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History of Gold In New England, by Jon Hiller

Posted by Sea Hunter 
Lifetime Member
History of Gold In New England, by Jon Hiller
May 27, 2008 02:01PM
New England has no mother lode similar to California. Rather, the gold in New England is found associated with quartz intrusions into country rock, often with the sulfide minerals of pyrite, chalcopyrite and galena. The gold was moved to the surface when metal bearing silica intrusions were forced up and into existing country rock. The material cooled into quartz, pyrite and other minerals. Much of the gold, with its lower melting point, was driven out of the cooling material into the nearby country rock. Recovery of the gold required the removal and processing of the quartz vein and country rock to a depth of several feet from the vein. Specimens of gold in quartz are very rare from New England but there are several specimens in museum and private collections. Another source of gold in the streams is from glacial deposits.
The mining was done by blasting with strong explosives which caused the loss of much of the flour and fine gold. Some of the gold that we find in streams today has worked its way into the streams from those operations. Mercury amalgamation was used in the early days to recover fine gold. Amalgamation occurs when the gold and mercury are mixed physically but not chemically. Gold will adhere and mix with mercury to form a milky white blob of paste called amalgam. The two metals attract each other and mercury will "catch" any clean gold that touches it. The gold was separated out of the amalgam with heat. Mercury vaporizes to a deadly gas at 605 degrees and gold melts at 1954 degrees F. Vaporizing the mercury leaves a spongy mass of gold that can be melted into an ingot. Mercury rejects gold that is not clean. Much fine gold released by blasting has bits of pyrite and other minerals attached, as well as soil.
These rejected pieces are also finding their way into streams, where the adhering material gets broken off by stream action.
I have recovered gold with pyrite attached and gold coated with mercury in the Wild Ammonoosuc River in New Hampshire. The mercury is a real danger to the ecology and finding it in our New England streams is upsetting. Anyone using mercury in a stream today is in violation of federal and state environmental protection laws. They are also risking their lives by exposure to mercury vapors.
The history of placer gold mining in New England goes back only to the early Nineteenth Century. In 1826 a 6.5 ounce nugget was found in the West River at Newfane, Vermont. The West and Rock Rivers in Newfane still produce gold for the recreational prospector. A true but small gold rush did occur in Vermont in 1855. Matthew Kennedy was a California 49er who returned home in the 1850's. While fishing in Buffalo Brook in Plymouth his eye caught a familiar glitter in the brook. It was a small gold nugget. Town records show that in one day in 1858 one of the claims produced $2,800 in gold from Buffalo Brook. By 1885 the search for new gold deposits was reaching its end. Two mining operations were started in that year in the little town north of Plymouth called Bridgewater. They were on Raymond Hill and Freetop Hill. Both mines were unprofitable and the gold rush was effectively over in Vermont. Today Buffalo Brook still produces gold for the recreational prospector. One of the gold mine sites, the Fox mine, is still there, next to the brook. All that is left is a trench cut into the hillside and a lot of milky quartz lying around. The mine had a 300 foot tunnel at its peak. It is on the left side of the brook going up stream just past the forth ford over the brook. I once acted as guide for a club trip to this spot by the old mine, with first time prospectors, and all had a successful and enjoyable trip. It is easy to get to and is in a beautiful setting. Many productive placer gold streams are in the north country of New Hampshire, along the western sections of the White Mountains and to the Canadian border. The area along route 302 from Bath to Littleton and north to the Gardner Range of small mountains produced several gold mines that were profitable during the second half of the Nineteenth Century. The gold was high quality, over 950 fine, with traces of silver. Yet silver is rare in New Hampshire. Today, the final five miles of the Wild Ammonoosuc River along route 112 in Swiftwater, New Hampshire, just up river from the confluence with the Ammonoosuc River, is a favorite of the recreational prospector. This roaring river moves gold during the spring thaw each year and each summer produces a new area for the prospector.
The river is so wild and turbulent during the spring thaw that large boulders are rolled over and can be heard to thud against each other. Another popular river is the Baker River along route 118 in Warren, New Hampshire. The picnic area on route 118 just north of Warren, between
the road and the river, is at a bend in the river that offers many likely areas for gold. It is a scenic spot with all the beauty of the White Mountains.
The areas of Maine north and east of Rumford are the most visited areas for gold prospecting. The area around the Rangeley Mountains is not yet well explored but there are proven streams in the area. Maine has had a gold rush too, but a very short one in an unusual area. It happened along the sea coast, about half way between Portsmouth and Kennebunkport, in Perkins Cove at Ogunquit. It occurred during this century while engineers were dredging and pumping gravel to fill a parking lot when placer gold in small amounts came up through the dredge. The completed parking lot was the end of the gold rush of Maine, much to the sorrow of the recreational collectors in the area. The East Branch of the Swift River at Byron is an exceptionally productive stream that is currently getting state support as a recreational prospecting area.
Rhode Island has no placer gold deposits that I am aware of. A publication by the University Of Rhode Island, written by Clarence E Miller, reports that gold has been found at several places in the state and that there are still abandoned mine dumps available to the collector (as of 1972). The glaciers that dumped debris in the area scooped up that debris in Maine, New Hampshire and Canada. It seems only likely that
the glaciers dropped placer gold somewhere in Rhode Island. Please let me know where.
Until recently Massachusetts had been listed as one of the states with no reported placer gold. There are now three streams that I have worked and found gold. Two of them are within a few miles of the Vermont border in an area of Vermont where Professor Hitchcock of Yale University reported placer gold in a state survey publication about a hundred years ago. They are close to Route 5 just before it crosses the Vermont border.
The third of these Massachusetts brooks is roughly north of Litchfield County, Connecticut. This area of Massachusetts may be the source of
the gold in the most reliable Connecticut gold bearing stream. Leadmine Brook in Harwinton, Connecticut, has placer gold and it is believed that some of it moved into the watershed during the big floods following two hurricanes that stalled in New England in the early 1950's. Placer gold has been reported in several streams in Litchfield County. Gold in Connecticut is rare and finding it requires a combination of skill and luck. There recently has been a report by a geology professor and his students of finding gold in a quartz sulfide vein in Cobalt on a field trip in Connecticut. But do not get excited, the gold is found in thin section specimens using an electron microscope at very high magnification.
Special Member
Re: History of Gold In New England, by Jon Hiller
January 18, 2009 10:24PM
Very nice summary of gold in New England. Just some notes... I have Hitchcock as a Proffessor at Amherst College Amerst Mass. He was also a Reverend. Beside Geology he taut Theology. I think there may be a connection with him to Mt Tom college also.

I have heard of a gold find in Maine that is the ealiest in the USA. This information came from a fellow prospector we met on the Wild Am in Bath NH over the summer. He had done some dredging up in Byron and came away with this local lore. I am trying to track this down for accuracy.
Lifetime Member
Hey Rail Ghost, History of Gold In New England, by John Hiller
January 18, 2009 10:38PM
Thank you for comments Rail Ghost.
My friend John Hiller wrote 2 books & is now passed.
He wrote "Yankee Placer Gold" & "New England Placer Gold".
He was a good friend and submitted articles for my newspaper. Both books are full of locations where he found actually found gold.
Another good book by my friend "Jeff Orchard" is Gold in NH.
Best Regards,

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/19/2009 08:44AM by Sea Hunter.
Special Member
Re: Hey Rail Ghost, History of Gold In New England, by John Hiller
January 19, 2009 12:18AM
The Thank You goes right back to you for supply us with some good products that got us prospecting. I hope you don't mind us speading your name around as in go to Streeters to get your equipment.

I thought Mr Hiller's name sounded familar. Just couldn't put my finger on it.

Speaking of Jeff Orchard, we bought his book from you. I was hoping to get in touch with him.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/19/2009 08:43AM by Sea Hunter.
Honorary Member
Re: History of Gold In New England, by Jon Hiller
July 15, 2009 07:35PM
How you doing Rail Ghost. Good here. This is jsehoule from the GPAA Board... More AU to Ya.
New Member
Re: History of Gold In New England, by Jon Hiller
November 24, 2009 06:08AM
Is that the same John Hiller from Keene NH and from Connecticut?
Special Member
Re: History of Gold In New England, by Jon Hiller
February 03, 2010 01:30AM
Boy I have not been here in while. Hi Jason!

I need to update my post on Hitchcock. The person I was speaking of is correct but then there was his son who was the NH State geologist. I was at an Antique store recently and saw some orginal plates from the Hichcock atlas. Good stuff. Too bad they were in poor shape or I would have bought them.

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