The History of Shining Tree
In the late 1800's, an Ojibway canoe route from Bear Island, in Temagami, to the Mattagami First Nation, north of Gogama, passed through what is now known as the village of Shining Tree.
Because of the numerous White Birch Trees growing in the area, especially on McReae Island, the area became a landmark and was referred to as "Wasakwagama".
"Wasa" meaning 'shining', or in this case 'white', and "Kwagama" a combination of the word 'tree' and 'water' (pronounced quagama).
This has been translated to "the place where the shining, or white, trees reflect on the water". The Ojibway established a small settlement here in approximately 1896, referring to it as "Wasakwagama".
The first white settlers, Mort and John Moore, arrived here in 1905 and established a fur trading post. Whether by mistake, or for their own convenience, they translated the native name to "Shining Tree" and called their trading post the "Shining Tree General Store". They applied for a post office license in that name and in 1911 John Moore became the first postmaster. The town was referred to as Shining Tree from then on.
In 1917, a one-room school was built by Mr. Ed Bradley. Both the store and school were heated by large wood stoves.
Gold was discovered in the area in 1911. A large forest fire in 1919 laid bare much of the bedrock and was a blessing to prospectors who discovered more sediments in the area. In 1933 an article in the New York Times, referring to the White Rock mine at Violet Lake and mines at Three Ducks Lake and Beaver Lake, claimed that this was the biggest gold rush since the "49ers" of California and the Klondike rush of 1896.
The largest gold mine in the Shining Tree area, The Ronda Mine, near Michiwakenda Lake, was opened in 1939 with $6,000,000.00 invested in it, a huge sum for that period of time. By that time, with the discovery of gold and several lumber camps operating nearby, the population of the Shining Tree area swelled to over 900 residents. A large hotel and rooming house was constructed in 1930 on the lakeshore where Three Bears Camp is now located, and numerous log cabins could be found on the west arm of the lake.
In 1942, most of the mines were closed due to World War II. That same year, the hotel burned down. If one was to look carefully, the remains of some log cabins and mine shafts can still be found around the lake shores in the area.
The first tourist camps opened in the mid 40's and early 50's. The Department of Highways took over maintenance of the roads in 1954. By then, the population had reduced to the current 40 or so permanent residents. The economy is now supported by tourism and forest products rather than gold. In 1963, a Hydro electric power line was extended into the area and that same year a new public school was constructed.