History of the Bancroft Area



The Town of Bancroft, with a population of 3,880 (2011 census), is presently the business and recreational centre of the County of North Hastings. Yet the history of the people of Bancroft and surroundings goes back several centuries. It starts with two Native groups, the Chippewas and the Mississagas, who lived in this area long before European settlers laid claim to their land.   more…

Barry’s Bay

The history of this community in the township of Madawaska Valley starts out with the Algonquin, who named it “Kuaenash Ne-ishing”, which means “beautiful bay”. Long before the first pioneers ever laid eyes on this bay on Kamaniskeg Lake, it was a meeting place for bands of aboriginals, who enjoyed the fruits and beauty of the unspoilt nature. more…

Coe Hill

The Hamlet of Coe Hill in the Township of Wollaston in northern Hastings County on County Road 620 has a history of mining. Incorporated in 1880, it was named after William Coe of Madoc. He formed the Coe Hill Mines Company, after Harry Johnson had discovered iron deposits in a hill.  more…


Playground on the Madawaska. Combermere was first named Dennison’s Bridge after Captain John Dennison, who first came to the area in 1854. John Dennison emigrated from England to Montreal in 1825. He took part in the Rebellion of 1837-38, earning himself the title of captain. From Montreal, he traveled up the Ottawa River accompanied by his two sons, John and Henry. They then ascended the Madawaska River for many miles landing at a spot which came to be known as Dennison’s Bridge. John’s daughter, Elizabeth Dennison, married John Hudson who had come out from England in 1878 and they took over the stopping places known as the Hudson House.

In 1880 the name of the village was changed to Combermere. No written record has been found, as to where the name actually came from. Some say it is named for a place in England, and some say that the son of Lord Combermere once visited this place.

A thriving little hamlet along the Madawaska, Combermere continued to grow as immigrants continued to grow as immigrants continued to settle the area. The Madawaska River was integral to the community’s development as vessels sailed its waters to connect Combermere to Barry’s Bay and to communities beyond via the railway.

Daniel Johnson established the first general store in 1859 on the site where Valley Market operates today. Johnson owned a boat which ran to Barry’s Bay to pick up supplies, brought there by horse and wagon from Eganville and Renfrew.

Today, Combermere is a beautiful little community and still home to the Hudson House Restaurant. This historic house lost its owner, Caption John Hudson, when he drowned with the Mayflower, an ill-fated sternwheeler which sank in Kamaniskeg Lake in 1912.


The name Killaloe hails from an Irish community in Ireland of the same name and salutes the Irish heritage of many of the first settlers to this area who came to Canada in the early 19th century seeking a better life. The early beginnings of this little town centered around the lumber trade. In those days it was known as Fort McDonnell, but it became known as Killaloe Station as early as 1894 when the Ottawa, Arnprior, Parry Sound Railway was expanding at a furious pace through the rugged countryside of the Madawaska Valley in response to the demands of the lumber industry. Timber, supplies and people would arrive by train and disperse to neighboring hamlets by horse and wagon.

Today the lumber industry is still important to the livelihood of many in the surrounding communities. Both large and small logging operations and sawmills still support the local economy even though the railway no longer runs through the village. The last passenger train rolled through in 1962, and in 1968 the train station was torn down. Killaloe still maintains a flavour of the turn of the century in many of the commercial buildings which are more than 100 years old. The Beresford Hotel at the corner of the Queen and Lake streets, now Quinn’s Tavern, opened in 1896 as a popular stop for a drink and accommodation on a once thriving railway line.


Between 1858 and 1872 there was a steady arrival of newcomers to the Bancroft area. For a while, because of the fertile soil and good farming conditions, L’Amable was the largest and busiest district in the community. It had stores, saw mills, a smithy, and a grist mill. 3 miles south of L’Amable was an Irish settlement Umphraville, and East of that was Turriff. (All are present day L’Amable).


Another main stop on the railway constructed by J.R. Booth, the lumber king of the valley, was the Village of Madawaska. Once boasting train yards and a roundhouse, the book closed on a by-gone era when the remains of the roundhouse, left to ruin, were torn down in 1994.

Located at the junction of highways 523 and 60, the community lies where the mighty Madawaska River flows into Bark Lake. There were many log drives through the area in the early years with huge logs floating down the Madawaska River system to the Ottawa River and beyond.

Steeped in history, Madawaska could be considered one of Ontario’s ghost towns – a symbolic connection to a by-gone era.


Whitney had its beginnings at the turn of the century as a lumber mill settlement. The year was 1895, and E.C. Whitney, form whom the community was named, built the first mill operation on a large tract of land.

This was shortly after the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway was constructed to run through some of Ontario’s most rugged country to service the booming lumber industry. Eventually, the Hamlet of Whitney became a busy stop on this railway line that ran from Georgian Bay through Algonquin Park to Ottawa.

This charming community sits where Galeairy Lake falls over the dam into the mighty Madawaska River. It sees visitors from around the world who come to explore the beauty and vastness of one of Ontario’s most famous parks because it is known as the “Gateway to Algonquin Park“.


  • Dee| September 19, 2021 at 1:03 pm Reply

    I’ve recently discovered that my Great Grandfather Leander Hontoon resided in Bancroft and I’m searching for any information or pictures regarding his life or homestead area Thanks

    • Linda S.| June 21, 2022 at 10:29 pm Reply

      I have information about him but it is an arrest record… Are you sure you want to see it? – Linda

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