MAKING HISTORY (Chapter 1 of 2)

The Prince of Wales (right) trusted his life to veteran outdoorsman Neil McDougall on the Nipigon River in 1919. [Image submitted]

The Prince of Wales (right) trusted his life to veteran outdoorsman Neil McDougall (centre) on the Nipigon River in 1919. [Image submitted]

“There’s the history you inherit, and the history you make.”

I heard this comment recently, and thought it was original.  Google proved me wrong.  But it’s still true.

I spent the best part of three days recently to research an article.  It will appear in the second volume of Movers & Mavericks of Thunder Bay.  Each article in the volume is a biographical sketch of someone who made history.

The someone I chose is Neil McDougall.  The editorial committee had never heard of him.  Still, they agreed with my choice.

I contacted several archives in Thunder Bay, mentioned my subject.  They’d never heard of him.  But . . . they all came up with dossiers on him.  Memories are short-lived; dossiers are forever.

In 1875, Neil McDougall arrived in the settlements we now call the City of Thunder Bay.  He got off the steamboat at Prince Arthur’s Landing, got his directions straight, transferred to a smaller watercraft, and followed the shoreline to Fort William – an actual fort at that time, district headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company – on the Kaministiquia River.

McDougall was just a kid at that time, 19 years old.  He lived to be 92.  When he died, Port Arthur and Fort William were booming cities.  In the intervening 73 years, he witnessed eras come and eras go.  But he was more than a witness – he was an active participant.  He made history.

No one today remembers him.  But, my friends, that is normal.  No one will remember him until someone writes up his life.  And that honour, my friends, falls to me.

How did I come up with Neil McDougall as my subject?

Back in the 1980s, I was actively researching and writing local histories.  One of my subjects was Lake Nipigon and the river that drains it, both in my extended backyard.  One of the books I consulted, by an author of popular travelogues, had devoted a full chapter to Neil McDougall.  Somehow – I don’t remember how – I tracked down a descendent of McDougall.

She lived in Thunder Bay.  She was 86 years old at the time.  She readily agreed to an interview.  So, on November 25th, 1989, I sat down with her.

Mrs. Frances Garrard.

The sole surviving offspring of Neil McDougall.

[Concluded in Chapter 2]

virgin Falls - popular fishing spot on the Nipigon in 1919.

virgin Falls – popular fishing spot on the Nipigon in 1919. {Image submitted]


About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website
This entry was posted in GREENSTONE, MOVERS & MAVERICKS, WRITING and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to MAKING HISTORY (Chapter 1 of 2)

  1. Margie Barkley (McDougall) says:

    This is my great grandfather. Frances was my great aunt, the sister of Gordon McDougall who ran the Port Arthur Shipyards during the Second World War. You should be able to find some information about my grandfather, Gordon. He was the head of Fort William’s Chamber of Commerce at some point and his photo is in the Thunder Bay Airpor.

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