Excerpt from “Lawyers, Families, and Businesses: The Shaping of a Bay Street Law Firm, Faskens 1863-1963″ – by C. Ian Kyer

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Silver Rush at Cobalt

AT the end of the nineteenth century the Ontario government had seen the possibility of encouraging settlement in the Clay Belt west of Lake Temiskaming. This desire to open the region to farming and the timber industry spurred the development of the mineral resources of northern Ontario.

The government began to build the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway. By 1903 it had reached the north end of Long Lake, where evidence of cobalt, nickel, and some silver was discovered.18 The initial discovery was made by J.J. McKinley and Ernest Darragh, contractors for the railway. On 30 August 1903 they registered their claim but waited three years to find investors.

Meanwhile, Fred LaRose, a blacksmith employed by brothers John and Duncan McMartin, other contractors to the railway, made an even bigger find. LaRose shared his discovery with his employers and together they filed a claim on 3 September. Then, on a trip to Montreal, LaRose showed some samples of his find to the Timmins brothers, who operated a store in Mattawa. The brothers and their lawyer, David Dunlap, decided to invest in the LaRose property, buying half of LaRose’s share for $3,500.

There was yet another discovery that year. Tom Hebert, a timber cruiser, staked a large area on the east side of Long Lake. He sought financing from Arthur Ferland, a hotel owner in Haileybury. Ferland happened to be the brother-in-law of the Timmins boys. He recruited two other investors and together they staked further claims, amassing 846 acres (342 hectares).

They planned to retain a small portion for themselves and to operate what became the Chambers-Ferland mine. But their immediate goal was to sell the bulk of the property and make a quick profit. Ferland boarded the train and headed to New York with his ore samples to seek out Ellis P. Earle, a wealthy New York–based investor who had made his money in Standard Oil and was then considered “one of the most widely known metallurgists in the US.” The person Earle in turn sought to assist in his purchase of the claims was David Fasken.

As a later observer said, “David and Alex Fasken, in the late 1890’s, were among the first to see the possibilities of mining development in Northern Ontario.”20 Their interest had resulted in work for some of the investors in the Sudbury and Copper Cliff mines, one of whom was Earle. When Earle asked them to assist with the discovery at Long Lake (soon renamed Cobalt), David acted quickly to form a company to finance its development. Nipissing Mining Company Limited was incorporated with Earle as president and David as a director. By 1904 they had secured Ferland’s claims. In 1910 the Cobalt Daily Nugget would characterize Nipissing’s operation as “the very centre of the Cobalt Camp.”

The initial agreement drafted by David Fasken on behalf of the newly created Nipissing Mining Company stated that the owners of the original claims were to be paid sixty-five cents for each pound of cobalt mined to date. There was also mention in the agreement of nickel and arsenic. There was no mention of silver, which seems to have been thought of as incidental to the other minerals. But by the summer of 1904 high-grade silver ore was being shipped out by the carload. As news of this spread, prospectors and miners converged on Cobalt. By 1908 the Provincial Geologist reported that Cobalt was “not only the world’s largest producer of silver, but it absolutely controls the market for cobalt.”

At the time many bemoaned the fact that Americans and not Canadians had come to control the Cobalt mines. The Monetary Times noted, however, that although Canadians had originally held almost all of the claims, they had chosen to sell their interest before its full value was known. It pointed out, “The president of the Nipissing Mines Company is understood to have paid $250,000 for the properties which were chiefly of prospective value. The sellers thought that they had outwitted a Yankee. Now, probably, they are assuring themselves that they were foolish to part with so great a property at so small a price.”

The truth is that Earle and the other American investors were willing to invest the large amounts of money that commercial development of the finds required. David and Alex Fasken proved important in securing both the capital and the sources of power and other utilities necessary to mine in what was then a remote and rugged locale. From the beginning Earle had relied upon Fasken’s guidance. In the early days many had doubted the commercial viability of the venture because the Cobalt ore was complex, but David Fasken never lost faith.

In reporting the discoveries in 1905, the Monetary Times suggested caution in light of a limited market and a low price for cobalt, and the adulteration of the cobalt with silver, warning that “no process yet discovered suffices to meet the peculiarities of this Canadian silver cobalt ore.” The newly elected Conservative premier of Ontario, James Whitney, spoke in guarded language of the ore’s “very complex and refractory character.”26 In 1906 the province’s leading geologist, Professor W.A. Parks, spoke to the Empire Club, noting that “in Cobalt . . . mines are in advance of the facilities for treatment of the ore. In most mining regions capitalized companies are formed and expensive machinery is put in before they have ore to treat. In Cobalt, they have ore already mined before they have machinery to treat it.” As these men expressed their concerns, original test work on cyaniding the cobalt ores was being carried out at the School of Mining at Kingston, and by 1907 silver and arsenic would be produced at Deloro, Ontario, from the ores of the Cobalt district.

Book Summary

In Lawyers, Families, and Businesses: The Shaping of a Bay Street Law Firm, Faskens 1863–1963, noted lawyer and historian, Ian Kyer, provides a superbly researched and fascinating study of the origins and development of the law firm now known as Fasken Martineau Dumoulin. Beginning in colonial Toronto in 1863 where two young lawyers, William Henry Beatty and Edward Marion Chadwick, established their partnership in “one room, half furnished,”

Kyer follows the first 100 years of mergers, redirections, challenges, and advances that today have resulted in an international firm of over 700 lawyers practising on three continents. In the process of giving readers a view of the evolution of the practice of law in Canada as seen from the perspective of one particular firm, Kyer also provides in-depth and original accounts of the interrelationships among law firms, family connections, business development, and political influence in Canadian history.

This is an insightful, compelling, social history of one of Canada’s most important law firms.

About the Author:

C. Ian Kyer is a distinguished lawyer, historian, and author. For more than 30 years he has practised law in the Faskens firm, serving for more than a decade as Director of its Technology and Intellectual Property Group. An expert in information technology law, he has long been listed by Lexpert as one of Canada’s top 500 lawyers.

He holds a doctorate in history from the University of Toronto and has co-authored The Fiercest Debate, a history of legal education in Ontario, published by the Osgoode Society. Here he brings both his legal skills and his historical acumen to bear on the history of the Faskens law firm.

To order a copy of Lawyers, Families, and Businesses, please click here: http://www.irwinlaw.com/store/product/712/lawyers-families-and-businesses 

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