Joys of Wandering

                                              By George Best

Part Eight (a): Ghost Towns: The Miner’s Loop, Eastern Ontario October 14, 2017

The Mamas and Papas sang, “California Dreamin” with opening lines... “ All the leaves

are brown and the sky is grey...”

“Brown and grey” were exactly how things looked when the six of us started out on the

Miner’s Loop ride. This is not to be mistaken for a miner’s loop in California. The

forecast said 40% chance of showers. On our way to Tweed, our starting off point,

Judith and I witnessed partially wet

roads and on our face shields the tell-tail signs of a

misty spray. The “Joy” of a day trip is often simply about deciding on a place to meet

and time of departure.

A special thanks to Greig Gillie for having planned this ride.

We had a coffee, some had breakfast before starting off but the gathering place was

really for sharing stories, comparing rides, discussing previous rides or just waking up

from a short rest after the night shift. Ian had arrived in his truck and feeling shamed by

the rest of us on motorcycles, he quickly returned home to get his Ariel ready for the

day’s outing. He was counting on the fact that a dismal forecast would discourage even

the hardiest riders. But things could only get better! It goes to show either vintage

riders in the fall have an awesome faith in good weather or with dogged determinism

just need to get in the last ride of the year. This day, Gary, Ian, Bob, Judith, Rick and I

were interested in the area’s mining history and decided to do the local Miner’s Loop.

Before the end of the day we rode through, by or to Actinolite, Queensborough,

Eldorado, Malone, Deloro, Cordova Mines and the Mormoratan iron ore open-pit mine,

just east of Marmora as main attractions. The Sulphide Road on Highway 37 north of

Tweed represents a route to another historic sight, but was not included on our route.

As described below, the mining in the area was a complementary industrial effort. Now

many of these sites no longer have evidence of there ever having being a mining

operation. In fact, some of them are now ghost towns, because of their collapse in

population from the ‘good o’days.

Since the mid 1800’s Canada has been on the maps a source of mineral extraction.

Much can be said about wealth and development in industry for the metals and other

by-products of the mining operations. While the extraction industry contributed untold

job opportunities for workers, on the other hand the industry has been responsible for

leaving toxic waste stock piles of tailings, with rivers, lakes and streams so toxic that

fish and animals accumulating high levels of mercury and arsenic rendering them unfit

for human consumption. (see previous parts of “Joy of Wandering”) It must also not be

forgotten that the tragic human cost of direct loss of life and

acquired occupational lung

diseases of the workers was a by product of those boom days.

In spite of all this, vintage riders liking to ride and enjoy the best that life offers in the

here-and-now and some may say...”We are ahead by a century: with illusions of

someday casting a golden light...No dress rehearsal, this is our life.” (Gord Downie)

First passing by Sulphide it’s mine was developed in 1880 by the American Madoc

Mining Company and was initially a gold mine. Later taken over by the Nicholas

Chemical Company it became a site for the production of sulphides. This mine

produced sulphuric acid for the Deloro smelting processes until 1961 and for the

uranium mine in Bancroft until 1964. This sulphide operation with the employment

between 50-60 workers at the end closed in 1964

. This would have been our first ghost

town should we have turned right just north of ‘Timmy’ on Hwy #37.

Further north from Tweed we passed through Actinolite, a small unpretentious hamlet

on the Scootamatta River.It was known as Troy in 1850 and in 1864 named

Bridgewater. It was the site of open-pit mines operated by Joseph James starting in

1883. Actinolite, is a soft ore, classified in the asbestos category and when crushed and

combined with coal tar was use as roofing material. The Actinolite Roofing Works

operated from 1883 to 1927. In the 1860’s limestone was also quarried, exported or

fired in a kiln for the production of cement. In the peak of Bridgewater’s industrious

time, the population exceeded 500. A fire devastated the village in 1889. Local lumber

baron Billa Flint not only established a rock crusher, but helped finance the building of a

white marble church constructed in 1864 from material quarried on the property where

the church continues to stand. This church building now serves as a the Marble Church

Theatre Arts Centre. Now, there are fewer than two dozen homes remaining.

Marble is

still being quarried from the area and exported to various parts of the world as a

premium carving medium.

Riding west along Hwy.7 then north on Hastings County Road 20 through the


hamlets on the Miner’ Loop does not provide a sense of the real history

behind the mining or industrial activities of the past. The mills, mining shaft heads,

storefronts, shops, factories, hotels and hundreds of houses no longer exist. In some

villages like Queensborough, built on the banks of the Black River, only a remnant

remains of what it was in the mid nineteenth century. The eastern approach to the

village limits narrows to a single lane bridge, then immediately to the right is a large

dam, mill pond and the partially restored remains of a grist mill.

In researching this local history, one discovers that the village had a sulphur mine,

blacksmith and tin shop, post office, train station, two hotels, a general store, an Orange

Hall and five churches. We rode through Queensborough, past many productive dairy

farms, and via Hazzard’s Corners before arriving at Hwy # 62 (there was no evidence of

the “Dukes”). Riding north on Hwy. 62 we saw a hamlet sign “Eldorado” (from the


El Dorado

or fabulous ‘city of gold’).

We slowed to the posted speed of 60km

through the ‘Quinte Gold District’ under Federal Jurisdiction or the “Golden Gate” as

designated in 1866 after the gold strike there.

In the mid 1860’s, Eldorado promised to be as large as or larger than any production of

the California Gold Rush. Prior to the gold discovery, there were five other mines in the

immediate area yielding iron ore, lead, marble, lithographic stone, copper and

soapstone. Since coal was expensive to obtain, the smelting process involve the

burning of charcoal which was produced from two foot cord wood within the immediate

area. Thousands of adventuresome people rushed to the district and the neighbouring

village of Madoc its population bulging from 900 to 5000. The massive boom in


expanded the housing count to eighty residential buildings in less than nine

months. The gold mine failed in three years, and the mine was sold in 1869. The local

economy collapsed and most of the businesses were abandoned.

Some gemologists still visit the shaft at the invitation of current owners of the original

Richardson Gold Mine property. At present, there is a shuttered cheese factory, a

closed gas station and less then a half dozen occupied family homes. The Eldorado

Cheese and Butter Co-operative Factory was the last to close amongst the ten cheese

factories that once served the township. The railway track first in narrow gauge (3’-6”) is

now abandoned

its tracks torn up now serves as a snow mobile trail.

In less than a fifteen seconds we were out of Eldorado, another ghost town that once

had a vibrant industrial past. The grey skies now produced for us some glimmers of sun

and very few showers.

North of Eldorado, we turned west onto the beautiful twisty and quite hilly Deloro Road

or County Road 11, towards Malone (formally known as Powell’s Mill’s). In 1850 when

the village was settled, it had a grist mill and a growing population of 60 by 1869. The

extreme interest in the Eldorado strike brought prospectors to Malone where they found

gold in 1871. By 1880 miners came and went 100 men remaining to worked at the

Sovereign Mines, established in 1890. This operation lasted until the early 1900’s when

the rich gold ladened ore became deplete.

Again, as we rode to the top of the hill in Malone, we weren’t aware that we had just

rode through another ghost town. That’s it, no other mining structures, just a couple of

homes situated amongst the pastured fields and the little stream off to the left in the

valley. Farm land, now classified as marginal, once provided the milk for cheese

production during the summer months. Now it appears to be cattle for beef production.

Not to be forgotten, there was a curious third locally produced commodity directly

related to mining operations from the farm land. Farmers produced the hay for the

horses used in pulling the ore carts to the processing mills. The remaining large brick


houses are a testament to the more affluent times as a result of the profits from

hay sales. They say, “make hay while the sun shines”. This adage sure had more

meaning than one for the local farmers!

Next Part Eight (b): Deloro, Cordova Mines and Marmoratan By George Bes

Joys of Wandering Part 2

Part Eight (b): Ghost Towns: The Miner’s Loop, Eastern Ontario, October 14, 2017

by George Best

In Eight PART (a), I identified the riders Ian, Bob, Judith, Gary, Rick and George.

These were their rides. Ian had his 1953 VHA 500 Ariel, Bob was mounted as usual on

his1976 R75 BMW, Judith on her trusty 2000 W650 Kawasaki and Gary was enjoying

the ride with his 1968 CB 160 Honda. Rick was riding proud on his 1983 Suzuki

GS750ESD while I was leading with my 1975 Mark 3 Norton Commando 850.

The undulating hills and rolling “twisties” made for some great riding along the roads

from Foxes’ Corners through Malone to Deloro as well from Queensborough to highway

#62. As mentioned, most of the land is now used as farmland with very little evidence

showing of the short mining

history of the mid to late nineteenth Century. It is easy to

note while riding these back roads, they have a path that likely hasn’t changed much

since their beginning. They follow streams, go around rocky outcrops and bogs, up and

down following the natural contours of the land and on lines that defy anything straight.

Within ten minutes of peeking over the blind steep hill at Malone, we arrived at the

eastern entrance of the quaint village of Deloro. It was incorporated as a village in 1919,

and separate from Marmora township. In the village once stood two schools, two

hospitals and boasted of a championship baseball team and orchestra in its hay day.

Deloro, with the main streets clean with curbs like any urban setting has its own central

potable water and sewer systems, and noted as one of the first villages in the region

with ‘modern conveniences

’The homes, some dating back to 1916 seem all to be

individually designed, unlike most mining or factory towns.

The meaning of the name Deloro is “Valley of Gold,”. Its main

east-west road

terminates at the library. On the front lawn are memorial plaques identifying much of

the historic importance of the entire mining, smelting, roasting furnaces for arsenic and

refining operations for cyanide.

The 200 hectare, property now abandoned

by Deloro Smelting and Refining Company,

has been subject to major environmental remediation in the last decade. All the

associated production buildings and chemical laboratory were demolished as well the

shafts have been capped. The task of cleanup of nearly a century of industrial activity

had cost some $100M of taxpayer’s money.

It was at this memorial site, we took a short rest and to take in the information on the

commemorative display. Twenty five shafts were dug at the Deloro site in 1871 and in

less than a decade after the Eldorado strikes. Initially, gold and arsenic were mined

followed by silver and cobalt. The alloying of cobalt with tungsten and chromium led to

the production of stellite, a commodity sought after and as a highly regarded alloy for

use in the production of war related equipment and machinery as early as 1914. Deloro

stellite was exclusively supplied for and used by the allied forces. It was incorporated

into engine exhaust valve seats, rifle, munition manufacturing and for parts of aircraft

production such as the Spitfire. Off shore ore containing, cobalt, nickel, gold and

arsenic was shipped to Deloro and helped to keep operations going until 1958. Most of

the positive side of the smelting and refining industry was represented on the lawn of

the library, yet our ride became dampened only with a few showers, perhaps

foreshadowing the down side of this part of the deeper meaning of the miner’s loop!

The operations here were shut down in 1961

when the demand for the product

declined. What remained a mammoth stock pile of arsenic, heavy metals and harmful

radio-active material which had to be contained on site. The effort made is an attempt to

prevent further environmental contamination to the Moira River system and the extreme

health dangers to the residents of Deloro. This has been a realistic response to this

industrial practice.

We remounted our bikes and headed northward from Marmora to Cordova Mines on

another undulating twisty road following now the Crowe River. Some stretches of the

river’s edge exceed the beauty of any you may find in the New England states. Here

and there are places where boats or canoes

can be launched for fishing or recreation.

The village of Cordova Mines is split in two by a straight line between Peterborough and

Hastings Counties. Not unlike other gold mining areas, there was plenty of commercial,

civic and social development supporting the boom-bust operations starting in 1860.

Postmaster-prospector Marcus Powell struck gold in an old cave. The village had

access to two railway lines, the Grand Trunk and the Canadian Northern. Around the

time of 1915, there were many homes, two schools, two churches and three general

stores, blacksmith, machine, and carpentry shops and electricity produced from a 1200

HP generating plant for mining operations and the expected growth of up to 500

residents. Formal mining ended in 1917 but later resumed by Consolidated Mining and

Smelting Company of Canada (COMINCO) between 1938 and 1940.

One report said it that in prohibition, a mobile saloon was moved on its skids to the

Hastings side of the road when authorities approached from Peterborough and vis-

versa. Owned by John Maloney or ‘one-armed Maloney’, John was always tipped off

when the police from one county or the other were on their way. No charges were ever


The village now supports a small population with a combined post office, liquor outlet at

Sam’s Place general store.

When I spoke with the proprietor of Sam’s, she said that her

father worked in the mid ’90's helping to clean gold residue from the massive tailings still

remaining above ground. The group enjoyed refreshments at Sam’s while sitting in the

easy chairs on the front porch before heading off to the Mighty Marmoraton Mine on

Hwy. 7 east of Marmora.

In twenty minutes we arrived at the ‘Mighty Marmoraton Mine’. What makes this mine

of special importance? We parked our bikes at the entrance to the walkway leading to a

lookout to learn the meaning of ‘Mighty’.

Magnetite ore from the Marmoraton mine left a 750 foot deep

open pit which is 2800 ft.

long, 1500 ft. wide and covers approximately 75 acres. It is huge and now nearly filled

with water! That’s “Mighty” big!

In 1950 the ore deposit was found under a 130 foot thick sheet of limestone overburden.

Evidence of this ambitious operation is the remaining mountainous 70 million tons of

waste rock around the south and east side of the open pit. From the lookout which is the

only public access to the area, the milling and refining buildings are not visible. Some

were moved and the equipment was sold off. Over the years, Bethlehem Steel

Corporation who owned and operated the mine, shipped, via rail, 1/2 million tons of

hematite pellets per year to Prince Edward County. One report said that the amount

shipped to the County was between 30-35 rail cars per day. From there it was loaded

aboard freighters destined to the steel plant

in Lackawanna, New York. When the mine

closed in March of 1978, 275 workers were without work. The shutdown of the mine

was due to a reduction in the demand for steel in North America and an oversupply of

hematite pellets. The mine required more capacity than the 2-250 HP pumps for

keeping ahead of flooding water. Armbro Aggregates had the mineral rights after

Bethlehem. Trap-rock ore from the waste was crushed for road building material for a

number of years after its closing.

To sum up, most of the mines on the loop had experienced a boom and bust in their

operations. The gold mines in particular were abandoned often within a decade as the

amount of rich deposits were not large enough to sustain ongoing mining. The mines

which had facilities to process the ore lasted slightly longer. The miner population

required housing that was quickly established and afterwards many were destroyed by

fire or moved off site. The villages for the most part had been reduced to ‘ghost town’

status. The associated small industries and support services such as blacksmith shops,

livery stables, hotels, general stores and post offices vanished. Many miners moved on

seeking their fortune elsewhere in Canada. The profits from the small operations often

were not big after the claim was struck. For some, foreign ownership helped in the

development of the claims as often the prospectors financial resources were quickly

depleted. The longer lasting industrial complexes such as the Deloro and the Mighty

Marmoraton Mine and associated refining plants employed more employees for longer

periods of time, one reason being that these larger activities developed a military

connection which helped to subsidize operations through substantial government

contracts for the war efforts abroad.

Many of the miners and plant operators came and settled in the area as emigrants in

the early 1800’s. Today many of their descendants remain and are active community

members often sadly referring to their fathers, uncles or grandfathers as having had

particular jobs not without significant risks to their health and safety.

Our miner’s loop tour concluded mid afternoon with much more to dream about as we

attempted to take in with imagination the ghost towns and what has existed over the

past one hundred and fifty years. Our thanks to Greig and Kathy Gillie who hosted us,

we enjoyed refreshments and great BBQ following this fascinating tou

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software