masthead image

Heaslip

History

Town site photo

Welding gang at sidingSource: ONR

In 1899 the first settlers began to arrive in Evanturel Township. Their journey was no different than any other pioneer migration. It was long, arduous and involved various means of transportation.

The newcomers disembarked at the wharf situated at Temiskaming Station, at the end of the line. A steamer ploughed through Lake Temiskaming for a 98 kilometre (70 mile) boat ride to the isolated hamlets of Haileybury or New Liskeard, both situated near the head of the lake. After an overnight stay, settlers were again on the move and took a second steamer that was bound for the Blanche River nearly 20 kilometres away from Haileybury. From here the small steamer ploughed the river for another 40 kilometres.

The steamer stopped at different points along the way so settlers could disembark at various emerging landings such as Judge, Pearson's Landing, Belle Vallee, Hilliardton and finally Tomstown located at the head of navigation. From Tomstown, the remaining settlers fanned out to the nearby townships of Ingran, Pense and Evanturel.

Some of the first pioneers who settled Evanturel Township travelled approximately five kilometres where good, rich, flat lands could be found. Joseph Heaslip, one of the first to arrive in the area, had also made the trek and by 1903 had a large farmstead under cultivation. The following year the Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway (T&NOR) arrived in Haileybury and greatly improved access to the interior. Joseph applied for and received a post office that opened in 1904, giving the community an official name and status.

In 1906 the T&NOR had reached the township and passed nearby Heaslip's farmstead. At mile 134.9 the railway added a station, siding, section house and freight shed. The T&NOR was a major boost to the young settlement's growth. After gold was discovered in Larder Lake that same year a second major boost fuelled the rapid development of Heaslip.

The small hamlet of Heaslip was the nearest railhead to the new gold fields. A trail from Heaslip joined the Wilson Trail, which left Tomstown and led straight to the southern end of Larder Lake located 50 kilometres north. For a year and a half prospectors and promoters departed from the siding and station at Heaslip station. Freighters, on the other hand, tried in vain to send equipment and machinery to the new mines via the long, often un-passable tote road. In 1907, the government financed the 22-kilometre long Dane Road, a route that was pushed from Dane Station to Larder Lake, effectively reducing Heaslip's mining traffic.

For a brief time Heaslip was home to freighters, a few mining enterprises, livery stables, lunch counters and a hotel. After the boom, Heaslip returned to its roots as a farming community. The hamlet still contained a general store, school, community hall, Methodist church and the station. About 140 residents called Heaslip home. The station and siding were still hubs of activity, providing a quick accessible link to the surrounding area such as Tomstown located 5 kilometres east. By the 1920's the future looked bright for Heaslip.

In 1922 a dry spell swept the entire southern half of Temiskaming District, and numerous small fires broke out, a number of which converged together. The Great Fire of 1922 swept and levelled entire communities from Haileybury to Englehart. The same conflagration hit Heaslip and torched every building except for the community hall.

Tragically the hamlet suffered the largest loss of life for all affected communities losing nearly 20 residents. Both the Amos Heaslip and Robert Bond families were entirely wiped out when they took refuge in their cellars. The hall served as a relief station until tents and provisions could be distributed to the now destitute residents.

Although a few homes, along with the school and store were rebuilt, Heaslip never attained its former glory. The station was replaced with a flag shelter. The school and store closed during the late 50s, along with the post office, that closed in 1958. Most of the residents left and today, only half a dozen homes, some unoccupied, line the road nearby the crossing. These buildings are the last vestiges of Heaslip's 1922 revival.