The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

April 11th, 2013

History of Coal Mining

March 26, 1936A.K. McLeod Outlines Early History of Coal Mining in Springhill

     Mr. A.K. McLeod, Superintendent of the local mines, was guest speaker at the Wednesday Luncheon of the “Good Time Club”.  The luncheon was held at Hyatt’s and proved to be another enjoyable affair     In introducing the speaker, Mr. J.W.  Potter referred to Mr. McLeod as the only Springhill man who ever reached the high position of Superintendent of the local mines, and spoke highly of the capable manner in which he preformed his duties and the esteem in which he is held by his superiors.

      Mr. McLeod took for his subject the early history of Springhill, particularly as it affected coal mining and The Record has much pleasure in presenting his address in full as the historical data will be of interest to all our readers.

     On March 22, 1827, David, James and Nathan Gilroy and Ludwick Hunter and Martin Mills were granted 1000 acres of land, what is now known as the Town of Springhill.  This grant called for the following payment: 2 shillings sterling for every 100 acres to begin on mid-summer day, after the expiration of two years from date of issue and to be paid yearly and every year also to clear 3 acres each year or drain 3 acres of marsh or barren land.  They had to put 3 neat cattle on every 50 acres.  From three years of date of issue had to have a habitable dwelling house, and were to employ for the space of three years one able hand for every 100 acres in cutting wood or clearing land or digging in a stone quarry.  Ludwick Hunter’s land came in from the Athol Road and took in what is now known as the coal mines brook, running past Miller’s Corner.  In 1834 Hunter discovered outcroppings of coal in this brook and cropped working.  He sold some as blacksmith coal.  This seam turned out to be what we call No. 3 mine on the north slope seam.

     In 1826 the General Mining Association was formed and took over from the Duke of York, who had obtained that year a 60-year lease of all minerals in Nova Scotia from the English Crown, except two small mines then operating, one on the East River and one on the West River, Pictou County.  The control of these minerals remained with the G.M.A. until 1857 when they were ceded to the Province of Nova Scotia for a consideration, except for four leases, four square miles each.  These were situated, two in Cape Breton, one in Pictou, one in Springhill.  The Springhill lease is marked by a monument at the Company barn and another at Churchill’s farm on Leamington Road, where the present company is now drilling to prove their seams.  This line took in the outcropping of No. 3 seam, but missed outcropping of No. 1 and No. 2 seams, also 6 and 7 seams.

     The G.M.A. never mined coal in Springhill, but in 1849 bought 3500 acres of land. 

This block remained in their possession with the coal areas until 1878 when it was taken over by the Springhill Mining Company.

     In 1865 the anticipation of a railway from Truro to Moncton led to prospecting in Springhill district and in 1867 John Anderson opened up a number of mines in the woods on what is now known as No. 2 seamR. Drummond, M.L.C., in his book on minerals of Nova Scotia discusses Anderson as a burly, brusque Scotsman, who had a lot of push in him.

     In  1869 the Honorable Alexander McFarlane and his associates obtained from the Crown three leases of one square mile each. These covered the coal seam outcrops missed by G.M.A. Lease and in March 1872 the Springhill Mining Company was formed with Alexander McFarlane as its President and No. 1 and No. 2 seams were opened up and a Railway built from Springhill Junction to Parrsboro.  This was finished in late 1873.  We have the minutes from this company’s meetings from start until purchased by the Cumberland Railway & Coal Company.

     This company started out with John Cooper as Chief Clerk and John Anderson as manager; however, in May 1873 William Hall was brought from Pictou and installed as manager.  They bought a sawmill in 1873, set it up somewhere near the present Edison Power House.  They instructed Mr. Cooper to buy lumber, laths, etc., and to build the first houses known as Rows from the Junction Road down Queen and Spruce Streets to Elgin Street.  These houses were not to cost any more than $600.00 per double house.

     In May 1873, they also let out a contract to cut and grade at Number 2 mine the excavations we filled up last year at 30c per cubic yard.  It cost 25C to fill the same.  In May 1873 they bought the Boss farm, 147 acres, and the Anderson lot, 75 acres.

      Coal that year sold at mines – blacksmith coal $1.25 per ton; run-of mine, bought through agents, loaded on cars, $4.00 per ton of 2000lb.  They opened up a new slope from the Anderson one, using a gin.  In May, Byers, their engineer, and Flemming went to Pictou to inspect hoisting engines and pumps and pipes for the new slope and on return Flemming received contract for hoisting engine cast iron pipes and they bought two Cameron pumps, 22” x 30” x8”.  The engine was manufactured by the Flemming Company at Saint John and is still in service at No. 2 riding slope.

     I see in the minutes where the employees’ doctor in October 1873, was rented one of the new residence for the winter and where a committee was set up with the Rev. Mr. Townsend on the matter of a site and building for a school.  This Company carried on active operations, but with a very rapid change in their board of directors, except McFarlane always remained as president, until August 1883, when R.G. Leckie and J.R. Cowans were added to the board and in January 1884 Leckie was appointed Managing Director.  In October, Wm. Hall, manager, went to the United States to look at coal cutting machines and two were bought, but as compressors were not installed, were never used.

     In January 1884, J.R. Cowans, acting for the John W. McDougald Company, Montreal, offered to buy out the company for a stated price and his offer was accepted.

     The different mines were opened up as follows: No. 1 and 2 Mine, 1872; No. 3 1883; No. 6 Mine 1918; No. 7 Mine, 1920.

“Output 1872 to 1935 – 22,500,000 tons; best yearly output, 1930, 577,976 tons; best daily output, 1930, 2,472 tons; fatal accidents 1881 to date = 248; 125 of which were in the explosion of 1891.