Thursday, March 18, 2010

D.B. Dowling left his mark here in 1893

Pipestone rock at Pipestone Bay
Not far from Bow Narrows Camp is a flat rock made of soapstone where a man named D.B. Dowling of the Geological Survey of Canada carved his initials DBD and the date 1893.

His map of Red Lake and a report by Robert Bell, also of the Geological Survey, would lead to the famous 1926 Red Lake Gold Rush.

The soapstone was known as pipestone by the indigenous Ojibwa people and the bay where it is found is called Pipestone Bay. The Ojibwa used the stone to make pipes.

The first member of the Geological Survey to become interested in Red Lake, however, was a man named A.R.C. Selwyn who was exploring Lac Seul. He noted in 1872 that the Ojibwa people referred to a nearby lake as Red Paint Lake (or Red Ochre Lake). It was the place where a person could go to find red ochre which more ancient peoples had used to make pictographs on rock faces.

Red ochre is iron oxide, basically rusty iron. This indicated that the rocks at Red Lake were volcanic and sedimentary in origin and not granite like most of the Canadian Shield.

His assumption was proven correct when Bell made his survey 11 years later in 1883. Pipestone or soapstone, is a type of limestone which is definitely sedimentary.

So Dowling made his map in 1893 and by 1897 the first gold discovery was made. The big discoveries would come later until by 1926 there were thousands of prospectors combing the rocks all around the lake.

It became the world's third-largest gold strike behind the San Francisco Gold Rush and the Klondike.

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