Although not as well known as the gold rushes of California, the Klondike, Australia, and South Africa, gold mining has been an “on again, off again” part of Nova Scotia’s economic and social life for 150 years.  People are often surprised that over a million ounces of gold have been produced in the province since mining began in the 1860s. Gold is Nova Scotia’s hidden treasure; not many know about it.  During three distinct “rushes,” gold mining brought significant riches to individuals, communities and companies. It affected the growth and decline of many settlements and was a factor in encouraging immigration and foreign investment to the province.  As well, gold mining became the way of life for hundreds, its lure imprinting on many the possibility of getting rich quick.

Miners who learned their trade in the hard rock gold mines of Nova Scotia often went further afield – to Colorado, Australia, the Yukon – beguiled by the siren call of gold discoveries.  Many left Nova Scotia never to return.  Robert Henderson from Big Island, Pictou County, and Antigonish County’s “Big Alex” Read More
Although not as well known as the gold rushes of California, the Klondike, Australia, and South Africa, gold mining has been an “on again, off again” part of Nova Scotia’s economic and social life for 150 years.  People are often surprised that over a million ounces of gold have been produced in the province since mining began in the 1860s. Gold is Nova Scotia’s hidden treasure; not many know about it.  During three distinct “rushes,” gold mining brought significant riches to individuals, communities and companies. It affected the growth and decline of many settlements and was a factor in encouraging immigration and foreign investment to the province.  As well, gold mining became the way of life for hundreds, its lure imprinting on many the possibility of getting rich quick.

Miners who learned their trade in the hard rock gold mines of Nova Scotia often went further afield – to Colorado, Australia, the Yukon – beguiled by the siren call of gold discoveries.  Many left Nova Scotia never to return.  Robert Henderson from Big Island, Pictou County, and Antigonish County’s “Big Alex” MacDonald played leading roles during the Klondike gold rush.  John “Klondike Jack” Horne made a fortune in the Klondike too; his cousin, Edmund H. Horne became a multi-millionaire after discovering the Horne Mine in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec and founding the mining company Noranda Inc. These men were industry leaders who transferred mining expertise tried and tested in Nova Scotia to mines opening up abroad or in the West.

The first mines began production in 1861. As mining activity increased, attracting ever more gold seekers to the fields, the provincial government stepped in establishing districts and regulating claims. Three-quarters of the 65 gold districts are in Halifax and Guysborough counties; the other districts are spread out to the west and northeast in Cape Breton, Hants, Lunenburg and Queens Counties.

During the 1860s officials worried that too many farms were being abandoned by men who wanted to escape the drudgery and poor prospects of subsistence farming leaving for the gold fields. In a society of scarce money, the possibility of earning $100 for two or three month’s work was irresistible.  There are myriad stories – some heartwarming, others tragic – about gold miners and the 350 or so mines they worked.  Despite improved methods of extracting gold over the years, mining has never been easy, involving isolation, injuries, cave-ins and environmental degradation.  Old-fashioned prospecting has existed alongside mechanized mining which uses heavy machinery, dynamite and chemicals to extract and process gold-bearing ore in Nova Scotia.

By the 1950s few mines were still in production.  A decade later, there were probably less than twenty full-time gold miners in all of Nova Scotia. But with the soaring value of gold on world markets in recent years, there has been renewed interest to reopen old mines, and explore for new lodes. Nova Scotia may be on the brink of another “gold rush.”
  

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

Studio photograph of John Gerrish Pulsifer against a landscape backdrop painted by Frederick B.Nichols.

John Gerrish Pulsifer, the person who sparked Nova Scotia’s first gold rush in a studio photograph against a landscape backdrop painted by Frederick B.Nichols.

Photograph by W. Case.

Nova Scotia, CANADA
Nova Scotia Archives, N-15
© 2013, Nova Scotia Archives. All Rights Reserved.


Gold in Nova Scotia may have been sighted as early as 1578 when Sir Humphrey Gilbert explored along the coast. But gold sightings were not mentioned again until the 1830s when road builders spoke about a yellow metal in some stone. In 1849 a farmer claimed to have found gold in quartz on his land but his father told him to “…pitch the rubbish away.”  Captain Champagn L’Estrange found gold while moose hunting in the Tangier area with three Mi’kmaq guides, Noel Louis, Joe Paul and Frank Cope. He showed the gold specimen to others who discouraged further efforts on his part. Two years later, with the help of the same Mi’ kmaq guide, Joe Paul, John Gerrish Pulsifer found a gold deposit in the Tangier River, near Mooseland in Halifax County. 

Often credited as the “discoverer” of gold in Nova Scotia, Pulsifer was the first to convince the provincial government of the presence of gold around Tangier on the eastern shore. This started the first gold rush in Nova Scotia. By 1861, hundreds of farmers, fishermen and woodsmen with crude mining tools in hand descended on the Tangier-Mooseland gold field hoping to strike it Read More
Gold in Nova Scotia may have been sighted as early as 1578 when Sir Humphrey Gilbert explored along the coast. But gold sightings were not mentioned again until the 1830s when road builders spoke about a yellow metal in some stone. In 1849 a farmer claimed to have found gold in quartz on his land but his father told him to “…pitch the rubbish away.”  Captain Champagn L’Estrange found gold while moose hunting in the Tangier area with three Mi’kmaq guides, Noel Louis, Joe Paul and Frank Cope. He showed the gold specimen to others who discouraged further efforts on his part. Two years later, with the help of the same Mi’ kmaq guide, Joe Paul, John Gerrish Pulsifer found a gold deposit in the Tangier River, near Mooseland in Halifax County. 

Often credited as the “discoverer” of gold in Nova Scotia, Pulsifer was the first to convince the provincial government of the presence of gold around Tangier on the eastern shore. This started the first gold rush in Nova Scotia. By 1861, hundreds of farmers, fishermen and woodsmen with crude mining tools in hand descended on the Tangier-Mooseland gold field hoping to strike it rich. 
  

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

Pastel portrait of Joseph Howe in 1851 by T. Debaussy.

As Provincial Secretary from 1860 to 1863, Joseph Howe was in charge of Nova Scotia’s mineral development. Howe famously concluded that the Tangier diggings “are utterly valueless” and the Lieutenant Governor agreed. In Howe’s opinion, “the richest specimen …would scarcely fill a lady’s thimble.”

T. Debaussy
1851
Halifax, Nova Scotia, CANADA
Tangier, Nova Scotia, CANADA
pastel
Dartmouth Heritage Museum, 1968.002.003
© 2013, Dartmouth Heritage Museum. All Rights Reserved.


As Provincial Secretary from 1860 to 1863, Joseph Howe was in charge of Nova Scotia’s mineral development. Sent by Lieutenant-Governor, George Phipps, in July of 1860 to report on the frenzied activity at the Tangier field, Howe famously concluded that the Tangier diggings “are utterly valueless” and the Lieutenant Governor agreed. In Howe’s opinion, “the richest specimen …would scarcely fill a lady’s thimble.”

But all through 1860 and into 1861, the gold hysteria continued. In April 1861, the government intervened and declared Mooseland and nearby Tangier gold districts. 

By 1960, the combined Tangier-Mooseland Districts had produced 29,887.633 ounces, and turned out to be one of Nova Scotia’s biggest producers of pure gold—proving the Honourable Joseph Howe quite wrong!
  
As Provincial Secretary from 1860 to 1863, Joseph Howe was in charge of Nova Scotia’s mineral development. Sent by Lieutenant-Governor, George Phipps, in July of 1860 to report on the frenzied activity at the Tangier field, Howe famously concluded that the Tangier diggings “are utterly valueless” and the Lieutenant Governor agreed. In Howe’s opinion, “the richest specimen …would scarcely fill a lady’s thimble.”

But all through 1860 and into 1861, the gold hysteria continued. In April 1861, the government intervened and declared Mooseland and nearby Tangier gold districts. 

By 1960, the combined Tangier-Mooseland Districts had produced 29,887.633 ounces, and turned out to be one of Nova Scotia’s biggest producers of pure gold—proving the Honourable Joseph Howe quite wrong!
  

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

Print showing miners walking down a street lined with shaft houses.

Captain Campbell Hardy wrote in the article which accompanied this engraving in the Illustrated London News that, "Gold-street, as it is called — an assemblage of wooden houses, or rather shanties, raised up at an expense of some £2 or £3 in this country of cheap timber — is the subject of our Engraving."

Captain Campbell Hardy; Unknown
1861
Tangier, Nova Scotia, CANADA
wood engraving on paper
16.0 x 23.3 cm
2005.135
© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.


Well aware of the chaos, violence and diseases accompanying the gold rushes in California (1848) and Australia (1851), the Nova Scotia government wanted to ensure orderly and peaceful development. Starting in 1861, gold mining districts were formally established in the province, with Mooseland being the first. Other sites receiving official designation in the early 1860s were Tangier, Lawrencetown, Oldham, and Waverley in Halifax County; Renfrew and Uniacke in Hants County; The Ovens in Lunenburg County; and Isaac’s Harbor, Goldenville, and Wine Harbour in Guysborough County. Later, additional districts like Brookfield, Whiteburn, and Moose River were designated. In total, 65 gold mining districts had been established by the early 1900s.

Besides surveying promising districts, the government also stepped in with rules and regulations about gold mining. Individual prospectors or mining companies had to register claims and sign an agreement recognizing responsibilities and lease length; resident commissioners were appointed for each district as well. Though aiming for control over the gold mining industry, the government was flexible, changing regulations as need ar Read More
Well aware of the chaos, violence and diseases accompanying the gold rushes in California (1848) and Australia (1851), the Nova Scotia government wanted to ensure orderly and peaceful development. Starting in 1861, gold mining districts were formally established in the province, with Mooseland being the first. Other sites receiving official designation in the early 1860s were Tangier, Lawrencetown, Oldham, and Waverley in Halifax County; Renfrew and Uniacke in Hants County; The Ovens in Lunenburg County; and Isaac’s Harbor, Goldenville, and Wine Harbour in Guysborough County. Later, additional districts like Brookfield, Whiteburn, and Moose River were designated. In total, 65 gold mining districts had been established by the early 1900s.

Besides surveying promising districts, the government also stepped in with rules and regulations about gold mining. Individual prospectors or mining companies had to register claims and sign an agreement recognizing responsibilities and lease length; resident commissioners were appointed for each district as well. Though aiming for control over the gold mining industry, the government was flexible, changing regulations as need arose. An early example of this was allowing companies beginning to work the Tangier-Mooseland fields in 1862 to consolidate claims at Tangier that were too small for significant quartz mining. This resulted in fewer lessees but higher gold yields.
  

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

A graph showing the amount of gold produced in Nova Scotia since 1862, measured in troy ounces.

This graph shows the amount of gold known to have been produced during each of the three Nova Scotian gold rushes. Not all gold found was recorded as miners sometimes pocketed gold as they left the mines for the day, despite the watchful eye of mine managers. Similarly, companies might under-report their production in order to avoid paying government royalties. It is widely accepted that there was a substantial amount of unreported gold.

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
1862 - 2012
Nova Scotia, CANADA
© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.


The first gold rush began in 1861 and lasted until 1874, attracting thousands to the gold fields like filings to a magnet. In the beginning, the miners panned for gold or smashed quartz rocks with hand tools at small individual claims. Within a year, companies arrived with heavy machinery to dig ore, construct mining shafts, crush rock, and process the gold. They bought up smaller claims, consolidating them into larger holdings; they had the capital to finance underground mines. This was the most dramatic “rush,” characterized initially by the frenzy of inexperienced miners with dreams of striking it rich.

In the second gold rush period (1896-1903), large companies continued buying up smaller claims, and hired locals to mine and operate the stamp mills and machinery. Individual consignment miners, known as tributors, worked claims as well. Capital investment, often American and British, and the improved technology needed to build and operate the mines ballooned into a multi-million dollar industry. The province became known as the place of “rich man’s diggings” due to the large costs involved in deep mines working lower grade ore. Many own Read More
The first gold rush began in 1861 and lasted until 1874, attracting thousands to the gold fields like filings to a magnet. In the beginning, the miners panned for gold or smashed quartz rocks with hand tools at small individual claims. Within a year, companies arrived with heavy machinery to dig ore, construct mining shafts, crush rock, and process the gold. They bought up smaller claims, consolidating them into larger holdings; they had the capital to finance underground mines. This was the most dramatic “rush,” characterized initially by the frenzy of inexperienced miners with dreams of striking it rich.

In the second gold rush period (1896-1903), large companies continued buying up smaller claims, and hired locals to mine and operate the stamp mills and machinery. Individual consignment miners, known as tributors, worked claims as well. Capital investment, often American and British, and the improved technology needed to build and operate the mines ballooned into a multi-million dollar industry. The province became known as the place of “rich man’s diggings” due to the large costs involved in deep mines working lower grade ore. Many owners and investors became astronomically rich from mining profits. Others fell prey to unscrupulous speculators and hangers on. In fact, some companies were formed with the sole intent of fraudulently working investors rather than claims. Sometimes the miners earned a fair wage but as often as not, they ended up poorer than when they began the back breaking work. This period is considered the golden age of gold mining in Nova Scotia. Production exceeded 20,000 ounces per year for sixteen years and in three of those years exceeded 30,000 ounces annually (1898, 1900, 1901.) Along with racking up the highest yields per year, this period is noted more for organized planning than feverish hysteria.

The third gold rush lasted for approximately ten years (1932-1942) when arsenopyrite, often associated with gold mining, was in high demand. Arsenic extracted from arsenopyrite was an ingredient used in insecticides being manufactured at the time. Moreover, the value of gold was rising on world markets and energy was cheap, helping to drive this “rush.”

By 2012, gold prices soared to between $1600 and $1700 per ounce, stimulating yet another surge of gold mining interest and exploration in Nova Scotia. At Moose River, Fifteen Mile Stream, and Isaacs Harbour, mining companies are drilling core samples and a new gold occurrence was discovered in the Cobequid Highlands in late 2011. We may be at the portals of a fourth gold rush!
  

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

Gold shifted the demographics of 19th century Nova Scotia, emptying out some rural areas and populating others with boom towns centred around gold mines. 
         
Renfrew was an isolated area on the barrens, growing from a scarce population to 700 people in five years. It ranked in seventh place out of 65 gold districts. And now, 150 years later, it’s a ghost town; very little remains of its post office, school, church, houses, stores, livery stable, blacksmith shops, lumber mill, and hotels.  

Other towns besides Renfrew also died when gold mining ceased. The Ovens had a population of over 1,000 during the 1860s. Now it’s a campground. Whiteburn Mines once had a population of 1,000 as well; with stores, a school, hotels – even a baseball team. No more. The buildings have rotted into the ground and vegetation covers this once vibrant gold mining community, the centre of industrial mining activity in Queens County during the last two decades of the 19th century.

Caribou Mines in Halifax County grew from 150 to 450 people in ten years during the second gold rush. Minin Read More
Gold shifted the demographics of 19th century Nova Scotia, emptying out some rural areas and populating others with boom towns centred around gold mines. 
         
Renfrew was an isolated area on the barrens, growing from a scarce population to 700 people in five years. It ranked in seventh place out of 65 gold districts. And now, 150 years later, it’s a ghost town; very little remains of its post office, school, church, houses, stores, livery stable, blacksmith shops, lumber mill, and hotels.  

Other towns besides Renfrew also died when gold mining ceased. The Ovens had a population of over 1,000 during the 1860s. Now it’s a campground. Whiteburn Mines once had a population of 1,000 as well; with stores, a school, hotels – even a baseball team. No more. The buildings have rotted into the ground and vegetation covers this once vibrant gold mining community, the centre of industrial mining activity in Queens County during the last two decades of the 19th century.

Caribou Mines in Halifax County grew from 150 to 450 people in ten years during the second gold rush. Mining companies came and went. During the early years of the 20th Century, Caribou Mines became a near ghost town. Many left for mines elsewhere. Families moved to more populated centres for schools, stores and other modern conveniences. By 1925 all of the mining activity had ceased. In the mid 1930s, the community revived during Nova Scotia’s third gold rush and flourished for thirteen years. But when the known ore gave out and men had to move elsewhere for work, Caribou Mines languished once again. By 2008, there were only four permanent residents.
  

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

Painting showing an active winter community scene.

Joseph Purcell’s painting of Goldenville depicts the town’s saloons, hotel and temperance society hall. Despite the drinking, this district was the highest producer of all gold districts with 210,152 ounces mined between 1862 and 1960.

Joseph Purcell
c. 1986
Goldenville, Nova Scotia, CANADA
oil on canvas
Nova Scotia Museum of Industry, I95.86.7.
© 2013, Nova Scotia Museum of Industry. All Rights Reserved.


When gold was discovered, hordes of exuberant gold seekers crowded onto the site and all manner of construction started. Within a year, entire communities like Goldenville or Renfrew sprang up from nothing. Often one of the first buildings hammered together would be a makeshift saloon where miners, exhausted after their long, hard days, could sit down, light a pipe, play cards and have a drink. Drinking and mining operations went hand in glove. When alcoholic beverages appeared, the temperance movement, preaching sobriety, came too, often setting up shop near the principal saloon. 

Some towns, like Sherbrooke, where abstinence was already strongly embedded, were able to curtail the drinking and keep raucous behavior under control. Others, like Renfrew, had Bunker’s Saloon located in the center of town, opposite the more refined MacLellan’s Hotel and the temperance hall next door. These were Victorian times and many supported the temperance movement which aimed to control alcoholic consumption in order to offset the evils of devil rum. According to The Truro Daily News in 1893, no spirits were sold in Caribou Mines and “thus to a large extent the Read More
When gold was discovered, hordes of exuberant gold seekers crowded onto the site and all manner of construction started. Within a year, entire communities like Goldenville or Renfrew sprang up from nothing. Often one of the first buildings hammered together would be a makeshift saloon where miners, exhausted after their long, hard days, could sit down, light a pipe, play cards and have a drink. Drinking and mining operations went hand in glove. When alcoholic beverages appeared, the temperance movement, preaching sobriety, came too, often setting up shop near the principal saloon. 

Some towns, like Sherbrooke, where abstinence was already strongly embedded, were able to curtail the drinking and keep raucous behavior under control. Others, like Renfrew, had Bunker’s Saloon located in the center of town, opposite the more refined MacLellan’s Hotel and the temperance hall next door. These were Victorian times and many supported the temperance movement which aimed to control alcoholic consumption in order to offset the evils of devil rum. According to The Truro Daily News in 1893, no spirits were sold in Caribou Mines and “thus to a large extent the principles of sobriety prevail.” But with hundreds of miners, laborers, and transients coming and going, this claim may be somewhat exaggerated.
  

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

Engraving of a Mi'kmaq man holding a musket.

The Mi’kmaq had long known about the glittery substance which they named "wisosooleawa" or “brown silver”. Mi'kmaq hunting guides accompanied both Captain L'Estrange and John Gerrish Pulsifer when they made their documented discoveries of gold in Nova Scotia.

Alicia Anne Jeffrey; Unknown.
c. 1849
Nova Scotia, CANADA
1995.185
© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.


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 – Read More
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.
  

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

Quote from Alexander Heatherington’s book:  A Practical Guide for Tourists, Miners, and Investors, and all Persons interested in the Development of the Gold Fields of Nova Scotia.  Montreal, 1868.

“ADVANTAGES OF NOVA SCOTIA AS A MINING COUNTRY.
1st.  It possesses an inexhaustible supply of minerals…
4th   The climate offers no obstacles to continuous mining operations.
5th   Attacks from venomous reptiles, savage beasts, or treacherous Indians never disturb or impede settlement.
6th   Fatal epidemics, agues and pestilential fevers are unknown.
7th   The country is within thirty hours’ steaming distance from Boston and ten days from Europe.
8th   The voyage costs one-fourth less than to California, and one-sixth less than to Australia…”


Mines in Nova Scotia became training grounds for many who moved on to more famous gold fields – Read More
Quote from Alexander Heatherington’s book:  A Practical Guide for Tourists, Miners, and Investors, and all Persons interested in the Development of the Gold Fields of Nova Scotia.  Montreal, 1868.

“ADVANTAGES OF NOVA SCOTIA AS A MINING COUNTRY.
1st.  It possesses an inexhaustible supply of minerals…
4th   The climate offers no obstacles to continuous mining operations.
5th   Attacks from venomous reptiles, savage beasts, or treacherous Indians never disturb or impede settlement.
6th   Fatal epidemics, agues and pestilential fevers are unknown.
7th   The country is within thirty hours’ steaming distance from Boston and ten days from Europe.
8th   The voyage costs one-fourth less than to California, and one-sixth less than to Australia…”


Mines in Nova Scotia became training grounds for many who moved on to more famous gold fields – like prospector Robert Henderson, co-discover of gold in the Klondike.  Leaving Nova Scotia for mines in Colorado, Ontario, British Columbia, Australia, or the Yukon, scores of miners brought along their skills, strength and most important, their knowledge of gold mining techniques pioneered in Nova Scotia.

Many foreign-born miners worked in Nova Scotian mines. For example, Frenchman Damas Touquoy mined in the Caribou and Moose River gold districts for 25 years and then returned to France where he died in 1898, allegedly buried with chunks of Bluenose gold. Germans Leopold Burkner and Alfred Bushing were “pioneer miners” at Caribou Mines. In 1869, two Englishmen named Hyde built a short tramway linking their mine and stamp mill.

Baron Franz von Ellershausen emigrated from Germany to Nova Scotia in the 1860s enticed by the first gold rush. Ellershausen did not stick with mining however, deciding instead to develop a pulp and paper mill on the St. Croix River. By the 1870s he had made a huge fortune in this business. He built himself a mansion, still standing today, plus cottages for the 32 German families shipwrecked off Sable Island who later worked for him. Baron von Ellershausen followed utopian ideals, striving to reward sobriety and hard work with decent working conditions and high wages. Ellershausen’s settlement of German Protestants became known as Ellershouse, a community located just south of Windsor in Hants County.
  

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

1500s    Mi’kmaq First Nation probably aware of the glittery ore.  No known mines   
              or gold works.

1600s    L’Acadie/Acadia.  French speaking, Catholic settlers.  No known gold
              mining.

1700s    Nova Scotia becomes a British colony.  First Protestant Settlements.

1830s    Road builders speak of “bright yellow metal in the stone.”

1840      A captain in British military pans gold on Gold River.

1849      A  farmer from Lawrencetown claims to find gold but was told to “pitch the
           &n Read More
1500s    Mi’kmaq First Nation probably aware of the glittery ore.  No known mines   
              or gold works.

1600s    L’Acadie/Acadia.  French speaking, Catholic settlers.  No known gold
              mining.

1700s    Nova Scotia becomes a British colony.  First Protestant Settlements.

1830s    Road builders speak of “bright yellow metal in the stone.”

1840      A captain in British military pans gold on Gold River.

1849      A  farmer from Lawrencetown claims to find gold but was told to “pitch the
              rubbish away.” 

1857      Unofficial discovery of gold by Richard Smith in a stream near
              Musquodoboit.  Sands in Halifax Harbour show presence of gold.

1858      Captain L’Estrange, hunting moose with three Mi’kmaq guides, Frank
              Cope, Noel Luis and Joe Paul, makes first authenticated discovery of gold
              in quartz at Mooseland but does not continue exploring.
             
              Nova Scotia government takes control of all mines and mineral rights in
              the province.

1860      John Gerrish Pulsifer finds gold in Mooseland area and initiates first gold
              rush.

1861      Mooseland declared a Gold District in April 1861; followed by Tangier,
              Lawrencetown, The Ovens, Wine Harbour, Goldenville (Sherbrooke),
              Waverley, Isaacs Harbour, Country Harbour and Gold River.

1861      July - Visit to Tangier Harbour and gold field by Prince Napoleon (Cousin
              of Emperor Napoleon III of France) and his wife, Princess Clothide.
             
              October – Visit to Tangier-Mooseland gold field by HRH Prince Alfred, one
              of Queen Victoria’s sons.

1861      65 gold districts were established by the Nova Scotia government between
              1861 and 1935, the majority being in Halifax and Guysborough counties.

1887      First professional mining association organized in Canada – “The Gold
              Miners Club of Nova Scotia”.

1896-1903    Second Gold Rush. More orderly and mechanized than first.

1898      Highest gold yield; 31,113 ounces in one year

1936      Moose River Gold Mine disaster.  Three men trapped in mine.  After 11
              days, rescue. CRBC makes radio history, broadcasting from a
              remote location on the spot for 56 hours.

1932-1942    Third Gold Rush, driven by mining for arsenic, a mineral associated
                     with gold.

2000s    Latest “Gold Rush”.  Impact of record high gold prices and increased
              demand; pressure to work old tailings, open new mines in Nova Scotia.
  

© 2013, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. All Rights Reserved.

1. Consider why farmers or fishermen (or anyone with labor-intensive, low paying jobs) of the mid 19th century would be tempted to work in the Nova Scotian gold fields.  Develop a one-scene play in which you are explaining to your family why you need to try your luck mining at one of the newly discovered gold fields.  (Example: The time is late summer, 1861.  The harvest is not finished.  You are living on a small subsistence farm and you know very little about mining…)

2. Reflect on why the Honourable Joseph Howe quickly reached the conclusion that the gold diggings at Tangier are “utterly valueless.” If he had visited Tangier five or six years later, do you think his report would be the same? Write a one-page report to the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia summarizing your impressions after inspecting the gold districts of Mooseland, Tangier and Goldenville in 1866. Consult Joseph Howe’s letters or newspaper articles of July, 1860 to use as a model.

3. Imagine you are a boy or girl growing up i Read More
1. Consider why farmers or fishermen (or anyone with labor-intensive, low paying jobs) of the mid 19th century would be tempted to work in the Nova Scotian gold fields.  Develop a one-scene play in which you are explaining to your family why you need to try your luck mining at one of the newly discovered gold fields.  (Example: The time is late summer, 1861.  The harvest is not finished.  You are living on a small subsistence farm and you know very little about mining…)

2. Reflect on why the Honourable Joseph Howe quickly reached the conclusion that the gold diggings at Tangier are “utterly valueless.” If he had visited Tangier five or six years later, do you think his report would be the same? Write a one-page report to the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia summarizing your impressions after inspecting the gold districts of Mooseland, Tangier and Goldenville in 1866. Consult Joseph Howe’s letters or newspaper articles of July, 1860 to use as a model.

3. Imagine you are a boy or girl growing up in Renfrew or one of the other booming gold mining communities of the 19th century.  Write at least five entries in your diary or sketch a series of drawings depicting what life was like for you and others in a gold mining community at that time.
  

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Learning Objectives

1.  Students use writing and other forms of representing to explore, clarify and reflect on their learning; and to use their imagination.
    (English Language Arts, Grades 7-12)

2.  Students demonstrate an understanding of the past and how it affects the present and the future.
    (Social Studies, Grade 8; Atlantic Canada in the Global Community, Grade 9; History, Grades 10-11)
     
3.  Students communicate information and ideas effectively and clearly and respond personally and critically.
    (English Language Arts, Grades 7-12)

4.  Students create or present collaboratively and independently, expressive products in the arts for a range of audiences and purposes.
    (Visual Arts, Grades 8-12)

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