If you are out and about in this great country of
ours, you will always be close to history.
I was camping the
other weekend with the family, at a place called Murphy's Point, near
Perth, Ontario. On the drive into this special place, I
happened to notice a sign that pointed to the Silver Queen Mine. I
knew that there was not very much silver in the area, so the name was
a drawing card. I decided to do the walk in to the site.
was worth it.
There are guided tours of the site offered by
Ontario Parks' staff. I am sure they are of value but I like to
explore without help. Anyway the tours were not scheduled to
begin for another 2 weeks or so. Maybe I will return for the
tour this summer.
The mine operated between 1903 and 1920 and was a
marvel of its day. Unlike its name, the mine did not produce
Silver. Mica, feldspar and apatite were produced by miners who
bashed, chipped and chiselled the minerals from the rock.
They also drilled and blasted but the drilling was something to
behold. Picture, if you will, that you are crouched down
holding an octagonal iron bar that has a a sharp point. Above you
is a big hairy brute with a sledge hammer who is about to strike the
top of your iron bar (called a twist drill). You hope that he
is neither drunk nor short sighted. He hits your bar and then
you twist it a bit before he strikes it again. To make this
nightmare even worse there are two brutes with hammers for every bar
twister. You have just doubled your chance to be nicknamed "Lefty".
Once the drill hole was four feet deep, it was packed
with explosives and a clay plug and then blown to loosen the rock.
The average team could do 1-2 feet per hour so you can understand
that odds were not in the favour of the drill-holder.
Later on in the life of the mine, a steam powered
drill began to be used, probably saving a few digits from
In addition to pit mining, the Silver Queen also has
a number of tunnel mines. Some up to 60 feet deep and dug by
Mica is an interesting mineral. It is light
and flakey and when peeled down a single layer of
flake, it is transparent (or at least translucent). It does
not conduct electricity, can withstand very high temperature and can
flake into very large sheets. It is still in use today in
electronic equipment, such as capacitors, and in the form of a tape
for insulation purposes.
Below you will find a series of pictures (click on
them to see them) from the
mine site. Visit it, It worth your time.
Legend: Blue Drift shaft; Silver Queen shaft; loose
mica; powerhouse; camp office and sleeping quarters.