A guest blog about an early and significant mining enterprise that only lasted four years.
WHEN RESEARCHING some of the early mining histories in the Ottawa Valley, I came across the beautiful sketches of the Hematite Mine by A.M. Edmonds that illustrate this blog post. They were fascinating to me because I had never heard of the Hematite Mine. I quickly suspected that this mine and the Haycock Mine in Cantley, Qc were one and the same because the Haycock Mine was the only one I knew that had a horse-drawn narrow-gauge railway - but I had no idea the scope of that railway system. It turned out that it was indeed the Haycock Mine.
I contacted Margaret Phillips, the President of Cantley 1889, to ask if she was familiar with the sketches and she put me in touch with Wes Darou, who shared with me an article he had written on the subject of both the mine and the sketches. I asked if he would allow me to post it here, as a guest blog and he readily agreed.
His captivating article tells the little-known tale of a monumental endeavour that fails in very short order, ruining the lives of its enterprising owner, and the tragic end of the man who sketched it. Enjoy!
Cantley’s Iron Mine: A Moving Exploration
Up The Gatineau, v41, pp 46-58; 2015-05-27
by Wes Darou (with permission)
FOR MANY WINTERS, I skied past an odd-looking hole in the rock just off the main trail at the Nakkertok Cross-Country Ski Club. The hole was at a strange angle and had a little path going into it. It bothered me for years.
In 2007, I finally asked the owner of a neighbouring lot, Steve Harris, about it. Steve replied that it might be a pit of the old Haycock Mine. He pointed me to a 1984 article about the mine in Up the Gatineau! by the now-retired University of Ottawa geology professor Dr. Donald Hogarth. When I contacted Dr. Hogarth, I learned that my mystery hole was indeed part of the Haycock Mine—its westernmost pit.
And so began my quest—my detective story—to uncover details about this remarkable 150-year-old piece of local history. It would end up taking me five years—visiting three different archives and maneuvering through bush, swamps and snow around the mine sites.
Dr. Hogarth and his graduate students surveyed the Haycock Mine area over a period of 20 years beginning in the 1970s. In 1978, he wrote the definitive article on the mine, summarized in the following paragraphs.
In 1865, George Austin, an Ottawa surveyor, discovered iron ore deposits on the border of Templeton and Hull townships, at a location that would eventually become part of Cantley. Austin shared the information with Sir William Logan, the director of the Geological Survey of Canada. Logan in turn visited the site for three days in 1866. He examined three deposits and wrote a report for the Survey. According to Dr. Hogarth, based on the report findings the deposits were “hardly one to incite a mining stampede.”
Edward Haycock first saw the site in 1872 while hunting partridge with one of his sons. He was so impressed that he bought the mineral rights for 200 acres and lumber rights for 300 acres. He sent an ore sample to Dr. Otto Wurth in Pittsburgh and was told, “The ore, if uniform, would produce a Bessemer pig of unsurpassed quality.”
Not satisfied with the unenthusiastic report from the Geological Survey, Haycock sought a second opinion from a highly respected professor of geology from University College in Toronto, part of today’s University of Toronto. Chapman visited the site in 1872 and 1873 and estimated the size of the reserves at 6 million tons, an estimate which would turn out to be astoundingly inaccurate. In 1875, Dr. Alfred Selwyn, who had succeeded Logan as director of the Survey, stated that Chapman’s report was “entirely misleading.”
Edward Haycock was a notable figure. Born in Shrewsbury, England, in 1813, he was the son of a soap manufacturer and grandson of a famous architect. He immigrated to Canada in 1833 and married into wealth. He worked for the Great Western Railway and the Port Hope, Lindsay and Beaverton Railway. In 1859, he formed a company that would eventually obtain the contract to construct the East and West Blocks of the Parliament buildings. Haycock was well placed: apparently a friend of engineer and inventor Sandford Fleming and lawyer-politician John A. Macdonald, who was prime minister of Canada from 1867 to 1873 and 1878 to 1891.
Then as now, getting to the iron mine was an exercise. Sir William Logan wrote that it took a horse and buggy a half day to go from Ottawa to St. Elizabeth Road in what is today Cantley. Haycock wrote that it was a “rough ride of an hour and a half” to cover the last four kilometres to the deposit.
Since Haycock had substantial experience in railroads, building a tramway was probably a natural solution. Beginning in January 1873, he built a 10-kilometre narrow-gauge, horse-drawn railway, much of it on trestles. It started at a pier where today’s Gatineau Avenue meets the Gatineau River and then went north to the mine. At the same time, a road was built parallel to it so the horses could take empty ore-wagons back up to the mine without interfering with the loaded wagons coming the other way.
Although the road and the tramway both went over very rough terrain, the tramway had much steeper hills than the road. Dr. Hogarth pointed out to me that if they were hauling a wagonload of iron ore on the tramway, it was important that the route went downhill all the way. From the mine to the Gatineau River, the tramway slopes uniformly downhill. As for the road, it goes over hills that would not be too difficult for horses towing the empty wagons returning to the mine.
During Dr. Hogarth’s examination of the Haycock Mine in the 1970s, his team located the two main pits, seven minor pits, a drainage tunnel and a variety of installations needed to treat the ore. The site had even included a village of 3
00 people built to service the mine. Haycock had nicknamed it Hematite, after the type of ore the mine produced. Yes, in 1873, there was a village inside today’s Municipality of Cantley!
Building an industrial site in a remote area required great effort. In a 1909 report for the new federal Department of Mines, geologist Fritz Cirkel described the site as follows:
A number of dwelling houses, offices, storehouses, residence for manager, stables and a powder house were built and the property put in shape generally for work on an extensive scale. There were also built four charcoal kilns, a forge of four fires, in which some good blooms were made, a crusher house and all accessories for combined mining and smelting operations. … In addition to the above, a steam sawmill of 20 horsepower was erected, with all facilities for cutting timber and logs.
However, the mine stayed open for just four years, closing in 1875, having failed to acquire British financing. It had produced only 5 thousand tons of ore and 200 tons of manufactured iron for export. In the winter of 1878, the village of Hematite was burned out and never re-established. Edward Haycock died in 1894, insolvent as a result of having personally funded the mine. It was only in 1907, 13 years after his death, that the last debts from the mine were finally liquidated.
Why was this mine, built with so much effort, closed after only four years? First, Haycock unsuccessfully tried to finance the mine just as North America and Britain faced what became known as the “Long Depression” from 1873 to 1896. At the same time, the railway boom of the 1860s was over and iron was in a surplus. Dr. Hogarth speculates that if the mine had opened 20 years earlier, it could have been profitable.
Also, the size of the ore body had been grossly overestimated. Edward Chapman, Haycock’s consultant, had calculated that there were as much as 6 million tons of ore. In fact, there were at most only 6 thousand tons.
In addition, the ore, although rich in iron, was contaminated with titanium. This made smelting particularly difficult. The ore would have been of little interest to ironmongers and there were other iron deposits nearby that could be treated by less expensive methods.
My First Visit to the Site
BY 2010, I had collected a substantial amount of information from Dr. Hogarth, but, except for my unusual-looking hole in the rock, I had never actually seen the mine. With maps in hand, I set out to explore the site.
Snowshoeing there for the first time that winter, I unwittingly passed three of the smaller mine pits. This is not surprising; today the pits are mostly overgrown depressions in an already uneven landscape. Hogarth and his graduate students had mapped all nine. Just the same, it took me more than a year to find them, and I am still missing the location of one pit.
To help me find the mine pits, Dr. Hogarth provided me with a detailed map of the sites and other points of geology in the area. Whenever I had trouble finding something when I went out to explore the site, he would summon up precise directions from memory. He would say something like, “Look for the little northwest pit just south of the creek, a stone’s-throw from the trail, about halfway up the hill face.” This amazed me, considering he had done his work 40 years earlier.
The current owners—the Charette, Lafontaine and Van Wijk families—appreciate the historical importance of what they own and have gone to a lot of effort to protect this heritage. They have refused numerous opportunities to develop their land. They give access to geology students and skiers (but refuse snowmobilers and hunters). Without the ongoing stewardship of these families, there is a good chance the site would be a housing development today.
In 2013, I helped the Van Wijks purchase two new lots for the Nakkertok club. In addition to adding many kilometres of ski trails, this acquisition gave the club control over parts of both the Haycock Tramway and the Mine Road. I have since built a snowshoe trail for the club, which starts on the tramway and links to the vestiges of the road (and the network of Nakkertok snowshoe trails).
The appearance of Nakkertok’s Trail #1 had bothered me almost as much as that odd-looking hole in the rock. It looks old and unnatural in places. That, as it turns out, is because the trail follows parts of the Mine Road. The lower section of the road near the river has variously been named the Haycock Mine Road, Des Sables Street, Lamarche Road, and finally today’s Gatineau Avenue. At the north end, the rest of the road continues on several different tracks, but generally follows Trail #1. As you ski or walk along the trail you can see several spots where the road was long ago blasted, flattened and built up to lead it more gently to the mine site.
A highlight of my exploration of the area was a guided visit to the mine in October 2012, with Dr. Hogarth. The event was organized by Cantley 1889, the local historical society. It was a perfect fall day and about 100 people attended. We visited five of the nine pits, met the landowners, and received a good layman’s explanation of the geology.
Finding a Remarkable Sketchbook
DURING a random search of “Haycock Mine” at the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website, I stumbled upon another fascinating aspect of the mine. In 1935, the LAC had received the Haycock Family Fonds. Included in this acquisition was a book of sketches of the area around the mine, attributed to a certain A. M. Edmonds, with no first name specified.
I first saw the drawings in 2013, after booking an appointment with an archivist in Gatineau. We spent about an hour poring over the drawings. We were both almost teary-eyed over them—their beauty, how beat up they were, and how little we knew about the artist. I immediately recognized several of the locations, including the mine itself, today’s Gatineau Avenue and the Gatineau River (in one drawing originally misidentified by LAC as the Ottawa River). The drawings represent a precise, historical view of the mine, embedded in the historical context of Cantley and area.
The sketches tie together the mine, the tramway, and several other scenes of Cantley and Gatineau. Dating from 1873, they are beautifully crafted pen-and-pencil drawings. To the best of my knowledge, they are the earliest professional drawings of what is now known as Cantley.
It appears that LAC had not studied the sketchbook in detail until 1989. Their file study references an 1865 Ottawa Daily Citizen article reporting that Edmond’s drawings “are familiar to many in Ottawa.” I also learned that Edmonds won an award at the Upper Canada Provincial Exposition in 1863, for drawings of Ottawa Valley lumbering and that the Governor General of the day, Lord Dufferin, commissioned his works. Their files also show that at one time he was a teacher and a draftsman in Burnstown, Ontario, near Arnprior.
Edmonds’ sketches are quite well done. Sometimes he embellished things a bit. Hills became mountains, barnyards were prettier than they probably were, and horses looked a bit too strong and healthy. The LAC archivist speculated that since Edmonds had a commercial contract to produce promotional material for the mine, he might have taken some artistic liberties.
The LAC archives also contained several attractive maps of Canadian railroads signed by Edmonds. After completing the Haycock contract, he became a cartographer for the CPR and the Department of Railroads and Canals, a job he surely obtained courtesy of Haycock’s railroad connections. In 1884, he was an assistant to Sandford Fleming.
This discovery suggested to me that Edmonds must have been in Ottawa at some point, which led me to explore the Ottawa City Directories from 1880 to 1890. They did include Alfred M. Edmonds, which finally revealed his first name to me. He apparently lived alone in a series of downtown boarding houses.
There seemed to be little information about Edmonds before and after the 1870s and 1880s. By using various genealogical tools, I did find his death certificate, which also provided his birthplace—Bishopstone, Berkshire, England. “Jail” was the rather unsettling notation handwritten on this certificate.
I found the reason for this cryptic entry at the City of Ottawa archives, in an Ottawa Journal article dated February 28, 1893. It reported that Edmonds, “a pale, delicate-looking man,” was arrested on February 27 for “insanity.” He died eight months later at the age of 72 in the Ottawa Protestant Hospital, still a prisoner. According to a subsequent Ottawa Journal article dated November 25, 1893, the inquest’s coroner, Dr. Church, concluded that Edmonds had died of “natural causes and general debility.” In a rebuking aside, Dr. Church wrote that “jail was not a proper place to keep such a person.”
Then and Now
THE EDMONDS sketches allow us to see what Cantley and Gatineau looked like in 1872. It was no easy task for me to place all the drawings on the map.
There are two drawings of bridges, one titled “Bridge Above Padden’s Hill near Hematite Mine” and another titled “Great Bridge near Fraser’s.” After trying to locate the sites for these two structures, my daughter suggested to me that they were the same bridge—she had simply counted the number of supports. She was right, and its location was a creek that crosses Gatineau Avenue north of McDermott Street.
Some drawings were easier to identify. There is a rough sketch titled “Hotel – Thurso Wharf.” The building still exists, but with modern siding and chimneys. It is now an office of Plaisance Provincial Park. When I visited there, the park officials were delighted to see the drawing, because it gave them a model for making the old building secure.
Similarly, it is easy to recognize the drawing “Gatineau River from home of A. Wright, Esq. M.P.,” drawn from the east end of the Alonzo Wright Bridge, built in 1866. The view today is almost identical.
One sketch, “Farrell McGovern’s House, Etc.” gives a good view of the tramway. Locating this farm was not easy. In frustration, I googled “Farrell McGovern” and got a hit. He teaches engineering at Carleton University! It turned out that this Farrell McGovern is the great-grandson of the original farm owner. However, according to the land records, the present McGovern farm was three miles too far east. When Mr. McGovern checked with his mother, we learned that the McGoverns had moved to better land to the east in the 1880s. Ironically, after so much difficulty in finding the place, it turns out that I know the current owner!
There are two charming drawings of “Mrs. Darby’s Farm.” According to the land grants, Elizabeth Holmes Darby, a widow, settled the lot in 1865. Today, the former farm is on Dirk Van Wijk’s land, beside Nakkertok Trail #4. Dirk discovered an old foundation and stone fence that I was able to link to the Edmonds drawing.
Users of the Nakkertok club trails can now see some of these scenes. In 2014 I installed several interpretive plaques at Nakkertok, at the sites of the Darby Farm and the Haycock Tramway, using the Edmonds drawings as illustrations.
THE STORY of the Haycock Mine was one of irony and chagrin. It took incredible effort and resources to remove 5 thousand tons of ore in a mine that was worked for only four years. The village of Hematite burned down shortly after, and the tramway rotted away within 20 years. Finally, in the 1990s the Quebec Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources filled in most of the pits, for safety reasons.
For Edward Haycock, the closing of the mine spelled the end of his career. He seemed incapable of accepting those early cautionary mining reports. Still, as late as 1891, in the Canada Census, he referred to himself as an iron manufacturer. He had spent his wife’s inheritance and his own fortune and died insolvent. Despite this sad end, his connections gave him security, and his children became rich and successful. He has a large monument in Beechwood Cemetery.
Alfred Edmonds’ fate was more troubling. He was a skilled artist and cartographer, but he died alone and was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Beechwood Cemetery. Ironically, his grave is only a few hundred metres from those of his former employers—Edward Haycock and Sir Sandford Fleming. I found this part of my exploration of the mining story the most moving. Edmonds’ ending is a loose end, a mystery we may never be able to crack.
The author has created a fund to purchase a headstone for the artist Alfred Edmonds. To donate, please contact the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation, 280 Beechwood Ave., PO Box 7025, Ottawa, Ontario K1L 8E2. Tax receipts will be issued for donations of $20 or more. Please indicate that your gift is for the Alfred Edmonds monument.
 Donald D. Hogarth, “Edward Haycock and his Gatineau Mine,” Canadian Institute of Mineralogy Bulletin, April 1978, pp. 1–7.  Fritz Cirkel, Report on the iron ore deposits along the Ottawa (Quebec side) and Gatineau Rivers, Mines Branch, Publication 23, 1909, pp. 61–67.  A video of the mine tour by Cantley resident Pierre Belisle can be seen at http://vimeo.com/52098609.  The full sketchbook has now been scanned and published online. Go to the website for Library and Archives Canada and follow these links: On-line Research / Archives Search—Fonds, and type “Haycock Iron Mine” in the search box.  Jim Burant, Tim Cook. Artist’s file, A. M. Edmonds (active 1863–1882), Library and Archives Canada. September 1989 and May 1991.