Brookfield’s connection to Ferrona – a town that doesn’t exist!

Iron mining and smelting began in Nova Scotia on a small scale in 1825 and continued until 1913. Many of the mines were important locally but had limited capacity because they were dependent on small iron deposits.

Brookfield is an example. There were two historical iron mines in Brookfield that operated on the same iron deposit. The Chambers Mine operated on the north part of the property and the Pearson Mine was about 100 metres south of the Chambers Mine.

Henry How was the first to note iron mineralization in the area in 1868. How was born in London, England, in 1828 and moved to Nova Scotia in 1854 to work at King’s College in Windsor as a professor of natural history and chemistry. He became the university’s vice-president in 1877. He strongly influenced science in Nova Scotia in the 19th century and did extremely valuable geological research. His chief work was “The Mineralogy of Nova Scotia.”

R. E. Chambers of New Glasgow started his mine in 1888. The size of the lode was roughly 300 feet long by 30 feet wide on the average. Some parts were as wide as 80 feet. The mine shaft through the deposit was approximately 120 feet deep.

The Chamber Mine produced 44,000 tons of ore which essentially depleted the ore body.

The Pearson Mine had both underground and surface mining. Two tunnels were driven north from the valley of a small brook to access 4.9-6.1 metres of ore. To the west of the adits (tunnel entrances), the ore broadened to 13.4 metres and was worked from a surface mine. There are no production records for the Pearson Mine.

Initially the iron ore from Brookfield was sold to the Londonderry Iron and Mining Company and shipped to the company’s smelter at Londonderry, where iron mining started in 1849. Londonderry was the most successful iron-producing site in Nova Scotia. It became the biggest iron producer in Canada and its iron was used by the steel mills in Sheffield, England, which only accepted high quality pig iron and produced some of the best steel globally.

Later, the Brookfield property was sold to the New Glasgow Iron, Coal and Railway Company (predecessor of the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company) and the ore was smelted in their furnace in Ferrona, Pictou County.

Ferrona was a one-company town established in 1891 by the New Glasgow Iron, Coal and Railway Company where the East and West branches of the East River meet. The company built a blast furnace and coke ovens there. The pig iron produced at the plant was exported to Central Canada and used in the production of local steel in nearby Trenton.

The operation employed between 400-500 men and operated 24 hours a day, six days a week. This, combined with a successful wool mill at nearby Eureka, made the area a hub of industrial activity in the 1890s and early 1900s.

The name Ferrona was proposed by Reverend George Patterson (it was a reference to the Latin word for iron: ferrum) and was voted on by the locals. A plan for the town was drawn up (below) and a contest was held to name its ten planned streets. The contest had a $10 prize.

The necessary limestone was brought in by rail from a quarry in Springville and a railway was built to connect the Ferrona plant with the coal mines at Stellarton.

As local iron ore supply from places like Bridgeville declined, sites from further away, like Brookfield, supplied Ferrona’s iron ore.

Eventually the company built another iron works in Sydney Mines, where construction of the most efficient and modern steel plant in Canada began in 1902, and imported iron from Newfoundland’s Bell Island, which was both better quality and a more stable supply. The discovery of large iron deposits in Newfoundland and in the Lake Superior Region was the beginning of the end for Nova Scotia’s smaller iron mines.

Ferrona’s iron works shut down in 1904 and a lot of people in Pictou County followed the work to Sydney Mines. The community of Ferrona faded over time.

Brookfield, on the other hand, continues to be an active mining and manufacturing community. For example, cement has been manufactured in Brookfield since 1965. A quarry onsite provides the necessary limestone.

Also, the Brookfield barite deposit, just a few hundred metres west of the iron mines, was mined by Nystone Chemicals from the 1980s to the early 2000s. The ore was trucked to the company’s Debert plant where it was processed into pharmaceutical-grade barite.