Bruce Mines

Discover Bruce Mines, Ontario: A Historical and Tourism Perspective

Bruce Mines, Ontario, is a charming town nestled on the north shore of Lake Huron in the Algoma District along Highway 17. With a population of 582 residents as of 2016, this Canadian town is a treasure trove of history and natural beauty. The current mayor, Lory Patteri, leads the community.

The Rich History of Bruce Mines, Ontario

The history of Bruce Mines dates back to 1842 when Cornish emigrants began to settle in the area. The copper deposits in the region caught the attention of non-native settlers in 1846, leading to the establishment of mining operations. The area was named after James Bruce, the Earl of Elgin Governor General of Canada appointed in 1846.

The Bruce Mines comprised Bruce, Wellington, and Copper Bay mines. However, in 1876, the mines were closed due to floods, cave-ins, and declining profits, leading to a shift to agricultural development in the area. Mining resumed from 1915 to 1921, but has been inactive since then, despite occasional efforts to resume operations. Today, the mine shafts are still open for the public to see.

Bruce Mines was the second-ever copper mining town in all of North America, following Cliff Mine in Michigan's Copper Country. An Ontario Historical Plaque was erected by the province to commemorate the Bruce Mines' role in Ontario's heritage.

Bruce Mines, Ontario: The Early Era

The Bruce Mines changed ownership several times between 1847 and 1944 when they were decommissioned. Flooding and cave-ins in 1876 ended the 30-year period of active mining history. In the 1870s, agriculture and logging prospered in the wake of uncertainty with the mines.

The Township of Plummer Additional was incorporated in 1891 while Northern Ontario's first town, the Town of Bruce Mines, was officially incorporated in 1903 when it separated from the Township of Plummer Additional. Several attempts to re-open the mines in the early 1900s saw only limited success by Mond Nickel, who shipped the quartz-copper flux ore to Sudbury. Mond Nickel shut down the Bruce Mines in 1921. The mines were decommissioned in 1944 and forestry activities have declined, but agriculture, aggregate extraction, and tourism continue as the main economic activities in the area.

The Marina History of Bruce Mines, Ontario

In 1846, the first copper mine opened in Bruce Mines. Miners from Cornwall, England emigrated to the area to work the mines. The mining companies quickly built wharves and docks in the bay to handle the influx of people and materials. Two of the mine managers built their homes at the entrance to the main dock property. They made sure that only approved boats used the docks. The mining companies did not allow any stores to open in their town. All of the miners and their families were forced to purchase from the Company Store.

The Museum History of Bruce Mines, Ontario

Built in 1894 as a Presbyterian Church, the "Church on the Rock" was used for services until 1917 when the congregation outgrew the church and united with the Methodist congregation, whose church could accommodate both groups. In the same year, a fire swept through the town and the local postmaster, whose building had been destroyed, moved the post office into the vacant church building. The building was used as a scout and church hall for many years until 1945 when another fire destroyed the Bruce Mines Public School. The building housed grades 9 - 12 for two years until grades 11 and 12 were moved to the old jail building and finally, in December 1948 the school moved into a new building. The building stood empty until the Town of Bruce Mines purchased it in 1950 when it was used as a public library and as a storage house for local artifacts. The museum officially opened in 1961 and in 1973 the library moved to the Bruce Mines Central School.

The Library History of Bruce Mines, Ontario

The first library for Bruce Mines, known as 'The Mechanics Institute Library', arrived from England in the 1860s. It was aimed at the miners and other workers (bush workers, agriculture people). It was housed in the museum in the 1950s and early 60s at which time Plummer Additional and the Town of Bruce Mines collaborated and passed a bylaw forming the Union Public Library. The library moved to what is now the Arthur Henderson Public School. Johnson Township joined forces in the mid-80s by becoming a contracting library. On April 3, 1993, the library became a unit all on its own with a modern building and since then has become a hub of modern activity. The Library moved from a card-based catalogue and borrowing system to a state of the art electronic system called automation. HRDC made automation possible with a funding grant. 1996 brought the establishment of the first CAP (Community Access Program) site to provide internet access to the area. The library's website was developed in 1998 under its Art Committee.

McKay Island Lighthouse History in Bruce Mines, Ontario

The McKay Island Lighthouse was built in 1907 to serve the timber industry. It had 5 Keepers of the Light, Angus McNeish, Merrit Strum, Joseph Harvey, Gord Inch, Mr Wing. It became an unwatched light in Oct 1955. On Oct 25th, 2009 the range light was converted to solar power with LED bulbs. It is now a housekeeping lighthouse and available to rent as accommodation.

Demographics of Bruce Mines, Ontario

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Bruce Mines had a population of 582 living in 263 of its 293 total private dwellings, a change of 0% from its 2016 population of 582. With a land area of 6.09 km2 (2.35 sq mi), it had a population density of 95.6/km2 (247.5/sq mi) in 2021.

Attractions in Bruce Mines, Ontario

Bruce Mines and Plummer Additional Union Public Library

Open all year round, the Bruce Mines and Plummer Additional Union Public Library is located at 33 Desbarats street, off of Robinson drive from Highway 17.

Bruce Mines Fall Fair

Bruce Mines is known for the annual Fall Fair events hosted at the Bruce Mines Exhibition Grounds & Arena. The first-ever Fall Fair was hosted on the second September weekend in 1880 and it's been held on the same weekend ever since then. Some of the attractions include:

  • Demolition Derby
  • Tractor Pull
  • ATV Pull
  • Horse Pull
  • Pet Show
  • Alpaca 4-H Club Demonstrations and Obstacle Courses
  • Student Art Displays
  • Dancing
  • Bar
  • Food Booths
  • Tricycle and Battery Car Races

Bruce Mines Museum

The museum and archives, also known as the "church on the rock", was a Presbyterian Church built in 1894, and later used as a post office and a school. The museum began in 1960 and houses over 7000 artifacts of Bruce Mines and Area history and archives that include:

  • Genealogical, census, birth, death, marriage, and baptismal records
  • Copies and originals of photos of pioneer families and the town mining documents
  • The 1850 Bruce Mines Postmaster Joshua Coatsworth journals containing letters, sketches, and poetry
  • A customs ledger from the company wharf with entries dated 1850 to 1872

Bruce Mines Marina and Waterfront

The Bruce Mines Marina and Waterfront is located in the center of Bruce Mines.

Transportation in Bruce Mines, Ontario

Ontario Northland provides intercity motor coach service to Bruce Mines as a flag stop along its Sault Ste. Marie–Sudbury–North Bay–Ottawa route, with one bus a day each headed eastbound and westbound from Sunday to Friday, with no service on Saturdays.