Georgian Bay Roots

Family History in Britt, Ontario

Our family history in Britt, Ontario, is rich and goes back to before the town had its name. Britt stretches down one road off Highway 69 along Still River to Lake Magnetewan and out to the mouth of Georgian Bay. 

Mom worked on a population study when she was in high school (in the late 60s) and reported five hundred people lived there then. Approximately, three hundred people live in Britt now.

Britt is a special place for our family. Home. Mom and dad live there now and I’ve visited for every summer of my life, starting at two weeks old.

Aerial view of the Magnetewan River.

Lamondins

Lamondins have lived in Britt since the late 1860s. My great-grandfather, Louis Lamondin, was born there in 1877 and his brother George was born there in 1872. Louis Lamondin is verified as Métis. The family name was changed from Normandin to Lamondin in the early 1900s, although my grandfather, William, used both names. Normandin is an old voyageur name. They told everyone they were French, from Normandy. But they were a Métis family.

Georgian Bay

This is a selection from the Métis Nation of Ontario’s Root Ancestor project for the historic Georgian Bay Community. Christina (Scholastique) Berger and Joseph Lamorandiere are my great-x2-grandparents.

Grandpa William, Florence, Ernest, Nye (Alcide), and Bernice grew up at Gereaux Island Lighthouse.  It marks the entrance to the communities from Georgian Bay.  Great-Grandpa Louis Lamondin worked as the lighthouse keeper with his wife Cecelia Michaud. And, his father, Joseph Lamondin worked as the lighthouse keeper before Louis with his wife Christine (Scholastique) Berger. Sixty years of Lamondins living on an island. I am the first generation to grow up away from Georgian Bay.

Old Britt Lighthouse Postcard
Great-grandma Cecelia Lamondin (Michaud) in Sudbury, 1940s.

Before working at the lighthouse, Louis was a Tug Captain for Graves Bigwood during the logging era. He also won a sail ship race and received a silver medal.

Here is a picture of Lamondin Point, named after Louis Lamondin:

Lamondin Point, Georgian Bay, 2018
Great-grandpa Louis Lamondin with his dogs, Whiskey and Wine.

My grandfather worked as a fishing guide at the Lorraine Club and the Duquesne Club taking groups of men out fishing. Here are some pictures shared with our family.

The first one will give you a sense of the size of boat used but this is another Lorraine Club guide in the boat who isn’t related to us.

And the next two include a picture of Grandpa Bill Lamondin and Uncle Ernest Lamondin.

My grandpa Bill Lamondin and great-uncle Ernest were fishing guides for the Lorraine Club.
This is a note from the Karwaski Family about their Uncle Wilfred Perrault, who was also a guide at the Lorraine Club with Grandpa and Uncle Ernest. I liked the details about the food!
Video of the newly rebuilt Duqesne Club from the air–gives a sense of the landscape. The old Duqesne Club burned down a few years ago.

My grandfather had a team of dogs he raced. He loved his dogs.

Grandpa William Lamondin’s Dog Derby Trophy. 48 minutes, 50 seconds. Feb 2, 1932.
Grandpa William Lamondin and great-Uncle Ernest with the Britt Hockey team 1940. Grandpa was the Captain.
Great-aunt Bernice and the Britt baseball team, 1935.
Grandpa William Lamondin with a shore lunch, 1950s.
Uncle Bruce (mom’s brother) with a tourist outside of Grandma and Grandpa’s cabins in Britt, mid-1950s.
Grandpa William and Uncle Ernest proudly holding their first borns, 1940s.
Great-Uncle Nye Alcide Lamondin is sitting behind the dog with the guitar. We have a rich history of family sing-songs. 1927. (Edmond Bechard, Nye Alcide Lamondin, Mary Masicotte, George Behcard, Lucien Ethier. Back of Rooney’s store.) Alcide’s son, Wally Lamondin, led many of our family sing-songs.
Grandpa William and Aunt Pat (mom’s sister) by the Britt CPR Coal Docks. (This was actually a postcard).
Grandpa William, Grandma Laura, and mom with some tourists, posing at a shore lunch, 1960s.

We have a history of Family Picnics out in the Bay and continue to spend time among these islands each summer.

Family Picnic, 1985.
Britt, 2013. The government dock, a popular swimming spot for those who live in town (and when my mom was a child here). The yellow building in behind was once the Britt Hotel which my great-Uncle Ernest was one of the founding co-owners when it was first built in 1946. Then it was recently The Little Britt Inn and now it is a private cottage.

Charrons

Nearly five thousand people lived in the Britt and Byng Inlet area because of the coal docks in the 1930s.

Grandma Laura Charron moved to Britt from the Sturgeon Falls area when her parents got jobs at the boarding house behind the post office. Her parents were Olivier Charron and Marie Délia Bellefeuille. They spoke French and their family history traces back to the mid-1700s in Quebec.

Great-grandma Marie Délia Bellefeuille (on the right).

Mom says Grandma Laura and great-Aunt Blanche peeled 100 lbs of potatoes a day in the late 1930s for their dad, the chief cook, Olivier Charron.

Grandma Laura and her sister Blanche, early 1930s

Grandma Laura was a skilled seamstress. She could create anything. She even made mom’s wedding dress. When Grandpa lost his arm while helping to build a chimney, Grandma worked many jobs to help support the family. She worked as store clerk, decorated cakes, sewing and alterations, and managed the guest cabins in their backyard.

Grandma Laura 

You couldn’t even hear
a dog walking down the street,
The silence engulfs her.
She hollers to sunken branches and solid trunks.
Grandma lived in the woods he stopped by—
She knows the cry of the sunshine as it disappears beyond the bay.
Passing snowflakes with cards and pies and lullabies—
Stillness.

Grandma Laura
Grandma Laura and Grandpa William, 1940s.
Grandma Laura and Grandpa William leaving for their honeymoon. 1942.

Laura and William had four children: Bruce, Pat, Estelle, and Maureen.

Bruce, Pat, and Estelle. 1950s.
Pat, Maureen, and Estelle. 1984

Outrams

In 1909, Great-Grandpa George Outram and his brother Joe came to Sudbury looking for work from England. They got jobs with the Canadian Pacific Railway and married sisters in 1915. Kate and Marie Rasicot from Wanapitei area trace their family story back to Quebec in the early 1800s and were French.

Up until 1960, trains needed water and coal about every fifty kilometres. CPR transferred George to a small station with a water tower in Pakesley in the early 1920s (one stop north of Britt). His responsibilities included track maintenance and cooling the train engines with water. His brother Joe was at the Byng Inlet CPR Station, responsible for filling the trains with coal.

George and Kate lived in a CPR-owned house. Dad said Pakesley had three CPR houses and a small CPR station with a water tower.  Since Highway 69 hadn’t been built yet, the only way to get in and out of Pakesley was by train.

Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma George and Kate Outram

CPR transferred George again. This time George and Kate moved south to Dunlop. They lived in a house near the CPR station on the Still River at the North end of town. Since there was another Dunlop in Ontario, the town was renamed as Britt in 1929. (FYI: There was a large steam pump house that was coal-powered and pumped Still River water into the towers by the track).

Britt brought in coal from the United States by Great Lake Freighter style ships. The trains picked up the coal from the shipyards to bring it to Northern Ontario communities. 

CPR 100 Year Anniversary, 1981

No one owned cars.  Highway 69 wasn’t built until 1952. George and Kate could travel by water or rail. Tracks wound through the centre of town. (Coincidentally, Kate Outram and Laura Lamondin often rode the train together to get groceries.)

Great-grandma Kate Outram (Racicot)–I love this picture of her!

George and Kate had five children. Joe, Charlie, Frank, George Jr., and Emma grew up in Britt in a CPR house on the station side of the Still River. Charlie is my grandfather.

Grandpa Charlie and his brother, my great-Uncle Frank (with their father George Outram), 1940s

In 1939, Grandpa Charlie enlisted in the Royal Canadian Engineers. For about five years he built Bailey Bridges. In World War 2, his division rehearsed building and dismantling bridges in the dark. He missed D-Day because he spent most his time in Holland, Belgium, and Germany.

At the end of the war, Grandpa Charlie got an early trip back from Europe to Canada on the Queen Mary. His mother, Kate, was dying.  She died a month after he arrived home.

Grandpa Charles Outram, early 1940s

Since he grew up with steam engines, becoming a Stationary Engineer was natural. He earned the ranking of second class Stationary Engineer.

Charlie worked in steam and heat distribution in large buildings in Toronto.  Charlie met my grandma, Grace, at the bank.  She worked as a teller. Grace Koster’s family has deep roots in Peterborough, Ontario.

Grandma Grace and Grandpa Charlie, 1949.
Grace Outram paddling on the Still River, 1949.

Every summer, they would return to Britt. My dad remembers going to his Uncle George’s cabin which is two doors down from where dad lives today.

Dad in Britt, mid-1950s (in the bay near our current dock).
Grandma Grace with dad at his Uncle George’s cabin (two doors down from where dad lives today). Mid-1950s.

In 1961, Grandpa Charlie bought a cottage in Britt. You couldn’t drive to it then and dad remembers having to hike through the bush to get there.

In the late 1960s, they bought a trailer park near the highway on the Magnetewan River and opened Camp Magnetewan (now called River Haven Resort). The family moved from Scarborough and now lived in Britt full time. They sold the camp in the mid-1970s.

Dad and his sister Debbie at Camp Magnetewan, late 1960s.
Camp Magnetewan, 2017. Now called: River Haven Resort

Mom and dad met riding the bus each day from Britt to Parry Sound High School. They have been married for 46 years.

Grandpa Charlie bought another cottage in Britt in 1977, two years after Grandma Grace died. He bought it from the estate of Margaret McDonald, a single school-teacher from Buffalo who would come to Britt each summer. Her family owned a property during the logging era. She bought Crown Land next to her family’s lot and built this cottage on the land in 1950.

Uncle Frank and his son Joe building an addition onto Miss McDonald’s cottage, 1971 (now mom and dad’s house).

Miss McDonald named the cottage Chez la Chat. Great-Aunt Bernice Lamondin knew her and they were friends. Miss McDonald would bring lots of books and movies to Britt. She would show movies outside in the town in the evenings. Dad met her when he was ten. She had nieces staying in the loft at the cottage. I have some of Miss McDonald’s books. When I was a child, I loved reading all her old school books.

A few of Miss McDonald’s books

In the early 1980s when Grandpa Charlie died, mom and dad inherited the cottage. We spent every summer there as a family. My parents live there now.

Dad and mom, married at Britt Holy Family Church, 1973. Dave Outram and Maureen Lamondin.

I feel such a deep connection to this area. Years ago I wrote this poem to capture how delightful it is to arrive each summer and how sad it is to say goodbye each fall.

Britt

Run to the river; I cleanse my soul
Dancing in the rolling wake—
Tenderly, kissing Rock.
Replenishing calm coolness beckons me:
Pine smells, granite slides, infinite skies—
Smiling brightly.
 
Shining lights lead.
No posts: sun, moon, stars.
 
Run to the road, my universe.
A winding curvature of
Ease and Discomfort,
A gradual marking of picnics and goodbyes.
 
One road.
One river.
One good-bye.

A video I made years ago for my parents celebrating the Britt area landscape.
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24 Comments

  • Pat Skene

    Oh my gosh…what a ride down memory lane! You did a great job Jess…loved all the pictures and commentary. So well done. Thank you for doing this, for all of us. ❤️

    • Andi

      Jess this is amazing! We are all so blessed to have your talent and hardwork at play to capture family history. This story will continue to be read through many more generations! I know one person in particular who would be so delighted with what you’ve worked on!

      • Jessica Outram

        Thanks, Andi! Your mom was always my best genealogy buddy. I have so many great family history memories with her. I was just remembering the other day that she and I went to Archives Canada to search for some good stories about our relatives.

  • Deborah Crawford

    Great article – your love and pride of the area and of your family shine through. I love Britt – we had a trailer several years ago and camped up there many weekends in the summer. Several other family members were born up there as well. Lots of cousins and kin in Britt. Thanks for sharing!

  • Diana Karwaski

    Dear Jessica!!! I can’t tell you how much I enjoy viewing all your videos!! Thank you for including pictures of my Dad, Uncle Wilfred and PaPere (Mom’s side) in your Duquesne photos in this video!!!. My first memories inscribed in my brain were at the Duequesne Club and Island. When I was a baby, all of my family with Grandpa Perrault were employed at the Duquesne Club including my Mom who was one of the first to cook/cleaner there with her Mom. My Dad guided as well as Uncle Wilfred (Perrault), My Grandpa Perrault hauled ice blocks with his horse to fill the ice house for use in summer months when guests would be there. His horse Paddy’s stable may still be standing, it was just a few short years ago. Anyway, just let me bamble/yamble on and on!!! Thank you for returning my mind to very fond memories!! Diana XXXOOO

  • Mary (Outram) Bertrand

    Well done Jessica. Thank you!
    Though not living there now, Britt will always be my home. Oh so many wonderful memories.

  • John Newell

    Jess I love a good story, particularly one that is based on time and passage of family history. Thank you for doing and sharing this with us.

  • Dave Durham

    Your grandparents Charlie & Grace lived at 20 Gable Place, Scarborough, in the early 1970’s. Your father was known to terrorize the neighborhood kids with his BB gun. I know because I lived at 6 Gable Place and was a friend of your Dad’s. I visited Camp Magnetewan with your Dad & Charlie and “King” (their German shepherd-Alsation). We took my motorcycle up there on a box trailer – It was a great weekend. That dog was fast – could keep up with the car. He also liked to fetch and pick up rocks (odd-but who’s going to argue with a dog that big). We also went to the bar in Britt one evening by boat. I guess you can’t get away with that nowadays. Info on your blog was enjoyable reading. The last I had heard of your Dad was when they moved to Manchester, Ont.

    • Jessica Outram

      Thanks for sharing! I showed the comment to my dad. He says you were close friends growing up. I’ve seen pictures of King and heard lots of King stories over the years…

  • Gerry Shelswell

    Hi,
    I came across your site when I googled Britt coal yard.
    I had a close friend, Tom Posie, who was raised in Britt and worked at the coal yard as a kid.
    I visited him there a few times and he always had some neat stories about Britt and growing up there.
    he’s gone now but his son, Tom, lives in Lake Dalrymple and is a good friend as well.
    Wondered if you knew of him.

    Gerry

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