On Saturday, June 15 the Friends were part of a special ceremony to unveil a new interpretive display along the Silver Queen Mine Trail at Murphys Point. The ceremony was an opportunity for us, with the Park, to thank a dedicated group of volunteers who saw a need and had a passion to get the job done.
Tobi Kiesewalter, the Park’s Natural Heritage Education Leader, put everything into context with his address at the ceremony, which appears below:
About 150 years ago the mining industry got its start in North Burgess Township. It was not trained prospectors or experienced miners who got the ball rolling. It was mostly farmers who used their expertise, resourcefulness and whatever tools they had to extract the green and shiny black minerals that they had stumbled upon in their fields. This, in turn, helped them to eke out a living on the rugged and unforgiving Canadian Shield.
As the industry caught on, companies began to invest and, for a brief time, business was good. Companies like the General Electric Company, the German American Apatite Company and the Dominion Improvement and Development Company purchased and operated mines in the area. They acquired steam boilers, machinery, wagons and horses, they built infrastructure and hired workers. It was a mining boom that left North Burgess at the centre of one of the mining capitals of the world.
These are the facts about a significant chapter in Ontario’s history. Of course there’s more to it than that. There’s a whole story that we strive to interpret to anyone visiting the site. Some of the story bits are known, others are left to the imagination. For example, we know that the Adams Wagon Company made this wagon in their large factory in Brantford, Ontario. We know that it likely was the first line of transportation of minerals from Lanark County to markets around the world, including England, Germany and the United States. We can speculate about the mine manager who may have ordered this wagon from the Adams Wagon Company catalogue or the wagon driver who pocketed a few pennies to transport the odd extra passenger or the ever-obedient horses who worked so hard along the uneven roads.
These stories will be brought to life for visitors to this site thanks to the efforts of a very dedicated group of volunteers – Rudy Lepp; Tom Spence; John, Judy and Ian Bufton; Gord Munroe; Dan Woods; Wayne Smith; Bob Laidlaw; Tony Walsh and Larry Paquette – who researched and accurately restored the ore wagon, engineered and built a shelter for it, positioned the horses, outfitted them with harnesses and equipment, and subsequently repaired the porcupine damage with new equipment. These guys… and Judy… are not miners or trained restoration experts. But, just like the farmers who 150 years ago started the industry, they are incredibly resourceful and they brought a wealth of expertise to this project.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a professional museum-quality, 3D display with original artifacts has got to be worth even more than that. The thousands of visitors who walk down this trail annually have had the benefit of some interpretation and storytelling in the past. What this display now does is so effectively set the tone and context of what visitors will get to see further down the trail. It signals the beginning of a story of survival on the Canadian Shield, the world economy, entrepreneurship, hopes and dreams of prospectors, workers and company men and the brief but significant chapter in Ontario’s history when the minerals of Lanark County went out to the rest of the world.
On behalf of the visitors who venture down this trail, thanks to you for your passion and dedication.
Thank you also to Grover Lightford, who donated this wagon from the nearby McLaren Mine Site many years ago, along with many other artifacts. You had the foresight to realize that this was part of a bigger story that deserved to be heard. Thanks also to the efforts of the Friends of Murphys Point Park and Beth Peterkin for raising the grant money required to buy materials, fake horses, barrels and an interpretive sign. And, finally, thanks to Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization and Valley Heartland for contributing the necessary funds.
Great work, everyone!
(Photos by Stephanie Gray)