There was treasure waiting at Marmora. It lay covered by the silent forest. It lay twisted and trapped in the hard precambrian rock. But it was there. There were clues, where the ice and water had washed the rock face clean. The tell-tale streaks of red were unmistakable. The treasure was iron - magnetite ore formed in the earth's molten crust untold millions of years ago. At Marmora the ore was plentiful, and near enough to the surface to be mined.  Nature had blessed Marmora with a magnificent river winding through limestone shelves.  Not far away,  the precambrian rock touches a corner of Crowe Lake.  Within it bosom, that rock held an immense and extraordinary formation.  It was a mountain of iron-rich ore,  the likes of which the pioneers had never seen. By the closing decades of the 18th century, surveyors and settlers were pushing up .into the headwaters of the Trent and Crowe Rivers. Government authorities were getting exciting, if sketchy,  reports of the riches at Marmora.


Sketch by Susanna Moodie -  Marmora Mine

Our industrial age awoke with a hunger for iron, and for the technology to forge the shafts, gears and wheels of progress. Agriculture, milling, manufacturing, building, cooking, transportation - nothing was possible without iron. Like oil today, it was the dark root of progress and power. The colonial administration saw the need to develop an iron industry in the Canadas. Supplies from Europe and America were costly - and, as the war of 1812 had shown, of doubtful security. The forges at Ste. Maurice, below Montreal, faced exhausted ore supplies. Thus, Sir Peregrine Maitiand, the Lieutenant Governor, canvassed interest in the business community in undertaking iron works where ore and available water power could be found. Substantial military supply contracts were hinted at. Land grants to aid the entrepreneur could be arranged. In 1819, Charles Hayes, a man equally of vision and wealth, visited Maitiand to discuss a possible iron works venture.


Hayes had made his fortune in the London business community. His remarkable organizing ability and drive were able to guide his entry into the opening field of iron making. In 1820 he emigrated to Canada, settling near the Trent River just a few miles west of Stirling. Undaunted by the wilderness - the nearest spot of civilization, at Kingston, was a hundred miles away - Hayes carved a road through to Marmora. He then began the simultaneous construction of a mine, mill and smelter operation, plus the erection of homes and community buildings to house the workforce. Quickly exhausting the available ore at Marmora, he opened up mining operations nearby at Blairton, securing grants to the land in return for surveying the area.

Arthur D. Dunn,  and Industrial historian from Ottawa, wrote of Hayes:

"In 1820, Charles Hayes, a businessman from Dublin, Ireland started to construct a road north    from the Trent River at the present location of Stirling, to the falls on the Marmora River, now the Crowe River, in order to construct an Iron Works at that point to manufacture cast iron and wrought iron bar for the needs of the now rapidly growing population of Upper Canada.
During the first year he lived on the Trent River,probably near Stirling,while the road was cut and the first buildings erected at the new village of Marmora. By 1821 probably a number of houses had been constructed, including one for Charles Hayes and his wife, and it is possible that by that time the first saw mill had been erected and was in use to provide the lumber for the construction
of the buildings that were to follow.
By the time that the year 1824 had arrived, the year the attached map was produced, the village had became a fully integrated iron working community, and had facilities for the production of flour from wheat produced on the 150 acre farm located, it is believed, where Madoc is today, leather in the tannery largely for the conversions into aprons and other protective clothing for the workers, and of course the furnaces and forge to manufacture the cast and wrought products that it had been developed to produce."



It was as if nature had designed a patch of this earth ready made for an Ironmaster. The ore was set at Blairton, the waterpower  five miles away at Marmora. They were joined by a calm waterway ideal  for navigation. Along the sides of the lower part of the waterway was  the limestone needed as a flux in reducing the iron ore. The limestone
ledges overshadowed the river below and stood as a natural loading ramp  to the top of the furnaces Hayes would build. All along the shores and  back up the Crowe River system timber awaited the lumbermen and its trip to be reduced to charcoal for the furnaces.

The only thing forgotten was the people to buy the products.  The mountain of ore would be discovered to be two 'lenses' of sulphur-free ore and over half a century 300,000 tons would be mined.  Charles Hayes' barges would navigate the Crowe with ease. His furnaces  would 'campaign' successfully in continuous blasts which would last up to six months, four hours a day. The river would drive the waterwheels and the waterwheels would pump the bellows, and out of the base of the great furnaces would pour the molten'iron to be transformed to ballast,
pots, stoves and even cannons.

By 1822 Hayes had constructed an almost self-sufficient community of 200 people. He built a sawmill and grist mill beside the Marmora waterfalls. A bark mill ground up waste bark for the tannery,  which then provided protective clothing for the miners. Almost thirty houses were built, plus a school, and buildings for the forge and mill operations. These in turn included three coal houses capable of storing two hundred thousand bushels of charcoal. There were carpenter and blacksmith shops, wood turning and pattern making shops, plus barns, sheds and a piggery. A community farm lay some distance towards Madoc. A bake house, dry goods and provisions store completed the settlement.


At the fiery heart of the Marmora operation were two great furnaces, having interior diameters of 8-1/2 and 9feet. Air to the one was provided by a paired German bellows, each bellow measuring 28' long by 15' wide. The second cylinder used a three cylinder blowing engine, each 5'7" cylinder having a 3-1/2" stroke.

Last firing of Pig Iron at Marmora Iron works

Because the two furnaces faced each other, their output could be combined in heavy casting operations. When casting was not underway, the furnaces turned out "pig" iron. This was either shipped as ballast to the naval depot at Kingston, or it was used on site to make "wrought" iron. In this process, the "pig" was remelted in a smaller "finery" furnace, somewhat resembling a blacksmith's hearth. The resulting "bloom" was pounded by a massive water-driven hammer to squeeze out impurities.

Reheating in the final "chauffery" furnace, and further hammering, drew the bar out in a pure enough form for sale for further manufacturing operations.All this equipment was driven by some twelve water wheels. The wheels for the main furnace blowing engines were 25 feet or more in diameter, and 6 to 7 feet wide.


Although he was Upper Canada's leading industrialist, Charles Hayes could not get his way with the masters of the colony. The Family Compact as they became known valued the Ironworks but had little need for the individual Ironmaster who had built them. If Hayes packed his bags and left for England he could hardly put his furnaces in them. Perhaps a change of management would not be such a bad thing.

The grand plans for joining Crowe Lake by canal to Lake Ontario departed with Hayes' departure. From 1825 to their complete abandonment in 1873, the Ironworks went through a series of less inspired ownerships. The dream of Marmora as the heart of a new industrial province faded.

For its time, the Marmora works were the most advanced iron works in Canada. Secure in ore supplies, water power and the vast amounts of hardwood charcoal to fuel the furnaces, the future looked assured. Yet the operation was running into serious trouble. Transportation and road maintenance costs became crippling. The governing authorities did not provide the volume of orders originally and encouragingly hinted at. It was difficult to keep the business fueled with capital, although Peter McGill, the emergent financier of Montreal, was prepared to advance some loans. Hayes and his family returned to the capital markets of England in an attempt to find a more substantial and secure underwriting. The times were bad, however. Business activity was slack. The British government was unresponsive, and bankers were unwilling to advance money based on Hayes' other holdings. Discouraged, Charles Hayes moved to Dublin, where from 1839 to his death in 1844,  he rebuilt his earlier fortune while dreaming of a return to the Marmora Iron Works.



Arthur Dunn raises a good question:  Where did the equipment come from?

"Hayes no doubt, had expert advice on the setting up of his works from unknown expertsin England before coming to Upper Canada in 1820, and undoubtedly had the capable assistanceof excellent millwrights to construct the buildings, furnaces,  and the various pieces of equipment that were required. Evidence is shown in the details of some of the equipment installed. Where this equipment was purchased is unknown.Were they purchased from England? If they were,   then who agreed that the equipment could be shipped out of England, as the law at that time made specific provision for the non-exportation of equipment for making iron products out of England, and even more specifically precluded the movement of those skilled in the manufacture of iron products to the Colonies. But in some way Hayes had managed to
get around these regulations and had even planned to install a rolling mill- a relatively   modern innovation."