THE HISTORY

Train heading toward the camera on the tracks.

Settlers began to trickle into Chamberlain Township in about 1902-03 and by the fall of 1907 these pioneers met to discuss the issue of becoming a township. By February of 1908, a council had been elected and the first council meeting was held to found what is now known as The Corporation of the Township of Chamberlain.

We are a small but progressive municipality with the primary economic activities being agriculture and forestry. Some live in the township to take advantage of the country lifestyle, but work in the neighbouring communities of Englehart, Kirkland Lake, Elk Lake and Temiskaming Shores. A number of residents are 3rd and 4th generation to live in Chamberlain.

The first people to venture into what would be Chamberlain were nomadic tribes 6 to 8,000 years ago following game which provided them food, clothing and housing. Eventually, this area would become part of the hunting grounds of the Algonquin Indians.

The first Europeans to venture into the area would have been French fur traders out of Montreal in the mid 1600's. Sieur de la Troyes, in his famous overland expedition from Montreal to James Bay to capture British forts in 1686, met French fur traders already in the region at a fur trading post located on an island in Lake Temiskaming near where the Montreal River enters the lake. With the Blanche River being one of the major tributaries feeding the lake, it is quite reasonable to speculate that these early hardy men had ventured up the Blanche to explore many of the streams that feed into it such as Aidie and Crocodile creeks. De la Troyes used the Blanche and Wendigo Rivers enroute to James Bay. Obviously, the Blanche was a major transportation artery in those days.

For the next 175 years, furs were the main economic activity in this northern region. Around the 1850's logging companies from the Ottawa Valley began to push their way up the Ottawa River to Lake Temiskaming and eventually up the rivers emptying in the lake. This development brought them into direct confrontation with the fur trade for of control of the rivers.

In the 1880's, the Province of Ontario decided to open up the northeast to settlement and surveyed a huge piece of territory to the north and west of Lake Temiskaming. In 1888, using the 640 acre method, Chamberlain was surveyed into 72, 160 acre lots.

It was not until about 1902-03 that the first settlers began to trickle into the township. At this time, Bill and Archie Bailey along with a friend named George Wood ventured into the west side of Chamberlain to claim their lots when they ran into an old acquaintance by the named of Johnny McCoy who was trapping along Aidie Creek.

At roughly the same, two ethnic groups from Europe began moving into the north east section the township. Recently arrived Jews from Russia led by Sam Levy, Isaac Gurevitch, David Korman and Simon Henerofsky claimed 1600 acres in the Krugerdorf area. They were soon followed by more Jewish families such as Rice, Martin, Vertlieb, Silverman, Goldstein, Abramson, Abraham and Engel to name a few. At the same time, German families led by August Kruger and his son Frank relocated from the Ottawa Valley to settle in the same part of the township as the Jewish settlers.

Over the next few years settlers from other parts of Canada, Great Britain, the Ukraine and Poland settled throughout the township. Some of the other families who arrived at this time and put down long term roots were McCracken, Armstrong, Haughton, Dickinson, Wilson, Digulla, Kant, Schlievert, Quast, Rodgers and Bazowsky. The second decade from 1910 saw some of the early families give up the pioneer life and return south but also saw the arrival of the MacGuire, Blackburn, Mills, Joiner, McCaughan, Bobbie, Wreggitt, Anderson, Smart, Buchanon, Milks, Croisier and Brownlee families who would all become successful early pioneers. Many descendants of these families still live in the township or in the Englehart area.

At the behest of the Crown Land Agent for the area, Williams Hugh, in January 1908 a meeting was convened in Englehart to discuss the incorporation of Chamberlain as a municipality. The first council meeting was held at the home of Ben Meens on February 26th 1908. The first Reeve was Joseph Brown and the first Council was comprised of John Prophet, George Dickinson, George Nundy and John Burns. The first Township Clerk was John C Wilson and the first Tax Assessor was Hugh Stewart.

Another important event from the first decade was the construction of the T&NO Railway through the east side of the township. Clearing of the right-of-way would have started in 1904-1905 and work trains were working north of Englehart in 1906.

In 1923 the province decided to build a road system that would connect North Bay and Cochrane. In the Temiskaming district it would use many of the township roads that were already in use. In Chamberlain, it used the Wawbewawa Road to the Lutheran Church corner then followed Chamberlain 5 to the present day Hwy 573 then turned north to Swastika. This road network was known as the Ferguson Highway. To make the north's highway system more efficient and expedite traffic, in 1939 the province realigned 25 kilometers between Englehart and Round Lake to what we know today as Hwy 11.

Today, Chamberlain is home to approximately 350-370 people who work in forestry, agriculture, business, mining, transportation, education, health care and other services. The family farm that built the township has virtually disappeared to be replaced by huge farming operations. The man with a horse and buck saw selectively harvesting his bush has been replaced by skidders; tree harvesters, etc., and can clear 160 acres in a matter of a week or two. Children walking long distances down lonely roads or trails through the bush in all kinds of weather to one of Chamberlain’s four one-room schools have been replaced by shiny school buses carrying them to school in Englehart, Earlton, and Temiskaming Shores. Husbands who would tend to their homesteads then walk into Englehart to work at the T&NO shops or one of the businesses have been replaced by husbands and wives who drive to jobs in Englehart, Kirkland Lake, Temiskaming Shores, Elk Lake, or even further afield.

A lot has changed in 100 years.