The History of Fort Frances

Understanding the history of Fort Frances is essential whether you reside in the area or you’re just visiting the place as a tourist. Many tourists love visiting Fort Frances during warm months to enjoy swimming and engage in plenty of other water sports activities. But how many of these people understand the history of this location? Well, read the rest of this article to understand the rich history of this tiny part of Ontario from its inception to date.

Firstly, Fort Frances is situated in the Northwestern part of Ontario near the Rainy Lake. This is the point where Rainy Lake narrows to become Rainy River. The river is considered the boundary between Canada and the US, with the International falls bridge providing a direct link between Fort Frances and Minnesota.

The town is a known busy point of entry between the US and Canada. It’s also famous for fishing, hunting and canoeing but lumbering is the most significant activity in the town. The town’s main water points include The Rainy Lake and The Rainy River. These water sources provide hydroelectric power that’s used to run the paper mills in the location.

Historically, Fort Frances was established by a French Canadian Settler by the name Pierre Gaultier de Varennes in 1731. Pierre was the first commander in the area west of Lake Superior. In the same year, he commissioned the building of Fort Saint Pierre to support fur trade with native Indian tribes in the region. His expedition also helped to build Fort Saint Charles at Magnuson Island. Fort Saint Pierre was however abandoned after a period of time.

After the war between Canada and the United States ended in 1817, a new fort was built by the Hudson Bay Company. The fur trading post was later renamed as Frances Ramsay Simpson in 1830, after the daughter of George Simpson, the governor of the Hudson Bay Company.

In 1891, C.J. Hollands became the first police magistrate in the area. He served the area until 1896 when he was replaced by John Perry who was named as the provincial constable. The first jail was built in 1907 and served the town till 1976 when the town hall was launched.

The town officially incorporated as Fort Frances town in 1903. The town has historically depended on paper milling, an activity that began in the mid-1850.

The milling factory has however changed hands over the years until it closed shop in 2014. The milling plant had 700 employees, before the closure. Tourists visiting the area can view the rich lumbering history of the town by checking out the defunct plant.

In the same year the town was incorporated, the local council approved the creation of the fire department. Initially, the department operated via the help of volunteers. In 1905, the voters in the town approved the construction of a multi-purpose building that would house municipal offices and the fire station.

The fire engine was powered by a steam engine but struggled to cope with serious fire disasters at the time. This led to the fire department reorganization in 1914, where more full-time firefighters were added to support volunteers.

In 1904, the first telephone system was operated by the Rainy River International Telephone System. The company was awarded a five-year contract to run communication in the town. The system was later sold to Fort Frances Telephone Commission in 1913 for $5000.

The management of the telephone system later changed hands to the town’s committee council from 1924 to 1956. The company later was to The Bell Telephone Company of Canada for$225,000 in 1956.

In 1946, a major tornado struck the area causing wanton destruction. Surprisingly, the tornado struck one week after another named Windsor tornado.

The town as you sees it today was planned from 1958 to 1961 after zoning laws were passed by the local council. The town’s plan was later updated in 1977.

Fort Frances’s airport was completed in 1972 and was placed under the management of Fort Frances Airport Commission.

In 2015, Fort Frances played to the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium's (WINHEC) yearly meeting. The conference was held at Nanicost Grounds and attracted participants from all parts of the globe.

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