The Worthington Post Office©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Francis Charles Crean was a seasoned prospector who had discovered a number of copper/nickel deposits. Some notable properties he staked were the future site of the Elsie, Howland, Totten, and Crean Hill Mines.
Crean seemed to walk on rich ore wherever he went. One day while walking the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) "Soo" line, approximately 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Sudbury, in Drury Twp, he noticed a glint of Copper in the railways' ballast. He also knew that the surveyors were nearly done their survey of Drury Twp. Crean kept quiet for nearly two weeks until all the surveys were complete. Then he applied for and received a 320-acre farming lot on Lot 2, Con 2, Drury Township. He soon sold the property to local interests.
In 1889 those interests had organized into the Dominion Mineral Co., the first Canadian group to attempt development of a copper-nickel ore body. The property was renamed for James Worthington, a large shareholder and director of the mine. He had also been superintendent of construction for the CPR, and gave the city of Sudbury its name, after his first wife's birthplace in England. Ironically, Worthington had built the railway line over the mine just a few years earlier. One only wonders why he hadn't discovered it himself!
In 1889 preliminary work had begun on the Worthington property as well as a second property called the Blezard Mine situated north of Sudbury. The firm brought the Blezard Mine into production as early as 1890 and the Worthington Mine followed suit in 1891. A mill, built at the Blezard mine, treated the ores that came from Worthington. The mill produced copper matte containing 18-20%, and nickel matte containing 24-26 per cent, which was subsequently shipped to Clydarch Wales for further refinement. Although the Blezard closed in 1893, the mill carried on activities until 1895 when operations were suspended, and the company quietly folded.
Although Worthington was situated in terrible lands, a settlement had begun to develop at the mine site. About 35 homes, perched on flat ground or rocky outcrops, were eventually established. After the mine reopened in the late 1890s, a few basic amenities such as a company store, station and a post office started up. By 1910, a few other stores sprouted up along with a hall, school, and two-storey hotel. During its peak years, Worthington boasted 400-500 residents.
In 1915, Mond Nickel Co. had purchased the mine to augment its nickel production for the war effort. The ores were sent to nearby Coniston for smelting. Although the post war years translated into a slowdown for the mine, operations continued until markets picked up again; that is until the tragedy of October 4th 1927.
On the previous evening shift William Mumford, the shift foreman, had noticed some unusual shifts in the rock. After descending to the 5th level, about 750 ft. down from the surface, his worst fears were confirmed. By 11 p.m., he called for an immediate evacuation of the workings. Everyone got out but an ominous pall hung over the town. The worst was still to come. At 5:50 in the morning, the mine workings collapsed on themselves.
Luckily no one was killed, but one family lost their home in the ordeal. The mineshaft and station were perched precariously close to the hole. The mine's powerhouse along with 500 ft. of CPR track were both lost. After the initial shock had passed, Mond Nickel announced that since the ore levels were nearly depleted anyway, the mine would not be reopened. They walked away from the town throwing 170 employees out of work.
From a high of around 400 residents, the community dwindled to a small service outlet for the "Soo" highway. A gas station, store, school, station and post office remained open to service the outlying farms situated just a kilometre and a half (approximately one mile) north of town. During the 1930's anywhere from 60-90 residents remained, but Worthington would soon get a new lease on life.
In the mid 1950's the Kidd-Copper Mine had begun development just east of the old town site, while the Totten Mine later followed suit. The Totten mine was located barely a stones throw from the old shaft. By 1956 a modest 85 residents were living in the hamlet. In 1961 that figure had risen to 164. By the close of the 1960s a few additional homes, trailers and two stores (one was a company store), were present, along with nearly 200 residents.
This revival, however, was short-lived. Both mines eventually closed and the old "Soo" highway was realigned 1.5 kilometres south. After a few years most of the residents had left. Today only three homes remain occupied. A modern looking pre-fab building, called the "The Company Store", operated seasonally, but has since closed. A small post office, that essentially services the rural area between Nairn-Centre to Whitefish, continues to operate. A few foundations can be traced through the entire area attesting to the resident's attempts at defying geography. Just a few feet away from the now realigned CPR the old shaft house foundations lie behind a fence. They are still considered dangerous to this very day.