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Latlng: (46.46666, -81)

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Greater Sudbury

O'Donnell (ghost town)


Discovered by TWP
Created Jan 01 2006
Recent status Unknown
Category Ghost Town
City Greater Sudbury, Ontario
Location # 291

Since 1888 ore from Sudbury was smelted in roast yards throughout the area. The Canadian Copper Company (INCO) had three of these roast yards within a one mile radius of Copper Cliff by 1912. The Mond Nickel Company also had a roast yard but in 1913 closed their Victoria Mine site and moved it to Coniston. Residents of Copper Cliff and Sudbury began to complain about health problems due to the sulphur-dioxide in the air.

A solution came in 1915 when John O'Donnell was hired by the Canadian Copper Company to be foreman of a roast yard. The roast yard was located at mileage point 17.5 of the AER just outside of Creighton. The yard had four tracks 7500 feet long with about a quarter of a millions tons of ore between the tracks. Four foot cordwood was placed in one of two beds that were 100 feet long by 60 feet wide. Each bed would have 5000 tons of ore, coarse ore on the bottom and fine ore on the top. Up to eight feet of ore would be on top of the wood which was set on fire.

As the wood burned, the ore would settle down and develop cracks in the surface of the roasting bed. Bed trimmers would be on the lookout during the first two weeks of burning to close the cracks. Once the first two weeks passed, the ore would burn for about 60 days and then left to roast for up to seven months. At this time the sulphur in the ore would be reduced to about 10% and it would be converted from a sulphide to an oxide. It would then loaded by steam shovel into 50 ton rail cars for transport to the converters in Copper Cliff.

The roast yard required about 200 men to move the ore. In order to accomodate the men, a town site was built.

It consisted of four streets (Foley, Savage, Ellis and Vermillion), a general store run by W. Boyle, club house operated by G. Dunsmore, a post office run from a home, dance/town hall, a one room school and even a jail. For recreation a baseball field was built. An ice house kept the ice cool. Doctor Boyce from Creighton paid the townsite visits to check up on the residents weekly. If extra accomodations were necessary in the first three years of operations, the men were housed in railway box cars.

By 1928 the average length of a roast would be 308 days, consuming 6000 cords of wood and producing 250,000 tons of ore. It was dangerous work at times. When the whistle was blown, the powder man and steam shovel operator would literally take off running to hide under the railway cars when blasting ore.

The store lasted for two years before closing. At that time, Sam Fera, the owner of the Creighton store would deliver groceries by horse and wagon.

By 1918 a travelling ore bridge reduced the number of men from 200 to 40. The railway boxcars that were used as living quarters were abandoned. Prior to the bridge, the ore was hauled by wheelbarrow to the beds.

During the 15 year operations at O'Donnell operations ceased only twice. Once in 1919 and again in 1921 when a shut down occured which lasted almost one year.

In 1929 the Canadian Copper Company built an indoor smelting plant. This was due to the Government banning open air roasting. Smoke from the ore would now be released out the smoke stack. In September 1930 the plant opened and the former O'Donnell workers found work at Creighton or Copper Cliff. A few remained behind to clean up and remove equipment. The railway was removed as was the bridge.

The environmental effects of the roast yard are evident today as nothing grows in O'Donnell. The land is barren and fly infested. The beds are muddy and you should watch where you step.

Latlng: (46.46666, -81)

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