EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rock a glacial erratic transported in ice dropped near Chapleau becomes landmark

Whether you called it the "Indian Rock" or the "Wishing Rock" or the "Painted Rock" or simply "THE ROCK", located on Highway 129 just outside Chapleau, it is considered an important landmark that brings back memories to citizens, past and present. And it appears many would like to see it restored.
After I contacted a number of folks asking if they could share some favourite Chapleau memories, Ken Schroeder, a lifelong friend was in touch suggesting  the big "welcome" rock down the road was always interesting to him.
He had hoped that someone perhaps a school might take it on "sort of a 'history' project ... clear it out, clean it, touch it up and maybe even a park with a bench."
The rock project was undertaken by William Walker Sr. as an advertisement for Smith and Chapple Ltd. likely in the late 1950s. Mr. Walker was the advertising manager. Tim Cecile undertook the task of visiting the Rock site and reporting on it as it is today. Here is Tim's from the scene report:
"Even though it is close to the highway and I knew the general location it was hard to find, with all the brush and trees that have enclosed around it over all these years. 

Highway 129 by Pat (Purich) Russell
"I could not find it by driving, but I was able to catch a glimpse of it by walking back and forth slowly along the old highway. If you are coming from Chapleau there is what the local truckers call the pad just off highway 129 approximately 8 kilometres from Chapleau. The pad is a place where the MTO will pull over trucks so safety checks can be done and is a large area where many tractor tailors can park. 

"Just as you approach the pad from Chapleau there is an old road on the right or west (part of old highway 129) the rock is just in a very short way on the right of this old road."

Tim also noted there was some nice art work at the bottom which looks likes whales and animals, It is signed "R.O. 1990".
Tim's brother Michael recalls that when he was president of the Student Council at Chapleau High School in the early 1960s a group painted over the Indian head and Smith and Chapple Ltd. advertising. 
I have received several different possibilities as to why the rock was painted over, so will not get into that issue. But I have received confirmation from Anita (Memegos) Stephens, chief of Chapleau Ojibwa First Nation, that the rock is not located on their land.
As a matter of interest, Michael, who is a geologist added: "The rock is a glacial erratic which would have travelled thousands of kilometres, transported in ice which warmed up enough to drop at Chapleau".
I posted a photo of the rock on Facebook, and immediately started receiving comments. Here are some of them, and for those who have travelled to Chapleau by train or returned home after a trip on Highway 129, I am sure that all, like me, can relate to them.
Drew Blais: "Living out of town for many years when I was a boy, the rock was more than just a rock. After a long car ride, the rock was a symbol, a beacon, a marker to signify that we were almost home. We were almost at my uncle's farm, almost at my grandparent's house, almost at the beginning of a fun adventure. Even to this day when I drive into town with my own children I look for the rock. In brings a calming feeling, a feeling of  'yes I'm finally home.'"
Bev (Swanson) Hamilton: "Well said, Drew ... my sentiments exactly."
Barbara (Bowland) Groves: "The rock meant almost home when we travelled to relatives, etc. on the train and were coming home. We watched for it and were allowed to put our coats and boots on. Almost home!"
Highway 129 as gravel road

Gail (Coulter) Cyr: "The Rock should be cleared of brush and repainted. It is a Chapleau landmark..."
Mary Gail (Moreau) O'Riley: "We called it Indian Rock, and when we went out for a car ride as children, we always had to go and see it."
 Ashli Lewis: "My kids and I could barely spot it a couple of years back... It would be good to clear out the brush. This rock was a part of Chapleau's history.... a definite landmark for generations and generations".
Sharon (Henderson) Scero: "I was taught to drive out there. Around and around and around -- after it was a meeting point. Memories!"
Bonnie (Cappellani) Byrne: "I used to make a wish every time I drove by."
Jeanette Wright: "I would like to know what happened to the Rock. it was always something to admire as you arrived in Chapleau. If it is is still there why can't they clear the brush and let it show again?"

Bill Card: "We used to bike out to it and climb up to the top it was a tricky climb. The road was gravel."

Shelley (Coulter) Bernier: I always knew it as The Coloured Rock. Still refer to it as that today even though you can't see it anymore. New people in town don't have a clue where we are referring to."
Betty (Lehtinen) Cote: We used to bike there all the time. Park and spend hours there. Sometimes smoking cigarette without getting caught."
Margaret Freeborn: "We used to walk there and turn around for the Terry Fox Run,"
Tina Cappellani: "My parents told us it was the wishing rock. I make a wish every time I go by it and now Mya does too".
Diane Card: "It's still there but very faded. Old road is still there and you can walk in a have a look".
Charlie Braumberger: "Passed by that rock many times. It was my turn around point. Memories!"
Gayle (Encil) Duggan: "Needs paint job. Nice landmark".
Pat O'Connor: "Always a bike destination. Still look for it every time I go by".
Russ Dunne: "Rock is still there although it could use a paint job -- be nice to have it visible again."
And, the last word for the moment goes to Tim Cecile: "As an afterthought would this not be a nice project for someone to brush it out and repaint in some theme? "  Sounds good Tim, and thanks to Charlie Purich, Ken Schroeder, Tim and Michael Cecile, and all those who provided comments. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE