HAVING now described the various sections bordering on Hudson Bay, before going farther west we will give attention to the extreme western portion of the present Ontario, since this has not yet been dealt with. This territory includes Rainy River and part of Thunder Bay districts of Ontario as at present constituted, and may be described as all that section of New Ontario west of the Nipigon Lake and river. This territory embraces some fifty-seven thousand square miles, an area about as large as England and Wales combined. It is very rich in all material resources and also ideally located. Bordering on a portion of the coast of Lake Superior on the east, it is the western terminus of lake traffic, and may indeed be regarded as having direct ocean connection with Liverpool. The location of the rising towns of Fort William and Port Arthur is indeed very promising. It is about equally distant from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and is thus in intimate touch with all parts of the continent. It might be appropriately designated Centralia.
The present population of this territory is certainly not less than fifty thousand, and rapid increases are being constantly made by the incoming of settlers. Its citizens are credited with being among the most enterprising and ambitious in the whole Dominion. Already there are large townswe might say, citiesand numerous thriving villages, in addition to the two already mentioned on the lake coast. Rat Portage, Keewatin* and Fort Frances are places of considerable note. The entire length of this territory, a distance of over three hundred miles, is traversed by two systems of continental railway, namely, the C.P.R. and the Great Northern. Other lines are also under construction or contemplation, and must, with the shipping centres of its two lake cities, give it wide connections and ample facilities for transportation.
The general features of this territory are quite well known and need not here be dilated upon at length. The Nipigon section on the eastern border, and the northern boundary along the English and Albany River, have already been described in connection with Algoma and Keewatin. Its general character may be summed up by speaking of it as the Nova Scotia of the West. It certainly has much resemblance to, and many features in common with, its smaller eastern sister. Though not maritime in the technical sense, its lake ports are the scenes of much commerce, and it is not impossible that they may yet be the termini of ocean freight steamers. Port Arthur may become a new Halifax. Its great deposits of gold, iron and other valuable ores also afford another point of resemblance between it and the province by the sea. The magnificent valley of the Rainy River gives it fame as an agricultural country, as does the far-famed Annapolis Valley to the Land of Evangeline ; neither is this new country without its vast forests, its rocky coasts and its important fisheries. But Nova Scotia would have to be multiplied by two to equal it in extent. Whether all dreams concerning its future be fulfilled or not, it stands as a fitting link between the prairies of the West and the older industrial centres of the East, and its future is assured.
The country, though considerably broken, has, as already remarked, great possibilities as an agricultural region and almost boundless capacities for population.
“The men of this part of Ontario do not claim that it is continuously fertile, but they do claim that it is sufficiently fertile to support hundreds of thousands of people, and that the progress of its mining and lumbering industries will supply a market for the farmer and cattle-raiser second to none in the world.” It has been asserted on excellent authority that five hundred thousand people could find homes on the agricultural lands of the Fort William and Port Arthur districts alone, though this is but a small fraction of the whole. In addition to the fertile lands west and north of Lake Nipigon, along the northern boundary, and in many other favored sections, its chief agricultural asset is the valley of the Rainy River. This beautiful section alone is sufficient for the maintenance of a large agricultural population. The following observation is appropriate here :
” Along this river is a sight hardly to be matched along the three thousand miles of boundary that arbitrarily separates Canada from the United States. The boundary runs through the river, and on the Ontario side cultivated land runs down to the water’s edge, while on the Minnesota side there has been no attempt at cultivation. The reverse of this picture more usually obtains. The country has a great commercial future and is capable of supporting thousands of happy homes. It is romantically situated in the midst of many still and running and falling waters, and historically it will always appeal to Canadians. There the Hudson’s Bay Company established one of its first posts, the earliest voyagers passed westward down the Rainy River, the Indians brought theirs furs to Fort Frances for a century and a half, the Jesuits passed it in savage times on their way to the West, and in later days Sir Garnet Wolseley made his way to this point when he went to stamp out the North-West rebellion. The country abounds in water powers, minerals and lumber, and there are thousands of acres of good agricultural lands.”
Some of the enterprising citizens of this splendid country have already had dreams of a new province, in fact, as well as in theory. Certainly the country is well calculated to fulfil all their most sanguine dreams and to sustain the claims put forth in its behalf. Its future place in our history will be awaited with must interest.