Timmins is a city in northeastern Ontario, Canada on the Mattagami River. The city has a population of 41,788 (2016). The city’s economy is based on natural resource extraction and is supported by industries related to lumbering and to the mining of gold, zinc, copper, nickel and silver.
As the fourth-largest city in the Northeastern Ontario region, Timmins also serves as a regional service and distribution centre. The city has a large Francophone community, with more than 50% bilingual in French.
Research performed by archaeologists indicate that human settlement in the area is at least 6,000 years old; it’s believed the oldest traces found are from a nomadic people of the Shield Archaic culture.
Up until contact with settlers, the land belonged to the Mattagami First Nation peoples. Treaty Number Nine of 1906 pushed this tribe to the north side of the Mattagami Lake, the site of a Hudson’s Bay trading post first established in 1794. In the 1950s, the reservation was relocated to the south side of the lake, to its present-day reservation.
The development of Timmins is due to the rich ore deposits of the Canadian Shield. Originally a company town, it was founded by Noah Timmins in 1912 following gold discoveries in the Porcupine Camp a few years earlier.
On June 9, 1909, Harry Preston slipped on a rocky knoll and the heels of his boots stripped the moss to reveal a large vein of gold, which later became the Dome Mine. Benny Hollinger discovered the nearby Hollinger Gold Mine in 1910. Noah and Henry Timmins bought into the Hollinger Mine shortly after. On the same day as the Hollinger discovery, Sandy McIntyre discovered the McIntyre Mine near Pearl Lake, four miles away. These mines are known as the “Big Three”.
The area became home to dozens of prospectors during the “Porcupine Gold Rush”, who explored the areas around Porcupine Lake and the Frederick House River. Most settlers grouped around Porcupine Lake and the Dome, which is situated one mile from the lake. Four miles down the road, around the McIntyre Mine, the hamlet of Schumacher was established. Timmins apparently got its name from the wooden sign nailed to a tree, demarcating Noah Timmins’s purchase.
The rail system that began to operate around Timmins in 1911 accelerated the growth of the camp. That same year, two days after the first train arrived in the Porcupine, the entire camp was destroyed in the fire of 1911, although the area was rebuilt within two months.
In 1912, Noah Timmins founded the town to house the employees of the Hollinger Mine.
In November 1912, 1,200 members of the Western Federation of Miners Local 145 held a strike at all three mines in response to a proposal to lower their wages. Mine operators hired gun thugs, who fired on the picket line and were ordered out by the provincial government. After months without work, many men chose to leave the settlement; only 500 miners returned to work in July 1913. The strike won the men a nine-hour workday and a pay increase.
The Great Depression did not adversely affect the economy of the area, and jobs were available in mining and lumber.
In 1917, a dam was built at Kenogamissi Falls, downriver from Mattagami Lake, to provide power for the Timmins-Porcupine mining camp; Mattagami Lake was consequently flooded.
The gold mines declined in the 1950s.
In 1973, 35 townships covering 1,260 square mile, including Porcupine, South Porcupine, Schumacher, and Timmins were organized into the City of Timmins.
In the 1990s, the City of Timmins became a regional service and distribution centre for Northeastern Ontario.
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