The first gypsum mine in Paris Ontario. -1822
One of our partners in the Brant Museum and Galleries Association, Paris Museum and Historical Society, is celebrating the 50th year since it was founded. Paris has a wonderful museum and archives situated in the old Apps Arena. We congratulate them on their great success with many talented volunteers! See their website at www.theparismuseum.com
But also, Paris is celebrating the 200th anniversary of when its first settler, William Holme, opened what was the first gypsum mine in Ontario. The year was 1822!
On April 5th, 1793, Augustus Jones, the Deputy-Surveyor of Upper Canada was in the process of surveying what was to become known as Governor’s Road. The work had been commissioned by John Graves Simcoe, the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada as part of his plan to build a military road connecting Dundas with London. When he came to the Grand River, Jones spotted a light patch of rock along the shore, which he discovered, upon examination, to be gypsum, the rock that is used to make Plaster of Paris.
When the Holme family purchased 1000 acres and created their estate, they took advantage of the deposit and had their servants digging the gypsum which they called “land plaster” out of the bank. They chopped it up to sell to new settlers as a type of fertilizer or soil conditioner for preparing their croplands. The next year, Holme opened the first gypsum mill to grind the land plaster.
Holme sold out to Hiram Capron in 1829 and bought land in what became known as Holmedale, which became part of the City of Brantford. The enterprising Capron founded the town of Paris on the lands he purchased from Holme. He also took on partners and continued to mine the gypsum in several mines located along the Grand River. They built mills to grind and process the gypsum into Plaster of Paris, land plaster, Alabastine paint and other products.
Over the years, other people, including William Dickson, John Smith, and David Brown became involved and companies were formed that opened mines all along the Grand in Haldimand County. With the creation of the Grand River Navigation Company, gypsum could be shipped far and wide down the Grand River and into Lakes Erie and Ontario and through the Welland Canal to Buffalo. This was the beginning of several companies which expanded – including the Alabastine Company, Gypsum Lime and Alabastine, and eventually DomTar (Dominion Tar and Chemical), Georgia Pacific and the Canadian Gypsum Co.
The mines in Paris area lasted until about 1905 when the operations moved to Caledonia, but the head office on William Street remained open for many years. Over the years, many companies handling gypsum were amalgamated, names were changed, some went out of business, and some diversified into other products. A few years ago, the mines and mill in Caledonia operated by Georgia Pacific were closed, but the gypsum industry is still functioning near Hagersville under the name the Canadian Gypsum Company, with a mill located on site to manufacture various products made from gypsum - mainly drywall, a product we find in every house.