“Sure I’ve got
Warts on my fingers
Corns on my toes
Claims up in Porcupine
And a bad cold in my nose.
So, put on your snowshoes
And hit the trial with me
To P-o-r-c-u-p-i-n-e, — that’s me.”
— John E. Leckie, 1910.
Some of Canada‘s most exciting days came through the discovery of gold. The prospectors who found large quantities of it were more lucky than scientific. All they needed in the way of equipment was a pick, shovel and perhaps pans for sifting gold from the sand.
In 1896, George Washington Carmack began the biggest gold rush of all with his discovery on Bonanza Creek in the Yukon. Books, poems, and songs have been written about the Klondike, and Hollywood has produced its own versions. Charlie Chaplin’s “Gold Rush” is still worth seeing!
Northern Ontario and Quebec have both had their gold rushes. The development of the rich Porcupine area was due to a lucky strike on July 13, 1909. Thomas Geddes, of St. Thomas, Ontario, and George Bannerman had a hunch about the Porcupine. From North Bay, on the T.N.O. Railway, they travelled north for 220 miles, which was the end of the line. T.N.O. means Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway, but in those days people used to say that it meant “Time No Object!”
From the end of the line, they paddled 30 miles west and camped where the river flowed into Porcupine Lake. They began digging on the northern side of the lake and soon uncovered a filigree of gold, as thick as wax dripping from a candle! The news spread like wildfire. Soon the Porcupine area was swarming with prospectors who uncovered Canada’s richest gold field and most famous mines.
Among the lucky prospectors were Benny Hollinger and Sandy McIntyre, after whom two great mines have been named. Hollinger borrowed $45 from John McMahon of Haileybury, and found three feet of gold jutting from some moss. Sandy McIntyre’s real name was Alexander Oliphant, but he changed it when he fled from Scotland to avoid paying alimony to his wife. He found what is now McIntyre mine but sold his shares for $25 so that he could buy some liquor. In later years, he spent most of his time weeping in saloons while his discovery produced gold worth $230 million.
Is it still possible to be lucky and find gold? Some authorities believe so. In any case, it may be worth remembering that July 13 was a lucky day for Geddes and Bannerman.
“I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy – I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold and I got it –
Came out with a fortune last fall, –
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.”
– Robert W. Service, 1907
If you would like to read more about today’s post, I recommend visiting Treasureventure, and Porcupine Mining Area by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, and then, if you are interested in the science or geology of this, I suggest Mine Site. For more about Sandy McIntyre, I suggest the Mining Hall of Fame (that’s okay, I didn’t know we had one of those either!), and finally, Timmins .ca where you’ll find an article about the founding fathers of Timmins!