As the tall trees fell beneath the logger's axe, cleared land opened up to agriculture.  The soil of the Townships of Rayside, Balfour and Morgan were particularly fertile and several Canadian Pacific Railway workers chose to settle in the region.

Since the townships had not yet been subdivided into lots and concessions, the pioneers could choose the land that suited them, blaze trees and start to clear the land.  Once the region had been divided into lots and concessions, they were legally permitted to purchase the land they had cleared and would travel to Sault Ste Marie to register the purchase.  Appearing among the names of the first to register land in the Township of Rayside were the Carrières, Trottiers, Blaises, Bélangers, Dumaises and Coynes.

The nickel basin where Rayside-Balfour is located has yellow soil that is sandier than in the rest of the district.  This fertile, naturally drained soil is particularly suited to seed potato farming and market gardening.  Thanks to the quality of the soil and the constant will to improve farming methods, Rayside-Balfour became a prosperous farming region in only half a century.  The quality of the potatoes grown in the Township of Morgan was soon recognized nationally.

While many pioneers harvested only the vegetables they needed for their family, others devoted themselves to marketing their crops, supplying the Borgia Market in Sudbury.  Farmers whose soil had a higher clay content preferred to grow hay and oats which the logging industry and livestock farmers in the district consumed in great quantities.

Melchior Marcotte, who arrived in the area in the late nineteenth century, was one of the first to become a dairy farmer.  He would have to adjust to many changes for it was then that regulations on the pasteurization of milk and the sterilization of milk cans and bottles came into effect.  Like other dairy farmers in the region, he sent a good portion of his milk to the butter makers, cheese manufacturers and dairies in Sudbury, Levack and Verner.  Mr. Marcotte was also a butcher.  He built a slaughterhouse for heavy livestock to the north of his farm on the Whitson River.

Development of the co-operative movement assisted the farmers of Rayside-Balfour.  The farmers first joined forces to purchase seed, fertilizer and farm machinery, then to sell their products.  The co-operative system gave rise to the Association des cultivateurs des districts de Sudbury et du Nipissing whose head office was in Chelmsford.  Then came the Union catholique des cultivateurs franco-ontariens affiliated with a co-op in Toronto.  Their turnover having increased, Chelmsford farmers formed the Chelmsford Co-op.

The growth in population that came with development of the mining industry guaranteed a market for farm products.  However, Copper Cliff's roasting yards and blast furnaces discharged harmful sulfur over the surrounding countryside.  Eventually, the farmers succeeded in obtaining compensation from the mining companies for the damage to crops, but the process was long and uncertain.  Between 1925 and 1928, many farmers sold their land to Treadwell-Yukon Mining Ltd. and opted for urban life.


Material compiled from Chelmsford 1883-1983, Région-agricole Sudbury-Nipissing, and Azilda comme je l'ai connu.

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