Horatio Barber and his Cobalt Co-Stars Browne and Moore

Horatio Barber and his Cobalt Co-Stars Browne and Moore

While researching Horatio Claude Barber, we uncovered several interesting stories related to his associates. This is the first in a series that features the people who played a supporting role in his Canadian career as a stockbroker in Cobalt and Larder Lake.

Cobalt Co-Stars Browne and Moore

Barber’s company, the Cobalt Open Call Mining Exchange opened in April, 1906. He was a director along with R.H.C. Browne; C. H. Moore of Cobalt and J.H.  Hunter of Cincinnati were charter members of the exchange.

Magistrate and publisher R H C Browne on the left with Imperial Bank manager F H Marsh, ca 1907

We don’t know too much about Robert H.C. Browne. He was the first editor and owner of the Cobalt Nugget as well as a life insurance agent. Perhaps most significantly, considering the “shady” nature of Barber’s projects, Browne was the police magistrate. He was also a mining.[1] man and was one of the first to use a diamond drill rig in Cobalt, a relatively new and expensive exploration tool.

In 1919, he was hospitalized for a self-inflicted axe wound. He had been out prospecting in the bush near Matachewan, Ontario. He was fifty-five at the time.[2]  We have been unable to trace him prior to his career in Cobalt, or after 1919.

Argentite Street looking north – Browne’s office of the Cobalt Nugget is on the left. The large building in the centre with the Scotch Woolen sign is where Barber had his exchange.

Clifton Henry Moore is a name that is better known to Cobalt historians: “Cliff” Moore was a businessman and druggist.  He arrived to Cobalt in 1906 and owned several enterprises in town including a drug store and restaurant. He also owned the Cobalt Mess at 77 Cobalt Street. This building served the dual purpose of being his home base when he was in town, as well as a meeting place for his visiting colleagues and dignitaries.

Later in 1906, when J. H. Hunter built his commercial building in The Square, Moore moved his drug store to this site, known as the Hunter Block.

Click on the gallery of photos here for detailed descriptions.

Moore also made money by investing in mine exploration. He “grubstaked” numerous prospectors in Northern Ontario, including the gold fields in Porcupine. He was there in 1911 when the devastating fire tore through the region. He ran the King George Hotel at the time of the fire,[3] , and in 1912, he had a real estate office in the newly rebuilt hotel. He was 55 at the time of his death, in his home in Cobalt.

J.H. Hunter, the man who built the Hunter Block where Moore had his drug store will be featured next. His story deserves a post of its own.

[1] Bureau of Mines Report for 1906, pg 31

[2] Brandon Daily Sun, October 14, 1919

[3] Maclean’s “The Fire that Wiped out Porcupine”, February 1, 1954

***   ***   ***

Terry Grace from Amesbury and Maggie Wilson from Cobalt, in Northern Ontario have written a lively “warts and all” account of this most exceptional man, following him as he traveled extensively across the world. This illustrated book is for those with an interest in Northern Ontario heritage or aviation history in the UK.

AIRY SOMETHINGS: The Extraordinary Life of the Aviation Pioneer Horatio Barber by Terry Grace and Maggie Wilson. Available online and at local booksellers.

18 thoughts on “Horatio Barber and his Cobalt Co-Stars Browne and Moore

  1. Reblogged this on Maggie Wilson Author and commented:

    Life is ticking along, more or less normally for this introvert. Who is doing what she normally does in remote Northern Ontario where time is spent at a social distance from just about everyone. It’s status quo. Except for the Sword of Damocles pointed at each and every one of us around the globe. So, with a healthy dose of denial, I hereby present to you, today’s blog post from my other site, Horatio Claude Barber.

  2. Fun to learn about the other characters (and they sound like characters) plus get a little insight into the research you conducted. Great job, Maggie! I appreciate the captions.

  3. The fact that none of this has the faintest relation to me or mine or even my country and yet is totally fascinating says a great deal, Maggie ! 🙂

  4. Your move to Cobalt has unleashed an impressive researcher and historian. Or were you this fired up in S. Ontario and I missed it? Great to see these characters brought back to life through your efforts, Maggie.

    1. Hi Susanne. Thank you for your compliments. Here’s what has fired me up since moving North: a combination of retirement, five months of winter, highspeed internet and the fascinating Cobalt story that has plenty of chapters to be uncovered. This Horatio Barber project was particularly fun to write because of my partnership with Terry Grace. Our combined curiosity and fascination with the man kept us motivated to get the story told.

    1. Hi Janis – thanks for reading and commenting – you hit the nail on the head about the satisfaction of solving the mystery – clues are out there, and some are in plain sight. You just need a magnifying glass. 🙂

      The only building that still stands today is the Imperial Bank building – after several renovations it is now the red brick structure at the corner of Lang and Argentite. The Cobalt Mess, I assume was demolished. The Hunter Block burned in a fire in 1926 and the early buildings on the road to Haileybury were wiped out in the terrible fire of 1909.

  5. It really is fascinating how these characters developed remote areas. Aren’t there always those little side stories you wish you could include in the book?

    1. And some of those stories could lead to books of their own, or at least lengthy blog posts! It takes supreme discipline to stay on topic as you research! But the lure of the “treasure hunt” is irresistible some days! Thanks for reading, Eilene. 🙂

  6. The names of these men and the photos of them look like they could be straight out of Central Casting in Hollywood. Such a different way to live.

    1. It’s true, isn’t it. Another historian friend up here is writing a book and he proposes that the reason the town looks so much like a Hollywood Western is that the area was basically populated with miners who migrated here from mine camps in the US. They built what was quick and cheap and functional – nothing permanent.

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