The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 24 no 3, September 2012. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
"(Mr. Haycock) has constructed and has in working order a horse railway six miles and a quarter in length from his mine to the Gatineau River. 31 cars were used." Ottawa Free Press 5 October 1874.
So you decide to go skiing at Nakkertok. You come in from the Alonzo Wright Bridge and turn left onto Gatineau Ave. The road is straight, with a gentle curve to the left, a jog around the Autoroute 50, and then straight as a railroad to the Nakkertok parking lot. Did you know that you were travelling on the 140 year-old roadbed of the Ottawa Iron and Steel Company tramway?
An iron ore deposit was discovered in Cantley in 1865. To reach the site, a narrow gauge, horse-drawn railway was constructed from where today Gatineau Ave. meets the river, north to the Haycock Iron Mine. The wooden track, much of it on trestles, went up to the parking lot of the current Nakkertok Nordic Cross-country Ski Club, east toward Montée St-Amour going over and around a big hill and arriving on properties of Mr. Charette and Mr. Lafontaine, ending about where Nakkertok Trail #1 meets the old skidoo trail (known as Millson Rd. at the time). A little later, the Haycock Mine Rd. was built, parallel to the tramway, but going straight through to the mine, more or less following Nakkertok Trail #1.
The mine only stayed open for three years, but during that period, 5,000 tons of high-grade ore were taken out and a small town of 300 people, known as Hematite, was established. Yes, 140 years ago, there was a village inside today's village of Cantley! In 1892, the town was burned out in a forest fire and never re-established.
The size of the ore body had been grossly over-estimated and the mine was not capable of supplying even its own small blast furnaces. In addition, the ore, although very rich, had contaminants that made smelting particularly difficult. The mine closed in the summer of 1876 during the Long Depression.
For safety reasons, in 1992, most of the remains of the mine were filled in. Some vestiges can still be seen. About 500 meters north of OWL Cabin, you can find the mine's Darby Pit, the west pit can be found north of the old Millson Road, to the east of the Trail #1, and the main pit and two others are east of there. The small, most easterly pit is still as it was, and there is an impressive adit (an entrance meant to drain the main pit) just below the main pit. Some rail bed can still be seen just east of Gatineau Avenue before the big hill, east of the Nakkertok parking lot, south of the hill and just west of the hydro lines, and just west of the main Haycock pit near Trail #1.
Farther north, to the west of the #4 trail, and before you reach Knotty Creek was the Scotch John mica mines of John Edward and John Burke. Theses mines, also begun in 1872, ran in one form or other for 50 years, and were filled in by the Province. The two pits were 30 meters deep with a tunnel joining them.
Fortunately, the owners of the three lots, Messrs. Charrette, Lafontaine and Van Wijk are knowledgeable and deeply committed to maintaining the area. We would also like to thank Martha Catchpole, art archivist with Library and Archives Canada, and Professor Donald Hogarth, geologist.
Wes Darou is co-author of the Echo's birds column. He has uncovered fascinating archives about Cantley's past while pursuing his other passion of bird watching.
Cantley 1889 invited Wes Darou to contribute this article in advance of his talk and walk in the Haycock Mine area, Oct. 11 and Oct. 13, 2012.