Canoeing To Minnesota’s Gold Fields

New Leads In Uncovering Minnesota History contributed by J. Voegtly – October, 2014
J. Voegtly scratched through a little more of the dust of time with some very helpful links. Winston City is marked new Tower. Following the Rainy Lake gold discovery in 1865 miners and mining companies needed a direct road from Duluth to the mines. Road construction followed an old Indian trail 85 miles to Pike Bay on Lake Vermillion and from there on water/ice to the gold digs. It’s likely that the “Gold City” Harry Silver described in his 1894 canoe trip to the region became International Falls. Please follow these links by J. Voegtly for more information.
Thanks for the comments J. – – Bob@ClassicoutdoorMagazines.com
The Age of Mining on the first link gives great background.
http://www.co.koochiching.mn.us/history/histmain.htm
Here’s links to Winston City
http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM6YJ8_The_Old_Vermilion_Trail_and_Winston_City
http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMHZXB_Winston_City_Tower_MN

This article has a nice map and a town named “Winton”:
http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/34/v34i05p177-184.pdf

Original Post
Gold deposits were found in northern Minnesota near Rainy Lake in 1865. The limited “rush” which developed created Winston City (unknown), MN. Fortune hunters quickly moved on after learning how difficult it was to extract gold from the hard rocks in the area. Within a year most miners had left the region for greener pastures. After 20 years and a couple million dollars, one determined investor did recover some gold which led to another mini northern Minnesota gold rush. Click here for a one page report by MinnesotaGoldProspectors.org.

Harry Silver’s report, A Canoe Trip To Rainy Lake, from a January 1899 issue of Recreation describes his 1894 trip to the Rainy Lake gold area. Harry and two companions traveled to Red Lake Agency on the southern shore of Red Lakes. At the Agency they arranged for canoes, gear and guides to take them up the Tamarac River to a portage into the Sturgeon River. They canoed up the Tamarac River and then portaged for three days through the swamps before getting to the Sturgeon River. Once on the Sturgeon they canoed easily downstream to the Big Fork River.

They cruised down the Big Fork River to the Rainy Lake River and here they caught a ferry boat to Fort Francis, Canada. On the way the ferry stopped to unload supplies at a new town site being developed called Hannaford (unknown), MN. From Fort Francis they took a small steamboat to Rainy Lake City (?) and then to the “Gold City”, a mushroom town scarcely 4 months old with 30 to 40 buildings. They then sailed on to the island where the Little American mine was located and back to the “city” and then Fort Francis, Canada. The rest of their adventure is by steamer down the Rainy River to Lake of the Woods and Rat Portage.

The proposed town of Hannaford, MN, downstream of the confluence of the Big Fork with Rainy Lake River never developed and I could not find it mentioned in my online research. Winston City was mentioned in the MN Gold Prospectors one page review (linked above) but Silver’s article never mentioned it. Is Winston City the same as the “Gold City” they visited? Did Winston City or Gold City or Rainy Lake City become International Falls? One site on Minnesota Ghost Towns lists Rainy Lake City as gone except for debris. Are these three towns all the same? Read the actual story here. Click to download a 3 page high resolution PDF of this canoe trip.

Maybe one of Minnesota’s canoe clubs will decide to follow Silver’s early route from the Tamarac River to the Sturgeon and the Big Fork Rivers. Happy searching for outdoor adventure. – – Bob@ClassicOutdoorMagazines.com

About Bob

Retired natural resource professional.

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