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History of Sesekinika Village

by: Mary Ann Dumas

Sesekinika's history began with a Danish gentleman, William Wendt-Wriedt, who moved from the U.S. to a farming location in Englehart in 1906.  Subsequently, he approached the then Director of Colonization, Thomas Southworth, with the proposal for establishing a Scandinavian dairy co-operative on land as yet unsurveyed (Benoit and Maisonville Townships).  Southward complied with his request, designating the area a Scandinavian colony, and Wendt-Wriedt proceeded to advertise the land in the two townships, and moved to Sesekinika near the newly laid railway tracks.

Some confusion arose when the  T&NO began to survey a townsite at Sesekinika on land Wendt-Wriedt believed they had a claim to.  A protest was made through Southworth in 1907, but to no avail, as the 1907 T&NO annual report merely states that "surveys for land required for townsite purposes on Sesekinika Lake.  Plans have been submitted to the Dept. of Lands, Forests, and Mines for approval."  Southworth, in a memo to the Deputy Minister of Lands, said, "Mr. Wendt-Wriedt has secured a considerable number of Scandinavian families, some of whom are already here, others waiting for word from him to come, who are prepared to take up land and perform their settlement duties, just as soon as they can ascertain where the lot lines are.  It is obvious that until the surveyors survey lines are run, they might be in danger of putting their houses upon the wrong land."  Exactly how the dispute was settled is unknown; but the Sesekinika Village did develop right along the railroad tracks and most settlers established themselves on land within a five mile radius of the station.

First settlers came by water, in canoes.  Supplies and mail were brought in by canoe and packhorse from the Englehart train station.  Skis, and dogsleds were also popular modes of transportation.  School Section No.1 Maisonville & Grenfell(Sesekinika) was established in 1910, the second in the study area, after Dane.  The two room school house was burned down in the forest fire of 1916, which also took a couple of houses and the only hotel (strictly residential) which was never rebuilt.  Between 1916 and 1929-30, when a new school house was erected, some of the children went by train, to Swatika to school.

The second school was built for $3500 cash.  It served as a school, church, community center, political arena and dance hall until the school section was closed in 1964 and the building sold.

Though the ostensible purpose of the community was dairy farming, only three men lived by farming- Westergard, Guildburg, and Denby Scales.  Their produce, dairy and vegetable, was sold in the village to tourists.  Land around Sesekinika was found to be more  suitable for prospecting than grazing and a goodly number of prospects sprang up in the area.  However, as one oldtimer put it, "There was more mining of the public in this particular area than mining of the ground."  An article in the Nov.8, Northern News sheds a little light on early prospecting in Sesekinika:"In the year that the Dome Mine started the genuine rush to Porcupine, 1910, two prospectors,(one of them Bill Biederman) came down from Sesekinika and submitted samples to a Haileybury assayer.

In a few days news leaked out they had secured high assays in gold, much to their surprise as they had sought silver.  Word spread like wildfire.  Scores of prospectors caught the train with canoes and packs and headed for the place."

Sesekinika was developing into a lively village and, by 1925 had already attracted a summer cottage industry.  Many of the cottage owners were from Kirkland Lake or the Matheson-Porcupine area.  Cottaging on the lake grew steadily as more and more people, particularly after World War II, began building new summer homes.

Marie Waaler had the first store in Sesekinika and it was taken over by the Olsen family.  The Sesekinika General Store of today dates from the days when the Olsens owned it.  No population estimates are available for Sesekinika but it is believed to have reached its peak in the twenties, when immigrants were arriving steadily and the mines were still good prospects.  The Bennett Mine ran for two and a half years, employing 40 men  and the Golden Summit sunk a shaft and installed a mill before it shut down.  During the thirties,  prosperity diminished as the effects of the depression were felt, but most of Sesekinika's core population of Scandinavians stayed on their land.

Reprinted from the 2000 and 2001 Sesekinika Lake Poperty Owners' Association Newsletter 


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