Cudmore: Panning for gold in New York


The discovery of gold in California in 1849 touched off a flurry of interest and a gold strike hoax in upstate New York.

There was a newspaper story about the alleged discovery of gold in Amsterdam in 1856.  Reader Eric C. Lansburg of New York Mills drew attention to the May 13, 1856 apparently satirical newspaper account.

A man named Hiram Steel in a letter to the New York Tribune told the tale of five children discovering quartz deposits containing gold in a cave above the reservoir in the village of Amsterdam. 

“All day the crowd has been increasing, and there has been some desperate fighting,” wrote Steel. “One man is injured past recovery.”

Steel added, “[There’s] an excitement full of fascination and golden dreams which would be decidedly romantic were it not that violence and crime are growing out of it.”

At the end of Steel’s piece, the Tribune stated, “The letter reached us by mail yesterday. It reads very much like a hoax, and accordingly we advise nobody to set off for the Eldorado of Amsterdam until further advices shall remove all doubts from the tremendous story of Mr. Steel.”

Discovery of gold in the Alaskan Klondike in the 1890s led to more gold fever in New York. 

On Feb. 25 1898, the Daily Leader of Gloversville reported that work on the Jackson Summit gold mine in Mayfield continued day and night.  The next month the Johnstown Daily Republican noted that two experienced gold miners had arrived.  In April the Republican stated, “Operations at the Jackson Summit gold mine have been suspended.”

Advertisers got into the act.  Perrine and Voorhees, a grocery store, in the March 9, 1898 Johnstown Daily Republican, urged ladies to stake their “claims” for “nuggets” of savings at their store or “grocery mine.”

The late Fulton County historian Lewis Decker told The Daily Gazette there were mines in Bleecker, Caroga Lake and Benson near the Northville to Lake Placid Trail.  There was a claim in 1896 that gold had been found in the Cayadutta Creek in Gloversville.

Decker himself found two flakes of gold while panning in an undisclosed Fulton County creek, according to a 1984 Daily Gazette story.  He donated the flakes to the State Museum in Albany.  A museum official said the discovery was only the second verified gold find in the Adirondacks.

Before you grab your shovel and pan, though, keep in mind there is a state law that gold and silver found in New York is owned by the state.  Historian Christopher K. Philippo of Glenmont did research for this topic. 


One of the most popular lunchtime spots when downtown Amsterdam was booming was the Van Dyk.

The building at 24 East Main St., which became the Van Dyk, sometimes spelled “Van Dyke,” previously had been occupied by Adirondack Power and Light, according to an article written for Historic Amsterdam League by Jacqueline Daly Murphy.

When the power company moved to Market Street in 1927, the James Van Dyk Company, a chain grocery store, moved to 24 East Main from its 92 East Main location.  The store specialized in teas and coffees. The local owner was Earl F. Fischer.

On the second floor was a coffee shop called The Duchess, named for a brand of coffee sold at the store.

The Duchess closed in 1928 and the downstairs grocery began serving lunch.  In 1929 Harry Vanderbeck and Vicky Karner Vanderbeck moved to Amsterdam from New Jersey to operate the business.  Harry managed the operation and Vicky made the sandwiches until 1954, when they closed the Van Dyk.

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