Poirier Fish and Game Territory: It all started with the old General Store
Text: George e. Dvorchak JR MD, October 4, 2000
In the 40s, next to the lumber companies, tourism was always a good source of revenue in Maniwaki, Quebec. This was due to the many private fishing and hunting clubs in that area. These visitors used to make a last stop at the General Store to buy everything from building supplies to groceries before heading up to the woods to hunt and/or fish. From 1909 to 1940 J.H. Poirier, the grandfather of Frank, owned and operated a small General Store on Main Street in Maniwaki. With business being brisk, he soon bought a larger building and in 1943, two of his sons, Henri and Oscar, who had been working with their dad in the store, each bought a 25% share in the expanding business. This new store then became known as "J.H. Poirier & Sons, General Merchants". Just like the sign on the store stated, "One Stop Shopping," that is what it was. The assortment included: groceries, meats, dry goods, fishing and hunting equipment, maps, souvenirs and birch bark canoes all for sale. For rent, they had cabins, boats, canoes, motors, tents and camping equipment. In those days, the demand for hunting and fishing guides increased. Henri and Oscar, being savvy businessmen, saw the economic potential of this, and therefore set the wheels in motion to develop some of the territory near La Verendrye National Park. The Poiriers began to organize excursions for hunting and fishing into all the good areas. One of the guides they used quite often on these was a trapper who lived year round in cabins at Putnam and Delahey lakes and who was a wealth of information on these and other areas. In 1943, Henri and Oscar applied for a commercial lease for a territory of their own. In the spring of 1947, Quebec issued the first outfitters license to Henri Poirier for J.H. Poirier and Sons. Now is when some really hard work was to begin since access to the territory was only by boat or sea plane (a round trip flight from Maniwaki would cost each tourist $35.00) with roads and cabins needing to be built and then maintained. In 1950, five cabins were built to replace the tent shelters and they had 8 boats and motors available for rent. The brothers worked hard and long to turn an old lumber road (now route 14) into one good enough to be useable by cars by the next year. In 1958-59, route 14 was extended to White Pike and Redan Lake. As it passed the southern end of Delahey Lake, the brothers set out to explore the territory and soon came upon a section of that lake that had a sandy peninsula with a superb beach facing west. Across the bay was a trappers cabin that their caretaker, Albert Desrivieres Gould used during the winter. To start securing a base camp, they hired a bulldozer to cut a road to the lake where a cabin was then built for the caretaker and another for the guides, as well as ice and fish houses. This area is now the Main Camp. In 1962, after having only 3 days to prepare the cabins by putting them on skids so they could be transported, it took another 3 days to transport them over to Delahey Lake. The following spring, those first cabins were equipped with running water, indoor toilets and screened verandas. With these improvements, the price of a cabin which could accommodate four people, went up from 4 to $5.00 per day. Tents could still be rented for $2.00 a day as well as the boats and motors. Gas was pumped with an old hand pump and sold for 29 cents per gallon. For electricity, all relied on a generator which the Poiriers had to keep filled with gasoline. With all of this going on, the brothers still worked very hard at the general store. Even their children were turned into "workers" at the early age of 11 or 12, after school, weekends, summer and holiday jobs. Everyone had to help out to make it all work! In 1962, the brothers bought their father’s share of the business but he stayed on working in the store until his death in 1972, then nearly 88 years old. In 1969, Henri had taken a day off to see a horse exhibition at the local fairgrounds where he decided to ride one of the horses. Although familiar with horses, this one reared, he pulled the reins and the horse fell backwards on him, perforating his liver. He was only 54 years old. With the death of his brother, Oscar was now alone to manage both the general store and now quite successful outfitting business at the territory. During the 1960s, several private leases were not renewed in Quebec. In November 1976 it was announced that by 1978 all the remaining private leases would be revoked and these territories would be accessible to the general public. Most private Fish and Game Clubs then ceased all activities. After some serious thoughts, Oscar decided to sell the store. He was 60 years old and deserved a break during the winter. The store was sold January 30th 1977. The Fish and Game Territory became their full time new life. By now, Claire and Frank, two children of Oscar had grown up and assumed many of the duties of running the outfitting business at Delahey Lake. But now, they had propane gas, refrigerators, hot and cold running water and showers in the cabins. From there progress continued and there are now 14 cottages for rent (mostly used by bear hunters and fishermen/campers) at the main camp with 27 outpost cabins which are primarily used by moose hunters. As life would have it, we all work hard and put our time in until we can go no more. What stopped Oscar in 1992 was cancer and just two months later, his wife of 49 years, Leontine Dupont passed away due to heart and lung failure.