SARANAC LAKE GOLD



This is the law of the Yukon, and ever she makes it plain: "Send not your foolish and feeble; send me your strong and your sane -- Strong for the red rage of battle; sane for I harry them sore; Send me men girt for the combat, men who are grit to the core; ---"
-Robert Service- THE LAW OF THE YUKON

Robert Service had a great talent for creating gritty, "common man's poetry" about rugged individuals suffering hardships in the Yukon while scrounging for gold. If the Bank Of Victoria had transferred R.S. to Saranac Lake instead of the Yukon, his poems would have been about the early settlers who came here in search of a new life. Those hardy souls were as tough and colorful as the prospectors of the Yukon and the winters here were no picnic either. Robert would have found that there was a gold rush of sorts taking place on a local mountain right here in Saranac lake. The mountain was then called Preacher Smith's Hill but today it's known as Mount Pisgah.

Mount Pisgah was part of a 160 acre plot owned by Samuel Smith. In 1872 he transferred it to his son, Robert S. Smith. At that time the hill itself wasn't considered a valuable part of the plot but in 1900, when a company called The Saranac Lake Mining Company showed interest in obtaining part of the hill, Robert began thinking that maybe there was more to that hill than he had realized. He refused to sell and fought to keep the mining rights from the company but ended up giving in. The company was composed of Timothy McCarthy, an old Cripple Creek prospector, Joseph Merkle, who had bottling plants in both Saranac Lake and Plattsburg, M.E. McClary, of Malone, A.K. Botsford, of Saranac Lake and Edward Dobbins. Robert Service would have liked Edward.

Edward Dobbins had come to Saranac Lake in 1893 working as a laborer for the Chateaugay narrow guage railroad. He originally came from Boston but had more recently been employed at Lyon Mountain. The first mention I found of Edward was in an 1893 article in the Franklin Gazette. The writer, in a flow of flowery phrasing, states that Edward had come to Malone from Saranac Lake to transact some important business but "After 'partaking too freely of the flowing bowl' he retired to Chapman's Livery Stable on Pearl Street and asked for the privilege of lying down in the office." The writer cutely continues, "The oblivion of sleep pressed down his tired eyelids and filled his soul with peaceful dreams of home." (Wow, kind of makes you want to "partake of the flowing bowl" doesn't it?) The story goes on to say that Edward woke up later to find that 80 dollars was missing from his pocket and discovered that he had lost some important papers. He retrieved some of his money and got his important papers back with the help of Malone Police Officer Lowell. Around that time Dobbins also found time to invent a couple of handy devices. In 1895 he patented a spring grab hook, which is still used today. (patent 566,447) In 1897 he patented a self wringing mop. This design is still widely used. (patent 627,746)

Dobbins later ran a blacksmith shop in Saranac Lake and soon after that he built the Dobbins House, a hotel located just north of the Saranac Lake Firehouse. Edward had been interested in some rock samples he had taken from the south side of Pisgah and sent these to assayers in New York City, Leadville, and Toronto. The ore was worth from $6.00 to $42.40 a ton. The Saranac Lake Mining Company dug two sampling tunnels twenty or more feet into the north side of Pisgah. Those tunnels have since mostly caved in but one can still be seen. The vein supposedly ran for two miles, going through the hill and crossing the Bloomingdale Road and through the Isadore Clark Dairy Farm, which was located across the road at that time.

It appears that the Pisgah gold mining venture was a failure because in 1908 Edward went on a trip to Gowganda, Ontario, where silver was being discovered regularly. Local hotel operator, Paul Smith Jr., Saranac Lake lawyer, E.M. Merrill and Hon. George Stevens, owner of Lake Placid's stevens House, also had interests in the mining of Gowganda. It seems this group beat Dobbins to the McKay property, which they were all interested in, and staked a claim which prompted Edward to move further north and into an unforgettable two year adventure.

Edward plodded deep into the wilds of Gowganda, crossing the frozen Montreal River. Shortly after he settled, two British miners passed by and stopped to visit for a few hours. Edward gave their dog some moose meat, which was a fortunate goodwill gesture on his part. That spring the river thawed making it impassable and stranding Edward without tools to make a boat. He also had no way to communicate with his family and friends in Saranac lake to let them know that he was alive and well.

One day Edward got an unexpected visitor. The dog he had shared his moose meat with had swum across the river looking for another handout. The happy miner wrote a letter on birch bark, attached it to Fido's collar and the dog swam back to it's owners with a full stomach and a message. The dog made several visits after that and carried messages each trip. Edward had worked his mine for two years with no communication with his family but now, with the help of his canine messenger, the British miners were able to get word out to them. In 1910 Dobbins arrived back in Saranac Lake owning rights to a successful siver mine. The articles in the local newspapers of 1910 spelled it all out; "Edward Dobbins of Saranac Lake, two years ago dropped out of sight in a penniless condition. He has just returned to Saranac Lake a silver king."

The Adirondack-Record of July 5th,1923 carries the news that Edward Dobbins died on June 29th,1923 in Toronto, Canada.