A MINI GOLD RUSH OF OUR OWN (June 13/03)

The closest Kings County, and perhaps the Annapolis Valley, ever came to a gold rush may have been in 1861 when the precious metal was discovered near Wolfville.

Little is known about this discovery. Eaton’s Kings County history has an intriguing one-line reference which mentions the finding of gold “in a small brook which runs into Halfway River, about six or seven miles south of Wolfville.”

This is the only space Eaton devotes to the gold find and what resulted from this discovery is left to our imagination. Obviously it wasn’t a major find or we’d have references to it in our history books. Recently I scoured over a dozen community histories and there was no mention of gold finds or prospecting. However, there must have been a period when “gold rush fever” hit Kings County. The mini-find at Halfway River undoubtedly spurred a rush of prospecting in this area.

The discovery at Halfway River coincided with what’s regarded as Nova Scotia’s first authenticated gold strike. In 1858, at Mooseland, one Captain L’Estrange found gold in quartz rock. Not much came of this discovery but two years later, in the same area, John Pulsifer’s discovery of gold in a quartz boulder started the first gold rush in Nova Scotia. It’s probable that the discovery of gold in Mooseland spurred the exploration of other areas and perhaps lead to the find at Halfway River.

We can surmise as well that the Mooseland find lead to the successful search for gold in other areas. Over the next year other discoveries were quick to follow the Mooseland find – at Tangier, Lawrencetown, The Ovens, Wine Harbour, Sherbrooke (Goldenville), Waverley, Country Harbour, Isaacs Harbour and Gold River.

Since the discovery at Halfway River doesn’t appear to merit mention in the history books, it’s safe to say that Gold River, which rises near New Ross, is the only area close to Kings County where a find was made. But don’t think for a moment that efforts haven’t been made to find gold in this area.

In fact, people are actively searching for gold in this and adjacent counties. Their number is small and they’re a close-mouthed group, but these prospectors definitely exist and their aim is to find the gold they believe lies in the beds of local streams. The method they use is called panning.

Over the years this group of gold seekers has panned the South and North Mountain streams. One prospector tells me that the likelihood of a find is small but that doesn’t stop him from trying. “A few flecks of gold amounts to a fair payoff,” he said. “Gold is currently selling at $350 US an ounce.”

The prospector said that most of the stream in this area have probably been checked out over the years and recently he has been zeroing in on the seashore. He’s panned at The Ovens. He has dreams of panning the shores of Sable Island, he says. “There was a scheme in the 18th century to pan the sands of Sable but it fell through,” he said.

If you’re interested in panning for gold or would like to read about the history of gold exploration in Nova Scotia, contact the Department of Natural Resources for a copy of the booklet, Gold in Nova Scotia.

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