This is an article written by Syd Hancock, January 21, 1972 on the occasion of Julian Cross's death.
Outside the Atikokan Library & museum is a bronze plaque erected by the Ontario Department of Public Records and Archives to mark the historical significance of the Steep Rock Iron Range. On December 29, 1971, the man who unveiled this plaque, and made possible the Steep Rock story, Julian Gifford Cross, died at the age of 83. Born at Silver Islet on July 25, 1888, only four years after the closing of that historic silver mine, his destiny and the future of many others was inevitably associated with mining.
To those who knew him best he was always Jules Cross, the prospector with his knapsack and geologist pick. He was a kindly man with simple conservative tastes, who walked or traveled by train. The modern automobile and the swift aeroplane were evil necessities only to be used as a last resort.
And yet Jules Cross graduated from Queens University in 1913 with a Bachelor of Science degree as a mining engineer. Furthermore, he was an Associate Professor in the Department of Mineralogy at the University during 1916 and 1917.
In 1928 this writer worked on the mining claims of Jules Cross on Shebandowan lake, as his first job. Today, after years of waiting, these claims are the site of the International Nickel Company mine in that area. The story of his sale of those same claims is a true one. He was asleep in an hotel room in Winnipeg in 1939 when the mine representative telephoned him to make the deal. In his annoyance at being wakened, he upped his price by $100,000 and to his surprise it was accepted. Many years afterwards he would reminisce and say if I'd only been a little madder, I could have had another $100,000.
From this sale was born his second success story ù the funds that enabled him to prove the presence of iron ore beneath the waters of Steep Rock Lake. The shores of the lake bore the evidence of repeated staking over the years and geologists since 1891 had forecast the presence of iron ore beneath it's waters.
Yet all this information went unheeded until Julian G. Cross studied the data and made a dip?needle survey of the lake in 1930. Results were encouraging and in 1938 was started the diamond drill campaign that would reveal as fact what had been guessed at for so long. Never before had a drilling job been attempted through depths of water such as these. Drilling, of necessity, had to be from the ice and 145 vertical holes alone were drilled under conditions that would have discouraged a lesser man than Jules Cross.
And so Steep Rock Iron Mines was born and Atikokan from it's humble beginning suddenly blossomed into a modern busy community.
The first annual report for Steep Rock Iron Mines Ltd. in 1946 shows Jules Cross as a director and his name appeared as such up to 1967. To the employees of Steep Rock and the people of Atikokan, he is the legendary figure whose knowledge and foresight made it all possible.
The Julian Cross Airport and Cross Street in the town itself are only token physical reminders of this man. He had a simple way of saying things because that was the type of person he was. When his diamond drills first hit iron ore beneath the lake and excitement reigned supreme, Jules merely looked at the sludge and quietly said: Well, that's just worth a million dollars to me"
His philosophy of life was even better expressed during the ceremony marking the first shipment of ore from the Errington mine, when he simply said: "If you have faith and knowledge, you can do almost anything".
The employees of Steep Rock salute and pay homage to the memory of Jules Cross and offer their sincere condolences to those he leaves behind.
Skillings' Mining Review, Feb. 1, 1958.
History of Steep Rock exploration:
20th anniversary of the Steep Rock discovery
by J. G. Cross and Joseph Errington
My first visit to Steep Rock Lake was in 1926, when I went there to examine a gold prospect in which some local people were interested. I was a guest of Mr. Ed Marks, who had staked a number of claims in the South East Bay area, and had a very comfortable cabin on one of the claims. Mr. Marks was enthusiastic about the possibilities of finding iron ore in the area, particularly in South West Bay. While conducting me on a tour of the Lake, he showed me a large boulder of ore on a small island which must have weighed several tons and in addition to this, much ore was scattered all over the island and along the beaches in the immediate vicinity. This island was called Float Ore Island, and later became the site of the Errington shaft.
I was not particularly impressed with these showings of float ore at the time. A lot of money had been spent in this area inthe search for iron ore, by the McKenzie-Mann interests, the United States Steel Corporation, the Fort Francis Hematite Company and others. Diamond drilling and other methods of exploration revealed only a small quantity of ore under Straw Hat Lake, and this contained a large percentage of sulphur. Diamond drill holes were put down under Steep Rock Lake in the immediate vicinity of the Errington ore body. The holes were drilled in the limestone foot wall, but the angle was such that the holes paralleled the footwall of the orebody. If these holes had been drilled at a flatter angle, they would have intersected the Errington ore body, and the history of the area might have been quite different from what it was.
The McKenzie-Mann interests had opened up an iron mine, called the Atikokan Mine about 12 miles est of Steep Rock Lake. This was operated for several years, and about 100,000 tons of magnetite ore was shipped to a blast furnace in Port Arthur for smelting to pig iron. However, the grade of the pig iron was unsatisfactory due to a high sulphur content, and both the mine and the smelter were closed down and were never re-opened. The smelter has since been removed, and the site is now occupied by the ore dock.
These abortive attempts to find commercial bodies of iron ore in the Atikokan and Steep Rock areas gave the area a bad name, and after the failure of the Atikokan enterprise, all exploration was abandoned. In fact, iron ore exploration fell into disrepute over the entire Province, as exploration work on the Gunflint Range and a number of other ranges failed to disclose any bodies of commercial ore . Then again, there was an abundance of iron ore in the United States, immediately over the border. The Menominee, Marquette, Gogebic, Mesaba and Vermilion Ranges were all active, and producing sufficient ore to satisfy market demands. There was little incentive to develop more ore in Canada, whcih would have to be disposed of in American markets.
Finally, in the 1930's, the carbonate ores of the Michipicoten area were successfully treated on a commercial basis. This re-awakened interest in iron mining in the Province. This interest was further stimulated by the increasing demand for iron ore in the United States, and the depletion of visible supplies of high grade ore, especially in the Mesaba Range, which produced by far the greater part of ore for American consumption.
The awakening interest in the possibilities of iron mining in Ontario led me to again visit the Steep Rock Lake area in 1929-30. I examined the area more closely, particularly in regard to the disposition of the float ore. This, I found, was widely distributed in the gravel beds, south and west of Steep Rock Lake. In fact, float ore of the Steep Rock Lake type was located occasionally many miles in the glacial drift southwest of the lake.
The beaches on the south side of the lake contained a great deal of float ore, in fact in some localities, as much as fifty percent. On the north shore of the lake no float ore was found in the glacial drift, or on the beaches. There were no outcrops of ore or iron formation exposed anywhere on the surface, to give a clue to the origin of the float. Obviously then, the source of the rich float was in the bed of Steep Rock Lake, entirely covered by water, an obvious deduction under the circumstances.
The amount of float ore in tons was very impressive, hundreds of thousands of tons must be contained in the beach gravels, and in gravel beds to the southwest. A large ore body or bodies must occur in the lake bottom, but even if this could be located, would it prove to be a number of small detached bodies of ore, or a flat lying body with no depth.
To consider a mining project that would involve draining Steep Rock Lake, or building dams of the necessary dimensions to retain parts of the Lake while other parts were pumped, would involve the locating of such vast tonnages of iron ore to justify such an expense, that the idea was considered fanatical. However, there was a remote chance that such might be the case. The only way to determine this was, of course, by a vast amount of diamond drilling. Any other method of exploration was obviously impossible.
I interviewed a number of iron and steel companies in the United States, and tried to interest them in the project, without success. Finally, a Duluth group, headed by the late Robert Whiteside, became interested to the extent at least of acquiring a number of claims in the area, and assuming the expense of a dip needle survey from the ice, also an attempt to drive a casing down to bed rock, through the ice in the winter time. A dip needle survey was made, and two areas showing anomalies were plotted. An attempt was made to drive a casing pipe down to bed rock where the dip needle showed an anomaly existed. After lowering the casing to the lake bottom, depth about eighty-five feet, and driving the casing over sixty feet through clay sand and gravel, the casing pipe finally broke off about ten feet below the ice. Since it was late in March, and the ice was melting, we had to abandon the project, which was all carried on by hand – no machinery of any kind, except a pump.
The untimely death of Mr. Whiteside, and the increasing unfavorable effect of the depression, together with unfavorable engineer's reports led to the abandoning of the project and the claims reverted to the Crown.
In 1937, I was successful in disposing of a nickel prospect in the Shebandowan area to the International Nickel. Also, about this time, I met Mr. Errington through an interest we had in common in a gold claim in the Shebandowan Lake area. I discussed the iron ore float occurrences with him, and we decided to restake the claims I had originally staked for iron and, in addition, buy up a few of the patented claims in the area where we expected ore might be found. Then, Mr. Errington, who operated the Sudbury Diamond Drilling Company, would put a drill on the property and try our luck at finding the source of the float ore.
To finance a modest initial drilling program, we organized the Steerola Company, January 6, 1938. The capitalization was 100,000 shares, and we proposed to sell the stock for $1.00 per share. The name Steerola was a composite from Steep Rock Lake. The stock was not popular, and we had difficulty disposing of it. However, General D. M. Hogarth, Mr. Errington, and a number of their friends finally subscribed for the entire amount, and sufficient funds were available to try our luck at finding the source of the float.
Holes were put down where the anomalies indicated by a dip needle occurred. No ore was found. Later, we found the magnetic anomalies indicated by the dip needle outlined only the ash rock and greenstone hanging wall, which was slightly magnetic due to a little fine-grained magnetite being present. The ore was not in the least magnetic. This, of course was a very discouraging beginning, and very nearly led to terminating the entire project.
However, there was one encouraging feature, and that was that the gravel for several feet above bedrock contained so much float ore, that we felt the ore must be there somewhere. We kept moving the drill further to the northeast, and finally, in January 1938, we struck the ore. Four holes drilled one hundred feet apart cut ore in each hole. We were quite elated about this but realized we would have to drill many more holes before a picture indicating any considerable tonnage emerged.
Further drilling expanded the picture, and it was evident that we had located a large ore body. This we called the A ore zone, now called the Hogarth mine. We tried our luck further south, and located ore again at what is now called the B ore body or the Errington mine. East of this locality about two miles, the C ore body was located. This is now under lease to the Caland Company.
It was now apparent that there was a possibility of large ore bodies occurring under the lake, but the dimensions were unknown, and no depth had been established, so no estimate could be made of possible tonnage. It was also apparent that a vast amount of diamond drilling would be necessary to establish what our ore potentialities were. It was therefore necessary to secure a great deal of additional capital and, to this end, the Steep Rock Company was formed in February 1938, capitalized at five million shares, eventually increased to ten million shares. The assets of the Steerola Company were absorbed into the Company on a stock exchange basis.
The success attending the exploration and mining development of the Steep Rock Company is well recorded and documented and need not further be elaborated here.
I might add here, that had we been successful in sinking the casing pipe to bed rock in the preliminary exploration work mentioned before, we would have found only the hanging wall greenstone and ash rock, as we discovered, when the lake was drained and the overburden removed. The casing was within only a few feet of bed rock when it broke. The remainder of the pipe was still standing when the water was pumped out of the lake some years later. Had we been successful in driving the casing to bed rock and found no ore, but only greenstone in the locality where we expected to find ore if any did exist, it would have discouraged any further interest in the project as far as I was concerned, and the history of the Steep Rock iron ore discovery as we know it today would have been entirely different, or non-existant.
Eventually, of course, the ore would have been discovered, as there was too much evidence indicated by the float that such existed, but the discovery might have been some time in the future, perhaps years. This is anybody's guess.