One hundred and eighteen years ago, rumors spread nationwide that gold had been found in Redwood County, near Delhi. Last week, a prospector from Georgia looked to see if it was true.
In August. 1894, Redwood County briefly made national news when gold deposits were reportedly found along the Minnesota River.
Alfred Edlund, a prospector from British Columbia, first claimed he had found gold in Swedes Forest township, near Delhi.
Very quickly, mineral rights were sold on thousands of acres of land in the county, with a mining camp built near what is to day known as Gold Mine Lake.
Others were more skeptical. After the New Ulm Journal proclaimed the claims a hoax, a Mr. VanHamert paid several professional assayers to find out for sure.
They claimed they found gold in the Delhi mine quartz samples, while a trio of professors in the Twin Cities failed to find even a trace of gold.
The fact the old gold mine (near the once-appropriately named Gold Mine Bridge) is abandoned says how successful that effort turned out.
Today, the old gold mine is known mostly as a place where teenagers aren’t supposed to swim, but do anyway on occasion.
Last Friday, Sept. 21, Redwood Falls Mayor Gary Revier got a phone call from former resident Mike Hilbert with a question: would Revier be interested in taking a friend from Florida out to the old gold mine site?
Revier, a history buff, said sure. The old gold mine site has long been one of Revier’s favorite quiet spots.
He became even more interested when he found out the friend was president of the Augusta, Georgia chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association.
Charles Lott, a former Winthrop man who married a Fairfax girl (Holly Kiecker), was in the area for a few days to attend a wedding.
Most of the time, panning for gold is a hobby known for being tedious and boring. What led Lott to it?
The tedium and boredom, mostly. After a combat tour in Iraq in 2006, Lott wanted a hobby that gave him a chance to get away from people every now and then for a little peace and solitude.
The mountain streams near his home in Georgia provided both the streams and the excuse he needed to get away. The first time Lott found an actual gold nugget, “I was hooked.”
Revier and Lott met at Redwood’s city hall, loaded up the latter’s prospecting gear to go west, young man, out to Delhi.
When they arrived next to the old 1800s mine shaft, Lott hopped out of the truck and glanced at the antique slag pile.
“There’s lots of quartzite here, and that’s what we’re looking for,” he announced, grabbing his pan and heading down to the lake.
After just a few dips of the pan into the lake, Lott got excited. He poured out a handful of fine black sediment.
“This is what I’m looking for,” he said, “mineral deposits that indicate, to a prospector, that gold is present.”
However, a clue gold might be present isn’t the same as actually finding any.
Lott and Revier ambled over to the Minnesota River, and struck out a second time.
At a third site down the road a bit, Lott charged right into the river and plunged his pan into the muddy water.
What was Lott looking for?
“You look for something that moves differently than the other rock and sand. Gold is heavy and will stay stationary while the other material moves freely,” he said.
Minnesota panning has a big advantage over down south. Standing knee-deep in the Minnesota River, Lott mentioned in passing it was nice to not have to worry about cottonmouth or rattlesnakes, alligators, and bears.
Four shovels full of rock and sand in the new place later, and Lott ran over to Revier.
“See that speck? That’s gold!” he said. He placed it into a small vial and said, “This is yours to prove to people there is gold here.”
By the end of the trip, Lott had turned up another four specks of gold. He said since he started in 2006, he’s turned up only about three quarters of an ounce of gold.
“You won’t get rich panning, but it is like finding hidden Easter eggs as a kid,” he explained.
When Lott left the old gold mine near Delhi, he said, ”There is gold here, and I will definitely be back.”
(This story was written with the help of notes provided by Gary Revier.)