February 22, 1897 The James Bay Railway (Toronto)

The Hon. the Attorney Gen. of Ontario.

Dear Sir,—

The undersigned, representing The James Bay Railway Company, who are promoting the construction of a railway from Toronto via Parry Sound to James Bay, beg most respectfully to call your attention, and that of your Government and the Parliament of Ontario, to the vast possibilities and wealth of northern Ontario, and particularly the region south and north of Lake Abittibi, with the hope that you will feel it your duty to recommend to the Ontario Parliament that substantial assistance in money and lands be given towards the construction of this railway.

Geo. A. Cox

William MacKenzie

Geo. H. Bertram

The James Bay Railway

The people of old Ontario are only beginning to realize the enormous extent and value of northern, or new Ontario, which was secured to the Province by the Ontario Government after many long years of discussion and negotiation, and final decision of the Privy Council in England. One can hardly realize that this vast territory is between three and four times linger than the State of New York, the estimated area being over 150,000 square miles. The agricultural, mineral and timber resources of this region will never be fully known until there is railway communication through this undeveloped territory. Less than 450 miles separates the waters of the Georgian Bay from the shores of that great inland sea, Hudson Bay. A railway connecting these two waters would open up an immense country, the resources of which are as great, if not greater, than those of any equal area in the world. The time seems to have come when the construction of the proposed railway from Lake Ontario via Parry Sound to James Bay should receive every encouragement and support from the people of Ontario. The Province has an enormous asset in the agricultural, mineral and timber lands of new Ontario, and if this asset can be increased in value by the construction of the James Bay railway, the supporting of such an enterprise becomes a paying investment on the part of the Province.

The proposed route from Barrie via Parry Sound, west of Lake Nipissing to the line of the C. P. R., will run through a country similar to that traversed by the G. T. R. to North Bay, having the same agricultural possibilities, but with this great difference that it crosses two great river systems near their mouth—the Maganetawan and the French river, down which a large quantity of logs come every season.

Railway transportation would make this timber more valuable. The settlers and lumbermen would find a market for spruce, tamarack, cedar, telegraph poles and posts, railway ties, and hemlock bark, the latter being useless except when near a railroad, as the bark must be taken off before the log is watered. The entire district from a point south of Parry Sound to the C. P. R. is now kept back for want of a railway, and although there are quite a number of settlers scattered through the district, they could easily be quadrupled with increased railway facilities. A short line would probably be run to the Georgian Bay from the main line to the mouth of the French river, giving outlet to all the products of the Hudson Bay basin to the nearest point on the great lakes. Passing north from the line of the C. P. R. the projected railway would run through a hilly and mountainous country for perhaps 60 or 70 miles, where settlers would necessarily be sparse, but a country of very great importance to Ontario, containing a large quantity of white and red pine, spruce, cedar, hemlock, and all the woods found in the northern belt. By far the most valuable of these forest resources is white pine, which extends beyond the height of land between Hudson Bay basin and the St. Lawrence and Georgian Bay basins. The white and red pine which is found in large quantities in the Wahnapitae and Lake Temagamang districts, and in the extensive basin of the Montréal river, could, no doubt, be floated down to market, but at great expense. It is now deemed better policy, however, on the part of pine holders to erect mills in the district traversed by the railway than to float the logs down the Ottawa, or to the Georgian Bay. This is the practice of the owners of pine lands in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, who do not hesitate to build railways to carry out their saw logs. The Ontario Government has shown good judgment in disposing of pine limits to the best advantage, and the former record of the Government would be reversed if an attempt was made to sell any pine before the district was supplied with railway facilities. There are three pine districts this railway would serve. Lake Wahnapitae and its tributaries, Lake Temaganiang and its tributaries, and the Montréal river. It is well known to lumbermen that in these three districts there remains yet unsold by the Government, a very considerable part of the unsold white and red pine of Ontario. Taking these three districts into consideration, besides the pine beyond the height of land, and calculating the difference in price that could be obtained for white pine sold under the present conditions and sold after the railway was completed, the sum of $2 per 1,000 ft. board measure would be a very moderate figure to place it at, which would give $200,000 for every 100,000,000 ft. This would simply place millions of dollars in the coffers of the Ontario Government. It is further to be noted that red pine at present in the district is absolutely valueless. It would not pay anybody to take it out. A railway would enable the saw mills to cut it into all kinds of dimension timber at a moderate profit, and although it would not likely sell at a price to give the Government a bonus for the license, it would yield at least from $1 to $1.25 per 1,000 ft. for crown dues, recent sales of white and red pine having been made on the basis of $1.25 for crown dues.

After passing the height of land the character of the country changes, and there is as good land as anywhere on the continent lying north and west of Lake Temiscamingue up to Lake Abittibi, south-west and west of Lake Abittibi, around Night-hawk Lake district, and away west of the line dividing the district of Nipissing from Algoma. The land east of Nighthawk Lake, and up the river of the same name, is good agricultural land, clay soil with black mould. Recent surveys 130 miles north of Sudbury indicate beyond doubt that this land extends a long distance north. What the extent of this large agricultural district may be it is at present impossible to say, but it is known to many people who have passed through it in different directions, that the soil is a heavy loam on top, capable of growing any kind of produce that can be grown in a temperate climate. This will appear plain when it is remembered that all this fine district now spoken of, and which although about 140 miles north of the C. P. R., is still south of the 49th parallel, and consequently in the same latitude as Dakota, but not subject to the fierce blizzards and devastating storms of that region.

The intention is to build a branch line at a point on the north side of the Montréal river to the head of Lake Temiscamingue, a distance of about 15 miles, with an additional 15 miles to the head of Quinze rapids. This branch would give an outlet to a large farming district on the River Blanche, and the country now partially settled at the head and west of Lake Temiscamingue. The great lumber legion on the Upper Ottawa and Keepawa waters would be served by this branch line, lumbermen utilizing the road to get in supplies. Temiscamingue lands only require railway facilities, when a large number of settlers will be attracted to that promising region, where some thirty townships have already been surveyed by the Ontario Government. The reports of actual settlers and surveyors as to the soil and climate of this new territory, are all that can be desired. Seeding commences about the first of May, and ends so far as oats are concerned, about the first of June. Haying commences about the 14th of July. Navigation opens early in May, and closes sometimes as late as December. Steamers were running on Lake Temiscamingue until the 12th December in 1892. Hay, oats, potatoes, beans, peas, etc., are grown to perfection in the district even now, and sold at good prices to lumbermen. The soil is good clay loam, with black muck overlying. Lake Abittibi also is described as surrounded by level clay land of excellent quality, and wheat has been grown successfully at the Hudson Bay posts, as well as oats, rye, and root crops, and it is perfectly safe to say that this large agricultural area is less affected with summer frosts than were many parts of southern Ontario when first opened for settlement.

The whole region between the mam line of the C. P. R. and Lake Abittibi can be made of enormous value to the country at large. All it wants is development and railway communication. Sections of it are rich in minerals. The gold fields around Lake Wahnapitae, which the railway will pass through, bid fair to equal any other locality in this respect in the Dominion. The forest wealth is beyond question, and the agricultural lands can be made capable of sustaining a very large population. There are numerous falls and rapids which can be made to furnish power for mills and factories, and it is destined to become a great attraction to the tourist and sportsman. Lake Temagamang alone will attract thousands annually to its shores, as its waters are clear as crystal, deep and cold, and abound with fish. It is also studded with numerous islands, estimated from 1,300 to 1,600.

From Lake Abittibi to James Bay it may be said that this territory is practically unexplored. It is well known, however, that the most northerly tree of the continent is the spruce, and when our pine forests are exhausted, spruce will take the place of pine, as it is now doing in many localities. Spruce is the most desirable tree for pulpwood, and as there is a rapidly increasing demand for pulp, spruce is becoming more valuable every year. Mr. Borron in his report on the basin of Moose river, 1890, says, There is no tree which possesses in an equal degree the power of adapting itself to all the changes of soil and climate in this northern territory as the spruce. It is consequently the tree most commonly met with from the moment we cross the height of land until we arrive at the coast of James Bay. On the rich soil of the sheltered river bottoms it overtops all the other trees, and attains a circumference of from six to eight feet in the aggregate. There is an enormous quantity of spruce of useful sizes in this territory. It is not practicable to float the timber of this large area, as the rivers all run north into Hudson Bay. A railway is a necessity to give any value to the timber of this region. The mineral and agricultural resources of the James Bay territory are not sufficiently known to speak definitely, but it is a well established fact that there is considerable agricultural land near the shores of James Bay, and that the climate is even more moderate than farther south. The resources of this region, including the rich fisheries of Hudson Bay, can be made tributary to Ontario by the construction of the James Bay railway to the mouth of Ruperts river on the east side of James Bay, the nearest point where a harbor can be found, as the south and west shores of James Bay are too shallow to admit of shipping facilities without an enormous expenditure. The James Bay Railway Company desire to push the construction of the railway from Toronto to Lake Abittibi without delay, and if sufficient assistance is given by the Dominion and Ontario Governments, from a point south of Parry Sound to Lake Abittibi, say 325 miles, the agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of this rich territory will be opened up and developed during the next few years. Railway enterprise alone will reveal the possibilities of this section of new Ontario.

The undersigned are indebted to the published reports of the Dominion and Ontario Governments regarding the territory in question, and to surveyors and explorers, who have given their impressions of the country, including the report of the engineer of the James Bay Railway Company, who made an examination of the country between Lake Nipissing and James Bay in the tall of 1895, and as the consensus of opinion is all in support of what has been said, the undersigned feel that the James Bay Railway Company can confidently appeal to the Dominion and Ontario Governments for substantial support to an undertaking that will open up and develop a large area of land that will have the effect of increasing, to a very large extent, the population of this Dominion, and adding to the wealth of the whole country, and the Province of Ontario in particular.

All of which is respectfully submitted,

Toronto, 22nd Feb., 1897.

Railways: J.B.Ry.