After the gold rush: The rise and fall of Ontario’s own Eldorado – by Jamie Bradburn (TVO Today – January 30, 2024)

You might blink and miss it if you’re travelling along Highway 62 today, but in the late 1860s, thousands went there in hopes of striking it rich

“Eldorado is one of those cities which American genius calls into existence in some emergency of speculation, which rise like a mushroom, sometimes attaining a world-wide celebrity, and often sinking as mysteriously as they have risen.” — “Orlando,” Hamilton Spectator, September 10, 1867

For a brief moment in the late 1860s, central Ontario provided visions of riches for thousands of prospectors, speculators, and others caught up in the province’s first gold rush. While our own Eldorado still exists as a small hamlet you might blink and miss while driving along Highway 62 between Madoc and Bancroft, it has yet to fulfil the dreams that continue to this day.

Iron-ore mining in modern-day Hastings and Peterborough counties began in the 1820s, when deposits were found near Marmora. By the 1860s, Belleville businessmen promoted the mineral-wealth potential of the region after discoveries of copper, lithographic stone, marble, and soapstone. Geologists and prospectors explored the land, hoping to strike it rich.

Among those on the prowl was Marcus Powell, a local farmer and part-time prospector. Around 1865, he and several colleagues began exploring fellow farmer John Richardson’s property north of Madoc. Powell’s group and Richardson agreed to split whatever was discovered. At first, Powell suspected the property might have copper pyrites beneath it.

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