Carrying the mail to Killarney
Introduction to Minjmendaan
Native Heritage
From Minjmendaan -- Summer 2002 Edition
From the early days until the opening of the Killarney road in 1962, carrying the mail to and from the village could be a dangerous occupation.

In summer, the mail was carried by rowboat, sailboat, steamboats and tugs, and motor boats. In winter, it was carried by dog team, horse and sleigh, or on foot. During bad weather and when the ice was just making or breaking up, a demanding job could quickly become a life of death situation.

In his writings, Father Julien Paquin, Jesuit missionary at Killarney, tells the following story about two early mail carriers:

"Killarney was on the mail route from Penetanguishene to Sault Ste. Marie...on the 25th of November 1872, John Egan, contractor for carring the mail, despatched two Wikwemikong Indians with the Soo mail for Penetang. They were Beaubien and his son-in-law, Moses Ganewebi. They fell in a storm and made very slow headway. On the return trip, on the 18th of December following, Moses arrived here from Byng Inlet with Alexandre Proulx and Pierre Pilon. He had the following story to tell:

I and my father-in-law were walking on the new ice, a few miles past Byng Inlet, intending to get ashore at a point a little further on. The wind was increasing from the northwest. We noticed that the ice was fast drifting from shore. We both ran towards the shore, but the ice had already moved several feet away and we could not get back to the land. I jumped into the water and swam ashore to a small island about an acre in size.

My father-in-law laid the mail bags on the ice, sat down on them, and waving his hands to me, bid me good-bye forever, with compliments for his friends of Shebwaonaning (Killarney) and Wikwemikong. As the ice was drifting fast, poor Beaubien was soon lost out of sight.

I remained on the island for two days and two nights without food or fire, tramping and running all this time to keep from freezing. At last some new ice formed, and with the help of two poles, I crawled on my hands and knees to the mainland and reached Byng Inlet, where I was well taken care of for a few days, and here I am."

In a 1980 interview, Edgar Loosemore, born in 1915, shared some of his memories of harships mail carriers went through...

"If it froze enough that the tugs couldn't go and it was bad inside here yet, they'd go with dog team, or maybe one horse, or even walk or skate, and if they were going for the mail, all they'd bring back was the letter bag, because the parcels were too heavy a load.
is Ojibwe for
"to keep in mind;
to remember".
In this issue:

40th Anniversary of road access to Killarney

After 127 years, the de la Morandieres regain Indian Status

The Metis right to hunt is now law in Ontario

News from the past:
  "Wilma Ann opens       harbour"

  "Lumberjacks             mourn greatest           bushman"

What happened to Shebahonaning Reserve?

Carrying the mail to Killarney

Teachings of the medicine wheel

From the cookbook of Marguerite Bateman
Sometimes they'd go over the mountain. They'd go down (Killarney) Bay here and over Three Lake Portage into Baie Fine, do gown Baie Fine so far, then cut across to Split Rock Portage, then go across to McGregor Bay to the railroad station there, get on the train at Hocken's Landing, go into Little Current and get the stuff, come back on the train, then come back over the mountain.

Usually the tugs made a trip pretty close to Christmas time...trying to get everything the people had ordered from Eaton's or Simpson's...

I remember once...the Foche -- Joe Roque's tug -- went out the west end here, and went to Little Current, and coming back they couldn't get back that way. It was all frozen up, and they had to go around (George) Island and they were running out of fuel.

So (back in Killarney) a team of horses was hitched up...and fish boxes full of coal (were loaded on the sleigh). They drove around on the ice right beside the tug and threw the fish boxes of coal on. Loaded up the tug so they'd have enough fuel to break the ice -- break their way back in around the Island. They got her in. It was ten or eleven o'clock before they got in and you could hear them behind the Island, breaking the ice.

In 1962, Killarney celebrated the official opening of Highway 637. Norman Beauvais, who carried the mail in the Roger B for many years, now trucked it in. As part of the festivities, Norman towed Roger B into the bay and set her aflame.

For a related story, see Road access to Killarney
Killarney mail bus, c 1940.
Pictured left to right: Delle Loosemore, Gladys Roque, and Marjorie Roque.