Massey Area Museum
Massey, Ontario

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Hugh Cummings Photography Collection - Then & Now




The settlement of the Massey area was directly connected with it's waterways. The first nations people were the first residents. Artifacts found along the banks of both Sable and Spanish Rivers near Massey and appraised by archeological experts have run the full gamut of archaelogical time. They have been estimated to date as far back as 4000 B.C. and predate the pottery of age on Indian culture, indicating an area much travelled by the First Nation people.

It is only since 1850 when the Spanish River Indian Reserve was established by the Robinson Treaty, South west of the present town, that Ojibways have resided on a pennisula bordering on Lake Huron on the South and Spanish River on the North. Some of the early explorerers evidently passed through the are via the French River and the North shore of Lake Huron. In 1761 Alexander Henry Sr. reported reaching "an island called La Cloche because there is a rock standing on the plain, which being struck rings like a bell". Roderick Mackenzie also visited here in 1789.

As nearly as can be determined, the NorthWest Company established a trading post on the La Cloche River to trade furs with the Natives about 1790. This post was included in the amalgamation of the Hudson's Bay , and Northwest companies in 1821. It was considered on a direct route from Montreal to the West.

The post operated a full century from 1790 until 1890 and was used as a headquarters and was the principal and only permanent post in the Lake Huron district.

Riverboats plied the Great Lakes with settlers and freight well before the twentieth Century and it was via Lake Huron the first white settlers arrived in this area to clear the land and build farms along the banks of the Spanish River west of the present town in the area which is now known as River Road. The first white cemetary was built there with some of the early gravestones still standing.

Enter the Lumbermen to the area with early camps in this area and at Spargge, Spanish Mills and little Detroit. Both the Spanish and Sable rivers provided easy water transport of logs and several lumber companies located around the mouth of the Sable. A lumbering tote road was built northward parallel to the Sable River. At least seven different lumber companies had their headquarters in the town and it was a common practice to float the logs down the Sable River and hold a sorting jack on the Spanish in the spring to form separate booms for the various companies according to the stamp marks on the logs.


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