Hearst, Ont, incorporated as a town in 1922, population 5090 (2011c), 5620 (2006c). The Town of Hearst is situated in the Cochrane District of northeastern Ontario on the Mattawishkwia River, 260 km northwest of TIMMINS. The town owes its founding to the construction of the NATIONAL TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILWAY. First called Grant, it was here where the last spike for the railway was driven in 1913. The Algoma Central and Hudson Bay Railway (later ALGOMA CENTRAL RAILWAY) arrived the following year. The National Transcontinental opened up this area, the western extremity of the Great Clay Belt, to agriculture and logging. The name was changed to honour Sir William HEARST, who promoted the community by establishing an experimental farm there in 1917.
Because a significant percentage of its population was drawn from Québec, in 1939 the town was designated the seat of the Roman Catholic bishopric of Hearst. In 1953 Hearst became the centre of French-language higher education in the area with the establishment of Séminaire de Hearst (now Collège Universitaire de Hearst), which since 1963 has been an affiliate of LAURENTIAN UNIVERSITY at Sudbury. Today the population remains predominantly French-speaking.
A regional service and education centre (there is also a campus of Collège Boréal), Hearst's industrial base has expanded from lumber to secondary wood products. Tourism is a growing industry; the area is known for outdoor pursuits: hunting (particularly moose), fishing, canoeing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Hearst is also the destination of the Algoma Central Railway tourist excursion (Tour of the Line) from SAULT STE MARIE.