Gold Occurrences in Vermont

Did you ever know that Calvin Coolidge the 30th president of the United States as a young man was a gold miner in Plymouth, Vermont where he was born. Virtually all the rivers and streams on the east flank of the Green Mountains are gold bearing. This gold belt crosses the Connecticut River as part of the Ammonoosuc gold belt of New Hampshire and extends northwards into Québec. This is part of a larger gold belt found in the northern Appalachians that extends all the way from Staten Island, New York to Baie Verte on the north coast of Newfoundland. On the landward side there is a continuous thrust fault that goes by many names but is continuous from one end to the other.

In this case however we are only considering the gold bearing areas in the state of Vermont. These are found in the eastern flank of the Green Mountains in the so-called Iapetus Suture Zone an area that is bounded on its west side by large intrusions granite. On its Eastside it is bounded by the Connecticut River. Virtually anywhere in this zone It is possible to find both lode and the placer gold.

The Waits River one of the many goldbearing streams of Vermont.

Even though the idea of finding gold causes us to have dreams of fabulous wealth in Vermont although there is gold there is not enough that has been discovered so far to make anyone wealthy. Several years ago there were unproven rumors about someone finding a gold pocket in the Williams River that produced over $2800 worth of gold in one afternoon.

Aside from gold there are also many occurrences of sulfide minerals in Vermont lying within the Connecticut Valley -- Gaspé Synclinorium and the Bronson Hill Anticlorium as well as the Appalachian province of Stratabound massive sulfide minerals. There are also isolated occurrences that are associated with the Green Mountain Anticlinorium Tectonic Province.

While a great many of the soleplate minerals have been discovered in Vermont that include lead, zinc, copper, molybdenum and arsenopyrite, copper was the only sulfide mineral that was mined on a large scale. Most of these sulfides contain gold as a byproduct.

At the present time, other than gold, no other metallic minerals are being mined in Vermont at the present time. The copper sulfide ore was originally discovered in Orange County as early as 1793, but it took another four years in the early 1830s before was finally mined. Until the discovery of copper on the Keweenah Peninsula of Michigan in 1846 Vermont was the largest producer of copper in the United States.

To this day the Orange County Mining District is a scar on the landscape. The site of the mine is at present listed on CERCLIS the EPA's database showing potential hazardous waste sites that will eventually be remediated under the Superfund program.

The first reports of gold in Vermont surfaced in 1845 when the State Geologist C.B. Adam's in his First Annual Report on the Geology of Vermont reported finding gold in the town of Somerset, Vermont.

It was four years later when the California gold rush caused many Vermonters to search for gold in California. By the mid-1850s many of these gold seekers had returned home. One of these 49ers by the name of Capt. Abial Slayton had struck it rich on his California gold claim. When he returned to Vermont in 1855 he went on to discover gold in what was then Hull's Brook that has since been renamed Gold Brook in Stowe. At the time of his discovery Slayton set up a sluicing operation that employed several people. Although this gold discovery never produced the amount of gold be found in California it did produce enough so that in 1887 the builders of the Mount Mansfield Electric Railroad drove the last spike that was coated with some of Slayton's gold.

An old fashioned gold pan used by the 49ers.
Photo by Nate Culi

In 1854, a mine containing gold, silver, lead and copper was opened in Bridgewater, Vermont. In this mine called was found as small irregular grains in quartz. It was noted in 1867 by Dr. C. T. Jackson that the so-called great Appalachian gold belt passed through both Plymouth and Bridgewater.

By the early 1900s even though gold was present in Vermont it was determined that it didn't occur in commercial quantities. There had been gold bearing rocks discovered in Plymouth and Bridgewater that were mined only it cost more to mind the metal than it was worth. By that time it was determined that it is useless to spend time and money trying to find a fortune in gold mining in Vermont.

It was the placer deposits that were found in the Plymouth area around 1855 that Calvin Coolidge later worked for gold when he was a young man. Even though there are plenty of indications that no one will get rich mining gold in Vermont, gold hunters are still out there looking for gold during the summer months when many people converge on the gold bearing streams in the state trying to recover “free gold” from stream gravels found in the beds of rivers and streams throughout the state.