Half hidden among the rocks, nuggets of fool’s gold often catch my eye as I’m walking in Cow Bay. Also known as pyrite, fool’s gold is found in cubic forms with lustrous facets that lead many to believe they’ve discovered something far more precious.
But there was a time when real gold was found in Cow Bay. The story of gold’s presence here reveals a little known connection to Africa and begins around the time of the earliest fishes.
Five hundred million years ago, there existed a proto-Atlantic Ocean. North America and Africa were separate from one another, as they are today. Back then, gold bearing sediments were carried by rivers in Africa, accumulating along the shore. A hundred million years later, sedimentary layers crumpled as North America and Africa collided during the time of Pangaea. The metamorphic process began to concentrate the gold.
Two hundred million years ago, around the time of the earliest dinosaurs, the present Atlantic Ocean was formed as North America and Africa separated during the break-up of Pangaea. When this took place, part of Africa remained attached to a section of Nova Scotia. Gold-bearing rocks known as the Meguma Group are found in this section. Sedimentary rocks in the Meguma Group include the Goldenville Formation (sandstone and greywacke) and the Halifax Formation (slate).
During the late 1800s, gold sediments were found near the Cow Bay River. Shortly afterwards, a mill was constructed and mining began. The gold mine in Cow Bay was one of 67 in the province, all mostly located along the Eastern Shore. Mining in Cow Bay was abandoned in the 1950s. Supposedly, there are still some open mine shafts to be found in the woods.
A couple of years ago, while panning unsuccessfully for gold in the Cow Bay river, I wondered about the excitement others must have felt when they found the real thing. It sparks the imagination to think that the people of Cow Bay share common ground with the people of West Africa. The world is full of wonders, just waiting to be unearthed.
This post was inspired by an essay my son Kip wrote in grade 8. The information he compiled is from unknown sources. Please let me know if any of what is written above is incorrect or can be credited to a known source.
A pdf map of Historical Gold Mining in the Cow Bay area can be found on the Government of Nova Scotia website here.