Reclaimed mines are often hidden in plain view! For example, this beautiful lake is the former Cheticamp gypsum quarry in Cape Breton. Here’s the history of this amazing site:

Father P. Fiset, parish priest in Cheticamp, and his nephew Louis, a doctor, formed the Great Northern Mining Company about 1907. To raise funds, they sold shares for 5 cents each in Cheticamp. Shares were also sold in Quebec where the Fisets were well-known.

In spring 1908 equipment for a mill was delivered to Government Wharf and hauled by horse and cart to Bell-Marche where the mill was built. The first gypsum rock went through the mill on August 20, 1908.

To prepare for shipping gypsum to Quebec, Father Fiset bought a boat that had been sunk off Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898, the “Santiago de Cuba,” later renamed “Lamethyst.” In October 1908, gypsum was hauled by horse and cart from the mine to the mill, and then from the mill to the wharf where the boat was waiting to do its first shipment.

In 1909, a tractor and trailer were bought to transport the gypsum from the mill to the wharf. It was not like tractors today. It was as big as a railroad engine and had huge wheels that were hard on the road and often got bogged down. It was very loud and terrified horses. It was not a success.

In 1910 the company decided to borrow $100,000 from P.M. O’Neil, a Montreal merchant, to build a new pier and a railroad from the mill to the wharf. Construction started in 1911.

The company had financial problems in 1914 and was sold to a Mr. Brodie. The mine kept operating but Brodie was late paying wages and when confronted by the miners, he wrote a cheque that bounced after he was gone. Work stopped in December 1914 and the miners put a lien on the mine.

P.M. O’Neil stepped in to pay the wages but the mine shut down until 1923 when Boston’s International Gypsum Company operated the site. It also had financial problems and failed to pay the miners, so they again put a lien on the mine. Again, Mr. O’Neil paid the back wages.
O’Neil operated the site for a few months but it shut down again in spring 1924.

In 1926 the Atlantic Gypsum Mining Company from Boston took over. Atlantic built a bigger mill, a steel building to store the gypsum and a new pier in 1928-29. The railroad track was also changed.

A director of the Atlantic Gypsum Mining Company visited Cheticamp in 1930 and donated $5000 for the building of a hospital since people had died travelling to hospital in Inverness in winter. The company donated another $1000 and a hospital was established in Dr. Louis Fiset’s old house.

In 1932 Atlantic opened another mine in Dingwall, Victoria County, which meant the Cheticamp mine would be producing less. Cheticamp’s manager, Joseph MacFarlane, travelled to England in 1933 to find new customers.

Unfortunately, the outbreak of WWII in 1939 caused the Cheticamp mine to shut down permanently. Shipping to England was no longer possible and the Montreal market was too small to justify continued operation of the site. Cheticamp’s last shipment to England was dumped at sea so the boat could immediately be used by the government in the war effort.

National Gypsum bought the Atlantic Gypsum Mining Company in 1937. It operated the Dingwall mine until 1955 when it opened the world’s largest surface gypsum mine in Milford, East Hants. National Gypsum, now called Gold Bond, still employs about 100 Nova Scotians in Milford and at its dock facility in Bedford Basin.

National Gypsum donated the Cheticamp site to the community and today it is a beautiful swimming hole and hiking trail.