Part 6 – [Geraldton : An Alternative History]

View of First Ave. N. (not constructed yet), looking northeast, on November 1, 1934. L to R: Holmes Building (two businesses), Daneff’s Store, Morin Hotel (later Geraldton Hotel in 1936), Gordon Block (facing Third St. E, presently a vacant lot), and Claude Douglas’s General Store. Beside the tracks, the CNR station is under construction, and in front of it, the dismounted boxcar that was the first station. D.M. Morin of Sudbury built the hotel; W. Foster Draper was the manager, who bought the hotel in 1940. Draper became Geraldton’s first mayor after the Town’s incorporation on September 1, 1937. On this photo’s date, the grading of Mine Road had begun. All photos from Greenstone History Collection.


Just before Christmas 1934, the first beverage room
licence was issued for the community; up until that time
bootleggers were the only outlets for liquor. Liquor and
beer could be obtained only by sending to Port Arthur,
now Thunder Bay.

Mr. Foster Draper, owner [sic] of the Geraldton Hotel, at
that time was pleased to receive the first liquor licence
for the new thriving, unrecognized community. Little did
he know that before he made any money from his new venture[,]
he would have to spend plenty to restore his little hotel
after the ravages of the Christmas Battle.

The mine work was closing down for the Christmas
Holidays and the miners drifted into town all afternoon.
There was very little entertainment available in the
small mining community, so they congregated in the beverage
parlour for their first legal drink in town. No more
paying the friendly bootlegger high prices for a drink.
After hours of drinking[,] the sounds from the beverage
room started getting louder and ever yet louder[;]then a
few friendly arguments began between friends. This was
followed by quarrels between individuals, then rival gangs
entered the discussions. The [Anglo-Saxons] and French broke
into two groups[,] followed by the locals against the foreigners.
Fists began to fly in the beverage room and expanded
into the hotel rotunda. For some unknown reason one of
the combatants [wandered] into the barber shop, which was in
the hotel. One of the patrons seated for a [haircut], stood
up, ploughed the intruder between the eyes and sat back into
the chair for the barber to finish his [haircut], while he
lay stretched out on the Barber Shop floor.

The bare fists soon became raw and sore from the
constant use, so weapons of all sorts appeared from hidden
places. There were bottles, clubs, chairs, tables and in
some cases just the table leg, [and] even a few knives came into

Although it was the Season of Peace on Earth, there
was no peace in the Geraldton Hotel[,] only pieces and rubble,
on that eventful Christmas Eve.

Windows were broken and the furniture lay in a heap
of rubble on the floor of the drafty hotel rotunda. Men
lay cold from their wounds of battle all around the
perimeter of the rotunda. Wounds totalled 6 fractured ribs,
3 knife wounds and numerous reported black eyes, concussions,
head injuries and facial cuts.

Mr. Draper, hotel owner, could do nothing to stop the
battle[;] there were no police in the area. He prayed that
his wife and young son would be safe in the upstairs of the
hotel. Mrs. Draper had just came to Geraldton to join her
husband. She realized what was happening in the rotunda[,]
so she moved the dresser across the door to the room and
prayed that she and her small infant son would live to
enjoy Christmas Day.

When the combatants had their fill of fighting[,] the
battle was over and the [dilapidated] hotel was in ruins.
The [mine] managers realized they should accept some
of the responsibility for what had happened and they hired
two police officers to enforce the law in Geraldton. Up
until this time there had been no need for police. The town
was not incorporated so there was no municipal government
to set any laws.

A magistrate arrived in town shortly after the battle
and held court in the wrecked hotel. He levied fines
amounting to $600.00 against the battle combatants. There
was no restitution for Mr. Draper to repair the damages .

Little Long Lac Hospital (built and staffed by the mine) in 1934. The 5-bed institution measured 32 feet square. The first staff were Dr. John Vernon Riches and nurse Miss Mabel Brownlee. In this hospital the casualties of the Battle of Christmas Eve 1934 would have been treated.
View of Rosedale Point looking east and, in the foreground, the boiler house of Little Long Lac Mine, 1934. The annotation penned on the photo by a zealous scribe is wrong on two points. The southern part of Mine Road and the Barton Bay bridge (neither of which is depicted here) were constructed in 1935. Beyond the boiler house, the first tailings are being deposited; the first bricks were poured on December 17,1934. The bay beyond Rosedale Point would eventually be filled in with tailings, locally called “the slimes”. The pipeline conveying the slurry of tailings is elevated like a Roman aqueduct. The residential units from R to L: two-storey duplex (still standing), Red Cross hospital, Directors’ Lodge (aka Club House, now a private residence), and at the extreme end of the Point, in the trees, the residence of Alan Barton, mine manager, since rebuilt.

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