The Early Days
The Red Rock of the early 1900’s is a quiet rural community of widely scattered farms along what we now know as” The Five Mile Road”. The settlers, who were mostly of Finnish background, derived their income from raising hay and root crops and cutting pulp to be sold for firewood at $1.25 per cord. Hunting and fishing provided most of the meat aspect of their diet.
With no roads whatsoever, the community was accessible only by rail. Shopping and banking meant a trip to Nipigon by walking five miles along the railway tracks. The nearest Post Office was three miles west down the tracks at Everard and the only way to get there was on foot. The social life of the community was restricted to visiting back and forth with neighbours and the occasional trip along the tracks to a Saturday night dance in Nipigon.
The construction of the Nipigon Highway in the 1920’s opened up the district and soon a wagon road south from the highway was built to serve the community of Red Rock. Also around 1920, the first school board was established. Members of that Board were Mr. A Arola, Mr. J. Paakari and Mr. H. Danio. Soon a sturdy school was erected on the site of the present Masonic Lodge, and class began. The first teacher was Miss Westwood and she had eight pupils in grade one to grade eight.
After the school was built, community life improved considerably. Having a central meeting place made rural life much more enjoyable for the residents of the area and dances and socials became a regular occurrence.
In 1936, the Lake Sulphite Pulp Company purchased property which included the present town site for the construction of a paper mill that would eventually produce bleached Sulphite, and a flurry of activity erupted in the area. The site was cleared and construction of the mill began in May 1937. Site preparation entailed literally clearing the area tree by tree. Most of the heavy hauling had to be done with horses as heavy equipment was not available. In conjunction with mill construction, Land was also cleared for the town site and twenty houses near the mill site were constructed.
At the same time as the mill construction, officials from C.N.R. surveyed along the lake for a spur line to the mill site, and during the summer of 1937 the tracks were laid. Bunk houses were built on the lake shore near the mill site to house the construction workers. One bunkhouse was used as a hospital and one as a theatre. The campsite included what is now the parking lot at the mill and the area at the bottom of the hill.
In the same year, the Quebec Lodge was built to house company officials. Located high on the Lodge Mountain overlooking the railroad tracks and giving a spectacular view of Lake Superior, the Lodge is still used by visiting mill executives.
Built with a cost of $50 000, the building was constructed of logs cut in the area. The Lodge has remained much the same as it was in 1937, only the kitchen has been modernized. The huge stone fireplace still dominates the living room and provides a cozy atmosphere.
The Red Rock Inn, another landmark in the area, was also built by Lake Sulphite Pulp and Paper Company in 1937. The building, with its Neo-Georgian style, was designed by the architectural firm of Lawson & Little of Montreal and is unique in its post-and-beam construction. Over the years “The Inn” has played a significant role in both the economic and social life of the community. In the early days it housed several businesses, the library, and at one point the top floor was used as classrooms. At the same time it was the social centre of the community, and was the scene of many a gala party and celebration.
Families living in Red Rock at that time included Arolas, Pajus, Roys and Despins. The Despin family built the Red Rock Hotel on the five mile road at the site of the present Vicmor Hotel a short time later a general store was built on the same site. The store also served as the post office until 1950.
The following year construction of the mill and the townsite was halted when Lake Sulphite Pulp and Paper Company went into receivership and the project was abandoned.