Mining History Monday: Vermilion Lake Gold Rush

MineHistDuring the nineteenth century thousands of people headed west to find their fortunes, but in 1865 gold was discovered in an unexpected place – in northern Minnesota, just south of the Canadian border.  The discovery was more or less accidental since the original survey commissioned by Minnesota Governor Stephen Miller was meant to locate iron ore deposits.

In 1864 Miller sent Augustus Hanchett to the Lake Vermilion area of northern Minnesota “for the purpose of determining the existence, character and extent of the iron depots in that vicinity.”  Hanchett began his survey in late September and soon confirmed the existence of deposits, but had little time to fully determine the quantities before winter set in.

The following year Governor Miller asked the legislature to fund a complete survey led by Henry Eames.  Eames and his surveyors departed from Duluth in the spring and began to extensively survey Hanchett’s findings.  Eames did indeed find iron ore and confirmed its presence but didn’t forward samples to the governor.  Instead, Eames and his brother brought home samples containing quartz and then forwarded them to New York City for a chemical analysis.  To ensure he would be the first to know the results of the analysis Eames ordered them sent to his attention.  Not surprisingly, after receiving favorable results, Eames was eager to stake his claim.

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