1999.344.4 | Asbestos mine, Black Lake, QC, 1895
Asbestos mine, Black Lake, QC, 1895
1895, 19th century
Silver salts on paper
20.2 x 25.4 cm
Gift of Mr. Alfred Penhale Estate
This artefact belongs to :© Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines
Keys to History
In the "heroic" period of primitive mining, before mechanization, the Thetford region, in central Quebec, was very much like the American Far West. A mine inspector wrote in 1884: "Many drinking establishments have opened in this remote part of our townships, still in the shade of virgin forests, where it is believed that the law cannot go. Several times in the last two years, rowdy drunks have caused serious disturbances, even going so far as to stop trains on the Quebec Central line."
To get the asbestos out of the pit, two different systems were in use at the same time: cars that ran on hardwood rails, now covered with strips of steel, and bins hauled up by means of hand winches and yards.
These workers are at the bottom of a pit at Black Lake, Coleraine township, near the boundary between the United Asbestos of London mine and the Anglo-Canadian Asbestos mine.
This photo was taken in 1895. In the 1890s, the granting of a liquor licence still gave rise to heated debate among priests, mine inspectors and municipal officials.
Most of these workers who look like cowboys or American gold prospectors are actually French Canadians.