In addition to his holdings in Virginia, Peter McLaren also had mining interests closer to home. In 1901 he acquired mines at North Burgess Township from the Anglo Canadian Phosphate Company which had abandoned work on the property a decade earlier when the market price of phosphates had fallen to unprofitable levels. Open trench pits had
originally been dug for extracting apatite49, but McLaren worked them for mica50. In 1910 he made the property and mines a wedding gift to his son William (1880-1932) and daughter-in-law Anna Gemmell McLaren (1884-1975). The mica mine went out of production again in 1923, but William and Anna continued to live on the property. Today the site is occupied by the BurgessWood housing development. Perth Historical Society
Phosphate rock is processed to produce phosphorous, which is one of the three main nutrients most commonly used in fertilizers (the other two are nitrogen and potassium). Phosphate can also be turned into phosphoric acid, which is used in everything from food and cosmetics to animal feed and electronics
Mining in BurgessWood— click here
BurgessWood, a community on the northwest shore of Otty Lake, was once the site of active
apatite and mica mines. The following is excerpted, with permission, from “BurgessWood:
Evolution of a Community,” published by the BurgessWood Property Owners’ Association in
By the year of Confederation, 1867, Perth was a well-established town. But the north shore of
Otty Lake likely remained at least partly virgin forest, old-growth trees towering above the land.
Native people continued to camp sometimes around the lake, where they hunted and fished for
bass, perch, and pike. Logging had begun on nearby land owned by Perth businessmen, and
small-scale mining activities were starting up.
That same year, twenty-year-old Isaac Kenyon arrived at Otty Lake from Manchester, England.
Isaac’s father, Hartley Kenyon, owned shares in the mining operations in North Burgess (now
Tay Valley) township near Otty Lake. Isaac arrived to look into the prospects for his father’s
investment. Isaac Kenyon found work as an analyst for the mining company, operating a
geological laboratory. He boarded just down the road from the mine with the William Watts
family on what is now the Norris property on Otty Lake Sideroad.
The mining operation where young Isaac Kenyon worked extracted two minerals: apatite, a type
of phosphate used in making fertilizer; and mica, used in a variety of industrial applications, such
as electrical insulation and isinglass for oven doors. These two minerals tend to be found
together, along with others such as feldspar and quartzite.
The first recorded commercial shipment of apatite in Canada came from North Burgess
township. Over the years between the 1860s and 1920s, a series of operators leased or owned the
mineral rights on Lots 4, 5, and 6 of Concession 8 in North Burgess, in and around present-day
The mines were of the open pit type—narrow trenches that were normally shallow but could
occasionally run as deep as 100 feet. The mineral output was usually destined for export to either
Germany or Great Britain. The product was transported by scow from a bay on the north shore of
Otty Lake, now called Apatite Bay. From there it travelled to the lake’s south shore, then by
wagon or sleigh to Rideau Ferry, whence it was shipped to Montreal via the Rideau Canal.
Of the various operators, the Anglo-Canadian Phosphate Company maintained the largest
operation, employing about 20 miners on average. Eventually mica would overtake apatite as the
area’s main product.
In 1901, Senator Peter McLaren acquired the mining property lying within present-day
BurgessWood. The property had been idle for 10 years after the Anglo-Canadian Phosphate
Company abandoned it, because of a drop in market prices. Senator McLaren resumed mining
for mica and apatite.
Peter McLaren’s son, William, and William’s wife, Anna Gemmell McLaren, moved there after
their marriage in 1910 to assume responsibility for operating the mines. Many pits had originally
been opened for extracting apatite, but the main pit, a narrow open-cut trench 75 feet deep and
only 10 feet wide, was now being worked for mica.
The mining property included a large frame boarding house with bunks and a communal dining
room for the miners. There were also stables for the horses used in the mining work, and a
culling shed for trimming the mica by hand into commercially usable sheets. The culling shed
was located on what is now 1031 McLaren Road. The place was deserted every winter until the
miners came back to work in the spring.
Just to the west of the miners’ boarding house, the McLarens built a simple white frame home
and named it Forest Lodge. Eventually the McLarens added another log dwelling to the property
now identified as 1049 McLaren Road. Embedded in a hillside was a stone storehouse used to
keep food and possibly dynamite for the mining operations. Nearby were a stone drinking trough
for horses, a well, and a pump. These latter artifacts, as well as the storehouse, can still be seen at
present-day 1062 McLaren Road.
The mining operations came to an end in 1923, as the market for its product petered out.
While current-day volunteers were blazing hiking trails in the area, they discovered remnants of
the mica operations left behind by miners nearly a century ago. Alongside a long deep trench,
they found remains of barrels and buckets, with wooden staves and rusted iron rings partially
intact. There was also a piece of iron driven into a tree, part of a winch system for raising
buckets of mica out of the pit. These evocative artifacts of another era can still be seen on the
As well, an ore wagon was found on the old McLaren property in present-day BurgessWood,
near the couple’s two houses and the miners’ bunkhouse. As the developer of BurgessWood, Dr.
Grover Lightford donated the wagon to the Silver Queen mine at Murphy’s Point Provincial
Park, and members of the BurgessWood maintenance committee volunteered to restore it.
Similar mines in Lanark County
Otty Lake Mine
Location: Lot l, concession VIII, North Burgess township,
Minerals Present: Apatite, mica, scapolite, pyrite, marcasite
Development: The mine was worked in 1871 by Edward Schultze,
in 1873 by Messrs. Morris and Griffin and in
1908 to 1910 by R. Mcconnell. The main opening
is 100 feet long, 15 feet wide and about 40 feet
Geology: Mica and apatite occur in pink calcite at the contact
of dark pyroxenite and dark biotite gneiss. The
mica crystals are badly crushed.
References: de Schmid (1912, p. 176); Spence (1920, p. 55)
Lot 2, Concession VIII
Location: Lot 2, concession VIII, North Burgess township,
Minerals Present: Apatite, mica, calcite, scapolite, wilsonite,
Development: This phosphate mine is reputed to be the first
worked in Canada having been opened in 1855. It
was worked in 1870 by R. Matheson of Perth who
opened a pit 60 feet long and 15 feet deep. The
property was acquired by Kent Brothers in 1907
and the largest pit was 60 feet long, 25 feet
wide and 25 feet deep.
Geology: Mica and apatite occur irregularly in pockets in
leads in light grey pyroxenite.
Reference: Spence (1920, p. 55).
Lot 3, Concession VIII
Location: Lot 3, concession VIII, North Burgess township,
Minerals Present: Apatite, mica.
Development: Apatite was mined on this lot in 1870 from an
8-foot vein by Messrs. Ritchie and Jackson of
Belfast. A shaft was sunk to 30 feet on a 3-
foot vein and drifting was carried out in both
directions on the vein. Several smaller pits
were opened and about 1000 tons of apatite is
said to have been mined. The mine was worked
in 1908 by Kent Brothers of Kingston for mica.
Geology: The mica-apatite veins strike northwest and southeast and average 2 feet in width. Narrow bands of
pyroxenite separate the veins from the country rock
References: de Schmid (1912, p. 178); Spence (1920, p. 56).
Pioneer Mica Miners
25 years ago the late Miss Lillian Smith of Perth donated a now century old six ledger book to the Perth Museum. The ledger was originally part of the American Mica Mining Company operating in North Burgess Township during 1864-65. This pay roll lists the names of many well known district families. To say nothing of showing the differences in wages paid miners 100 years ago and today.
The first name entered in the ledger is that of Thomas Stapleton, a blaster. For the week ending September 24, 1864, Thomas received $5 for four days work at $1.25 per day. Thomas McPharland, pitman, was paid $4.80 for a six day stint at 80 cents a day. John McPharland, a dresser, worked one day that week for 30 cents. For the week ending October 1, Owen Powers, foreman, was reimbursed to the tune of $7.50 ($1.25 per day). G.N. Randall, superintendent of the cutting and directing, was paid $3.21 per day, definitely “top brass” earnings. But he was still far from the class of engineer F. Poole (F. Poole and Associates) whose salary was $6 per day. A. Castle, described as a “superintendent” was paid $1 per day and granted $8.35 in “expenses” from Montreal to the mines. It may be that Mr. Castle was some sort of supervisor whose duties were dignified with a fine sounding title somewhat like discreetly referring to today’s garbage men as “sanitary engineers”.
One hundred years ago the company paid out an average of $219 per week in wages and salaries for 104 days work and a work day was ten hours long. This means that the hourly rates were as follows: blaster, twelve and a half cents; pitman, eight cents; dresser, three cents; foreman, twelve and a half cents; superintendent of cutting and dressing, thirty two cents; engineer, sixty cents.
In the interests of genealogy, a reproduction of the names in the list on the ledger is given:
Foremen: Owen Powers and Peter Powers
Balster: Bernard Berns
Pitmen: Pat White, Peter White, Michael McPharland (#1), Michael McPharland (#2), Thomas McPharland, Francis McPharland, Lawrence Russell, Thomas Stapleton, Thomas Darcy, Michael Darcy, Owen McCann, Michael Carrens, John McNamee, T. Queen, Alexander Parks, Thomas Burns, Arthur Donnelly, Hugh McShane, Hugh Kelly, Michael White, John Ryan, William Whitelaw, James McLade (this could have been McGlade).
Striker: Peter Martin
Balsters: John Donnelly, Thomas Donnelly, Pat K. Morgan, Arthur Fagan, Thomas Drennan, Michael Hanley, Joseph Bennett, Henry Miles, Pat Quinn, Lawrence Russell, Owen Loy
Dresser: John Stapleton