Copper Cliff Courier at Century Dawn Described Community Enthusiastically – Gary Peck

At the turn of the century, residents of Sudbury could turn to one newspaper for local news. The Sudbury Journal, under James A. Orr, had published continuously since 1891. Over the years competition had appeared in the form of The Star and the Sudbury News, yet neither was still operating by 1900. However, the monopoly was to be challenged in 1902 from afar – namely Copper Cliff.

On a Saturday in early March, 1902, the Copper Cliff Courier made its initial appearance. At the time it was described by the Journal as being “a seat five-column of quarto, well-printed”. It contained a “good list of advertisements” and proposed to be independent in politics. The Courier, published and edited by J.T. Pratt and sold for $1.00 a year, had its office on Main Street, Copper Cliff.

Few copies of the Courier appear to have been saved with a special 1903 issue being the one that appears most frequently. In that particular issue can be found community news with the new smelter of the Canadian Copper Company being a major feature.

With Enthusiasm

Suffice to say, Copper Cliff was described enthusiastically by the writer. In 1903 one could discern in Copper Cliff several miles of “first-class sidewalks” with most of the houses and stores painted. An area, known as Gorringe Square, recently had been terraced. The upper terrace, having been seeded, was a pleasing terrace, while on the lower terrace could be found three tennis courts and a croquet lawn.

The costs for this improvement had been borne by the Canadian Copper Company.
By 1903, Copper Cliff had its new hospital, described as “a thing of beauty and a source of wonder to the visitor.” In the community it must have appeared as a formidable structure and source of pride.

All of these changes, the Courier writer emphasized, had occurred within the last two years.
However, it would appear the main local new item at that time was the erection of a new smelter plant in Copper Cliff, “the mere mention of which (excited) enthusiasm amongst employee and townsmen.”

A.P. Turner, President of the Canadian Copper Company, provided the residents of Copper Cliff with a description of the new smelter.

It would appear the new works were known as a gravity plant. This meant that the material entered at a high point and was carried down by gravity to the finished point.

The upper level of the new smelter was at a level of 910 feet (above sea level). It contained large bins that were 600 feet in length, 35 feet wide and 35 feet high. The tops of the bins would be at the 945 foot level and on top of the bins were standard gauge tracks. Over these the ore would be brought to the bins in drop bottom cars.

The furnace building 85 feet wide by 285 feet, and the power building, 100 feet by 100, were at the 875 foot level. The furnace, modern in design, had a capacity of 50 tons per day. The slag would be carted away in 30-ton cinder cars, furnace matte tapped into ladles and carried by electric crane to the Bessemer plant.

The engine room contained two large dynamos to furnish the power for the plant. As well, there were three 400 horsepower Babcock-Wilcox boilers for the steam plant and water purifying plant, condensers, pumps, etc. The dust chamber was 430 feet long, 16 feet wide and 30 feet high with a stack 210 feet high. These were essential for the removal of furnace gases.

The new complex was built of brick and steel with some of the brick supplied by the Lawson and Busby plant of Sudbury, with the remainder supplied by William Taylor and Son of Carleton Junction. The structural Steel was brought from Montreal while the stack was made of perforated radial fire brick coming from New York City. The bins, constructed of heavy timber, were erected by John Henry of Sudbury.

The construction of a major smelter in a community the size of Copper Cliff over 70 years ago was major news both for Copper Cliff and Sudbury. One can well envision the interest as the structure took shape. For both communities it would re-affirm their confidence in the area’s future and the mining industry in general. Had someone not had the foresight to save an old issue of The Courier, this interesting aspect of our history might have been more difficult to recount. 

Gary Peck is a retired Sudbury high-school teacher with a passion for history.