Northern Minnesota was the scene of two minor gold rushes in 1865-66 and 1893. It was these insignificant gold rushes that were responsible for the discovery and development of the highly significant iron mining industry in Minnesota.
After the news become public in 1865 that a Minnesota state geologist had found gold and silver-bearing quartz near Lake Vermillion, hopeful prospectors rushed to the area. It is estimated that more than 2,000 people came to the region, representing a huge European population surge for the Range.
LittleAmerican Gold Mine - Rainy Lake 1894
Gold Miner's Cabin - Rainy Lake 1894
Rainy Lake Hotel - Rainy Lake 1894
Fifteen companies were formed to attempt to extract gold from the Vermillion rock. However, the gold rush was short lived and largely a bust. The little bit of gold found was more expensive to extract than it was worth. It appears that the only individuals to realize a profit from this gold rush were teamsters freighting equipment, store owners selling supplies to the prospectors and miners, operators of boardinghouses and saloons, and land speculators. By 1867, prospectors had abandoned the area for more fertile grounds in the West. Some prospectors spread word of all the iron that they found, leading to the beginning of the development of the Minnesota iron ranges less than 20 years later.
Then, in the summer of 1893, gold was discovered on Little American Island in Rainy Lake (along the U.S.- Canadian border). Miners hoping to strike it rich flocked to the area. Once again, the hoped for riches proved to be beyond reach. Several mines, including the Little American Mine, Big American Mine, Lyle Mine, the Bushyhead Mine and Soldier Mine all opened on islands on Rainy Lake. Although most prospectors moved on to seek their fortunes further afield, the gold rush did lead to the settlement of many communities in northern Minnesota, including International Falls.