CHAPTER 5 of Terry Degen's book
'The History of Lawrencetown'
It is too bad the reliable pocket cameras were not available in May of 1861. If they had have been, they would have got a prize winning photograph depicting the look on William Crook's father's face as he was informed that gold had been discovered in the area. The picture might have shown a face that was torn between the expressions of happiness and embarrassment, for some years earlier, young William Crook had shown his father a specimen which he believed had contained gold. The boy was ridiculed and told to stop his foolishness, return to work and "to pitch the rubbish away". When the news reached Lawrencetown that gold had been discovered in Tangier, young William returned to the site where he had tossed the specimen and he was able to locate several gold nuggets in the immediate area. Before the year ended the district was surveyed into lots.
There are two main anticlinal folds which make up the bulk of the gold mining area in Lawrencetown. The first fold commences near the damn of Mill Pond, which is just below Lake Echo. People familiar to the area will realize that this is the site where a gaspereaux fishing operation has occurred for the past two years. From this point, the fold continues westward until it reaches the Shanghai Diggings.
The second region encompasses the areas from the Mineville Bridge, westerly to the eastern edge of Cole Harbour or Gammon Lake. In 1861 and 1862, some forty distinct veins were opened along these two folds in an effort to extract the gold lying adjacent to the quartz in these veins. The most important veins were the Wadlow, the Middle, the Bennett, the Werner, the Knickle, the Belt and the Vance veins. The Vance vein was situated at the northern most edge of Lawrencetown Lake, almost under the site of the green metal bridge now in place there.
The Belt vein lies parallel to the Vance vein on its northern edge. Both veins run to the edge of Gammon Lake.
The Bennett vein is north of the base of the Partridge River.
The Wadlow vein is parallel and north of the Belt vein. It, and the western end of the Bennett vein make up the Shanghai Diggings.
South of Crusher Pool, which is the southernmost pool on the Partridge River, is the Werner vein.
Two other veins present in the area are all north and parallel to the Belt and Vance veins, but south of the Bennett and Wadlow veins. They were called the Nugget and Ten Ton Leads.
The mining operations that had commenced in '61 and '62 were undoubtedly amateurish at best. The procedure would have consisted of nothing short of finding a quartz vein and with the aid of picks and shovels, digging along it until the miner spotted gold or the vein descended into solid bedrock. Two water-powered crushing mills were erected in the area in these first two years. One was owned by a Mr. Tier, who crushed one hundred tons of quartz in the first year of operation. When the surface gold ran out two years after the discovery was made by William Crook, the area ceased to have any mining operations until four years later in 1866, when a Mr. Strange and Mr. Wadlow began some sinking and tunnelling operations. The Wadlow property passed into the hands of a Mr. Townsend and Company in the following year. A Mr. Werner also became active in the area that year and one shaft opened by him was sunk to the depth of fifty-four feet. In the following year, Mr. Strange directed his attention to some of the loads on the eastern edge of the river. In 1867 though, these properties were taken over by George Capel and Carlos Pierce who were two promoters from Montreal. However, they had no skills in mine management and as a result the progress of the mining in the district was slowed. Mr. Strange became active in the area again in 1868, when he continued further explorations on the east side of the river. Mr. Werner was the most active operator at this time and he had sunk three shafts of sixty, fifty and forty feet on one lead, while on another lead, he sunk shafts to a depth of fifty-four and fifty-five feet. The property owned by him was acquired by the Westminister Gold Mining Company in the following year. It continued to work those leads that he had under exploration and a shaft was sunk to a depth of ninety feet. By 1876, some of the local residents had gotten enough capital together to attempt some of the deeper mining. Two of these were Alec and William Crook, who began working on the lead that was near the lower bridge. A mill which had originally belonged to the Westminister Company was removed to the site of William Crook's sawmill. Both mills were set up so that they could be driven off the sane water wheel. Returns on the lead that was being explored by the two Crooks were from one to three ounces per ton. This lead was worked again the following year to a depth of forty-seven feet, but overall the lead was not found to contain much gold.
The Shanghai property was mined quite extensively commencing in the year 1899. In the beginning, the workings were re-timbered and cleaned out and then three shafts of eighty, seventy-five and forty feet were explored. Only two of these shafts were worked the following year with two hundred tons of ore being taken out and milled. The yield was over an ounce per ton.
Another company, the MacMillan, Dexter Gold Mining Properties, became active in the area in 1913. This company was involved in some prospecting work during that year when it sunk thirteen surface shafts to the maximum depth of fourteen feet. However, the war seemed to put a damper on their plans, as it was not until 1918 that they returned to the area to resume operations on the southwest corner of Gammon Lake.
A fourth company, the North Anna Gold Mines Limited, moved into the properties formerly operated by the Shanghai and MacMillan companies. They remained in the area for three years, but abandoned their workings when a mill test, run by the Nova Scotia Technical College, indicated that the returns would only be fifteen dollars per ton.
Throughout its operation, the Lawrencetown gold district accounted for four hundred and eighty-eight ounces of gold being extracted from eight hundred and sixty-five tons of ore. Of this amount of gold, the Shanghai Diggings accounted for two hundred and twenty ounces of gold, while the mill run by a J.C. Mahone during the year 1905, netted the operator sixty-seven ounces of gold. The Crook family obtained nine ounces between the years 1903 and 1912, when they surrendered their mill license.
The mill operations were a mixed blessing to the area, for while they provided employment for some of the residents they may also have caused other residents to lose some of their life savings. Before getting to that subject, it may be interesting to see exactly how many men would have been employed in the area during the operation of the mining companies. Records for the year 1868, seem to indicate that the operations were highly seasonal, for with two mines going, only sixteen men were employed in January of that year. By June, the number had increased to twenty-seven and a further increase was noted in August, when forty-five men were employed. In October, the number of men employed had decreased to only thirty-five. Working in these mines was a dangerous occupation and was probably left up to professionals from other areas, except in the beginning years when gold could have been panned.
The mines usually consisted of vertical shafts with horizontal leads radiating out in various directions. These were subject to cave-ins, as is testified by the death of one William Forsyth, on December 31st, 1867. He died due to a fall of earth in the Lawrencetown mine, which is in the area of the Shanghai Diggings.
Besides the loss of life, it is also reasonable to suspect that some of the inhabitants might have lost some of their pocket money while the mining operations were in the area, for it cost more to get the gold out than was ever recovered through the operations. This was due to the speculation that accompanied the opening of mines along the eastern coast. The developing of unknown leads was a costly business and so there was quite a bit of competition for financial backing to open the mines. One of the standard practices for those who were trying to make money on this speculation would be for the person or person owning the lead which was hoped to be developed, to find a suitable sample which would have a high gold to ore ratio. One sample, which was not from the Lawrencetown area, recorded a ratio of ounces to pounds of ore versus the standard of ounces to tons. With such a promising sample, it would be easy to obtain financial backing.
All too often these samples were more than misleading in attempting to determine the true value of any mine that would result from exploration, but samples such as these were often followed by investments from people who could ill afford such ventures. The net result of these shams was that the man with the sample often disappeared after money was sunk into the opening of the mines. The stockholders, more than not, never saw any return of their invested capital.
Those wishing to view some of the sites of the old mining should be forewarned that only one of the sites, to my knowledge, is perhaps large enough and more importantly, safe enough to warrant any type of field trip. It is part of the Shanghai Diggings located on the northeastern edge of Gammon Lake. A road branching off Bell Street, near the Partridge River, will lead one up over the hill towards Gammon Lake. Just before approaching Gammon Lake, one will come across a small clearing on the left
hand side. If you scale down the side of the road into the clearing and then look back towards the road, you should, if you have chosen the spot correctly, see an opening which goes directly under the road. The opening is large enough to walk into, but it only goes to a depth of perhaps ten feet. You should also be cautious so as not to disturb the bats that inhabit the cave during the daylight hours. Persons wishing to see the sites of the crushing mill, have two choices of scenery. One is at the end of the most eastern stream that drains from Lake Echo, while the other is on the most northern tip of Lawrencetown Lake where the easternmost stream of the Mineville River empties into the Lake. In both of these areas, one should encounter trailings or sand deposits that have been left over from crushing of the quartz. It is conceivable, though not probable, that small flakes of gold could be found in them.