Lake of the Woods Museum Newsletter
Vol. 11 No. 1 – Winter 2001

by Rat Portage Miner


  • The population of Rat Portage was 5,243.
  • The front-page headline of the January 25th Rat Portage Miner & Rainy Lake Journal was: WE MOURN THE QUEEN: Victoria the Good is Numbered with the Dead. Edward VII is now King of England.
  • Lake of the Woods was being touted as the best summer resort on the continent.
  • In April, the Truro Knitting Mills Company was considering establishing a plant here.
  • The Rat Portage Library had over 2,000 books in its collection. It was open Monday and Saturday afternoons and Wednesday and Saturday nights. The subscription fee was $2/year.
  • Watch repairman W.A. Ferguson held a postal card competition for boys and girls. To the one who could write W.A. Ferguson, Expert Watch Repairman the greatest number of times without over-writing, was awarded a nickel watch (for the winning boy) and a solid gold heart (for the winning girl).
  • A census was taken on March 31st. Anyone refusing to answer the questions of the census-taker were fined between $5-$20. Those responsible for taking the census were paid $3 for an 8-hour day.
  • On May 18th, the steamboat Daisy Moore arrived in Rat Portage from the mouth of the Rainy River with 40 tonnes of fish for the Dominion Fish Company. There were 12,000 pounds of sturgeon in the load.

The Keenora

  • On November 11th, a by-law was passed by Town Council to establish a high school in the town.
  • A subscription to the weekly Rat Portage Miner & Rainy Lake Journal was $2/year.
  • The Victoria Rink, built in 1897, had hardwood floors installed in 1901 for rollerskating. The rink was also equipped with a portable stage and was used by travelling theatres when they came to town. Several excellent operas were also held there. Dancing was held once a week during the summer with the Town Band entertaining.
  • The Rainy River Navigation Company was running a daily boat service to Fort Frances with the steamer Keenora leaving Rat Portage every evening and connecting at Beaver Mills with the Agwinde. Their service meant that local wholesale merchants were able to do a brisk business with the people along the river.
  • This appeared in the August 20th edition of the local newspaper: It has been suggested that when the flour milling town and the gold mining centre are united the names of the town places should be amalgamated also. Keewortage sounds too much like the name of a hard dermatological excrescence and Ratwatin is simply ludicrous.
  • The Board of Works of the town were busy removing boulders from Main Street in August.
  • A rumour was circulated about the town concerning a pulp mill being constructed in Keewatin on the site of the Ottawa Mining and Reduction Company premises.

Hilliard Opera House

  • The local hospital was collecting donations of jelly and preserves from the women in the community. Rip Van Winkle was showing at the Hilliard Opera House.
  • The first bridge on the way to the west ward (now known as the Hospital Bridge) had the following warning nailed to it – Anyone driving over this bridge faster than a walk does so at their own risk.
  • The Lake of the Woods Brewing Company was advertising their special beers, the names of which indicate the town’s preoccupation with the gold-mining boom (each was named after a mine on the lake) Ð Sultana Lager, Regina Porter, Mikado Ale.
  • An August 27th headline read: RAT PORTAGE IS BUSY: Never before in the history of Rat Portage, was its commercial future so bright as it is today. The mining industry was never in such a flourishing condition… Today the gold mining business has risen to a settled industry like the flour milling and lumbering… The lumbering trade was never so brisk as at present, and the same cause which makes this so – the abnormal wheat crop – is having the same effect upon the railroad business, which promises to employ, and have quartered here, more train crews than ever before in the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The coming fall and winter, in view of the above acts, should be a busy time for Rat Portage.

Did you know?

Both the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northwest Company operated on the Lake of the Woods, and would often sabotage each others equipment at portage sites.