Algonquin Story.

Content provided by Ethan Huner

Eagles Nest

With the retreat of the ice, animals such as caribou, moved into the newly opened landscape grazing on the emerging vegetation. Waterfowl took advantage of the abundant wetlands. The environment around Bancroft would have been very similar to arctic and sub-artic conditions for thousands of years!


Small groups of highly mobile and adaptive indigenous hunters who were exploring these newly opened lands and in pursuit of game, moved from areas to the south approximately 11,500 years ago.  Imagine a group of hunters pursuing herds of caribou in the valley below!


These first people tended to congregate near landscape features that provided the best access to animal and plant resources, ones that attracted wildlife, were good for hunting, and provided vantage points. As you look around and out across the valley, can you find some of the landscape features that would have attracted the first peoples?


Hunters travelled far and light, carrying only the few tools and necessities they needed.  Stone tools and shelters, etc. were constructed when and where they were needed. The earliest people hunted with hand-held spears and atlatls (spear throwers). The bow and arrow were developed much later.

Shelters were simple structures made from rock, poles, and covered with animal hides. Think of the old growth forest that provided everything the Algonquin people needed to travel, camp, trap and fish, celebrate their culture and sustain their families and villages.


To the Algonquin, these forests were their home.  They knew everything about them.  They knew that in late summer, game would be attracted to the oak stands that were ripe with acorns.  They knew where the moose browsed in the maple forests, and  where the deer sheltered in cedar stands in winter.  Where forest fires had burned, they knew they would find strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries to harvest.  Survival depended on this knowledge and their ability to adapt. The forest was a great provider of materials used in everyday life of the Algonquin people.


The Algonquin cultural world was filled with legends of the forest passed down orally generation to generation.  The forest itself was alive with the spirits of the trees, the rocks and the animals.


While the forests of Algonquin Territory have changed significantly over the course of history, the forests here at Eagles Nest Park remain integral to carrying on the cultural traditions of the Algonquin people


Eagles Nest (migizi Wazoson) is a special and sacred place to Algonquin people. The Algonquin and their ancestors traveled, camped, hunted, fished, conducted ceremonies and communed with the natural world since truly ancient times. The Algonquin believe that this special landscape is alive with the spirits of the rocks, waters, forests, skies, and the ancestors of the Algonquins. It is a place where the spirit of the eagle and thunderbirds continue to dwell.


Eagles Nest Park is a landscape holding clues to the geological, environmental, and cultural story of how the Algonquin adapted to this region soon after the last ice age melted away. It continued to be valued and utilized by the Algonquin throughout history. The Algonquin Story (Algonquin aadiisookaan) is supported by various archaeological finds in the area through historical documentation, and by oral traditions within the local Algonquin community who continue to revere this special landscape to this very day.


You will learn more about the fascinating Algonquin Story while enjoying the Hawkwatch and Christie Trails. While you enjoy this beautiful land that is Eagles Nest Park, remember that you are caretakers of this park and land. Please ensure that you treat the park and its trails, its environment and its story with the utmost respect.


Chi Miigweetch- Eagles Nest Trail Committee


First Peoples

A sacred place

European Stories.

Content provided by John O’Donnell

European Contact in the York River Valley

Extracts from

(Bancroft- A Bonanza of Memories by Nila Reynolds 1979)

(Wee Bit of Wicklow by Wicklow Research Committee 1973)

(Algonquin Park, the human impact by David Euler and Mike Wilton 2009)

1615- French Explorer Samuel D. Champlain reputed to have traveled in the north part of what is now Hastings County while traveling on the frozen waterways enroute to Lake Nipissing

1640- Jesuit Priests (Father Claude Pijart Father Leonard Garreau ) served Algonquins displaced by Iroquois invaders teaching them the techniques of burning lime for plastering found on the east bank of the York River in Bancroft. Discovered in the 1860’s by new settlers

1650s- Fur Trade spawned French Voyaguers to trade with the First Nation Algonquins traveling nomadically up the Ottawa, Madawaska and York River Systems


1776-1778 – Loyalists to the British monarchy flee the USA and travel into Southern Ontario as part of a UEL promise of free land. As the areas along Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River fill up colonization northward is promoted by the British Government.


1837-  County of Hastings request district Status and is separated from Midland district July 25 1839

1850- First Session of Hastings County Council January 25 1850

1851- Publius V. Elmore surveys Land north of Lake Township in Hastings County.



1853- Depot farms being built by timber barons John Egan, Robert Conroy, JR Booth and others that started the timber industry in the Bancroft Area. Bronson and Weston (Harris and Bronson) , Hilliard and Dixon and later the Rathburn Company employed settlers and First Nation Algonquins in lumbering with bush crews, river drivers all living camboose and shanty life with over 72 years of river drives in the York and Madawaska River systems,

1854- Winter Road ordered to be opened by surveyor Robert Bird as the Hastings Colonization Road and 100 acres lots could be granted to settlers under agreement to maintain the road in exchange as statute labour.





1. Settler must be at least 18 years of age.

2. He must take possession of the land within one month, and within four years have twelve acres cultivated, a house at least 20 feet by 18 feet erected, and reside here until all the conditions of his free grant have been met

3. The home that he constructs must meet with the regulations, being made of logs, covered with a birch bark roof, well plastered with clay between the logs and preferably Whyte-washed.

The Hastings Road was later described as “a long long trail of abandoned farms, adversity and blasted hopes”


1855- the first Whyte settlers established in the York River (Shawashgon River “marshy”) Valley Alfred Barker, James Cleak and possible James or George Clark already fur trading with First Nations families prior to this

1856- influx of pioneers to Bancroft area from South and Centre Hastings , UEL, as well as other areas of Upper and Lower Canada in search of free land and a better life. Met with some difficult frontier life, poor agricultural prospects and life of toil carving an existence out of the rock piles of North Hastings

1857- expansion from overseas drew settlers from Ireland, England, Scotland France, Germany, Poland, Prussia and Scandinavia- the quickly expanding lumbering industry brought emigrants seeking a better life and work harvesting the majestic virgin Whyte pine for the British Naval ships up the Ottawa through the  Madawaska and on to the York Branch. The potato famine drove the Irish out of Ireland. Irish family names were very predominant such as Kavanagh,  Doyle, Cayley, McCabe, Neill, O’Neill, Loney, McAllister, Hughes, Ray and Kelly listed as settlers in the area as the colonization road opens up.

1858- The Peterson Road is surveyed by J.S. Peterson commencing at the Muskoka River continuing South Easterly to join the Opeongo Road at a place now called Combermere a distance of 114 miles. This road intersected the Hastings Colonization Road at Maynooth.

1858- Hastings Road Agent M.P. Hayes published statistics of 144 properties settled along the North Hastings Road broken down as Irish 41; German 31; Canadian 30; English 24; Scotch 18

1860- James Cleak  opens first post Office at York River and plans to set up sawmill and grist mill as a mill reserve on the York River

1863- Cleak proceeds to build dam on the York for his mills to begin development of business district and commercialization of York River and later Bancroft.



1865-  As settlers build a life on the Free Grant land in North Hastings interaction with the First Nations Algonquins was inevitable. A well documented encounter in the summer of 1865 by settlers Andrew O’Neill and wife Catherine (Kitty Otterson) published as a story in the Bancroft Times by great grand-daughter Marlene Parkinson shows how mutual respect and cooperation paved the way to harmonious co-existence could take place even 150 years ago.

1866- First wooden Dam built at foot of Baptiste Lake by the Ontario Government and Harris and Bronson Lumber Co. This dam raised the water level of Baptiste Lake (originally called Long Lake) to better provide for the spring river drive coming from logging operations north on the York Rivers headwaters in Bruton township. Original Dam replaced in 1931 and a new concrete structure built in 1952.

1879 -  Official name of Bancroft recognized in an act by Senator Billa Flint changing from York River.


1884- Central Ontario Railroad (COR) brings expanded economic hope to North Hastings as it linked south Hastings with Coe Hill by way of Marmora on August 28. The lure of mineral wealth and the “gold fields” of North Hastings, Coe Hill iron ore, Bancroft marble and Bessemer iron to the east and an alternative to the almost impassable route overland on the Hastings road brought a renewed hope of prosperity to the area. Another local railway line started up as the Irondale Bancroft and Ottawa Railway serving from the Haliburton County origin in Irondale easterly to Baptiste Village until it was extended to Bancroft in 1910. It was never linked to the Ottawa area as its name implies but served the Bancroft to Irondale route until its closure in 1960. Its impact on opening the cottage industry on the Baptiste Lake and York River water system was pivotal to creating an early destination for city dwellers longing for the lure of solitude in “Cottage Country”.



1887- In the years of the river drives, media reports found their way into city newspaper print of the “Wild West” type activities as the shanty boys made their way through Bancroft on the annual spring log drives. Lawlessness, excessive alcohol consumption and vigilantly justice were presented as commonplace that local policing had trouble controlling. Folk heroes were created of the biggest and toughest brawlers of the various log drive companies ready to take on adversaries from competitors driving their own booms down the tributaries.

In 1887 two families, the McAllisters and Hontoons came right out of the Wild West from the California Gold Rush to Herschel Township and Baptiste Lake. Originally from southern Quebec in the St. Francis region a family of Hontoon brothers took off in the 1860s and 1870s to Bodie California in quest of gold and prosperity. In California they started in the mining, lumbering, ranching and rounding up wild horses and even the saloon and hotel business. A gun fight, which left one brother with an amputated leg and living amongst the Piute First Nations on the Nevada/California border, made for an interesting life in this tumultuous time in US history. With the decline of the gold rush, Leander Hontoon, his wife and 2 year old son Henry and his inlaws the John McAllisters, left California and took up land in the Baptiste area. They brought their mining and lumbering experience starting a sawmill and even staked mining claims near Baptiste. Their hunting and trapping prowess involved them with the local First Nations families and their ranching likely allowed them to pursue farming near Bird’s Creek.


1890- the era of hand hewn square timber river drive end and the beginning of the river drives of whole log drives initiated. Local saw mills to supply lumber needs of the local communities are initiated as mechanization changes




1894- As more settlers made Bancroft and the York River their homes connections and separations were made with Algonquin First Nations from the area. When the government of the day set up the Golden Lake Algonquin reserve in the 1890’s, First Nations peoples were sent to live on the reserve and lands previously occupied by these families was taken over as Crown Land. A First Nation family by the name of Lavalley,  lived on the York River south of Bancroft and made the decision to travel up the York system to resettle on Hay Lake  in Nipissing District south of Whitney in 1894, possibly moving to avoid going to the reserve. The decision to move north under their own terms likely was influenced in some way by a tragic event of the shooting of one of the Lavalleys near the York River. Lavalley Rapids bears its name to commemorate the family and the tragedy which occurred near there. The drowning of the wife and child of one of the original European fur traders in the area by the name of Clark, a short distance north of Lavalley Rapids commemorated this newcomer’s family tragedy as Clark Creek. Two families who connected as neighbours and who probably shared through fur trading also shared equally in the sorrow of the loss of loved ones in the early days of Bancroft.



Death on the York was also not uncommon during the dangerous river drives in the spring when log jams forced the need to have men break these pileups by hand and pike pole. Many graves along the river were marked by a paddle or pair of caulked boots hanging on a tree as a tragic memorial to the agile settlers or First Nation workers who never got out of the frigid waters or from between the crushing rush of timbers as the jam was let loose by their agility.




1900-  On Nov 2, 1900 the grand opening of the Bancroft COR with the arrival of the first passenger train coming to the new station. This new transportation mode likely spawned the tourism industry as it opened opportunity for promotion of the fishing, hunting and cottage potential now more readily available to interested parties from afar.

1901- The railway opened up the timber industry significantly beyond the river drives that had taken place for close to 50 years. Shipping product to southern mills for processing played a huge part in the expansion of the timber industry. Access by rail created diverse markets for logs, lumber, ties, poles and pulpwood as well as slabs and tanbark.  Local timber businesses sprang up, bringing new found capital and jobs for the area. Shipping lower grade pulp to processing mills in Trenton had bush crews utilizing more natural resources than had earlier been marketable. Logging was still a tough business to get rich at but many found good employment getting the products to the railway stations or sidings loading them on the train cars and shipping them to outside markets. It was often said by the weary timber crews “that the loneliest sound in the world was that first stick of four foot pulp wood hitting the steel back wall of that railway car” knowing you had about 800 more to throw in, to fill that boxcar.



1866- Gold discovered in Eldorado area of Centre Hastings

1882- William Coe and Harry Johnson form company to work iron ore finds in Coe Hill /Salem area. This discovery may have triggered the extension of the railway to North Hastings

1900- Bessemer and Childs Mines open on further iron ore deposits

1900 -1901- Corundum discovered near New Carlow with operations in place at the Craigmont mine and the Burgess Mine . Operations continued until 1917 at Burgess and until 1921 at Craigmont with a short resurgence at Craigmont during World War 2.

1906- Marble quarries open up in Faraday and Dungannon townships which supplied product to Casa Loma in Toronto as well as Union Station, Canada’s Governor Generals residence, both the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa and Legislative Buildings in Toronto and Canada House in London England.

1949- Uranium discovered by Arthur Shore with mines opened at Centre Lake, Faraday,  Bicroft,  Greyhawk,  Canadian Dyno between 1953 and 1958. Faraday was the last to close in 1964 but reopened as Madawaska Mines and remained productive from 1976 until closing its operations in 1982



Following the influx of the railway lines and the eventual improvement of the road networks that accessed Bancroft and North Hastings, tourism gained a foothold as another wave of settlers found our area. The affluence of the industrial revolution created employment and success in business that gave disposable income to some searching for that “Shangri La” within reasonable travel distance from the populated areas of Southern Ontario and the northern USA.


The cottage and tourist industry sprang up after World War 1 and continues today and cottage country settlers and their subsequent families continue to frequent their “paradise” in North Hastings. Direct descendants of some world renowned business’ came to our lakes in the early 1900’s and built cottages beside our First Nation families who made the lakes their home. Baptiste Lake bears the name of the Chief of the local Algonquins, John Baptiste who first came to our area from the Lake of the Mountain and Oka region of southern Quebec. Families such as the Irwin’s out of the Oshawa region who had direct connection to the original entrepreneurs who started “General Motors of Canada Ltd.”, brothers George and Sam McLaughlin were a family that shared Baptiste Lake with their First Nation neighbours.


Local employment was sparse at best for many locals and the connections made from cottagers and tourists from the cities gave opportunities to get jobs when none were available here. As the draw for recreation brought cottagers and tourism here, employment drew people to jobs in the cities. This cycle continues with retiring locals who went to the city for work and prosperity, are able to return to their roots and become another wave of settlers to Bancroft and North Hastings.




Hastings St. N

Bancroft | ON | Canada