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MINING IN LANARK COUNTY

This undated, unsigned typescript was probably written for the Perth Historical and Antiquarian Society, about 1900.


Dr. Wilson seems to have been the only person who took much interest in the geology of the region about Perth. He came here, a young man fresh from college, in the early twenties. About that time the science of geology was battling for an existence, because of the view that many took of its interference with Bible history. The Doctor always kept in touch with the leading geologists, and corresponded with Sir Roderick Murchison, Hugh Miller, Prof. Agassiz and Lord Kelvin. He accompanied Sir William Logan on some of his surveys, and supplied him with much information, for which Sir William in his report sometimes gave him credit, and sometimes not. This led to a bitter feeling on the part of the Doctor towards Sir William, and also to Sterry Hunt for the same reason.

Dr. Wilson's practice led him over a large range of country. He took his hammer with him, and many a bag of stones was brought in for him by the farmers. Some of these he sent to the museum in Montreal, and they have since been removed with the rest of the collection to Ottawa.

What was to him his greatest discovery, was made on the farm of James Glenn. It is supposed the famous blueberry marsh was once a lake. The centre of it is depressed, and the hard ground surrounding it shows signs of ripple marks in thin strata from an inch or less to three inches in thickness. In these the Doctor thought he saw the trunks of fallen trees of a tropical climate. He traced palm trunks and the axis of their branches, and even the foliage. He took Mr. John Hart, then a young man, with him to show him the wonderful things he had discovered, but was disappointed that he could not see them with his eyes. He sent specimens ten feet high to Montreal, which were examined by experts and declared to be something, that translated means "first tracks", the tracks of some mammoth mollusc. The lines which he thought the tree trunks, being made by the shell of the creature, and the axis of the branches being the tracks, wiggles of the tail making the bark surface. When the letters came giving these explanations, he brought them to Mr. Hart very much disgusted at such views being taken of what he thought would make a revolution in geology. The samples have been carefully preserved embedded in plaster of paris, and framed. When Dr. Wilson left Perth to spend the rest of his days in Scotland, his specimens were stored in a warehouse of the Mathesons. After his death, Colonel Matheson gave them to the museum of the Collegiate Institute.

Sheriff Dickson lectured on geology for the benefit of the Mechanic's Institute. The books of Hugh Miller by this time were making a stir. "My Schools and Schoolmasters or The Story of My Education", written with the intention of benefitting the working classes of his own country, by one who was himself a stonemason, did much to make geology popular, and in this reference was made to the work of Dr. Wilson.

Early in the sixties phosphate of lime was mined in Burgess. Mr. Marshall of New York came and bought up lands, and brought with him Mr. Baker, who was a graduate of a college of mines in England. He made his home here till his death, having married Miss McMartin, daughter of Mr. Daniel McMartin, lawyer. Ever since then phosphate mines have been worked in this Township more or less. It is stated that some enormous prices have been paid for the lands on which there were thought to be deposits, but not only the mining rights, but the lands, were often bought outright. But as only a few of these mines turned out well, it was the usual story of more money being put in than value taken out.

Mr. Edward Schultze, who lived for a time on Wilson Street, owned and worked a phosphate mine in Burgess. He afterwards was made German Consul at Montreal. Mr. William Davis, well known to all of us, was for a long time interested in phosphate and mica. In the seventies Mr. Anthony and Mr. Alexander Cowan were successful miners of phosphate. The Hon. Peter McLaren and Mr. Arthur Meighen worked a property on Otty lake for some years with profit to themselves. The reason given for closing these mines was that the cost of freight to the markets -- England and Germany -- and competition with fertilizers from South America allowed no profit.

Mica was first found in Lanark County by Dr. Wilson. Marshall and Baker were the first men who worked the valuable Burgess mines. At that time the demand was limited to comparatively large sizes. After they had a considerable quantity out, no market could be found for it. On a visit to Philadelphia Mr. John Hart introduced it to a firm making gas shades, and through them the firm of Marshall & Baker made $3000 in one year. This introduction was afterwards worth $15,000 to them, but it was a case of "benefits forgot", for Mr. Hart received only scant thanks.

Mlica is nearly always found in the veins and bed deposits of phosphate of lime, but in the Baker mines it was free from phosphate, and in an extensive bed. The mines were closed because the large sizes of fine quality were exhausted, and there was only demand for such. Now, so many new uses have been found for it, that all the refuse lying around the mines and in town where it was stored and cut, have been gathered up and shipped. In electricity small pieces can be used. One use for scrap mica is as an insulator of steam heat, and to protect cold water pipes from frost. A company has been formed in Toronto called the Mica Boiler Covering Company, for its manufacture.

Poole, Mitchell and Aspden are names connected with these mines. Aspden bought a mine in Burgess and sold it at a profit of $1000. He lived for sometime on the third line of Bathurst, and afterwards in Nevis Cottage, then owned by Mrs. MacMillan. Mitchell came into possession of properties through judgments, and worked them to advantage for a time. He married Miss McPherson, of the Ferry Road, and lived here for many years. Poole was one of the many young Englishmen who were here for a time. Kenyon, of Otty Lake, is a graduate of a mining college, coming out to this country to manage one of the mines in the neighborhood, but later devoting himself to his farm. George Oliver, Senior, was long connected with the mines. Both phosphate and mica were mined on his farm.

The most important iron mine in the country [sic] is the Playfair mine in Dalhousie. Work was commenced in this mine in 1866, under the management of Alexander Cowan, who was part owner with The David Lawrence Company, Montreal, and Robison, of Newark, N.J. The work was continued for five years, employing an average of twenty-five men, and $10,000 worth of ore was shipped to Cleveland, Ohio. The principal reason for closing the mine was the cost of drawing the ore twelve miles to Perth. The ore was of such a good quality, that if there had been railway connections the work would have been continued, as the ore showed no sign of giving out. This ore is called Hematite, from the Greek, meaning blood. Associated with it is a chrome red that has been much used as a common paint in this locality. The macadamized road on the eighth line of Bathurst was covered with a coat of gravel from the mines, and for many years had a most sanguinary appearance. In connection with this mine, many will remember Gerald C. Brown, who was the local manager.

While in the Rideau Lakes region, mention should have been made of the graphite mill which was built there in 1872, and superintended by Mr. Rabb for three years. It was a two story building, 60 by 160 feet. The machinery was driven by a 25 horse-power engine. The chief supply of ore came from the farm of James King, and was also bought from people on the other side of the Rideau, but the latter was of a poor quality. The best quality of graphite was used for electro-typing, the second for lubricating, the next for pencils, and the poorer qualities for stove polish and foundry facings.

Lanark County is said to have as great a variety of minerals as can be found anywhere in the same area. Galena has been mined at Carleton and near Lanark, Quite an excitement was caused by gold being found in the streets of Lanark, and rubies and amethysts have been found in Burgess.