Fortune's End: The Mysterious Murder of Sir Harry Oakes
The Good Life
Their hard work paid off: Oakes and the Tough brothers struck gold. The five men continued to reap the benefits from the land and used the proceeds to finance other claims in the area around Kirkland Lake. However, a quarrel eventually erupted amongst Oakes and the Tough brothers concerning the distribution of shares. The dispute lasted for several years and led to Oakes selling off his shares in the Tough-Oakes mines.
Harry Oakes decided to seek his fortune elsewhere. Convinced that larger quantities of gold lay nearer to the lake, he took a chance and staked claims in an area never before mined, beneath the southern bay of Kirkland Lake. The cost to dig in the area was more than Oakes could afford and he appealed to anyone he could find to help him finance the dig. Much to his dismay, he was scoffed at and refused help. No one believed that he would succeed in finding gold beneath the lake.
Finally in 1918 with the financial backing of his mother and a fellow roomer at the boarding house who owed him money, Oakes was able to mine beneath Kirkland Lake. Marie Howard in Town with Two Knights wrote that within a short period of time he found gold, more than he had ever dreamed. Suddenly the determined and struggling young prospector was a wealthy man. Oakes' Lake Shore Mines at Kirkland Lake became one of the largest producers of gold in the Western Hemisphere, earning him around $60,000 a day.
Harry Oakes' childhood dream became a reality. His wealth accumulated with unprecedented speed, with the massive amounts of gold being produced from his mines. He became the richest man in Canada, but he never forgot his humble beginnings. As a sign of appreciation, he gave generous shares of his mining company to friends and family members who supported him during his struggling years — all of whom became wealthy.
In 1919, Oakes built a chateau that overlooked Lake Shore Mines. He also built his own golf course, where he spent many leisurely hours. He quickly settled into his good fortune and became accustomed to the lifestyle his money was able to buy. However, Oakes was not a man who was able to stay settled for long.
In 1923, Oakes set sail on a cruise around the world in search of a new adventure. During the sea voyage, he met 24-year-old Australian Eunice MacIntyre who was on route to England. Leasor claims that she embodied all the qualities and characteristics Oakes did not possess. She was 24 years his junior, tall, elegant, attractive and sensitive, whereas, he was 48, short, ill mannered and foul-tempered. Nevertheless, they fell in love and became engaged during their trip.
On June 30, 1923, Harry Oakes and Eunice MacIntyre traveled to Sydney, Australia and were married. They returned shortly following their honeymoon to Kirkland Lake, where Oakes built a new and larger home for his wife. Over the years, the Oakes had five children. Their first-born was Nancy; soon followed by a son named Sydney; another son named William Pitt; a daughter named Shirley; and a son called Harry P. Oakes.
While in Canada, Oakes gave up his American citizenship to become a Canadian citizen. This allowed Eunice, who had given up her Australian citizenship, to also become a Canadian. In the late 1930s Harry Oakes changed his nationality for a second time to become Bahamian, when he and his family moved to Nassau to escape rising taxes in Canada.
The Oakes' arrival in Nassau ushered in an economic boom for the small island. Oaks bought up more than half of the island's property and began developing it. He built several mansions, created his own airline, developed Nassau's first airport, and built a hotel, a country club and a 6,500-yard beachfront golf course. Even though Harry Oakes was often times considered to be an ornery and gruff man, he was also extremely generous with the millions he earned from all his successful projects.
Throughout the years he gave large sums of money to assist with the island's economic difficulties. The millionaire gave thousands of pounds to the Governor of Nassau to ease the island's unemployment problem and he built a wing on the island's general hospital. Wilson points out that Oakes funded skills training programs for the islanders, which ensured them work in the many projects he was developing. He provided transport to and from work for the thousands he employed and even provided milk free of charge to the children of his employees.
In 1939, Oakes was knighted by the King of England in recognition of his achievements and from then on was referred to as Sir Harry Oakes. Sir Harry Oakes was one of Nassau's most prominent citizens. However, Oakes was not the only successful islander. There were others just as influential and powerful as Oakes living on Nassau.