It’s not a name that stands out in the annuls of Canadian history, but in his lifetime he mapped an astounding 3.5 million square kilometres of wilderness. Thompson is widely regarded as the greatest land geographer ever. In 1835, at the ripe age of 65, David Thompson arrived in the Bancroft area. For thousands of years, the region was a hunting and harvesting area for Canada’s First Nations Peoples. Vast, complex waterways were primary trade routes, navigated by the voyageurs and couriers du bois upon their arrival to the new land.
By the 1850s, the County of North Hastings was surveyed and the Hastings Road built. Land was divided into 100-acre lots, advertised in Great Britain for “free” to brave souls willing to agree to a few simple, yet back-breaking conditions: Clear and cultivate twelve acres; Erect a log-house; Settle for a minimum of four years. Two young, well educated gentlemen from England answered the call – James Cleak and Alfred Barker. Despite no inclination for the hard labour of clearing the land, both somehow succeeded in fulfilling the con- ditions. As a reward, Mr. Barker nominated himself to be the first Clerk of the combined townships of Faraday and Dungannon. Mr. Cleak, became the first Postmaster of the settlement area, then named York River. Yet is was the arrival of an energetic, extroverted Senator with a reputation as a “closer” of large land deals in various town- ships that served as the true beginnings of modern day Bancroft. Billa Flint persuading a number of skilled tradesmen to move to York River, building the prosperity of the town and his considerable influence in it. So powerful was Mr. Flint that he succeeded in getting the town renamed Bancroft, which just happened to be his wife’s maiden name. For decades the trains transported both people and goods to Bancroft, a much better option than traversing the rocky and bumpy roads. In December 1904, Bancroft was incorporated as a village. Lumber was the main enterprise of the time, anchored by Bronson and Weston Lumber Company establishing its headquarters in the area.