Barrio Gold Mine

The Barrio Gold Mine in West Pubnico either had tremendously rich ore, or it was a total dud. It depends who you believe!

“Gold Fields of Nova Scotia,” a 1929 report by the Geological Survey of Canada that is usually considered the definitive account of Nova Scotia’s early gold mining years, said gold was discovered in West Pubnico, Yarmouth County, in 1868. Some mining was later done in 1885 and a test of five tons of ore produced 64 ounces of gold. That is a tremendous return – almost 13 ounces per ton of ore! Despite that fantastic result, mining at what became known as the Barrio Gold Mine did not continue.

Interestingly, locals tell a different story. According to a 1993 article written by West Pubnico historian, Laurent d'Entremont, the story started in 1871 with a map that suggested there was gold in the area. A few villagers studied the map carefully and one man in particular got a case of gold fever: Louis Philippe d’Entremont, born in 1833.

Louis used a large house key hung on a string, apparently to divine where the gold was. As soon as people learned of his quest for gold, they gave him the nickname “Barrio” or “Bariault,” apparently a reference to a mine in Kemptville. (We have not found any records of a mine in the Kemptville area that goes by either name but mines often changed names based on who owned them at different time. It’s also possible the locals had the name wrong).

A book called “Yarmouth Past and Present,” compiled by J. Murray Lawson of Yarmouth in 1902, states that the Pubnico “Point Mining Company was organized in 1885 with Mathurin d’Entremont, president; Henry L. d’Entremont, secretary; L.A. d’Entremont, Charles d’Entremont, Louis B. d’Entremont, Louis P. LeBlanc, (d’Entremont?) directors.” It also goes on to say that shares sold for $10, a lot of money in 1885 dollars.

On the west side of the village, around “Le Cap de-la-Mer-se Bat,” the gold seekers made several trenches about 300 feet from the shoreline, which are still visible today. They were about 10 feet wide and 30 feet long.

In a 1961 interview, Paul Alexander d’Entremont, then 94, told local historian Father Clarence d’Entremont that he had helped with the digging as a young man. He said what little gold was found had been on the rocks on shore at low tide, not where the trenches had been dug. Rock samples had also been taken from different locations in the village, including in front of the Legion Hall.

In the end, they were only able to extract enough gold to make a wedding ring for Mary Rose, wife of H. Leander d’Entremont, when they married in 1885. It is also believed that three small children’s rings were made with Pubnico found gold at the time.

The Barrio Gold Mine was again prospected in 1994. This work confirmed the presence of gold along the beach. In addition, a 40-pound boulder collected from the intertidal zone on the beach also contained gold. The 1994 prospecting work did not find gold in the trenches.

Laurent d'Entremont’s account of the Barrio Mine is presumably the accurate one. If the mine had really produced such rich ore, mining would almost certainly have continued.

It is impossible to know why the Geological Survey of Canada report, which is usually so reliable, was wrong about this site. The report is a comprehensive account of Nova Scotia’s early gold mines, so perhaps some mistakes were inevitable, especially since it was written in an era when communication and travel were much more difficult than today. Much of Nova Scotia was wilderness back then and the author had to rely on the reports of others and records that were often sketchy.

Still, the two accounts don’t just differ on minor details. They agree that the mining activity took place in 1885 but disagree on almost everything else!

Our thanks to Laurent d'Entremont for sharing his article with us.