1874 – 1943
Harry Oakes was born in Sangerville, Maine on December 23rd 1874. Harry was well educated. He attended Foxcroft Academy, Bowdoin College and Syracuse Medical School.
In 1896, when he was 22 years old, Harry left medical school to take up the career of prospector in Klondike, Yukon.
In 1912, Harry Oakes became a very rich man with the discovery of an iron ore mine near Kirkland Lake. This mine was developed by Mr. Oakes and three brothers, Tom Tough, George Tough and Jack Tough. This mine became known as the Tough-Oakes Mine which was rich with iron ore.
Harry Oakes continued to prospect by himself. In the latter part of 1912, Oakes discovered a gold mine known as Lake Shore Mines near Kirkland Lake. This became the second largest gold mine in North America
By 1921, Harry Oakes was a multi-millionaire.
In 1924, Harry and his wife Eunice moved to Niagara Falls.
In 1928, Harry Oakes built a mansion for himself and his family on the top of Clark Hill over looking Dufferin Islands. The cost of this home exceeded $500,000. The home was formerly owned by Paul Schoellkopf, president of the Niagara Falls Power Company. Mr. Oakes rebuilt this estate house to include 35 rooms, 17 bathrooms and air conditioning throughout. The 20 acre estate included a swimming pool and a five hole golf course. Harry Oakes named his estate Oak Hall.
Sir Harry Oakes was a tenacious, brilliant and generous man. Throughout his life he gave generously to the communities in which he and his family lived.
Harry Oakes created many jobs by restoring the original Portage Road. This section of Portage Road had been closed and re-routed to accommodate the building of the Canadian Southern Railroad. The section of Portage Road that paralleled the existing railway tracks was rebuilt. The road located at the top of the moraine was named Oakes Drive in tribute to Harry Oakes. Workers were paid two dollars for half a days work.
In September of 1930, Mr. Oakes deeded 16 acres of farm land at the corner of Stanley Avenue and Morrison Street for an athletic field. This park was named Oakes Park and opened for public use in 1931. Oakes Park is still in public use today.
Harry Oakes is best known for his contribution of Oakes Garden Theater to the Niagara Parks Commission. This is the property on the corner of Clifton Hill and River Road is where the former Clifton Hotel was situated.
Oakes Garden Theatre was opened to the public on September 18th 1937.
In 1934, Harry Oakes was named the ninth member of the Niagara Parks Commission. Harry Oakes and his family had lived in Niagara Falls for a ten year period extending from 1924 to 1934.
In 1934, Harry Oakes and his family moved to the Bahamas in an attempt to escape the massive Canadian taxes that the ruling Conservative Government had levied against him. The government wanted 85% of Oakes’ immense wealth in taxes and was taxing his mine so extensively that it amounted to as much as 25% of the gold mined at Lake Shore Mines.
Harry Oakes had become the richest man in Canada and one of the richest in the world. He was paying over $3 million dollars in taxes per year.
On June 8th 1939, Harry Oakes was granted the title of a baronet of the United Kingdom by King George VI in his list of birthday honors. Harry Oakes became known as Sir Harry Oakes.
Shortly before midnight Wednesday July 7th 1943, Sir Harry Oakes, aged 69 years old, was murdered at his Nassau estate in the Bahamas where he was living.
At the time of Sir Harry Oakes murder, his wife Eunice and their three sons were at the family residence in Bar Harbor, Maine. His eighteen year old newly married daughter: Nancy was spending the summer in Vermont while her husband Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny remained in Nassau. Shirley was away as well.
Harry Oakes had been struck in the head with an object that had pierced his skull in four places. His body was then placed on a bed, soaked with gasoline and set ablaze. A severe storm saved the Oakes estate home from being completed destroyed by the fire by putting it out before it could spread.
Harold Christie, a family friend was an overnight guest at the Oakes home on the night Sir Harry was killed. Mr. Christie discovered the lifeless and partially burned body of Sir Harry Oakes the next morning. Christie claimed not to have heard or seen anything and he was not considered a suspect.
Within two days of the arrival of two of London’s top detectives, Captain Melchen and Captain Barker, Oakes’ son-in-law, Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny, was arrested. Following a police investigation, Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny was charged with the murder of Sir Harry Oakes. Although, at the subsequent trail, he was acquitted of the charge.
Within two hours of being sent out, the jury returned their verdict that acquitted Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny by a majority.
Although debatable, the person responsible for his killing Sir Harry Oakes were never apprehended and thus, his death remains a mystery.
The death of Sir Harry Oakes has been the subject of much speculation over the years. A number of books, a movie and a mini series were made about his life and unsolved murder. Many unsubstantiated theories have been penned about Oakes murder including a connection to organized crime. His mysterious death to this date still provokes much interest and debate.
In 1946, the value of Sir Harry Oakes estate was $10,080,000 million dollars. This did not include the Lake Shore Gold Mine and any other real estate holdings.
Income from the Lake Shore Gold Mine from 1924 to 1943 after taxes amounted to $34,713,500 dollars.
In 1954, the City of Niagara Falls used the land at Poplar Park for the site of the present Greater Niagara General Hospital.
In 1959, the Niagara Parks Commission purchased Oak Hall and The Niagara Parks Commission administration offices and archives presently occupy this building.