Will Sellwood see its second boom with a [Ring of Fire] chromite smelter? – by Rita Poliakov (Sudbury Star – November 26, 2011)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

You can still find the town of Sellwood on Google Maps. It’s not much of a map though, with one long street and a small marker off to the right, in the middle of a patch of nothingness. The site itself isn’t all that different.

About 20 km from Capreol, on a long, potholed road, there’s a sign marking the Moose Mountain Mine site, which, if all goes well, may one day host a ferrochrome production facility for Cliffs Natural Resources.

Other than some construction work (workers are grinding rocks into gravel), the site is a rocky wasteland, filled with ponds that probably started off as open pit mines and orange-tinted rocks that hint at iron deposits.

But in the early 1900s, Sellwood was a town of promise. “Sellwood was going to be the iron ore capital of the world,” said Stu Thomas, president of the board of directors of the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum in Capreol.

According to the museum’s website, Sellwood started off as a sawmill town with a population of about 100. When iron ore was discovered at the site, a mine was built around 1907 or 1908. Soon the town was booming, with 1,500 residents at its peak.

More than just a place for miners to sleep, the town was a community. It had eight stores, two bake shops, four poolrooms, a bowling alley, two hotels, three boarding houses, two restaurants, a Chinese laundry and a two-room school, which also served as a place of worship.

For a small town, Sellwood knew how to make use of its resources. The barber, according to the Ontario Ghost Towns website, was also a policeman; most houses had electricity and telephones and streetlights were even added later on.

“They started to mine there in 1907 to 1908, then it got bigger and bigger,” Thomas said. “During the First World War, there was a large need for iron ore. Sellwood was just thriving because the need for iron ore was so great.”

The town, at one point, was poised to be what Sudbury has become. And then the war ended.
“Iron ore began to drop down,”

Thomas said. It was around 1919 when the iron ore mine closed. Soon after the closure

announcement, most of the single men moved.

“There was a little bit of rail activity and lumber activity,” Thomas said. But 90% of the residents were dependant on the mine.

More and more residents moved, until the town was abandoned. But not forgotten.

Certainly not by Dave Kilgour. The Ward 7 councillor and Capreol resident has a link to Sellwood, both historically and physically. His grandfather, Alex Nepitt Senior, moved his business, brick by brick, to Capreol in 1923.

Born in Ukraine, Nepitt came to Canada in 1909 and moved to Sellwood in 1912, where he opened a general store on Young Street. Adamant that the town would survive, he stayed in Sellwood as long as he could, before moving his store to Capreol in 1923. There, he set up another general store, where Kilgour now lives. The second store was built out of firebricks from Sellwood and the bricks used to construct the first .

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