Historic mines in Glocester still inspire dreams of gold rush riches

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GLOCESTER – Minerals have been found in the town of Glocester such as calcite, epidote, ferrimolybdite, molybdenite, molybdite, pyrrhotite, pyrite, aka “fool’s gold”, and perhaps also – real gold.

Finding gold in Glocester is either a foolish fable or a fact. The quantity and quality of gold in Glocester today is speculation, yet history reveals a gold mine existed.

“It is not fabled; it was real,” says Edna Kent, Glocester Town Historian. Years ago, “the assayer proved it with all the different minerals identified.”

Kent speculates early settlers learned of gold from Native Americans; for, the indigenous people wore gold jewelry and used it in ceremonial gear.

Settlers were gold mining as early as the 1700s.

“Beginning in the eighteenth century, and continuing through the nineteenth, attempts were made to mine gold at Durfee Hill, near Ponaganset Pond. According to legend, a man named Walton found and prospected for gold here
in the early eighteenth century. Mining was carried on in the nineteenth century by two mining companies. The first failed in 1843. The second company, the Ponaganset Mining and Smelting Company, issued shares and employed several men,” according to the 1980 Historic and Architectural Resources of Glocester, Rhode Island: Preliminary Report, from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission.

Historian Kent says ox carts were used by Ponagansett Mining and Smelting Company to haul the ore out. The ore was shipped from Glocester to Nova Scotia for smelting. The mining operation in Glocester had a crude shanty housing an engine and tools, and the house owned by the Saunders was used as a bunk and cookhouse

“There is no record of how much gold ore was pulled from the mine, but it was said that one of the shaft was over 100 feet deep, so they were chasing something that was showing some results,” said Michael Girard, a local explorer, historian and public speaker.

Girard explains, “even if the payoff for their work wasn’t great, they must have believed it had some real potential. The fact that there were attempts to reopen the mine makes me more confident that this mine was believed (to have) had promise.”

Girard blogs at New England Explorers and Strange New England.

According to the 1980 Historic and Architectural Resources report: “Some shafts were dug and some gold was recovered, but the operation ended about the turn-of-the-twentieth-century. The rapid and dramatic rise of gold prices in the late 1970s resulted in a renewed interest in mining, and geologists were called in to assess the orebeds. To date, mining has not been renewed at the site of the former Ponaganset gold mine.”

Interest in mining gold in Glocester has fluctuated over the years. There were problems, such as legal conflicts about water rights, and residents of the area had to be on alert for interlopers trespassing or potentially stumbling on to open shafts.

Kent says the mine was filled in for safety’s sake.

But what of today?

The town historian says, “everything is quiet and peaceable. People are just out there living in the area, not going to be disturbed by people treasure hunting, not showing up with a shovel or something. That vein played out. It went so deep it became impractical to go any further they went not making any money… it was too difficult to get to.”

Could today’s technology reinvigorate the interest in the possibility of gold in Glocester?

“Finding the gold is not the real issue. It is more of a question of if the cost of extracting the gold would be worth the effort,” explains Girard. “Even if there is gold still to be mined, if the volume of gold per ton is not enough to be greater than the cost of mining it, it is not a worthwhile venture. If value of gold is high enough though, a mine that was not profitable, can get a second life.”

He finds it interesting the gold found at Durfeee Hill was “accompanying [a] pyrite quartz vein,” and that one shaft was extracting gold as the primary ore and silver as the secondary. Another shaft had gold as the primary and molybdenite as the secondary.

Ordinarily at the lost mines Girard has explored in New England, “gold was a secondary ore not the primary. I am a historian and explorer not a prospector, but Durfee Hill Gold Mine can stir up a bit of the gold bug in me on occasion. Eventually you might find me poking around the hill looking for a bit of gold, but just for the fun of it,” said Girard.

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