Voyageur Days - History

Mattawa, nestled in the upper Laurientians and situated at the junction of the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers, has been a favourite rest stop for travelers and vacationers since the days of the voyageurs. Here where the waters meet you can enjoy the warmth and charm of a bilingual community eager to please and ready to welcome you with open arms.

Mattawa is the oldest settlement in the Nipissing District. Many historic figures such as Champlain, Brulè and Radisson passed through on there way west. It was a regular stop during the fur trade years. A Hudson's Bay post and fort were established in the 1830's. Visitors are always welcomed to the beautiful Mattawa and District Museum, which is located at Explorer's Point where the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers converge.

Mattawa is a very friendly vibrant community offering activities and fantastic scenery all four seasons. Come boat, canoe and fish the many rivers and lakes in the area. The Mattawa Golf Course is both challenging and friendly. Spring summer and fall offers great ATV mapped and signed trails. Come and celebrate with us during the various regional special events including VMUTS Fall & Spring Rallies, Canada Day Celebrations, Family Day Celebrations, Lost and Rocks and Tree Mountain Bike Race, Run Off The Grid, Ladies and Men's Slow Pitch Tournament and Temiskaming Bass Tournament Series. Mattawa does not hibernate in winter as it grooms many kilometers of snowmobile trails, host a number of curling bonspiels, bowling, and hockey tournaments.

Mattawa's population triples when it hosts its fun filled four (4) day festival the last full weekend of July annually with events and activities for all. Professional concerts are held each evening at beautiful Explorer's Point. The Mattawa River Canoe Race starts in North Bay with the finishing line in Mattawa. Come experience the Timbersport competition. Children can join in the Mattawa Lions kids fishing derby. Youth day events are held on Mattawa Island. Mattawa Voyageur Days is the festival of the summer, don't miss it! Visit our web site for all the info.


The Mattawa River rises in Trout Lake and flows almost due east to the Ottawa River at Mattawa and was discovered by Etienne Brulè. The Mattawa River is the widest and deepest of the west tributaries of the Ottawa. It was the chief channel by which glacial Lake Algonquin drained to the sea through the Ottawa Valley.

Etienne Brulè was the first white man to set camp at the meeting of the waters in 1610 at the age of 18. In July of 1615 Samuel De Champlain rested a few days and repaired his canoe in Mattawa.In 1830 a permanent Hudson's Bay Post was set up on the Mattawa Explorer's Point and Mattawa was in the making.Mattawa's first Post Office was located in the Hudson Bay Store in 1856 to 1858. The second post Office was located in the first Mattawa store built in 1864 and operated by James Bangs. This closed in 1877. The current Post Office officially opened in 1955.

Records show there were dozens of baptisms, marriages and funerals held as early as 1836 at the Mission of Mattawang (today's Mattawa). For exemple: Pierre Narcisse Dorion and Cecile "Mawishk" McDonell were the 6th couple married at the mission in 1837 - and their two children were baptized the same day. On August 9, 1860 the baptism took place of Antoine Thivierge born on August 7, 1858 was baptised by the Missionary Priest. In the early 1890's mass was celebrated in a new building. On January 1, 1890 the 1st baptism was performed on the twin daughters of Peter Stephen and Charlotte Commandant. Henri Morel and Alexina Bangs had the first wedding in St. Anne's Parish on January 9, 1890. During this year the church register recorded 100 baptisms, 25 marriages and 51 burials.1863 the first Roman Catholic Church was built by Father Lebret. Construction of the twin steeple stone church began in the spring of 1889. The Roman Catholic Church was destroyed by lightning and fire on April 16, 1959 and six months later St-Annes Roman Catholic School a 64 year landmark was also destroyed by fire.Between 1863 and 1867 history tells us that the first three white settlers who built homes in Mattawa were Noah Timmins, James Bangs and Mr. Gorman.

St. Andrew's United Church was built in 1872 and was called the Union Church.

Rev. Robert Oliver was appointed to the Mattawa area in 1872 - baptising some 30 people that year. In 1873 the Methodist congregation's church was built on Pembroke Road (Valois Drive).

From 1878 to 1879 a new church was built in amongst the pines on Pembroke Road (Valois Drive). The Congregational, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches joined together in 1925 to form the United Church.Three Sisters and their guides arrived in Mattawa on January 12, 1878. A crude abode was erected next to Miss Annie Lamont's old home. It was a combination of chapel, hospital and school. The first hospital was destroyed by fire on October 12, 1885. The second hospital was built in 1885 with an addition in 1887 and destroyed by fire in 1901. The third hospital opened in 1904 and a new wing was added in 1927 but destroyed by fire on April 1, 1966. It is currently the Sisters residence. May 8, 1967 the new hospital was opened.

The Lake Temiscaming Colonisation Railway came to Mattawa in the early 1880's.The Steamer Mattawan was used to travel from Mattawa to LaCave Rapids. It was destroyed by fire on shore just above Explorer's Point. Oliver Latour originally brought the Mattawan to Lake Temiscaming in the early 1880's.

The Mattawa House Hotel was built in 1881 and operated by Cleo Lamarche. It is still in operation today and owned by Quasar Butt and operated as The Voyageur Inn bringing wonderful traditional East Indian food to the area of Mattawa..St. Alban the Martyr Anglican Church was founded in 1882 but the Mattawa Mission had long been established. The first service was held in April under the direction of Rev. Forster Bliss.

It was the year 1883 that Mattawa was officially incorporated as a village. In 1884 Mattawa consisted of 165 families. It was incorporated as a town on April 14, 1892. The population reached one thousand seven hundred and eighty.The first Town Hall and Fire Hall was built in July 1885 on today's Main Street and burnt in February 1949. The former Town Hall on Pine Street was constructed as the District Court House and Jail in the late 1880's. The current Town Hall on Water Street opened in January of 1995.

Mattawa's first electric lights were produced on Christmas Eve in 1894. The Mattawa Electric Light and Power Co built it. Hurdman Power Plant located 2 miles west of Mattawa on the Mattawa River.

By 1895 there were at least 6 hotels to provide for the thousands of shanty men in the area for the construction of the Hurdman Power Plant. - The Windsor House, The Victoria Hotel, The Mattawa House, The Lumberman's House & The Rosemount. The Ottawa House - burnt down in the early 1900's, it was rebuilt and named "Royal Hotel" and then renamed the "Trans - Canada Hotel" (The TC) which burnt down in August of 1997.

Albert Gauvreau drove the first car in Mattawa along Main Street in 1910.

Mattawa's High School was built in 1945. In 1965 it was named after Mr. McElligott the man who served as principal of the institution since the first day. Mr. McElligott died in September of 1972.The Otto Holden Generating Station opened at LaCave 5 miles upstream from the Mattawa River on the Ottawa River on June 10, 1952.

On January 3, 1957 - Highway 533 was made passable.

M.J. Rodden, for whom the Community Centre was named after, was named to the Hockey and Football Halls of Fame. He began his career as a professional Hockey, Football, Lacrosse, and Baseball player. In the 1920's he held three jobs; first as a coach of the Grey Cup winning Hamilton Tigers in 1928; second as a referee in the NHL, the International Hockey league and Ontario Hockey Association, finally as a sports editor; third as a sports editor of the old Toronto Globe.

Dr. S. F. Monestime built a home for the people of Mattawa and area needing long-term care. The beautiful, 72-bed, one-storey home is licensed, accredited and family run. Situated on spacious grounds, Algonquin Nursing Home welcomes Ontarians needing long-term care.

The Mattawa and district Museum was built out of red pine logs on Explorer's Point. It opened in 1984.


Three white crosses standing on the crest of the Quebec hill across from Mattawa have been a hallmark of the town and the region for years.

According to historical records, three crosses were erected at the site in 1686 by order of Sieur de Troyes during his trip up the Ottawa River to mark the place where two rivers met. A missionary priest, Father Silvie, celebrated the first mass at the site.

At various times through the years, the crosses deteriorated and then were re-placed. The crosses were not visible for only two years in 1953 and 1975.

A former Roman Catholic parish priest in Mattawa was responsible for their restoration. A group of volunteers from Mattawa manually hauled new crosses up the hill and erected them in 1986. In 1993, a french-language group Fèdèration des Femmes Canadiennes Françaises de Mattawa funded a project to replace the crosses. A Mattawa native built the present crosses, was a teacher in Timmins. They were transported to the top of the hill and erected on metal bases. Many local individuals including eight students from F.J. McElligott High School were involved in the project. Also, the Lions Club provided a meal for the volunteers.

Through the years tourists always asked about the crosses, many individuals climb the hill to visit the site of the crosses. There was a plaque installed on the crosses when they had a ceremony of blessing at the site.

Mattawa's traditional hallmark can be seen on the crest of the Quebec hills.

Voyageur Days