The Township of Dowling was established in 1885 and was named in honour of John F. Dowling, M.P.P. for Renfrew-South. One of the first settlers to the area was W.O. Wilson, a railway employee.
Wilson built one of the first homes in Dowling Township in 1891 and over the years, became involved in the lumber industry. Wilson ran a sawmill, called McCleary's Mill, on the property of James McCleary Sr. in the early 1900's. In 1911, Wilson moved his sawmill to Rib Lake, where it remained for only one year before being moved to Old Larchwood. In 1906, John Dixon from Sudbury had established the first sawmill in Old Larchwood. When Dixon's mill burned down, Wilson purchased the remains of the mill and relocated his mill to that site. With the straightening of the railroad line in 1913, Wilson built a new, larger mill in New Larchwood to make it easier for him to ship his timber to other destinations along the railway.
Before the 1900's, five or six other families also settled in the area. They were all of Scottish heritage. These pioneers cleared the land and sent the fallen timber to the sawmills by rail. After burning the remaining stumps, they started to farm the land. French settlers were the next group to move to the area and they also took part in farming and lumbering.
The township started to grow as relatives and friends of the early settlers came to the area. These individuals and families got involved in the lumber industry and later, in mining when the Errington and Mond Nickel mines were established.
Life in the rugged north was difficult for the settlers. The railroad was the only thing connecting them to other communities and the markets therein, which meant that for the most part, they were forced to survive on their own. This was a challenge for all of these pioneers as they came to Dowling Township from places like the Ottawa Valley and Quebec, where communities were well-established and "civilized".
Early children were educated at home by their parents in the evenings, after the day's chores had been completed. Since many of the adults had little education themselves, they could hardly be expected to provide their children with a proper education. It wasn't until 1905 that the Township of Dowling received its first school, thanks to the efforts of many of its locals. The school was built northeast of Vermilion Lake and was well-attended. It was joined in 1913 by P.S.S. #1 Dowing, Creighton, and Fairbanks.