Although best known as one of Canada’s prominent mine financiers and developers, Donald Hogarth’s career includes a long list of achievements in politics, wartime military service, and other business interests. Crowning these accomplishments was the financing and development of Steep Rock Iron Mines near Atikokan, Ontario, a massive project that succeeded only through great feats of engineering, financial risk and resourcefulness.
Hogarth was born in Osceola, in Ontario’s Ottawa Valley. After completing high school, he tried his hand at various jobs before establishing a career in real estate. He enlisted in World War I as a private, went overseas as a captain, and was wounded in France in 1917. He ended the war as a Brigadier General and Canadian quartermaster, overseeing supply and transport activities for the war effort. He resigned in 1919 with the rank of Major General, after earning several medals for his wartime service.
After the war, Hogarth focused his efforts on the resources of the North: gold, iron, oil and lumber. He also played an important role in the political affairs of Ontario, beginning with his election in 1911 to the seat of Port Arthur. He was re elected four times, and afterward remained a powerful operator in the Conservative Party.
In the business arena, Hogarth helped finance and develop some of Canada’s most famous mines. Along with Joseph Errington, Colonel C.D.H. MacAlpine and Thayer Lindsley, he founded the Ventures organization in 1928. He was also one of the original financiers and directors of Little Long Lac, and its successful gold mine near Geraldton, Ontario. As a result of Lac’s success, six other producing gold mines were developed in that area, including MacLeod Cockshutt.
The financing and development of Steep Rock was unquestionably Hogarth’s greatest source of pride. He was associated with the company since its inception in 1938, and became president in 1942, following the death of Joseph Errington. He played the central role in obtaining essential sources of outside financing to support the project and persuading Canadian National Railways to extend spurs to the mine and construct new dock facilities at the Lakehead. He convinced the government that Steep Rock was an essential wartime industry, and promoted plans for draining Steep Rock Lake, diverting the Seine River and removing about 100 ft. of overburden before opening the pit. It was only when these critical arrangements were completed that Steep Rock was able to progress as an economically viable operation.
“Right from his first involvement with Steep Rock, Hogarth was the dominant personality in the project,” wrote Bruce Taylor in his book Steep Rock: The Men and the Mines. “In spite of being in poor health in his later years, he was the driving force behind the Steep Rock project, and even at times from a hospital bed he dealt stubbornly and successfully with problem after problem. He took considerable pride in the Steep Rock development, considering it his most memorable achievement, perhaps because he had been told that it could not be done. `The greatest day of my life,’ he said, `was the day the first shipment of ore from the Errington open pit started down the track to the ore docks.’”