Cobalt, the Goblin of the North
TRAVEL AND DESCRIPTION
W. A. FRASER IN SATURDAY EVENING POST
Mr. Fraser gives an interesting account of how the different claims in the world famous Cobalt were located. In this account he gives a note of warning to prospective investors.
COBALT is from the German Kobold, a goblin of the mines, an evil spirit who in reality spread his malign influence by the insidious agency of the arsenical dust which crept into the lungs of the mine-workers, who broke the ores which were impregnated with arsenic.
The physical plan of Cobalt town is a cross between a switchback railway and a loop-the-loop, only that in winter the whole, thing is iced, which makes it work more smoothly. You start, say, for the Prospect Hotel with easy nonchalance and a suit-case, and in fifteen minutes you find yourself back again at the station, with, perhaps, a French half-breed and two train-dogs in your lap, or, maybe, you have joined a party of tourists who have been gathered in by a sleigh that, starting sidewise at the top of the hill, swept the street bare until it bunted into a freight car that was purposely left to keep these recurrent things off the track.
Cobalt is the slipperiest thing I ever saw. One night 1 was dining in the Mint Restaurant. Now the road slopes away from the very door-sill of the Mint right down to the station at an angle of about forty-five. Presently the door opened and a debonair youth in liquor and a college sweater called over his shoulder to some one behind: “Come in —the water’s fine !” Then the slippery angle got its work in. He started down the declivity. It was the hour for population on the street, and soon the single atom of, humanity gathered other atoms and became an avalanche. Through the door we watched with heartless hilarity the thing grow into a great human ball with writhing legs and arms. When the freight car checked the wayward ones a riot followed; but there was no fun in that, so we closed the door and went back to our steaks. I saw the young man the next day at the hotel with a calcite vein running diagonally across
his cheek and some high-grade Cobalt bloom under his eye.
But where had he got the alcohol ?— that was the great question. In all Cobalt is not one liquor license—and I hope it will keep that way. Dynamite and whisky do not mix welk. The hotelkeeper assured me that he was to get a license; but, when I asked Premier Whitney about this, he answered, “I guess he’s got to get our views first.” So I fancy Cobalt will continue ethically clean, if not so from a sanitary or hygienic point of view.
If typhoid does not hit the place in the solar plexus next summer it won’t be Cobalt’s fault. It’s just training hard for the typhus and diphtheria stakes—it should be a winner. Even now one buys drinking water at twentyfive cents a bottle in the hotel. Here’s a sign I read in the town which gives the keynote of the place where men are too busy over silver to bother about sanitation. It read :
Livery Stable, Horses to Hire, Milk and Beef For Sale.
And on a manure heap, between the stable and the house, were the cows eating the soiled bedding which had been thrown out from the horses’ stalls.
There are no open gambling houses. There is, I fancy, a policeman, though I never saw him. His office is a sinecure. If the whisky takes a legal stand in the town, then he’ll have to get busy, for there are Finns and Poles and Italians, and all the other harebrained men of the handy knife in the mines at Cobalt.
But on to the sides of all the many anticlinals that constitute the topography of Cobalt are pasted town lots that are worth thirty-six hundred dollars each in addition to surface value ; for they are all merged in a mining company, twenty-four hundred shares issued per lot, worth a dollar and a half each in the market.
In the summer of 1003 a new Government railway, shouldered along by the men of construction, pushed its way in a northeast direction diagonally across the fifth and sixth concessions of Coleman Township, on the shores of Lake Temiscamingue, in New Ontario.
At that time Coleman was this kind of a township : A friend of the writer’s held veteran’s scrip for 160 acres of land and out of some half-forgotten voice there remained an echo calling him to locate in that township, along the new railway; so he went and looked at the rock-scarred hills that held senseless pools called lakes, and cursed himself softly for a misguided goat and went thitherward into another land.
But the railway, plodding along, cut across one forty-acre plot of land that is now the La Rose Mine, with standing walls of silver. Crossing that forty acres, the railway actually cut from its path the end of a rock-cliff, laying bare a vein from which, during the past few months, the Right-of-Way Mining Company has taken nearly $200,000 in ore.
But the men of construction . took no notice of the curiously heavy pieces of rock they threw from their path. Silver as a watch case or a souvenir spoon they would have recognized, but the gnarled, blackened, oxidized nuggets were only good for ballast.
Just at the lower end of Cobalt Lake two lumlbermen were at work that same time—ties for the railway, I think. They found a vein of metal, and in the recorder’s office had forty acres registered in their joint names, MacKinley and Darragh. This was the origin of the MacKinley-Darragh Mine and was actually the first discovery.
About this time a French blacksmith named La Rose, working for the MacMartin brothers, contractors on the railway, out of Gallic restlessness wandered about in the woods at the other end of Cobalt Lake. He found some of this oxidized stuff that seemed so heavy and so unlike anything reasonable, and, naturally enough, consulted his handtools about it. He put it on the anvil and spanked it with his hammer till it practically confessed its name and nature.
He was a curious little old Frenchman, and did not know about affairs of registration as well as McKinley and Darragh; but still he was not by any means a fool, for one day when a teamster asked him blandly where he had found the metal, that was most certainly a piece of worthless lead, the blacksmith pointed to the North; and the teamster, selecting two claims of forty acres each to the north, registered them. Then presently La Rose made entry for forty acres where he had actually found the silver.
Then the versatile teamster, feeling that Frenchy had wronged him in not being truthfully communicative, said that his first entry was wrong, and that he had meant to select eighty acres running, not east and west, but north and south, and taking in the claim La Rose had made entry for.
But two Scots of the fighting Glengarry blood named MacMartin had bought a half-interest from La Rose, and the teamster was somewhat up against an argument. The court frowned upon the teamster’s changeableness of mind, gave La Rose his claim, and, somewhat inexplicably, gave the other man pretty much anything he wanted that wTas lying around loose—told him to go out ,and help himself to some of the back lots. Without any show of diffidence, he complied, and his takings comprise the O’Brien "Mine properties. These twTo properties, the La Rose and the O’Brien, are perhaps the richest in the whole Cobalt region.
Though the teamster had probably never made any discovery of mineral on these properties, another man had. He was associated with the MacMartin faction, which now turned round and sought to separate the O’Brien outfit from the large holding they had acquired. There was much litigation; and one morning MacMartin opened his eyes wide in astonishment when he read in the paper that the Government had settled the dispute between him and O’Brien by taking twenty-five per cent, of the silver that would gome out of the mine and giving O’Brien the rest.
At the time La Rose was turning horseshoes, and finding silver mines,
another. Frenchman, named Thomas Hebert, was working on the railway in Coleman. One day he found to the north of the MacKinley-Darragh property one of those stones of much avirdupois, and carried it to La Rose’s anvil for assay. The hammer demonstrated its quality; and as La Rose was now an authority on such matters, Hebert asked the blacksmith to help him locate the lode from which the fragment had come.
Now, silver mines are all very well in their way, but a blacksmith’s time is valuable, so Duncan MacMartin, the employer, compromised on a half day off for the smith, on the understanding that the find was to be divided between the three.
La Rose and Hebert found a silver vein in a thirty-foot ciiff, and that find was the first discovery of the Nipissing Company.
They had no axe to cut a stake, and, like French children, put this matter off for a day, and Hebert went off to Haileybury while La Rose awaited his return. There was some delay about his coming down to do the staking act; so next day MacMartin and La Rose trailed down to the discovered vein and drove a stake. Then Hebert and a companion slipped over the horizon line from another direction and also drove a stake.
However, Hebert, short on English as he was,, was well coached in the art of making fast, and he made a home run for the recorder’s office. He won in a walk. His affidavit of discovery to the Nipissing property will probably be sold as a rare autographed missive. It is signed thus :
Thomas X Hebert mark
on behalf of W. C. Chambers Oct. 23rd, 1903.
They offered a surveyor a fifth interest to rdn the lines on these properties. But he wasn’t working for anybody for nothing—not much, he wanted the coin; so they were forced to give up two hundred dollars of good money instead of a fifth of the Nipissing property. Even a lawyer refused to make the legal
wheels go round for a big slice of Nipissing land. They couldn’t “gold brick’’ him either.
Then one day the gods blew their way a swan for the pluckingf A man in New York had condescended to consider their offer of the property for two hundred thousand dollars.
The five men lay awake nights wondering if it was really good enough to be true. They sat in corners and discussed the probabilities of somebody pinching their victim till he woke up.
One day the cheque came for the near two hundred thousand dollars, and they sent a man on horseback on the keen gallop to the bank for fear it would be stopped by wire. The world knows pretty well the retail price of the Nipissing commodity 'since the day the wholesale dealer bought it in bulk.
Professor Miller, the provincial geologist, finding so many amateurs taking interest in the physical structure of Coleman Township, went out there himself with his microscope and little hammer. He saw La Rose digging a hole in the ground and throwing out of his way solid slabs of silver, argentite, smaltite, niccolite, pyrargyrite—in fact, nearly all the “ites’’ that occur in mineralogy were lying around loose up there like the broken bolts and horseshoes and nuts of a blacksmith’s scrap heap.
The Professor loaded up with silver nuggets in various forms of disguise, and brought these down to Toronto. Then he wrote about what he had seen, and added what he thought of it all; and, when the papers published these things, the children who had had their fingers scorched in the British Columbia mining flame, pursed up their lips and whistled.
One day a man named Trethewey walked into Professor Miller’s office in Toronto, and tried to lift a huge nugget of smaltite that Hebert, the French strong man, had carried down a steep hill for Professor Miller at Cobalt. A few weeks later Trethewey had found a mine. That was the evolution of both the Trethewey and the Coniagas mines, the discoverer dropping out with a
couple of million when he had put thing's in order.
Three students from Toronto University percolated through the School of Mines, and then went out on survey work in Coleman. By grace of chance, this pilgrimage of the babes into the world occurred at the time of the silver harvest; so, while bearing the chain at one dollar and a half per, they relieved the monotony of servitude by locating a calcite vein on the edge of Lake Giroux, which they named the University Mine.
That was one year after La Bose had staked his claim. If they had been possessed of less of the little knowledge which is a dangerous thing they would have been really better off.
they surveyed fifty-six acres, so that much of it was aquatic—extending out into Lake Giroux, to make sure of the vein. Had they allowed this claim to rest peacefully and dry-shod higher up on the little hill, they would have taken in what is now the Foster Silver Mine. But they didn’t do badly for boys, for one day John MacMartin gave them a million dollars to turn the mine over to his firm of silversmiths.
It was a droll throw of the dice that caused the Temiscamingue Railway to cut through the very pearl of this silver oyster, but it did. The “steel” pencils its way across foundations of silver.
A group of men secured the privilege of mining the railway right-of-vmy, but there was a discussion over this, as there wTas some Government official in connection with the holders.
The property was withdrawn and advertised for sale.
Some Ottawa people paid fifty thousand dollars bonus and a royalty on the output, and secured it. They named this enterprise the Right-of-Way Mining Company.
Had the promoters been possessed of a grain of humor they would have called it the Giraffe’s Neck, for the property consists of a ribbon of land ninety-nine feet wide and some miles long. However, the company started practically to quarry out silver that ran fully sixty thousand dollars to the carload.
The La Rose property crosses the rail-
way, so does the big silver vein on this claim. The vein comes right to the surface and is as fat as Wiltshire bacon; so the Right-of-Way manager, starting in on this vein, pared it close to the La Rose line.
There is a law, written or unwritten, that a lode shall not be worked closer on the surface to another claim than six feet, leaving the intervening wall for mutual destruction. So, when the Right-of-Way man was supposed to be starting a shaft tight up against the line, the La Rose manager got busy on his side of the wire fence. A smooth, little hole was coaxed down into the rock, a slim finger of dynamite put away in this nest for a little snooze, and when the dynamite woke up and stretched its arms, great fragments of rock rolled over and nestled in the cute little open cut from which the Right-ofWay man had taken a fortune in silver.
Her rushed away for an injunction, and the hand-drill on the La Rose side of the fence again chinked merrily at the rock. It was a hot finish between the advent of the second eruption and the arrival of the injunction; each claimed he had won, and the courts were asked to decide the dispute.
It seemed such a trifling thing to quarrel about—a few tons of silver, when there was so much of it lying all about.
Between the rich Jacobs Mine and the University is a forty-acre claim that ranks second only to the Nipissing in point of melodramatic interest. It has become a show-place, for Cobalt has stretched its serpent body across the land so close to the surface that one may step from the road, scrape away the snowy and see a gleaming vein of silver twelve inches wide, polished as smooth as a stone step of the British Museum. But a surface vein is not a mine by any means—it is but a prospect, and this somewhat showy vein may yield a couple of hundred thousand and then pinch out. Une Lawson claim is now deep in litigation because of this, its discovery, which was as follows :
An Englishman named Lawson, prospecting, came upon this big silver vein.
Filled with delight—perhaps short of wind—he reached the recorder’s office only to receive a jar. This forty acres had been located by one Thomas Crawford. Now Crawford’s discovery had been made on the other end of the claim, and was of nebulous value. Lawson must have lain awake all night planning the fool thing he executed in the way of a bargain. Of course, the fundamental idea was to buy the claim from Crawford without putting his head up in the air. So Lawson paid Crawford two hundred dollars, and a quarter interest in whatever he might find, for the right to prospect this claim.
They say that Crawford chuckled over having landed a sucker Englishman.
Then Lawson, naturally enough, rediscovered the big vein. About that time three other men, who had been partners of Thomas Crawford in the claim, rose up and asked where they were at. They had actually discovered the claim, though registered in Crawford’s name. As optimists were ready to proclaim the vein worth millions, there was, most essentially, herein the proper plot -for a litigation play. It is still on.
Concomitantly the luckless ones stand arrayed mineless, the antithesis of this haphazarded finding of riches. The professional mining men, the real prospectors, are nearly all working under salaries on the mines that fell into the hands of amateurs. The manager of the MacKinley-Darragh Mine, an experienced miner, told me that he had prospected the district for months and found nothing. One of the most persistent and earliest sounders of the clarion ote of the presence of big silver was a newspaper man named MacLean. He cackled as vociferously as a hen with a newly-deposited egg. He wrote columns to prove that the silver was really there. He begged people to come in and get it, while it was still to* be had. I met him the other d,ay, and he confessed that he hadn’t got a thing worth a nickel.
Of course, President Miller’s position as Government geologist precluded his laying hands upon silver areas. At least he looked upon it in that way.
Perhaps a less, conscientious man might have proxied himself into wealth.
Perhaps the point of greatest interest to many readers of these notes is the one of values.
There is not a mine in the whole region that is not fully capitalized, and the public should stand on their rights and refuse to buy above par. That would go a long way toward curing the wildcatting of mines that are really not wildcats. Nearly all of this wild ting, this booming of honest, respectable mines, has been done in New York, by men who knew nothing of, and cared less about, the minerals in the mines.
The public should remember this most important fact, that a mine pays its dividend out of -its capital. When a man buys a share, he buys so much of the mineral, and when the mineral is gone the capital is gone. It belongs to another man—the man who bought the ore. Therefore, an investor should be absolutely certain that he is going to get his investment back in the shape of dividends, because when the dividends cease the thing is gone.
I made a close personal inspection of most of the leading mines in the Cobalt region, traversed the drifts and crossckts, and all impartially, owning not one single share of mining stock, having no feeling in the matter, one way or the other. However, stringing along the line of values for the present these are some of the thoughts and convictions I came by through climbing up and down iced ladders into darkened caverns, silver-walled, or being dropped into the black maw of Kobold’s cave, standing on the rounding edge of an iron bucket. Perhaps it is the only way to come by a little knowledge.
One of the highest officials in the Government here said to me one day : “It’s all right, if these mines don’t play out in a couple of years.”
And doubtless many investors have been perturbed by the same thought, remembering the tail-end of the Comstock lode.
Now, curiously enough, the hundred million value and the two-years’ lease
of life make each other impossible, or rather, because one is a fact the other isn’t. If all the veins on the richest property were in one huge lode and could be dug out in two years, then that property could pay dividends on fifty or a hundred millions, But in a little room on the top floor of an office at the most famous mine is a huge chart, showing fifty-six veins, ramifying over the eight hundred and forty-six acres. Some of them are small, some of them are high in cobalt—not too rich in silver—some of them show evidences of pinching out at the fifty or seventy foot level. Just now one that had dwindled considerably at the fiftyfoot level has come in rich again. Some of the veins are simply open-cut workings; some have been discovered by trenching—not worked at all. And again, there are, in all probability,
scores of veins as yet undiscovered, for we must remember that this eight hundred and forty-six acres is the very heart and stomach of this richly mineralized belt, that, so far, extends but three or four miles by two.
I went down into a huge open cut that was like the burrow of some monstrous animal; indeed, the compressor drills biting at the rock sounded like the gnashing of his teeth. All the mineralized veins in Cobalt differ from each other in structure gnd wealth ; and one might say, with an excuse in parenthesis, that this vein differed from all the others put together. Just as we turned along the drift my conductor pointed out where the great threethousand-pound nugget—that some one had proposed using for a silver doorstep for his New York office—had come from.
Don’t Be a Pessimist
At the dawn of each day JTOU begin a new life, you are born again, and the individual who says “I can’t help it” is either mentally weak or stupidly lazy.
If you live in the belief that you can’t overcome yourself—your thoughts, if they are weakening ones— then the chances are they will always remain so.
It is easy to fall into lax habits of mind, becoming over-critical and egotistical. We must be on our guard by keeping our minds active.
There is no originality of thought in a pessimistic mind. Originality and strength are only born where there is depth and breadth and warmth.
Begin and broaden your mentality, and take a deeper view of life and your fellow-creatures. Try it for awhile, and see what a wonderful change it will make in your whole atmosphere.
An optimistic view of things will develop the higher elements of your nature—a pessimistic view the lower. Make servants of your thoughts and emotions and govern them with reference to your physical and mental welfare.
It has been said truly : “No man can see over his
own height.” You cannot see in another man any more than you have in yourself, and your own intelligence strictly determines the extent to which he comes within its grasp.