Until 1901, the main settlements within the Township of Morley were Boucherville and the original town of Rainy River a few miles west, both situated along the Rainy River itself. The town of Beaver Mills later took the name Rainy River.
In 1901 the Canadian Northern Railway came to the area roughly two miles north of the settlement of Boucherville. An immediate move was made to establish a town-site close to the railway station. Railroad officials named the new town Stratton after J. R. Stratton, a provincial secretary. Stratton quickly became the business centre of both the Morley and Pattullo townships.
In 1903 Morley Municipality, an amalgamation of these two townships, was formed, and Stratton became the seat of administration.
The Full History:
The history of Morley covers a little more than one hundred years, but is the story of courage, vision and hard work. Morley Township was formed in 1879 and named after the Honourable John Morley. The promise of free land on which to build a new home and a new life lured many people to this area. At first, nearly all the newcomers were from southern Ontario – English, Irish and Scots. They found the land rich in virgin timber with only Indian trails through the bush. Moose and caribou were plentiful and wild berries were there for the picking.
The long Sault Indian Reserve was on the east side. It was once the site of an Ojibway Village, a favorite meeting place for the tribe, coming from each direction. Only the burial mounds remain to tell of their former importance. Many of the Indians sickened and died, and the survivors were moved to the Manitou Reserve.
Most of the new settlers travelled by train to Rat Portage (Kenora) and then on wood burning steamers through Lake of the Woods to the Rainy River. The Edna Bridges, the Agwinda and the Keenora were a few of these boats. The settlers brought their furniture and their livestock with them. These boats also brought supplies of food and mail. When they came to the rapids at Long Sault and Manitou, the Indians hauled them over with ropes. They were paid with bags of flour. The settlers sold wood to the boats to fire the boilers.
The first homesteads were laid out in lots along the river front. Mr. Edmund Boucher’s store, Mr. Tom Ward’s store and Mr. McTague’s tinsmith shop were named Boucherville. In 1883 Wm. Cameron built his log cabin and barn west of the present Municipal Park. This also became the post office of Rainy River. The present Rainy River was called Beaver Mills. Others who built on the river were James and R.J.F Marsh, Hennessey, Campbell, Michael Oster, and Robert Muldoon.
James and Mac Robertson, Wm. Dormer, and George Watts chose signs north of Boucherville. Falavius Orlando Gamsby’s homestead was in years to come the farm of Clarence and Albert Gamsby. Archie Robertson went a mile further north. In 1891 the Weir family with their three sons established their own hamlet further north and east calling it Weirton. They built a Methodist Church and school. The church was moved to Stratton in 1904, but the school operated until 1922. They also operated a halfway house where travellers could get food, shelter or information.
In 1884, fire swept up from the river in an northeasterly direction, consuming the tamarack and pine forest until it reached Off Lake. The cabin of Mr. Gamsby was in its path and his wife and three children died. Although it was a terrible tragedy, this fire and others cleared the land and opened the way for many more settlers. The Township of Pattullo, named after George Pattullo, Minister of Public Works, was formed. Some of the early residents were the Neilsons, Johnstons, Moshers, Schrams, Grahams, Mintys, Masons, Andrews, Browns and Bowmans.
Alec Anderson brought his family overland from Wabigoon in March of 1899. They settled northeast of the Weirs and started a saw mill. Later he moved it to Stratton. Ed Lockhart set up a blacksmith shop and his farm and he too moved to Stratton. He was in great demand by farmers and loggers and as a fiddler for weddings and dances.
In 1901 the Canadian Northern Railway was completed linking the west with the east. The hamlet of Stratton was born. It was named after J.R. Stratton, Provincial Secretary. The streets were laid out and the main Street as called Strathcona.
In 1903 the Municipality of Morley, combining Morley and Pattullo Townships, came into being. Mr. Boucher was the first Reeve and Fred Watts the Clerk-Treasurer. Mr. Guy Gamsby was clerk for over fifty years, retiring in 1958. His son, Fred carried on until his death in 1976. Guy grandson, Gary Gamsby, is the present Reeve.
To the new site came Mr. Boucher and his store, Mr. Ward and his hotel and Mr. McTague and his tin shop. Soon after, Jack and Dave Lougheed took over his shop and ran a hardware store and livery stable.Nat Lougheed built many of the barns in the area. Fred Upton Sr. built schools and houses, including his own and that of Dr. Charlton, just south of the tracks. There were grocery stores operated by T.B. Wilson and Fred Watts. The present Community Store was built in 1914 by Lorne Langstaff. For many years it was owned by Otto and George Meyers.
The oldest building was built in 1901 by the Canadian Order of Foresters for a lodge hall.
Oliver Mineilly built the New Ontario House, which was strictly tee total, and this building survived as the Stratton Hotel for many years until it burned a few years ago. After a ruckus in the Ward Hotel in which a man was killed, the town’s folk voted against the sale of liquor in 1911. Unfortunately most of these stores and hotels were destroyed by fire.
Wallace Pearson built his house on the hill west of Stratton. He was an experienced cheese maker and so a creamery was built north of the town (Moshers).
The first postmaster may have been Fred Watts, but Joe Oster and later Harry Vanderwater were postmasters for many years. Ralph Wardman followed retiring several years ago.
The first church was built on the reservation by an Anglican missionary, Mr. Johnson, who was also instrumental in building The Peoples Church in 1904 beside the cemetery. His successor, Mr. Cousins, had another Anglican church built in the Village (beside Wardmans). In 1913, Margaret McNabb (Draycott) was christened at the Dedication by Bishop Lofthouse. Services were held here until 1930. The last minister was Russell Wilkes who later served in Rainy River.
A Presbyterian church was build in 1907 but it was burned in 1915. The congregation eventually joined with the Methodists and in 1926 became the United Church of Canada. This served the Protestant community for eighty years until the new church was built in 1981 on the same site.
The Catholic Church was built in 1902. Some of the builders were Joe Hunt, Patrick Armstrong and Jim Armstrong. Father J.C. St. Amante as the first priest. In 1920 the sanctuary, sacristy and new altar were added.
The first one room log schools were built along the river at Camerons and farther down at Campbells. In 1910, Campbellville School moved to a new location near the town line of Dilke. Fred Upton built it for $776.00. Another school was built where the Anderson farm is and was called No. 7. There was also a school on the former reservation. It became very hard to get and keep teachers. In 1921 the Stratton community built a three room school in the Village. It was called Morley Consolidated, and later Morley Central. The first teachers were Myrtle Young and Marie Gerber. The children were bussed into the school. There were also several schools in Pattullo Township. In time all the schools in the Municipality were closed and the children bussed in to the Village. In 1973 this school also closed and the children were transferred to a large school at Sturgeon Creek. Frank Landry now has three apartments in this old building.
The first roads were corduroy laid over the trails, but soon most of the present roads were laid out and bridges built. Horses were used for farming and transportation. In about 1920, Highway #11 was completed to Fort Frances but it was not an easy trip and took a day to get there. Joe Oster had one of the first Model-T Fords.
It was also Joe Oster who started the first telephone system in Stratton by stringing the wires on the fences from his home to that of his brother Isaac, and Clarence Gamsby. Everything worked fine unless you left the gates open. The service was expanded on poles to Barwick and across the river to Birchdale. Users paid $1.90 a month. Later the Municipality took it over until G. Bell acquired the service. The switchboard was housed in the back of the municipal office. Some of the operators were Florence Watts and Mrs. Garnet Elliot.
In the thirties, many families of European origin settled on the many unclaimed homesteads. They quickly became part of the community adding their skills and culture to the pattern of living. Later came the Dutch who now operate successful dairy farms. In the sixties, many of the local farms were bought by Mennonites from Mexico and Manitoba. And so we have become a multicultural society working and playing together in harmony.
In 1905, the pioneer women formed a Women’s Institute. Many had to walk to drive long miles to the meetings held in the various home, but it was an opportunity to visit and learn from each other. During the two World Wars they organized dances and card parties to raise money to help the war effort, besides knitting hundreds of socks.
In 1929 they had gathered together enough money to build a community hall. Although it is no longer operated by the Institute, it is still the hub of social and other community activities. As such, it stands as a fitting monument to the work of those men, past and present, who work for the good of their community.
Electricity came to Stratton in 1949 putting an end to oil and gas lamps.
In both World Wars, Morley was well represented in the armed services. Forty-one, twelve of whom never returned, fought in World War One. In the second war, sixty-eight, including two women, answered the call of the Country.
In 2004, the unincorporated townships of Sifton and Dewart were added to the boundaries of The Corporation of the Township of Morley.
This has been only a brief account of our beginnings, but there are many fascinating stories of the life the pioneers endured and survived. Unfortunately many of these stories have never been recorded. There have been many changes in population, and progress has changed the buildings. We think Stratton is the prettiest Village in the District and that we have the best farming community. But we must never forget the heritage of those first pioneers left with us to carry on into the next century.
Land Area: 38,886 hectares
Roads: 152 km