Happy Valley, Greater Sudbury, Ontario
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Happy Valley is a ghost town in the city of Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. The community was first inhabited in 1906 by workers from the nearby mine at Garson. Not wanting to live in a state of dependency in the company town, they built this smaller town of humble shacks with narrow streets.
The area was originally given the name Spruce Valley for the trees which lined the streets. The trees created an almost branch-entwined tunnel along the roadway. The people of Spruce Valley built quite simple homes on narrow streets. The name of the town was eventually changed to Happy Valley after a gentleman named Happy Day (or Hap Day as he was referred to), who bought a large portion of the land in the valley. People would say that it was Hap's Valley, and eventually the name Spruce Valley was lost.
The settlement began when George Ruff made his home in the area. By 1911, Ruff was joined by two neighbours, Bill Chasty and Edgar Moore, who also purchased property in the area and began to build homes. The three families brought the population to approximately 15 residents.
The early residents were mainly farmers and mill-workers who worked at the sawmills by the lake. The children had to endure a three-mile walk every morning to the school (established in 1907) in Garson. It was a difficult walk in winter, with temperatures as low as -40 degrees and waist-deep snow. Sometimes the children were fortunate enough to be able to take a horse-drawn cutter to school.
In 1912 the Ruff family suffered the loss of their child. The family buried their child in a plot of land which would become the community cemetery. The Pioneer Ruff Cemetery still bears the Ruff name and remains in fair condition. Other than the mills and homes, there were no stores or a post office to be found. Residents had to travel to Falconbridge Township for amenities. In 1915, the E.J. Longyear company had discovered large ore samples during test drilling in the Falconbridge Township area. The area would not be further developed until 1928 but would play a vital role in Spruce Valley's future. By the mid-1920s, the population of Spruce Valley had risen to approximately 50 residents. In 1928, businessman Thayer Lindsley purchased the rights to the land previously drilled for ore during 1915. Lindsley's purchase would be the basis for founding Falconbridge Nickel Mines Limited. The mine then set about building a town to house the workers and named the town Falconbridge after the township in which it resided.
When Falconbridge Mine opened, mine management and supervisors lived in Falconbridge homes in case they were called to the mine for an emergency. Approximately a dozen mine workers settled for homes in Spruce Valley.
In 1930, the Garson Mine shut down, and the workers were transferred to the mines at Falconbridge. By then, Falconbridge Nickel Mines was removing 250 tonnes of ore a day. To process the ore, a smelting plant was constructed which began operating in 1932. It was also during 1932 that a school opened in Falconbridge which made the children's daily walk much shorter.
Due to temperature inversions, the smelter at Falconbridge created severe pollution problems in Happy Valley, as heavy sulfur emissions from the smelter would become trapped in the valley. The lush trees, which filled the valley, died. The valley farmers negotiated a deal with Falconbridge that it would not operate the smelter during times when the wind would blow fumes into the valley, but during the Second World War, Falconbridge used wartime exemptions as an opportunity to renege on the deal. The farmers initiated legal proceedings against Falconbridge, but their case was dismissed and they abandoned the area, though some mine workers continued to live in the town. By the late 1940s, Happy Valley had two dozen homes situated along the two main streets. Many residents began to develop chronic pulmonary problems, however, and a government investigation in the 1960s revealed that the area suffered from extreme heavy metal pollution. The town was eventually bought out by Falconbridge, which offered residents a choice of resettlement in the main Falconbridge township or a cash settlement; however, one resident continued to live in the town until the 1980s.
After the abandonment of the town site, Falconbridge demolished all structures in the area, and the former town site fell into the amalgamated township of Nickel Centre in 1973. On January 1, 2001, the Regional Municipality of Sudbury was dissolved into the single-tier City of Greater Sudbury. The area is fenced and off-limits to the public, although the mining company Glencore, the successor to Falconbridge Nickel Mines, continues to use the road from Falconbridge to the former Happy Valley site as a private access road to some of its mining properties. The area around the town remains heavily devastated by pollution.