Chapter 4 (first part)
COFFIN’S MINING CLAIMS AND EXPENSES
Coffin’s mining claims
(My literal translation)
Wilbert Coffin had a camp in the York township, on the bank of a branch of the St-Jean River commonly called “the second fork”. The proof revealed that, in the immediate vicinity of the camp, the Coffin family and their familiars held diverse mining claims.
The second fork crosses ranges III, IV and V in York township, between lot numbers 40 to 55. It seems that in the spring of 1953, the following claims were in force:
Donald F. Coffin 44 IV
Wilbert Coffin 45 IV
J.F. Coffin 49 IV
Albert Coffin 50 IV
Donald H. Coffin 56 IV
Marion Petrie (under the
Name of Mrs. W.D. Coffin) ½ south of 46
and 47 III
What might have been the value of those claims, and in particular, those of Wilbert Coffin and of Marion Petrie?
All that is ascertainable about them had already been revealed in the Crown’s proof at Coffin’s trial. The defence has not deemed necessary to add to it and, before the Commission, nobody has suggested additional proof to the one that the Commission, through its own enquiry, had been able to obtain and render public. The Commission is therefore justified to base its conclusions on the analysis of the proof taken as a whole.
Thus, it appears, from the Angus MacDonald’s and William Hastie’s testimonies at the trial, that to interest Hastie in his story, Coffin showed him a letter from the Falconbridge Nickel Company purporting that a certain ore sample assayed 17% of copper, which is a high-grade content. Contrary to what Monsieur Jacques Hébert states at page 35 of his second book, the letter (which was not filed at the trial) was not addressed to Coffin and did not mention from what place the assayed ore sample came from.
However, Coffin assured Hastie that this assayed ore sample came from his claim and, relying on this assurance, Hastie set out to inspect the place.
It must be added that Angus MacDonald, in his turn, testified that he had sent to Falconbridge Nickel to be assayed an ore sample that Coffin had given him, and that he had received a reply, without however giving details. MacDonald, who has passed away, had added that Coffin had told him that this sample came from the area of the great fork of the St-Jean River, but he had not verified this information.
Since Coffin did not testify, this account of events has not been specified at the trial. However, before this Commission, the proof has shown that Coffin’s camp and the mining claims mentioned hereinabove were at the place where Hastie mentioned having been pointed to by Coffin on a map at the second fork of the St-Jean River as being the place of the would-be ore deposit.
However, it is here that the proof in the interest of those claims stops.
On the one hand, indeed, Hastie and his companion Kyle went to Coffin’s camp and, on the basis of the indications that Coffin had given them on a map, they examined for several hours the bed, almost totally uncovered, of the second fork of the St-Jean River, and found nothing.
In his affidavit sent to the Department of Justice on the 9th of October of 1955, Coffin explains, at paragraph 34:
“The Crown lawyers suggested there was something suspicious about the failure of Mr. Hastey from Val d’Or to find ore resembling or similar to the specimen I had shown to him. He would have found the ore if I had been able to go in with him but I was unable to go with him due to the fact that the police requested me to assist them in the search for the missing American tourists. Mr. Hastey could not have understood the map I gave him or else the map was not sufficient for his purposes.”
One may reasonably believe that Hastie and Kyle must have carried their research seriously since they had made a special trip for this purpose from Val-d’Or to Gaspé.
On the other hand, about those mining claims, Monsieur Jacques Hébert asserts, at page 122 of his second book, that Coffin “kept interested in them until his last breath, certain he had struck it rich”. Now all those claims expired since 1954. If Coffin or his familiars had wanted to maintain them, they could have done it easily. Coffin himself could have seen to it during his imprisonment, as Monsieur Jacques Hébert has obtained confirmation in examining the representative of the Department of Natural Resources, Monsieur Adélard Fortin:
“Q. Monsieur Fortin, someone who does not pay his due, as you mentioned, at the end of one year, he loses his right?
A. Yes sir.
Q. Does someone – how is it done, that payment? Does it have to be done directly or through intermediaries?
A. It can be done, either by depositing the required money, or by sending it in the mail by cheque, etc.
Q. But a prisoner, for example, he is allowed to continue doing business with your Department?
A. A prisoner?
Q. Yes, in a jail?
A. Through his lawyer, I don’t see why he could not do it.”
On the contrary, neither Coffin nor anyone else had seen to it and, since 1954, no claim had been registered in that area until the 18th and 19th of June 1964, when the Commission requested an investigation be made on this matter.
Rather, these different factors tend therefore to demonstrate that Coffin’s claims – of very small territorial importance – had not the sensational value that one would now give them, on the contrary. (to be continued)