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Visiting Thorne, 43% Francophone — Formerly Thorneville: Remembering Premier Hepburn's Visit to the Limits of Ontario

Updated on March 11, 2020
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Franco-Ontarian Flag ; Government of Ontario, Office of Francophone Affairs
Franco-Ontarian Flag ; Government of Ontario, Office of Francophone Affairs | Source
Thorne, Ontario, Canada
Thorne, Ontario, Canada | Source

Ontario extremity with a significant Francophone population

And so I came to Thorne (population 204 in 2016) which is an unincorporated village at a northern extremity of Ontario's Nipissing District. Situated on the southern bank of the Ottawa River, what is today known as Thorne was first settled by Europeans in the 1870s on account of the lumber industry active in the area.

The dynamic for its further settlement in the early 20th century came from Témiscaming across the Ottawa River. A paper mill built 1917-20 across the Ottawa River in Témiscaming, Quebec by Norwegian-Canadian engineer C. B. Thorne for the Riordon Pulp and Paper Company made labour-intensive demands on the locality, and because of the shortage of accommodation some workers at first lived in temporary accommodation across the river in what was at first known as Thorneville.

In time, Thorneville became known simply as Thorne; and by 1980 its population had risen to 425.

A significant event in the history of Thorne occurred in 1937 with the visit of Ontario Premier Mitchell Hepburn (1896-1953)(2) in order to commemorate the completion of Ontario Highway 63, which runs 63 kilometres from North Bay up to Ontario's boundary with Quebec at Thorne. A commemorative cairn stands close to the bridge which crosses into Quebec, where the road becomes Route 101; a plaque reads:


The completion of Highway 63 thus significantly improved road communications with parts of Northern Ontario and Western Quebec.

Today, the village contains a post office, a restaurant and a nursing station. For other services local people typically go to nearby Témiscaming, Quebec or North Bay, Ontario.

Interestingly, the village is 43% Francophone. The single school in Thorne gives instruction in French; and parents who wish for their primary age children to be educated in English must enroll them to travel a distance.

Thorne seems to be, in fact, one of those 'Haven't I been here before?' places. I am reminded of Dasburg, Germany, situated on the Our River, opposite which lies the hamlet of Dasbourg-Pont in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which in character is profoundly influenced by the larger town —albeit in another jurisdiction — across the river.

March 6, 2020


(1) Mr. Hepburn served as Ontario's Premier from 1934 until 1942. His Provincial administration was noted for active legislation in regulating the lumber industry, particularly important to Northern Ontario.

(2) See also:

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King and Hon. Mitchell F. Hepburn in Mr. Hepburn's office, 1934 (photographer unknown)
Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King and Hon. Mitchell F. Hepburn in Mr. Hepburn's office, 1934 (photographer unknown) | Source
Rough approximation of the marker used on King's Highways in Ontario
Rough approximation of the marker used on King's Highways in Ontario | Source

Also worth seeing

At Témiscaming, Quebec (distance: 3.5 kilometres); the Musée de la Gare / Railroad Museum contains temporary and permanent exhibits about the history of immigration to the district.

Fort Témiscamingue, Quebec, a National Historic Site, near the town of Ville-Marie (distance 91.9 kilometres). This picturesque fort was founded as a trading post in about 1679 by the government of New France, and was later taken over successively by the North West Company and the Hudson Bay Company, with the fur trade being particularly active.

Laniel, Quebec (distance: 52.1 kilometres), is where the Kipawa River (la rivière Kipawa), flows into Lake Kipawa (le lac Kipawa); a boathouse is among the local landmarks.


How to get there: Air Canada flies from Toronto Pearson Airport to North Bay Airport, where car rental is available. From North Bay, take Highway 63 north to Thorne (distance 64.8 km). For destinations north of Thorne and Témiscaming, take Highway 101 north ('Route 101 '). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

Nipissing District, Ontario
Nipissing District, Ontario | Source

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