Part 4 – [Geraldton : An Alternative History]

Aerial photo of Little Long Lac mine and Geraldton townsite, 1936, looking northeast. In upper left is the original townsite on the CN railway. Farther south is the suburb known first at Johnsonville, then Jonesville. A wooden bridge and ramps span Barton Bay. A new road runs south towards the Hardrock and MacLeod-Cockshutt mines. The Bankfield Highway runs east-west. Smoke emanates from the boiler house of the Little Long Lac Gold Mines, Ltd. To the right is Rosedale Point, where staff residences and the hospital are located. To the left is the L.L.L. townsite, where employees have built their homes. At the extreme bottom is a partial view of the clearing on which the Errington Arena will rise. Photo Greenstone History Collection.

The first knowledge of gold being used as trading commodity
came at Longlac Hudson BAY Post during World War 1 when Tony
Oklend traded $700.00 worth of gold for supplies. Tony lived
for [many] years in a cabin on Magnet Creek.

Tom Johnson prospected with Tony Oklend and together they were
given credit for the original claims of Little Long Lac Gold
Mine, in the summer of 1932.

Hardrock Bill Smith was actually a tailor by trade, and
an avid amateur prospector during the summer months. He was the
discoverer of the first major ore body in the Geraldton area. He
made this discovery in 1931 when he and Stan Watson staked 17
claims . Other prospectors in on the original gold finds were
Fred G. [MacLeod] and Arthur Cockshutt[,] who staked the 21 claims
that became [MacLeod-Cockshutt] Gold Mine. Isaac Mosher and his
sons Murdock and Alex staked the 23 claims that became Mosher Mine.

Hardrock Bill Smith had prospected the Kenogamisis Lake area
in 1929[;] during 1930 he worked in Quebec. He returned to this area
in 1931, with [Stan] Watson as his partner. The partners detrained
at Longlac station and loaded their supplies into a canoe. Paddling
the creeks and rivers between Longlac and Kenogamisis lake[,] they
would paddle for a few hours , and then go ashore to pan for gold
and to have a rest from the vigorous work of [paddling] a loaded
canoe. Each night they made camp and again panned for gold.
They were planning on making camp at Hardrock Point on
Kenogamisis Lake when Bill noticed water washing over some quartz
just off shore. He waded out[,] grub hoe in hand, and broke off
some quartz , which he carried ashore for closer examination. He
quickly realized he had found a promising gold sample. The follow-
ing day Bill and Stan set up a drill about 200 feet from the lake
shore and drilled some trial holes to ascertain how far down
bedrock was. Fortunately, it was only 3 feet under the muskeg.

They took a line on a [boulder] and started digging a trench. At
about 100 feet they uncovered a quartz deposit with a considerable
showing of gold. They dug a second trench from east to west
[and] discovered a great chunk of float (a float is a loose [boulder]
which would have been deposited by the retreat of a glacier)
jutting out into the lake.

Mining [prospectors] had handshake agreements with their friends
in those days. If [either] person ever did strike gold, he
would contact his friends, so that they could all share in the
discovery. Hardrock Bill had such an agreement with Fred Mosher
and Arthur Cockshutt, who were prospecting in Quebec. [Therefore]
Hardrock Bill sent a telegram in morse code from the Hudson Bay
Company in Longlac. The message was [prospector’s] code that for
some reason or other they would have to return home[. The] person
receiving the message knew where they were and headed for that
area on the double.

The telegram was intercepted and almost [before] Bill and Stan
had detrained at Hardrock Station, other prospectors were hot
on their trail and The Gold Rush Was On.

In order to get the [message] out the partners had to canoe to
Hardrock Station and walk the tracks to Longlac .

Hardrock mine consisted of 17 claims staked by Hardrock Bill
and Stan Watson [and] was first worked by Homestead Mining Company of
Leeds[,] South Dakota. Later another company took over and Hardrock
mine operated from 1938 till 1951.

Hardrock station was just a station until Maude Gascon
arrived and started catering to the [prospectors]. She had a
cookery, bunk house, recreation hall, library and office. She
[had] a dormitory setting for sleeping arrangements.

The [newspapers] all carried great stories about the Great
Gold Rush and the unemployed men began to arrive at Hardrock
Station seeking a way to the [gold fields]. They had to walk the
tracks to [Mileage] 21 and then trudge through the muskeg to Lake
Kenogamisis, at Barton Bay[.] [Mileage] 21 was 21 miles from Longlac,
[approximately] where the Geraldton Hotel is now .In due course the
train crews [would, on request], allow the passengers to leave the
train at [Mileage] 21 , saving them the long hike back from Hardrock

The prospectors all set up camp together at Rosedale Point
on Barton Bay. Each morning they went their own way to where
they planned to stake [claims] or work those already staked[,]
returning to camp at dark.

It was very difficult to get necessary supplies from the
train station at Hardrock across [Kenogamisis] lake. The mining
companies did band together and made a barge, which made the
long arduous trip each day to meet the train and haul the
supplies back to camp.

In October 1932 Joe Errington and [S.J.] Fitzgerald ordered
a crew to stake 2 claims from [Mileage] 21 to the narrows of
Kenogamisis lake.

These two claims[, numbered T.B. 10731 and T.B. 10732,]
accidentally straddled the township lines of Errington and Ashmore
Townships. They were not intended to be a townsite, it just
[happened], “THE GERALDTON WAY”.

Headframe of Shaft No. 2 of Hard Rock Gold Mines, Ltd., aka the Hardrock mine, located on Porphyry Hill. Beyond and to the right one catches a glimpse of Shaft No. 1 and smoke rising from Discovery Point on Kenogamisis Lake. Photo G.H.C.
Headframe of Shaft No. 2 of Hard Rock Gold Mines, Ltd., aka the Hardrock mine, located on Porphyry Hill. Beyond and to the right one catches a glimpse of Shaft No. 1 and smoke rising from Discovery Point on Kenogamisis Lake. Photo G.H.C.
View of the Hardrock Station shoreline in 1933 with the log structure of Maud Gascon’s Restaurant and Bunkhouse. Maude and her uncle standing. Photo source unknown.

2 thoughts on “Part 4 – [Geraldton : An Alternative History]

  1. Maude Gascon figured prominently in the history of the area at that time. we are continuing that connection of family in the area as she was my grandmother.


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