to the British North America Act (BNA Act) on March 29, 1867, followed by a royal proclamation stating: "We do ordain, declare, and command that on and after the First day of July, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty-seven, the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, shall form and be One Dominion, under the name of Canada”.

Local History Down the Line
That act, which united the Province of Canada with the colonies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, came into effect on July 1 that year. The act replaced the Act of Union (1840) which had previously unified Upper Canada and Lower Canada into the united Province of Canada. Separate provinces were re-established under their current names of Ontario and Quebec. ( From Wikipedia)

How did this impact our little section of Algoma?

The Algoma District was named in 1859. At the time the district covered most of Northern Ontario, and parts were later removed to form the districts of Manitoulin, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Timiskaming.

The Bruce Mines were operating by 1848 and was a long-established settlement by 1867, at which time they were operating at its peak (from the Call of Copper). 

From the “Reminiscences of a Bruce Mines Boy” published in the Bruce Mines Spectator was a narrative of him memories of the first Dominion Day.   It reads as follows:

There was no Dominion Day until July 1st, 1867, which was our first.  We little fellows heard a lot about the big celebration we were going to have that day, so we had great anticipation of the time we were expecting on the first Dominion Day.  It finally arrived but no firecrackers.  It was the same as the 24th of May, until two o’clock p.m when the games started.  There were foot races, three-legged races, sack races, wheelbarrow races, broad jumping, hop, step and a jump, standing jump, pole vaulting, and high jumping, putting the shot, also walking the greasy pole extended over the water, and boys eating buns from a dish pan with about a quart of blackstrap in the pan, and their hands tied behind their backs.  Oh, my!  What a sight they were after they had won a prize.  After supper there were bonfires, one very large one on the flat ground a short distance east of Richards’ store, and another on top of the skimping pile, north and a little east of the one on the flat.”

The 1868 Free Grants and Homestead Act opened areas of Algoma to settlement. As townships were surveyed, settlers were able to obtain 200 acres per head of household, 100 acres for each child over 18. In order to keep the land they were granted, settlers had to clear the land, cultivate it, build a home and live there for a minimum of six months per year.

Crown Land Maps, such as the one shown here for Johnson Tarbutt, were mostly dated 1877, ten years after the first Dominion Day.

Local History Down the Line

This is not to say that there were no settlers here, but the influx did not occur until then. 

Up until the mid- 1880’s when the Canadian Pacific Railway lines were constructed through Algoma the main method of transportation was by schooner or steamship.  Settlers arrived by boat and had to trek their way through the bush, carrying all their possessions on their backs.

 

Local History Down the Line

The Chicora - one of the steamships that served the North Shore
The Chicora - one of the steamships that served the North Shore

Throughout the subsequent years “Dominion Day” has been celebrated in all areas of Canada, more so from the mid 1900’s onward.  The “young” Algoma celebrated many holidays, with the Orangemen Parade on July 12th being the most celebrated at the beginning of that century. 

Happy 150th Canada!

Local History Down the Line
Jane Smith has been interested in local history and genealogy for several years and has volunteered many hours in an attempt to digitize as much local history as possible.  She is enrolled in the Genealogical Research Studies program at St Mike’s college through the University of Toronto and has started a home-based business called “ALGOMA ANCESTRY SERVICES”, helping others discover their family histories.  She can be contacted at jstrumsmith@gmail.com.