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Historic mine cart discovered in Cantley finds a home
By Shauna McGinn
A century-old cart used during the mica mining days in Cantley settled at its final resting place in Mary-Anne-Phillips Park on May 28, with a special unveiling ceremony lead by the Cantley 1889 historical society.
Its journey began almost two years ago, when Cantley resident Nelson Lawlor discovered the cart on his property. He purchased land that rested on the site of the Dacey mine, one of the largest in Cantley during its time, according to his sister Patricia Lawlor. The cart, which miners used to transport rocks and other materials, was in great condition despite its age: it was even found with rails that appeared to be from the same era.
Lawlor donated the cart to the Cantley 1889 historical society, of which his sister is a member. He thought it should be installed at Mary-Anne-Phillips Park, next to the historic tugboat that represents Cantley's logging industry. This fuelled the vision of turning the park into an "outdoor heritage centre," according to Margaret Philipps, president of Cantley 1889.
Patricia Lawlor, who has close knowledge of Cantley's mining history, spearheaded the project to restore and install the cart. In the 1890s and early 1900s, Cantley was primarily focused on phosphate mining, and Lawlor says that for a time, miners would discard the mica that came along as a by-product. But, as the industrial age took hold, mica was found to be useful for electrical insulation, and a craze for the product ensued.
Volunteers worked diligently through the spring and summer of 2016 to refurbish the cart. Though it was moved into the park in October, May 28 marked the official unveiling. The mayor of Cantley, the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, and many community members were in attendance.
The video that followed the unveiling was also a community effort. Titled "A Cantley Story: The Mica Mine," the film shows an historical re-enactment of the mining era in Cantley. Lead by the Fairbairn House Heritage Centre, children from La Source Des Jeunes served as actors.
Patricia Lawlor says members of Cantley 1889 are thrilled to see the mine cart have its day. Going forward, she is hoping to find a piece that symbolizes farming, to complete the trifecta of historical monuments that showcase Cantley's industrial history.