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October 31, 2008

The Mattawa Timmins Family in Perspective


Mattawa has more than its share of remarkable people from the past and I have written about several.  Some stayed and some moved on to make their name.  The Timmins family left Mattawa to become some of the best known mining entrepreneurs in Canadian history amassing great fortunes.  Noah Timmins Sr. (died in 1887) is recorded as one of three originals in Mattawa along with James Bangs and a Mr. Gorman.  Noah Timmins Sr. established a store opposite the current Mattawa Post Office on the left as you cross the bridge.  When he died his sons Noah Jr. and Henry took over. 

The Timmins’ Store on the main street of Mattawa in its early days and now.  D. Mackey

Noah & Henry were friends with Mattawa lawyer David A. Dunlop and they spent a lot of time together as sportsmen and amateur geologists.  They were aware of the potential of mining and were friends with Dr. Willet Miller who later became Ontario Chief Geologist.  There is a lot of mythology about how silver was found at Cobalt by Fred Larose in 1903 and how the Timmins’ got involved.  A 2003 Canadian Silver dollar depicts the story that Larose threw a hammer to chase a fox away and found silver when he picked up the hammer. 

One  story repeated in several sources tells of Fred Larose stopping at the Timmins’ store in Mattawa on his way to Ottawa for a vacation.  He showed Noah Timmins some silver nuggets and the next day after a restless night  Noah contacted his brother Henry  who was  in Ottawa and told him to find Larose in Hull and make a partnership deal. 

After knocking on doors for several hours Henry found Larose and became a ¼ partner for $3,500.  Larose was a blacksmith on the new Temiskaming and Northern Railway being built through Cobalt as it would eventually be called.  Larose asked his bosses the McMartins if he could prospect a bit and they said OK if they got half. 

The Larose Mine owners - First Silver Kings of Cobalt and Timmins Gold Kings  , Duncan McMartin (back L) and Henry Timmins, Centre John McMartin and front Noah Timmins (L) and David Dunlap. Submitted photo

When there was a dispute over Larose’s claim lawyer David Dunlap was brought in and won the case and was cut in for 20%.  This short article cannot tell the full story of the future success of the Timmins’ and Dunlap but some highlights can be noted. 

Noah Timmins wrote and article in 1934 a year before he died in which he told about the Cobalt experience.  He went to the local bank and asked for a loan of $5,000.  After a long delay he was turned down for lack of collateral.  The Larose mine did get an initial shaft dug far enough to get a couple of boxcars of ore which they took to the U.S. for smelting.  When they came back with a $50,000 check they went to the bank manager who said he did not have enough money to cash the cheque.  Timmins said he didn’t want to cash the cheque he just wanted to tell the manager that the collateral he turned down cut him out of any further business with the Timmins. 

When the Larose group were sitting around one evening they decided to come up with a name for the area.  Dr. Miller who was visiting suggested Cobalt and they agreed, made a sign and nailed it to a tree.  The Timmins’ and David Dunlap became multi-millionaires. 

An interesting extension of the story centres on the fact that Noah and Henry’s sister married a Dr. Pare who had two sisters that eventually married Noah and Henry.  The Timmins sister had a son named Alphonse who at 24 years of age happened to be in Porcupine territory in the very early days of gold discovery there.   He contacted Noah and the Cobalt group and told them about a find.  All except Noah weren’t interested but Noah made a deal. He bought out Benny Hollinger and Noah and his  Cobalt partners who later came onboard created the Hollinger mine which  in the next 68 years took out more gold by far than any other of the dozens of mines in the area. ( Mines were often named after their discoverer who often was not involved in the mines development). Again, a group wanted a name and chose Timmins in recognition of the Timmins’ contribution. 

Noah went on to establish and finance many other projects.   He  was inducted in the Canadian Business Hall of Fame for his “innovative genius, adroitness, risk taking and entrepreneurial spirit.” 

Henry Timmins did not get as much credit but his son Jules did.  The 1901 Census for Mattawa lists 4 children for Henry including 12 year old Jules.  Jules (1889-1971) went on to get a degree in mining engineering at McGill and became the President of Hollinger when Noah died.  He was the driving force behind iron ore development in Quebec including a 350 mile railway to Sept Illes and founded the highly successful Iron Ore Company of Canada.  He received the Blayloch Medal of the Canadian Institute of Metalurgy, an OBE (Order of the British Empire Medal), honorary doctorates from Queens & McGill and was  inducted into the Canadin Business Hall of Fame because “he made his place as one of the big builders of the nation”. 

Next week I will look at the Timmins contribution to the town of Mattawa after their departure and some other footnotes to this story.  I recently wrote about David Dunlaps life in Snake Creek, Quebec 12 miles north of Mattawa where he created a remarkable estate and was a part of the Shahwandahgooze Club that continues today in other hands.Our recent excursion there,and to their former  Memewin Lodge, provided an interesting look at that era. The Dunlap Astronomicl Obsevatory was built in his memory.For further information on the Timmins Google their name on the computer.

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