Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 08.14.2015 | Filed under: Bancroft, Ontario, Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)


This is a great time of year in Bancroft. The woods are full of deep green, the lake is warm enough that it’s no longer only the dog who thinks swimming is a good idea, and… it’s our mineral show season.

SummerMorning, Bancroft, Ontario

The forest on the morning of the Club Show

Every summer, on the last Sunday of July we host the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Show, and the following Thursday marks the beginning of the four-day Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree.

Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Show

Our Club Show is focused – of course everyone is welcome to attend, yet it is a show for minerals and mineral collectors of all levels. You won’t find any gem trees or pewter miners glued to specimens. Local collectors and dealers come together for a great day, and it all goes by too quickly!

Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Show

End of morning setup at the Club Show.
Well-known Canadian collectors and dealers in this photograph include:
David K. Joyce (right, back to camera), Doug Wilson (in distance, black T-Shirt, as if starring in Monty Python’s How Not to Be Seen), George Thompson (centre, in white, holding a flat full of minerals, as he pretty much always is), Robert Beckett (to George’s left, on a critical early-morning mineral phone call), and Mark Stanley (left of centre, in blue, leaning on the table for support until his coffee kicks in). Somehow Frank and Wendy Melanson escaped a photo here, but as always they were instrumental in organizing, as always.

The Club Show includes exhibits of fine minerals on the show theme, and this year’s theme was “Apatite and Other Phosphates.” George Thompson put together a superb display of Yukon Phosphates from his collection, and since you may have seen a photograph of a similar display by George in my Rochester 2015 post (link below), I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the specimens up close this time. Many of you will know Canadian mineral photographer Michael Bainbridge. He of course takes excellent mineral photographs, has shot some of George’s collection, and he generously shared copies of the following photos for this post.

9.2cm wide

Bobdownsite, Rapid Creek, Yukon, Canada – 9.2 cm
George Thompson collection. Michael Bainbridge photo.


Vivianite, Big Fish River, Yukon, Canada – 7 cm
George Thompson collection. Michael Bainbridge photo.

8.3cm wide

Augelite, Rapid Creek, Yukon, Canada – 8.3 cm
George Thompson collection. Michael Bainbridge photo.

4cm wide

Collinsite, Rapid Creek, Yukon, Canada – 4 cm
George Thompson collection. Michael Bainbridge photo.

4cm high

Gormanite, Rapid Creek, Yukon, Canada – 4 cm
George Thompson collection. Michael Bainbridge photo.

As life would have it, I put together a display of fluorapatite from my own collection – here’s a portion of that display case:


Fluorapatite, R. McDougall Collection. For sense of scale, the purple crystal from the Golconda is 2 cm.

The grand finale of the Club Show each year is the live auction. Long-time collector and Club member Mark Stanley is also a professional auctioneer, and when he’s at full auction speed, it is something to behold. He always delivers good laughs along the way.


The Club Show is only possible thanks to the dedication of the club members who volunteer to put it all together. We’re a small club and we’re all grateful for all efforts that have made this such a fine event. All proceeds from the show go to the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Mineral Museum (if you’d like to read more about the museum, there’s a link to a post on it, below). Next year will be our 20th already (!).

Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree

The Gemboree has been a mainstay in Bancroft for over 50 years. This is truly an old-school mineral show, with field trips to local mineral localities and everything from grab bags and minerals for kids, to typical commercial fare and also fine minerals. The indoor venues, the hockey arena and curling rink, might reinforce the notion that Canadians don’t like to spend time away from these facilities at any time of year.

Bancroft GemboreeA cold place in hockey season, but hot and humid on a warm Gemboree day.
(Safety netting ensures that no pucks will leave the Gemboree and injure the photographer.)

Frank Melanson Bancroft Gemboree

Frank Melanson with Canadian collector Gil Benoit.
Possibly explaining how he gets his mineral show T-Shirts to last more than a decade.

However, the outdoor venue is where you’ll find many of us. We spend a lot of time indoors when it’s cold and love being outdoors at the height of summer! The outdoor gig is a four-day tailgating affair.

Outdoors Bancroft Gemboree

Bancroft Gemboree, under the watch of the town water tower.

Among others, David K. Joyce, George Thompson and Rod Tyson are all at the outdoor venue. Of course the outdoor venue brings some challenges… hot sun, winds and even dust devils, and spread has to be fairly basic, since the set-up and tear-down is a daily routine (even more than once daily when it rains…) All a small price to pay for being out in the summertime with the sun and a good breeze!

TableMy goddaughter Zoe did both of the shows with me this year, which was good fun!

The Plague

It doesn’t matter where you are – indoors, outdoors, or Bancroft, Ste Marie, Springfield, New York or Tucson – one universal constant remains. Minerals are so cool that people want to touch them. Of course that’s good and I even actively encourage it, because I love it when people are blown away by the coolness of minerals! It’s so great to see when someone has that same moment that we, as collectors, have all had when we are struck by how amazing it is that these gorgeous crystal specimens are completely natural. And yet obviously I’m happier when people are reasonable and the handling is not of the most fragile things – naturally, that’s not so good! (careful serious collectors excepted, of course – except they’re the ones who know better and don’t stampede in to paw things in the first place!).

Really, it’s amazing, the total lack of self-awareness one observes. It’s the Plague of our era. So many people have no idea what they are doing, reaching for fragile mineral specimens they have no business handling.

Despite this sign, many people grabbed clumsily for these pieces!


Zoe suggested some new wording for this sign…


… but it could have said “Your Doom is Near!” (I might try that one next time) or really anything else, and few would have noticed. The unscientific lesson: signs are of minimal assistance, when faced with the Plague. Physical protective steps (like glass cases) are truly necessary to ensure specimens will be safe. I sometimes enjoy fantasizing about Wyle E. Coyote contraptions for the deserving – during the Gemboree, a large ACME anvil did spring to mind more than once.

Mineral Music

My next-door neighbour at these shows is my good friend and collecting partner, David K. Joyce, and he always has his guitar along. Usually during show hours he plays instrumentals, sometimes instrumental versions of our favourite mineral songs. Helps soothe the soul while I imagine anvils.

Dave is a great guitarist and banjo player too – the banjo is usually out at some point during Gemboree. He has a good sense of humour about banjos and the fact that they are not universally popular, so he has a banjo joke or two on hand, when he’s playing.

“If you drop a banjo and a set of bagpipes out of a plane, which one falls to the ground fastest?”
(Answer: “who cares?”)

“A guy goes into a restaurant for dinner and leaves his banjo locked in the car while he’s inside. When he returns after his meal, as he’s approaching the car he can see the window has been smashed in. He’s heartbroken that his prized banjo has been stolen. Arriving at the car, he looks inside to see a second banjo has been put on the seat with his.”


The outdoor area is where we typically see most local minerals. These days, not so many new fine Canadian mineral specimens are being found, but there are some, always fine Canadian minerals, including older specimens.

This year, George Thompson had some interesting titanite contact twins from near Tory Hill, collected in the early 1990s, and Rod Tyson had some excellent Yukon phosphate minerals. The titanite finds of Moncerf, Quebec, have produced some more very fine titanites. As always, since titanite is so brittle and crystal edges are thin, it is extremely hard to obtain undamaged specimens, and in this locality there is also a lot of contacting, which leaves many specimens with an incomplete look. The sharp, complete ones are nice.


Titanite with minor diopside, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada – 7 cm


Titanite with minor diopside, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada – 5.7 cm

We typically see a few specimens from the old silver mining camps of the Cobalt and Gowganda areas, and this year I was fortunate to find a super crystallized silver from Gowganda. Classic!


Silver, Castle Mine, Haultain Township, Gowganda area, Timiskaming District, Ontario, Canada – 9.2 cm

Every year at the Gemboree we see amethyst from Thunder Bay. Usually we see mostly lower-grade bulk material, and once in a while some finer specimens. Truly fine specimens remain hard to come by. I didn’t see any great ones on display with others this year, but Dave and I had some of the David and Ian Nicklin ones out, including a few remarkable large specimens.

Thunder Bay Amethyst

Quartz, var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario, Canada – 29 cm

Thunder Bay Amethyst

Quartz, var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario, Canada – 23 cm

Thunder Bay Amethyst

Quartz, var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario, Canada – 18 cm

To see the Nicklin amethysts from the Diamond Willow Mine, Thunder Bay District, click here. (And if you missed the article on Thunder Bay Amethyst this past May, and would like to take a look, it’s here.)


It’s thunderstorm season here and we had interesting afternoons on Saturday and Sunday. Each day, when the storms moved in, it was time to pack down.



Every once in a while, timing works out perfectly – on Sunday, five minutes after the last of flats were packed into the car, we drove home through a deluge.

Rain2Back out to the woods

Until next year… back to the world of minerals online, where no anvils are necessary.


Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Museum

Michael Bainbridge Photography

Bancroft Shows, 2014

David K. Joyce mineral songs: (if you don’t have a copy yet, they’re here)

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 11.25.2014 | Filed under: Adventurers, Bancroft, Ontario, Latest | Comments (0)


Bancroft, Ontario is well known among mineral collectors. For over 100 years, specimens from the “Bancroft Area*” have been added to collections around the world, gracing the display cases of museums and private collectors. Photographs of minerals from the Bancroft Area often feature in 20th century North American mineral literature. However, these days, so many of these minerals are classics and can be super hard to obtain – they are seldom available on the international market. Nonetheless, they can be field collected. Although some localities in the region will never produce again, Bancroft mineral collecting continues each year. Of course, finding amazing specimens usually requires tons of hard work and some good luck (knowledge helps too). We sure don’t always come home with awesome display pieces! But every year new great specimens are found in the Bancroft Area.

And fall is a beautiful time here… I thought you might like some glimpses of fall and recent mineral collecting in the Bancroft Area.

Fall colours

Fall colours, Bancroft Area, Ontario

(* For mineral collectors, the term “Bancroft Area” has been used informally and inconsistently over the years to refer to a broad region that extends in a radius of perhaps 50-100km from the town of Bancroft itself. The “Bancroft Area” has variously been considered to include parts of the Haliburton Highlands, Algonquin Highlands, Hastings Highlands and Madawaska Highlands, and I use it inclusively, as many of us do.)

North and Northwest of Bancroft

The regions to the north and northwest of Bancroft are stunning, but we have not seen too many spectacular mineral finds here in recent years. To the further northwest lies Algonquin Park, which is an amazing place (it’s also huge, at 7,653 sq km). It is not a mineral collecting area, but just to deviate from the minerals for a short moment, if you are a first time visitor to this part of Ontario, a drive through the park (and a stop at the interpretive centre) provides great scenery and a super introduction to the wildlife native to the region.

Fall Blue Jay

Autumn Blue Jay

By fall, the mosquitoes and black flies are no longer an issue. However, part of the reason the bugs are gone is the cold – by fall, it can be pretty chilly in the mornings. On the bright side, the frost can be a nice compliment to the scenery.


Frosty scene near Lake Opeongo, Algonquin Park, Ontario

At times, some of the fall colours can be so bright that they appear almost unnatural. (If only our minerals were equally colourful!)


Lake of Two Rivers, Algonquin Park, Ontario

The intense colours also make for beautiful more intimate scenes.

OxtoungeRiverOxtongue River, near Algonquin Park, Ontario

And there are lots of great wild animals and birds throughout the larger “Bancroft Area” region.


Curious White-Tailed Deer

Ok, ok, now back to the minerals.

North Baptiste Lake Road

In the area north of Bancroft, and not as far as Algonquin Park, one spot that has produced interesting mineral specimens in very recent times is a forested locality known as the North Baptiste Lake Road occurrence (on private land, permission/arrangements are required). My collecting partner David Joyce and I did some scouting at this locality this year for a couple of days. We found many mineralized zones with scapolite crystals, pyroxene (augite/diopside) crystals, and minor titanite crystals, but they were all in tight seams with poor crystal development and did not yield fine specimens. The most intriguing find from this excursion was a cool molybdenite crystal.


Molybdenite, 3.5 cm blocky prismatic crystal from North Baptiste Lake Road, Hastings Highlands, Hastings Co., Ontario. D.K. Joyce collection and photo.

Out of interest, here are two specimens I acquired from the collector who inspired us to go scouting at this locality in the first place. These specimens were collected in 2013.

DiopsideDiopside with Scapolite, North Baptiste Lake Road, Hastings Highlands, Hastings Co., Ontario – 5.1 cm


Titanite (1.8 cm crystal) with Diopside and Scapolite, North Baptiste Lake Road, Hastings Highlands, Hastings Co., Ontario

Certainly an interesting and prospective area. However, time, hard work and knowledge must be supplemented with good luck too… maybe next time we’ll do a little better!

West of Bancroft

To the west of Bancroft, some of the area’s best localities continue to produce fine specimens and others are prospected in hopes of new finds.

Bear Lake*

[*Important Note: As of May 2016, the Bancroft Chamber of Commerce has sold the property on which the Bear Lake Diggings are situated. This property is now privately owned, and all collecting and visiting are absolutely prohibited by the new owners.]

One of the Bancroft Area’s most prolific localities from the 1980s through to 2015 was “Bear Lake”, also referred to as “the Bear Lake Diggings” and “Bear Lake Road”. For much of this time, the locality was operated on a permit basis for collecting by the public by the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce.

Bear Lake is a classic “calcite vein-dyke” occurrence that produced specimens of many minerals but it is best known for excellent lustrous brown titanite crystals (formerly named “sphene” – crystals can reach sizes over 20 cm), green to reddish fluorapatite crystals (in some cases Beak Lake fluorapatite has been faceted into beautiful green stones), very fine crystals of biotite, and the world’s finest crystals of ferri-fluoro-katophorite, for which Bear Lake is the type locality. (Note: ferri-fluoro-katophorite is a black amphibole, sometimes locally just called “hornblende”, but confirmed by electron microprobe analysis (Robert Martin and I did at McGill University) to be ferri-fluoro-katophorite. It has in the past been classified as fluor-magnesiokatophorite. (Tempting to offer editorial thoughts on amphibole nomenclature, but I digress… we’re all going to be tempted to revert to the incorrect “hornblende” pretty soon!) Some of the individual euhedral crystals at Bear Lake were huge: fluorapatite to 45 cm, biotite to 60 cm, orthoclase to 30 cm and ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals to 30 cm. However, the larger they are, usually the prettier they are not (!), and the fine mineral specimens are usually crystals under 10 cm.

I was out to Bear Lake a few times in 2014, but I confess with very limited success. I’ve been collecting at this locality since I was a kid, and have found many great things there over the years, but this year was more about scouting and test trenches – it did not yield much in the way of fine specimens. It was fun though!

Bear Lake 1

David Joyce as we commence digging on a vein-dyke with promising ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals at surface. Photo of final trench is near the end of this post.

After two days of major digging (by hand), we had exposed walls of sharp ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals up to about 10 cm. Unfortunately, even down to depths of about 2 metres from surface, the crystals were either frost-fractured or otherwise weathered/damaged, and so although it was a cool crystal cavity to see, it did not yield fine specimens.

Bear Lake 2

Ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals to 10 cm exposed on calcite vein-dyke wall after two days of excavation.


Herwig Pelckmans, about to start in on a Bear Lake vein dyke. This one ultimately produced a nice large cabinet specimen of sharply terminated biotite crystals.

Bear Lake was a fine example of a place where Mother Nature reclaims the forest incredibly quickly. Even though collectors had been digging trenches here since the 1960s, the forest is quite beautiful and the old workings are sometimes truly no longer apparent.

Of course, this meant that we had to be careful not to fall into any holes that had become obscured from view. But it also meant that there is one thing that all experienced Bear Lake collectors would dread. Nope, not the black bears that roam these woods. We would fear that after hours excavating a vein-dyke, we would find incontrovertible evidence that someone already excavated it years ago (and Mother Nature had reclaimed it just enough to mask that fact… and make look like a good fresh spot to dig…).

BearLake5Early-1980s Canadian 280 ml Coca-Cola can. Excavated in 2014.

I don’t want to leave Bear Lake without doing it at least a tiny bit of justice – even if this was a low year, this locality has produced some great specimens in the past – here is a glimpse of examples of Bear Lake minerals from prior years.


Biotite (doubly terminated, floater), Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 5.8 cm


Titanite, Orthoclase and frosty little tracks of Anatase, Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 5 cm

KatophoriteFerri-Fluoro-Katophorite, Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton County, Ontario – 6.8 cm

Desmont Mine Property

Not too far from Bear Lake, another locality is generating interest – this is the Desmont Mine property, near the town of Wilberforce. Originally explored for uranium mineralization in 1954-55, this property includes more than one area of test workings which expose interesting minerals for the collector. We had a great day for an outing – I was there with local collector and Canadian mineral photographer Michael Bainbridge, Bancroft collector and geologist Chris Fouts and collector Herwig Pelckmans, as we scouted various zones of the property.


Small adit at the Desmont Mine property (me for scale). H. Pelckmans photo.


Herwig Pelckmans and Michael Bainbridge at the Desmont Mine property

At the Desmont, there are many unusual minerals and although many do not form euhedral crystals, there are some: particularly intriguing diopside crystals (including chromian diopside), sharp molybdenite crystals (apparently crystals to several cm in diameter) and most of all the locality is known for small maroon stillwellite crystals (up to approximately 0.5 cm known so far). Granted, the stillwellites are not easy to find, but they are cool for the mineral.


Stillwellite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 0.3 cm crystal (Note hexagonal pinacoid face)

Well-known Canadian mineral photographer and collector Michael Bainbridge has had some good recent trips to the Desmont Mine, having found stillwellite crystals up to 1 cm, larger than previously reported for the property.

Stillwellite A

Stillwellite (0.6 cm crystal) with Diopside in Calcite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario. M. Bainbridge specimen and photo.

I had an additional interesting find at the Desmont this year – a beautiful, sharp, complete euhedral crystal of albite, variety peristerite, with as bright a schiller as I have ever seen in an Ontario peristerite. It’s small, but sweet!


Albite, variety Peristerite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 1.5 cm crystal

The Desmont Mine locality is open to the public on a permit collecting basis – permits are obtained at the offices of the Highlands East municipality in Wilberforce. This municipality is very progressive and actively working to help mineral collectors access and open more localities in the Wiberforce area, so stay tuned! (The municipality also now administers permit-collecting access to the recently re-opened Schickler fluorite occurrence, where reddish and greenish fluorapatite crystals occur in calcite associated with deep purple granular fluorite.) Seems like the Wilberforce area will be a good one to visit over the coming years.

Northeast of Bancroft


Elk, near Hartsmere, Ontario

Miller Property

One of the most famous classic Canadian localities is often referred to in the literature or on old mineral labels simply as “Lake Clear, Renfrew Co.” The Lake Clear area, northeast of Bancroft, is actually not a single locality, but rather it includes several famous old mineral localities, including Turner’s Island, the Smart Mine, the Meany Mine, and the “Lost Mine”. (Lake Clear is approximately 100km northeast of the town of Bancroft – not so close – and is often considered by mineral collectors to be part of the “Bancroft Area”. In part, this is because of the geological and mineralogical similarities with other Bancroft Area localities, all part of the Grenville Geological Province). In recent years, in the forests east of Lake Clear, the Miller Property – in the immediate vicinity of the Smart Mine and which in fact encompasses the deposit formerly known as the “Lost Mine” – has produced some truly excellent specimens. This is another calcite vein-dyke locality, and this one is particularly known for the classic large red-brown fluorapatite crystals and excellent titanite crystals. Large augite crystals, orthoclase-microcline crystals and biotite crystals have also been found. Very rarely in the past this property also produced nice zircon crystals.

This year the Miller Property was the destination for a well-attended club field trip by the Walker Mineralogical Club and the Kawartha Mineral Club. A small group of us opened up a good vein dyke containing a large number of fluorapatite crystals.


Prominent Canadian collector Bob Beckett moved a lot of ground as we worked together at the fluorapatite trench. He did a good job hiding his disappointment we weren’t finding more biotite crystals.

Lake Clear4

As is often the case, we got very dirty excavating the fluorapatite crystals. This vein-dyke was narrow and tough to collect. R. Beckett photo.

The large complete crystal from this trench is now in the collection of Herwig Pelckmans. He parked his car beside the crystal for scale before taking this photograph.


Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario.

H. Pelckmans specimen, photo and car.

Lake Clear 2Partially excavated calcite vein dyke containing fluorapatite crystals. The large crystal here is the same one in the photo above, now in Herwig’s collection. It is 25.5 cm long. Note the crystals on the hanging wall. Most were attached and could not be collected (they shatter).

Many of the crystals in this trench were not so sharp and lots were frost-damaged, but there were some nice ones too. This one is quite typical for Lake Clear fluorapatite, if perhaps a little more pinkish than usual:


Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Twp., Renfrew Co., Ontario – 6.3 cm

Keith Miller, this property’s owner, is as generous and gracious about mineral collecting as I have ever seen – for club trips, he has opened the property up, including with heavy equipment, and the fees he collects per person are then donated to a local children’s hospital. Please note that one must absolutely not go to this locality (any locality, for that matter) without proper arrangements. This may include the specifically organized field trips that are set up by mineral clubs from time to time. It would be tragic should anyone undermine the goodwill and kindness between the collecting community and this remarkable property owner. How rare it is in this day and age that we (collectors) are fortunate enough to be accommodated, with specimens from a classic locality being preserved like this!

Lake Clear1

Excavator at the Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario.

One particularly interesting note from the club trip at the Miller Property this year – in the same area where the calcite vein-dykes occur, a pegmatite was excavated. The pegmatite included a few euhedral microcline var. amazonite crystals up to over 10 cm. Given the nature of the hard-rock occurrence, I am not sure how many of these were successfully removed intact but some certainly were. This is very unusual – I believe these would be considered the best amazonite crystals ever found in the Bancroft Area. We’ll have to keep our ears open to learn what other collectors managed to find in the pegmatite excavation during the field trip.


Microcline var. Amazonite in situ, with Canadian “Toonie” coin (2.8 cm diameter) for scale. Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario. R. Beckett photo.

Here are a couple of specimens found at the Miller Property in recent years:


Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Twp., Renfrew Co., Ontario – 8.0 cm


Titanite with Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario – 5.1 cm

Bancroft Mineral Collecting, 2014

Although awesome mineral specimens continue to come from many different mineral localities in the Bancroft Area, my own 2014 experiences produced only a very few interesting specimens. The large fluorapatite we found at the Miller Property is a remarkable specimen and a true classic, and there were certainly other cool pieces here and there this year. And yet, quite often, all that hard work and knowledge still leaves you at the bottom of a big freshly-dug hole without anything brilliant for the display cabinet.


At the bottom of a two-day hole at Bear Lake, dug together with David Joyce. No collection-worthy specimens from this effort. And no help from an excavator. Emery (at upper left) supervised.
D.K. Joyce photo.

So, this was not a year full of endless spectacular specimens, and I appreciate what we did manage to find. In any event, my excursions this year could not have been better for scenery, wildlife and good times with good friends.

It’s always worth going out in the woods, and you never know what lies around the next corner.


White-Tailed Deer – Doe and Fawn


Ice Crystals on Wild Strawberry Leaf


Chipmunk, Collecting Food for the Winter


White-Tailed Deer – Fawn


Bay Lake, Faraday Township


Thank you to Keith Miller, for graciously making the Miller Property accessible to the mineral collecting community, and also to the folks at Highlands East, who are working hard to bring more properties in the Wilberforce area online for collectors. And thanks to the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce for all that is done to keep Bear Lake open and accessible to all. I am grateful to Joe Neuhold for all that he does for the elk and the deer in the Hartsmere area. Thanks to Michael Bainbridge and Bob Beckett for the great photos, and thanks to both of you and Herwig Pelckmans for great times out in the woods this year. Huge thanks to my long-time collecting partner David Joyce, for all the fun and collaboration on our many collecting adventures (also the moly photo).

About the Minerals Photographed in this Post

Except as otherwise attributed, the minerals photographed in this post are included here because I love sharing them, not for sale. (Some of the ones that I personally collected are my children…)

About the Website

If you have landed on this post without having explored our website, please have fun looking around – there are tons of photographs of minerals from all over the world that are available for purchase (you can surf through by using the “Browse” options (click here , and you’ll see the Browse options at left). Other blog articles are under the tabs Adventurers and What’s New Blog (you may wish to scroll a bit to explore within the What’s New Blog, as all of the weekly specimen updates are under this tab too).

If you are interested in more information relating specifically to Bancroft, Ontario and minerals, have a look – there is a post about the Bancroft Mineral Museum (the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Museum) and also one about our annual Bancroft Mineral Shows. A brief more general introduction to Bancroft is under About Bancroft.

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.23.2014 | Filed under: Bancroft, Ontario, Latest | Comments (0)


When you arrive in the town of Bancroft, Ontario, it’s easy to find Tim Horton’s and McDonalds, but the area’s world-famous mineral riches are not so obvious.

In fact, in recent years it has been hard to find local minerals on display. The good news is that we have a great new display. The new Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Mineral Museum (the Bancroft Mineral Museum) is open. When you come to Bancroft and want to see and learn about local minerals, this is where to start!

Historic Bancroft Train Station

Historically, during settlement days, the Bancroft region was primarily logging country (as it still is, in part, to this day) and it was served by the Central Ontario Railway. The land is rugged and the good direct highways did not come until much later! At the heart of Bancroft, the old train station sits above the banks of the York River. Constructed in 1899, the first train arrived in November 1900.


Arriving at Bancroft Station, 1914 (R. Plumley Collection)


Leaving Bancroft Station (undated, North Hastings Heritage Museum Collection)

As is common among many of Ontario’s smaller communities, the railway ceased to operate, and the tracks are long gone, but the train station building remains. By the 1990s, the town’s railway station hosted the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce, a small addition/room dedicated to displaying the mineral collection of the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club collection, and a fine local art gallery.


Bancroft Station, 1970s (Drawing by R. Perkins, 1978)

Sadly, the train station building fell into disrepair and was condemned. As a result, all were compelled to vacate the premises and there was serious doubt as to whether it would be saved. Saving the train station would be too expensive for the Town of Bancroft to fund. For a few years, the train station stood empty and on the verge of demolition.

This story does have a happy ending. Through community fundraising and hundreds of hours of volunteer work, the Bancroft Train Station has been saved and restored.

It was no small effort, saving the Train Station! Among other difficulties, the Train Station needed an entirely new foundation, as dry-rot affected the base of the structure. Needless to say, it’s a lot easier to put in a new foundation when you don’t have a building there already, in the way…


Bancroft Train Station, September 2011


Where would I rather sit at a desk, than under a 19th century train station suspended in the air? (Photo: F. Melanson)

The completed Train Station is beautiful!


Bancroft Station, July 2014

The New Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Mineral Museum

Members of the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club were instrumental in the Train Station project and the museum project, and part of the construction involved an addition at the southern end of the building, to house the Club’s new museum. The collection on display is the Club’s collection, built through the efforts, fundraising and ongoing contribution of the Club’s members. We’re a small club, but our members are active and contribute their time and efforts generously. If you are a member of the international mineral collecting community and reading this, you may very well know Frank and Wendy Melanson – they were fundamental to the Train Station project and the museum project – this could not have happened without them. Wendy Melanson is the curator of the Club’s collection.

The Mineral Displays

The museum’s regular displays, comprised mainly of the Club’s collection and some individually loaned specimens, features the minerals of the greater “Bancroft Area” (in this case, 150km radius of Bancroft). For mineral collectors, the term “Bancroft Area” has been used informally and inconsistently over the years to refer to a broad region that extends in a radius of perhaps 50-150km from the town of Bancroft itself. The “Bancroft Area” has variously been considered to include parts of the Haliburton Highlands, Algonquin Highlands and Madawaska Highlands. The mineral cabinets are organized by localities and districts within the Bancroft Area, to feature the mineral specimens in a way that is easy to see where they were found.

Inside the main entry, the central display case provides an overview, with a large map of the larger “Bancroft Area” featuring specimens from 90 Bancroft Area localities, all numbered so that it’s easy to see which specimens were found where.


The museum includes cases each dedicated to areas around the Bancroft Area, and some dedicated cases for major individual localities.

Museum2Bear Lake has produced fine and huge crystals. The large crystals here include fluorapatite, titanite and katophorite.


The Faraday/Madawaska Mine was Bancroft’s most famous locality – in its day, it produced fine specimens of many minerals – some huge ones here too.

Speaking of the Faraday Mine, of all the displays in the museum, one of my favourites is in the next photo. In the days before 3-D computer modelling of underground deposits and mines, one way of modelling deposits was the use of a wooden box frame, with plates of glass with hand-drawn graphics representing the workings and mineralization on each level.  This is the original such model from the Faraday Mine offices.


I am not going to spoil what is waiting for you here when you come to visit Bancroft. But here is a quick teaser from the multitude of specimens you can see in person when you come to the Museum. The collection contains some remarkable specimens, including some true Canadian classics from the Bancroft Area – if you want to see the fluorapatites, titanites and others, come! 

Zircon is one of the coolest minerals found in excellent specimens in the Bancroft Area. Here are two – the first is about as classic as a Canadian locality gets, and the other is an entirely obscure old mine from which specimens are rare.


Zircon, Miller Property, Lake Clear, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario – 11.2 cm, crystal is 6.0cm.  Collected by Mike Irwin.


Zircon, White Elephant Mine, near Wilberforce, Cardiff Township, Haliburton Co., Ontario – dark wine-coloured crystal, 2.0 cm.

The Silver Crater Mine has long been known as one of the world’s premier localities for good crystals of betafite. The betafite crystals occur in calcite, and owing to their nature, the calcite is usually very weak around them – good matrix specimens are very scarce.


Betafite in Calcite, Silver Crater Mine, Faraday Township, Hastings Co., Ontario – 6.2 cm, with crystals to 2.0 cm.

The Faraday Mine produced excellent specimens of many minerals. Although it is perhaps best known for the large complex calcite twins and also for radiating sprays of bright yellow uranophane crystals, other minerals of note include sharp clear datolite crystals and beautiful vivid green fluorite crystals.


Fluorite, Faraday (Madawaksa) Mine, Faraday Township, Hastings Co., Ontario – 2.6 cm. On loan from the collection of Wendy Melanson.

A bit further afield, to the south of Bancroft are the historic fluorite mines in the vicinity of the town of Madoc. These produced spectacular fluorite crystals and occasionally beautiful specimens of barite. If this piece looks familiar, it is photographed in the Ontario issue of the Mineralogical Record (Vol 13, No. 2 (1982), p. 89.


Barite on Pyrite-coated Fluorite, believed to be from the Bailey Mine, Madoc Township, Hastings Co., Ontario – 3.2 cm. On loan from the collection of Frank and Wendy Melanson.

Guest Exhibit Cases

The museum includes display cases for special guest exhibits, which will change over time. Right now we have two superb cases from Club members. We have Minerals of Ontario, from the collection of George Thompson, of Stirling, Ontario. George is a dedicated and talented field collector and many of the specimens were personally collected by him. This is an excellent display!


Sperrylite, Broken Hammer Deposit, Wisner Township, Sudbury District, Ontari0 – 4.0 cm, crystal 0.9 cm. George Thompson collection.


Calcite with Fluorite, Amherstburg Quarry, Malden Township, Essex Co., Ontario – 7.0 cm. George Thompson collection.

The second guest exhibit is Canadian Gemstones from the collection of Robert and Brenda Beckett, of Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ontario. Spectacular cut stones of minerals one does not normally see – amazing collection.


Fluorapatite from localities in the Bancroft Area, Robert and Brenda Beckett Collection

Cool Displays for All Ages

The Museum has a life-sized underground mining scene and a brand-new display of fluorescent minerals – these are neat for everyone (even those who just want to see if their clothes glow under ultraviolet lighting…)

And for those who love mining and history, there are great artifacts from Bancroft Area mines.

Museum Information

The Museum hours are Monday through Saturday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sunday 9:00 am – 2:00 pm.

The Museum welcomes visits by university groups, public school groups, clubs and other groups. If you would like to make arrangements, you can contact Wendy at 1-888-443-9999 or by e-mail at

The Club’s collection is growing and developing, and the special exhibits will change periodically, so you never know what will be new, next time you visit!