Driving east past Ice Chest Lake Road; further on to Connaught and then Barbers Bay, rural residences and cottages appear to be the only signs of development that has sprouted in this eastern outskirt of Timmins.
Seventy years ago, the impressions of a motorist passing through this area would likely have been far different.
Connaught was a forestry hub at the time. There were at least two sawmills operating right in that community along the banks of the Frederick House River.
There was also a hotel, a bank, several local businesses including a grocer and pharmacy, two schools, two churches, a small rural hospital and about 700 people living in that area.
“That’s the history we are trying to preserve through our museum,” explained Rheal Dupuis, president of the Connaught & District Historical Society which operates the seasonal Pioneer Museum in Connaught.
The museum, which operates only during the summer months, will open for its new season beginning this Friday.
It will be the first time in more than a year it has opened its doors to the public.
Dupuis said the pandemic and associated health measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 forced the community museum to remain closed for all of last year.
Historical society volunteers, however, made good use of that downtime.
Dupuis said in the past year the society obtained more local artifacts — some of which will be prominently displayed when the museum opens its doors to the public beginning this Friday.
Some of these include the pulpit which was retrieved from the old United Church in Connaught before it was demolished last summer. The church, which had been shuttered since the 1960s, was nearly a century old.
Dupuis said they have also set up a new display of antique cameras — the oldest one dates back to 1918.
“We also have the old Barbers Bay sign from Bayside Beach. That goes back to the 1920s.”
As always, there will be a multitude of other artifacts on display, providing a window into the history of not only Connaught and Barbers Bay but Hoyle, Dugwal (formerly Drink Water Pit), Fielding, Finn Road (formerly Finn Bay), Ice Chest Lake (formerly Ice Chisel Lake), McIntosh Spring and Nighthawk.
The museum will be open Wednesdays to Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There is no admission fee but there is a donation jar which visitors are free to contribute to.
Dupuis offered a reminder that visitors to the museum will be asked to follow health-related protocols. At this time, that would include wearing a mask or face covering while inside the building.