Up the Gatineau! Online Articles
The following article was first published in Up the Gatineau! Volume 24.
Stanislas Franchot and his Buckingham Mines
by Donald D. Hogarth
Recent articles by Archie Pennie and Carol Martin in Up the Gatineau! Volumes 21 and 23 have mentioned a connection between Franchot Tone and the Gatineau Fish and Game Club. To many of us old-film buffs the face of Franchot Tone is a familiar one, but who was grandfather Franchot and what attracted him to Buckingham? The writer's files on Outaouais mining provide some answers to these questions.
Stanislas Pascal Franchot II, or Stan as he became known to his friends, is the focus of this biographical sketch. Born in 1851, he was the grandson of Stanislas Pascal Franchot I (1774-1855), who emigrated from France in 1789 and settled in Morris, New York, the following year, a site destined to be the family homestead for at least three generations. He became the first merchant in the village and in 1806 married Catherine Hansen of Albany. From this union came Richard Hanson Franchot who married (1843) Ann Van Vranken of Schenectady. Their eight children, five daughters and three sons, seem to have had a particularly close relationship with each other. Stan (II), born in 1851, was the eldest son.1
Stan matriculated as a civil engineer in 1871 from Union College in Schenectady. Just where he launched his careers of mining engineer and administrator is not known, but these talents may have started with parental rub-off: his father was a civil engineer, sometime president of the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad, and served in Congress from 1861 to 1863. Anyway, in early life Stan styled himself "civil and mining engineer" and, after several engineering ventures in New York State, in 1874 he and Henry E. Huntington became partners in a West Virginia lumber business. By 1876 he was involved in an oil-producing venture in Pennsylvania, where he remained until 1884. Near the end of this period he joined with his brother Nicholas, sister Janet's husband John Keyes Paige, successful lawyer Samuel Jackson, wealthy oil magnate David Hostetter, and business associates A. P. Strong, M. W. Barse, Dewitt Lefebvre and other New Yorkers to embark on mining projects in Quebec.
It was phosphate that first attracted the attention of Stan and his friends to the rocks of the lower Ottawa Valley, known hunting grounds for phosphatic materials. Phosphate is a necessity for plant well-being and important ingredient of most fertilizers. Europeans and Americans craved it, and were seeking new sources of supply.
To trace the discovery of this commodity near Buckingham, we must turn back the clock more than 50 years from Stan's era. In 1829 Lieut. Frederick Ingall of the British army reported immense deposits of apatite (natural calcium phosphate) at a portage on the Lièvre River, during exploration on behalf of the Committee of Crown Lands of Lower Canada. It seems likely that Ingall was referring to Little Rapids, just 2œ miles above Stan's Emerald Mine. With little difficulty, apatite can be collected from Little Rapids today, but in 1829 apatite was useless and Canadians paid no attention. For a market to appear, the world had to wait until 1845 and the discovery by Baron Justus von Liebig that powdered apatite treated with sulfuric acid produced water-soluble superphosphate, a substance that plants could absorb.
Strangely, the smaller and more recently discovered apatite deposits in Ontario's Perth-Kingston area anticipated the production of their Quebec counterparts by more than a decade. Mining there began in 1860 and ore was shipped to England. However, the first cargo was lost at sea and subsequent shipments were reluctantly accepted because the ore proved difficult to process. At that time the European market for phosphate as fertilizer was largely satisfied by Norwegian apatite, which had been exploited since 1854 at an annual production of between 1500 and 3500 tons of sorted ore. The Norwegian apatite had the advantage of being chlorine-bearing and fluorine-free, while fluorine in the Canadian mineral had initially proved injurious to workmen who chemically treated the raw ore. Fluorine was corrosive to almost all materials, including human lungs, and it was possible to treat the Canadian ore only in extremely well ventilated premises.
It was not until the 1870s that production began on Quebec's Lièvre River, and then it got off to a bad start. Alexander Garrett, a self-styled mining expert who had just arrived from Kentucky, in 1873 shipped to England a load of hand-picked material taken from what was probably Ingall's location of 1829. But Garrett was a poor mineralogist: instead of sea-green apatite, he selected grey-green diopside. In response he received a bill for freight and charges along with a chemist's certificate inscribed "there is dirt enough in this country."
At about the same time as Garrett's attempted exploitation, a prospector named Chalker discovered the mineral on a hill known locally as the Fort which rose steeply to the in2acle, a point 210 feet above the Lièvre Valley.1 Chalker was well aware of apatite and its potential, and was greatly impressed by what he found on the hill. He persuaded the landowners, farmers Simon Parcher and John Merriman, each of whom held 100 acres, to put their mining and mineral rights up for sale, as the land was hardly fit for pasturage. Dr. James Grant, a well-respected Ottawa general practitioner, bought the rights to Parcher's lot on the east, while rights to the west (Merriman's lot) were sold to Edmund Murray, a merchant of Buckingham who was also Merriman's son-in-law.3 Both sales were made in 1873. However, the Buckingham Mining Company (BMC) of Montreal, an early producer on the Lièvre River, then claimed mining and mineral rights on Merriman's lot through "possession," noting that the land had lain idle and unoccupied since the date of Merriman's patent in 1864. They had duplicated or "jumped" Murray's claim.
In 1875 BMC purchased mining and mineral rights to Dr. Grant's property and hired Peter Powers, an experienced Irish-born prospector who had just been successful in finding apatite near Perth. Powers discovered apatite in several places on the hill and BMC immediately started mining both east and west lots. Naturally, Murray was furious. He drove BMC's men from his property and took legal action. The case was dragged through the courts for the next three years, from 1876 to 1879, with a decision finally awarded in Murray's favour. During this time the two properties were examined by Henry Vennor of the Geological Survey of Canada.4 The news was out, and glowing reports appeared not only in Ottawa and Montreal newspapers, but also in Toronto and New York. Subsequently each property passed through several hands, with increased valuation at every sale. Between 1878 and 1890 there were three owners for Grant's; for Murray's there were ten.
In 1882-83 a New York group became interested in the Murray pit, or Emerald Mine. They had the property examined by the American firm Ledoux and Ricketts, an appraiser of ores and mining properties, and then set about purchasing it. The price paid to owner William Allan, an Ottawa businessman, was $125,000 cash. This was a phenomenal settlement considering that apatite was a low-priced commodity, the property was small (although then enlarged to 200 acres) and its reserves were mainly unproven.
To look after the interests of this group, bound together as the Ottawa Phosphate Mining Company, came Stanislas Pascal Franchot II, with his wife and three preteen children, who moved to Buckingham in the fall of 1883.5 Stan enlisted Robert Henwood, an experienced Cornish miner, as captain or mine superintendent. Captain Henwood was an efficient "highgrader," with the ability to scalp out the last ounce of rich ore.
Their main concern in developing the Emerald was its deep Watts pit, which was filled with water. They first drained it using reinforced tubs hauled from a derrick and then drove a tunnel, with the aid of steam drills, 200 feet to its bottom. This tunnel also served as mine access, and not only drained the Watts but, to the joy of its neighbours the BMC who were working the next property, drained their lower Grant pit with which it was apparently connected by fractures. After this, steam equipment was put aside and all labour was manual: sledging, drilling, prying and splitting. Cars pushed to the tunnel's portal carried the ore, which was then stockpiled on the hillside. Impurities were "cobbed" or trimmed off, and the chunks broken to size by young boys and old men. The purified apatite was stored at river's edge a few hundred yards from the mine, then carted in winter by horse along the frozen Lièvre to Buckingham, some 10 miles downstream. This was a work-intensive operation but the rock was friable and labour was cheap. The net expense from mine to Montreal, including mining, cobbing, loading and transportation costs, was $11 a ton. Top-quality apatite from Emerald Mine sold at $12-25 a ton.
Stan must have been pleased with his ore body, which widened as it went down. At one point the opening was described as having floor, walls and roof of solid apatite. It was said to be a lens of mineral up to 90 feet wide, and the largest deposit of high-grade apatite known in the world at that time.
A year later, in 1884, the Ottawa Phosphate Mining Company went public, rechristened the Emerald Phosphate Mining Company, with capital ultimately controlled by Standard Oil.6 Through the rest of the 1880s mining continued uninterrupted. About half of the 50 to 90 men on the payroll were miners; the others included teamsters, carpenters, cobbers and other labourers. They amassed 15 to 20 tons of cobbed ore each day and, with the difference between cost and selling price, reaped a handsome profit. Stan became rather wealthy and at the same time was popular with his men and highly esteemed in the community.
Meanwhile, the Anglo-Continental Guano Works had purchased the adjacent property from BMC, and after 1889 began developing its Squaw Hill Mine to the east of the Emerald Mine. Joseph Burley Smith was the local manger for this firm, which was based in Hamburg, Germany and London, England. Squaw Hill's apatite stringer, the Grant vein, shelved toward Stan's Murray pit, widening as it went. They proceeded to deepen the Grant pit below BMC's original workings, so that it was now below the level of the Emerald's Watts pit, and their lateral working proceeded westerly toward the Emerald property. Its entrance was on a steep slope, about 40 horizontal feet from the Emerald line, and about 50 feet below the top of the Watts pit. At first, hammer and drill sounds were barely audible to miners in deeper workings of the Watts, then they became louder and louder until they were directly below, and a blast knocked a pickaxe from the wall. This was too much. Henwood had heard the sounds and Franchot had fixed them with his boussole or pocket compass. Of course, they suspected trespass, but lacked hard evidence.7 Neither manager Franchot nor captain Henwood dared set foot in Smith's mine to check. However, there was also a question of survey stakes on the surface which had apparently been moved. On this basis they believed they had enough evidence to proceed against Anglo-Continental and brought their case before the court at Aylmer in June 1891.8
Lawyers for the defence made great sport of the plaintiffs' ear-and-compass evidence, but moving survey posts on the surface was another matter. Emerald Phosphate won but Anglo-Continental immediately appealed, and in September of the same year the case was heard in the Superior Court at Montreal.9 It rested on two surveys of the boundary line between the lots, an official 1875 one placing the line to the east and a private 1888 survey placing it to the west. To add to the confusion both surveyors had the same name, Rainboth. Which survey was correct? The verdict was pendant on a new survey, which does not seem to have been made before Anglo-Continental abandoned the Fort. In July 1892 its properties were formally transferred to the British Phosphate Company which continued mining, but on a different hill immediately to the northeast. From this site, the Aetna Mine, they took out considerable apatite in 1892 and 1893.
But even immense ore bodies eventually come to an end. Fortunately, the ultimate depletion of the Emerald almost exactly coincided with the collapse of the Canadian phosphate market. Canada's main competitor in the phosphate trade was Florida, whose phosphate reserves were lower grade but very much larger and more cheaply mined. It so happened that in about 1890 Florida solved its mining and ore-beneficiation problems and began to concentrate the low-grade, fine-grained mixture found there to a high-grade product competitive with Canadian ore. As American production rose, the value of phosphate plummeted. One by one the Canadian mines closed down. Mining stopped at the Emerald in 1892, and 1893 was a cleanup year. It had produced 35,000 tons, mainly from the Franchot era, with a small amount from Edmund Murray, the first miner, and from the two trespassers. By 1894 only one Buckingham mine, High Rock, remained in operation, and by year's end it had packed in. In 1893 the price of phosphate was down to $8 a ton, in 1894 to $6, and by 1895 it was $5, well below the cost of mining it. Phosphate at Buckingham was dead; its surge of activity was over.
At the same time as he managed the Emerald Mine, Stan developed other phosphate properties. In the late 1880s he hired Peter Powers, the prospector who had discovered apatite at the Fort and High Rock in the mid-1870s, to look at a property at Central Lake, 12 miles northwest of the Emerald Mine. Powers was then 48 years old and had already proved his worth, having found copper ore in the Eastern Townships in the 1860s, then apatite near Perth as well as the earlier apatite in Buckingham. On behalf of the Central Lake Mining Company whose investors included himself, his brother Nicholas and other American associates, Stan planned to investigate an area on the same ridge as the High Rock Mine, the largest apatite producer of the district, at a location other mining men regarded as especially favourable. Stan's gamble paid off: Powers uncovered a dozen surface ore bodies and then drove a blind tunnel or adit into the hill to intersect them at depth. Thirty men were placed on the payroll in late 1888. The mine captain, Joseph Gilchrist, formerly employed at the High Rock Mine, hastily amassed a stockpile of ore and shipments began the following spring. Production was 1000 tons in 1889. But the timing was all wrong; the phosphate market was on a downslide. After 1892 the Central Lake Mine went the way of the Emerald, knocked out by a collapsed market.
Stan also became interested in other mineral possibilities in the Buckingham area. He was aware that phlogopite or amber mica was commonly associated with apatite, although there was hardly any at the Emerald Mine. This mica, used in stove windows, could be a valuable byproduct or even the principal product at a mine if the apatite market declined. Mica's transparency, flexibility and resistance to fire also made it useful for windows for oil lamps, lanterns, helmets and goggles as well as for "peepholes" in furnaces and chimneys.10 In partnership with Thomas Watters and John Haycock of Ottawa, he mined more than $18,000 worth of high quality phlogopite around 1894 from the Oriole Mine, about 15 miles north-northeast of Central Lake. At the same time the Du Lièvre and Ottawa Rivers Transportation and Mining Company, of which Stan was managing director, sent out trimmed mica from the old Wallingford and Blackburn phosphate mines near McGregor Lake.
One of Stan's most profitable mining ventures was the Villeneuve Mine, which he purchased in 1888. Initially it had been worked for white mica or "muscovite," which was more transparent than the amber mica and commanded a special price for stove windows. William Allan developed it between 1884 and 1886, and sold it to the British and Canadian Mica and Mining Company in 1886. By the time the property passed into Stan's hands it had produced 35,000 pounds of muscovite. Its mica, in trimmed sheets up to 12 inches square, was said to have been unsurpassed worldwide. In this mine, however, it was the white feldspar associated with the muscovite that captured Stan's attention. The feldspar went mainly for pottery and porcelain ware, although some brought a premium price for use as dental spar to make false teeth. His shipment of 410 tons (225 to England) in 1889 may represent the first sale of Canadian feldspar. At the site he continued to produce mica and feldspar independently until 1898.
Stan entered into community life in Buckingham with the same dedication and enthusiasm that characterized his mining activities. He became a warden of St. Stephen's Anglican Church and was elected school Trustee, then Chairman of the school board.11 He rose to high office in the Free Masons, organizing Acacia Lodge No.71-Buckingham, a district that also included Lachute, Hull and Aylmer, and becoming its District Deputy Grand Master (DDGM). He was Councillor of Buckingham village for a dozen years, from 1883-1894, and declined a request to run as Provincial Conservative representative for the riding of Labelle in 1896. He was said to be fond of sports of all kinds, indicated by his involvement in forming the Gatineau Fish and Game Club, and was an ardent supporter of youth groups.
In 1895, after an unsuccessful attempt to open a new chemical plant in Buckingham, Stan moved to Niagara Falls, New York. There he organized The National Electrolytic Company, a producer of industrial chemicals, and rose from general manager to vice-president. In 1906 he was elected to the New York state government as a Republican Senator representing Niagara and Orleans Counties. Shortly after this he suffered a severe stroke while on a trip to Canada and died in Montreal on March 24, 1908.
So ended the multifaceted career of Stanislas Pascal Franchot II, an efficient administrator and popular mine manager, who combined the qualities of farsighted businessman with sympathy for miners' rights. A respected community leader and much-beloved resident of New York and Buckingham, he was buried in Niagara Falls, New York.
|1.||In 1874 Stan married Annie Powers Eells of Richwood, KY. They had four children, including a daughter Gertrude who married Frank Jerome Tone and was the mother of (Stanislas Pascal) Franchot Tone of Hollywood fame|
|2.||This hill was also known as Brewer's Hill and the Emerald Hill during the mining period.|
|3.||Parcher's was the south half of lot 18 in range 12; Merriman's the east half of lot 19 in the same range of Buckingham Township.|
|4.||H. G. Vennor, sections on apatite, in Geological Survey of Canada, Report of Progress for 1873-74: 145; Report of Progress for 1878: 304-5.|
|5.||A search of New York and Canadian federal and provincial records did not produce evidence of a company charter.|
|6.||The Canadian Mining Manual (Ottawa:1890,1891,1892 editions).|
|7.||The Anglo-Continental ore body followed a shaft sunk from the original Grant pit which inclined steeply to the east for about 65 vertical feet. The ore body then rolled to the southwest and was mined another 80 vertical feet as a large stope or undercut projecting into the Emerald lot.|
|8.||The Canadian Mining and Mechanical Review, vol. 10 no. 6 (June 1891): 157-8 provides a summary of the case.|
|9.||The appeal survives as a printed transcript of 95 pages. See: Canada, Province of Quebec, District of Montreal, Court of the Queen's Bench in Appeal from the Superior Court, District of Ottawa, The Emerald Phosphate Company vs. The Anglo-Continental Guano Works, Respondent's factum: Thos. P. Foran, attorney for respondent, (Ottawa: A. S. Woodburn, printer, 1891).|
|10.||It was not until about 1905 that Canadian amber mica began to be used in the electrical industry, especially for commutators, insulators and generators.|
|11.||The Western Quebec School Board's records show that he served as trustee from 1891-94, and acted as Chairman during the latter year for The Dissentient Schools for the Town of Buckingham.|
The author thanks Professor André Lalonde of the University of Ottawa and Roch Desjardins, resident of Glen Almond, for guiding him to the workings of the Emerald Mine.
Sources for information on the Franchot family include: The National Encyclopedia of American Biography (Clifton, NJ: James T. White and Co., 1944), vol. 31, p. 49; F. S. Hills, New York State Men (Albany: Argus Press, 1910), vol. 1, p. 158; C. P. Franchot, Stanislas Pascal Franchot Arrives, (Olean, NY: published privately by Nicholas Van Vranken Franchot, 1940).
H. S. Spence, Phosphate in Canada (Canada: Mines Branch Publication 396, 1920) gives an accessible and concise summary of the phosphate trade and description of Canadian occurrences, including the Emerald and Central Lake properties.
The Canadian Mining Review and its successor, The Canadian Mining and Mechanical Review provide information about the progress of the Emerald Mine (1883-1894).