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Remnants of a distillery

Remnants of a distillery

There Was No Gold in These Hills, After All

By Buzz Lamb

Friday, December 3, 2010

The word “gold” has affected men like a fever since they first learned the value of this glittering metal. That fever sparked the “Gold Rush” of California in 1849 followed by the rush in Colorado in 1858.

The topic of the history of gold mines in New York State is not an uncomplicated task.  Finding information on them is not easy but I have managed to uncover some bits and pieces of history on the subject.

A look back in history indicates that in the mid-1700s Europeans stretched mining northward up the Hudson Valley, into the Adirondacks and westward through the Mohawk Valley.  The Europeans never found gold in economic quantities but other metals were discovered along the way.

Records show that in 1885 gold fever hit New York in Schuyler County, near Sugar Hill, in an area some old maps list as Gold Mine Hill.  The 30-foot deep mine was located on land owned at the time by Caleb Hayes. However, it was short-lived and by 1891 it ceased operations.

Legend has it that a man came to Lake George in the late 1800s with a scheme to make some money off the gold frenzy.  On Dec. 29, 1897 twenty claims for gold discoveries were received by the Secretary of State…15 of them for mines in Warren County.  Perhaps that stranger filed one of those claims.

Tom Conerty, captain of the Lac Du Saint Sacrament, said in the fall he hunts deer along “gold mine ridge” and Ed Robinson, whose family has had a house on Watch Point since the mid-1900s, said that his family always referred to the area as “Gold Mine Point.”

Remnants of the undertaking are still visible on the eastern shore of the lake, just south of Watch Point.  Boaters are cautioned not to get too close to the shoreline as there is a dilapidated crib dock submerged just below the surface of the lake.

The story goes that the man purchased the land and all the necessary equipment to make the site look like a working gold mine.  He may have even sprinkled some real gold around the bottom of the creek which had been fashioned into a sluiceway.

Research of Washington County tax maps indicate that since the 1800s the 425.6 acre property, located in the Town of Fort Ann, has been owned by the State of New York.  It is currently assessed over $11 million. Back in the 19th Century, it was often common practice for “squatters” to lay claim, although not legally, to several Lake George islands and portions of shoreline.

Today a small waterfall spills over a make-shift dam onto rocks carefully piled along the creek banks.  The little stream splits into two sections before it reaches the shoreline, most likely to accommodate more workers panning the stream bed.

There is what appears to be a huge boiler, now toppled over, rusting away from years of neglect located on the site as well.  Everything at the site lends itself to an attempt to indicate a working mine was indeed in operation at the remote site, accessible only by boat.

Once the mine was set up, the story goes that the stranger sold shares to investors.  He would bring them out to the site, show them the gold and then solicit them to invest in the mine.  Once he received the money from all of the investors, he then took off with it leaving all of the equipment there…never to return.

As near as I can tell, there is no gold in the Adirondacks.  Probably the best way to find any buried treasure around these parts is by using a metal detector.  I once watched a guy strike gold in the sands of Lake George’s Million Dollar Beach one morning.  It was a 1982 class ring from a high school in New Jersey.

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