A drawing of the Mi’kmaq symbol for gold

The Mi’kmaq symbol for gold.

Captain L’Estrange, a British army officer, made the first officially documented discovery of gold in Nova Scotia in 1858 in Mooseland, while moose hunting with a Mi'kmaq guides Joe Paul, Noel Louis, and Frank Cope.

Studio photograph of John Gerrish Pulsifer against a landscape backdrop painted by Frederick B.Nichols

John Gerrish Pulsifer, the person who sparked Nova Scotia’s first gold rush.

Photo by W. Case. NSA: N-15.

Two years later, John Gerrish Pulsifer, led by Mi’kmaq guides Joe Paul, James Paul and Francis Paul, found gold in a quartz boulder in the same area of Mooseland. Pulsifer registered his gold find with the province, thus igniting the first gold rush in Nova Scotia.

In 1868 Alexander Heatherington wrote, A practical guide for tourists, miners, and investors, and all persons interested in the development of the gold fields of Nova Scotia, which contains a colourful account by Pulsifer of how he discovered gold and registered his find.

"While looking about me, I thought I saw quartz in the brook close by. I broke the stone up with my hammer, and in the fragments found pieces of gold sticking out. I then looked for more, and in nearly every piece that I broke - it was quartz, you see - got more or less gold. Then I concluded to take my specimens up to town with me, and dismissed the Indians. This was on the last Thursday or Friday in May, 1860. The Indians are ready to swear that no white man had ever found gold there before. Mr. Howe was Provincial Secretary at the time. At first he would not believe that I had found the specimens, but when I proved that I was telling him no lies and asked him to get me a government grant to work the mine, he told me to ‘go home and mend my oId shoes.’"

Pulsifer goes on further to say that

"I spent the winter on my farm at Musquodoboit; where I was pestered day and night by enquiries how to get to Mooseland? what does quartz look like? where is it found? so that I hadn't a moment's peace and often wished that I had never heard the word gold mentioned. Mr. Howe went down himself to Tangier in the summer, and afterwards published a letter advising the people to return to their homes for there wasn't enough gold there to make a lady's thimble of: However, in the spring of the next year, 1861, the people would not be kept back, and the government had to acknowledge that the gold did exist, and the district was laid off some time in May, and then all the other discoveries followed upon that. I have known ten men to take out one hundred and forty ounces in a fortnight. The Prince of Wales had a ring given to him, made from Nova Scotian gold. The government has never done anything for me, but made me pay twenty dollars, like any other man, for a small claim twenty feet across the lead. I presented a petition to the House (of Assembly) through Adams G. Archibald, asking to be recognised as the discoverer of the first worked district, but never received any satisfaction."