October 5 , 1866: St. Paul papers report Duluth overrun with gold prospectors

On this day in 1866, St. Paul newspapers were reporting that hundred of gold prospectors were mobbing Duluth—and Superior—on their way to Lake Vermilion to look for gold. Just five days earlier news had reached St. Paul that gold had been discovered at Lake vermilion and the newly formed Vermilion Falls Mining Company was setting out at once for Lake Vermilion. Soon enough, according to historian Hiedi Bakk-Hansen, “anyone with floor space was setting up business as a pioneer B & B (Bedroll & Barn more likely than Bed & Breakfast) and every abandoned shack had been commandeered by under-equipped city slickers with gold fever. An anonymous newspaper letter-writer calling himself ‘Oro Fino’ crowed about the newcomers wearing ‘broadcloth pants and patent leather boots as if they expected to attend a reception in Washington!’” Those early prospectors would have to wait in the Zenith City for a while: the road to Lake Vermilion was not yet built, as Bakk-Hansen explains: “It wouldn’t be until October 15 that a group of men, probably including George Stuntz, were hacking away at the sides of the Native American trail that began near today’s 8th Avenue East and the Lake Shore to make a ‘winter road’ for the gold seekers, wide enough not just for travelers on foot, but now for dog sleds, single-horse toboggans and even ox-teams with sleds carrying heavy mining equipment.” That path would become the Vermilion Trail, and you can read its entire history—including the history of the Lake Vermilion Gold Rush, here.

This sign is located on the north side of Martin Road, somewhat west of the end of Woodland Avenue. (Image: Heidi Bakk-Hansen)