Baron Franz von Ellershausen

Nova Scotia’s first gold rush in the early 1860s was international news and it attracted a number of immigrants from other countries.

One of them was Baron Franz von Ellershausen who was born in Saxony, Germany, in 1820 and came to Nova Scotia in 1862.

Ellershausen worked in the Mooseland gold district, the site of Nova Scotia’s first gold discovery in 1858. In fact, he built the first stamp mill in Mooseland in 1862, a small four-stamp mill. It was replaced the following year by a better mill built by W. H. Newman. Ellershausen’s mill was later taken to the mines in Tangier and Chezzetcook.

Ellershausen also worked in the Waverley gold district. From 1863-65, he managed a number of areas formerly held by the Chebucto Mining Association on American Hill in Waverley.

While it was gold that brought him to Nova Scotia, mining is not how he made his wealth here. In 1864, Ellershausen built a pulp and paper mill on the St. Croix River in Hants County. In 1864-65 he gained ownership of 60,000 acres of land in the area, including the Stillwater and Panuke lakes.

By 1866, he had built an elegant residence (which still stands and is pictured below), started work on a second, and built 32 houses for German immigrant families who had been shipwrecked off Sable Island. After they were rescued, Ellershausen offered them jobs and they ended up living in his settlement, then known as Ellershouse Village but today just called Ellershouse.

The village grew to have four stores, three hotels, a church, school, two steam mills and a sugar beet farm. Ellershausen followed utopian ideals, striving to reward sobriety and hard work with decent working conditions and high wages.

By the 1870s, Ellershausen had made a fortune, but despite his success in pulp and paper, he was not done with mining.

The elegant residence Ellershausen had built near his own mansion was intended for his friend, mining engineer Adolph Guzman. Ellershausen assumed that Guzman would marry one of Ellershausen’s daughters but, in 1872, the young lady turned Guzman down. Guzman fled to Newfoundland and began staking claims in Notre Dame Bay for Ellershausen.

Ellershausen moved to Notre Dame Bay in the spring of 1874 and quickly took over a copper deposit at Betts Cove. Next, he sailed to Britain and organized the Betts Cove Mining Company with two Glasgow capitalists, William Dickson and Walter MacKenzie. Leaving them to conclude financial arrangements, he returned to Ellershouse, Nova Scotia, to hire 30 German men as miners for the Betts Cove copper mine.

Ellershausen went on to make another fortune in Newfoundland by running numerous mines, most of them around Notre Dame Bay.

In the summer of 1879, Ellershausen formed a company to drain Cape Breton’s Lake Ainslie to prepare for drilling for oil beneath the lake. He figured if there was not oil in economic quantities, he could turn the exposed ground into fertile farm lands. The project ended in scandal. In the fall of 1879, he exploited the name and subscription of a Boston lawyer, who angrily withdrew his backing from the company and advised others to do likewise, causing the project to collapse.

Ellershausen also had more troubles in Newfoundland. In the early 1880s, his associate and close friend, William Dickson, passed away. Adolph Guzman, also a friend as well as colleague, left Newfoundland for the United States and Guzman’s replacement as mine manager did not work out. In a letter to Newfoundland’s premier, William Whiteway, Ellershausen said of Guzman’s replacement that he would never reappoint him: “My reasons are so manifold that it is useless to enumerate them...the fellow will sit on me for life....”

Ellershausen also ended up in another scandal in this period when it was revealed that Premier Whiteway had a vested interest in the Notre Dame Bay mines and a planned railway that would benefit the mines - while making government policy decisions related to the mines and railway.

In August 1884 he left Newfoundland and went prospecting in Spain. He achieved some fame in the early 1900s for patenting techniques of ore refinement and died in Berlin in 1914 at the age of 94.

Nova Scotia had three historical gold rushes in the 1800s and early 1900s. Today we are in the middle of a fourth. The Moose River gold mine opened in 2017 and made Nova Scotia’s potential for gold international news once again. Other gold mines are now in the works. The Moose River mine employs 300 people and is helping many young people stay here instead of moving away for work, as so many before them have done.

Mining is Nova Scotia’s high-paying resource industry with average total compensation (wages plus benefits) of $87,000 per year.