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Visiting New Liskeard, Ontario: Remembering the 'Meteor' and Area History by Mural

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Provincial flag of Ontario

Provincial flag of Ontario

Photograph of the mural on the side of a building on Armstrong Street, New Liskeard, Ontario, Canada, just south of the Wabi River. Photo taken in August 2018.

Photograph of the mural on the side of a building on Armstrong Street, New Liskeard, Ontario, Canada, just south of the Wabi River. Photo taken in August 2018.

Memories of 19th century activity in what was a thriving new town

When I visited New Liskeard, Ontario, in 2018, I was intrigued to see the historical mural at 56 Armstrong Street North, close to that street's bridge over the Wabi River.

The mural is evidently located strategically, because it is to the Wabi River that the vessel the 'Meteor' would come to dock in the late 19th century, having sailed up the Ottawa River and through what is effectively its northern continuation, Lake Temiskaming, into which the Wabi River flows; the immediate area around the mouth of the Wabi River along the Lake is known as Wabi Bay.

When Northern Ontario was being opened up for European settlement in the late 19th century, vessels such as the 'Meteor' played an historic rôle in bringing many families to this part of the province for the first time (1).

As one looks at the representation of this steamboat which plied its human cargo to New Liskeard in the late 19th century, one is struck by the evident small size of the vessel, and yet also by the pivotal rôle it accomplished. Amazingly, this small vessel could carry 305 passengers (2); such was the demand for space on this service that it was enlarged in 1895. (One wonders about the design and buoyancy aspects of the enlargement.)

The mural also depicts logging, an important industry in the region. Even today, there are many logging businesses active in the wider area (3).

The work of artists Kenny Fuller and Paul Laine (4), the mural was completed in 1999, painted on the end brick wall of Singer's store.

To put the 'Meteor' in a broader, historical context, the coming of the railroad to New Liskeard in 1905 made the use of the 'Meteor' uneconomic. The company which caused the vessel's demise was the Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway (5).

New Liskeard is situated within the City of Temiskaming Shores, Ontario, which was created in 2004, comprised of New Liskeard, Haileybury, Dymond, and North Cobalt. Interestingly, statistics show that the population of Temiskaming Shores — at 10,400 — is 31% Francophone.

July 26, 2019

Notes

(1) Among these were numbered some of my wife's forbears.

(2) See also: http://www.vintagepostcards.org/mattawa-ontario-steamboat-steamship.htm (N.B.: This ship is not to be confused with the SS Meteor, dating from 1896, which was a 'whaleback' freight ship on the Great Lakes, now a museum ship docked at Superior, Wisconsin.)

(3) At the Museum of Northern History, Kirkland Lake, there is a section which includes exhibits about the contribution of the logging industry to the region. See also: http://museumkl.com/index.php?id=6

(4) See also: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM7XW0_Lake_Temiskaming_and_Wabi_River_Mural_New_liskeard_Ontario_Canada

(5) Interestingly, only in the early 21st century were rail links to the area replaced by regular bus services from Southern Ontario. One senses acutely that the 'Meteor' and then rail links represented different eras which inexorably blended from one to another.


Map location of the City of Temiskaming Shores, Ontario

Map location of the City of Temiskaming Shores, Ontario

Also worth seeing

In New Liskeard itself, the Little Claybelt Homesteaders' Museum has family history research facilities and various artifacts recalling local, pioneer days. A scenic waterfront at New Liskeard lies along the shore of Lake Temiskaming.

Devil's Rock , near Haileybury , Ontario (distance: 8.7 kilometres) is an awe-inspiring rock outcrop, which overlooks Lake Temiskaming.

Notre-Dame-du-Nord , Quebec (distance: 27.2 kilometres); another vacation spot on Lake Temiskaming, with a fossil centre museum and an annual Truck Rodeo (French: Rodéo du camion ).

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How to get there: Air Canada flies from Toronto Pearson Airport to North Bay Airport, where car rental is available. From North Bay, take Highway 11 north to New Liskeard . Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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