In the 1870's many villages were created in Northern Ontario, then called New Ontario. The settlers were attracted by the abundant resources and the promise of 100 acres of free land if they settled in the 'wild lands'. The arrival of so many people led to the construction of many rough colonization roads, many of which later became highways.
By the 1870's Canadian politicians sought to build an east-west railway, something British Columbia demanded before it would join Canada. So in 1881 the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) started its westward expansion from Bonfield, Ontario. The CPR could not build around the southern edge of Lake Nipissing due to engineering difficulties. With this in mind, the CPR’s Chief Engineer, Sir Sanford Fleming, ordered his subordinates to “choose what route you please, but you must reach the North shores of Nipissing.”
North Bay’s position as a transportation hub made it crucial to the development of Ontario, by linking the south and east with the north. It was also a key factor in the growth of Canada, as linking sea to sea helped Canada 'win the West' by incorporating British Columbia and the Prairie Provinces.