Marl & Climax Bug Killer

Marl Beds, Twiss Road

The geological make up of the Kilbride area is very interesting and beautiful, due in part to its situation on the Niagara Escarpment. That location gives rise to hills, small valleys, lush vegetation and many small waterways. As a result, the area is very desirable.

Just north of the Village, located on Twiss road and south of the Boy Scout Camp Manitou, one can find marl beds or pits. They are found on the low ground on Lot 13, Concession 2, Nelson Township and were formed at the end of the ice age as the glaciers made their retreat.

Marl is a soft sediment that typically forms the bed of land locked, spring fed, small lakes. The marl remains after evaporation takes place. By definition, it requires at least 50% calcium and magnesium content to be considered marl.

Marl can be mistaken for white or light coloured clay. However, it differs from clay as a result of its properties such as being less dense and having less “plastic” properties.

Before the 1880s, there were small and local uses for marl. It was typically dried or burned in small brick form. There is no record of its mining or use at this time in Kilbride.

During the late 1880s and early 1920s, there were increased uses for marl. Some of these included use as an industrial filler, an additive for paper, use in plastic manufacturing, paint, cement and bug insecticide. During this time, there were a number of cement plants in Ontario and marl was a key ingredient.

The first marl pit on Twiss road was located near the road. The marl bed there was up to 8 feet deep in some places and was in a low lying, swampy or marshy area. As the marl was mined, water was pumped out initially into the creek. As a new pit was dug, the water was then pumped into the old pit. There were four such pits on the property.

The process of drying marl was a difficult one in part due to its composition and its small particles. Drying kilns were a popular option, however in the Kilbride location there is no evidence or record of kilns, rather there are remnants of drying racks. Once dried it was then hammered into a powder.

Climax Bug Killer

In approximately 1904, Ormiston Morse (who owned a chopping mill in Campbellville) purchased Lot 13, Concession 2 which was considered to be a swamp. This was purchased from his brother-in-law, Frank Twiss, brother to Ormiston’s wife, Mary Twiss. Ormiston had developed a dry dust insecticide to be used in gardens and on potato bugs. The reason for his purchase of this particular plot of land was that the key ingredient was marl.

The original of this insecticide was Morse’s Bug Dust. In the 20s, the company was sold to a Mr. King and William VanSickle and was split in two with the Campbellville property becoming King Bug Killer and the Twiss Road property became Climax Bug Killer. A partial list of Climax employees includes: Reg Twiss, Frank Twiss, Roy Wood, Bill Wood, Ted Budd, Winifred Greenless, Fred Hardsand, Joe Player, Mac Twiss, Bill Watson, Orlo Coulson and Frank Longdo. The Climax Bug Killer Company remained in operation until about 1946 when it moved to Milton and became the Climax Chemical Company. The marl pits on Twiss Road were closed at that time.

The company remained in production until the 1920s when it was sold to Mr. King and William VanSickle. While the product continued to be advertised as Climax Bug Killer as you will see below, a second product called King Bug Killer appears. This was manufactured in Campbellville at King Calcium Products. The bug killer was shipped for sale across the country. In 1947, King Calcium Products applied to surrender its charter.


Contributing Author: Helen Callaway