A ROAD TRIP FROM COPPELL, TEXAS TO COPPELL, ONTARIO
Hello, I am Philip LaBerge. I live in Coppell, Texas and I am a member of the Coppell Historical Society. I created this blog to document the road trip that my wife and I took from Coppell, Texas to Coppell, Ontario Canada in June of 2023. The reason for making the 1,900 mi (3,000 km) journey was to meet the people in the city with which our town shares its name and at the same time possibly make some new friends. We also wanted to visit places in the states that we passed through which show how the U.S. and Canada are indelibly linked throughout their shared past. It was a fascinating trip.
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Make sure to read the letter from the Canadian General Consul in Dallas, the City of Coppell official proclamation and the article which I wrote called "A Tale of Two Cities Named Coppell."
Here is the English translation of the article that is on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) website:
Coppell, Texas to Coppell, Ontario by Jimmy Chabot
Here is the piece that was on TV in Northern Ontario with subtitles in English.
A Visitor from Coppell, Texas
After leaving Coppell, Ontario, we continued our road trip on to Quebec City and Maison Laberge which is Phil's ancestral home. We started to see thicker and thicker smoke from the forest fires as we drove east on the Trans-Canada. See this page to learn more. Our drive from Coppell, Ontario to Quebec City.
Googlemaps: Lac de Coppell
Lake Coppell (Lac de Coppell) is just east of the village on Concession Rd. 6&7. It is a very nice sized lake with some picnic areas, a sandy beach and houses along the north side of it.
Googlemaps: Riviére de Coppell
The Coppell River (Riviére de Coppell) is located at the south end of Coppell and north of Meade about 700 ft. south of the Payeur Family Cross. It is also named the Obijou River which I have to believe is named after the Ojibwe (First Nation) people. Below is the road sign.
Googlemaps: Payeur Family Cross
There is a large cross located just south of the village where the Payeur family home used to be located until the tragic fire which occurred on the morning of September 13, 1928. Six of the seven children of the Payeur family died int he tragic fire. The one who survived was the father of Gérard Payeur who I met with.
You can read about it below. What struck me is how the entire history of a family and its future generation could be struck by a single tragic event and how lucky we are that at least Gérard's father survived.
Google Maps: Sainte-Elizabeth de Hongrie Cross
Located at the southeast corner of the village of Coppell there is a statue of Sainte-Elizabeth-de-Hongrie. It has on it a list of the first pioneers who settled there:
Googlemaps: Coppell, Ontario
After our stop at Bradlo, we continued through the small village of Jogues and then down to Coppell. The house that served as Coppell Station with Coppell written on the side is unfortunately no longer there. The convent, stores and other buildings have long since disappeared and it is now just a collection of a few houses. Some are in good condition and some aren't. No sign marks the village as you approach it. Its history now rests in the memories of those who once lived there and the few who remain.
To learn more about the history of the village of Coppell, Ontario, read this article: Lost Village of Coppell (Village disparue Coppell).
After our meeting at the Ecomusée in Hearst, most of the group got in their cars and we followed each other down towards Coppell. Our first stop along the way was a monument marking what was the town of Bradlo. It was a small town of Slovak and Fin immigrants who settled there. Interestingly, one of the many people who I talked to before making our road trip was Ernie Bies who wrote the article, Bradlo, Ontario : A Slovak Colony Carved from the Boreal Forest.
Googlemaps: Ecomusée, Hearst
At 10 am on Saturday, June 24th, we met at the Ecomusée in Hearst with many current and former residents of Coppell, Ontario to get acquainted share stories. Here are a few of the photos. I will follow up later with more detail and names of those in the photos.
Googlemaps: Hearst Sign
After passing through Hornpayne, we continued north to Hearst where we stayed for the night. Here is Phil next to the Hearst sign on the west side of town.
After passing through the area where they recently put out forest fires, we proceeded north on Route 631. It was a sparsely traveled road with lots of "Beware of Moose at Night" signs. We passed through the village of Hornepayne with its sculpture of a black bear with two cubs, possibly distant cousins of Winnie the Pooh.
Googlemaps: Fire Damage
After leaving White River to head north on Hwy 631 towards Hearst, we drove through the area burned in the Wawa 2 fire which had just been extinguished a week earlier.
Googlemaps: White River - Winnie the Pooh Memorial
Did you know that Winnie the Pooh came from White River, Ontario? In 1914, Harry Colburn was a veterinarian who had enlisted to serve in WWI and was on a troop train from Winnepeg where he lived. The troops were going to training in the east before shipping out to Europe. When the train stopped in White River, he got off and met an old man with a black bear cub on a leash. He bought it from him and brought it with him. The bear cub served as a mascot for the troops. He named the bear Winnie because he was from Winnepeg. After the war, he donated it to the London Zoo. A.A. Milne was a writer which included poetry for children. His son was named Christopher Robin Milne. One year he bought his son a Teddy Bear for Christmas which and his son named it after the bear named Winnie which had seen at the zoo. Pooh was the name of a friend's pet swan.
Googlemaps: Wawa Giant Wild Goose
When the first Europeans traveled into this area, the Ojibway tribe used the word "Wawa" which meant "clear water." Somewhere along the way, it was mistranslated to mean "wild goose" and it stuck. There is a giant wild goose monument in Wawa.
Wawa also marks the midway point of the Trans-Canada Highway.
In 1897, there was a brief gold rush in Wawa which soon ended. When they were mining for gold, however, they discovered lots of iron ore. Some of the samples made their way to Francis Hector Clergue was an entrepreneur in Maine who saw the potential of forming an iron empire in Sault-Ste-Marie. Francis Clergue went on to be the founder of St. Mary's Paper, Algoma Steel, and the Algoma Central Railway which was built from Sault-Ste-Marie to Hearst.
Googlemaps: Chippewa Falls
Chipawa Falls is on the north shore of Lake Superior on the Trans-Canada Highway. The section running along the north shore of Lake Superior is considered the most scenic stretch in Canada.
Googlemaps: Sault-Ste-Marie, Ontario
After crossing the bridge, we went to the home of Lise Groleau and her husband Robert Lecours. Lise was born and raised in Coppell, Ontario and told us some wonderful stories about growing up there. Her father had a very large dairy farm which got recognition for the quality of their operation. I will be posting more about our conversation here soon.
Googlemaps: International Bridge
After leaving our hotel in Sault-Ste-Marie, Michigan, we crossed the Sault-Ste-Marie International Bridge and the drove through the customs at the Canadian border. Surprisingly, there wasn't much of wait. We lucked out, however, because if we had come one day later, the bridge would have been closed because their huge International Bridge Walk event.
Googlemaps: Mackinac Bridge
We traveled to Northern Michigan where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. We then drove over the Mackinac Bridge (known as Big Mac) which was completed in 1957 and rivals the Golden Gate Bridge.
Googlemaps: Midland, Michigan Memorial
Like Midland, Texas, the city of Midland, Michigan is located in the middle. Midland, Texas is halfway between Fort Worth and El Paso. Midland, Michigan is in the middle of the mitt of Michigan.
While Midland, Texas is known for oil wells as far as the eye can see in the Permian Basin, Midland, Michigan has had an equally industrious past. In August of 1890, Herbert Dow arrived in Midland, Michigan and purchased an abandoned brine well. He invented a process using electrolysis to convert the brine to produced a chemical called Ferric (Iron) Bromide. That was the beginning of what would become the giant Dow Chemical Company which is headquartered there today. This is an interesting video on Herber H. Dow.
Googlemaps: Saginaw Castle Museum
Saginaw, Texas was named in 1882 by someone who had lived on Saginaw Street in Pontiac, Michigan. The street got its name from the city of Saginaw, Michigan which is about an hour to the NNW. In Ojibwe, it is thought to mean "where the Sauk Indians were." The first Europeans to venture into the area were French fur trappers & traders. It was also the site of treaties between the Native American (First Nation) tribes. In 1889, with the support of its many citizens with French ancestry, decided to build their post office in the fashion of a French chateau. While the post office is no longer there, they have an extraordinary museum in the building. If you are in the area, make sure to visit The Castle Museum
Googlemaps: Air Zoo Aviation Museum
After staying with my aunt and uncle in Chicago, we headed east to Indiana passing by South Bend where both he and my father went to Notre Dame University. We entered Michigan and stopped in Portage and the Air Zoo Aviation Museum to see the SR-71 Blackbird that my father flew in back in 1974.
Phil standing with the President & CEO of the Air Zoo, Mr. Troy Thrash.
Walt LaBerge in the white space suit standing next to Col. Pat Bledsoe after flying in the SR-71 on July 1, 1974 at over
Mach 3 at an altitude of 85,000 ft. The SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest air breathing plane ever built.
Googlemaps: Joliet Area Historical Museum
After Bloomington, our next stop was Joliet to see the statue of Louis Joliette, visit the Joliet Area Historical Museum, and stand next to the Des Plains River.
Phil had a nice talk with Susan who is a curator at the Joliet Area Historical Museum while standing in front The Blues Brothers (Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi) dancing at the opening scene filmed at the Old Joliet Prison. Dan Ackroyd was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada. Phil also got to visit the exhibit on John Houbolt who was the NASA engineer who came up with the idea of Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) used on the Apollo moon missions.
Googlemaps: Springfield, Illinois
On Day 3 we visited Lincoln's home. It is hard to imagine standing in the very place that Lincoln once stood. Thanks to the National Park Service staff who do such a great job maintaining this historic site.
We then went and visited Lincoln's tomb in Springfield. I had a nice talk with Brian with the Historic Preservation Division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resorces when we toured Lincoln's tomb.
Googlemaps: Lewis & Clark (Camp du Bois) State Historic Site
The Lewis & Clark Expedition between 1804 and 1806 was the greatest event of the day. It was comparable to the moon landing for those of us who were around to see it. They started out from Camp Dubois which is located just north of St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi.
Googlemaps: St. Louis Gateway Arch
How can one drive through the city of St. Louis on a beautiful summer day and not stop to see the Gateway Arch? It truly is one of the greatest engineering marvels of the world. I have visited it probably three times previously, but, as an engineer, I am awed every time I see it, touch it, and gaze upward next to it. Designed by architect Eero Saarinen, it is a breathtaking symbol of the opening up of the West and the role that Saint Louis played in it.
Googlemaps: Stonehenge Replica
After stopping to see the replica of the Hubble Telescope which is one of the greatest astronomical achievements of our day, we stopped in Rolla, Missouri to look at a replica of Stonehenge which was the greatest astronomical achievement of its day from around 3,000 B.C. The replica of Stonehenge is at the Missouri University of Science & Technology located right next to the Physics Observatory building.
COPPELL HISTORICAL SOCIETY, P.O. BOX 1871, COPPELL, TX 75019
The Coppell Historical Society is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization