History of Pictou County, Patterson, Chapter 18
*Pictou County GenWeb Electronic Edition, May, 2006.*

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Mines and Mining Industries of the County

Since the failure of the timber trade, perhaps nothing has been so important to the progress of the county, as the Coal Mining, carried on first by the General Mining Association, and later by other companies, which have made Pictou up till this time the greatest coal producer in British America, it having been only during a few years surpassed by Cape Breton. We have already mentioned the discovery of coal in 1798, Dr. McGregor’s exhibiting a fire of it to the candidates at the election of 1799, and the first efforts at coal mining. We shall now proceed to give the history and present condition of this industry in the county.

In the year 1807, John McKay, son of the Squire, usually known as Collier, obtained a license to dig for the inhabitants, and at a later dat , to export. He and his father commenced working a small three feet seam on the farm of the latter, but it soon became exhausted. They then searched further and found what has since been known as the “Big Seam,” though they did not know its value. John continued to work at this for some time, selling it at the pit’s mouth and sending it down the river in lighters. A demand sprang up for it during the war, to supply the garrison, navy and inhabitants of Halifax. In the year 1815, we find 650 chaldrons exported. After the peace, the price fell to half its former rate. Owing to this and perhaps other causes, McKay failed, and was imprisoned, and his property seized by Hartshorne of Halifax, who had been supplying him. The workmen being unpaid, the latter tried to compromise with them, but they persisted in claiming full payment of what was due. Mr. Adam Carr, who was one of them, joined with Mortimer, and by his influence, the Government were induced to let the mines to the highest bidder, and in that way they obtained the lease in the year 1818. They worked together till Mortimer’s death in the following year, when on the 3rd November, the lease was transferred to George Smith and William Liddell, on the following terms, the Mine on the west side the river for a rent of £260 and 3s. per chaldron for all raised over 400, and that on the East side the river, for £110. We may mention, that this last has never been found productive of good coal. It is the same that a few years ago was opened by the German Company. Smith and Carr worked in partnership, but after a time separated, when the latter got the whole into his possession, and continued to mine, raising the coal by horse power, selling it at the pit mouth, and carting it to the river, where it was sent away in lighters.

Of these years, we may give a statement of the amount of coal raised, as reported to Government.

1818…………………………………………………... 2820 chaldrons. 1820……………………………………………………2609       “
1821 ………………………………………………….. 1370       “

1822 …………………………………………………...2004       “

1823 …………………………………………………...1725       “

1824 ………………………………………………….. 2261       “

1825 …………………………………………………...2801       “

1827 ………………………………………………….. 2523       “

In the year 1825, the home Government leased all the reserved mines in Nova Scotia for sixty years to the Duke of York, excepting, of course, those which had been already leased to other parties. Sir James Kempt, in laying before the Council correspondence on the subject, intimated that he was authorized to state, that the reserved profits of the mines would be applied to the benefit of the county. This was a transaction which no person in the present day will defend, and which subsequent British ministers have acknowledged themselves unable to justify. It had this compensating effect, however, that it introduced into the country a wealthy company, at a time when the same capital could not have been easily obtained. The Duke’s lease was transferred to Messrs. Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, the celebrated London Jewellers, in payment of his debts, and from them to the General Mining Association, in which, I Believe, they were large shareholders. The company had been formed, as the name imports, for mining purposes generally, and, I have been informed, did attempt the working of mines in South America. But for a length of time, their attention has been confined to the coal mines of Sydney and Pictou.

On obtaining their lease, they sent an agent to the Province to explore for mines, and, on his report, resolved to commence operations at the East River. They purchased Mr. Carr’s lease, and having about the same time become possessors of the rights of the lessees of the Sydney Mines, they thus came into possession of all the mines and minerals in the Province, with the exception of what might be found on a few old grants, on which there had been no reserve. Early in the summer of 1827, they sent out Mr. Richard Smith, intending to commence operations both in coal and iron mining. In June a vessel arrived in Pictou, bringing machinery and implements, with colliers, engineers and mechanics.

On the 11th June, the Lieutenant-Governor issued a proclamation, calling on the officers of Government, magistrates and proprietors of land, to give every facility to Mr. Smith in carrying on his operations. He accordingly made all necessary arrangements for working on a large scale. He purchased the farms of Dr. McGregor, William McKay, and Colin McKay, commenced sinking new shafts, 212 feet, and erecting the proper machinery for working on a large scale and in a more scientific manner than hitherto. On the 6th September, their first coal was raised, and in the month of December, he had a steam engine in operation, the first ever erected in the Province. The event was thus noticed in the local paper of the day:—

“The same day on which our first number appeared (December 7th, 1827) another event happened which we may with great propriety, hail as the harbinger of illimitable prosperity to Pictou, of great utility to the whole Province, and we might fairly add to the British North American colonies. On Friday last, for the first time in Nova Scotia, the immense power of steam was brought into successful requisition at the Albion Mines on the East River. Let us rejoice that this district is the favoured scene of its first operation. The engine is of 20 horse power, and the perfection of its first operations evidence the skill of the engineer. The Company’s works will now proceed with redoubled celerity and vigour. Their progress, though retarded by the selfishness and overreaching disposition of individuals, has surpassed the imagination of individuals.”

Before describing the Company’s operation farther, we must give a brief account of the position and structure of the coal fields of this county. As formerly mentioned, the southern portion of the county is occupied by rocks of Silurian or other formations of the older geologic eras. At their northern base are found Lower Carboniferous rocks, with limestone and gypsum. Then come the Newer Carboniferous, or coal measures, occupying the whole front of the county. These, however, are divided by a remarkable formation, known as the Great Conglomerate, which extends in an east and west direction, crossing the East River below New Glasgow, the Middle River at the bridge near Alma, and the West River near Durham, and forming the eminences of Frasers Mountain and Green Hill. To the north of this range some small seams of coal have been found, at Cariboo, Merigomish and the south side of Pictou Harbour, but none large enough for profitable working, and it is yet a question whether any may be expected. Dr. Dawson regards the rocks as of the upper coal measures, or Permo-carboniferous , and therefore not productive, though he expresses a hope that good workable beds may yet be found at greater depth.

At present, however, all the valuable coal seams known, are found on the south side of the Conglomerate, and near its base in the great coal basin of the East River, and its extensions eastward and westward. Of these, the most important is that commonly known as the big seam or the main seam, the enormous size of which is one of the most remarkable phenomena of the field, in which respect we do not know that it is paralleled in the world. It is from this that most of the coal yet mined has been taken. The whole thickness of the seam vertically is 40 feet, or a little over, but in a line perpendicular to the dip 38 or 39. This, however, is not all good coal, there being several bands of ironstone through it, and some portions of the coal are inferior. Dr. Dawson, who is moderate in his calculations, says that at least 24 feet of good coal may be taken out of it.

A cubic foot of this coal, according to the same authority, weighs about 82 lbs., rather less than 28 feet being equal to a ton of coal. Hence, a square mile of this seam would yield in round numbers 23,000,000 tons. — This coal is a highly bituminous baking coal, and is shown by Professor Johnston’s trials to possess high qualities as a steam producer, one pound being capable of converting 7.45 to 7.48 pounds of water into steam. — The greatest objection to it is, that it contains a considerable quantity of light, bulky ashes. Hence, it is not so much esteemed for domestic use, as the better qualities of Sydney coal. But otherwise it possesses very high qualities. It burns long, gives a large amount of heat, is free from sulphur, and remains alight much longer than most other coal.

Next in importance to the main seam, is what is commonly called the deep seam, about 150 feet below the first. It is altogether about 25 feet in vertical thickness, but it also is divided by ironstone and impure coal into three layers of good coal, making together, according to Dr. Dawson, about twelve feet in thickness. The quality of some portions of this seam, is superior even to that of the main seam, but these layers prevent its being mined so economically, but only its nearness to so large a seam prevents its being worked extensively.

Next in value, though not next in order, is what is known as the McGregor seam, which lies at a depth of about 280 feet below the deep seam. It is about twelve feet thick. The two upper veins, amounting together to nearly six feet, have been worked, and found to be of good quality, though requiring care in removing the shaly band which separates them.

About five feet above this, there is a small seam, between three and four feet thick, of good quality. Between this and the deep seam are two other small seams, each about four feet in thickness. These would be valuable elsewhere, but in the presence of such large seams, we need not expect them to be worked for a length of time.

About 240 feet below the McGregor seam, is a peculiar bed known as the “Stellar” * or oil coal, so called from its peculiar scintillations in burning, which some time ago attracted attention for its yield of oil. The following is its arrangement and composition:–

ft. in.
Inferior bituminous coal................................. 1 2
Oil coal........................................................... 1 8
Bituminous shale........................................... 2 0

* Hence the name Stellarton has been given to the village adjacent.

The central portions of this have been found to yield 120 gallons of oil to the ton; it and the shale together, 75 gallons.

These seams all lie conformably. At the southern outcrop on which working commenced, the dip to the northeast at an angle of about 20 degrees, and the strike is about north-west.

Lately another seam has been discovered overlying the main seam. It is found on the northern part of the coal field, probably to the base of the Conglomerate. It is said to be five feet nine inches thick, of pure coal of good quality, but so far as we are aware, the seam has not been explored, nor the coal analysed.

Having thus described the position and characteristics of the different seams, we return to the operations of the General Mining Association.

To get their coal to market, they constructed a railroad from their works to a point a little below New Glasgow, on which they hauled the coal by horses. Here shoots were erected, and vessels drawing not more than six feet of water were loaded. To load larger vessels, they constructed lighters, in which the coal was conveyed to the Loading Ground, as it is called, at the mouth of the River.

In the Patriot of January 28, 1829, the progress of these works is thus noted:—

“The progress of the Mining Company appears to be daily becoming more important. The foundry is in successful operation, and railways [ rails ] are now casting, and will be ready for laying down in the spring, for the purpose of facilitating the conveyance of the coals to the navigable part of the river. A considerable addition to the number of lighters to be employed on the river, will be made in the course of the winter, and a wharf or place of deposit at this town, which will contain several thousand chaldrons of coal for exportation, is contracted for. It is also gratifying to learn, that orders have been received by the late packet to build two steamboats (the machinery for which will arrive in spring), one of thirty horse-power, for the river navigation, and one of 100 horse-power for the purpose of coasting and carrying the coals to market.”

The foundry was under the charge of a man named Onions, but did not do much till the arrival of W.H.Davis, Esq., in 1830 to take charge of it, and who may be regarded as the father of the iron foundry business in Nova Scotia. The boilers for the foundry and pit engines were put together, at John McKay’s blacksmith shop, near where Russell’s now stands, the plates and rivets having been brought out from England. They were then pushed over the wharf, to the amazement of most people, who expected such immense articles to go to the bottom. But they floated lightly, and were towed up the East River, as far as the water would bear them, when they were landed on the intervale and dragged on rollers to their place.

A wharf was built at Pictou, long known as the miners wharf, and for a time coal kept there, but a depot there was found unnecessary and unprofitable. As mentioned above, the hull of a smaller steamer, intended to be used for towing lighters and vessels, was launched from the shipyard of Mr. George Foster, Fishers Grant, on the 19th August following. She was called the “Richard Smith.” She was towed up the river, where she remained all winter receiving her machinery, and did not commence her work till the following summer. The Patriot of July 17th, 1830, contains the following announcement: “We stop the press to announce that the Steamboat “Richard Smith’ has just appeared in the harbour for the first time.” It being the first time a steamer was seen on these waters, the whole town turned out to see the marvellous spectacle. She was at first commanded by Capt. McKenzie and continued for some time to ply on the harbour.

This plan of loading being slow and tedious, they next resolved on deepening the river. For this purpose they obtained an act of Legislature, giving them full authority over the river, so that no vessel drawing over six feet of water was to enter without their permission, and only by paying toll to them. But, in passing the act, the Assembly, which had resented the act of the British Government, in transferring our mines and minerals, added a clause to the effect, that the bill was not to be construed, as admitting the right of the home authorities, to dispose of our mines in a way they had done. In consequence of this, the act was disallowed at Downing Street, and, at the time, a feeling of opposition rising in the country against such a monopoly, the company did not renew their application for similar power. They continued, therefore, to ship their coal in the manner described for several years, but the demand was greater than they could supply, and the long delay of vessels in receiving their cargoes, was a great discouragement to the trade. In the meantime, the use of locomotives on railroads had been tried successfully in England. Accordingly it was resolved to build a railroad from the East River to the Loading Ground, for the conveyance of their coal in that way. The road was laid out and operations commenced in the year 1836.

The surveys and plans were made by Peter Crerar Esq. When they were sent to Britain, it was proposed to send out an engineer to superintend the construction of it. But on his plans being submitted to a competent engineer, the latter said that they needed no better superintendent than the man who prepared them. In consequence, the supervision of the work was entrusted to him, although he had never seen a railroad, and he accomplished it satisfactorily. It was opened in the year 1839, when the first locomotives in British America ran upon it. There were three of them, built by Timothy Hackworth, who competed with Stevenson at the first trial of locomotive engines in England. They were of great power, but slow. They continued doing their duty regularly till lately, when one of them was taken down, but the other two are still at work.

The opening of the railroad was made the occasion of general rejoicing. The two steamers, Pocahontas and Albion, with lighters attached, each carried from Pictou about 1,000 persons to New Glasgow, whence they were taken by train to the mines. Crowds of people on horseback and on foot were here assembled from all parts of the county. Here a procession was formed of the various trades, the Masonic lodges, the Pictou Volunteer Artillery Company, and visitors mounted, with bands of music and pipers at intervals, and various banners, marched to New Glasgow and back again, when the Artillery Company fired a salute. A train of waggons, fitted up to receive passengers, had been attached to each engine, and, being filled with the crowd, now made the first trip to New Glasgow and back again, giving a new sensation to multitudes.

On their return, a feast was given to the employees of the Company, for which 1,100 lbs. of beef and mutton, with corresponding quantities of other articles, were provided; a dinner was given to invited guests, and the night was spent in general festivity.

This railroad, we may mention, was six miles long, and so nearly straight that the least radius of any of its curves was 1300 feet. Its width was eighteen feet. The estimated quantity of excavation was 400,000 cubic yards. At the terminus was a wharf 1500 feet long by 24 feet broad, commanding a fall of 17 feet above high water level at the shoots. The rails were of malleable iron, and estimated cost $160,000.

The first operations of the General Mining Association were on the low ground, close by the East River, where an engine pit was sunk to the depth of 400 feet, and about 250 yards from the outcrop. Here they mined for some time 12 feet of the upper part of the main seam, the lower being regarded as inferior, over a tract of about 800 yards to the west and 250 yards to the east, and covering an area of about 40 acres. In working to the eastward, however, the coal was found to deteriorate in quality. On the 29th December, 1832, at an early hour in the morning, the works were discovered to be on fire. On the day preceding, nearly 100 miners and 14 valuable horses had been at work in their several places in the pits. The men retired from their work between 5 and 6 p.m., leaving the horses as usual in the places provided for their accommodation under ground. On the following morning, when the men assembled for work, to their consternation they found several of the shafts emitting dense volumes of smoke. Immediately the Mine’s bailiff, with two other persons, descended one of the ventilating shafts, when the works were discovered to be on fire in several places, and all the horses dead from suffocation.

The intensity of the fire obliged them to make a hasty retreat to the surface, and immediately on their reporting the state of things, the manager instantly set all hands to work to cover the mouths of the pits, hoping by preventing the circulation of air, to stifle the flames. The pits were thus left covered for several weeks. When they were again opened, it was found that the fire had done extensive injury, and was still slowly burning. Having originated in the lower rooms, it was fortunately confined to that part of the works, and to the prompt closing of the pits must be attributed the saving of the upper. But as this had proved ineffectual for the total suppression of the fire, the managers were reluctantly compelled, toward the end of April following, to introduce the waters of the East River. This proved successful, but it required the power of their steam machinery for pumping, working night and day till the14th December, to clear the pits of water.

An examination of the works led to the belief that the fire was the work of malice and design. An investigation took place under the direction of the Solicitor-General., William Hill, Esq., when a mass of testimony was taken, which left no doubt of the fact. Large rewards were offered for the discovery of the guilty, but they were never detected.

Several other fires occurred, but one in October, 1839, exceeded all the rest in severity. The heat was so intense that it melted the iron chains which were used for hoisting the coal out of the pits. These workings were in consequence abandoned, and have since been known as the Burnt Mines.

Farther to the dip, other shafts were sunk, now known as the Old Bye Pits, and others 960 yards to the west, known as the Dalhouse Pits; and also one nearer the outcrop, known as the “Cage Pit,” was sunk to the Deep Seam, which it reached at a depth of about 300 feet.

From the first of these, the workings were considerably extended east and west, the upper part of the main seam only being mined. In some workings to the dip of these, an accident occurred in May, 1861, which rendered it necessary to let in the water to extinguish the fire. An attempt was made to get into these workings in 1862. But such was their condition, and another fire having occurred in 1863, they were abandoned, and this district has received the name of the “Crushed Mines.”

From the Dalhousie pits the main seam continued to be worked in its entire thickness, the lower portion being much improved in quality, and from the Cage Pit the deep seam still continues to be mined in its entire height.

During the year 1866, a new shaft was sunk to the face of the west workings. A steam engine for hoisting was erected, and a railway between the pit and the main line constructed. But from some unexplained cause, this pit, known as the Foster Pit, was found to be on fire in May, 1869. The place in which it was first seen was not being worked, but was near those in operation. Immediate steps were taken to extinguish the fire, but the rapid accumulation of smoke so overpowered the workmen, that they were obliged to resort to the plan of excluding the air, by closing the top of the shafts, and all other places by which it could enter the mine. The coal at this part of the seam had been found to deteriorate, and from the state of the mine in consequence of the accident, it has since been abandoned. This so affected the Dalhousie Pit, that it too was abandoned shortly after.

The last pit sunk by the Association is known as the Foord pit, which, in the costliness and efficiency of its equipments, is said to be unequalled in America. We may therefore give a particular description of it. The hoisting shaft strikes the main seam at a depth of 960 feet, but to the bottom of the seam it is 1,000 feet. Its size is 12 feet by 9 feet 6 inches, inside the lining; and it is divided into two compartments, with cross stays and slides, passing perpendicular to the sides of the shaft, and bolted to the cross stays, where the cages work in. The cages are double decked, each cage holding four boxes, and each box containing 12 cwt. coal. The winding engine is a double horizontal one, with cylinders of 36 inches in diameter and 5 feet stroke, and nominally of 160 horse-power, though capable of working considerably above this. The winding drum is 18 feet diameter, with two six inch iron wire ropes, which pass from the drum over two large pulley wheels 14 feet in diameter, which is elevated on a strong wooden frame, 30 feet above the top of the shaft. The ropes pass over the pulleys and connect to the cages. When the engine is put in motion, one of the cages goes down with empty boxes, and the other comes up with full ones. On reaching the surface, the boxes are passed to the screens, where the slack is separated, and the coal passes into the cars ready for shipment.

The pumping pit is 40 feet deeper. It is provided with an engine, known as the Cornish pumping engine, with a cylinder 52 inches in diameter, and a stroke of 9 feet, and nominally 260 horse-power. There are three sets pf pumps, 18 inches in diameter, two what are called bucket pumps, the third known as a ram or forcing pump. At each stroke 100 gallons of water are brought to the surface and the engine works 7 strokes a minute and 10 hours each day.

The winding and pumping engines are supplied with steam from 10 large boilers, each 35 feet long and 5 feet 6 inches in diameter. When the mine is in full working order, it will produce 1,000 tons of coal per day.

The ventilation is produced by a Guibal fan, 30 feet in diameter and two feet wide, an instrument closely resembling a steamer’s paddle wheel. It is placed at the mouth of what is known as the fan pit, which is 600 feet deep, and is driven by an engine of 70-horse power. The engine is supplied with steam from two boilers, each 25 feet long and 5 feet 6 inches in diameter. The air goes down by the winding and pumping shafts, circulates through all the works, making a course, it has been calculated, of 7 miles in length, and is expelled by this fan, which produces a current of air equal to 60,000 cubic feet in a minute. This is tested in the pits every day.

The Foord pit coal is noted for its excellent quality, for generating steam, for making gas and for making coke. There are at present 42 coke ovens each 11 feet in diameter, making coke night and day from the slack coal, and a large addition to their number is contemplated. The coke is of superior quality for smelting iron ore, and is now used for that purpose at the Londonderry Mines.

From the Foord pit a drift level, 600 yards long, has been run to the deep seam, and by it and the Cage pit that seam is now mined.

The system of working pursued from the commencement of the colliery has been continued, with some modifications in the size of the pillars, which from the thickness of the seam, and its declination, often proved inadequate, and led to crushing of the workings. The bords are driven eighteen wide, and parallel to the levels. They are turned out of balance ways or headings, which are put up to the full rise at intervals of 150 yards, the width of the pillars between being eight or ten yards. These balance ways are used to bring the coal down to the horse road, on the principle of a self-acting incline; the only difference being that the loaded bogie raises the empty tub to the respective bord ends, and it is in its turn taken back by a tub of coal, which exceeds it in weight. The bords are driven in opposite directions from these inclines, to shorten the putting.

The Company’s works gathered around them a large population. They own about four hundred houses, which are occupied by their employees. These, with the residences and places of business of others who have been attracted hither, form a large village, which now contains five churches; two Presbyterian, one Episcopal, one Wesleyan Methodist and one Roman Catholic. The population around these works necessarily made a demand for farm produce, and afforded a ready cash market for it, and this has been a great convenience to the rural districts around.

In the year 1872, the General Mining Association sold all their rights in the mines at Pictou to a new company, known as the Halifax Company, of which Sir George Elliott is chairman.

In the year 1856, the monopoly of the General Mining Association was abolished, they retaining in Pictou four square miles where they might select. The area, as chosen by themselves, extends from the Alboin Mines to the upper part of New Glasgow, a distance of about two miles, embracing the ground on both sides of the river, but extending a greater distance to the west than to the east of it. Exploration for coal immediately became active, and in this work the late James D.B. Fraser, Esq., of Pictou, deserves special notice. He took out rights of search in the neighbourhood of the General Mining Association’s area, to the west and south. From the strike of the large seams toward the west, it was to be expected that they would appear to the westward toward Middle River, but for a time even scientific men were baffled in tracing their course and some came to the conclusion that they became exhausted in that direction. Mr. Fraser spent a good deal of time and money in his explorations, but failed to find the Big Seam.

Finding, however, the Stellar coal, he ran two slopes into it, one 215 feet, the other 204, and commenced shipping it, along with its accompanying oil shale, to Boston, where there was manufactured from it oil of good illuminating quality. But the discovery of the oil wells of Canada and the United States, so lowered the price, that it was found impossible to compete with them. The work was therefore abandoned, and until either the supply from the oil wells diminishes, or other uses are discovered for oil, this vein is not likely to be again worked. He also formed a company, of which the principal shareholders are in New York, called the Acadia Company, which commenced working the McGregor seam, at the place originally worked by the Doctor. They spent a considerable sum in erecting buildings, and providing a plant necessary for carrying on extensive operations, when a fine seam of coal, since known as the Acadia Seam, was discovered about two miles to the south west of the Albion Seam, where the Nova Scotia company’s works now are, which geologists regard as the equivalent of the main seam. We believe the credit is due to Mr. James Fraser, Mount William, of being the real discoverer, though a Connecticut yankee, named Truman French, reaped the fruits. Mr. John Campbell, by careful exploration, conducted in a scientific manner, traced it farther to the south. It was now found that about a mile and a half to the westward of the East River, the seams suddenly turned to the southward, and the line of outcrop continued for more than a mile in that direction, forming a sort of bay, which now forms the area of the Intercolonial Company. It was then found again to strike to the north-west towards the Middle River; then turning again towards New Glasgow, it has been again found with high dips to the southward nearly opposite the town. “The East River coal area,” Says Dr. Dawson, “between that river and the Middle River, would thus appear to constitute an irregular trough, with a deep bay to the southward.”

The seams in this direction, though regarded by geologists as the continuation of the seams on the East River, are considerably changed. Thus the Acadia seam has a thickness of about twenty feet, of which from sixteen to eighteen is good coal.

It will thus be seen, that as compared with the main seam at the Albion, it is diminished in thickness but improved in quality. On the Intercolonial area, the “deep seam” has also been discovered with a thickness at right angles to the bed of eleven feet, and other beds, supposed to be the equivalents of the other beds on the East River.

The discovery of the continuation of the coal seams towards the Middle River formed a new era in coal mining in this county. The Acadia Company, abandoning nearly, if not quite entirely, all operations on the McGregor seam, on the area south of the General Mining Association’s, commenced operations on the main seam on their area to the west, and for some years exceeded even the old company in the amount of coal raised. They built a railroad connecting their works with the Government line, and have sent their coal for shipment over it to Fishers Grant, a distance of about 13 miles.

Their slopes are now 1,575 feet deep, on an incline of 22 degrees. Levels have been driven to the boundary lines on either side of their area, and the seam is found to be remarkably regular, not a single dislocation or disturbance having been encountered in any direction. At present, the Acadia colliery employs 180 men and 20 boys, and produces 400 tons of coal per day, which is greatly below its actual working capacity.

The quality of their coal is excellent, having been tested for a great variety of purposes, and with the most satisfactory results. The mine is admirably equipped with all the best and most approved appliances for securing the safety of life and property in mines, and the works have been remarkably free form accidents.

Mr. John Campbell, who had first traced the coal seams to the southward, and obtained a lease of an area in that direction, sold his rights to a company in Montreal, of which G.A. Drummond, Esq., was president, called the Intercolonial Company. They immediately commenced developing their property. In the year 1868, two slopes were sunk to the dip of the large seam, usually known as the Acadia seam, and a pair of winding engines erected at their mouth. About 14,000 tons were mined the same year, and a large amount of preparatory work done. A railway about six miles long was constructed to the Middle River, where they had built wharves, and provided all the conveniences necessary for shipping coal in quantities. The railway was opened on the 1st of October. The ballasting, however, was not then completed, and from the lateness of the season, only between two and three thousand tons could be shipped. They have since erected a short line from their works to the Government road, by which they are enabled to send coal to Halifax and places along the line of the Intercolonial Railroad.

In the year 1869, the colliery, under the management of the late James Dunn, Esq., was fully equipped with everything necessary for the production, transportation and shipment of coal, under the improved markets of the following years, the company’s business rapidly increased, so that in 1872 their sales amounted to 105,545 tons, their shipments ranking second in the Province, the Acadia Company alone exceeding them.

In 1873, the markets still further improved, and elaborate preparations were made in the mines for a heavy production. A large stock of coal was banked on the surface and about 7,000 tons stowed in the upper workings of the mine. In all a greater quantity was on hand than that possessed by any other company, when the spring trade opened, with every prospect of a successful year’s business. But just as the shipping season opened, the terrible explosion took place, by which many lives were lost, the pit set on fire, much of their plant destroyed and their operations suspended.. The following account of it is taken from the report of the Inspector of Mines:—

“Early in May the shipping had already become vigorous, when a strike of the colliers for certain privileges and higher rates of wages closed the workings. After a week’s intermission, an agreement was made with the men and they resumed work on the 13th. About noon on that day, a shot fired in one of the low levels on the south side of the pit ignited the coal. Every exertion was made, to put out the fire, but the peculiarly broken condition of the face of the level prevented the men from attacking the flame, where the burning gas directly issued in great volume from the solid coal. The fire spread rapidly, and as it was soon evident that the chances of subduing it were small, an order was issued that all the hands, who were disinclined to assist at the fire, should leave the pit. Many had previously left, having been driven out of their bords, by the smoke. The boys, all except one, had gone up, and of the rest , all but about a dozen men who remained with Richardson, the overman, at the fire, left the lowest landing to walk up the slope. Richardson and his men, who so heroically remained to battle with the fire, so long as there was the slightest hope of success, must soon have followed to endeavor to check as speedily as possible the progress of the flames, and save the pit by closing all openings. No attempt to do this was, however, made, for before many of the men who were in the slopes had time to escape, an explosion of gas, unexampled on this continent for violence, occurred, dealing on all sides death and destruction. The force of the explosion was so great, that the wooden rope rollers were torn from the track and hurled out of the slope, as from the mouth of a cannon, falling in the woods some two hundred yards back of the bankhead. Great baulks of timber 14 feet long, by 9 inches through, were cast up out of the Campbell pit to so great a height that on falling, they struck the ground with such force as to fracture them, and the rush of air swept away as would a hurricane the exposed roof of the bankhead. Many explosions took place during the afternoon, and the second occurring about two hours after the first, killed four volunteers, who were nobly endeavoring to rescue some men then known to be alive at the bottom of the pumping pit. By the second explosion, the ventilation was thoroughly destroyed, and as hopes could no longer be entertained that any life still existed in the mine, all the preparations to explore the workings were then abandoned, and attention alone directed to saving property. The violence and frequency of the explosions, struck terror into the hearts of all who rushed to the scene, and paralyzed the efforts of those who sought to close the openings. All the available water was turned in to cut off the lower workings, and effectually seal the bottom of the pumping pit. Still the fire raged, despite of every exertion, for 36 hours, and the flames shot up with a fierce roar to the height of from thirty to forty feet from the many openings along the crop. Two days passed before the men engaged in filling the openings had effectually sealed this fiery grave of fifty-five of their comrades.

“The workings remained closed until the end of October, when one of the slopes was opened, and air allowed to circulate between it and an opening made by a fall near the rise. At the end of a fortnight, and just when appearances seemed to warrant preparations being made to re-open the workings in a regular manner, the return air showed unquestionable signs, that the fresh air was finding its way into places, where the heat was still sufficiently intense to cause combustion of the coal or the bituminous shales of the roof. In consequence the pit was again closed.”

The total number of lives lost was sixty, among whom was Mr. Dunn, the manager, of whom 31 were married men, 28 single men and 1 boy, leaving 29 widows, 80 orphan children, besides parents dependant on the lost. Contributions to the amount of about $23,000 were made in various parts of the Dominion and the United States for their relief.

To keep a small business going, a pit some 70 feet deep was sunk to the south of No. 2 slope. In the fall of 1873, a new manager, Mr. Robert Simpson, M.E. arrived from Glasgow and under his supervision a new slope was driven to the south of the old workings, and winding machinery there erected. Subsequently he conducted the re-opening of the two original slopes — an operation involving great skill and expense, but one successfully consummated, the most of the exploded workings being recovered in 1875 and safety in restoring the remainder assured. The most of the water has now (1876) been pumped out, the workings cleared of debris, and reconstructed thoroughly, so that the colliery now, with its three working inclines, is in a better position for a large out-put then ever it was before. A fan 20 feet diameter, 6 feet wide, on the Guibal principle, for the ventilation of the underground workings, was erected in 1875 and has proved a complete success.

Mr. French, who had obtained the lease of an area of three-and-half square miles, where the extension of the seams in this direction was first discovered, worked for a time spending money uselessly, but his rights were transferred to a company, composed of persons principally resident in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1869, they commenced building a railway from their mine to the Middle River, a distance of six miles; and in July, 1871, they had it completed, with shipping wharf, and commenced shipping coal. On this railroad the most noticeable feature is the high bridge across McCulloch’s Brook. It is a trestle work, built of Southern pine, imported for the purpose. It is 400 feet long, consisting of four spans of 100 feet each. The middle span is 78 feet above the bed of the brook.

The works of these three colliers being in immediate proximity, a village has sprung up named Westville, of which the growth has been more rapid, than that of any place known to me in these provinces. The land here, owing principally to heavy fires, was so barren that one man, who owned 50 acres, after clearing some of it, offered the whole for a cow; and a lot of 100 acres, on part of which is now situated the Acadia Company’s works, was willed to the Pictou Academy, in payment of a subscription of five pounds. In 1866, I visited the spot. Part was covered with wood, but part seemed too barren even for that. Having been severely burnt over, it produced only small bushes. Some men were then engaged in erecting a hut, of round poles cut almost on its site. In 1875, a census was taken, when the village was found to contain a population of 2,500, with three churches -- two Presbyterian, of large size, and a small Methodist; and a Roman Catholic chapel is now building. But a great mistake was made at the onset, in the ground not having been properly laid out. The consequence is that the buildings have been placed in most admired disorder.

These four companies are all that are in successful operation on the west side of the East River. Another company, known as the Montreal Company, established by Mr. Robert G. Haliburton, sank a shaft just opposite New Glasgow, on an area owned by them, which thus lies at the north side of the coal field, and near the base of the Conglomerate. Here they found the coal of good quality, but lying at a very steep angle, and abounding in inflammable gas. But nothing has since been done to develop the property.

Before the commencement of the General Mining Associaton’s operations, a seam was opened on the east side of the river, and after the abolition of the Mining Companys operations, it was again opened by the Pictou Mining Company. The coal was found to be inferior in quality, and a continuance of the deterioration having been ascertained by a shaft sunk farther to the east, all operations were abandoned, though Mr. Rutherford expresses his opinion, that it may not continue far into the dip.

Considerable labor and means have been expended in endeavors to trace the course of the seam further east. The result has been the discovery of several beds of coal; but the field, on examination, has been found so intricate, the measures so disturbed and broken, that their extent and position, as well as their relation to the other seams, are as yet involved in some uncertainty. We shall, however, give a brief summary of the facts ascertained.

Immediately behind New Glasgow two seams have been opened, the lower known as the Stewart seam, upwards of three feet in thickness, and the upper as the Richardson, 2 feet 9 inches, both of which are regarded geologically as overlying the main seam. The last of them has been partially mined by a company, known as the “Crown Brick Coal and Pottery Company,” which was formed for the purpose of working an extensive deposit of fire clay found here. Though the seam was small, the coal was found to be of excellent quality. The company, however, has been for some time in a state of suspended animation.

About a mile further east, two seams have been discovered about 3 1-2 and 4 1-2 feet thick, and another larger. But here a large fault is found to cross the field, and the whole measures are so broken, that very little has been done in the way of mining upon them.

Farther east, at what was known as the Marsh, four young men named McBeans, two of them brothers, and cousins of the other two, also brothers, took out rights of search. They were at the time possessed of but limited means, but they spent time and labour and what means they had, in exploring their area, and in opening some veins found on it. Their enterprise in due time met with its rewards. The examination of the field by Sir William Logan, proved that their lease covered valuable seams of considerable extent. It was accordingly purchased by a Company in Montreal, known as the “Vale Coal Iron and Manufacturing Company,” of which Sir Hugh Allan is president. Since 1872, under the able management of J. B. Moore, Esq., the vice president, and J. P. Lawson, engineer, they have provided and erected everything necessary for mining and shipping coal on an extensive scale.

This colliery is situate about six miles to the eastward of New Glasgow, on a seam formerly known as the McBean area. It contains three square miles, or 1,920 acres. There are five known workable seams of coal on it, which are found in descending order, as follows: The uppermost of the series is the “Captains seam.” A good coal well liked for domestic purposes. It measures three feet six inches in vertical thickness. Seventy-five feet below is the “Mill Race seam,” so named from being first discovered in the mill race below Jas. McDonald’s saw mill. It is not quite so good coal. It is three feet thick, with impurities. Over sixty feet below is the “Geo. McKay seam.” This is a good seam of coal, well liked both for steam and domestic purposes. It measured in three openings 3 feet 9 inches, 4 feet, and 4 feet 10 inches in vertical thickness. A small seam of oil shale of uncertain size and value, about eight inches in the center of the seam, is very rich, but it gets poor as you go from the center. Next is “The Six Feet seam.” It is not quite so good coal, but is purer to the dip.

About 1,450 feet across the measures behind the above seam, is the “McBean seam.” It is good coal, both for steam and domestic purposes. It measures seven feet of vertical thickness. Two small seams are found, about 200 feet across the measures from the McBean seam. They are too small to work. The vale colliery is placed on the McBean seam, into which two slopes, one sixteen feet wide (the main slope), the other eight feet wide (a traveling and pumping slope), are driven on the dip of the seam, from which the levels are driven in the coal. A pair of winding engines, 12 inch cylinder and 18 inch stroke, built at the Acadia foundry, New Glasgow, have been erected in front of the Main Slope, and a double acting steam plunger plump, also made at the Acadia foundry, is placed at the foot of the pumping slope, which throws the water to the surface and drains the mine.

A railroad six miles long, leading from the Colliery and joining the Intercolonial Railroad at New Glasgow, with all the necessary sidings, has been constructed by the Company. From New Glasgow the coal is conveyed over the Intercolonial Railway to the Pictou Landing, where it is shipped.

The works of the Vale Colliery were started in the woods, in the fall of 1872. A few trains of coal were run over the railroad to Halifax in the fall and winter of 1873-4; and in 1874, the out-put of merchantable coal was about 39,000 tons, the dull state of the markets keeping the mine idle one-half of the months of September and October, two-thirds of November and all December.

Workshops for carpenters and blacksmiths, and an office and store, have been erected at a convenient distance from the works. A number of miners’ houses have also been erected by the Company, in all about ninety buildings. To the north of the Company’s property, the land is regularly laid out in building lots. A good many of these have been sold, and quite a neat village has sprung up, with stores, halls and dwellings, and a number are in course of erection. As the situation is picturesque, the Vale will be one of the prettiest villages in the eastern part of the Province. During the year 1876, a Presbyterian church has been built and a pastor ordained.

Messrs. Mitchell & Barton have an acre or two of the McBean seam, at the north-east corner of the McBean lease. There is only coal enough there to supply the inhabitants with their winters’ fuel for a short time.

Between the Vale Colliery works and New Glasgow, and extending southwardly for some distance is all good coal measures, and doubtless containing valuable seams; and it is more than probable that should the coal trade revive, other valuable works will be started upon them.

It will thus be seen that we have now five large companies in vigorous operation, in mining and shipping coal. It only remains to give a few statistics, showing the amount of their work.

The following is a statement in tons of the sales by counties for the last four years:

Cape Breton..............................
Other Counties..........................
--------------- --------------- --------------- ---------------

Albion or Halifax
Nova Scotia
McBean or Vale
Mitchell and Barton
McDonald and McKay
Crown, Brick & P. Co.
George McKay
German er Pictou Co.
Montreal and Pictou
Merigomish Co

In the above the round and the slack coal are counted together. The Latter will be about one-ninth of the whole. To these quantities must be added an average of ten percent, for colliery consumption, to show the whole amount raised.

Day's Labor
Day's Work
Day's labor
Halifax Co
Nova Scotia
Mitchell & Co


When the General Mining Association commenced operations, they designed to work the iron as well as the coal deposits known to exist on the East River. They quarried ore from a bed now known as the Blanchard bed, and collected a quantity of Limonite about the banks of the river, near Springville. They also erected a blast furnace at the Albion mines, for the purpose of smelting these ores. But those in charge, accustomed to English ores and English fuel, did not understand how to manage ores of a different character. The declared that the ore was too rich, and, the company not having discovered the bed of Limonite, the work was abandoned.

Some iron, however, was produced, which, in combined hardness and toughness, excelled anything known. When quartz crushing began at the gold mines, and iron possessing these qualities was specially required for stampers, parties gathered up the lumps that had been thrown away at the old blast furnace at the Albion mines, and they found it superior for the purpose to any iron that could be obtained from any other quarter.

During the last few years, attention has again been directed to the subject, and careful explorations have been carried on, under the direction of competent scientific men. The result has been, to show the existence in this county of a variety of iron deposits, of great extent, and superior quality. Geologically, these lie among the Upper Silurian and Lower Carboniferous rocks, which we have formerly mentioned, as traversing the interior and southern portions of the county. We shall briefly notice the principal of these. Among the most important is a great bed of Red Hematite, which is most extensively developed at Blanchard, near the East Branch of the East River of Pictou, and on the upper part of Sutherlands River. The ore bed is an enormous deposit, varing in width from fifteen to thirty feet, and where it has been opened up, affords from ten to twenty feet in thickness of good ore. This bed has been traced for several miles, and rises into some of the higher elevations of the country. At Sutherlands River, it is found at an elevation of 400 feet above its bed, and its position will allow the extraction of millions of tons above water level, by the simplest operation of the miner. Though not one of the richest ores in the district, its great quantity and accessibility render it of great value. The analyses made of it, show a percentage of metal varying from 43 to 54 per cent. The foreign matter is principally Silica and the proportions of Phosphorus and Sulphur are very small. The principal exposures of this bed, are distant only twelve miles from the great collieries of the East River of Pictou, and less than ten miles from the Halifax and Pictou Railway, while the extension of the latter eastward will pass close by its outcrop at Sutherlands River.

At Sutherlands River, about three miles from Merigomish Harbour, is a valuable deposit of Spathic Iron or Siderite, occurring in Lower Carboniferous sandstones, and varying in thickness from six feet six inches to ten feet six inches. It affords from 42 to 43 per cent of iron, and contains from 2 to 8 per cent of manganese. This bed is only four miles distant from the “Vale “ colliery.

At the junction of the Lower Carboniferous and Upper Silurian rocks, in the valley of the East River, near Springville, is a vein of Limonite of exceeding richness and value. It varies in width from five to twenty-one feet, and the ore is of the finest quality, affording from 62 to 65 per cent of metallic iron. A similar vein has been opened near Glengarry station.

Besides these, a large vein of Specular iron ore, similar to that at Londonderry, occurring in similar conditions, and supposed to be a continuation of it, has been traced from New Lairg, near Glengarry, eastward to near the East Branch of the East River. About a mile to the West of this stream, it has been examined, and thence explored for two miles, following the course of a high hill, and its width was found to vary from five to twenty feet. The ore is a nearly pure peroxide of iron, containing from 64 to 69 per cent of metal, and great quantities could be easily taken out from the outcrop of the vein.

There are also other veins of less importance. Clay Ironstones also occur in many parts of the coal field, but no attention has hitherto been given to them as sources of iron ore. It may be anticipated that should the richer ores be worked, they may be rendered available in connection with them.

It will thus be seen, that these explorations have shown that from Glengarry to Merigomish, a course of over 20 miles, there extends a series of iron ore deposits, of good quality and more the usual dimensions. The ferriferous rocks extend westerly into Colchester, and though these have not been explored, yet small veins of Specular ore are found on the upper part of the Middle and West Rivers. It is probable also, that they will be found in the opposite direction toward Antigonish county.

As the presence of cheap flux is important for the manufacture of iron, we may add that limestone is found in every part of this section of country. Abundance of fire clay also of superior quality, is found in various places. Moulding sand also is plentiful on the East River and its tributaries. The best known deposit is near the mouth of McLellans Brook, which has for years supplied our local foundries.

It will thus be seen, that in its rich iron ore, in the immediate vicinity of coal, Pictou possesses the elements of national prosperity. The course hitherto pursued of rising coal to export, is simply a waste of our natural resources. Let it be employed in developing the treasures of the rocks, and the county, we may say, the Province, will enter upon a boundless career of progress.

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