There are a couple of different versions on how gold
was first discovered in Cordova. According to the investors'
publication, gold was first discovered in a road bed
crossing an outcrop following a heavy rainstorm. Other
sources point to a young prospector and miner named
Marcus Powell, who accidentally discovered gold while
exploring a cave.
Whichever is true, the property was eventually sold
to a Peterborough lumber merchant named H. Strickland.
Strickland then sold the mine to another local individual
who in turn sold it to a British firm, The Cordova Exploration
Company, in 1897. The mine was worked from 1898 to 1903 and then abandoned. However it appears the townsite might have been used until 1911, by the Ledyard Mine, an iron mine located about a kilometre south of Cordova. Ledyard operated from 1898 to 1911.
By the time Cordova Gold Mines Ltd. purchased the assets from
the British company in 1911, the mines had been abandoned for eight years.
Their holdings included a total
of 377.1 acres in Marmora and Belmont Townships and
an additional 300 acres at Deer Lake (now known as Cordova
Lake) where their 1200 HP power plant was located. The
mining site was totally self contained and included
housing for both the workers and management. The mine was reportedly started up by P. Kirkegaard, one of the company officials and a former manager at the nearby Deloro Mines.
Cordova Gold Mines Ltd. extolled the virtues of both
the village of Cordova and the readily available access
to both road and rail transportation. The location was
considered ideal. The village could be reached from
different points by two of the three major railways,
the Grand Trunk and the Canadian Northern. The third
railway, Canadian Pacific, had a large freight station
in Havelock which was only 12 miles away. The company's
head office was located in Toronto, some 112 miles away
(157 km), a trip which at that time took between four
to five hours.
Most of the village of Cordova was located on the company's
property, however a number of lots were sold off to
local individuals to establish private homes, stores
and other businesses to meet the residents' needs. The
village included two churches, a school, three general
stores, one of which was owned by the company, a post
office, butcher, baker and a large company boarding
house. It was expected the village could support between
400 to 500 residents.
Like most mining communities, Cordova was 'officially'
dry and the refreshment parlour served only non-alcoholic
beverages. However legend has it that just north of
the village there was a mobile saloon situated on a
road that was also the boundary line between Hastings
and Peterborough Counties. Word travelled fast in those
days and whenever the authorities approached, the saloon
would be wheeled over to the 'Hastings' side of the
Engineering reports suggested the veins were far
deeper than was originally thought. One enthusiastic
engineer even hinted reserves might be sufficient
to carry the mine for another 50 years. The new company
planned to increase their profitability by sinking
the three main shafts down to 500 ft. and connecting
them underground. In addition, they planned to reduce costs
in the mill by making better use of the inexpensive
waterpower at Deer Lake Falls. Other efficiencies
were also being considered.
Evidently the engineering reports were overly optimistic. Cordova Gold Mines operated from 1911 until 1917. During that time the total value of the gold mined amounted to a paltry $334,422. The company ceased operations after the plant was destroyed by fire in 1917.
The mines at Cordova remained idle from 1917 to 1938, when another company, COMINCO (Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada), decided to give it one last run. COMINCO, now Teck Cominco Ltd., operated from 1938 to 1940, producing about 150 tons a day, which yielded a total value of $474,548. Following the company's departure, the mines were closed forever and all the mining buildings were dismantled. The dam and raceway were later
used by the Deer Lake Fish Hatchery for many years, until
it too shut down.