The Mi’kmaq had long known about the glittery substance which they named wisosooleawa or “brown silver”.  Jim Charles, a Mi’kmaq guide, hunter and farmer who lived on the shore of Kejimkujik Lake, discovered his own lode in the 1870s. Afraid that he would be robbed, he packed gold nuggets inside butter made by his wife for market, and with the help of a friend, Judge Ritchie, he smuggled the wealth to distant banking establishments.  He realized his lode was a secret to be kept.  However, before he was able to officially register it other prospectors found his site.  They registered and claimed it, mining there until the veins gave out in 1928.  By that time, Jim Charles had died a pauper and lay buried in an unmarked grave near Milton.


When communities like Mooseland, Tangier and the camp at Fifteen Mile Stream started booming during the gold rush of the early 1860s, John Noel Cope, renowned Mi’kmaq hunter and trapper, supplied fresh game – especially moose meat – to the miners.


Peter Paul, a Mi’kmaq living near what is now Port Dufferin on the eastern shore, was out searching for his ox one day when he found gold within a large boulder.  He later showed his secret gold site, on separate occasions, to Kent Archibald and a Captain Brown, two prospectors looking for gold in the area.  Unbeknownst to each other, both headed for Halifax to secure prospecting licenses on the same stagecoach.  But Kent Archibald beat Captain Brown to the registration office because when the stagecoach stopped at Tangier overnight, Brown got off but Archibald found another way to keep going.


Roy Daws, the last resident of Renfrew, was born into a third generation mining family of that once bustling gold district.  During the harsh winter of 1960, he became very ill and realized that he had to leave for help or die alone.  Managing to hitch his mare to the worn sled, he climbed up onto the driver’s seat, wrapped in blankets, and headed toward Nine Mile River.  The mare knew the way because Daws often drove her to the Thompson’s, his nearest neighbors.  Lurching through heavy snow drifts for ten kilometres, she at last reached the Thompson farm, lathered in sweat, icicles hanging from her muzzle, reins dragging on the snow.  Daws had to be pried off the sled and helped into the farmhouse where he was put to bed. “He owed his life to that horse,” said Mrs. Silas Thompson.  Roy Daws recovered but never returned to live in Renfrew.


During the starvation winter of 1889, John “Klondike Jack” Horne, a prospector from Enfield who had cut his mining teeth in Nova Scotian hard rock mines, lay sick with pneumonia in a crude Dawson City boardinghouse.  All through his illness, he was cared for by a tough, much older washerwoman named Hattie.  Horne claimed he would marry her if he ever got well again.  He did, and went on to strike it extremely rich in the Klondike, so rich that for years, he sent his sisters $1000 each at Christmas – the equivalent of $40,000 today.
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Dian Day, Susan Sellers, Rita Wilson
1860 - 1960
Port Dufferin, Nova Scotia, CANADA
Renfrew, Nova Scotia, CANADA
Enfield, Nova Scotia, CANADA
Dawson City, Yukon Territory, CANADA
Kejimkujik, Nova Scotia, CANADA
© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

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