School house in 1913 as it is
shown on a
postcard. Courtesy of Douglas Burchall
Department of Lands
and Forests (Aug 1949)
The sawmill in 1926
Bisco Station (post card)
Pratt and Shanacy's general store (1930's)
The pictures above are from a collection made by Vincent A.M. Crichton.
Permission to use is hereby granted by his son Dr. Vince Crichton, Winnipeg,
|BISCOTASING (GHOST TOWN)
Database location #329
Creation Date: 1/1/2006
Last Photos Uploaded: 1/1/2006
EDIT THIS ENTRY
During the 1880's as the CPR railway was being constructed, railway crews ventured across the area of Lake Biscotasi while surveying land. While the railway would continue west towards Woman River, Biscotasing, or Bisco as it's know as today, would quickly become a railway worker's town. It is located in Sudbury District.
The town began around 1882 and served as an access point for the trains and a location Indians to trade goods. Bisco consisted of a train station, freight sheds, coal chutes, water tower, a telegraph operators office and a series of wooden shacks for the men to live. The siding (where locomotives were serviced) could service over a dozen trains and employed 15 engineers.
The population swelled to approximately 500 men. It wasn't long before the town adapted itself to the men's needs and desires. J.A. Wright opened a general store and post office in 1885. Bars and brothels began to spring up. The town gained a reputation for being rowdy and a place where arguments were settled with fists.
As the CPR required railway ties, they contracted services out to a Mr. Leech and Rowan who used their portable mill to cut lumber for use as ties.
In 1886 the divisional point moved from Bisco to Chapleau and the population fell drastically to less than 100 residents. The town retained some railway employees, lumbermen and of course the traders.
In 1887 the Hudson's Bay Company set up a store in Bisco thus cementing the town as a crucial link in the Indian trade. A third of the trading that occured at the store was that of Indian fur trade. Archie "Grey Owl" documented Biscotasing in one of his writings, referring to the area as, "one of the principle gateways to the Great Lakes to the south, trappers, river men and forest rangers from the Spanish, the Groundhog and the Mississauga have made merry there....". The store would burn down a year later in 1888 and be rebuilt.
After the railway moved operations west, the lumber camps moved in and began clearing trees. One of the largest operations belonged to Sudlen and O'Neil who operated from 1894 until 1898. At that time two men, Booth and Shannon purchased the mill and began expanding operations. In 1903 the mill was expanded and was now capable of producing over 10 million feet of lumber annually. In 1905 Booth and Shannon added additional mills along the Spanish River.
The influx of lumber operations to the area breathed new life into Bisco. A school was built in 1906, in 1907 the government opened an Ontario Forestry office, a year later an Anglican church was built. And in 1909 a hospital was built.
The population stood at 271 residents by the year 1911.
As with many of the wooden structures in towns, they were prone to fire. On June 12, 1912 a fire began in the stables behind the general store. It consumed the general store, Catholic church, mill and the mill yards. From there the entire town went up in flames.
the mill was rebuilt four months later but by that time Booth left the partnership and was replaced by Shanon's son two years later. Things never did resume to the point they were before the fire. By 1920 most of the lumber had been harvested. While the mill was purchased again in 1923 it fell into financial woes by 1927 and closed. It was dismantled a year later.
The siding was closed in 1965 and the station followed a year later. The population continued to decrease and by 1972 stood at a mere 80 residents. The school closed in 1972. Electricity finally reached the small town in 1980.
Today the populations stands at 22 during the off season when it is not attracting fishermen and adventurers. The general store and post office is still open and is pretty much the main attraction.
Directions: Take highway 144 north past Cartier. Turn left on to the Sultan Industrial Road at the Watershed restaurant. Drive west for 30.4 kms. When the road splits, turn left and continue for 9.4 km. Turn left and continue for 29.5 km to the village of Biscotasing. It is best to have a map with you due to the unmarked roads.
* In the middle of the 1900's other ghost towns listed on this site also had a Department of Lands and Forests' fire tower lookout located on a nearby hill. These include: Pakesley, Key Junction, Key Harbour, Dufferin Bridge, Bummer's Roost, Pickerel Landing, Lost Channel, Byng Inlet, Moon River, Cheddar, Germania, Ormsby, Uphill, Biscostasing, Renabie Mine, Milnet, Armstrong, Metagama, Cheminis, Wavell and Pineal Lake . For more info. on Ontario's Fire Tower Lookouts go to this link: Ontario's Fire Tower Lookouts.
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