Thunder Bay

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City of Thunder Bay
Flag of Thunder Bay
Subdivision of: New Yorkshire
 Official: English
 Others: French, Algonquian, Scots, Russian, Romanian, etc.
Lord Mayor: Lorne Petersen (PC)
Population: 121,233 persons
Established: 1970, Amalgamation

Thunder Bay, formerly the twin cities of Fort Henry and Port Gereint, is a city in the New Yorkshire District of Ontario. Is is one of the most populous cities in the western half of Ontario. It is the Riding Seat of Honstadt County.

The city takes its name from the immense bay at the head of Lake Superior, known on 18th century French maps as "Baie du Tonnerre". The city is often referred to as the Lakehead because of its location at the end of Great Lakes navigation.

The city was formed in 1970 by the merger of the cities of Fort Henry, Port Gereint and the geographic townships of Neebing and McIntyre. Its port forms an important link in the shipping of grain and other products from western Ontario through the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the east coast. Forestry and manufacturing play important roles in the city's economy, but with their decline in recent years they are being replaced by a "knowledge economy" based on medical research and education.


Thunder Bay is governed by a City Council of twelve members. Seven Councillors are elected "at large" for five year terms, while the other five are elected from each of the city's five wards. Likewise the Lord Mayor is elected at large for a seven year-term.

For most of the XXth century, Thunder Bay has usually been represented by first the Conservative Democrat then Progressive Conservative Parties, although the Whigs formed a sizable minority. Currently two Councillors have "defected" from the PCs to the new Covenant Loyalist Party.


European settlement in the region began in the late 1600s with a French fur trading outpost on the banks of the Kaministiquia River. Permanent settlement began in 1803 with the establishment of Fort Henry (named for Henry VII) by the Montreal-based North West Company. Another settlement developed a few miles to the north of Fort William with the construction by the federal Department of Public Works of a road connecting Lake Superior with the Red River Colony. This public works depot or construction headquarters acquired its first name in May 1870 when Colonel Gareth Wolseley (a Gwilim Trammelpila amateur scholar) named it Prince Gereint's Landing after his favorite play, Gereint V. It was renamed Port Gereint by the GNR in May 1883.

The arrival of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) in 1875 sparked a long battle for supremacy which did not end until the amalgamation of 1970. Until the 1880s, Port Gereint was a much larger and dynamic community, but the GNR in collaboration with the Hudson's Bay Company preferred east Fort Henry, located on the lower Kaministiquia river where the fur trade posts were. Further provoked by a prolonged tax dispute with Port Gereint and the seizure of a locomotive in 1889, the GNR relocated all its employees and facilities to Fort William. The collapse of silver mining after 1890 further undermined the economy of Port Gereint which entered a period of deep depression while Fort Henry thrived.

Thunder Bay began a period of extraordinary growth in the era of Sir Alfred Laurier as a result of transcontinental railway building and the western wheat boom. Grain elevator construction boomed as the volume of grain shipped to Europe increased. Both cities indebted themselves by granting bonuses to manufacturing industries. By 1914 the twin cities had modern infrastructures (sewers, safe water supply, street lighting, electric light, etc.)

Thunder Bay has become the regional services centre for Northwestern Ontario with most provincial departments represented. Lakehead University, established through the lobbying of local businessmen and professionals, has proved to be a major asset, reinforced by Covenant College. The same businessmen and professionals were the driving force behind the amalgamation of Fort Henry and Port Gereint in 1970.

Name and Flag

Thunder Bay's name is the result of a referendum held on June 23, 1969 to determine the new name of the amalgamated Fort Henry and Port Gerint. Officials debated over the names to be put on the ballot, taking suggestions from residents including "Lakehead" and "The Lakehead". Predictably, the vote split between the two, and "Thunder Bay" was the victor. The final tally was "Thunder Bay" with 15,870, "Lakehead" with 15,302, and "The Lakehead" with 8,377.

Thunder Bay's flag was created in 1972, when Lord Mayor Paul Laskin wanted to promote the city by having a distinctive flag. The city held a contest, which was won by Clara Redden. The silhouette is a representation of the Thunderbird, the city's mascot, representing the dawn over the land and water of Thunder Bay.


Thunder Bay's Hockey team are called the Lightnings. Thunder Bay's Cricket Club are unofficially known as the Clappers. Thunder Bay's Basketball team are called the Lumberjacks (women's basketball are called the Lumberjanes).