Stories & Local Marine Heritage

Stories & Local Marine Heritage

There is so much pleasure visiting the local history group sites on Facebook whether it is just to look at the pictures; reminisce of old times, people and places; or to find out something new that happened a long time ago. There is something happening I think more people should know about.

By having these sites it is opening up the opportunity to connect with people and families who in past generations have long ago moved away from the area for whatever the reasons. Something of our local heritage is surfacing and revealing the desire for holding it. Also is revealed how much we are losing our story – or about to.

There are stories that are coming together that have something in common. They are associated with the ships that traveled this area, brought our families and were vital to living in this area. These stories hold our marine heritage.

 Advertising from 1909 shared by Jane Smith of Tarbutt Township showing the local docks one ship stopped at.
Advertising from 1909 shared by Jane Smith of Tarbutt Township showing the local docks one ship stopped at.

Imagine this super highway along the local waterway of the St. Mary’s River and Lake Huron with these huge vessels traveling to all the communities along the North Shore – long before paved highways and automobiles. It’s hard to imagine what that must have been like – from the size and number of these ships, the need for this type of transportation and how much the weather influenced all of it.

From the photo album of H.D. Peterson once of Bruce Mines, a picture has been tucked away for many years. On the picture is written the words “1908 Premier stuck in ice” – and so begins a search for more of the story. This was the Steam Ship Premier at the bay in Bruce Mines. From archived newspapers on microfilm at the local library more is revealed. In the Spring of the year 1908 the shipping channel had opened, free of ice, and the shipping season began, but weather caused a lot of problems for many ships with ice forming on the water way in May of that year.

In searching for the story to go with this picture, more stories come to light – like the name of the purser on board the S.S. Premier. This is where the benefit of the local history groups on Face Book are a marvel. Prior to finding this picture or the stories, I was contacted by someone looking for information on a certain family in Bruce Mines. Can you imagine my surprise when this was a family member associated with the S.S. Premier and subsequently the family has shared a picture of their ancestor. Thank you Martin Walter for connecting and sharing. He plans a trip to Bruce Mines in the near future for more research on his family. With both pictures merged into one we share a bit of this story visually.

Another part of this story that was revealed was an ancestor of a local family owned the Steam Ship Premier during this time period. The ‘Premier’ was owned by W.C. Fremlin who once lived at Hilton Beach.

So many stories, pictures and bits of information prompt some of us to further action.

In an attempt to hold our story – our heritage, we will begin a promotion of the local marine history, gathering as much information, pictures etc. for archival purposes as well as for exhibit. We begin with a first-step exhibit to be held at the Bruce Mines Fall Fair. Featured will be artifacts, pictures, videos and activities relating to the local history of the St. Mary’s River and North Channel of Lake Huron. This will include ships, ferry boats, light houses and wharf/docks of the area. Private collector and ship enthusiast, Randy Johnson, with Will Hollingshead of the St. Mary’s River Marine Heritage Center, both of Sault Ste. Marie, will join ‘Bruce Mines Remembers’ to host a marine exhibit. ‘Bruce Mines Remembers’ is a local history group site on Facebook, one of many that is part of ‘Remember When – Algoma Local History & Genealogy’.

Come by our exhibit and see what has started with some information/pictures with local places and names at the Bruce Mines Fall Fair – September 7 & 8, 2019 in the arena.

Submitted by Sylvia Stobie