Fifty years before prospectors invaded the Klondike, the Beauce Region of Quebec became the home of Canada’s first gold rush, discovering two of the largest nuggets ever found in the country.
In 1835 the first gold nuggets were discovered in Quebec in the Beauce Region. In 1846, 20-year-old Clothilde Gilbert was crossing the shallow, sandy river later known as the Gilbert River when she noticed a shiny, yellow rock about the size of a pigeon egg. This turned out to be a 2.5-ounce gold nugget. By 1847 the first alluvial gold is mined in the Beauce. Many times prospectors have claimed to find the source of this gold, but to this day it still eludes their keen senses for the elusive yellow metal.
Just like that, gold fever spiked again. People came to the area from across the United States and Europe, and nearby Saint-François-de-Beauce became a boomtown that would eventually be known as the “Eldorado of Canada.” A railway line was even built through the town and connected the region to the industrial and transportation hubs further north, which brought more eager gold-seekers.
Robert Kilgour found a nugget weighing 52 ounces on the north branch of the Gilbert River, a tributary of the Chaudiere River in 1866. Another 46 ounce was found in the same area by Archibald MacDonald. And in 1877 the Boissonneau brothers discovered a 42 ounce nugget.
In total, an estimated 1.5 to three tons of gold came out of the Beauce region during this gold rush, half of it from the Gilbert River.
In 1988, geologist Michel Gauthier completed a data compilation that recorded a total of 3 tons of gold which were extracted from rivers of the Beauce region by placer mining activities that took place from 1847 to 1912. Although a few scattered gold occurrences have been found in the region to date, the source has yet to be discovered.