The story began on August 24th, 1914, when a small black bear cub was orphaned by a hunter, and brought to the Canadian Pacific Railway Train Station in White River, Ontario.
Founded by the CP Rail in 1885, as an important stop over for all trains, the place was originally known as Snowbank. With the completion of the Trans-Canada Highway in 1961, the little town has developed into a booming full-service community, being renamed White River. It is said to be one of the coldest places in Canada, but truly it’s best known for being the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh.
These rail trails witnessed back on August 24th, 1914 how a little black bear cub was sold to a young officer, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, a Canadian Army Veterinarian attached to the 34th Fort Garry Horse Regiment from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who happened to be in a troop train bound for Val Cartier, Quebec, which stopped on this particular day at the CPR Station.
Lieutenant Harry Colebourn noticed the young bear cub and purchased it from the trapper for $20, naming it Winnie, after his hometown Winnipeg. The cute and playful bear cub became the mascot of the 34th Fort Garry Horse regiment and accompanied them overseas to England. When Harry Colebourn received orders to go to the front lines in France, he left Winnie in the care of the London Zoo. Eventually, after the war, in 1919, the bear was officially donated to the Zoo.
At the Zoo, Winnie captured many hearts with her charismatic personality, and ability to interact with humas. Two of her biggest admirers were Christopher Robin Milne, and his father, the author A. A. Milne. Christopher nicknamed the bear Winnie the Pooh, and soon after Milne began writing stories about the adorable bear, using his son’s stuffed toys as inspiration for the characters of Winnie’s friends.
Winnie entertained visitors to the London Zoo for almost 20 years, but lives on in the hearts of children of all ages.
It was 1988 when White River residents discovered that Winnie was originally from White River and proclaimed its status as the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh, celebrating this way the Winnie’s Hometown Festival every third weekend in August.
Tip(s) of the day:
- White River is a great stop along Trans-Canada Hwy 17 to either fill your tank, take a lunch, or have a picnic in Winnie the Pooh Park;
- If it happens to be there on the third weekend of August, be prepared to spend the whole weekend enjoying various fun-filled activities;
- If you see a black bear in the wild Algoma Country, there is a good chance that it’s genetically related to the original Winnie. This region has about 40 to 60 black bears per 100 square kilometres, and probably none of them are nice and gentle as Winnie.
~ visited in August 2021