The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 26 no 9, April 2015. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
Last month we presented a history of the Nakkertok Cross-country Ski Club. This month's article is about Nakkertok's pre-history, that is, the story of Nakkertok up to the founding of the club in 1971.
Underneath Nakkertok's pristine rolling hills and wandering trails lies evidence of another time. The first settlement in the area was by First Nations, not European colonists. The entire region was a trade route for the Odawa First Nation until their movement to the north end of Lake Michigan in the 17th century. The lands that make up today's Cantley would have been hunting territory for the Anishinabwe band with the trading center at the mouth of the Gatineau River. In the early 19th century, colonists such as Philemon Wright assumed title of these former Native lands, despite protests at the time.
The lands of Nakkertok South were originally colonized by three families, the Darby's, Burke's and McGovern's, in the 1840s
The 1851 Canada Census states: "The lands through which, your enumerators passed, are of the poorest description, being very rocky and mountainous, but a small portion can be cultivated, and that yields the smallest return, for which, the agricultural results afford sufficient proof."
In addition to the agricultural boom, Cantley (including the lands where Nakkertok is today) was also greatly transformed by mining. The Nakkertok lands had two major mines: the Haycock Iron Mine (1872 to 1875) and the Scotch John mica and phosphate mine (1872 to 1970). From Nakkertok trails #1 and #4, pits of the Haycock and Scotch John mines are still visible today. There are several other smaller pits and mines, and several of the mine access roads have become ski and snowshoe trails.
For four short years in the early 1870s, the property east of the power line where Trail #1 meets the old settlement road was the site of Hematite, a tiny village which served the Haycock Mine, with a bakery, sawmill, stable and a collection of cabins. Named for the type of iron ore found there, Hematite was built almost entirely in a year, which given the limited technology of the times and the isolation of the location, seemed particularly demanding. The village burned down in 1878.
There was also a narrow-gauge tramway running along what is now Gatineau Avenue, from the Gatineau River into the Nakkertok entranceway and then veering east and north to the Haycock Iron Mine site. It carried the mined ore to a dock for shipping and to the processing plants.
The area was almost continually logged beginning with settlers and Haycock in the 1870's and right up until the 1970s. Originally, the type of logging was simple clear cuts to furnish the mining processing machinery with fuel and construction material to enable the crushing and processing of iron ore to continue. Later on, in the 20th century, more selective types of logging occurred in which more valuable species (hemlock, maple, oak) were individually removed for saw logs and fuelwood. With a sharp eye, you can see old logging roads and in some areas, healthy forests or signs of complete clear-cuts.
1 Thanks to Bob McClelland, Mary Holmes, Michael Rosen, Caroline Marchand, Robert Grenier eand Marc St-Jacques (of the BANQ) for their contributions.