Last fall the City of Greater Sudbury purchased Swansea Island in Ramsey Lake from private hands for $80,000. This little piece of land near Moonlight Beach has an interesting history.
More than a 10 years ago I got a phone call from a reporter with The South Wales Evening Post. Julia Stewart was researching a special edition for her newspaper on places around the world that share their name with Swansea, a port of about 180,000 people. She discovered 25 places throughout the world named Swansea including 10 in Canada and 11 in the United States.
Somehow, Stuart found Sudbury’s tiny Swansea Island on a map. I didn’t know what she was talking about. After a bit of research, I discovered some very interesting connections between Sudbury and Swansea.
It is safe to speculate Swansea Island owes its name to this community’s connection with mining. At the turn of the 20th century, all the nickel mined in Ontario was refined in Clydach, a borough in northern Swansea. Vale Inco Europe Ltd. still has operations there. The Clydach Refinery was built by Ludwig Mond, the inventor of the nickel carbonyl. Mond was an early investor in Sudbury properties.
H.H. Vivian Company of Swansea, was one of the first companies to undertake practical mining operations in the Sudbury Basin. C.M. Wallace, in the book Sud bury Rail Town to Regional Capital, writes the company opened the Murray Mine in 1889, on the site of the first nickel claim recorded, staked by Thomas Murray in 1884.
Vivian closed Murray Mine in 1894 after losing $375,000, but the mine would later make millions for its subsequent owners.
The boom had gone bust and there was a depressed world market for nickel. Vivian also found a problem with the smelting process available here. If Vivian had continued his mining operations here, there would be many more things in the region called Swansea besides just a little island.
If you are interested in reading more about Sudbury’s history, visit the Sudbury Living website and type Sudbury’s Stories in the search engine.