Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/401

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385
A CURIOUS CANADIAN IRON MINE.

A CURIOUS CANADIAN IRON MINE.
By J. T. DONALD, M. A.

THE province of Quebec in the Dominion of Canada is sometimes known as French Canada, because of the rights and privileges granted the inhabitants of French origin when Canada passed into the possession of the English crown, and because the majority of the inhabitants are of French ancestry and speak the French language. Time has flown, but in many parts of Quebec language and customs have remained stationary. To-day the student of language or of folklore or of ballads finds large portions of French Canada what old France was a century or more ago; and just as the student of the French language can hear spoken to-day the French tongue as it was spoken a century ago in old France, so the traveler who visits the historic district of Three Rivers may turn back the hand of time, as it were, and see to-day the mining of iron ore, and until recently the smelting also, carried on exactly as in the Old World decades ago.

At Three Rivers, not far from midway between the cities of Montreal and Quebec, the St. Maurice flows from the north into the St. Lawrence. The lower portion of the valley of the St. Maurice is historic ground in the annals of iron-smelting on this continent. The immense deposits of bog ore of this district were objects of attention during the French régime, and as far back as 1668 official examinations of these deposits were made by order of the Government of France. The erection of a furnace was begun by a private company under very favorable arrangements with Louis XV of France in 1737, but it seems that the French Government obtained control of the work, and in 1752 the St. Maurice furnace was blown in, and the old stone stack with Walloon hearth bearing the date 1752 and the insignia of France, the fleur-de-lis, still stands to dispute with that of Principio, in Maryland, the right to be considered the oldest in America. This quaint old furnace was in use until as late as the summer of 1883. It is worthy of note, too, that in 1775, during the American invasion of Canada, one of the lessees of this old furnace aided the Americans and actually cast shot and shell to be used by them against the city of Quebec.

The manufacture of iron is still carried on in this district. A few miles from the old St. Maurice furnace one finds at Radnor the well-equipped modern water-jacket forty-to fifty-ton furnace, the property of the Canada Iron Furnace Company, producing a very superior grade of charcoal iron. This touch of the modern world seems almost out of place in a region in which old France lives again, but, as we proceed still farther up the St. Maurice Val-