Almost everyone of Archibald generation knew that he had once captured a moose in the Black River country and had broken the animal to harness. Apparently, he was a familiar sight on the Eardley roads, riding in a sleigh, reins in hand, with the moose trotting out in front between the shafts. One story claims that one very hot summer day, Archie lost control of his animal and the moose took off for a lily pond. The moose, the buggy and Archie wound up in the middle of it.
A story by reporter Harry J. Walker in the Ottawa Journal said that Archie raced the moose against a horse, at a track in Ottawa South and the moose won. Supposedly, this event took place in 1873, if anyone wishes to search the Ottawa papers for confirmation.
The details of property acquisition in Eardley Township prior to 1900 are difficult, if not impossible to find. From 1831, the County Registry Office had been located in Aylmer, and remained there until 1897, when the County Seat was moved to Hull, QC. The disastrous fire of 1900 wiped out most of Hull, including the Land Registry Office containing those precious land documents which had been moved to that location, from Aylmer, only three years earlier. Copies of some documents were retained in the files of Aylmer lawyers and some of these have been transferred to the Provincial Archives in Hull but tracing the history of a particular parcel of land is a hit and miss affair. If a land owner had used a notary in Hull, it is likely that the notary’s copy of the documents were destroyed in the same holocaust. Fortunately, Archibald and some of his siblings used the services of Notary George L. Dumouchel, whose law office was in Aylmer and his original documents can be examined today in the Quebec Archives, in Hull. These original documents ought to be microfilmed as they are becoming brittle and pieces of the paper documents are breaking off.
On February 8, 1881, Archie bought from William Balmer McAllister , the east half of lot 21 in the 10th range (100 acres) and lot 21 in the 9th range, (200 acres) of Eardley Township, for $10,000. The former property contained a log house and this is likely where Archie and his bride eventually set-up housekeeping. A decade later he built the two-storey stone house that still stands there today.
Archie paid $1,000 down and the remaining money was to be paid in three annual installments, over the following three years with interest at 5% per annum. Obviously, he must have had excellent expectations of being able to make those large installments over the next 36 months. In just over a year and a half, on October 28, 1882, he bought from the same man, the west half of lot 21, in the 10th range (100 acres) for $4,000 . This is the property on which my father’s cousin, Mrs. Joy (Erwin) Campbell lived for well over half a century, until her death in 1998. Her daughter, Mrs. Margaret Beattie, still lives there. Archie could take immediate possession of this property, except for a small piece of land at the ‘further end’ on which was erected a small house that had been rented to Abigail Chase, widow of the late Robert Purcell. Presumably, Archie could renew the lease or not, at his discretion, when it expired.
It is thought that Archie made a small fortune in a silver mining venture, in Montana and was then able to build the stone house, on lot 21A of the 10th range of Eardley, about 1893 or ’94. The stone for this large two-storey house was likely obtained from a quarry, in March Township and brought back to Eardley in the winter, over the ice of the river. The Catholic Churches, St. Isadore’s, at South March and St. Dominique’s at Luskville are built of the same type of limestone.
Family lore says that Donald Charles, born October 28, 1894, and all his younger siblings, were born in the two-storey, stone house built by Archie. This property was not part of the original 1,500 acres acquired by Captain McLean. This particular half lot was owned by Joseph Findlay, at the time of the 1861 census and land transactions prior to 1900 are difficult to trace because many of the documents were destroyed in the Hull holocaust that year.
Gold was discovered at Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River, in August 1896. It was too late in the season for any large influx of prospectors that year. The rush began in 1897 and that is likely when Archibald went to the Yukon, in search of gold, although his obituary, written half a century later, said he had been a veteran prospector of the Yukon gold rush of 1898. It is probable that Archie had a short, joyful reunion with his brother, Bowden who was then in the Yukon, whatever year it was.
Land Registry Office documents for Eardley Township, created before the fire of 1900, have been incinerated. The first land document available for lot 21A and 21B in the 10th range, in the Registry Office in Hull, is #549, and tells a most unusual story. The date of registration was September 28, 1900. The first words of this document read as follows:
‘PROVINCE OF QUEBEC District of Ottawa - No-203- Superior Court- The 29th day of January, 1900- Present Hon. Mr. Justice Lavergne- WALTER KENNETH McLEAN, Plaintiff, Vs- ARCHIBALD McLEAN et al-, Defendants- The Court having heard the Plaintiff on the merits of the case and on the motion to homologate the process verbal prepared by the Prothonotary as to the drawing of lots in this case; Seeing that the defendants consented to the said motion for the homologation of the said process verbal but have not formally appeared in or pleaded to the present action; Seeing that the said proceedings in this cause are legal, proper and regular…’
It appears that Walter Kenneth McLean, just over 23 years of age, and his sister, Annie Lilla, still a minor, are assuming ownership of some of Archie’s most valuable assets. The defendants, Archie and most likely his wife, have agreed to the drawing of lots for the various parcels of land held by the family. Walter received lot 21A in the 10th range of Eardley, containing 100 acres with the stone house, wooden house, barns and other buildings thereon. His sister, Annie Lilla, received lot 20A in the 10th range, containing 100 acres with a small house as well as lot 21B in the same range containing 100 acres.
Archie, the principal defendant in this action, received lots 21A and 21B, in the 9th range as well as lots 22 and 24 also in the 9th range for a total of almost 600 acres. It seems that this division of the property was contrived before the case went to court and that by going to court, the transfer of ownership became legal.
One has to wonder what deception was taking place with these legal manoeuvres because on November 30, 1901, Annie Lilla legally transferred lot 21B back to her father and two years later on December 5, 1903, Walter did the same with lot 21A. The only plausible explanation has to be that Archie was protecting his assets from a possible seizure. Whatever the threat was, it had obviously dissipated by 1903, when Walter Kenneth transferred the property back to his father. Later that year, Walter caused his sister much consternation by converting to Catholicism, and marrying Nora May Kennedy, in St. Dominique’s Roman Catholic Church in Luskville, QC, on November 23. In those days, this was akin to dropping an atom bomb.
About the turn of the century, John L. Gourlay wrote of Archie McLean, ‘His home is one of the most hospitable that we have found in this land of hospitality.’
About the time of the first World War, Archie, Ab Payne and Everett Steele began prospecting for molybdenite in Onslow Township. They found two deposits on the farm of Robert Steel. Other prospectors found additional deposits. Archie formed a consortium, contacted Henry E. Wood of Denver, Colorado and the Canadian Wood Molybdenite Company was born. Molybdenum is used in the manufacture of steel, to improve its strength and toughness, particularly at high temperatures. It was ideal for artillery gun barrels. The company was sold in March 1917 to the Dominion Molybdenite Company. New equipment was installed at the mine and production remained high until 1919. This was Canada’s first molybdenite mine and the world’s largest producer between 1916 and 1919.
Archie had interests in other mining ventures. He acquired gold mining claims 321 and 322 in the District of Timiskaming. It is thought that these claims were in Deloro Township, the same township as South Porcupine. A man by the name of Miller obtained the original patent, dated February 4, 1914, and by assignment from him and several mesne assignments, they became vested in Archie and ultimately in McLean Gold Mines Ltd., of which Archibald retained the bulk of the share capital.
Archie’s wife, Emma Lusk, died, September 4, 1920. Her passing may have been one reason for the difficulties that befell him in the months and years ahead. For some reason, the taxes on the mining claims were not paid and by a Government Certificate, dated October 7, 1920, Archie’s company was advised that the claims had been forfeited as of the previous July 1. New patents were issued to Arnprior Paymaster Mines Limited and that company began spending money developing the properties. Archie appealed to the Mining Commissioner but lost his appeal on March 7, 1923.
Archie sold lots 21A and 21B in the 10th range of Eardley, to George Benjamin Campbell, on March 31, 1922 . Campbell’s son, Kenneth, married my father’s cousin, Joy Erwin, and they raised a family on the more westerly of these two lots. With his wife gone and most of his family grown, Archie had no need of a farm. With the amount of travelling he expected to do, living in Ottawa would prove to be much more convenient. Besides he would need cash to finance his future legal costs.
McLean Gold Mines Limited took their case to the Ontario Supreme Court (Appellate Division). The case was heard on May 28, 29 and 30, 1923 and a judgment was handed down on September 24, of that year, that allowed ‘the parties to proceed to the trial of the issue before a properly constituted tribunal’ i.e. the Superior Court. The ‘properly constituted tribunal’ was headed up by Judge Lennox and he handed down his decision on October 13, 1924. Archie’s appeal was dismissed.
Archie went to the Supreme Court of Canada seeking an appeal against Judge Lennox’s decision. Judge Middleton of the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Archie’s favour on November 10, 1925. Middleton wrote, ‘The appeal should be allowed with costs, and there should be a declaration that the proceedings towards the forfeiture of the plaintiff’s land for non-payment of taxes are null and void, and that the new grant issued by the Crown is void…’
Middleton’s decision was appealed to the Privy Council in England and there, unfortunately, the final ruling went against Archie and he lost it all. Archie’s legal bills must have been astronomical and may have been his main reason for selling the stone home he built in Eardley. Less than a quarter century later, the final court of appeal in Canada became the Supreme Court of Canada. Had Archie lived long enough and had fought his case after 1949, the final word on this dispute would have been in his favour and he would have become a millionaire many times over.
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