Pearl Margaret Cochenour (née Green) was Red Lake's first registered nurse and one of the first women of European descent to take up permanent residence. Her husband William's and brother-in-law Edward's mine produced more than $45 million in gold, and several facilities around Red Lake, including the incorporated municipality of Cochenour, are named in their honour.
Pearl Margaret Green was born on May 28, 1886, in Goderich, Ontario. She was the second of four surviving daughters born to George Green and Sarah McIntyre. Her grandparents immigrated to Canada from Scotland and Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century. Throughout Margaret's childhood and early adulthood, the Green family relocated frequently, settling in Simcoe, Ridgeburn, London, and Hamilton, where she met her future husband.
Around the time he met Margaret, William Mellis Cochenour ran a general store in Dundas. Like many other men at the turn of the century, Bill and his brother, Ed, participated in several mining booms across the Timiskaming District, hoping to strike it rich. They'd prospected in Porcupine, Kirkland Lake, Elk Lake, and Gowganda but had yet to reap their rewards. After Lorne Howey and his group discovered their first nugget of gold in Red Lake in 1925, Howey personally informed the Cochenour brothers before the news reached the press.
In 1926, Margaret followed Bill to Red Lake. At the time, the trip from the nearest train station took one to two weeks and could be made on foot, by sled, or by canoe, as Margaret did, owing to the melted winter ice. While Margaret is credited with being the area's first registered nurse (she graduated from Toronto General Hospital in 1910), there is little evidence that she did much formal nursing in Red Lake. Other women may have worked as nurses for short periods in the early days of the settlement; Margaret was simply the first RN—and most likely the first women of European descent—to live in Red Lake permanently.
Margaret and Bill were married in January 1928 in Toronto. "I married Bill because he was the most interesting man I'd ever met," Margaret explained to a friend. The couple had no children and were extremely content. They spent their winters in Toronto and their summers in Red Lake; the cabin they built in 1928 is still standing and is rentable as a vacation home.
With the help of Dan Willans, Bill and Ed established Cochenour-Willans Mines in April 1932. While Bill's geologic knowledge contributed to the mine's success, Margaret's inheritance was instrumental in its construction. Most of Margaret's daily tasks involved assisting her husband with mine operations, such as travelling to inspect new machinery. Their mine poured its first brick in February 1939; unfortunately, Margaret suffered from a stroke that same day.
Margaret died in Toronto on July 16, 1942, aged 56, from a cerebral hemorrhage. She is buried in Hamilton's Grove Cemetery alongside her family. Bill died on December 9, 1964, in Toronto and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. According to their friends, "the Cochenours were conservative in their manner and in how they lived. They refused to live in opulence, and they were sparing in affording themselves any luxury." The Cochenours bequeathed $1.5 million to the Red Lake Hospital, later renamed the Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital. They also established a trust fund in the area, and funds are still donated to improve health and recreation in Red Lake.
The information and pictures were generously provided by the Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre