Sudbury Region Logging at Wahnapitae in the Late 1800s – by Gary Peck

Often ignored when our past is discussed, logging was a very significant part of our economy during the area’s formative years. Today, we’ll examine one logger’s account of what camp life was like in the Wahnapitae area before the dawn of this century.

The story begins with our logger leaving Toronto Union Station, bound for the North. From North bay, he traveled 87 miles to Wahnapitae on the CPR. Twelve miles northeast of Wahnapitae was his bush or camp and the site of his narration.

In the camp was to be found 75 men – all “jolly good -natured fellows, with well-filled ‘turkeys’ (bags containing their belongings).” Of the 75, about 30 were in charge of teams while the rest, with the exception of three waiters and one cook, were loaders.

Three main buildings constituted the camp – a long one-room log house, a cook house and a stable. A large wood stove heated the log house that was about 50 feet wide and 60 feet long. Down the centre of the room were two tables where everyone had his own place during meals. These places could not be changed without the permission of the “push” or foreman.

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Over Forty Died in the 1910 Spanish River Train Tragedy – Gary Peck

What was termed at the time the worst accident in the history of the CPR took place about 1 p.m. on Friday, January 21, 1910. The disaster occurred about 37 miles west of Sudbury on the Soo line of the CPR at the bridge crossing the Spanish River.
Coroner Howey, on instructions from Attorney – General Boy through Crown Attorney J.H. Clary, had a jury summoned for 10 a.m. January 26. The jury consisted of John McLeod (foreman), J.R. Bissett, R. Martin, F.M. Stafford, D. Blue, John Higgins, C. Carmichael, D.L. Burns, S. Jessop, H.S. Young, W. Chalmers, L. Laforest, O Tuvor and D. McDonald.
Upon being sworn in, the jury viewed the body of one of the victims. Subsequently, they were taken by a special train to the scene of the wreck.  

After several days deliberation, the jury in February reported their verdict and recommendations. They concluded that the derailment was “…caused by the forward truck of the first-class car leaving the track, and plunging over the embankment, followed by the dining and sleeping car; also causing derailment of the second-class car.” However, they were unable to determine the cause of the derailment.

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Encouraging Smelter Plans Dashed by Lack of Support Outside Village of Sudbury – by Gary Peck

Some 85 years ago, quite a stir probably was created in the village of Sudbury with the announcement of the Sudbury Customs Smelting Company. In February 1892, the company, after considerable initial discussion, was proclaimed; yet by the end of April the initial excitement had turned to disappointment.
The Sudbury Customs Smelting Company, according to the prospectus, had a provisional board consisiting of James Commee, MPP, president; A.J. Macdonnell, treasurer; James Stobie, vice-president; Alfred Merry, consulting chemist; W.J. Skynner, secretary.
The directors, many from Sudbury, included James McCormick, Stephen Fournier, R.B. Struthers, MD, James A. Orr, Has B. Hammond, D. O’Connor, Frank Cochrane, D.T. Flannery, A. Hoffman Smith, J. McCormick, C.J. Kettyle, Charles Jessop, Rinaldo McConnell, of Mattawa, J.R. Gordon, of Toronto; C. Gordon Richardson, of Toronto, and Wm. McVittie of Whitefish. 

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Guide Book Issued for 1939 Royal Tour Includes Northern Ontario Sites – Gary Peck

Today when many travel often, it is with an array of brochures outlining the  points of interest one should note during the trip. Certainly, this is not a new phenomenon. In 1939, Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth traveled across Canada. For the use of the Royal visitors, their entourage and others, Canada’s two transcontinental railways compiled a guide book. Extracts from the account are of interest for a variety of reasons including the way in which sites along the route were described.

On May 23, it was anticipated the train would pass “through a land of great rock hills and tall pines, the railway wanders through deep cuts on its approach to Romford, seven miles east of Sudbury, on the main transcontinental line, and the train, on arrival at Sudbury, has traversed one of the finest sporting regions of Canada”. Suffice to say, the sporting regions described in glowing terms were, among others. Parry Sound, Point au Baril and French River.

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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.

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Early Mining schools in Sudbury and Copper Cliff – Gary Peck

During the 1890s, there was considerable interest in the establishing of mining schools in Ontario. One of the early promoters was James Commee, MPP for Algoma. Offering support was James Orr, editor of the Sudbury Journal, who argued for the locating of a mining school in Sudbury. The town did not quite receive the school desired, but in 1894 this area hosted two summer schools.

In the session of the legislature in 1894, $2,000 was appropriated for the purpose of organizing Summer Mining Schools in the northern districts of Ontario. Work for this undertaking was assumed by the School of Practical Science, University of Toronto, with the pilot summer schools in 1894 located in the communities of Copper Cliff, Sudbury and Rat Portage, with the later established after the Copper Cliff and Sudbury schools.
When advertised locally, the caption read, “Summer School for Prospectors, Miners and Others interested in mining.” On Friday evening, July , at 8 o’clock, there was a meeting at the public school in Sudbury.

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Great War Proved Need for Ontario Refinery – Gary Peck

With the First World War, in Canada there was considerable agitation over what was coined the “Nickel Question.” One of the problems that arose pertained to the refining of nickel in Canada. For some, it may have been regretted that our nickel industry was controlled by foreigners. However, for a variety of reasons, it was argued that the refining at least should occur in Canada.

By the outbreak of The War, the necessity of nickel for modern warfare was established. Nickel was necessary for automobile parts, cartridge cases, bullet coverings, heavy ordnance, rifle barrels and armour-plate. Of course, its value was recognized by all of the then major powers. Canada had the new materials that in 1890, were mined by two foreign-owned companies. Yet, if the refining continued outside Canada, this country and the province of Ontario had no control over the ultimate destination of “the product”.  For some, this was not satisfactory.

Evidence suggests that on numerous occasions federal and provincial governments had examined and indeed promoted the refining of nickel in Canada. In 1886, a committee of the House of Commons refused to report a bill authorizing the Canadian Copper Company (C.C. Co.) of Ohio to operate in Canada until its promoters indicated that they would build a refinery.

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O’Donnell Roasting Yard Significantly Cut Down the Sulphur – Gary Peck

At the onset it became evident to the pioneer companies that the ores of the Sudbury district should not be direct smelted. The grade of mate produced was usually quite low resulting in too heavy a strain on the converters. Also with the sulphur content so high, it was imperative that it be driven off. Hence recast yards were required.

The summer of 1888 saw the Canadian Copper Company firing its first roast heap. This was but five years since the ores had first been exposed near what became known as Murray Mine. Then mechanization was not the norm with the ore brought to the Copper Cliff beds by wheelbarrows.

By 1912, there were three roast yards within a mile of Copper Cliff. With as many so close to the town, it was virtually impossible for the vegetation and the inhabitants to escape the sulphur atmosphere. However, 1915 saw plans under way for the establishment of beds in an area distant from the community.

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The Sorry Saga of the H.H. Vivian Company-Gary Peck

The arrival of the H.H. Vivian Company was preceded by its reputation. Enthusiasm must have been present in Sudbury for an operation hailing from Wales recognized the nickel worth of this area. The future looked good for the small town in New Ontario. Yet, the local expectations never were met. Disappointment would accompany failure, particularly when so much had been expected. However, its origins, development, and ultimate failure constitute an interesting tale.

The Murray Mine, familiar to so many over the years, would be the main mine for the H.H. Vivian Company’s Sudbury operations. Though accidentally discovered by Dr. Harvey, and on another occasion by Thomas Flanagan, only on February 25, 1884, would there be an offer to purchase the site. At the price of one dollar an acre, 310 acres would come under the control of four non-residents – Thomas and William Murray of Pembroke, Henry Abbott of Brockville, and John Loughrin of Mattawa. In 1899, Murray Mine, located on the north half of lot one, concession four of McKim, was purchased by the Welsh company.

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Silvermans Linked to Sudbury’s Rich Jewish History – Gary Peck

The Atlantic has served as a favorite, well-travelled route for the pioneer who cast his eyes westward. For numerous reasons, some more obvious than others, Canada and the United States have attracted their share with Canada alone settling over three million newcomers in the years 1896-1914. In 1906, Lord Strathacona, formerly Donald Smith of the CPR, predicted a population of at least 80 million by the end of the twentieth century – the century Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier boasted belonged to Canada. It was a time of optimism.

Prior to the wave of newcomers associated with the Laurier years, 1896-1911, the Silverman’s of Poland traversed the Atlantic, landing in New York. Three brothers – Aaron, Myer and Miram – soon would reach Algoma district and make Sudbury their home.
Aaron Silverman had been in his early teens when he arrived in New York. Employment in a clothing factory terminated when the factory closed. Soon he would be in Algoma district.

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Dynamite’s Successor Tested at the Copper Cliff Elsie Mine – Gary Peck

It combines all the elements of dynamite as an explosive as well as many other laudable features. It is safe to handle and needs the action of heat, flame and concussion to ignite it. One can even pound it with a hammer or rub it with sandpaper without fear. As well, it will not freeze under 25 degrees below zero nor is it affected by water or weather.

 Finally, no noxious gases will be emitted underground to slow down work and perhaps overcome the miner.  Such were the claims of a company in 1901 developing a new explosive to replace dynamite. Of interest is the little-known fact that the first Canadian plant was built in Sudbury.

The new explosive was of Russian origin, having been invented by Count Sergius Smollinoff.

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When the Worth of Sudbury Rocks was Being Known – Gary Peck

In the spring of 1894 the Provincial Mining Association of Ontario met in Sudbury. The meeting was afterwards described as, to that time, the largest and most successful ever held. Suffice to say, the meeting provided an opportunity for all to focus attention of the mining potential of the area. Today we’ll examine the Nickel Range in some detail.

 At that time the full extent of the Nickel Range was not known. Yet, the nickel-bearing belt was felt to be about 70 miles in length, extending from Lake Wahnapitae in a southwesterly direction along the Vermillion and Spanish Rivers. The width was described as irregular with it being wider at both ends and narrower in the middle where the main line of the CPR crossed it. Deposits were scattered throughout the range.

In Denison township, southwest of Sudbury, there was a regular series of approximately a dozen large ore beds on one ridge. This extended eastward into Graham township as a vein system. Prospectors referred to the rich nickel deposit as a “red hill” based on the color of the surface capping of gossan. It was the ambition of the prospector to make such a find.

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The Discovery of Sudbury Nickel was Accidental – Gary Peck

The discovery of ore in the Sudbury area is one worthy of recording for in many ways its discovery was both accidental and initially at least, unappreciated.

 In 1856, A.P. Salter, provincial land surveyor was involved in survey work in the area. While running the meridian line north of Whitefish Lake, he noted a deflection on his compass needle. This occurred in the area between present – day Creighton and Snider townships. He reported to Alexander Murray, a geologist with the Geological Commission. Murray visited the area, took samples, and wrote a report; however, in 1856 little interest was generated given the inaccessibility of the area. Significantly, the samples were taken about 200 yards west of Creighton mine. Creighton mine was rediscovered in 1886 and in 1901 the Canadian Copper Company began operation there.

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Many Challenges for Early Sudbury Prospectors – Gary Peck

Previously it was noted that the lot of a Sudbury prospector was one beset with many difficulties. A. Hoffman Smith, a resident of Sudbury since 1883, had stated in 1894 that Algoma was the most difficult area in North America to prospect.

Having already examined some of the actual problems associated with locating a site, today we will discuss the difficulties associated with securing a site and conclude with a discussion of what, to two early pioneers, was the ideal prospector.

Once a site had been located, a prospector had to secure the prospect. Unfortunately the central office was over 300 miles distant in Toronto. On occasion, his affidavits and applications, once they had arrived, might remain unrecognized for weeks.

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Early Problems for Sudbury Prospectors – Gary Peck

During the 1890s many Sudbury prospectors were upset with recent provincial legislation that proposed to levy a royalty on nickel production. In 1894, A. Hoffman Smith, a resident of Sudbury since 1888, forcefully expressed his criticism of the legislation. At the same time he discussed in some detail the life of a prospector. It is his views regarding prospecting that will be examined today.

 It was the contention of Smith that Algoma was the most difficult area in North America to prospect. Isolation was a problem, there being no trails or roads and pack horses couldn’t be used to the extent they were in British Columbia.

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