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REESOR SIDING

Return to index of Highway 11


Located in: Highway 11
Location #293
Public

To request this location be removed, submit a Report Location form.
Location Owner: OAP
Creation Date: 1/1/2006
Last Updated: 1/1/2006



Description
Reesor Siding was situated two miles west of Reesor along the railway line. The original purpose of Reesor Siding was to be that of a siding but all this changed with the immigration of Mennonite and French Canadian farmers to the area.

As the population grew, the farms expanded North along the main road. David Frost saw an opportunity here and opened a store north of the tracks, in 1924. A sawmill operated by the Government of Ontario was situated east of the railway and provided lumber during the summer for the settlers.

To accomodate the children, a school was built in 1927. The Mennonites built a church in 1935 which stood north of the siding. Not far from the church stood a tennis court.

As with many towns during the Great Depression, Reesor Siding saw the population dwindle as the effects of the economy were felt by all. To pick up business, Reesor Siding built a spur line south of the settlement during 1943. This was an attempt to access lumber that had not yet been cut. It was a temporary measure to sustain the town however by 1948, most of the Mennonites had abandoned the area. A few residents remained.

Reesor Siding would be a name not soon forgotten a decade and a half later.

On February 10, 1963 (other sources indicate the 11th of February) three men were killed and eight wounded in what would be a violent labour conflict. The men were workers of the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union (LSWU) who were on strike against the Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company.

The workers concerns were a wage freeze and a company proposal to have workers working for seven days a week over the next two months in an effort to meet their quota.

The strike would last for 33 days and saw tensions between family members and friends. The men were looking for a higher price per cordwood. As the trade union held out for the higher price, they saw their demands weakened by the farmers in the community. The farmers continued to sell their wood to Spruce Falls which had a negative impact upon the strikers. The farmers supplied 110,000 cords of wood, which was 25% of the annual 450,000 cords required by the Spruce Falls Power and Paper Companty.

Representatives from the trade union met with the farmers in an effort to explain the situation. If the farmers stopped selling wood, the company would have no choice but to negotiate with the trade union about paying more for pulp wood. The farmers refused to negotiate with the union.

Soon, the men began to take matters into their own hands. On two occasions the wood was vandalized. 400 cords and 700 cords respectively were unstacked and could not be shipped out. The farmers took to guarding their wood around the clock.

On February 10th, 600 cords of wood were ready to be loaded onto the railway cars. The strikers knew this and plans were made to vandalize the shipment. The Ontario Provincial Police had seen vehicles full of strikers on their way to Reesor Siding. They arrived close to midnight to warn the farmers of the situation. By 12:30 A.M. the police and farmers were met with between 400 to 500 unarmed strikers.

The strikers made their way towards the wood, overrunning the police barrier. A single chain stood as the only real barrier between the farmers and the strikers. As the strikers made their way towards the chain, the farmers opened fire. There was no warning shot. When it was finished, three men would be dead and eight wounded. Five out of 14 guns found at the scene had been fired repeatedly.

The dead were brothers Irenee (34, father of two) and Joseph Fortier (25) from Quebec and Fernand Drouin (29, single) from St. Elzéar.

The 20 farmers were arrested and charged with non-capital murder which carried a jail sentence. The Attorney General sent 200 police to the area to assist the current 25 policemen from Kapuskasing. This manpower was necessary as 237 strikers were also arrested for participating in a riot. That would change to 254 men charged with "illegal assembly." 138 strikers were found guilty and fined $200 each, which was paid by the union.

The farmers who were on trial for murder had their preliminary hearings in October. Due to a lack of evidence they not charged. Three farmers were fined $150 each for possessing dangerous firearms.

For other murder stories check out: Monsell, Uffington, Lewisham, Shanick, Mowat, Redwater, Michipictoen, Bury's Green and Dalton Mills. Many other ghost towns have stories too- check clay70's listings..

Reesor Siding is found at approximately mile 103 of the Trans Canada Highway. It is west of Cochrane between Kapuskasing and Hearst.

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Reesor
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The Mennonite town of Reesor began around 1924. At this time John Enns from the Ukraine immigrated to Canada and set up his home in what was to become Reesor. In 1936 John Enns became the school teacher for the settlement. The school closed in 1966.

Hennich Bergen was a blacksmith from 1933 until 1942.

The Reesor United Mennonite congregation began church services about 1926. They were formalized in May of 1927 and became the Reesor United Mennonite Church in 1932. By 1932 there were 75 Mennonites. This number fell during the depression and they disbanded in 1947.

The name Reesor came from Thomas Reesor who was an Old Order Mennonite minster that established the community.


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Status:
Status: Unknown
Category: Ghost Town


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Lepage (aprox. 1934)


Reesor's Main Street

A group of Reesor settlers in 1926

Mr. John Enns class

The school (1941) with water pump.

This school served McGowan, McCrea, Barker townships.



Choir of 1928


Mr. John Enn's class


Reesors first school, built in 1920.

 


Additional information comes from a visitor to the page, John:

I used to live in the now ghostted settlements of Reesor, and Lepage. At Reesor we used to go Karl Shlick's general store and buy candies. We used to go to the Baptist chapel 1 mile north of town. We we're not Ahmish so we didn't attend church in town (Mennonites and Ahmish are essentially the same thing). As a youth we used to swim in Slim's Pit creek. My father cut pulp wood with for the smithy in Mattice Heinrich Bergens, who at one time lived at Reesor. Back then he used to trap and run a small garage after the highway opened in 1933.

The train station was originally a simple wooden shed. Jack Fleisher opened a hotel in 1929, and soon sold his 20 room business to Ernst Rempel, in 1939. It burnt down in 1942 and the blaze razed nearly six homes around it. A POW pulp cutting camp was established North of Reesor in 1941. About 4 miles North of the CNR stood a
large fenced yard where POWs were 'employed' to cut pulpstick for Spruce Falls in Kap. John Enss was also my teacher for a few years, he taught in 5 area schools. From Reesor Siding, to Shallow Lake he taught at Reesor in 1936. I know because I was there in his classroom. The following year he transferred to Glenomo for 2 years
and Shallow Lake for ten before returning to Reesor in 1948. He closed that school down in 1966. I remember talking to him in the early 1970's he still taught at the Highschool in Kapuskasing.

My father sold the farm in 1938 an we moved out of Reeor, and temporarily lived at a relatives farmstead situated in Glenomo. There was almost nothing there. except a butcher, 6 farms, a store, station, and school. We nearly died of bordem there as there were only French speaking children there and thay lived nearly a mile
apart.

We moved to Lepage in 1940, and my Dad bought the general store. Lepage a a little thriving hamlet of about 80 people at its tiny little station. As a youth there were about 22 buildings which lined the track and a road crossing. In 1941 there were 2 stores (Richard Desjardin's store, and my dad's Westover's), a blacksmith Norman Bradway. The was a tiny hotel or boarding house run by the Henry
Bourrassa and his wife. Julie Masse ran a popular restaurant named "Chez Julie". The station stood beside the one time garage owned by Luc Plammondon, his business burnt down in 1954 and his 5 children all died in the tragedy.

In the town stood a Catholic church, a small Anglican Mission named St Bartholomew. I remember Miss Ingram and Miss Parker who taught in the small public school. The English school as it was called closed in 1952. The French school was built much earlier (in the 20's) and had 3 rooms. It too fell pray to flames and
was never rebuilt, it burnt in 1968-69. The children were subsequently bussed to Val Cote and later KAp. Julie Masse was a very popular teacher there, she received an award by the provincial government for her 40 years of services. She taught at the French school from 1927-67, a rare feat for a rural school.

Thanx for the trip down memory lane!

John J W.