Manitoba History: Review: Elinor Barr and Betty Dyck, Ignace: A Saga of the Shield

by John M. Reid, M.P.
(Kenora-Rainy River)

Manitoba History, Number 2, 1981

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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This book is a welcome addition to the sparse number of books on the local history of towns in North Western Ontario. The region is made up of comparatively recent “one industry” towns. One of the oldest of these communities is Ignace.

The book traces the history of the first settlers, the Ojibway Ignace Band, the coming of the railroad, the development of the logging industry and its conversion as a supplier to the pulp and paper mills that sprang up in Thunder Bay and Dryden, the impact of the change in railroading from steam to diesel, the development of the tourist industry, and the most recent phase in the history of Ignace, its role as the host community to the recent mining developments in the region.

What results from a survey of the economic history of Ignace is that, contrary to the stereotype of the one-industry town, this community has had a variety of economic periods, marked by complete changes in the way the community operated. Also interesting is the way in which people appeared in response to opportunities, and when those opportunities disappeared or changed, the people left as well. The population of the town was a fast changing one.

Ignace is located between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg on the CP line. It began as a railroad town and its major focus was the railroad until the switch to diesel locomotives in 1952. Until that time, the fortunes of the town were largely based on the rise and fall of the CPR—and the general state of trade between the West and the East—along with the development of other resources.

There are very enjoyable sketches of many of the characters whom one would expect to find in a community like Ignace. Many individuals, contributions are recorded, as well as some of their foibles. There is some discussion of the groups of people who made up the community, such as those who lived in ‘Little England’. One of the serious omissions is a discussion of the large Italian community, about which little is written.

An unexpected but most welcome aspect of the book is its full index. Each chapter is footnoted, and there is a complete list of the written sources, as well as the sources of oral material. The book is well written; it would be a welcome addition to anyone’s library.

Page revised: 23 April 2010