Larder Lake Station

History

Photo of hydro house
Former hydro house
©Yvan Charbonneau

The Tighe Brothers were among the first prospectors on the scene during the Larder Lake Gold Rush. By 1907 the brothers had staked claims, ran various businesses, and played in real estate thereby establishing the Larder City townsite.

The brothers had staked two separate blocks of claims. The first were near Larder City (present day Larder Lake) on the northwest shore of the lake. These became known as the Maxwell property. The second block consisted of 24 claims situated near Pancake Lake, about one mile north of Larder City.

By early 1907, there were over 4000 claims staked and nearly 2500 men living at the camp. The gold however, proved more elusive that at first thought, and by 1910 the rush was essentially over. Less than 400 people remained in the entire area. By 1912, Larder City counted less than a hundred residents, and had become a veritable ghost town.

The twenty-four claims at Pancake Lake were to become a catalyst for the camp’s revival. When they were staked in 1907. the claims were lightly developed and promoted by Law & Company of Toronto. Although the properties remained dormant, they refused an offer of $200,000. They then separated the block into 12 two blocks of 12 claims. They named the first Tighe-Costello and the second Costello-Lucy. .

In 1911, Dr. George Mackay of Associated Goldfields (later reincorporated as the Canadian Associated Goldfields) acquired the Tighe-Lucy claims, and sunk a shallow shaft. In 1919, the Crown Reserve Mine of Cobalt purchased two claims in the Tighe-Costello block that were located within a few hundred feet from the Associated Goldfields property. Two prospectors named Sid Beanland and Frank Hurst found a viable ore body on the Crown reserve property and the firm purchased additional claims to the north. Only one claim separated the two mining companies. Although the claim had an initial price of $1,000,000, Associated Goldfields purchased the property for no more than $6000.

The only fruitful activity in the Larder Lake Gold Camp occurred at Pancake Lake in 1921. This led to a mini-staking spree of 50 claims. The Coniagas mine of Cobalt also joined in the search by securing some claims to the west of the Crown Reserve, later deemed unprofitable and abandoned. During the same time Associated Goldfields and Crown Reserve were doing extensive development on their properties. The two shafts were 300 feet apart with connected underground workings. Both companies kept each other well informed of all underground activities. Although they were fierce competitors, their close cooperation was crucial to the safety of their workers and their investments.

By 1926, both properties were showing some success and the two mines sunk their shafts to the 1500 foot level. The Crown Reserve had some financial problems and reorganized to become The Crown Reserve Consolidated. After frantically searching the deeper levels, Associated Goldfields found milling ore worth $7-10 a ton, and built a mill to process the ores. Soon afterwards both companies found themselves in serious financial difficulties. Goldfields eventually closed in 1928 after producing 22,000 ounces. The Crown Reserve, the last operating mine in the entire Larder Lake Camp, would follow suit in 1929.

As dismal as the situation seemed during the depression years, there was still some hope on the horizon. J.P.Bickell of the MacItyre Mine in Timmins and Andre Dorfman vice president of the Castle-Threthway Mines of Cobalt and owner of Anglo-Huronian Co. put up the financial support to purchase both properties and then amalgamate them. After the mine reopened in 1935 the price of gold suddenly jumped to $35 an ounce, and again became a catalyst for Larder Lake’s third boom.

The new Omega Mines poured its first brick in 1936 and produced profitably until 1947 when it closed permanently. The mine produced nearly 30,000 ounces of gold in its eleven year revival, a modest but profitable sum. The success of the Omega mine encouraged others to scour other properties in the Larder Lake Camp. This led to the establishment of the Kerr-Addison and Chesterville mines. The Kerr-Addison went on to produce over 10 million ounces of gold by the time of its closing in 1996, one of Canada’s best producing mines.

During the second boom period from 1919-1927, most of the activity centred at Pancake Lake. The Crown Reserve Mine had established a small townsite for its employees that included a bunkhouse, cookery, a number of homes, and a baseball field. The Associated property followed suit by building a bunkhouse and a few homes.

In 1922, Dr. J.F. Edis laid out a townsite north of the Crown Reserve property. Two years later the Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway built a branch line from Swastika enroute to Rouyn, Quebec, and the rails conveniently passed through the townsite. By this time there was a two-storey hotel, large general store, post office and a few smaller businesses along the line. The railway added a station, siding and a section village with over 20 homes. At this time the settlement took on an appreciable look, accommodating 250 residents on the three townsites.

They bused the children to the nearby school in Larder Lake, 1.4 kilometres away. The Canadian Explosives Company established a powder magazine and depot on the siding, and supplied dynamite to the Kirkland Lake, Larder Lake, and Rouyn mines. By this time the station village had grown to rival that of Larder Lake (Larder City).

The townsite surveyed by Dr. Edis, originally took the name of Crown, Crown Crest or Gold Crest. When the post office opened at the Crown Reserve Mine they adopted the name Crown City to honour the mine. Later on they moved the post office to the station townsite until its closure in 1931. The station briefly took the name of Crown Crest in 1924, but quickly changed it to Larder Lake Station. In 1935 when the amalgamated properties reopened, the village took the colourful name of Omega TownSite. Only when the government amalgamated McVittie and Hearst townships in 1945 to form the Corporation of the Township of Larder Lake, did the name Larder Lake Station become official.

The village’s colourful history included a gold heist occurred at the Larder Lake Station. They left station master Tom Jonkin bound to a chair, while thieves escaped with three gold bars valued at $35,000.

After both mines shut down following the 1929 boom, many of the residents left the settlement. However the store, hotel and most of the homes remained. One casualty was the post office, which closed in 1931. When the Omega Mine opened in 1935, the work force returned and the village grew again – this time to 230 residents – who remained until the final closure in 1947. With the exception of a small remaining group, most of residents scattered away. The store lasted until the 1960’s. By then most of the residents had relocated to the booming towns of Larder Lake, Virginiatown and Kearns.

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