What do you do these days if you decide you want to go visit Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan? Obviously, the answer is to head across the bridge and (unfortunately) head through customs, a simple enough process that probably won't take much time. But what if that bridge wasn't there? As discussed before on this blog, the International Bridge was only constructed by the early 1960s.
Well, if you had some business in Michigan before then your only option was to take the local ferry, which regularly moved people, vehicles and even some animals between the twin cities. The service in general was around for even longer than the bridge has been today, so it has quite a bit of history to it we can explore. And should, as it is far more fascinating than you might think a few boats can be.
This blog has posted quite a few stories of historical importance, or the lives of significant people in history. But does this mean that that a story must be one of these two things in order to be interesting historically? Not so, as the Batchewana Moose Hunt of 1906 proves.
The Batchewana Moose Hunt of 1906 is, well, more or less what it sounds: a group of friends from around Canada and North America traveling to Sault Ste. Marie in order to hunt Moose and other game. Many readers may remember being a part of hunting trips growing up or are still going on them today, but it was obviously a very different experience in the early Twentieth Century. Instead of a local weekend trip, this was a truly dedicated one spanning about three weeks and involving people living as far away as California.
Have you ever wondered who first defined points of the land we call Sault Ste Marie and even named a few of our first streets?
Well, I'm going to tell you...
I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are in Robinson-Huron Treaty territory and that the land on which we are gathered is the traditional territory of the Anishnaabeg, specifically the Garden River and Batchewana First Nations, as well as Métis People.
Throughout this story, I tried my best to find resources to fill in the gaps of the story in regard to the indigenous people who inhabited this land before us. I spoke with the people at the Algoma University Library and Collections, to see what they had on the matter and I will share some of that knowledge gained from their resources. I still feel unclear on the story from the indigenous point of view as all my resources are written by settlers points of view. But I will share what I have found and maybe we can work together to fill in the gaps of this story dating back 177 years ago
With all that said, let’s get in to it...
Throughout anyone's life they're bound to acquire some responsibilities or titles no matter what career they choose. It's just the nature of things. But occasionally some person comes along who manages to acquire a great deal of jobs and duties in their lifetime, either due to their quality as a person or from being in the right place at the right time. Joseph Wilson is one such individual.
Joseph's father George Wilson was a Lieutenant in the British Navy, who in Joseph's adolescent years retired from service and decided to move his family to Canada, where land was free for soldiers. They ended up settling in the Toronto area where Joseph followed in his father's footsteps by joining the local militia. He would then see combat during the conflict of 1837.
Sault Ste. Marie's City Hall recently had a name change: as of 2020 it is now known as the Ronald A. Irwin Civic Centre. Obviously, if someone has earned having their name on the building they must have done some impressive things, but who exactly was Ronald A. Irwin beyond simply being a former mayor? Let's find out.
Born here in 1936, Irwin was quick to educate himself by acquiring both an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario, as well as a Law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. Later on in his life he would be elected to the position of Mayor of the Soo. He would keep this post from 1972 to 1974, and it did not take long for him to leave a mark on the city.
Written by: Sam Keen
My time working at the Sault Ste. Marie Museum has been a great one. I have made many friendships; memories and I have learned so much about the Sault’s military and cultural history.
I had visited the Sault Ste. Marie Museum a few times in the past, but it wasn’t until my job placement through the Sault Community Career Center’s TIP (Transitioning into Independence) program, that I had the opportunity to experience the ‘’inner workings” of the museum and all that it has to offer. One of the many highlights was getting to see the clocktower, it’s gears and pendulum and knowing that the inner support frame is original.
Written by Justin Brett
Sometimes a small town can be touched by a far more famous figure or event. We've seen that on this blog with the Red River Rebellion, where Sault Ste. Marie was the site of a dispute between Canada and America, one that ended up causing the creation of our own Lochs. One person who came by our town in its earliest years had his work become so famous it is now in the Smithsonian: George Catlin.
Catlin lived from July of 1796 to December of 1872, meaning he lived through what is now known as the 'Old West' period of North America, when the land was very new to settlers and interactions with natives were both common and full of problems. He had a short career as a lawyer, but that changed when he witnessed a delegation of Natives at Philidelphia. Feeling that they were a 'vanishing race', he decided to chronicle them himself, by recording their appearance and customs through paintings.
Written by Justin Brett
Being an educator is often a job that doesn't receive the respect it deserves. These people evaluate and inspire the next generation, but can end up being overlooked in many ways. To push back against this trend, today's blog post is about an educator who worked to mold the past generation, Gladys McNeice.
Mrs. McNeice was born and raised in the Port Stanley-St. Thomas area, and studied herself first at the Victoria College in Toronto, then the Ontario College of Education. After obtaining her teacher's credentials, McNeice would work in several positions across Ontario, including the Algoma College, before arriving at the Sault. Gladys was a teacher at Sault Collegiate, or Sault College as it's known today, from 1923 to 1969. She specialized in French, German and Modern History, and recalls teaching nearly every period of the day at the beginning of her time there.
Written By: Justin Brett
There are many famous people who lived in Sault Ste. Marie, many of whom have also appeared in this blog. People like Thomas Durham or Paul Kane are fairly well-known in this category, but one people may not know off-heart is Joseph Laderoute. Rather than being a politician or an explorer, he was a professional singer, and a very talented one at that.
Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Joseph seems to have led a normal life as a young boy, becoming one of many choir-singers at his local church at the age of five. This might have ended up being just a short chapter of Joseph's life if not for a twist of fate: as it so happens, a man named Arthur S. Somers, a Brooklyn educator in singing, happened to be at Sacred Heart Church that day on invitation. He was meant to sing himself, but claims to have been so overcome by Joseph's soprano voice, which he likened to an angel's, that he was unable to.
Wemyss Mackenzie Simpson was a Canadian politician and businessman who was active in Canada in the mid-to-late 1800s. He is notable for quite a number of accomplishments around the Algoma district, which obviously makes him very relevant to Sault Ste. Marie's history. If you don't know much about him, you hopefully will by the end of this post.