Depot Harbour, Ontario
J.R. Booth had been unable to negotiate a suitable price with business interests in Parry Sound, so, in 1895, he took advantage of legislation that allowed native-owned land to be expropriated for use as a railway to purchase land on Parry Island, the site of an Anishinaabe native reserve. It was known as the best natural harbour on the Great Lakes.
Booth built a town site with two large grain elevators, docks, a railway station, a hotel and shops. The town's population reached 1,600 permanent residents in 1926. There may have been as many as 3,000 inhabitants in the summers.
Booth sold his railway to the Grand Trunk Railway in 1904. In 1923, the railway became part of the government-owned Canadian National Railways. One of the advantages of this railway was a shortcut for grain shipments between Lake Huron and the Eastern Seaboard. The reconstruction of the Welland Canal in 1932, along with 1933 abandonment of a portion of the line in Algonquin Provincial Park, and a drop in grain prices during the Great Depression, contributed to a loss of importance for Depot Harbour. The town fell into disrepair and as its population gradually declined Depot Harbour was abandoned.
During World War II, cordite manufactured in nearby Nobel was stored in the railway's dockside freight sheds across the inlet from the grain elevators. In the summer of 1945, the timber frame grain elevators were dismantled. On August 14, as preparations were being made for V-J Day celebrations in other places, the partly dismantled elevators accidentally caught fire. Flying embers carried by the wind, landed on the roofs of the freight sheds, setting off explosives which destroyed whatever remained of the harbour facilities. By the 1950s, Depot Harbour had become a ghost town.
Once the debris had been cleared away from the site of the burnt down grain elevators, the wharf was used as a distribution terminal for the Century Coal Company, a subsidiary of Canada Steamship Lines. As the market for coal declined in the late 1950s the docks were silenced once again. By 1959 use of the wharf was acquired by National Steel Corporation for loading pelletized iron ore from its Low Phos Mine at Sellwood. A rail mounted gantry crane was installed along the length of the wharf.
The Steamship Valley Camp and Edmund Fitzgerald were regular visitors to Depot Harbour. By this time all the workers lived away from the village. When the mine closed in 1979, Depot Harbor was silenced once more.
The Anishinaabe reclaimed the expropriated lands in 1987. Little remains of the town except scattered foundations. The bank vault can still be found as well as the loading docks. Only one building remains in use as a cottage.