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Story of Lavalley Son Accidently Shot, Clark Family Drowing and the River Drive Deaths

1894- As more settlers made Bancroft and the York River their homes connections and separations were made with Algonquin First Nations from the area. When the government of the day set up the Golden Lake Algonquin reserve in the 1890’s, First Nations peoples were sent to live on the reserve and lands previously occupied by these families was taken over as Crown Land. A First Nation family by the name of Lavalley, lived on the York River south of Bancroft and made the decision to travel up the York system to resettle on Hay Lake in Nipissing District south of Whitney in 1894, possibly moving to avoid going to the reserve. The decision to move north under their own terms likely was influenced in some way by a tragic event of the shooting of one of the Lavalleys near the York River. Lavalley Rapids bears its name to commemorate the family and the tragedy which occurred near there. The drowning of the wife and child of one of the original European fur traders in the area by the name of Clark, a short distance north of Lavalley Rapids commemorated this newcomer’s family tragedy as Clark Creek. Two families who connected as neighbours and who probably shared through fur trading also shared equally in the sorrow of the loss of loved ones in the early days of Bancroft.

Death on the York was also not uncommon during the dangerous river drives in the spring when log jams forced the need to have men break these pileups by hand and pike pole. Many graves along the river were marked by a paddle or pair of caulked boots hanging on a tree as a tragic memorial to the agile settlers or First Nation workers who never got out of the frigid waters or from between the crushing rush of timbers as the jam was let loose by their agility.

1900- On Nov 2, 1900 the grand opening of the Bancroft COR with the arrival of the first passenger train coming to the new station. This new transportation mode likely spawned the tourism industry as it opened opportunity for promotion of the fishing, hunting and cottage potential now more readily available to interested parties from afar.

1901- The railway opened up the timber industry significantly beyond the river drives that had taken place for close to 50 years. Shipping product to southern mills for processing played a huge part in the expansion of the timber industry. Access by rail created diverse markets for logs, lumber, ties, poles and pulpwood as well as slabs and tanbark. Local timber businesses sprang up, bringing new found capital and jobs for the area. Shipping lower grade pulp to processing mills in Trenton had bush crews utilizing more natural resources than had earlier been marketable. Logging was still a tough business to get rich at but many found good employment getting the products to the railway stations or sidings loading them on the train cars and shipping them to outside markets. It was often said by the weary timber crews “that the loneliest sound in the world was that first stick of four foot pulp wood hitting the steel back wall of that railway car” knowing you had about 800 more to throw in, to fill that boxcar.