TRUE DISCOVERER OF THE FLIN FLON ORE BODY

Most people believe David Collins, a native trapper, is the person who showed Tom Creighton, professional prospector, the Flin Flon ore body.  Who deserves to be called the discoverer?  It is apparent Collin did not know the significance of what he had found and Creighton did.  But it was common practise in the early days of this country for newcomers to ask the locals for information about whatever they were looking for whether it was good farmland or mineral outcrops.  Furthermore it is clear there was no animosity between Collins and Creighton at the time. Later members of Collins’ family felt there had been an injustice.  The main point of contention was and is whether Creighton promised to give Collins a full share of whatever returns there were on the discovery.  And on this there can never be a definite agreement.  David Collins at the very least deserves equal billing with Tom Creighton as co-discoverers of the Flin Flon ore body and Flin Flon is long over-due in finding a way to recognize this.

The most thorough research done on this issue was done by Bruce Donaldson, Chief Historical researcher for the Province of Manitoba in 1983. He concluded that Collins deserves credit for showing Creighton the Flin Flon ore body. In his paper Donaldson quotes Creighton as being at Collins’ cabin near Bakers’ Narrows in late December 1914.  Donaldson also quotes William E. Dodds’ claim that he was there when Creighton was shown samples and then taken by Collins to see the Flin Flon site for the first time.

Donaldson says conflicting accounts of how Creighton found the ore body were mostly authored by himself.  There is for example the outrageous story that Creighton was hunting moose and broke through the ice and managed to climb out and crawl to shore where he found a cave. He said he was able to get a fire going and then he thought he saw the glint off the eye of a fox on the other side but when he threw his prospector’s pick it made a clinking sound.  When he got up to investigate he discovered he had hit a vein of gold.  This then was how Creighton at least once told how he discovered the Flin Flon ore body.

Donaldson says after he checked ‘a wide range of primary sources … his research clearly demonstrated that the discovery of the Flin Flon deposit was… the logical consequence of the increased prospecting activity … in the area… it seems certain… Collins led … Creighton to the actual site.’

Donaldson concludes that it is impossible to prove or disprove Creighton promised Collins a portion of the returns if the site was developed.  There were no witnesses. ‘It is doubtful Creighton consciously attempted to deceive David Collins (nor does it appear that David Collins felt wronged at the time.’)

In Donaldson’s footnotes, Donaldson says he quoted William E. Dodds’ claim to have witnessed Collins showing rock samples from the Flin Flon site at his place at Baker’s, from a letter Dodds wrote David McKonka December 20, 1980.

Footnote #73 quotes E.L. Bruce of the Geological Survey of Canada, who worked here from 1914 to 1918.  Although not  witness to the  discovery Bruce maintained that the Creighton-Mosher party ‘were shown some pieces of sulphides by an Indian named Collins, whose  hunting territory lay about the north arm of Athapapuskow lake. There is no reason to doubt Bruce’s statement...’ (Memoir 105 of the geological survey, Canada dept. of mines 191) It is this source, and this quote that Hedman, Henderson and Yauch use to support the Collins’ right to claim to be the true discoverer of the Flin Flon Mine in their book entitled ‘Flin Flon’.  Irene Hewitt in an article she had published included the same quote but also included that: ‘they recognized the possibility of mineral such as he showed them and guided by him, they found and located the sulphide bodies at Flin Flon lake’.

For what it is worth, an article currently in Wikipedia on Hudbay Minerals says: ’the Flin Flon ore body was discovered by David Collins, a local trapper, and shown to tom Creighton, a prospector, in 1914’.

And on another small point of contention in footnote #37 Donaldson quotes The Pas Herald and Mining News October 22, 1915 that the Flin Flon discovery was made in August 1915. Donaldson says this is ‘probably erroneous as it does not coincide with the sequence of events described elsewhere’.

The only version of the events in 1914 that seriously challenges the Collins - Creighton story is the one told by Tom Dobson in a Reminder editorial February 24, 1982 two years after the Dodds letter to Ted McKonka.  Dobson’s article was based upon a letter from George Thompson a local prospector and he got this version from an even older trapper by the name of A.S. Davenport who had a cabin on Wekach Lake at the time of the discovery. 

Davenport said in 1914 Creighton was staying with him when two other prospectors Hughie Smith and Frank Barker arrived.  They had been looking at a base metal outcropping on ‘Flag’ pole Lake.  They didn’t stake a claim because they went off to enlist in the army. 

According to Davenport, Collins did show Creighton a copper find he’d made on Kisseynew. This is what Davenport said Collins told him, and what Collins told Davenport’s brother Hall and sister Rose was that he showed Creighton a ‘high grade’ copper stringer’ not far from the Flin Flon copper showing’. Collins supposedly also told Davenport ’he felt it would not have been difficult for Creighton to have explored the area and find where Smith and Barker had done their digging'.

I have several problems with this version; the main one is the simple fact that Creighton gave credit to Collins and as far as I know never mentioned Smith and Barker. According to this version Collins didn’t do anything for Creighton but was upset that Creighton didn’t give him a bag of flour!

I guess there is nothing to say this story isn’t true - at least in so far as Smith and Barker’s claim that they saw the Flin Flon site could be true, but if they didn’t value their discovery and went off to war without even taking Creighton to see it? Collins says he took Creighton to show him what he thought might be of interest.  So he should be regarded as the true discoverer or at least held in the same high esteem as Creighton.

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