In 1896, gold fever was so intense in northern New York that the New York Times reported, “There is not a guide in the whole Adirondack region who has not dreamed at some time of stumbling upon this fabled Golconda, and of coming forth in the end to astonish the world with his riches.”
“Golconda” is a location in India famous for mines that produce valuable gems.
The possibility of finding gold in New York state still draws attention online. But before you grab your shovel and pan, keep in mind there is a state law that gold and silver found in New York is owned by the state.
In 1984 Fulton County historian Lewis Decker found two flakes of gold while panning in an undisclosed Fulton County creek. Decker donated the flakes to the State Museum in Albany. According to The Daily Gazette, a museum official said the discovery was only the second verified gold find in the Adirondacks.
There was a gold mining operation on Jackson Summit in Mayfield in the late 1800s. Decker told The Gazette there were mines in Bleecker, Caroga Lake and Benson near the Northville to Lake Placid Trail. There even was a claim in 1896 that gold had been found in the Cayadutta Creek in Gloversville.
Coverage of gold strikes in the newspapers ranged from serious if sketchy accounts to skeptical humor.
On Feb. 25, 1898, the Daily Leader of Gloversville reported work on the Jackson gold mine in Mayfield continued day and night. On March 9, 1898, the Johnstown Daily Republican noted two experienced gold miners had arrived. On April 14, 1898, the Republican stated, “Operations at the Jackson Summit gold mine have been suspended. It is reported that indications were very favorable toward striking pay dirt.”
On the lighter side, Gloversville’s Daily Leader on Jan. 29, 1898, wondered how the discovery of gold would have been handled in verse by the obituary editor:
“Twas in the Adirondacks, cold and bleak,
Where the frost covered pines topped every peak
That I found one man with shovel and spade,
Had to all appearance a deep grave made.
‘Whose grave diggest thou?’ I said.
The grave digger responded:
Resting his spade on a slight incline,
He said, ‘Hist! we’re digging a gold mine.’ ”
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.”
Reader Eric C. Lansburg of New York Mills drew attention to a May 13, 1856, satirical newspaper account of the discovery of gold in Amsterdam.
Hiram Steel told an incredible story in a letter to the New York Tribune of five children discovering quartz deposits in a cave above the reservoir in the village of Amsterdam. Some of the quartz pieces contained gold, according to Steel.
Steel wrote, “All day the crowd has been increasing, and there has been some desperate fighting. One man is injured past recovery.”
Steel said Amsterdam was in a state of excitement, “An excitement full of fascination and golden dreams, and 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.”
Thanks to historian Christopher K. Philippo of Glenmont for research assistance on this story.