George W. Stuart

George W. Stuart was one of Nova Scotia’s many successful historical gold prospectors and miners whose names are largely forgotten now.

Stuart was a mining agent, prospector and mine manager who lived in Truro. He also served as Truro’s mayor.

In 1889, he was the first to find gold in the Killag district, after a quarter-century of searching by others produced nothing ( He also worked in a number of other Nova Scotian gold districts, including Goldenville (, Montague ( and Wine Harbour (

Stuart started working in the Caribou gold district in 1884 when he and several others opened the Lake Lode mine by sinking a 35-foot shaft. (The Caribou district is about ten kilometres north of the Moose River district in Halifax County. Early Department of Mines records treat the two districts as one, combining their early production figures.)

The Truro Gold Mines Company hired Stuart in 1892 to redevelop the Burkner mine, which was first opened in 1869. The old mine’s equipment was in terrible shape so after producing 272.5 ounces of gold from 22 tons of quartz – an average of over 12 ounces per ton – he replaced most of the equipment and built several new buildings.

The investment paid off. He then produced 750 ounces of gold from 30 tons of quartz mined from November 1-17, and December 14-30, 1982. An average of 25 ounces per ton was a tremendous output since many of Nova Scotia’s successful historical gold mines produced about one ounce per ton.

Work continued at the mine in 1893 but ceased late in the year. Stuart bought the mine from the Truro Gold Mines Company.

Around this time, Andrew Blair, the premier of New Brunswick wrote to Stuart, asking about the Caribou district. Blair had been elected premier in 1883 but politics was not a full-time job in that era and many politicians continued to work private sector jobs. In Blair’s case, he continued to run his legal practice.

Stuart told Blair that a major challenge in Caribou had been a history of too many companies with too-little capital. He said the Caribou district ranked third in Nova Scotia for gold produced per ton of ore, and fifth for total quantity of gold produced: “That Caribou has been or is now behind several other districts in yield of gold is nearly altogether due to the fact that, while the major districts have had the benefit of capital for development, Caribou has practically had none. With sufficient capital and under good management there is no reason to doubt but that Caribou would more than sustain its previous record.”

Blair asked and Stuart offered his thoughts about specific mines in Caribou based on his extensive knowledge of the district. Stuart also argued for consolidating ownership of a number of Caribou’s mines under one company, recommending which mines to buy and which to avoid. A major company, properly financed, could run the mines more efficiently by, for example, reducing the number of crushers and mills.

The Caribou Gold Mining Company, established in 1894 with Blair as its president, bought much of the Caribou district, including the Truro mine which Stuart owned. According to the company’s 1896 prospectus, the company owned the Truro, Dixon, Caffrey, Heatherington, Amherst, Bruce and Touquoy mines at that time.

The Caribou Gold Mining Company hired Stuart as a mine manager. However, Stuart resigned in an August 1894 letter to Premier Blair, saying, “There seems to be an entire lack of organization, I find the greatest difficulty in getting the funds to pay running expenses, and have had to be responsible for the amount required for the purpose, a risk which no manger should be asked to take, and I can assure you I was more than surprised that an attempt should be made to purchase these properties for the purpose of incorporation and consolidation without first having, as you suggested, the report of a competent and reliable engineer, coupled with that of a practical man.”

By “these properties,” Stuart meant the Dixon and Touquoy mines. While he supported consolidation, he wrote that the purchase of those two mines “would entirely change my opinion of the valuation of the property.”

He also criticized J. B. Neily, one of the founders of the Truro Gold Mines Company and a director of the Caribou Gold Mining Company, saying Neily was “entirely too hasty in making the purchase of these properties for large figures. The purchase of the Truro, Caffrey and Heatherington properties at the small figures they were sold for, is all right, and no doubt could be turned over at a profit without striking a blow on them, as their situation, if nothing else, makes them desirable properties. But such wholesale purchases, at large figures, involving such a large amount of money without even ever seeing the district is, to say the least of it, very unbusinesslike.”

Stuart’s assessment was perhaps proven correct since, according to Halifax newspaper The Critic, the Caribou Gold Mining Company put its Caribou properties up for sale in 1895.

Further consolidation in Caribou took place in 1908 when the Caribou Gold Mining Company, then owned by Minnie Ross Holman, the first female owner of a gold mining company in Nova Scotia, bought additional mines. See the district’s full story at

No life is without hard times, as a haunting letter Stuart wrote to the New York Times reminds us. In it he described how at 7:00 p.m. on August 14, 1887, when he was working in the Killag district, he heard the “wail of a child.” Stuart was in his office reading mail at the time. He put the mail down and looked out, “expecting to see a young child, but I saw only my small group of men enjoying a game of quoits in the yard. Thinking it might be that I was mistaken, as it could scarcely be possible there could be an infant child there, six miles in the wilderness, I resumed the perusal of my mail.”

Stuart went on: “Having read my letters, I was reading a newspaper when again a convulsive cry of a child seemed to pierce my ears. I rose quickly and went out past my men, looked into the rest house and the cook house, expecting to find a woman and infant child in great distress, only to be mistaken. Having a four-months-old baby boy at home, I began to feel considerable uneasiness. At intervals of twenty-five to forty-five minutes all though that long night there came the agonizing, convulsive cry of a child. At 5 o’clock Sunday evening I heard the last cry, yet, despite efforts to assure myself, an irresistible call kept coming to me to come.”

Stuart set out the next morning to walk the 60 miles from Killag to his home in Truro. En route, he met a messenger who carried a telegram saying, “Come home quickly as possible. Baby very ill.”

When he arrived at home a few hours later, his wife told him, “Our dear Willie suddenly took a convulsion Saturday evening and at about half-hour intervals they continued until 5 o’clock Sunday evening, when he passed away.”