Actual Factuals

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The Nurse
The Prospector
The Greenhorn

The Nurse

A photograph of a woman sitting on dock surrounded by men. The men look like prospectors.

A Man's World

A woman certainly needed a sense of adventure to travel to Cobalt in 1906. The romantic promise of Cobalt’s silver fields meant one thing – hundreds and thousands of men streaming into the camp, day after day. In its early years, Cobalt was a man’s town.

A photograph of Cobalt the dog sitting in front of a store window.

The Bold Pup

Cobalt the Dog personified the larger than life spirit of the mining camp. The bulldog belonged to a lawyer in the nearby town of Haileybury. Cobalt the Dog, however, was best known for traveling without his owner!

A photograph of Nurse Annie Saunders and another nurse sanding in a small ward in the Cobalt Hospital

Drudgery & Tragedy in the Life of a Mining Nurse

Life in the Cobalt mining camp was tough and dangerous. Accidents and illnesses were common. In the early 20th century, however, there was no publicly funded medical care. People had to pay for their own medical expenses.

A photograph of blasting activity in Cobalt, 1904


Cobalt's first nurse, Mrs. Annie Saunders, was left homeless a month after her arrival when a dynamite explosion destroyed her house.

A photograph showing a hospital ward with patients and nurses

Racist Backlash in Mining Camp!

Local newspapers reported that anti-Asian sentiment had caused five members of the Chinese community, many of whom ran the town's restaurants and laundries, to flee town. Headlines as far away as New York reported on the growing racist sentiments: "Angry at Orientals: Third Blaze in Last Three Months Due to Chinese, and They May be Driven From the District".

A photograph of a typical street in Cobalt from 1904. There is a bakery on the street and rubbish along the path.


In the early 1900s, Cobalt was home to one of the largest typhoid epidemics in Ontario's history. Hundreds of people were pouring into the town with no other thought than to strike it rich and move on. Public health and safety were not priority concerns.

A photograph of a busy and crowded street full of carts and men working in front of the Prospect Hotel.

Dirty Old Town

Despite stern warnings from the provincial health inspector, the town was slow to address the lack of sanitation that was responsible for the typhoid epidemic. This disinterest reflected the strong grip silver fever had over both the Town's officials and some of its citizens.

A photograph of Nurse Annie Saunders at work at her desk.

Lady Luck

Lady Luck was unpredictable in Cobalt. Some people won big and others lost bigger. In reality, Annie Saunders was somewhere in the middle. Others, however, like a landlady of a Cobalt rooming house, did come out on top.

A photograph of Mrs. Annie Saunders on the steps of the Red Cross Hospital.

The Real Mrs. Annie Elizabeth Saunders

Cobalt Adventure's nurse character was based on the real life Annie Elizabeth Saunders, Cobalt's first nurse. She was born around 1870 and graduated from Warneford Hospital in England in 1885. She left England in March of 1906.

The Prospector

A photograph of four men sitting and examining the famous silver sidewalk.

Answering the Call

Cobalt was called a 'poor man's camp' because it required a limited investment in equipment and labour to mine the silver.

A photograph of two prospectors examining a rock sample beside an open trench.

The Rules of the Game!

Even during the commotion of a silver rush, there were rules. A prospector couldn't just show up in Cobalt and start digging without a proper license from the Ontario Provincial Government. This would cost around $5.00.

A photograph of a group of prospectors working for the Right of Way Mine.

The Claim Jumpers

Men came from all over the world to strike it rich in Cobalt. Despite hard work and hardship, most never found any thing of worth. That kind of bad luck could make a man desperate.

A colour tinted postcard showing several men standing near one of the rich silver veins in Cobalt.

The Mighty Nipissing

Fed up with his logging job, Tom Herbert hit the trail. Walking through the bush, he noticed a promising looking vein. It was October of 1903.

A photograph of a group of men loading a cart with silver ore

The Colonel of Cobalt

Colonel Reuben Leonard was a successful engineer when news of the silver discovery in Cobalt caught his attention. He quickly grubstaked Alex Longwell in the spring of 1904 and sent him off to Cobalt.

A photograph of a wilderness landscape near Cobalt.


There were no guarantees in the life of a prospector. The work was often solitary and fraught with physical hardship. More than one prospector was found dead in a remote cabin come spring, having succumbed to pneumonia or typhoid.

A photograph of three men working in the assay lab at the Nipissing Mine in 1914.

After the Prospector

First the claim was staked. Then the property had to be explored and ore samples had to be collected for testing to see how much silver they contained.

A photograph of four men standing down in a deep trench at the Nipissing Mine.

Water Power!

In order to run their drills, the mines needed power - and power was expensive. Coal was hauled in from the United States by train and the freight charges alone could cost more than the coal itself!

A photograph of the prospector William Trethewey.

The Real Deal: W. H. Trethewey

The Cobalt Adventure's prospector character is based in large part on the real life prospector William G. Trethewey. He has been referred to as the first 'professional' prospector in Cobalt.

The Greenhorn

A photograph of two well dressed men in suits, one of whom is wearing heavy work boots.

The Greenhorn & the Silver Rush

The last great rush had been to the Klondike in the 1890s. To reach the Klondike's gold meant a long and dangerous journey. Despite this, thousands made the trek. To get to Cobalt, though, a man just had to get on the train.

A photograph of two men dressed sort of like cowboys posing for their picture, Cobalt ca. 1906.

The Wild West in Cobalt

As word of the silver finds in Cobalt spread, so too did the tales of men getting rich overnight. Such stories were hard to resist. Many folks wanted to go to Cobalt, but not everyone could afford it.

A photograph of Argentite street showing the Idle Hour Theatre and a billards hall, 1904.

The Straight and Narrow

When the government banned drinking in the mining camp, saloons in town were restricted to serving drinks that had less than 2% alcohol. Such restrictions quickly gave rise to illegal drinking establishments known as "blind pigs", which were usually located in the town's many boarding houses.

A photograph of a profile portrait of Dr. William Henry Drummond

Dr. Drummond: Poet and Miner

One of the first to arrive in the Cobalt mining camp, Dr. Drummond staked a claim of 80 acres near Kerr Lake. The Drummond Mine went on to be a very successful mine.

O'Brien, along with other Cobalt mine managers, created the Temiskaming Hockey League and established the coveted O'Brien Silver Trophy.

The O'Brien Hockey Empire

If a man could skate, he was in luck. A few of the mine owners had formed a local hockey league and were constantly on the lookout for players to fill out their rosters. One of the most avid hockey promoters was M.J. O'Brien, owner of the O'Brien Mine.

A photograph from a newspaper of two men at Cobalt Lake. One is dressed in diving gear.

Sir Henry Pellat & His Fairytale Disaster

In the town's early staking frenzy, nearly every square inch of land was claimed and mined - except for the lake. In 1905, a Provincial law was created which exempted lakebeds from exploration in order to protect the town's water.

A photograph of a typical group of bunkhouse workers.

The Work Camps

For a fellow down on his luck, private employment agencies were often the last hope. Such agencies recruited men straight off the street, inducing them to work in remote labour camps by promising good wages and offering advances for travel, food and lodging.

A photograph of four miners standing underground at the Nipissing Mine.


As soon as the silver from the surface veins was mined out, it was time to go underground to blast out the wealth.

A photograph of Jack Munroe lifting 600 pounds in Golden City, 1911.

Hitting the Road

One of the first prospectors on the ground in the Elk Lake area was boxer Jack Munroe, famous for his 1903 fight against the heavy weight champion, James Jeffries. He later became the Mayor of Elk Lake and is renowned for his heroism during the Porcupine Fire and World War 1.

A photograph showing the owners and workers of the Foster Mine posing by a huge rock outcropping.

The Foster Mine

Many of the owners were American and had developed strong anti-union attitudes during the violent labour struggles in the American west. Clem Foster, though he was likely familiar with these struggles, agreed to the union's demands for better wages.

A photograph of the six man executive of the Cobalt Miners Union wearing their union badges.


Work in the mines was hard and dangerous. Workers often lived in housing owned by the mines, and if they spoke out about work conditions they could find themselves out of a job and a home. Many workers felt a union was necessary to protect their interests so in 1905, the Cobalt Miner's Union, Local 146, Western Federation of Miners, was formed.