LONG LAC LOOMS UP – A TYPICAL CANADIAN GOLD CAMP, BORN OF ROCK, LAKE, BUSH AND MUSKEG
WE stood on the deck of the ferry, Jim Murphy and I, as it chugged home from Centre Island. Toronto’s cubistic palisades of big business distinctly etched in the afternoon sun shut out a goodly portion of the Northern heavens.
“Getting more like New York every day,” I declared, with a nonchalant wave toward the skyline.
“Yes,” replied Jim, in a non-committal tone that was more of a gesture to convention than conviction. “Ripley ought to know about that.”
“About the foundations of Toronto’s business section being laid over three hundred miles to the north.”
“I’m serious. The path-finders, the prospectors, the engineers, the muckers and a host of others, the men of the Northland laid the foundation for many of those buildings.”
“Oh, I get you. You mean the mines.”
“Exactly,” agreed Murphy, “and the spaces between those buildings intrigue my imagination more than the commercial palaces, themselves.”
“Come out of the clouds, Jim. Explain yourself.”
“Just this. If the resources of the north country in general, and the mines from Rainy River to Rouyn, in particular, have had such a profound influence on Toronto’s skyline to date, what will be the eventual result when the present crop of discoveries have come into production?”
“Do you think many of them will?”
“No doubt about it,” shot back Murphy. “I know one district in Northern Ontario that for richness will out-pork Porcupine2.”
“Where’s that, may I ask?”
“The Little Long Lac area in the Port Arthur mining division.”
Jim Murphy was right. Several weeks ago I had the opportunity of seeing for myself this spectacular region whose possibilities are as yet unrealized by even the most optimistic of mining men.
The Wilderness Bristles with Activity
From Nipigon eastward on the Canadian National line from Port Arthur to Long Lac the countryside is agog with enthusiasm which increases in feverish activity until the tremendous climax is reached in the vicinity of Long Lac itself. For over a hundred and fifty miles the wooded wilderness is bristling with the energy of men who are delving into the overburdened pre-Cambrian shield for gold ? yea, much fine gold!
To-day, over three dozen incorporated companies and syndicates, and hundreds of individuals have staked, and are still staking, great stretches of this promising hinterland. Those who are credited with knowing the region say that there are still vast areas of virgin territory awaiting the claim-hungry prospector. The present staking activity is concentrated particularly along the Sturgeon River, north of Jackpine Station.
Every conceivable stage of development is exhibited within the precincts of this latest lusty rival to the older gold fields of Canada, and more and more prospectors come in on every train. New organizations are being formed almost daily to develop the seemingly inexhaustible supply of promising claims. Usually, as soon as the formation of the company or syndicate is completed, plans are made for the placing of a field crew on the property. The claims are thoroughly prospected and the most likely location for intensive operations is decided upon.
Wherein Long Lac Differs
The Little Long Lac area differs from the other gold camps in Ontario in several respects. Within the comparatively short space of three years this region has progressed from obscurity to the white light of intense public interest. Wherever veins of commercial importance have been found their extent and richness have been peculiarly consistent. At the Little Long Lac property, for instance, the mine officials say that the diamond drill has revealed good values almost any place along a vein whose length and depth has not as yet been fully established. No one knows just how extensive the deposits really are.
Ideally suited for prospecting, the Little Long Lac and Long Lac district is traversed from east to west by the transcontinental line of the Canadian National Railway. To the north and south numerous small lakes and rivers give access to the territories lying inland. There are three well-defined canoe routes that have been used from time immemorial by the Indians who took their furs out to the posts of the Hudson’s Bay and Revillon Freres that are established at strategical points along the routes right away up to James Bay.
Hydro a Favorable Factor
Another favorable factor which is bound to contribute to the success of Little Long Lac as a real mining camp is the practically unlimited supply of hydro-electric power that is available from the Hydro Commission’s plant situated at Cameron Falls, a few miles north of Nipigon station. From this plant a transmission line is built to the Northern Empire Mines, some 50 miles to the east. An agreement has already been entered into by the Little Long Lac Mines with the Hydro authorities, whereby this line is to be extended an additional 48 miles to the Little Long Lac mine; 800 horse-power is to be delivered upon completion of the line and provision is being made to increase this to 1,500 horse-power as soon as the demand warrants. As it is expected that numerous other properties adjacent to this transmission line will soon require power for their operations the line is being so constructed that much higher voltage can be added as required.
Hardrock Station is the jumping off place for most of the mines in the district. It is about sixteen miles west of Long Lac Station on an inlet or bay on the westerly side of Little Long Lac. To this place the small power-boats and kickers4 of the various mining concerns which surround the lake come for their supplies and passengers. The Oro Plata have claims which embrace a good portion of the land south of the tracks and extending south to include most of the bay and small peninsula to the east. The southern portion of this peninsula is owned by Roche Long Lac.
Where the Mines Are
Little Long Lac itself is a very tangled body of water with many bays, narrows and islands. It is about 12 miles long in a straight line running in a north-east south-westerly direction. The main property of the Little Long Lac Gold Mines surround the western end of the lake, and extend westward several miles. Long Lac Lagoon, Mosher and MacLeod-Cockshutt properties are to the south and extend eastward from Little Long Lac mine. On the north, towards the eastern portion of Little Long Lac, are the Lafayette and T. A. Johnston claims. West of Little Long Lac and clustering around Magnet Lake are the properties of Longacre Long Lac, Lake Maron, Jellicoe, Wells Long Lac, Bankfield, Algoma, Magnet Lake and Oro Plata. On the east side of the Little Long Lac itself are the properties of Long Lac Lagoon, Roche Long Lac, Novack, Gascon, Gagnon, Mat-A-L??c, and Lac Development.
The claims of individual stakers surround these properties on all sides like a fringe or apron.
How the Work is Progressing
At Little Long Lac Gold Mines, the original operation in the district, exploration and drilling were so encouraging that at the present time a 200-ton mill is being erected which will probably be in operation by the autumn. To the east and south of this development the MacLeod-Cockshutt company is sinking a three-compartment shaft to a proposed depth of 700 feet. Ten other companies are diamond drilling and every week sees some other organization enthused with the results of the surface work that arrangements for a drilling program are immediately made.
Long Lac Lagoon has three drill crews at work, while on both the Bankfield and the Jellicoe properties two drills are probing for’ wealth. Seven other properties have each their own drill crews and, in most cases, the results seem to justify their efforts. Drilling is being done by single crews at Big Long Lac, Hardrock Gold, Longacre Long Lac, Long Lac Adair, Magnet Lake, Mosher Long Lac and Lafayette Long [Lac.?]
In addition to these advanced activities exploratory work is being done on eight other properties. The sound of blasting shatters the hush of the north as men strip and trench and pit the surface5, and it is expected that before long these developments will also pass into the drilling stage which precedes the more intensive operations of milling. The companies at this step in the game are: Algoma Mining and Finance, Hollinger Exploration, Lake Maron, Little Long Lac Extension, Mat-A-Lac, Wells Long Lac, Lac Development and Novack Gold. The following newly-organized concerns have been looking over their surface showings with a view to initiating further development: Rand Long Lac, International Mining, Minefinders Limited, Little Long Lac Exploration Syndicate, Oro Plata, Central Long Lac, Kenty Exploration and Karl Springer Exploration.
Swarms of Prospectors
Prospectors by the dozens are swarming over the countryside, on foot, in canoe or power-boat, and a few in a more luxurious fashion by aeroplane. Some of them are the real old-timer type and others are mere youths lured on to days of fatigue and black flies by dreams of sudden wealth. The real prospector usually knows what is is all about and knows what he is looking for. Fellows like Rennie Maloney, C. W. Taylor, A. Milroy, Arthur Cockshutt and “Hardrock” Bill Smith, one of the original stakers of the area, are not likely to pass up any promising showing.
With power and transportation readily available, and backed by a group of well-financed and enthusiastic miners, there is no limit to the possibilities of this district. All that is necessary is to find “pay rock” in goodly quantities, and apparently it is there.
Little Long Lac mine, according to the Northern Miner, “appears to have one of the richest gold veins found in Ontario to date.” “One of the most remarkable things about the Little Long Lac ore-body is its consistency. Day by day sampling shows little variation.”
At MacLeod-Cockshutt in the north vein drilling indicated a lense of commercial grade over 225 feet long. At various places values indicated the presence of gold running from $3.20 to $11.206. Five out of ten holes put down in the southerly zone showed stringers7 carrying gold visible to the eye. On the Lafayette assays of chip samples gave values ranging from $1.80 to $30 per ton, while recent grab samples8 ran from $2.40 to $84.80. Long Lac Lagoon assays from .35c to $12.39, while at Roche Long Lac average assays taken at intervals from a vein seven feet in width and over 2,000 feet in length show values up to $17 per ton figured at $34 an ounce. Bankfield has found values up to $16.50 per ton and on the Lac Development property channel samples show gold values ranging from .08 to 3.2 oz. per ton. One sample gave an assay of $115.20 across 15 inches and averaging in the mineralized wall rock gave a value of $51.67 across 35 inches. Many other properties whose development work has not yet advanced to where assays can be given report the appearance of free gold in drill cores.
How Long Lac Escaped Notice
“Why is it”, the sceptical layman may ask, “that it is only now that the long-suffering public are hearing about this Little Long Lac business?”
The answer is to be found, partly in the roots of Ontario’s mining history, and partly in the financial chaos which has prevailed throughout the greater part of the civilized world.
When gold was first discovered in Madoc Township, in eastern Ontario a flood of prospectors fresh from the Californian and Australian fields swept over that portion of the country and made new finds. As the years went by the margin of discovery was pushed northward until the Porcupine and Kirkland Lake sections developed into Ontario’s premier developments. Eastward to Rouyn and westward to the Michipicoten section goId mines sprang into being. The Long Lac district remained on the further reaches, an unexplored treasure land.
About the same time as the Richardson discovery in Madoc Township Peter and Donald McKellar of Fort William made their find at the old Huronian property in Moss Township which is now being operated as the Ardeen which is 65 miles north-west from the Head of the Lakes. The McKellars’ strike began a boom in mining circles which extended to Kenora in the Rainy River section and gave rise to numerous operations held by individuals and small incorporated companies. And still Long Lac’s potential wealth lay locked in Nature’s storehouse.
First Reports Not Encouraging
Sketch map to key in location of the gold camps in Northwestern Ontario. --Gold Magazine August 1934.
Probably another reason why prospectors did not pursue their golden dreams into the Long Lac district was the not very encouraging reports made by the various geologists and explorers who made hurried trips through the region by means of the old canoe routes that the Indians had established to the various trading posts around the James Bay slopes.
Dr. A.P. Coleman, that grand old dean of geologists, in reporting to the provincial Bureau of Mines on an exploration trip in search of iron in the territory east of Lake Nipigon made this comment in 1909 on Long Lac: “When the railway is completed (Canadian Transcontinental9, now Canadian National) and the temporary traffic connected with its construction is at an end, there will be only the dwindling Indian trade to justify the existence of the two stores (Hudson’s Bay and Revillon Freres) unless white settlers come in, which seems improbable in a region so widely covered with swamps and muskegs”.
Edgar J. Lavoie’s book published in 1987.
As recently as 1917 A. G. Burrows in reporting to the Provincial Bureau of Mines held out little encouragement for the prospector to explore the area around Long Lac and Little Long Lac. He states: “During an examination of this area no deposits of economic value were observed along the route followed. One is struck by the scarcity of rock of a porphyritic character which are so prominent in areas like the Porcupine and Kirkland Lake, and which have proved of importance for the occurrence of gold.” Later on in his report he states: “No geological work has been done in the country west of Little Long Lac almost as far as Jellicoe.”
Several other geologists gave a little more encouragement. Percy Hopkins has given the area much personal attention in the field and has been one of the most active figures in the camp’s development from Beardmore east to Little Long Lac.
Little wonder that prospectors were just a little chary of expending their time and money to nose into a country where the reports were so lacking in encouragement. All the more credit is due to the faith and persistence of Mr. Joseph Errington, M.E., head of the Little Long Lac operation, who took the gamble at long odds and won out in a spectacular and gratifying manner10.
The Effects of the Crash of ’29
Undoubtedly the financial debacle of 1929 is in some measure responsible for the heightened activity which is apparent in gold mining circles in general and Little Long Lac district in particular.
When as a result of the chaos of ’29 the peer and the squire in Merrie England awoke one morning to find their morning ham and eggs garnished with the news that England had gone off the Gold Standard, mining companies all over the world wavered in momentary doubt as to the final effect on the price of gold. Eventually, as gold was revaluated at a higher price per ounce, prospectors and geologists took heart and once more resumed the everlasting hunt for the glittering metal. Old properties which were formerly unprofitable took on a new complexion. The established fields were fine-combed for paying locations. New districts were sought out and staked. What could be more logical than that the experienced knights of the pick should turn their attention toward the virgin vastness of the Long Lac area?
Kowkash Discoveries Paved the Way
If the full truth is to be told prospectors working eastwards from the Kowkash11 mining division, sixty miles to the west, that really paved the way for the Little Long Lac show.
In E. V. Neeland’s report on the “Exploration of Northern Ontario” made to the Ontario Department of Crown Lands in 1900 he blazed the way for the prospector when he said: “The most promising district is the country on the Kawa-kash-kagama River below the Wawong portage. Several samples from small quartz veins showed traces of gold and it might be that careful prospecting would be rewarded.”
In 1915 a spectacular discovery of gold was made by E. W. King-Dodds in this very area nine miles north of Kowkash near Howard Falls12. Dodds made his discovery while walking over the rocky hill below Howard Falls which had been burned clean the previous day. The news of the find caused a rush of about 400 prospectors to the neighborhood and 75 or 100 claims were staked within three weeks.
As a result of this rush mines were eventually established, chief of which was the Tashota13 which is still in operation. Others are the Casey-Summit, whose rich orebodies are to-day attracting considerable attention: the McMillan; the Dik-Dik14 and the Johnson-Nipigon.
Later Discoveries Nearer Long Lac
A year after Dodds’ rich strike, Burrows, the provincial geologist, while crossing the Canadian National Railway one mile west of Jellicoe15, sampled a vein he found in a railway cut and found it to contain $4 in gold. This point is only about 45 miles west of Little Long Lac Mine16. It was not until 1928 that claims were staked for gold in this area by Powers and Silam south of the railway at Mileage 191/2 which led to a staking rush17. By 1929 the whole area was staked from Warneford18 to Blackwater Lake along the railway and over a width of 3 to 5 miles.
This new rush led to the establishment of the Newmont (Beardmore): Buffalo-Beardmore19 and Northern Empire20 developments. Buffalo-Beardmore has advanced to the stage where the owners are now planning a 150-ton mill.
Kowkash Old Timers in on Long Lac
Robert Wells and Tom Johnson, two of the prospectors who figured in the Kowkash rush, are now actively engaged in developments at Little Long Lac. Contrary to Greeley’s admonition to go west21, they found their pot of gold at the eastern end of the rainbow.
There is little doubt that by 1940 Little Long Lac and environs will be a producing camp of magnificent proportions. Transportation presents but little difficulty. Plenty of electric power is available. The personnel of practically every organization in the field is made up of thoroughly experienced mining men of high calibre. Best of all, indications of the presence of commercial ore are undisputable. The Little Long Lac area is the Ontario mining scene par excellence. Watch Little Long Lac and its neighbor areas grow!
1 Ripley’s Believe It or Not! began in 1919 as a newspaper cartoon feature named after its creator, Robert Ripley. It described bizarre events and items.
2 In 1903, construction began on the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway running north from North Bay towards Cochrane. The railway opened up Northeastern Ontario to prospectors, leading to the Porcupine Gold Rush and the Cobalt Silver Rush. In 1934, the name Porcupine still resonated among mining men.
3 Little Long Lac is also known as Kenogamisis Lake.
4 An old-time kicker is an outboard motor of 9.9 or fewer horsepower. In this case, kicker designates a small motorboat powered by a kicker. Nowadays a kicker is an auxiliary motor attached to a boat and typically used for trolling.
5 A trench is a narrow strip of terrain which has been exposed by bulldozer or backhoe down to bedrock. It may even be excavated in bedrock to a shallow depth by blasting. A pit is just that, a pit or hole of shallow depth, created by a backhoe and/or blasting. The aim is to find mineralized veins.
6 In 1934, the price of gold per ounce shot up to around $35. For years the price had hovered around $20.
7 A stringer is a very narrow mineralized vein.
8 A grab sample is a small piece of rock from a trench or pit.
9 The “Canadian Transcontinental” mentioned by A.P. Coleman was the Canadian Northern Railway, completed in 1915. It ran through Longlac all the way to Port Arthur, now Thunder Bay. In the early ‘20s, it became part of the Canadian National Railways system.
10 Tom Johnson and Tony Oklend discovered the Little Long Lac mine in late June 1932. Johnson telegraphed an urgent request to his prospector buddy, Percy Hopkins, in Toronto. Hopkins jumped on the train, saw the discovery, and made a handshake deal for ten percent if he should find a financial backer. Hopkins called in S.J. Fitzgerald and Joseph Errington, M.E. (Mining Engineer), the highest-ranking executives of Sudbury Diamond Drilling Co. Errington arrived on the scene by early August. The author describes the transaction in his book . . . And the Geraldton Way: “So it was that on August 8th, 1932, three bush-stained men gathered around a smouldering wood fire in a tiny clearing on the south shore of what soon be called Barton Bay on Kenogamisis Lake. Squatting on logs, Joseph Errington, financier, and Tom Johnson and Tony Oklend, mine-finders, engaged in solemn conversation. Presently heads nodded in agreement, and the eldest of the three, Errington, fumbled in his pocket and produced a scrap of paper and a pencil. Deliberately the president of Sudbury Diamond Drilling Company scribbled a memorandum. In exchange for a ninety percent interest in the claims, the Company would pay the prospectors $50,000. Errington promised to pay them a $2000 installment and to deliver them the option papers by August 13th. He kept his promise. In the fall of 1932, the drills proceeded to outline an ore body. The news of the discovery would spark a staking rush of an intensity and a magnitude that can scarcely be described.”
11 Kowkash was a station on the National Transcontinental Railway (NTR) between Armstrong and Nakina. After 1919, the NTR became part of the Canadian National Railways (CNR) system. Kowkash is a diminutive form of Kawashkagama, the river than runs north and crosses the railway east of Kowkash.
12 The Howard Falls occurrence is located north of the railway on the Kawashkagama River. Interestingly, Percy Hopkins described the vein just after its discovery: “The [quartz] vein has been traced 100 feet, over which it will average three inches in width . . . An abundance of free gold occurred for four of five feet along the vein . . .”. In 1916, a shaft was sunk to a depth of 56 feet. As is the case in most prospects, no mine ever developed.
13 The Tashota mine was discovered in 1923 south of Kowkash and Tashota, points on the northern line of the CNR. It finally began producing in 1935 under the name Tashota-Nipigon mine. Next door was property owned by Tom Johnson, called the Johnson-Nipigon occurrence, which never developed into a mine.
14 Tom Johnson discovered the Dik-Dik mine in 1931 (later renamed the Orphan mine). It is located on the north shore of Atigogama Lake, some miles south of the Tashota mine. The Dik-Dik is also north of the railway siding called Kinghorn, after which the CNR’s Kinghorn Subdivision is named. The Dik-Dik began production in 1935.
15 This showing in a railway rock cut, one mile west of Jellicoe on Blackwater Lake, is hardly significant. No mine ever developed within miles of it.
16 This mileage marker makes no sense. Ignore it.
17 This mileage marker makes sense if one is measuring from Jellicoe westward, because 19.5 miles west of Jellicoe is the location of the Northern Empire mine, and another mile beyond is Beardmore. There is some disagreement about the date, for T.G. Powers and P. Silam made the strike in 1925 which eventually became the Northern Empire.
18 Warneford is the CNR siding almost 3 miles west of Beardmore. So the area from Warneford to Jellicoe was heavily staked. As a matter of interest, in the Warneford area, Eddie Dodd staked the claim in the early ‘30s where he alleged he found the famous Viking relics. And Ted Elliot, the writer of this article for Gold, was the man who brought the existence of the relics to public attention in 1936.
19 The Buffalo-Beardmore “mine” was a promising prospect in 1934, but the company was incorporated as Buffalo-Beardmore Gold Mines Ltd. only in 1935. The next year a shaft was sunk, and sporadic work performed for some years, but no gold was ever produced. As a side note, a few years ago, the author and a geologist examined the property, located 2 miles southwest of Beardmore. I suggested we spread out to cover more ground, but the geologist nixed that proposal. “Stick to the trails and paths,” he said. “I don’t know where the shaft is.” With a misplaced step, an explorer could find his foot stepping into thin air. I always remember that advice when exploring old mining properties.
20 The company was incorporated as Northern Empire Mines, Ltd., in 1932, and went into production on March 14, 1934. The Little Long Lac mine poured its first brick on December 17, 1934. The Tashota and Dik-Dik mines started production in 1935. So, the Northern Empire was the first gold producer in the Little Long Lac, the Sturgeon River, and the Kowkash Gold Areas.
21 “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country!” is attributed to editor Horace Greeley of the the New York Tribune in the late 1800s. It was uttered at a time when the American West was seen as a land of opportunity as it emerged from the frontier phase. Canadians harboured must the same aspiration for the Canadian West.
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