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The Stories of the Counties of Ontario

“Thence I ran my first rough survey—

Plotted sites of future cities, trac'd the easy grades between ’em;
Watched unharnessed rapids wasting fifty thousand head an hour;
Counted leagues of water-frontage through the axe-ripe woods that screen ’em—
Saw the plant to feed a people—up and waiting for the power!”

Rudyard Kipling.

THE day of the romance of Northern Ontario is not yet over. It has, perhaps, taken on soberer tints than of yore, but it has its heroes still in the guise of Government surveyors, of rail way-builders or miners, of the lire-fighters of the forest, or the modern pioneers of the settlement, whose courage is put sometimes, and often, to strange and unexpected tests. A recent writer, Mr. Talbot, speaking of the toils and dangers of the “scouts” who make the first rough surveys for the construction of a railway, declares that more is known about the land around the North Pole than of the northern stretches of Ontario and Quebec, excepting where some great river makes a highway into the back country.

To some men there is no joy like the joy of the wilderness ; but here is another view of a land where reigns “a silence and loneliness that bludgeons the senses into inactivity.” "On every hand is the interminable forest, a verdant sea, except where here and there jagged splashes of black and brown betoken that the fire fiend has been busily at work.” And the forest covers unseen dangers. Even a slight exploration of its recesses is 3 perilous task, and often the line of march is crossed by pile on pile of jagged rocks, fallen trees massed in inextricable confusion ; deep gulches, always being cut deeper by the raging torrents at the bottom. The dotted line of a “projected railway” across a map unmarked by towns or villages dues not give a hint to most people of the wild work which must have been accomplished by the surveyors before even that broken line could be traced. Often three or four preliminary lines are gone over before the best is discovered.

But the railway "scouts” frequently discover more than a good route on which to lay the iron road. It was due to railway enterprise—to the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, in fact—that the richest known nickel deposits on the globe were discovered in the district of Sudbury, and the story of the find and its utilisation Is an interesting illustration of the close relations in our modern world between persons and events that till the denouement of the drama often appear totally disconnected. All unconsciously, a number of men, each occupied with his own special end and aim, worked together during the 'eighties at the “making’’ of the Sudbury mining field, which was described in 1918 by a mining expert in the pages of The Canadian Magazine as the most productive and most profitable metal-mining enterprise in the British Empire.

First, as stated above, came the builders of the “C.P.R.,” cutting their way through the vast metalliferous deposits, just within the bounds of Sudbury District. The presence of copper in good quantity attracted attention. Then a group of American capitalists took a hand in the matter, and in Ohio was formed the Canadian Copper Company, a name which future events were to prove scarcely appropriate. In 1886 work was begun at the Copper Cliff mine, and the crude ore was shipped for treatment to New Jersey. There the experts in the smelting works detected the presence of nickel in the slag. In a short time a pound of nickel proved equal in value to two pounds of copper, but the copper company at first had great difficulty in separating the nickel "in pure metallic form from the associated metal,” and “also in the expansion of the market for its valuable product.”

Meanwhile a scientist, Dr. Ludwig Mond, unaware of the existence of the deposits at Sudbury, “was working at his carbon monoxide method of separating copper and nickel." Later he formed a company and acquired properties in the new mining district, where he made a practical and commercially successful application of his method to the ores of the Victoria mines, twenty-two miles west of Sudbury.

It was in the year 1889 that Dr. Mond made the discovery, but there was no great demand for nickel until (in that same year) “an historic paper was read by Mr. James Riley before the English Iron and Steel Institute, and drew the attention of the world to this wonderful alloy.” Soon it was being used in the manufacture of armour-plate for the world’s navies, of heavy ordnance, of bic3'cles, and of many other kinds of machinery. So the annual value of Sudbury's nickel output climbed up far into the millions (representing sixty per cent, of the world’s product of this metal), whilst at the mining centres huge heaps of debris and tall smokestacks— pouring forth thick clouds of ill-smelling gases and vapours from the tremendous cauldrons, kept ever on the boil by the modern wizards of invention and commerce—have for many a mile scarred and changed the face of the green wilderness.

As is well known, the actual building of the railways is done largely by foreigners of many nationalities— Russians, Austrians, Poles, Galicians, and others. There are thousands of these men, “most of them living in little shacks, and doing the work by contract. As a matter of fact,” says a member of “The Shanty Men’s Mission," “the contractors will tell you that without the aid of these men it would be almost impossible to build railways; they will do work that no Canadian or English speaking man would put his hand to. In the muskeg you can see them standing in water half-way up to their knees, shovelling the dirt into wheelbarrows to grade the road, and doing this work at a price that often docs not bring them in Si a day and board.”

Often they live under most deplorable conditions. For instance, the cellars of a number of houses near the “C.P.R.” station in Sudbury "are fitted up with two tiers of bunks, into which the men are packed, regardless of health considerations. The owners of these houses are themselves foreigners, and are getting wealthy at the expense of their less fortunate countrymen.”

Many of these sturdy fellows would make excellent settlers on the bush farms, and some have taken up such farms; but they ate sorely handicapped by their little knowledge of English, and not a few ultimately return to their native lands.

There are still a few Indians in the district of Sudbury, and once a year, at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s station of Flying Post, and at Fort Metagami, a sum of $4 is paid as "treaty money” for each member of each Ojibway family—man, woman, or child.

The Indian agent goes to these wilderness posts in state with “a weather-beaten Union Jack, symbol of British might and good will,” flying from a spruce pole set up in the bow of his canoe; and his arrival “is the big event of the year” to the dwellers at the post, so no wonder that it is greeted with much firing of guns and other demonstrations of delight.

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