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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Sault Ste. Marie’s Chicora Incident – An American/Canadian Border Incident– by Michael Barnes

Most  people know all about  the locks between the Canadian and American twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie. The waterways are good for trade.

But at one time the Soo locks were all on the American side. This ended with the opening of a lock to the north in 1895. Although not openly discussed, one the most important reasons for building a Canadian lock had its roots in an event which took place a quarter century before.

As Canada became a country with Confederation in 1867, a giant firm had to change its way of doing business.The Hudson’s Bay Company could no longer operate as if it were almost a feudal entity within Canada.

As the Bay gave up its huge land holdings in 1869, the action troubled the Metis people of the Red River in Manitoba. They feared their land would be taken up by new settlers.When they banded together under Louis Riel to establish a new government, a clash with Ottawa was inevitable.

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Ontario Gold is Where You Find It – by Michael Barnes

Famed prospector Don McKinnon, co-disoverer of the Hemlo gold fields north of Lake Superior is fond of an old axiom in the mining business.

He says simply that you look for gold where gold is said to be. This sounds like double talk to the uninitiated but actually the seemingly obvious statement makes a lot of sense.

Short of expensive diamond drilling, the location of gold in commercial quantity is anyone’s guess. So the best places to look for the elusive yellow metal are where it has been found before.

A few years ago, an up and coming Junior mining company with a Scots name, Pentland Firth, announced that it was taking another look at the Munro Croesus property off highway 101 east of Matheson.

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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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The Ghost from Haileybury – by Michael Barnes

The most popular series of books sold in Canada was the Hardy Boys. Most people recall Franklin W. Dixon as the author. But that was just a pen name given to ghost writer Leslie McFarlane from Haileybury.

Leslie McFarlane was 23 in 1926 when he answered an ad for a fiction writer.The young cub reporter, formerly of the Sudbury Star and Cobalt Daily Nugget, felt he had it in him to become a book writer but somehow could not get started.

The ad for a fiction writer was placed by an American, Edward Stratemeyer who operated a stable of writers who churned out pulp novels along certain lines and themes.

There have been several such outfits before and since but Strateymeyer was longer lived than most and covered all the bases. Writers like Leslie McFarlane were given an outline of the characters in a series and then a plot for one book.

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The Forgotten Northern Ontario Workers During the Great Depression – Michael Barnes

The economy isn’t exactly bouncing along these days but not much more than sixty years ago,it was down right flat. This was the time of the Great Depression, the lost years, when production in many industries in Canada and around the world came almost to a standstill.

There were few social umbrellas then. Help for the unemployed had to come from financial strapped communities and also the generosity of those who had a job.  

By and large the unemployed wanted to work and would take anything they could get rather than go on relief. This spurred the Province of Ontario to use its strained resources to salvage something from the funds expended on public assistance.

Between 1929 and 1932, overall employment fell by 32% in the province.

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Housing Came with the Job in Northern Ontario Mining Communites – Michael Barnes

In earlier years in the teaching game in Ontario, school boards were able to secure teachers because they were offered accommodation at either free or a cheap rate as part of the deal.

One young teacher had a house in an isolated community in 1956 for $30 a month. Now mind you it was not worth that much because it was cold, leaned in the wind and had no amenities, but at least the place to live was an incentive to take the job.

Big mining companies like Falconbridge and Inco in Sudbury offered their educators most pleasant living quarters. Many of these were for single men and women and  were known as teacherages. Actually there were places for other employees as well but none had a job specific name like those for teachers.

The mines in the smaller camps provided homes for many workers.

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Hockey and Mining Rivalry Between Cobalt and Haileybury – Michael Barns

Every Canadian knows something of the NHL. The National Hockey League dominates Canadian sports culture. But few likely know of the National Hockey Association, the forerunner of the now famous league.

Teams in this genesis of the NHL included the Renfrew Millionaires, so called because after all their biggest sponsor, M.J.O’Brien, was a millionaire many times over, the Montreal Wanderers and a team that has made a comeback in recent years, the Ottawa Senators.

In the heyday of Cobalt when the town was rich and booming, all the mines had their own hockey teams. Both Haileybury and Cobalt had teams in the National Hockey Association and had no trouble finding corporate sponsors among the many big firms represented in both towns.

The silver town had a real Stanley Cup contender. This was the Cobalt Silver Kings. Although the players gave their all on the ice in association play, the fiercest battles were reserved for games with the Haileybury squad.

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Cobalt: A Mine was Something to Fall Back On for MJ – Michael Barnes

Most people have never heard of M J O’Brien- not in the north anyway. He died in Renfrew in 1940 and was one of Canada’s richest men. But in 1903 he made a deal at the King Edward hotel in Toronto which made him more money and created much work in the silver town of Cobalt.

O’Brien was born in the Ottawa Valley in 1851. He started off as a water boy on big construction projects and ended up owning countless big companies. He made his money through careful research and driving hard bargains. His real money came from railways and lumbering.

In 1903 the heavy set, black bearded magnate from Renfrew heeded some advice from his friend, Robert Borden, then leader of the Opposition in Pariament. Borden put him onto a lawyer who who had some business ideas.

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Roy Thomson’s Timmins Adventures – Michael Barnes

All millionaires have to start somewhere. After chubby,ambitious Roy Thomson started his first radio station on a shoestring in North Bay, his attention turned to the bustling Timmins-Porcupine area.

The hard luck,hustling salesman came to Timmins in the early thirties and worked to open a radio station.No one would loan him any money but he found an ally in J.P. Bartleman.

The insurance salesman thought a radio station would be a good thing and he rented the newcomer space in a building of his in the seamier part of town.

Thomson’s long suffering engineer cobbled together the parts for broadcast output and fell foul of the law until his tight fisted boss paid union dues. The new station started with a piano and a few records. Even the sole announcer became fed up with playing ‘In a Monastery Garden’ several times a day because the discs were scarce.

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The Great Clay Belt Hoax – Michael Barnes

During the nineteen twenties and thirties the province of Ontario and its northern railway perpetuated a cruel hoax on unsuspecting settlers they had persuaded to come north for a new life.

The public relations ploy which set in motion this series of events was totally irresponsible but it was never widely exposed. Those who suffered because of it are mostly widely dispersed or dead now. The sense of injustice remains.

When Ontario bowed to pressure and built the railway north from North Bay in 1902, it was solely to transport settlers and open up the country. This was only changed when silver was found at Cobalt.

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The Virginiatown Bank Robbery – Michael Barnes

Kerr Addison Mine was one of the great elephants of Canadian gold mining. In the trade this simply means it had been a giant producer since the mine first started turning out mill feed in the mid-thirties.

The prospect of gold produced in bullion form excites both honest and criminal minds alike. While most of us like to dream about the precious yellow metal, some take positive action to acquire it.

In the mid-sixties a bullion shipment from the mine was hijacked at the Larder Lake station by Quebec underworld figures. On December 21st 1972 thieves struck again, this time with the mine payroll as the star attraction.

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Some Kind of Damn Metal in Cobalt – Michael Barnes

When railway contractors found traces or ore along the tracks at mile 101 north of North Bay in 1903, they did not know what they had. Fred LaRose said it was some kind of damn metal. But what? They needed a rock doctor to figure it out.

In modern day Cobalt, just around the corner from the Lang Street hotel, on a dead end, there is a monument to the man who ‘read the story of the rocks’. Few people have heard the story of the moonlighting geologist it remembers, but without him, well, let’s just say Cobalt would have been a lot slower to develop.

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Michael Barnes Columns – An Introduction

In addition to publishing 50 books, Michael Barnes has written many columns on the history of northern Ontario. Even today, this is a region of Canada that is not well known across the country. With Michael Barnes’ permission, the Republic of Mining will be posting these columns on this site so a new digital generation …

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Michael Barnes – The Godfather of Northern Ontario History-Stan Sudol

Michael BarnesFor someone who has been retired since 1989, Michael Barnes has no intention of slowing down.

The author of 50 books and counting, most about Northern Ontario, Barnes has had a long and varied career that included a bus conductor, a bush cook in Ramsey, and a beer thrower in Wawa.

He has also been a CBC freelance broadcaster and newspaper columnist, both for a time in Sudbury. But his “real job” was a public school teacher and principal working in locations across the north and finally ending up in Kirkland Lake.

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