THIS great territory, having its western boundary from a point on the Albany River to Lake Huron, following the western watershed of Moose River basin, is similar in form and area to the last described. It includes what are now the districts of Nipissing and Algoma to the 48th meridian. Lying side by side, it is quite natural that these two territories should have much in common, both in climate and general features. There are, however, some differences worthy of note. This territory, which we here call North Ontario, has considerable of its area in a more southern location than Ruperta; and while its northern coast is washed by the waters of James Bay, the southern boundary is on the shores of Lake Huron. It is, therefore, in a double sense maritime as to location. It is traversed by different lines of railway and has a considerable population. This development of the southern section is, for the most part, quite modern, and is still going rapidly forward: The population at the present time is, perhaps, from sixty to eighty thousand.
The character of this territory is greatly diversified, the south being in strong contrast to the north, the former being broken and metalliferous, while the latter is generally level and agricultural in character. The richness of the mineral deposits in the southern section has already attracted wide attention. Heavy forests also cover a large part of this section of the territory, and it may be generally described as a mining and lumbering country.
It must not be thought, however, that this is not, to some extent, an agricultural country as well. The C.P.R. traverses about the poorest section, following the watershed, thus presenting to the traveller the worst features of the country. It has, nevertheless, many beautiful valleys and extensive areas of fine farming land, capable of producing the very best quality of the products common to the North Temperate Zone.
North of the C.P.R., and stretching away towards the waters of Hudson Bay, we find a country that is essentially agricultural in its’ character, though now covered by heavy forests. Almost this entire section is drained by the waters of the Moose River and its tributaries, and the soil is said to be among the best in the Dominion for agricultural purposes. It has been estimated that there are thirteen million acres of good arable land in its northern portion.
The climate of this section is all that could be desired, and better than one would expect. An authority says : ” North Ontario is somewhat colder than South Ontario, but not any colder than some of the densely populated countries of Europe.” The records of the temperature at Moose Factory in the coldest winter months reveals the fact that it is almost identical with that of Port Arthur. Bishop Newnham says: ” In my garden at Moose Factory is grown as fine vegetables as can be grown anywhere in Ontario. About the only thing that will not ripen is Indian corn ; tomatoes thrive well, and the district is noted for its fine celery.”
The records kept during a long series of years indicate that the first snow makes its appearance about the 20th of October ; the rivers freeze about the middle of November, and open towards the last of April. This corresponds almost identically with many sections of Canada much farther to the south. It would seem that this whole territory was highly fitted for extensive and prosperous agricultural pursuits, and doubtless the time will come when all its advantages will be eagerly sought after.
Moose River is a noble stream, and has many large tributaries, covering almost all parts of the country. At the junction of the Abittibi it is over a mile in width. The nature of the country, geologically and otherwise, points to the fact that the streams are shallow as compared with their breadth. It is stated, however, that specially-constructed steam-boats, one hundred and fifty feet long, could navigate the Moose River one hunched and twenty miles from its mouth in the lowest summer season. This is somewhat farther than the St. John River, in New Brunswick, is navigable during the same period. The great Albany River forms a part of the northern boundary and will be referred to later on. The presence of these great rivers must eventually be of utmost importance to the country for transportation and other reasons.
Already a number of railway lines have been projected for this section, having their objective point at Moose Factory, and probably in a few Years the waters of the far-off Hudson Bay will be viewed from a railway train. A railway terminus and sea-port on the north coast of this territory will mean more for it than can be estimated. It is true that the harbor of Moose Factory, on account of the shallowness of the entrance, cannot be compared with that of Fort George as a deep water terminus or port. Its natural defects in this regard, however, could be improved by the expenditure of considerable sums of money, while for smaller-sized crafts it already affords good shelter and a fair supply of water. It is the only really good harbor, except Rupert River and Nottaway, on the south coast of the bay, and with the possible exception of Severn River, it is the only harbor on the south-west coast south of York.
“Lying, as it does, in the bottom of this great sea sack, its location is suggestive of Chicago, on the extreme south of Lake Michigan, and it may not be too much to expect that this strategic position of Moose Factory will one day transform it into a new Chicago of the north. Everything seems to point to the possibility of this being a great railway centre, with connections in all directions, and the common centre of extensive transportation. Moose Factory today consists of a small cluster of buildings, comprising the Hudson’s Bay Company’s stores and residences of its few white inhabitants, and it is visited only once or twice a year by the Hudson’s Bay Company’s schooner.
This great country, as here bounded, should be capable of supporting, when fully occupied and developed, a population of six million people quite as well as the State of New York does on half its area.