Waverley Gold District

Barrel quartz is a local term used to describe the gold deposit on Laidlaw Hill in Waverley in the late 1800s. It isn’t a technical or geological term. The miners just used it to describe what they saw: folded, gold-bearing quartz veins whose outcrops are corrugated and resemble barrels.

The quartz veins that host the gold are hard and surrounded by softer shale. When the rocks were compressed by forces resulting from tectonic plate collision, the quartz vein buckled to form barrel shapes but the surrounding shale reacted like toothpaste and absorbed the pressure. The barrel shape looked distinctive to the miners so the term was invented.

Miners of that era were generally not what we would now consider geologists or engineers – sciences that underpin the modern mining industry – so they often invented terms that were descriptive, especially when something reminded them of something else.

Another example is the old miners in the Londonderry iron mine called their best ore "bottle ore.” The actual term was botryoidal hematite but they had trouble pronouncing “botryoidal” and shortened it to bottle.

Gold was discovered in Waverley in 1861 on the farm of Charles P. Allen. Allen moved to the area from Massachusetts and built furniture and bucket factories. Today, the local high school is named after him. He named his farm Waverley after the novel Waverley by Sir Walter Scott and the area came to be known by the same name.

From 1860-1868 Waverley's population grew from 200 to 2000 thanks to the gold rush. The area had over 30 gold mines in 1864. By 1869 the small-time operators working in the area were driven out by flooding issues. The area was mainly idle for 25 years until 1899 when a large portion of Laidlaw Hill was purchased by the Waverley Gold Mining Company, and the first systematic mining started. Mining stopped in 1903 except for a few ounces of production in 1905, 1915, 1918 and in the 1930s. Total production in Waverley was 73,000 ounces of gold.

Waverley Gold Rush Days is an annual event that celebrates the area’s gold mining history. It’s an example of how historical mining contributes to the province’s tourism industry (i.e. the Museum of Industry in Stellarton, miners museums in Glace Bay and Springhill, the Malagash Salt Mine Museum, etc.)