From England, Terry Grace
I first became aware and then interested in Horatio Barber whilst attending a guided walk around the Lark Hill airfield site led by Mr. Ted Mustard and Tim Brown, author of the excellent book Flying with the Larks. Based on their enthusiasm for the man, it was obvious that Horatio Barber was a hero, and this pair’s eagerness to share his story, piqued my interest. The tour actually started at what is believed to be the site of Horatio Barber’s aeroplane shed, a thirty-foot concrete plinth said to be the base of the shed doors.
An aviation display in the George Hotel, Amesbury, contained more information about Barber that had been collected by Mr. Norman Parker. Some time later, I became a volunteer at the Amesbury History Centre, to where the aviation display had been moved and where Norman is also a volunteer. My interest in Barber now rekindled, I was able to discuss the pioneer aviator with Norman and in greater detail, and I am grateful to him for that.
Although Barber’s aviation achievements are fairly well documented in the early aeronautical publications of the era, especially Flight magazine, there was little known of his life prior to 1909 when he first appeared at Larkhill. Norman’s account contains a brief sentence suggesting that Barber made a fortune in Canada, possibly in the mining industry, but no more detail than that.
At first, simply to satisfy my own curiosity, I began to research Barber’s time before 1909. After discovering that Barber had made his fortune in Canada, my wife Alison and I travelled to Cobalt to discover more. Whilst in Northern Ontario, we were very fortunate to meet up with Maggie Wilson, the chair of the Cobalt Historical Society (CHS). I told her what I had discovered about Barber’s time in Cobalt and Larder Lake, and when further snippets of information started to emerge, she became interested in the subject and her enthusiasm was soon to match my own. She started researching documents in the CHS library as well as online newspaper archives. When we returned home, Maggie and I began our correspondence. This co-operation has continued, with literally hundreds of emails crossing the Atlantic on this subject, and I am indeed indebted and most grateful for her encouragement, enthusiasm and assistance.
Terry Grace was born and lives in Wiltshire. England. Since taking early retirement from the Ministry of Defence, Terry has run a small Bed and Breakfast establishment in Amesbury. He has always had an interest in aviation and especially in the history of the pioneering days.
He is a Trustee and volunteer of the Amesbury History Centre which is a charitable Trust.
From Canada – Maggie Wilson, co-author
Winters in Cobalt, Ontario, are long and cold. But I barely noticed last year since I was happily engaged in research into the life of Horatio Claude Barber. What a fascinating project this has been, and I am so pleased that I have been able to help fill in some of the gaps in the man’s story.
When Terry first wrote to me, he asked, “Do you know about a man named Horatio Barber and his business The Cobalt Open Call Mining Exchange?” He also wanted to know more about how the aviation pioneer had made his money in mining in Canada. Being new to the area, I was not familiar with Barber, but knew I had seen references to the Open Call Exchange somewhere…
What follows is the product of our combined research. We will answer Terry’s questions, and fill in the missing details of how Barber came to Ontario, and set up shop as a stockbroker and mine consultant.
Maggie Wilson was born in Kitchener, and lived her working life in several communities in Southern Ontario. She met her husband, a geologist, who introduced her to rocks and minerals and the Town of Cobalt. In 2016 they retired to Cobalt and could not be happier with the decision.
In 2017, with the sudden loss of Vivian Hylands, Maggie accepted the position of President of the Cobalt Historical Society. So began her interest in the fascinating history of the area. Besides mineral collecting, Maggie enjoys research and writing, and she looks forward to sharing new stories about Cobalt and its mining heritage. The work is like a treasure hunt and the discoveries are just as exciting as stumbling upon a nugget of silver.