Nanaimo Historical Society fonds
Series 2. Sound Recordings
Interview with A. Fraser Buckham by Don Schon concerning coal deposits on Vancouver Island, October 2, 1966
Transcribed by Glenys Wall, May 2005
(Note: Mr. Buckham's voice is very frail and at times hard to understand).
(tape starts in mid-sentence, speaker sounds like William Barraclough)..Historical Society and Dr. A. Fraser Buckham at his home 45 Linden Avenue, Victoria, was made Sunday afternoon October 2nd. 1966. Dr. Buckham spoke with some difficulty arising from his physical condition and referring to his notes on the subject of coal deposits on Vancouver Island. Mr. Schon presented a summary of the interview with Dr. Buckham before Nanaimo Historical Society, Tuesday October 18th, 1966.
Don Schon: This is the second of our series of meetings this Fall commemorating the Centennial, in our own way, for Nanaimo; the first one on the peoples and this one is on the mines. Tonight it is our pleasure to have an interview between myself, Don Schon, and Dr. A.F. Buckham. Dr. Buckham has quite a history of experience in the Nanaimo coalfields especially, and also the Cumberland fields. He came first to Vancouver Island in 1939 with the Geological Surveys of Canada to map the extent of the coalfields there. He returned in 1943 to do a similar job in the Nanaimo field and this work continued until 1947. In 1947 and '48, he returned to Ottawa to work on other projects. In 1948, Dr. Buckham left the Geological Surveys of Canada and joined Canadian Collieries as the Chief of Exploration. He continued in this position until 1959, when Canadian Collieries left the mining field, especially on Vancouver Island. His work in the Nanaimo field was mainly on seeking new locations for mines and developing new mines and in this he had to review all of the plans and underground maps from all the former mines that had been in the Nanaimo field to see what was left. The objective of this evening to develop as clear a picture as possible of the Nanaimo coal mining industry, that is the major industry that had its beginnings in the Autumn of 1852 and its end in November 1953.
First of all, we should define the extent of the field involved. We are speaking of the field that supported and included the mines from Cassidy to Lantzville. We will discuss the geology of the field, a brief history of the mining companies and trace the development of the mining methods.
Starting first with the geology of the field, Dr. Buckham could you describe for us the Nanaimo series, its extent, geological age and possibly the origin of the coal seams?
Buckham: Yes. The coal bearing rocks on Vancouver Island occur in five phases and we are concerned with the Nanaimo basin and this is defined geologically as about 80 miles long from Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island to Orcas Island off the State of Washington. It's greatest width is about 20 miles, average width about 9 miles and its area about 700 square miles. Of course coal was not mined from all this area but chiefly from the Nanaimo coal field proper to the northern end of the basin. The rocks of the Nanaimo basin are known to geologists as the Nanaimo series and these rocks are about the Cretaceous Age. Now, they're sedimentary rocks, conglomerates, sandstone shales and of course coal. These sediments had to be laid down in a basin or laid down somewhere and from studies made on Vancouver Island we know that the topography in Cretaceous times was not too different from today; that is, there is a mountain range running up the backbone of the Island and another mountain range over in the Coast Mountains across the strait and in the area of the Strait of Georgia in the coastal lowland there were sediments laid down.
Schon: Could you, could you give us a description of the thickness of the seams and their dimensions as far as they're known from the developments of the mines?
Buckham: There are two main coal horizons in the Nanaimo series. First that of the Wellington seams and second that of the Newcastle and Douglas seams. The lowest seams, the Wellington, occurs about 700 feet above the base of the series and the Wellington seams were found workable from the most westerly outcrop of the seams which was west of the Wellington Valley and west of the Extension Ridges and from north to south it ran down from Lantzville to the Nanaimo River. The feature of the structure of the Nanaimo coal field is the occurrence therein of numerous strong faults; these dislocations cross the whole field and their extensions to the north and to the south show they're part of a major fault zone and these faults run from northwest to southeast in the Nanaimo area and they've been proven there by actual work within the coal seam. In the south end of Nanaimo the major working there was known as the Douglas Mine and here the coal seam outcropped overlooking the Harewood Flats and for a time it dipped down with about 12 degree dip but as they got deeper and deeper on the seam, they found that it appeared to roll over. The old plans show that this apparently baffled them and they decided to find out just what was going on. So finally they erected a staging in the mine with a windlass on it and followed the seam down in a sort of a shaft or a winds hoisting the coal out in buckets. It was dug by hand to get down. They followed this down a considerable distance and apparently discovered that there was quite a big downthrow from the land to the harbour.
Schon: Was this downthrow, was it continuous coal, it wasn't a shearing actually, it was continuous coal as they went down? So they were actually mining in coal vertically?
Buckham: Yes. Oh yes, well it was sheared in a way. You see when you get it down throughout this sort, there's a considerable shearing of the coal but they followed continuous coal.
Schon: Right down?
Schon: But how wide would it be, have you got any idea in this downthrow section?
Buckham: Well it may have been as much as 5 feet, and it may have been more but with this shearing of which you speak, although they were following coal, it was ground along the fault so that I don't know how thick it was.
Schon: How deep was this downthrown portion?
Buckham: Er.. the harbour downthrow from the mine on the uphill side, the Douglas Mine I have just motioned, it was the same as 400 to 500 foot downthrow to the Number 1 mine site, which was all beneath the harbour of Nanaimo. Well this underground shaft they sunk, they figured out what was going on, went out and drilled some holes along the shore of the harbour and went out in the harbour and built little platforms on piles and drilled some holes there and found there appeared to be...the seams went on beyond the downthrow, so that the harbour downthrow was quite important in the mining history of Nanaimo. As I said it represented a downthrow of 400-500 feet. Well on the uphill side they just went down to the edge of it because when they sunk the shaft to find out what was going on, it was very costly, but they couldn't properly plan the development of the field until they had a clear idea in their minds as to what was going on and this they got. This took place before 1880. Mines around this harbour downthrow were being operated by the New Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company, an absentee English company, whose chairman or general manager in London is quoted as saying: "Nanaimo, with all thy faults, I love thee still". So you can see that faults spoke large in his eyes. [unintelligible] in the Nanaimo series, that of the Wellington seams and that of the Newcastle-Douglas seams. The lowest seam, the Wellington seam, occurs about 700 feet above the base of the Nanaimo series and the Newcastle and Douglas seams are from 25-100 feet apart, averaging 60 feet apart. The Newcastle is the lower, and they overlie the Wellington by about 1000 feet and they're separated from it by a considerable thickness of measures. It may be of interest to you to note that this Wellington seam underlying the Douglas and Newcastle seams was proven by a borehole that was put down on Newcastle Island and the borehole was put down at the request of Mr. James Richards, who was then company engineer and Mr. Richards is also Premier Bennett's wife's father and Mr. Richards told me he thought the Wellington was down there and they drilled a down drill hole and found it.
Schon: How far down would that be, have you got any idea how far it was below the er...?
Buckham: About 1000 feet.
Schon: About 1000 feet below the Newcastle.
Buckham: Yeah. Well up in the northern part of the field the main workings were those of the Wellington colliery. Those were the ones that paid for Craigdarroch Castle Hatley Park and they were in the Wellington seam. First of all the main Wellington seam, now this runs from the Wellington Valley down to within a mile or so of the shore and the ...and.. from the northern end of the Wellington Valley almost down to where Westwood's farm now is and the seam's buried from..oh from perhaps 6 feet to 12 feet thick. That's the thickness of the coal and that thickness is the bottom seam, the main Wellington seam. Now above the main Wellington seam there's a seam called Little Wellington above it of an average of 35 feet. Now this seam is perhaps not of great importance for mining but it was the Little Wellington that when Dunsmuir made his find at Wellington he first lit on the Little Wellington and then later on looking around more, he found the main Wellington seam and of course seeing it was so much better and thicker, he moved his crew of miners and tools over there and that was the start of the Wellington Colliery. Of the second, upper group of seams, the Newcastle seam is a very patchy and limited occurrence. It outcrops on the north edge of Newcastle Island and it was not workable going south from there much more than to the south end of Nanaimo Harbour. But it was worked to Number 1 Mine and Brechin Mine and above that is the Douglas seam which also outcrops about the north end of Newcastle Island and it extends down to as far as to Cassidy, or the Cassidy Mine.
Schon: In your 1947 paper to the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, you mentioned that the actual outcrops of the seams were actually geographically, let's say, in the middle of the seam and they were probably thickest at the outcrop. Could you comment on this now?
Buckham: Yes, well it would be about the middle of the seams as originally laid down and for instance where Mr. Richards found the Wellington seam under Newcastle Island, it was not workable. It had numerous bands of shale in and not too much coal and the same thing applied in all these seams going seaward, they tended to become dirty and contained shell bands in the coal themselves and mixtures of...er ... when the seam was laid down what must have been mud or silt and when later on as we now found the seams, this mud and silt that was mixed in with the coal seams would give you a situation where you were taking a bucket of coal into the stove and you were taking out two buckets of [unintelligible]. As I have just pointed out it looks as though the outcrop's about the middle of the coal as deposited so that to the west and where the coal seams appear to pitch up into the air, there must have been about half the Nanaimo coal field [unintelligible]....down at the bottom of the Strait of Georgia mixed in with the muds under the strait, there must have been an amount of coal approximately equal to what's been won from the whole Nanaimo field and there's another thing comes in with the faults. This actually disturbs the coal seams and made them vary in thickness because from a geological standpoint, coal in a section of rock which has been disturbed or faulted, it acts about the same as axle grease. Now, south of Nanaimo Harbour, going down to the southeast, the Douglas seam displayed great variations in thickness according to this faulting and disturbance so that a miner might be driving a place ahead, one day he'd be in 20 or 24 feet of coal, a couple of days later he'd be in 2 feet of coal. But the seam would come back.
Schon: So that there were inclusions of dirty coal or shale almost unpredictable, due to this faulting in any direction of development?
Buckham: No, the effect it was something like the coal seam was like toothpaste in a tube and you squeeze it and you get paste, you get a big blob, and then it tears(?) out into a long, thin thing and where it goes in a big blob, that's your 20 or 24 feet of coal, and where it tears out that's your 2 feet. This sort of thing gave them a great deal of difficulty. There was one place there where they sunk a diamond drill hole and found they had 8 feet of coal so when the time came, the workings got down there, they drove passed it on one side and they had no coal at all, so they moved over a bit and drove in the direction down the dip of the seam and so they were on both sides of it. And both these tunnels were barren. Then they continued the tunnels down some distance and at right angles to them drove other tunnels above where the bore hole was supposed to be and below where the bore hole was supposed to be and not a one of these holes showed any coal at all. So they ended up they'd square pillar 100 feet on the side and all the sides of this pillar were barren of coal but inside it a diamond bore hole showed 8 feet of coal and this worried them as to how far they could trust their diamond bores so they had the surveyor lay off a line and drove for the diamond bore and they discovered that the bore did indeed hit 8 feet of coal but this was just a pocket of coal. With the example I used, a sort of a blob on the toothpaste and if the bore hole moved 20 feet in any direction they wouldn't have hit it. So you could see that the working of these mines was not always simple. The problem that was brought about by the faulting and disturbance was the matter of blowouts. In the extreme southern part of the area at Numbers 5 and 10 by South Wellington in the Cassidy Mine of the Granby Company, the Douglas seam was highly sheared and disturbed and in Number 10 in Cassidy blowouts or outbursts of coal and gas are common and greatly interfered with the operation of the mine. Thus in those mines if a blowout occurred all the workings in the mine would be filled up with gas, methane gas, which is explosive and dangerous and so much gas would be given off that the very adequate ventilation systems were overcome and couldn't, for perhaps a day or so, move the gas out and it is my opinion that the famous explosion in Number 1 Mine was caused by the same thing, that it is happened about the time the workings were just coming up from beneath the harbour down seam where the seam rolled up and I think the miners encountered this highly disturbed place and what happened was a strong outburst of gas and perhaps coal in Number 10 Mine, one of these outbursts threw out something like100 mine carts of powdered coal from a relatively small hole in the face. If that had happened in Number 1 Mine, and in those days they mostly used open lights, all through the mine and gas accumulated in such amounts that the ventilation system couldn't handle it. This gas would explode with the open lights and the 150 or so men who were killed at that time would have been due to them running into a blowout. As I say this is my personal opinion, although going down to the south there's a record of a similar occurrence in the Reserve Mine and then going further south they had such outbursts to a limited extent in Morden Mine. They had them to a considerable extent in Number 10 Mine and the had them to a great extent in the Cassidy Mine.
Schon: It was my understanding that in Number 10 Mine, blasting was used to..er..at the face, whereas in Cassidy Mine this wasn't permitted due to the gas and it's my understanding that Canadian Collieries' argument for blasting at the face was that it relieved the stress in the coal and permitted the gas to come out just after or with the shot and whereas a miner working into a gas pocket or gassy coal would break into this and all of a sudden he would have a bump in his face where the powder had actually done this in Number 10 Mine. Could you comment on this?
Buckham: Yes well you could put it this; what you've said is substantially correct. Blasting was the trigger that set off the blowouts, it was not the cause of them but it was the trigger. And when they first encountered these blowouts in Cassidy they didn't properly understand them and they tried various things like drilling holes ahead and they hoped this would drain off the gas that was caught in there, but it didn't so they had no other cause but to cut off certain mine workings and the Provincial Mines Department forbade men to work there. The system that was used in Number 10 Mine was thought up by Mr. Bill Frew (?) and the thing was that the floor and the roof became polished and shiny and the seams sometimes got thin and you were coming close to a place where there might be a blowout, but you could always probably tell when a blowout was coming but you couldn't tell whether it was happening on Monday or Wednesday or Friday and that's a very cold comfort to a miner who is working down there, knowing some time in the next week she's going to blow. And after considerable thought, Frew decided each of these places, where it looked as though a blowout was imminent, that if they loaded them quite heavily and only exploded the dynamite when the men were withdrawn from the mine, and even if a blowout was induced and it was giving off a great deal of gas, which filled up the mine, this could be readily determined from the ventilation system and men weren't endangered. So for that reason the Mines Department permit them to use this system; it [nailed] them the crossover from a very, very hazardous standard of working to a relatively safe method of working.
Schon: Could we get into some of the history of the development of the mining companies in the Nanaimo field? The essential lines of development I think are important, and I think your background of research into them should give us a fairly good picture of how the lines of company development occurred. Could you give us a little on that?
Buckham: Yes indeed. Well of the companies that operated out of the Island, there were two main branches and one branch was the Vancouver Coal Company, Western Fuel Branch. This branch operated chiefly in the City of Nanaimo, and it was the oldest in point of time because its forerunner was the Hudson's Bay Company. And the later branch was the Dunsmuir Branch and that had a number of sub-branches. There was Robert Dunsmuir & Sons Wellington Colliery; that was the Wellington Mines and then there was the E & N Railway, which the Dunsmuirs played quite a part and occasionally, apparently for financial reasons, some of the mines, notably in the early days of the Extension Mines, were operated [unintelligible] in proprietorship, the E & N Railway. Then the final branch was up at Comox, the Union Coal Company, which later changed its name to the Wellington Colliery Company. Well now, getting back to that first Vancouver Coal, Western Fuel Branch, and now we get into what is more a history proper. With the occurrence of coal on Vancouver was first made known in 1835 and it was too close to adjacent areas: Beaver Harbour which is very close to Port Hardy and Suquash, which is about 13 miles southeast of Beaver Harbour.
End of Side 1 of the tape
Buckham: In 1835, Indians from around Port Hardy told Dr. Tolmie, who was then in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, Fort McLoughlin, today, Bella Bella, that there was coal there and Tolmie reported the matter to his superiors and Dr. John McLoughlin determined to send the best vessel as soon as possible, this was the next year 1836. The vessel was the Beaver, the Hudson's Bay Company's coastal steamer, which checked the report on her first coastal voyage after she arrived from England. It was not for some years later, until 1849, that the Hudson Bay Company took steps to develop the coal, for this was about the time of the Oregon Boundary dispute and the Americans of course took over Oregon and Washington, up to the 49th Parallel, but not Vancouver Island. And it was necessary for them to set up a mail service for these new territories and a gentleman named William Henry Aspidall got a contract to transport mail by steamer, between Panama and the coast of Oregon. This was, of course, years before the Panama Canal. To purchase the coal, which his steamers would need, he originally arranged to have colliers to come round the Horn from Wales, which was quite costly, but he knew that coal had been discovered on Vancouver Island and he hoped it might provide less expensive and more convenient supply of fuel than the Welsh Mines. So he started negotiations with the Hudson's Bay Company in the first part of 1848 and the governing committee of the Hudson's Bay Company in England decided to send out what they termed "a Headsman and 6 miners" and they sent out instructions to establish Fort Rupert at Beaver Harbour in 1849. And when the workers got out they shipped them out to Fort Rupert to start prospecting. The first group of miners arrived at Victoria in June of 1849 and three other groups, comprising over 100 miners with tools and machinery arrived with other ships. The prospecting work that was done at Beaver Harbour and Suquash was not successful. Even these experienced men brought out from England to work the pits and to bore for new deposits could accomplish little and according to historian Gosnell, the Hudson's Bay Company spent about 25,000 pounds in the search for coal at Fort Rupert. Now this was very disappointing, but fortunately another Indian reported in Victoria in 1849 the occurrence of coal at a place called Snenymo and in the following year he brought a canoe load of the coal to Victoria. So as he was then, Douglas, sent two boat loads of men back with the Indian to find where the occurrence was and to report on it. And by 1852 the little group of miners at Fort Rupert had moved to Nanaimo. In that year the first shipment of coal was consigned to Victoria on September 10th, 1852. Now the Hudson's Bay Company operated the mines at Nanaimo at first under the superintendence of George Robinson, who came out on the Princess Royal in 1854 and subsequently under Charles Samuel Nicol. About this time, Victoria became the main base of the Hudson's Bay Company as a result of the settling of the Oregon affair. Even so with the main base at Victoria and with their coalmining establishment at Nanaimo, progress was very slow and the Hudson's Bay Company operated the Nanaimo Mines for 10 years and it was called [unintelligible] or in writing about it in Company reports, the Nanaimo Coal Company. But this was just a popular, convenient way of referring to the enterprise, it was never a formal, legal incorporation like that of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, which was incorporated and this was another non-fur trade enterprise of the Hudson's Bay Company at this time. At the same time, the Hudson's Bay Company had undertaken for the British Government to see if they could colonize Vancouver Island and their colonization efforts were unsuccessful so that at the end of the 10 years, I mentioned, they operated the Nanaimo Mines, they had been unsuccessful in colonizing and they decided they would dispose of their property except what was needed for the fur trade and they would no longer be engaged in such frills as the Nanaimo Coal Company and the Puget Sound Agricultural Company or as a colonization agent. And in some manner a gentleman named James Nicol of Winchester, England, got an option. He was the brother of the Charles Samuel Nicol who was the Hudson's Bay Company manager on the ground, and he knew the Hudson's Bay Company was going to sell; so he got an option to purchase on payment of 40,000 and he transferred this to a company formed in the name of the Vancouver Coal Mining & Land Company which was formed August 1st 1862 and it took title to the Company's lands in Nanaimo September 30th 1862. This company was the company that arranged for the layout and sub-division of Nanaimo and sold the town lots from which in 1864 they secured quite a revenue. The company continued to operate the mines until 1902, that's forty years from '62 to '02 and later on the company needed more capital and their need for capital is perhaps shown by what we said before about the faults. That is if you have a mine where the coal outcrops, sticks out of the hillside, you could start digging it; you could just dive right into it and start a tunnel into the outcrop and from there on your mine is producing. But, if you have to sink a shaft about 635 feet deep to overcome something like a harbour downthrow, that shaft is quite costly to sink and the money you've invested in sinking it [unintelligible] long time before you get a return on that money. Well, this I think, is one of the main reasons why they needed more capital. Be that as it may, in 1902 they sold to Western Fuel Company, a company organized [unintelligible] in the state of California, registered extra-provincially in B.C. and this company knew of the Nanaimo mines because some of their executives had been in the coal trade in San Francisco and had previously sold quite a bit of Vancouver coal, Vancouver Coal Company coal. Corporate maneuvers took place and finally in 1928, the Canadian Collieries purchased the common shares to Western Fuel. Now, that is eventually we have from 1852-1862 the Hudson's Bay Company and the various companies I have mentioned and in 1928 the whole thing came into the fold of the Dunsmuir line. Now, we'll turn to the second line of companies. Robert Dunsmuir & Sons, the Wellington Mines. Robert Dunsmuir was one of the miners brought out by the Hudson's Bay Company. He and his family arrived at the mouth of the Columbia in July 1851 and with him his was his uncle Boyd Gilmour, a man brought out by the Hudson's Bay Company to be a headsman in charge of prospecting for coal. They worked first at Suquash and then came down to Nanaimo and Dunsmuir arrived at Nanaimo early in 1853 and he worked for Hudson's Bay Company there and on October 12, 1855 he began as an independent contractor, digging for coal for the Hudson's Bay Company. That is the mines and the coal seams stayed the property of the Hudson's Bay Company and they would pay Dunsmuir so much a ton for all the coal he could land at the pithead or land say at the wharf chutes. So his work was first as an independent contractor digging coal for the Hudson's Bay and then later on he left their employ and he had an idea in his head that there must somewhere on Vancouver Island be a better, solider piece of coal, less broken up with faults and if he could find that he thought he'd have a wonderful thing. So in 1869 he made a discovery that appeared to come closer to meeting his requirements and this was the discovery at the Wellington mines. Robert Dunsmuir needed a partner with capital to help him begin the mines and so he executed a partnership with a Royal Navy lieutenant in Victoria, Lieutenant Wadham Neston Diggle, so the firm became known as Dunsmuir, Diggle & Company and later on they took other navel officers into the partnership but the mine prospered so that not too much later Dunsmuir was able to buy these newcomers out and finally Dunsmuir bought out Diggle's interest and the Wellington mines were extremely profitable; discovered in October 1869, not really great in output until 1871 that Dunsmuir was in a short thirteen years be able to buy out his partner, Diggle, for at the minimum $500,000. shows the value of this body of coal. So when the Wellington mines were abandoned, about 1896 as being worked out, Dunsmuir had made a great deal of money out of this wonderful body of coal and one of the other branches of this line of the business I mentioned was CNN Railway. Now there is a very great, long history of this. It's connected with the incorporation of British Columbia into Confederation and part of the agreement of the terms of union was the construction of trans-continental railway and there was considerable controversy over this but they just weren't able to begin the railway when they should've and they certainly weren't able to finish it when they should've and there was a strong body of opinion in the Province of B.C. that felt British Columbia should secede from Confederation and they sent a delegation to London to see about this and various British statesmen endeavoured to mediate the dispute and one of the things was that perhaps they could build a railroad from Esquimalt to Nanaimo quite rapidly and this would be a partial compliance with the terms of the union. So this was accepted by the Government of the Province of B.C. and the question then arose whom could they get to build this railroad? Now Robert Dunsmuir was the only man in the colony capable of undertaking so great a work and finally to the Marquis of Lorne, who was then Governor General, endeavoured to get Dunsmuir to do so and Dunsmuir, with certain partners, agreed to do so and one of the things about all this railway building chiefly was the Canadian Pacific Railway over on the mainland of British Columbia was that Canada had very little money to pay such enterprises, but one thing Canada did have was a tremendous acreage of land on Vancouver Island and the same thing applied. And it was thought in those days that a good move would be to trade that which they had lots of, land, for the building of a railroad, which they needed. They set up a tract of land on the east coast of Vancouver Island known as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Land Grant and in this land grant they reserved all the minerals, especially coal and [unintelligible] for the property of the railway company.
Schon: And Dunsmuir actually got the coal that wasn't alienated prior to that date along with the surface rights, which have just recently come into the news in the timber disposition.
Buckham: Well he not only got that but, he got it tax free. He was in the happy position of being a coal company which had very great potential reserves of coal land, but which were not taxable and this in other places and other fields, this always stopped coal companies from piling up too many reserve lands ahead of them that the cost of the tax [unintelligible] but he didn't have that trouble and there was another thing: of the lands which had been alienated before the grant was made, he was granted certain lands in lieu thereof and so that it was a pretty good deal from Dusnmuir's standpoint and he agreed to do it and they built the E & N Railroad.
Schon: Now he wasn't the only one involved, he had some partners in with him.
Buckham: Yes, his partners were Charles Crocker, Lewis Stanford(?), Collis P. Huntingdon(?) and also Mark Hopkins. There was the big of four of the Southern Pacific Railway in California and it's also [unintelligible] gentlemen who Dunsmuir had met in San Francisco through his coal export and coal sales business there and who had... well, they were very similar people; the tremendous mansions in San Francisco erected by the railroad barons on Nob Hill were very much the same sort of thing as Dunsmuir's Craigdarroch Castle.
Schon: Who was the inspiration for who?
Buckham: Well I think it was Dunsmuir, because later on when the dust all cleared away, it ended up that a lot of these people start out with had approximately 50% of the shares. Just how that happened is not wholly clear, but it ... perhaps in the Centennial year it's another Canadian achievement that we can take pride in that our land barons, land grabbers were smarter than the American land barons, land grabbers. (laughing) The Dunsmuir Line was the Union Colliery Branch and Union Colliery was up at Comox, actually Cumberland, and it was a group of 12 men who lived up there and had prospected and found coal and they had an unincorporated partnership they called the Union Colliery, which Dunsmuir bought and in which the same big four that were in with him in the E&N came in with him. And not too long after they started mining coal in Cumberland, they decided to change the name of the Union Colliery Company to the Wellington Colliery Company and this was done legally.
Schon: Do you have any idea why this was done? Was this because of the ....er...did this have anything to do with the quality of the coal at Wellington?
Buckham: Well I think in a way it did. You take, for instance, the Extension Collieries of Nanaimo; well when the Wellington Colliery....er...when the coal in the Wellington Colliery was exhausted where would they turn to next for coal and it was at Extension and the early reports speak of it as this is understood to be the extension of the Wellington field and I think that for sales purposes, endeavouring to capitalise on the name of Wellington Coal.
Schon: And this would carry through to the Wellington Colliery at Cumberland?
Buckham: Yes. Well if you bought a ton of the Wellington Colliery coal in San Francisco....
Schon: Where did it come from?
Buckham: Who knew the difference? Finally, Robert Dunsmuir, James, sold the E&N to the Canadian Pacific Railway and he also sold his coal interests to McKenzie & Mann of the Canadian Northern Railways. He sold these in 1910 to them and they reorganised the property under the name of Canadian Collieries, Dunsmuir and this company was sold to English capital and as I mentioned under the Vancouver Coal and the Western Fuel they bought the Western Fuel and they had all the coalmining on the Island at that time. Finally in the early 1960s the Canadian Collieries sold its assets to an American company, the American Plywood Company, whose chief interest was the timber lands that were owned by the company and they have retained the coal rights but this approximately winds up the two branches because after 1959 there were no coalmines on the Island that were operated by Canadian Collieries and this more or else concludes the history of coal mining on Vancouver Island.
Schon: Could we go back to a few of the other mines? Now I was wondering when Dunsmuir completed his mining of the Wellington area, he moved his centre to the Wellington extension. Now was he the first company to develop in the Wellington Extension area or did he actually develop the old Number 1, Extension? He did?
Buckham: Yes. Well you will recall just a little east of old Number 1, there was a mine known as the Vancouver Slope? Well that is one place where the edge of Extension Coalfield ran over on to Vancouver Coal Company land and it was called the Vancouver Slope because the Vancouver Coal Company put their mine operation after he had begun there.
Schon: Oh yeah. So do you have any idea of the date that Dunsmuir started in old Number 1?
Buckham: It would be something like 1896.
Schon: Somewhere in 1896?
Buckham: There or thereabouts. And there is too quite a story there, an interesting story. The published of the discoverer of the Extension Field was a gentleman known as Ephraim Stark, pardon me Ephraim Hodgson, but it is said by many that the gentleman who did find the Extension Field was Stark. Louis Stark, a negro, whose family had come to Vancouver Island in Civil War days hoping for a better situation than he found in the United States and it is said by some that Hodgson, who lived quite close to Stark, and knew of the value of the discovery, murdered Stark and then having murdered Stark, Hodgson took his discovery to Dunsmuir and he received recompense for that.
Schon: Because actually he wouldn't have owned the coal, because by the E& N Dunsmuir had the coal, it was a matter of the discovery.
Buckham: True. Any money that Hodgson, or indeed that Stark might have hoped for the discovery, was more in the nature of a finder's fee, I mean Dunsmuir owned it, but until somebody told him where it was, it was of no use to him.
Schon: The ...er, er....Harewood Mine, which seam was it in?
Buckham: I think it was in the little Wellington, either Wellington or little Wellington.
Schon: And the Number 8 Mine on the south side of the Nanaimo River, that was in this little Wellington?
Buckham: No it was in the main Wellington.
Schon: It was actually in the main Wellington seam as well? I see.
Buckham: Well speaking of the history of the Nanaimo area, how much time do we have?
Schon: Five minutes.
Buckham: Well the Harewood Mine was one of the early independent mines, and it was first prospected by Dunsmuir and the capitalist who favoured that was Lascelles of the British Navy who had the Harewood Mine and a great deal of timber lands generally in the Mount Benson area of Nanaimo and this mine when it was first [unintelligible] from the mine down to the sea. It had no railroad, unlike Dunsmuir's mine, they used an aerial tramway with tripods of logs and on these tripods was suspended wire and rope now like present day flood(?) rope and buckets ran along the wire rope with another rope pulling the buckets and this went down through the City of Nanaimo, in fact it passed quite close to Albert Street and finally went over onto Cameron Island or Scotchman's Island which present day Nanaimoites may know as where the bowling green and the new museum is to be and this is another first in B.C. mining for an early thing was to get the right of way from the Vancouver Coal Company, who at that time owned Cameron Island, and naturally weren't too happy to turn over their good harbour sites to a competitor so they invoked a Mine's right to [unintelligible] Act which enabled them to get in there.
Schon: Dr. Buckham, as a conclusion, perhaps you could just review the mines that worked in the various seams of coal in Nanaimo.
Buckham: Yes. Well the main Wellington seam was worked at Wellington and at Northfield and East Wellington, Wakesiah and the Extension mines