Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Squatters on Nipissing Hill

Nipissing Hill is the site of the Nipissing Mine, the largest silver mine in the Cobalt area, ca 1905.

Today, I offer this variation on Thursday Doors.

Can you detect all the missing elements?

I don’t see a door, do you? A door frame is visible. Inside the cabin, the curtain that conceals the inner chamber has been tacked up, out of the way. That lovely floral scrap of fabric could qualify as a door, I suppose.

Is that inner chamber the master bedroom? We know it’s not the en suite. The woman on the far left looks like a grandmother. Maybe it’s the granny suite?

Too bad the “squatters” didn’t think to turn on the interior lights so that we could admire the décor. [light-bulb moment!] Aha! THAT’s why the front wall was removed! To better showcase the marble tiles and lavish stainless appliances!

OK, enough sarcasm at the expense of these intrepid pioneers: the people who lived without hydro, without potable, let alone running water, without, apparently, a front wall to their house.

Squating [sic] On Nipissing is an image that has fascinated me from the moment I saw it. Not only is an important structural feature missing from this building, but I, too, live on Nipissing Hill, clearly in far more comfort than this family did 115 years ago.

Whatever the reason for the absent architecture, I’m grateful for the glimpse into their lives.

***   ***   ***

Inspired by Dawn and her post called Spoiled. She writes about TV reality shows that follow young couples as they tour houses and critique the missing elements. “…there’s usually someone who complains that the kitchens don’t have the latest and greatest, that they would “have to replace these counters right away,” or, about the master bedroom closet, “this is enough space for my clothes, you’ll have to use the closet in the spare room.”

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. 


Categories: Canadiana

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35 replies

  1. Wow! Today’s families are wimps compared to these people. I just don’t know how we would survive an apocalypse. But I bet this group could.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’d like to think the house is a work in progress. It’s amazing to look back to see the way people lived and struggled survive. I’m sure many people came to Cobalt in search of work. I admire their spirit and their ability to make a family life under those conditions.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That occurred to me after I published the post – that the front wall came off in order to expand or otherwise improve the building. You are correct – many people, by the tens of thousands came to Cobalt and Coleman to improve their lives.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Maggie–I speak fluent sarcasm, so I love this! Seriously though, these people are so much stronger than I.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It makes you wonder what sort of deprivation or hardship that some of the pioneers were facing before they decided to settle here – for some, it was literally starvation, for others, religious persecution.

      I suppose you do what you need to do to make it to the next day. But I cannot fathom that sort of life, from my perch these 100 years later. I don’t think I’d make it a week.


  4. Good grief – I would have a lot of difficulty watching a TV show about an endless stream of whiny spoiled things complaining about what they don’t have!! Whenever I get too full of myself I remember my mother in Nazi-occupied Holland in the last 6-7 months of WWII when they were literally starving because there was no food.

    I’m willing to bet those squatters were grateful for everything they had!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I used to watch the real estate channel on Rogers Cable, just to see interiors of other homes. This was a couple decades ago, before staging an interior was standard fare. If I watched today’s real estate shows, and that’s a BIG “if”, I’d probably have to mute the speakers.

      Yes, I think for many, the early pioneers were grateful. In many cases, the people who landed here were leaving worse situations behind, which is rather difficult to comprehend, isn’t it?


  5. When I complain about all my first world problems and then see a picture like this and combine it with the knowledge of just how humid and hot summers can be, and how BUGGY the bugs are…god. We have nothing to complain about, do we. This is a great, inspiring pictures.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. By the looks of the surroundings perhaps they just ran out of lumber!!! Those hillsides look bare and it seems that those who came before them took what lumber there was to finish their cabins?? Lack of walls didn’t seem to stop them though…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I can live without granite countertops or the latest appliances, although I do require they work as they should – but without walls? I am spoiled, I am not a pioneer. Perhaps because I have not had to be, but I do not long for the opportunity to share their experiences. They were of much sturdier stock than I.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Same here, Carol – I’d rather have an old model appliance that is reliable than some digital version that fries its circuit board one day after the warranty expires.

      Some time ago, TVO – Ontario’s version of PBS – held auditions for a reality show – looking for people to live like the pioneers in rural Manitoba. I actually toyed with the idea of applying. My god, how ridiculous I was!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I can see why you liked this photo. It’s intriguing and asks more questions than it answers. Your Not Door Thursday Door contribution is a delight.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. A harsh reminder of just how difficult it was back then, and just how good so many of us have it today.
    Thanks for sharing his 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It’s as if the whole front of the house has been blown away, doesn’t it? Life certainly wasn’t easy for those miners. I can see why you’re haunted by that picture.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m inclined to think that the front was removed deliberately for improvements and the photographer happened by at the right moment. But still, you’ve heard me whimper about the winters here – I sure hope the front was restored before the snow fell!


  11. Can’t watch that sort of show, but your description is enough to be annoying. Most of us have so much, yet so many of us always want more. The art, and the accompanying joy, of contentment is an all-too-often missing part of people’s lives today.


    Liked by 2 people

  12. Lucky you to live where history can speak to you, Maggie. And your ears are atuned …

    Liked by 2 people

  13. So much of our history is lost on our younger generations. The real people history, not just the red letter dates.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I agree with you about the photo, Maggie. It’s one of those one could easily pass by as you look through a book or website. Yet there is so much to look at here to ponder as you have. For one thing that little girl in the jacket. My heart goes out to her. – Marty

    Liked by 2 people

    • My heart goes out to her, too. When you examine the picture and consider the context: next to nothing in terms of creature comforts, harsh weather, noise and dust and smoke from the mines, constant threat of fire and infectious disease, no medical facilities, crowded living quarters, with the guarantee that those quarters will become more crowded because a.) no birth control, and b.) large families were de rigueur, in those days…

      And yet, in many memoirs and written reports about family life, there persists the notion that the settlers were overjoyed to be part of the growing, bustling town.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post! It does get the imagination going. I’m imagining it was summertime and they added walls before it got real cold. It sure does bring up some gratitude for my one bathroom and my doors. Going to check out Dawn’s post.

    Liked by 1 person

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