Monday, October 12, 2009

A Prospector’s Story: Rinaldo McConnell (1852-1931)

By NHE student Tessa Inwood

The name Rinaldo McConnell may be familiar to local history buffs as well as those who have taken part in the guided Silver Queen Mine hike at Murphys Point Provincial Park. To others, he is just another name along the timeline of history. However, he played an integral part in Ontario mining history.

Rinaldo McConnell was born to a family of lumbermen in the Ottawa-Hull region and continued this career path as a young man, travelling throughout Ontario. While cruising for lumber through Vankleek Hill, Rinaldo met his future wife Emma Vogen, who he married in 1878. He and his wife Emma had ten children together. The McConnell family lived in Ottawa for fourteen years and later relocated to Toronto around 1914.

McConnell’s years spent in the lumber industry led him to a natural fascination with the art of prospecting Canadian minerals. D.M. LeBourdais, author of The Story of Nickel, had this to say about Rinaldo: “Every mining camp seems to produce at least one colourful figure and in Sudbury that was undoubtedly Rinaldo McConnell. Formerly a timber cruiser, the stained rocks of the Sudbury basin so stained his imagination that prospecting came to occupy more and more of his time and his attention” (1). This passion for mineral prospecting eventually led to a full-time occupation and a determined faith in the rocks he scoured. In the 79 years McConnell lived, he discovered, operated, and sold numerous mining sites from Sudbury to Port Elmsley where minerals such as mica and nickel were mined.

The following timeline illustrates the contribution Rinaldo McConnell made to both small-scale and large-scale mining in Ontario:

1884: Rinaldo discovered “The Lady McDonald” nickel deposit –the second nickel property to be purchased by prospectors in Snider Township.
Circa 1884-1900: Rinaldo and prospecting partners discovered 12 or more nickel-rich sites in the Sudbury region.
1902: Rinaldo opened the Globe Refining Co. in Port Elmsley, Ontario. This company mined and refined graphite and feldspar minerals.
1903: Rinaldo opened the Silver Queen Mine in North Burgess Township near Perth, Ontario which mined mica, feldspar, and apatite.
1905: Rinaldo purchased the recently closed Black Donald Graphite Mine in Calabogie, which he operated successfully for several years.
1908: Rinaldo McConnell purchased several Iron Ore properties in the Port Arthur region (present-day Thunder Bay).

Rinaldo McConnell did much throughout his lifetime as a father, a husband, and a mineral prospector in Ontario. At his time of retirement he still exemplified his enthusiasm for finding “rocks” in these words: “It has not been an easy life, but like all prospectors I had to be an optimist. The prospector must wait throughout the long winters for the vanishing of the snow to continue his search in the wilderness where he knows full well a famous gold mine awaits his coming just over the crest of the next hill. If it is not on the first, it must certainly be on the next, and soon throughout the years with his faith unshaken he goes down the long pathway of life.(2)

1. Rinaldo McConnell Biography by Malcolm Rinaldo Sabiston: sent to Murphy’s Point Provincial Park in January 1996.
2. Friends of Murphys Point, Silver Queen Mine Trail Guide: Published by Lithosphere Press.

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