Mining for answers
Bill Gardiner combines geology, prospecting and genealogy

by Ruby M. Cusack

Little girls are supposed to enjoy playing with rings and jewellery. I did not fit that mould. A hammer and nails were my preference. Gram had a ring that once belonged to her sister that I loved. She would let me take it from its plush purple box and place it on my finger. I never tired of hearing the story of this ring with the engraved maple leaves. Gram's brother, Fred, had gone to the Klondike during the gold rush years. He found a gold nugget and had rings made for his twin sisters.

Wilf Carter sang of the Moose River Gold Mine tragedy. Our Social Studies books taught us of the coal mines in Minto and Springhill. This was my only knowledge of mines. It never once crossed my mind that there might have been several mines in New Brunswick.

Now you ask, what connection could there be between a prospector and genealogy? Bill Gardiner, a geologist, prospector and genealogist, has found all kinds of connections.

The Vernon copper mine in eastern St. John County involved three Vernon brothers. Mr. Gardiner was able to add several names to the Vernon family tree by connecting the people involved in this mining operation who were mentioned in the newspaper.

Mr. Gardiner spends many hours at the library, scanning newspapers for articles on mining. He has come across several very interesting characters in his research. One, Major Markham, manager of the Markhamville Manganese mine, appears to have had nine lives. He survived a shipwreck when emigrating to the United States; survived a dynamite explosion without a scratch; represented Canada at the annual Bisley shooting competition in England; was invited to the White House for a presidential inauguration; was a champion horticulturist; ran the Daily Sun newspaper for a number of years and lived to be 94 years old.

Another Sussex resident, Dr. Goodfellow, was an important prospector, having found a copper mine at Teahan, Albert Co., and a manganese mine at Gowland's Mountain. He started out as a dentist in St. Stephen, then Saint John, then Sussex. He was a colourful character in the Sussex area because of his manner of dress, and his photographic and portrait painting activities. He also ran a dentistry school for a short period of time and the original coffee shop across from the Sussex train station.

Mr. Gardiner says, "It is becoming clear now that mining was far more important to the New Brunswick economy in the 1800s than had been previously thought, surpassing forestry in importance in some areas."

When Mr. Gardiner completes his project, he will have records for several hundred, if not thousands of names. If you have any information to share with him, contact him at

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Queries have been grouped together to cover the year 1998 and can be viewed at

Ruby Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to Ruby at When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.

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