In an earlier post we described Harold McMurrich Rathbun’s trip by steamship and railway across the prairies to Edmonton. Two years after this excursion, the 31 year-old made took a 41-day camping journey into the wilderness of north-eastern Ontario (what is now Timiskaming District). In 1909 the area was busy with prospectors and miners as silver deposits had been discovered in Cobalt in 1903.
By 1908 silver was also being mined in Gowganda.1 Rathbun’s photograph above was therefore taken in the very early stages of the settlement of this town. It shows the Canadian Bank of Commerce’s Gowganda branch which was of sturdy log construction, in contrast to the other, more insubstantial structures depicted here. The building behind the bank has the words SILVER and THEATRE on it, suggesting that the prospectors and miners were not short of entertainment in those early years. Rathbun also took a photograph of Baxter’s Hotel, which appears to have been very newly-constructed. There were no Baxters listed as living in the area in the 1911 census, so perhaps this was only a short-lived enterprise.
1 Petruk, W. et al, ‘History of the Cobalt and Gowganda area’, The Canadian Mineralogist, December 1971; v. 11; no. 1; p. 1-11 (scanned copy available from the University of Arizona [PDF format])