Marmora Village in 1914

The following address was delivered at an Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (lODE) meeting by the late Ralph Neal and reprinted in the Marmora Herald in the June 9, 1983 issue.

"It was on May 1st, 1914, that my parents moved to Marmora to begin a new business career. To me, as a boy of 10 years of age, it was quite a change of environment coming from the sleepy village of Stirling and arriving in Marmora which was a hive of industry in those days. Our belongings were brought to Marmora by team and wagon as there was no vehicle such as a transport or truck. My parents owned a Model- T 1912 Ford touring car and that was our means of personal transportation. I can remember my father having to stop the car when meeting a horse and buggy to allow the driver to get out and hold the horse by the head to prevent it from running away. There were only about five or six gas buggies in Marmora at that time.   I can remember some of the owners - Dr. Crawford, Thomas English, Ernie Bell, Bert Horwitz and my father. The first gas pump was at the hardware store of Connor and Gray.

Marmora's first gas pump at Connor & Gray hardware,  NE corner of HWYS 7 & 14

Marmora was a very industrious village then and very progressive. There was no unemployment. The villagers were awakened at 7:00 a.m by whistles of the Pearl Lumber Company that owned a sash and door factory, and the Trenton Cooperage Mills. We also had a flour and grist mill. The local hydro plant  was owned and operated by the Pearce Company.  There were  four blacksmith shops, two bake shops, three doctors, and the Nayler brick yard, all operating and a woollen mill that was closed. We also had two neighbouring communities, Deloro and Cordova Mines, which were both active. In those days.  The pay may have been small but there was no such thing as welfare or unemployment.

I have consulted the early minutes of Marmora Village Council and found the following a good example of wages at the time.  In 1915 the council agreed to pay Sam Moffatt and Rufus Joyce,  as supervisors of digging and putting in the first fire protection,  the large sum of l7 cents an hour. I also found a bill that was paid to the St. James Hotel in the amount of $1.50 for bed and breakfast for two men. Incidentally, there were three livery stables that did all the delivery of goods. All express came to Marmora Station by CNR or to Bonarlaw by CPR and freight was delivered by train to the freight shed in Marmora as the track was then in use as far north as Cordova Mines.

1910  -   Looking south on Forsyth Street,  the famous elm tree on the left

When we arrived in Marmora on May 1st, 1914, entering the village from the south, it was a beautiful, spring day with the trees in their green foliage. Beginning at Linn Street and north along Forsyth Street was an avenue of beautiful maple trees almost to the main intersection, now Highways 14 and 7, where stood an elm tree  which seemed to cover the whole crossing. But, as you know, this is not the case today. I later had an experience in regard to this large elm tree. I was a member of the village council in the 1930s when Highway 7 was being improved. It was the wish of the Department of Highways to have the elm tree removed and they asked council for permission to take it down as it was a hazard. One member of council objected very much and made the statement that he would fight to have the tree remain. He took up a petition which he presented to council and I think almost every citizen in the village signed it; but the council agreed with the Department of Highways that the tree was a hazard.  He was outvoted.

I will now  take you on a trip up the business section as it was when I arrived in 1914. On the southeast corner of the main intersection stood a large frame house that was the resident of the Late Dr. Thomson. Going north on the east side of the street was the hardware store of the late Conner and Gray. Next was the Dominion Bank.  In those days the employees of the bank were all men; over the bank was an apartment for any of the single employees who wished to reside. This was partly for protection against possible robbery as there was a hole in the floor above the safe door so that one had a view of the safe from above.

The next building was the Dunlay Black which was empty at the time as the former tenant, Jack Norton, who had operated a drugstore, had just moved to Stirling. The next building was known as the Green Block and had two businesses - Fred Lee's Harness Shop on the south side and Mat Emmorey's Barber Shop on the north side. The present home of (the late) Francis Cook was then the residence of the late Robert Gray.

Next came the Dempsey Block, the tenant on the south half being John Shannon's grocery store and post office with Eva Shannon, John Shannon's daughter, as post- mistress. I can remember the old saying that, if you wanted to know what was going on in the village, just ask Eva. The apartment above was occupied by Lawyer MacDonad. The other half of this building was the hardware store and tin shop known as the Shannon Hardware, owned and operated by the father of Jim and Bill of the village.

Ralph neal and jennie whitlock neal

About the author: Ralph Neal's father first ran the Central Hotel in Marmora, then took over the operation of the Royal Hotel after it was rebuilt by a stock company composed of the merchants of Marmora. In 1920 his father also built and operated for many years the Marble Point Lodge on Crowe Lake. Ralph Neal worked for Deloro Smelting and Refining Company from 1928 until leaving in 1953 at which time  he  was a general foreman. He then opened a hardware business at the corner of Highway 7 and Forsyth Street with Nayler and  ran it until he decided to retire and sold out to Carlie Petherick in 1971.

ralph neal returning officer

Looking south on Forsyth St.  1908

ralph neal 1923