White River, Winnie the Pooh’s birthplace

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

26 thoughts on “White River, Winnie the Pooh’s birthplace

  1. Hi, Christie, how are you today? 🙂 It’s amazing how Winnie-the-Pooh has become a household name. We often read Milne’s books too, but I very much want to see the “Goodbye Christopher Robin” and the true story about the real-life Christopher Robin and his father, a screenwriter and novelist by trade. Thanks for sharing, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Their local pamphlet claims to be the coldest place in Canada, but I guess they meant the extreme temperatures recorded here were reported more often than other stations. I’m thinking it may be the reason why it was originally named Snowbank🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, dear Winnie the Pooh – I have many books of this little bear (some in English and others in Afrikaans, my home language). But I never knew where Winnie came from (well, I knew it must have been somewhere overseas), but thanks to your post, now I know!

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    1. I guess Winnie has to be shared😊 between the provinces of Winnipeg, and Ontario, and UK, where the author of the book was from. We saw two black bears in our trip up North, and one was a little cub. He jumped in front of our car unexpectedly, it took us by total surprised. Luckily we were driving slow, I thought it’s a dog at first glance, he was running so fast!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Totally, that is advisable, always be safe😊 We’ve had a couple of long hikes in the woods, but have not encountered any. I got scared by some shades a coupe of times, but they turned out to be other hikers LOL
        Due to this summer wildfires, lots of bears came down to southern areas looking for food. Hopefully they got their habitat back in the wilderness.

        Liked by 1 person

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