The Mining and Chemical Industry in Elizabethtown

The Mining and Chemical Industry in Elizabethtown

The “Chemical Road” (now the Old Red Road) received its name because of the early mining operations and because of the Brockville chemical distilling works northwest of Brockville. There were deposits of iron pyrites containing cobalt and sulphur which were mined from 1868 until 1879. At the site of the mine the Brockville Chemical Company built a sulphuric acid plant which operated until 1884. Copper was mined in 1870 in the Second Concession of Escott where a small ore deposit was located. The acid plant continued its operation using pyrites which were brought by rail from New York State.

Using 16 kilns, 85 carboys of sulphuric acid and 15 carboys of nitric and hydrochloric acid were produced each day. Some of the sulphuric acid was used in the manufacture of fertilizer at the Superphosphate Works at the foot of Ford and Water Streets in Brockville. Presently this site is occupied by a number of residences. Mixed acid was supplied, east of the city, with the head office in the Comstock building on Courthouse Avenue. All of these operations ended in 1890. (Recorder and Times, April 29, 1962)

In the report of the Geological Survey of Canada published in 1923 under the heading of “Economic Geology” the report discussed the deposits of iron pyrites containing cobalt, existing on the Billings property in Elizabethtown Township about two miles northwest of Brockville. This deposit was opened prior to 1863 and active mining was carried on from 1868 to 1879 when work had to be abandoned on account of water and unsafe shafts. In 1869 the Brockville Chemical Company built a sulphuric acid plant near the property which operated until 1884. Two of the local farmers, J.P. Smith and N. Sloan, worked in the mines and gave details to the investigators about the workings. The Sloan prospect, another pyrite property, was located about 1,000 feet east of the Billings property. In 1902 Mr. Sloan opened a pit and sank a shaft about 20 feet, shipping about 80 tons of pyrite ore averaging about 40 percent sulphur. He then sold the property to a Buffalo company and they opened another pit to the east of the swamp but found little ore.

The Shipman prospect, about six miles southwest of Brockville, was worked about 1870, the ore being hauled to the St. Lawrence River about a mile distant and shipped on scows.

The mining properties located to the northwest of Brockville before the turn of the century resulted in establishing of industry here and in the country that has long since disappeared.

In a report prepare as a history of the chemical industry in this section. H.J. Cordy of Valleyfield, Quebec outlined some of the chemical industry’s early history here. According to his report it was in 1868 that John Cowan and J.B.I. Robertson began mining for pyrite on Lot 9, Concession 11, Elizabethtown Township. The pyrite occurred in a series of lenses conformable to the lamination of a highly foliated pink graphite gneiss. A series of irregular cavities, probably caused by folding, had occurred. In these were deposited calcite and iron pyrites in parallel bands and mining took the form of gouging out the richer shoots of ore, irrespective of any other consideration. No timbering was done and when part of the pit became unsafe, work at that point was abandoned. The main pit was sunk to a depth of 250 feet. The strike of the deposits was northeast and the dip to the southeast. Mining operations ceased in 1879.

The ore from this property, Mr. Cordy writes, was used for making sulphuric acid in Brockville. After the mine closed, pyrites was obtained from near Dekalb Junction in New York State.

In a report of the Geological Survey of Canada, the acid works are thus described:

“The Brockville Chemical Company’s mine in the township of Elizabethtown has been closed since 1879. The chemical works are however still in operation. The pyrite at present used by the company is being brought from New York at the rate of a carload a day. There are 16 kilns in operation each having a capacity for 300 pounds of ore. The kilns are charged every hour and produce about 85 carboys of sulphuric acid a day. In the distillery there are 24 glass retorts attached to glass receivers for redistilling the crude acid. Besides the above, about 15 carboys of nitric and hydrochloric acids can be produced per day. In this case iron retorts and earthen receivers are used. The company employs 26 men.”

The evidence of men who worked in the old pits is to the effect that they were never completely exhausted. Many Brockville residents remember the remains of the old iron pyrites mines but few recall the acid plant. The pits at the mine site are now being used as receptacles for the towns refuse. (Recorder and Times, March 31, 1951)

Shipman's Pyrite Mine WB#6
Shipman’s Pyrite Mine

The Story of Mining on the Chemical Works Road

The purpose was intended to focus on the people who were connected with the mining industry in the Brockville area and in particular one individual, Abiathar Billings great grandfather x3 of Marilyn Billings, who is the last seventh generation Billings to live on Chemical Works Road. Another name the road was commonly called was the Red Road, thought to be caused by the oxidizing iron pyrites generated from the mines. Spent tailings from the smelting process were used on the road bed to accommodate the teams of horses using the roadways to and from the mines. As time and weather reacted with the iron in the tailings, the road presumably turned a red rusty colour, hence the name Red Road.

Reference to the road being called Chemical Works Road can be found in various documents at the County Registry Office circa 1880. Red staining can be seen currently in the ditches on the road, but it is generally accepted that the cause of this is from the City of Brockville’s landfill site, as the staining is seen most prevalent in front of the landfill. It does serve however as a reminder of what the road and ditches might have looked like some 130 year ago. Between 1970 and 1980 Chemical Road was changed to Parkedale Avenue West to be politically correct and to match up with the Parkedale Avenue East. That portion of the road that lies in the Township still remains Chemical Road.

The story of the history of mining and the people appears to occur at three locations namely

Land in the County of Lanark, Township of North Burgess

Land in the County of Leeds, Township of Elizabethtown

Land in the County of Leeds, Town of Brockville. Approx. 12 acres, Conc 1, between lots 9 & 10. Described as irregular in shape lying between the Queens highway, (main street) and the River St Lawrence. To-day the property is on Ford Street.

Township of North Burgess

Now the first person who seems to get things started is a Alexander Cowan, who originates from Montreal, Quebec and is described as a gentleman. Perhaps in the future we will learn more about this man as his involvement remains constant for a goodly number of years. Anyway he seems to team up with a Wellessly Poole of the Town of Perth, who is described as a geologist, miner etc in one of the legal documents. In all of the documents used as references at the Leeds County Registry Office, Mr. Poole is the only person who is referred to as a geologist and miner which fits the nature of the business.

From the registry office we learn that Wellessly Poole makes a deal with a local farmer by the name of Bernard Bryne to an exclusive lease to win and work all and every or any of the mines, veins and seams of copper, lead, iron, clay and all other minerals unopened or opened in under or upon lands known as WH lot 11 and lot 12, 7th conc. Township of North Burgess, County of Lanark. The lease is for 25 years at the sum of $30 per year. This information is found in document 16-1190 and is recital of a document registered in the registry office for the south riding of the County of Lanark as memorial #130. The curious thing about this is that the indenture that Wellessly Poole, the Geologist, and Bernard Bryne the farmer made, was dated October, 1861, but not registered until July, 1864 some 34 months later.

Making the above even more interesting is that about six months after Wellessly Poole and Bernard Bryne sign their deal for the exclusive mining lease, Poole sells the lease to Alexander Cowan on March 24th ,1862. Again this indenture was not registered until July 21st, 1864.

Additionally this indenture # 131, registered in Lanark county’s registry office refers to Alexander Cowan, of the City of Kingston, in the County of Frontenac, in the Province of Canada, Merchant. Remember that this still a few years before Confederation, thus the Province of Canada.

Apparently after Wellessly Poole sold his interests in the mining lease (March 24, 1862, and before the sale aggrement was registered in July 21, 1864 he died. Reference to this is made in a later mortgage dated 1878. Ultimatley this lease along with others were used as collateral by the Brockville Chemical & Superphosphate Company to various creditors in 1878. The other leases for mineral rights in this area were including the above lease, in date order:

Bernard Bryne October 25, 1861. 300 acres, WH lot11&lot 12, Township of North Burgess

Rent $30 per year, term 25 years.

John Farry, April 13, 1864 200 acres, Lot 9, conc 7, Township of North Brugess

Rent: $20 per year, term 99 years

Owen Powers, May 17, 1864 100 acres, EH lot 11, conc 7, Township of North Burgess

Rent $40 per year, term 99 years

George Kerr May 23, 1864 200 acres, lot 10, conc 8, Township of North Burgess

Rent $30 per year, term 99 years

John Oatway, October 13, 1870 100 acres, SH lot 19, conc 8, Township of North Burgess

Term $50 per year. Term not recited.

Township of North Burgess, November 18, 1872 Under road allowance, lots 10,11,&12 conc 6

Rent Not listed. Term not recited.

The total amount of land with mineral rights was 900 acres, plus the area under the Township road allowances immediatly in front of the three lots 10, 11 & 12 in the 6th concession.

The Corportion of Township of North Burgess passed a by-law dated July 8, 1874, and entered as by-law no 26, in their records to accommodate the mineral right lease. To find out more about the terms of the lease would require a search of indenture 32 in Book 26, at the registry office for Lanark County. This document was registered January 17th, 1874, some 14 months after it was dated. It might be assumed that the Township was fairly young from the low by-law number (26), if they were using a progressive numbering system. It also seems that a fair amount of time elapsed to get the bylaw through municipal council ie November 1872 to July 1874.

In the John Oatway lease, the following is recited:… “Win and work all and every or any on the mines of, Phosphate of Lime, ores or minerals of whatever nature soever unopened or opened as well as open in or under lands”. This statement leads me to believe that the prime mineral needed here is the Phosphate of Lime, which I understand is one of components needed to make Superphosphate fertilizer. Another major ingredient needed was Sulphuric Acid, its source being from the iron pyrites ore found in the Township of Elizabethtown. At this point in time I am not sure of the exact connection of the mineral deposits in North Burgess and the mining consortium in Brockville and the Township of Elizabethown. The ore from North Burgess could have been smelted at the source into some reduced form and then transported some 30-40 miles to Brockville, or the ore itself could have been transported in its original condition. A review of the original leases might reveal if the agreement allowed smelting on the site of origin. The Geological Surveys could also shed light on the form and operation of this area. Additionally these parts of the puzzle perhaps could be pieced to gether with the help of Geologists and Chemists.

Township of Elizabethtown: The three parcels of land with mineral leases all in Concession two are: 1– SW 3 lot 19 (50 acres): 2 – SE 19 acres lot 19: 3 – CC lot 18\19 (50 Acres). Abiathar Billings buys the 19 acres for 50^ in November 5, 1852, then the 50 acres in the Centre Commons for 45 ^in May 10, 1853 and the SW 3 lot 50 acres in October 3, 1859 for 177^, by virtue of a mortgage assignment.

Registry office documents

Aug 16, 1864 ACG-175 Abiathar Billings sells SW 50 acres to Charles Grant for $1,030.50.

Nov 6, 1864 ACG-391 Charles Grant sells the SW 50 acres to James Kilborn for $ 1,400.

Feb 25, 1864 ACG-101 Abiathar Billings sells lease on 19 acres and CC 50 acres to Alexander Cowan, for 3 years, ($50 per year). Cowan has option to purchase @ $2000 during term.

Nov 22, 1865 ACG-398 James Kilborn sells the lease on the SW 50 acres to Abiathar Billings for $1. Kilborn gives Billings same rights as Billings gave Cowan in ACG-101, and an option to purchase the property for $600. Term is 1 year.

Billings now owns 19 acres & CC 50 acres & has lease on SW 50 acres & an option to buy SW 50 acres. Cowan has lease on 19 acres & CC 50 acres. Kilborn owns SW 50 acres.

Nov 22, 1865 ACG-397 Abiathar Billings sells a one year lease on all 3 parcels, excluding 2 acres to Arthur M. Cohen & JBI Robison. Rent is $100 in advance & expires July 1, 1866, Robison and Cohen have option to buy the lease for $3,000. Robison & Cohen also can buy the property for $5,000 during term. Any items left on property after July 1, 1886, become the property of Billings if lease of land is not purchased.

Aug 4, 1866 ACH-133 James Kilborn sells to Abiathar Billings the SW1/4 50 acres under the option in ACG-398 for $600.

Abiathar Billings now owns all 3 parcels, and has a lease on all 3 parcels, with options from Robison & Cohen to buy land and the lease.

Aug 4, 1866 ACH-135 [ Note: Same date as ACH-133] Billings sells Robison an exclusive perpetual mining license for $3,000 on all 3 parcels and excludes 2 acres. (His house in CC 50 acres). Billings takes back a $1,000 mortgage on the license. Mortgage is payable plus interest @ 6% on August 2, 1867 Billings gets license back if Mortgage goes 2 months in default.

As Robinson in the next document conveys parts of his interest in the mining rights, we conclude that the terms of the above mortgage was fulfilled. Thus at this point Billings owns all three parcels, free and clear, and has no interests in the mining rights of license.

Oct 29, 1869 ACJ-179 J.B.I. Robison conveys an undivided 2 of his share of the mining rights in ACG-135 to Harry Abbott & Samuel Keefer for $1.

Jan 4, 1873 13-26 Reg Dec 12/73 Robison conveys one undivided 3 of his share of mineral rights in ACG-135, to David Torrance & Co. AND one undivided c share to Alexander Cowan

The mineral rights are now owned as follows: 1/2 by Harry Abbott & Samuel Keefer, 1/4 by David Torrance & Co., 1/8 by Alexander Cowan and 1/8 by JBI Robison

June 7, 1873 13-27 Reg Dec 12/73 Harry Abbott & Samuel Keefer conveys for $1, 1/4 share of the mining rights to David Torrance & Co. and 1/4 to JBI Robison and Alexander Cowan and took back a mortgage. Torrance & Company, Robison and Cowan, mortgagors gives Abbott and Keefer a security mortgage in the amount of $5,750 due April 1st, 1875 on 1/2 of the Billings Lease.

The mineral rights are now owned as follows: 1/4 by Alexander Cowan, 1/4 by JBI Robison, 1/2 by David Torrance & Co.

June 19, 1873 11-89 Reg Dec 12/73 Mortgage Recites Billings mine perpetual license as well as two of the North Burgess licenses have become vested (become part of ) the mortgagors of the first part (Torrance & Co.,Robison & Cowan). In return for $5,750 (advanced on March 1/72 ) the mortgagors give Abbott and Keefer mortgage security on the river property and chattels therein, subject to the Hamilton 1st mortgage. The mortgagors also give Abbott and Keefer 2 share in the Billings mining license as security as well two of North Burgess leases. Repayment: Principal plus interest @ 10% half yearly until due date, Mar 1\75. Abbott and Keefer have the right after two months default to sell the lands, subject to Hamilton mortgage.

Mortgagors pledge to keep premises insured and to pay rent on mining licenses.

Note: It is assumed that between the above and the below documents that Abbott and Keefer were paid the $5,750, thus releasing their interests in the Billings lease.

April 5, 1875 14-167 Alexander Cowan sells his 1/4 share of the Billings lease to David Torrance, Thomas Cramp and John Torrance for $ 29,377.50. The above three individuals are the principals in David Torrance & Company, Montreal.

The Billings perpetual lease is now owned by: 3/4 by David Torrance & Co. (Assuming 14-167 was in the Company name) and 1/4 by JBI Robison. Alexander Cowan now has no interest in the Billings lease.

Dec 4, 1876 15-284 Parties who own the Billings lease ( as above) convey their interests to a newly formed Company called, ” Brockville Chemical & Superphosphate Co”. David Torrance has deceased since 14-167, and George Wilburn Torrance and John Torrance are his trustees. David Torrance left his estate to Alexander Torrance who disclaims his interests in the mining rights.

Indenture acknowledges that Torance & Co, JBI Robison and Alexander Cowan pledged Harry Abbott and Samuel Keefer 1/2 share of the Billings lease. This would confirm that Abbott and Keefer were not paid off the $5,750 owing them on the due date which was April 1st, 1875 at this point in time.

19-1491 May 20, 1881 Abiathar Billings sell the Brockville Chemical & Superphosphate Co. 24: acres for $618 described as part of the (SE 1/2) front half of lot 19, conc 2, T of E’ Town. This parcel is the main area of the mines, and was part of SW 1/4 50 acres included in the Billings lease.

21-2344 Dec 15, 1884 Assignment of Mortgage. John Travers, Bank Manager and James Rivers, Bank Manager are parties to the annexed instrument (not searched). Don’t know details of Assignment.

Alexander Cowan again seems to the first person who is involved with the aspect of the mining enterprise in Elizabethtown Township. Abiathar Billings a farmer, who was 47 years of age at the time sold the first lease on two of his parcels of land, namely the 19 acres and the centre commons 50 acres in the second concession, to Cowan on February 25, 1864. Abliathar lived just up the road in a large white house, just west of the present Standard Auto Glass building until he built the house on the north side of the road on the centre commons lot that he bought in 1853. In a later lease Abiathar excludes two acres from a lease on the centre commons lands in 1865. From this it can be assumed that he was about or had started to build his new house. This large white house is presently owned by the Pakeman’s. It is thought that probably he did not want any mine shafts under his house so he did not grant mining rights for the two acres. We can also understand why this house was so large as Abiathar had 15 children by this time, all living but one.

Abiathar seems to be an fairly astute man as he manoeuvres several land transactions and leases over a two year period and then ends up owning the three parcels of land again in 1866. His last involvement with the consortium is when he sells the mining license for $3,000. in 1866. It seems as thought he kept his financial risks to a minimum as he kept his risks short term. Perhaps a unusual aspect that Abiathar didn’t take any royalties from the mines as many land owners were inclined to do during this era. Perhaps Albiather did not make large sums of money out of all this, but he ended up still owning the property, with his shirt on his back and a mine named after him.

Back to the consortium. Another major player is a American from Newark, New Jersey by the name of JBI Robison. He seems to play a big role in the mining project and remains right through to the end. In one of the documents registered at the registry office he is called a Manufacturer. It seems that he is involved without much of his own capital being invested in what traditionally has been a high risk venture. Robison ends up as the managing director of the business and appears to have a piece of the equity. It would appear that Robison is the promoter and raises venture capital by using leverage on his own equity.

An unanswered question is why Abiathar sold the SW 50 acres to Charles Grant for $1,030.50 in Aug, 1864. and why Grant sells it to James Kilborn for $1400 just three months later. Was it that land speculators were trying to make quick money? The story seems to be that Abiathar came out on top of one deal as he leases the SW 50 acres from Kilborn for one year for $1 and an option to purchase for $600, 12 months later, which he does.

Knowing he has the option to re-purchase the SW 50 acres, Abiathar sells a one year lease on all three parcels on Nov 22, 1865 to Cohen and Robison for $100. Cohen and Robison have an option to purchase the lease for $3,000 or buy the property for $5,000.

In the meantime on Aug 6, 1866 Abiathar gets the SW 50 acres back for the sum $600.

The most important perpetual mining lease on the Billings property would have to be the last one, when Abiathar Billings sells the license to JBI Robison on Aug 4, 1866 # ACH-133 for $3,000 and takes back a $1,000 mortgage @6% payable in one year. Arthur Cohen drops out of the picture at this point. This lease represents the consolidation of all the three parcels and represents the lease when it is held by one person only. It also the bench mark lease as it is referred to in practically all of the legal documents thereafter.

When did the mines open? This question can likely be best addressed by the process of deduction. The only written facts we have is from Geological Survey, Memoir 134, dated 1923 written by J.F.Wright. Mr. Wright suggests that the Billings mine was opened prior to 1863 and active mining was carried on from 1868 to 1879. To verify these dates we can look at the land titles to see what was happening. As the location of the Billings mine is known, and is located within the SE 19 acres, lot 19, conc 2, T of E’ Town, we can assume that not too much serious mining took place until the first formal lease was legalized. The first mineral lease was dated January 1, 1863 and registered February 25, 1864 on two of the Billings properties, the 19 acres and CC 50 acres. This mine and smelting operated with considerable success for a number of years and in them the first sulphuric acid was manufactured in Canada by the lead chamber process.

In this lease Cowan has the rights to….”Without interruption claim or disturbance, carry away and dispose of all ores and minerals as shall be found therein to and for his own use and benifit and to sink and make shafts, gorts , levels, trenches, dirgates, waygates and water courses and to erect and use smelting, refining or any other furnaces or mill, fire, steam, or engines and machinery, workers and other convenances and use all other ways and means whatever, not only for finding separating and cleansing any of the said minerals but for concerting any of them into a manufactured condition”.

As the SE 19 acres is the parcel where the actual Billings mine opening was located it can be reasonably determined that things seem to get rolling in 1865. It would also be reasonable to assume that the mining operation took some time to get up and running. Some ore could be stockpiled but the smelting operation that took place also had to get set up and running. The active mining date of 1868 projected by JW Wright is likely a valid date. The narrow width of the Centre Commons lot is reported to be 4.44 chains (293 feet) chains was likely used as an access road from Chemical road to the mine entrance. The early maps show Chemical road not following the second concession at this point, thus the centre commons lot was needed in the lease.

In a letter to the Editor of the Recorder dated April 23, 1868 the following appeared.

OUR MINERAL WEALTH. Iron pryrites, which is manufactured into sulphuric acid, sometimes called oil of vitriol, is amongst the most important chemicals, and is indispensable for making carbonate of soda for the glass maker, and in refining of petroleum oil and many other purposes. The production of sulphuric acid is simple and easy. J.P.L.

The final Chapter

From a Recorder and Times article dated March 31, 1951

” The request of Norman Davis of Ottawa, for permission from the Brockville Council to carry out diamond drilling operations at the site of the city dump in Elizabethtown, recalls stories of the eary mining opertions in that section of Elizabethtown adjacent to the northwest of town”.

The dump was just one or two years old at this time and was located on lot 18, conc II, close to the Billings mine and the Sloan prospect. The Buffalo Mining Co. of Buffalo New York purchased the property, from Nathaniel Sloan, described as 30 acres south of Chemical Works Road September 5, 1911 for the sum of $3,500. This land was sold for tax arrears for the sum of $346.79, by the Township for tax arrears on June 10, 1943. This represents the pie shaped parcel of land where the old dump site is.

In 1952, Sulgas Properties, Ltd a company incorporated in British Columbia, negotiated mineral rights leases with approx 12 landowners in lots 18, 19, 20 and Centre commons, Conc II. The typical lease was an up front payment of $25 and and option to purchase untill March 1st, 1954. Additionaly there was a monthly payment of $25- $30, which expired on abandonment by Sulgas. The company had the rights to enter the property with and drilling equipment and apparatus as may be needed for testing, drilling, exploring, sinking of test pits and trenching. Reports are that significant drilling was conducted in the winter of 1952, and of the crews boarding at the Pakemans for several months. The search for minerals was then abandoned.

The Town of Brockville Property.

Approximately 12 acres, located lot 9 & 10, 1st concession, Township of Elizabethtown. Located between Main Street and the river. Summarization of land transfers:

June 15, 1867 ABF-123 Alexander and Emma Cowan purchases the property in trust for JBI Robison, price not recited from the Ford estate. Robert Hamilton, a Trustee takes back a $ 2,200 mortgage. Says Robison was not desirous of holding lands and tenements in his own name.

(Perhaps due to being a US citizen ?)

August 2, 1867 ABF-86 Alexander Cowan buys lot in SE corner of Block 10.

July 26, 1869 ABG-125 Alexander Cowan conveys the property to JBI Robison for the price of $1, subject to the mortgage held by Robert Hamilton. Robison supplied the funds to pay a portion of the mortgage.

Oct 12, 1869 ABG-126 Robison conveys the property to Harry Abbott (Town of Brockville ) and Samuel Keefer ( T of E’Town) for $ 10 subject to a mortgage made by Alexander Cowan in favour of Robert Hamilton, registered Dec 26, 1867. No record of this on abstract. Hamilton still holds the mortgage on ABG-125.

June 7, 1873 11-88 Reg Dec 12, 1873 Abbott and Keefer convey for the sum of $10, one half share of the property to David Torrance & Co. ( City of Montreal ) subject to the Hamilton mortgage and take back a mortgage details below. The principles in this company are David Torrance, Thomas Cramp and John Torrance.

June 19, 1873 11-89 Reg Dec 12, 1873 Recites that the perpetual license on the Billings mine as well as two of the North Burgess licenses have become vested (become part of ) the mortgagors of the first part (Torrance & Co.,Robison & Cowan). In return for $5,750 advanced on March 1/72 the mortgagors give Abbott and Keefer mortgage security on the river property and chattels therein, subject to the Hamilton 1st mortgage. The mortgagors also give Abbott and Keefer 2 share in the Billings mining license as security as well two of North Burgess leases. Repayment Principal plus interest @ 10% half yearly until due date Mar 1\75. Abbott and Keefer have the right after two months default to sell the lands, subject to Hamilton mortgage.

Mortgagors pledge to keep premises insured and to pay rent on mining licenses. It is assumed that Robison and Cowan also sign as mortgagors as their interests in the mining leases have become vested. At this point neither Robison or Cowan are on the River property title.

13-48 March 4, 1875 Reg April 5, 1875. Cowan sells his 1/4 share of the River property to the principals of Torrance & Co (David Torrance, Thomas Cramp and John Torrance) for $29,377.50. Note; It is not clear how Cowan ended up with 1/4 share of the River property. It seems that something is missing in the abstract from the registry office.

15-696 November 9, 1876 Thomas Cramp, John Torrance and the trustees for David Torrance convey their interests in the River property and premises to Brockville Chemical & Superphosphate Company, incorporated in 1869, subject to a mortgage made by Alexander Cowan in favour of Robert Hamilton registered on December 26, 1867. [No record on Abstract] And also subject to a mortgage made by David Torrance, Thomas Cramp and John Torrance in favour of Harry Abbott and Samuel Keefer registered on Dec 12, 1873 (11-89). Failing a search of the letter patent (1869) for the Company, it is likely the equity was held at this time by Thomas Cramp, John Torrance and [John Torrance and George Torrance] the trustees for David Torrance (Deceased) and JBI Robison. It is only speculation but likely in the same proportion to that in the Billings lease, 1/4 by Robison and 3/4 by the Torrance’s.

17-678\ 16-1190 Feb 6, 1878 ” The mother of all documents” The president of BCSC, Thomas Cramp and Managing Director JBI Robison, provides the two Banks a security mortgage on the River property and its premises, the Billings lease, and the North Burgess leases. This mortgage is subject to two mortgages:

1) Robert Hamilton $1,000 balance, and

2)Harry Abbott and Samuel Keefer $4,250 balance.

All mineral leases have become vested in this mortgage. The leases (listed on page 2) on the 900 acres in North Burgess, held by Alexander Cowan are recited in this document. The debts have piled up and are as follows:

1- Bank of Montreal $ 88,259.99

2- Molsons Bank $ 15,071.54

3- Hewlett and Torrance $ 29,541.05

Total $ 132,872.58

The total debt consists of Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes, most of which are short term. All the debtors notes are listed and are all fairly fresh. Bank of Montreal notes are dated 1867 and 1877 and were due 3 to 4 months after draw down. The other creditors debt can be described as similar, and all overdue.

This is the first document to recite the Hewlett and Torrance Company. The principals are listed as J. Augustus Hewlett, Henry Torrance and Nicholas S Stall, Merchants doing business to-gether from the City of New York.

The mortgagors have agreed that they are unable at present to pay their indebtness and agree to secure the creditors with real estate and mineral leases.

Repayment Schedule

$30,000 due on Dec 1,1880. 1st interest payment due Dec 1, 1878, and then yearly until paid.

A one year moratoruim on interest is given..

$102,872.52 due on Dec 1, 1882 plus interest @ 8%

Mortagagees agree to maintain insurance in the amount of $30,000.

Fore-closure procedures are laid out. Must advertise 4 weeks before public auction. Proceeds less expenses to be applied to $132,872. The mortgagors agree to proportion any proceeds in ratio of their debt, Bank of Montreal 66%, Molsons Bank 11% and Hewlett and Torrance 22%.

Note: From this document we can tell that BCSC was in trouble and had been that way for a while. The Banks were nervous and exposed without strong security. It is likely that they negotiated this security by agreeing not to call their loans which would have lead to immediatly forcing the Company into bankruptcy. What ever the future plans that BCSC had for profitability did not convince the Banks into injecting new money at the time. The securing of massive debt could also be viewed as a last chance restructuring plan. By looking at the repayment plan, one can sense that the future did not look all that robust for BCSC.

Most if not all of this massive debt started to accumulate during the latter half of 1877, because at this point it appears that the Company was failing not only to pay principle but interest also. It appears that the Company did not have any long term financing as most of the notes are for less than six months. It is also fairly safe to say that many of the notes were just being refreshed over and over again. The cash flow requirements based on the restructuring plan was as follows:


1st year 1878 2,400.

2 nd year 1879 10,630.

3 rd year 1880 40,630

4 th year 1881 8,230

5 th year 1882 110,012

These figures include interest and principle.

From various reports and research is reasonably clear that the mines operated from 1868 to 1879, and then closed due to water flooding and unsafe working conditions. This date seems to add rationale to the reasons for financial problems occurring at the Company as witnessed by the above mortgage dated early 1878. Smelting was conducted at both the Billings mine site as well as the River property until 1884, the latter being the smallest. The distilling works continued at the River property on pyrite ore from New York State near Dekalb Junction. The demise of the BCSC was prohibitive price of raw materials. To the cost of the ore was added the cost of hauling by the railroad, loading, freight loading into barges, water transportation to Brockville, unloading, reloading onto wagons and hauling three miles to the acid works. With these additional costs the plant could not successfully meet competition and thus met its unfortunate demise with massive debts.

A newspaper article suggests that some of the sulphuric acid was used in the manufacture of fertilizer at the Superphosphate works at the River street property. Also mixed acid was supplied to the Dynamite works on the waterfront opposite the old Ralph’s Dairy on lot 1, concession 1.

The final stages:

23-3611 Dec 12, 1884 John Travers and James Rivers, Bank Managers for the Bank of Montreal and Molsons Bank, assign the above mortgage for the sum of $1, to James Hewlett and Henry Torrance, merchants still stated to be from New York City. Nothing has been paid on the indebtness since the mortgage signed in 1878. Hewlett and Torrance are acting as trustees for the company Hewlett and Torrance.

21-2505 Sep 15, 1885. This document is a Lis Pendens, which in Latin means pending litigation. It is a yellow flag registered on title. It is a notice to the public that there is something happening. Delia Robison, Plaintiff, wife of deceased JBI Robison has brought forth a suit against the defendants, the Brockville Chemical and Superphosphate Company and James Hewlette and Henry Torrance some sort of action. The pending litigation seems to be regarding some title or interest in question on the lands for the Billings lease and the North Burgess lease as well as the River property. The Lis Pendens was signed by Judge James H Cartwright, Queens Bench, Toronto.

No further information is known regarding the outcome of the action.

25-5101 Sep 23, 1887 Henry Torrance, formerly of New York City, presently from Brockville assigns the above mortgage to James Hewlett, New York City for the sum of $1.

Note: During this era there was no power of sale as we know it to-day. When a mortgagor defaulted on a mortgage, the mortgage would get assigned over to a third part. In other words the mortgagor would find someone to buy the mortgage and that person after paying off the mortgage holder and any equity the mortgagee held in the property, obtain ownership of the property.

The final demise of the property is when James Hewlett and BCSC sells part of the land to Elizabeth E. Gill for the sum of $1,500 on August 22, 1888. At the same time the Town of Brockville purchased a small gore with right of entry to examine and repair a sewer pipe outlet. Elizabeth E. Gill becomes Elizabeth E. Ault.

The balance of the property is finally sold by Mary E. Hewlett (James Hewlette’s Exec’x) to Charles W. McLean on Aug 22, 1911 for the sum of $3,650..

Sloan Prospect

This pyrite property is about 1000 feet east of the Billings property, on lot 18, conc II. T of E’ Town. In 1902, Mr Sloan opened a pit and sunk a shaft about 20 feet and shipped about 80 tons of pyrite ore averaging about 40 % sulphur. He then sold the property to a Buffalo company and they opened another pit to the east in a swamp, but found little ore.

It is not known where this ore was shipped as the mining businesses in the 1860’s an 1870’s had disappeared by 1902. A local report as been told by an ancestor of 28 teams of horses and wagons hauling ore down to the railroad and dumping into cars on some sort of ramp. This might have been from the Shipman prospect.

Shipman Prospect

This prospect located about 6 miles southwest of Brockville, (described below), was worked to about 1870, and ore was hauled about a mile to the river and shipped on Scows. It is claimed that the reason for closing the property was the high percentage of pyrrhitite mixed with the ore. The workings which are on the north side of a ridge about 60 feet high are irregular in shape, and cover an area of about 150 feet square. A tunnel, started near the foot of the hill, was run south about 10 feet where a raise was cut to meet the bottom of an open pit near the top of the hill.

Further information on the Shipman Prospect from the Leeds and Grenville Registry office.

ACH-254 April 17, 1867 John Latham sells mining lease to William Allen and James Sherwood, on east 2/3 of part lots 36 and 37 lying south of the Grand Trunk Railroad for 99 years, for the price of $25 for the first year and then 1/16 of the produce.

ACH259 April 26, 1867 John Latham buys west 880 feet of South 2 lot 37, ( 66 acres) except that part lying south east of the north line of 2/3 of the width of Creek crossing same , conc II, Township of Elizabethtown on April 20, 1867. and six days late sells it to Samuel H Shipman.

ACH-260 April 20, 1867. Samuel Shipman leases the 66 acres to James Sherwood, Thomas Sherwood and Robert Bell for 99 years at $25 per year and one sixteenth of the royalities or $300, each and every year thereafter. Purchase option open for two years at $3,000. If mines are abondoned for more than two years the lease is void.

Geological Survey Memoir 134

ACH-260 April 26, 1867 Agreement between James Sherwood, Wm Allen, Thomas Sherwood and Robert Bell, as to the sharing of profits and lossess in the Shipman mine.

ACJ-120 August 12, 1869 James Sherwood sells his share of the Sherwood mining lease to Adiel Sherwood for $100.

ACJ-121 August 12, 1869 Adiel Sherwood, James Sherwood, Wm Allen and Robert Bell sell the Shipman Leases for the sum of seventy five ( .754) per ton to The Michigan Chemical Company. A ton was 2352 lbs. The lease is specific for the mining of iron pyrites. The agreement is void after two years of discontinuing mining.

ACJ-226 Jan 10, 1870 The Michigan Chemical Company assigns the above lease to Moses McNaughton of Jackson, Michigan, plus a four (4) ton Fairbanks scale and all other tools used on the lands last season. Also included is the wharf constructed by the Michigan Chemical Company on the St Lawrence River, near the wharf used by the Northern Transportation Company, on land leased from a John Latham of the Township of Elizabethtown, together with the use of these lands.

Note: This indenture was executed in Jackson, Michigan, USA and registered in Leeds and Grenville registry office. No further searching was conducted to follow the final disposition of these lands.

It is not clear where the ore from the Shipman prospect was shipped by water. It is possible that it came downstream to Brockville to the Brockville Chemical and Superphosphate Company as they also had river front property. This could suggest a reason for them to be located on the water ie for shipping and receiving. The Shipman prospect would have been limited to seasonal shipping on the St Lawrence River.

Many questions remain unanswered such as:

What was the connection of the mining leases in North Burgess to the operations at the Billings mine site and at its River Property ?

Was ore shipped via water from lot 37, to the Chemical works in Brockville ?

Why did the consortium build a smaller chemical works plant on the river in Brockville ? Was it built for iron pyrite ore from other sources ie the Shipman Prospect ? Was it built to use the sulphuric acid from the Billings mine and phosphate of lime from the North Burgess mines to make Superphosphate fertilizer ?

Did the Chemical works in Brockville ever make any Superphosphate fertilizer ?

Was any of the ore shipped from the Billings mine anywhere else or was it all smelted on site ? Where was the ore (80 tons) from the Sloan prospect in 1902 shipped or processed ?

Where did all the spent ore get dumped ? At both locations.

More research perhaps someday will help answer there questions of perhaps anyone reading this will add to the story.

This article was researched and written by:

Garth & Marilyn McGill, if you have additional information that you would like to add you can contact him through this website.