Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Milton Thomas Culbert at the Royal Ontario Museum

 On 29 May 2021, I posted a biography of Milton Thomas Culbert,
"one of the cleverest men that the Canadian mining industry has ever known." Click here if you missed it. 

Milton Thomas Culbert (1880-1911)

Since then, I've been in touch with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Katherine Dunnell, a Minerology & Geology Technician at the ROM, informs me that the Royal Ontario Museum has 49 mineral samples from the collection of Milton Thomas Culbert

Two of those samples are on display at the Royal Ontario Museum.



You can see these two mineral samples for yourself at the Royal Ontario Museum in the Teck Suite of Galleries: Earth's Treasures in their Department of Natural History: Minerals & Gems on Level 2. 

The ROM is temporarily closed because of the pandemic but when it is safe to do so, they will reopen.

Katherine Dunnell sent me the full list of mineral samples donated by Milton Thomas Culbert. Click on the lists to enlarge them...

If you go:

Royal Ontario Museum

100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 

Phone: (416) 586-8000



Monday, 14 June 2021

Seeking Letters and Photos from WWII

Do you have letters, stories and/or photos of your World War Two relatives that you'd like to share? If so, Juno-nominated singer and fiddler, Miranda Mulholland along with the National Arts Centre would like to hear from you.

They plan to create a filmed theatre and radio piece in the style of a 1930s radio play with readings and music featuring Canadian actors and musicians, to be broadcast on Remembrance Day, 2021. For more details, click here.

Submit your photos, transcripts or PDFs to until July 31, 2021.

They might be interested in this letter written by Sergeant Ivan Hector Culbert, describing the Normandy Invasion.

While you're looking for those letters and photos from the Second World War, please let me know if you'd like to publish them on the Culbert Family History blog, as well. Many descendants of John Culbert & Mary Ward served during WWII, and we'd love to see those photographs of your relatives.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

The Real Housewives of Lucan

On this day in Lucan, Ontario, 54 years ago....


Source: Exeter Times-Advocate, 8 June 1967, page 14.

The newspaper gave no further explanation.

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Milton Thomas Culbert (1880-1911)

141 years ago today, Milton Thomas Culbert was born in Granton, Ontario, Canada; a small community in Biddulph Township about 10 km (7 miles) east of Lucan. Milton Thomas Culbert has been described as "one of the cleverest men that the Canadian mining industry has ever known."

Milton Thomas Culbert, geologist and mining engineer. Photo courtesy of the late Robert Milton Culbert.

Milton Thomas Culbert was a graduate in Mining Engineering from the University of Toronto. He was well on his way to a brilliant career as the manager of the O’Brien silver mine at Cobalt, Ontario when his life was cut short at age 30. He died in 1911 from post-appendectomy septicaemia, in the days before antibiotics.

Born 29 May 1880, Milton was the son of Thomas Culbert and Letitia Dempster. You’ll recall Milton’s father from this previous post.

Milton Thomas Culbert's parents, Thomas Culbert and Letitia Dempster. Photo courtesy of Jane (Gras) Heigis.

Milton was a bright young man but his high school days were short-lived. For three years, he attended London Collegiate Institute where “he excelled at playing hookey rather than hockey, with much of his truant hours spent reading in the public library.”

One day, Milton was reprimanded for some misdemeanor by his teacher. Tempers flared and there was a kerfuffle. Milton seized an old wicker chair and brought it down with such force that the teacher’s head went through the seat!

Following Milton’s exit from the hallowed halls of London Collegiate, he drifted out to the foothills of the Rockies. The following summer his wanderings took him to Parry Sound, Ontario, and after visiting a few mines there, he developed a deep interest in mining. He went on to study at the School of Practical Science at the University of Toronto. Milton graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in 1902.

Milton Thomas Culbert's graduation photo from University of Toronto, 1902. Photo courtesy of Michael Gordon Dunsmore Culbert.

Milton's alma mater.

For a period of time, Milton lived at 226 McCaul Street, a short walking distance from the U of T campus. I’m assuming that it was a boarding house for students and young people starting out in the world. I found his name listed at that address in the 1904 edition of The Journal of the Canadian Mining Institute, v.7...

226 McCaul Street (the left side of the two houses) in Toronto. Milton Thomas Culbert lived here about 100 years ago during his University of Toronto days.

Following graduation, Milton worked on a number of projects with the university, and travelled throughout Canada and the United States. In the spring of 1905, he met Michael John O’Brien; one of Canada’s richest men, and the owner of the O’Brien silver mine in Cobalt, Ontario. Recognizing Milton’s talent and ambition, M.J. O’Brien hired Milton as the manager of the O’Brien silver mine. Not only were Milton and M.J. O’Brien colleagues, they soon became friends.

M.J. O'Brien, one of Canada's wealthiest men, and owner of the O'Brien mine in Cobalt. In addition, he founded the town of Renfrew, Ontario, and he was named to Canada's Senate in 1918. M.J. O'Brien hired Milton Thomas Culbert as manager of the O'Brien mine and the two men became friends.

M. J. O’Brien was also known for financing the National Hockey Association (NHA), founded by his son, Ambrose O’Brien. The NHA later became the NHL (National Hockey League).

By the time that Milton Culbert arrived in Cobalt, the town was on its way to becoming the boomtown of Canada’s northeast, thanks to its generous silver deposits.  

Cobalt’s train station in 1906: a hub of activity. Source: Library and Archives Canada, PA 59591. 

As manager of the O’Brien Mine, Milton had his hands full. As well as operating the mine, Milton built an electric power house, storehouses, dwellings for the workers’ families, and a dormitory for sleeping 150 men. Altogether, his work force totaled 220. He also built “the best cookhouse in the whole Cobalt mining area.

Speaking of the cookhouse, on June 7th, 1907, Milton wrote:

“I have a hot-headed Irish cook here, and he ran amok last night. He grabbed me by the neck and I punched him. If we had not been separated, we would have been into a real battle. He was a good kitchen manager, and I had no previous trouble with him. But now he is gone, fired, and I have more trouble on my hands. These are some of the things I have to contend with daily.”

Although he was very busy in the day-to-day operations of the mine, Milton found time for friendship. As well as the camaraderie of his friend and colleague, M.J. O’Brien, Milt was close friends with the physician and poet, Dr. William Henry Drummond. Drummond was famous for his book, The Habitant and Other French-Canadian Poems. Drummond was also the vice-president of the Drummond Silver Mine in Cobalt. The two mining magnates visited back and forth, at which times Drummond would entertain Milton with recitations of his poems. Milton enjoyed Christmas dinner of 1906 with Drummond at the Drummond Mine. Milton wrote, “We had a glorious little party.” Tragically, Drummond died just a few months later of a cerebral hemorrhage on 6 April 1907. It’s been said that probably no other Canadian poet has been so widely mourned. Milton had lost a dear friend.

Dr. William Henry Drummond, a close friend of Milton Thomas Culbert and "one of the most widely-read and loved poets" in Canada.

While living and working in the predominantly male environment, Milton longed for romance. He developed a long-distance courtship with Laura May Yeo of London, Ontario (1884-1973) the daughter of Richard Harvey Yeo and Elizabeth Rebecca Fish.

Laura May Yeo.

Milton and Laura had met as children, when Laura was a customer at Milton’s lemonade stand. In his occasional visits back home to London, Milton would have dates with Laura but she was playing it safe and acting non-committal. This was due in part to warnings from her friends that Milton was “a man-of-the-world college student, given to colourful exaggeration, and undoubtedly dishing out the same syrup to bevies of co-eds.”

While Milton Thomas Culbert was living in Cobalt, and Laura May Yeo was still living in London, they corresponded through handwritten letters. Their son, Milton Richard Culbert kept over 100 of his father’s love letters, and incorporated some of them in his autobiography, The Culbert Chronicles which he published in 1995. Unfortunately, Milton Richard Culbert edited out all of the “amorous language of the lovelorn young man, uttered in the typical Victorian style of the times.” Nonetheless, we can enjoy excerpts from the letters.


(I hope that Milton would forgive me, the blog author, for adding comments. It's just that he's trying so hard to impress his beloved.)

January 7, 1905.

I am giving a dance here on the fifteenth: Cobalt’s first ball. [The towns of] Haileybury and New Liskeard being close, there will be a good representation of the Fair Sex attending.

Blog author’s note: Was Milt trying to make Laura jealous?

January 24, 1906.

I have greater promise than most men of my age and I and my friends are laying plans for great things in commercial life.

Blog author’s note: Bonus points for cockiness.

February 9, 1906.

Of course, I will remain with Mr. O’Brien, but I am also acting as consulting engineer for the Temiskaming mine. I will make a big salary out of that also.

Blog author’s note: Flash that cash, Milt.

February 24, 1906.

(While Mr. O’Brien was visiting), “Now Culbert, we want you to get married, and we will build you a good house and furnish it for you.”

And build it, he did. Above is the O’Brien Mine manager’s house, built by mine owner, M.J. O’Brien for Milton Thomas Culbert. The log structure (at rear) originally had a large, open veranda on the front. At some later date after Milton no longer lived here, the veranda was closed in, as you can see. Photo courtesy of Michael Gordon Dunsmore Culbert.

More letters...

April 8, 1906.

The better classes of men are starting to arrive and the rougher elements are kept in restraint.

Blog author’s note: Nothing like “classing the joint up” to attract a lady’s attention.

May 13, 1906.

They are building a new theatre in Cobalt, so you can go to the opera here.

Blog author’s note: See previous comment.

October 4, 1906.

Why don’t you put a little love in your letters? Tell me you love me once in a while just to cheer me up.

Blog author’s note: Sounding a bit desperate, Milton.

The letter of October 4th was followed up a few days later on October 7th with this:

Stocks have risen greatly within the last month. I made over a thousand dollars on a small block of Nipissing I had in three weeks. Not bad is it, for a start? I can make myself rich in these propositions, I think.

Blog author’s note: When all else fails, show her the money.

Sometime in November, 1906, Milton must have boarded the train for London to visit Laura, and probably to see his parents, too. This was a distance of 401 miles (645 km), back when Canada’s automobile industry was in its infancy. Most people travelled at that time by horse and carriage or by train.

Distance in modern times from Cobalt to London.

The next letter reflects the fact that he spent some time in London with Laura during that visit.  

November 13, 1906.

I woke up this morning to find six inches of snow and the land in the grip of winter. The first thing I did was to buy a coonskin coat. When I left you on Sunday night, I was in an ecstasy of delight with your kisses fresh on my lips and the touch of your arms still lingering around my neck. I went home dreaming of you and went to sleep with a smile of content on my face.

Blog author’s note: !!!

Milton’s many missives to Laura must have swayed her decision to marry him, as Milton Thomas Culbert and Laura May Yeo wed on 19 June 1907 in London, Ontario. After a “rapturous honeymoon that took them by train to Montreal, thence by ship down the St. Lawrence and up the Saguenay rivers,” Milton swept his sweetheart off to their dream home in northern Ontario, a mile out of Cobalt.

One year later on 1 June 1908, Milton and Laura’s first and only child, Milton Richard Culbert was born.

Laura May (Yeo) Culbert with her son, Milton Richard Culbert, born 1 June 1908. Photo courtesy of Michael Gordon Dunsmore Culbert.

This photo was taken in 1909 at the O’Brien mine. It shows Milton and Laura’s baby son, Milton Richard Culbert in the arms of his nanny, Nessa McAuley. We think that is probably Milton Thomas Culbert and his wife, Laura standing with them. Notice that almost every tree has been chopped down for lumber or firewood. The halo over young Milton Richard’s head was drawn in by Milton Richard himself, later in life, much to his own amusement and ours. Photo courtesy of Michael Gordon Dunsmore Culbert.

Front of a postcard that Laura sent to Milton's mother, Letitia Culbert showing the O'Brien mine mill.
Postcard courtesy of Michael Gordon Dunsmore Culbert.

Sadly, less than four years after Milton and Laura were married, Milton Thomas Culbert died at age 30 from post-appendectomy septicaemia on 14 March 1911 at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. He left behind his widow and their two-year old son.

Milton's funeral was held from the home of his parents at 784 Wellington Street in London. It was attended by a large delegation of mining and municipal men from the Cobalt district, showing the esteem and honour in which Mr. Culbert was held.

Milton Thomas Culbert's funeral was held from 784 Wellington Street, London, Ontario; the home of his parents, Thomas Culbert & Letitia Dempster. Photo by Mary Jane Culbert, 2017.

Milton’s widow, Laura raised their son, Milton Richard Culbert in Toronto. Milton Richard Culbert went on to become a successful orthodontist who married Gwenyth Mary Somerville and had three sons: Captain Robert Milton Culbert, Peter Somerville Culbert, and Michael Gordon Dunsmore Culbert.

Milton Thomas Culbert’s widow, Laura (Yeo) Culbert died 1 November 1973, age 89. 

Milton is buried at London’s Woodland Cemetery in the adjoining lot to his parents, Thomas and Letitia Culbert who are buried in Section P, Lot 167 SE.

Milton Thomas Culbert's headstone in Woodland Cemetery, London, Ontario. Laura's name is not on the headstone so it's possible that she was buried somewhere else. Photo by Mary Jane Culbert.

Obituary. Source: Applied Science, Volume 4, November 1910-April 1911, published by the University of Toronto Engineering Society.



John Culbert & Mary Ward (grandparents)

Thomas Culbert & Letitia Dempster (parents)

Milton Thomas Culbert

Descendants (Children):

Milton Richard Culbert

UPDATE: (Updated on 16 June 2021). Click here to read about Milton Thomas Culbert's mineral samples at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.