masthead image

Lochalsh

History

Town site photo

An original home

©Copyright: Yvan Charbonneau

Activity around this area of the Canadian Pacific Railway area was chiefly centred on the gold rush that began in the 1920's. In 1921 only four residents were living at the CPR section house, however an ongoing search for gold rejuvenated the whole of the northern Algoma area.

As in nearby Goudreau, many potential prospectors and developers came through Lochalsh Station, and headed for the bush. A post office opened in 1925 and by the end of the decade a store was established. There were also a few homes and shanties.

As the gold rush picked up, there was so much traffic between Lochalsh and Goudreau that the government built a 22 kilometre road was built to link them. The work was completed during the period of 1935 -36 using relief gangs for labour. Many of the relief workers were originally from Southern Ontario and it didn't take them long to discover that mining work paid much better. The rate of desertion was so high that the government was forced to re-evaluate its standard relief pay for the unemployed, which at the time, was $5 a month. Wages were then raised to 25 cents an hour, quite a respectable wage during the depression years.

By 1937, the village included a school, three stores and two hotels, the Prospect and the Royal George, both of which housed beer parlours. A tenement building, for single employees working on claims or developing properties, also stood nearby. Hang Fong owned and operated a restaurant that sold alcohol illegally. The community also had a large railway station and houses for nearly 200 residents. The community was neatly planned and well organized on a large town site. A doctor would stop by once a month. A local resident and store owner, Alma Lavoie, started a taxi service that served the Goudreau, and Lochalsh areas.

The Second World War silenced most of the mines such as the Algoma Summit, the Algold, the Emily and the Edward. The Cline Mine, which was the largest of the producing properties, was the last to close in 1948. The residents who remained subsisted on trapping, lumbering or tourism. A large sawmill, opened around 1962 by the Dubreuil Brothers, gave birth to nearby Dubreuilville, which revitalized the area's economy.

After the schoolhouse closed, around 1962, Alma Lavoie's house was substituted for church and school services. Catholic and Anglican preachers as well as the teacher boarded at her home. This house became the focal point of the community after the town's gradual but steady demise after 1963. The post office closed in 1967, only to reopen as a seasonal office in 1968-69. Shortly after that the last store closed.

Today the old tenement house still stands, along with a few original structures, including Alma Lavoie's well-known green house. There are a number of crumbled homes and charred foundations but a few homes remain occupied. The site of the "Open Season Lodge" which also proclaims to be "Sometimes Snod'Inn" was once the site of one of the stores and the post office. The lodge operates year-round and claims to serve the best coffee in the region, a claim that is likely beyond refute.