Founding Fathers

Timmins was founded in 1912; the community was a “by-product” of the Porcupine Gold Rush. Situated 680 km north of Toronto, the camp attracted men and women eager to find their fortune and carve a name for themselves in “New Ontario”. Starting in 1907, the area became home to dozens of prospectors who explored the areas around Porcupine Lake and the Frederick House River.

George Bannerman

George Bannerman along with his partner, Tom Geddes, discovered the first gold in the Porcupine Region. George was a newcomer to the area when he first made his discovery, but his partner had prospected a nearby region previously. The two of them staked out 40 acres for a gold mine. The mine built upon the claims of George Bannerman and his partner was never very successful. Their find started the Porcupine Gold Rush. George stayed in the area long after his discovery, to watch the community he helped to found.

Benny Hollinger

Benny Hollinger was a barber before he became caught up in the gold rush of the Porcupine Camp. In 1909, Benny, along with professional prospector, Alec Gillies, travelled to the Porcupine region on the heels of the Wilson expedition which discovered the Dome site.

When Hollinger and Gillies came to the region they were informed by the Wilson expedition that all the good lots were staked for at least 6 miles west. So they went west, past the already staked-out claims, until they came upon an abandoned excavation.

The previous prospectors were so disappointed with what they found that they left their heavy tools right at the site. But this residual show of disappointment didn’t discourage the two young hopeful pioneers and they decided to be all the more careful with their search for gold. Benny was searching around the pit left by the previous excavation and discovered large veins of gold coming up to the surface buried under the moss. He was so excited by what he found, his shouts of joy could be heard by other prospecting teams following right behind them. Hollinger and Gillies wasted no time in staking out their claims right away, they even staked a claim for their former partner who wasn’t able to join them due to being too crippled with sciatica. They headed back south to record their claims immediately. Benny and Alec sold their claims to a developer by the name of Noah Timmins in 1910. These claims, along with other adjacent prospects acquired by Timmins, became incorporated into the Hollinger Mine soon after.

Benny Hollinger gradually lost all the money that he had gained from selling his claims, through various speculative ventures. He later died of a heart attack at a young age.

Sandy McIntyre

Sandy McIntyre was originally from Scotland where he was named Alexander Oliphant. Little is known of his life in Scotland except that he was unhappy with his life there so he left his wife in Scotland, changed his name to Sandy McIntyre, and moved to a new life in Canada.

He became a prospector in 1906 and immediately turned his eye to northern Ontario. He came to the Porcupine camp with his partner Hans Buttner (a German immigrant about whom we know very little) in 1909, right after Hollinger and Gillies.

In fact, McIntyre and Buttner staked their best claims later in the evening on the same day that Hollinger and Gillies staked theirs. Sandy McIntyre was perhaps the most famous and colourful of the early Porcupine stakers. The McIntyre mine didn’t establish ownership as quickly as the Hollinger and Dome mines did. Sandy lost all of the money he made from his discovery. He stayed in the public eye long after his retirement, however, he never could hold onto money for very long. He died in 1943 at the age of 74.

Harry Preston

Harry Preston was a part of the expedition, led by Jack Wilson, which discovered the Dome mine site. Harry was the one who made some of the richest discoveries on the site while he was left alone when Jack went off with the rest of the group on some wild goose chase to Sudbury. Preston was disgruntled with the original share of the profits which he was to receive (approximately 6% of the sale value). He grudgingly agreed with the arrangement when he was offered a bottle of whisky in advance. For years after it’s incorporation, Preston considered the Dome his mine. Harry Preston went on to bask in his discovery, pleased by the success of the mine.

Fred Schumacher

Fred Schumacher was born in Denmark in 1863. He was schooled first in Texas, finished his early education in Denmark, and then received a degree in pharmacy in the United States. Schumacher earned a comfortable living as a druggist before changing careers to become a travelling pharmaceutical salesman. He was respected and somewhat successful as a salesman.

Fred later met the owner of the company he worked for and began courting the owner’s daughter before he eventually married her. Fred Schumacher went on then to found his own patent medicine company.

It was about this time that he heard of the gold discoveries in the Porcupine camps. Unlike other American investors, he decided to see the gold strikes for himself. At the time of his visit, the town currently known as Schumacher was called Aura Lake. The big three mines were already established when Fred Schumacher became involved with the Porcupine camps. He sent in two of his own geologists to survey the region before he made any investment decisions. Then, in 1912, he purchased 160 acres of “veteran” property near the Dome mine, and he also purchased 8 acres between the Hollinger and McIntyre mines. There was an occupied house on the 8 acres between the established mines, and although he didn’t have to, Fred Schumacher bought the house from the family “squatting” on his newly acquired property for a fair price. He built the only mine shaft of Schumacher Mines on this 8 acre property which he later sold to the Hollinger Mines. Fred Schumacher was also highly involved with buying and selling property within the town which would come to bear his name. However, he never had a permanent home in Schumacher, as he was only ever a visitor there, he owned a mansion in Columbus, Ohio.

He was approached by Dome Mines for the 160 acres of land that he owned adjacent to their property. The original Dome offer in 1912 was $75,000, Fred countered with $150,000. The Dome declined the counter-offer. In 1931, the Dome approached Schumacher again with their offer of $75,000 for the 160 acres, Fred countered with the same $150,000, but warned that if they refused, he would double his price. The Dome refused again. Eventually, Dome Mines acquired the 160 acres from Schumacher for a price of $1,125,000 in 1936. Fred made several donations to the town which now bears his name over the years. Among these donations, the one which may be the best known part of his legacy is the $1,000 donated for presents each Christmas since 1916 for the school children of the town of Schumacher.

Noah Timmins

Noah Timmins was born in 1867 in Mattawa, Ontario. It was in Mattawa where Noah worked in his father’s shop with his older brother Henry.

Travellers heading to and from Northern Ontario would often pass through Mattawa and while there would often stock up on supplies at the Timmins’ store.

Noah would often listen to the tales told by travellers of gold and silver that they found mostly by accident. It was one of these stories that caught Noah’s attention particularly.

One day, in 1903, a very lucky railway construction worker stopped by at the Timmins’ store and told Noah a story about how he found silver by throwing his hammer at a fox, the fox got away and the hammer hit a rock revealing the silver. This story so inspired Noah, that he wasn’t able to get to sleep that night, and the following morning he wired his brother in Quebec and told him to buy the prospects from the railway worker who was visiting his family in Montreal. This was only the beginning of Noah’s plans to develop the mining potential of the north.

When he heard of the prospects in the Porcupine camp, Noah sent his nephew, Alphonse Pare, a geology student, to go to the Porcupine camp and see what was going on there. When Al Pare returned, he was very excited about what he had seen in the Porcupine camp and told Noah that it would be a very good idea to invest in the development of the region. Not long after receiving Alphonse’s recommendations, and despite Henry’s reservations, Noah purchased stakes from Benny Hollinger and Alec Gillies as well as several adjacent claims and soon incorporated them into the Hollinger Mine. Noah left his nephew Al (Alphonse) Pare to watch over the operation of the Hollinger Mine for two years after it’s incorporation.

Al Pare decided that the new community that was developing by the mine should be named Timmins after his Uncle Noah. Noah Timmins went on to develop several other successful mining operations over Northern Ontario as well as some in Quebec. Noah Timmins died in 1936 at the age of 69, he was the director of 21 companies in his lifetime.

Jack Wilson

Jack Wilson left his job as a railway construction foreman to follow his major interest of prospecting. He was backed by two Chicago businessmen when he led a prospecting expedition of seven other men into the Porcupine region, in mid-May 1909. Among the men in his party was Harry Preston.

Much of the gold they uncovered appeared in large dome-like masses of quartz. The first showings that the expedition uncovered were good, but rumours of a new silver strike near Sudbury inspired Wilson to take most of his men to investigate. He left Harry Preston to watch the claims.

Dome-like masses of Quartz

The rumours that led Jack to Sudbury proved unsubstantiated and so he returned to the Porcupine claims. Preston, in Wilson’s absence, had discovered more rich veins of gold near where the expedition was prospecting. With so rich a find, Wilson settled his deal with his Chicago backers by the light of his campfire. The mine built on the site staked by Wilson and his group was named the Dome Mine. The community of South Porcupine grew up near the Dome site. Wilson stayed on as a director for the mine. The Dome mine was the first of the big three mines in Timmins discovered and incorporated.