CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

Alberta’s legendary Lemon mine

The Story

There's gold in them thar hills! Or is there? Geologist Ron Stewart thinks he's found a spot that prospectors have been seeking for over 100 years. Since the 1870s stories have circulated about a rich gold mine, known as the lost Lemon mine, somewhere in the Alberta Rockies. But while Stewart is confident he's located the gold, others aren't so sure. In this clip from CBC Edmonton, one skeptic says there's no proof the mine ever existed. According to legend the mine was first discovered in 1870 when two prospectors, Frank Lemon and a man known only as Blackjack, stumbled across a rich gold deposit. That night they argued about whether to stay put or return in the spring. In a rage, Lemon took up an axe and murdered Blackjack as he slept. Consumed by guilt, he went insane and was never able to find the mine again. 

Medium: Television
Program: Alberta Newsweek
Broadcast Date: Feb. 11, 1989
Guest(s): Grant MacEwan, Ron Stewart
Reporter: Bruce Leslie
Duration: 2:56
This clip has poor video.

Did You know?

• Another part of the legend says that two members of the Stoney tribe witnessed the killing. They told their chief, Jacob Bearspaw, who cursed the site so that white men would not overrun Stoney lands.
• Many who tried to find the Lemon mine met a ghastly ruin: one drank himself to death, and another who claimed to have found the mine died after being trapped in a house fire.

• According to folk historian Frank Anderson, Blackjack died not by Lemon's hand but quietly of old age in 1913.
• Anderson also said that Lemon was known in Montana as an experienced yarn-spinner who would tell a good story in exchange for a drink.
• Other Albertans benefited from the legend. Senator Dan Riley, who frequently told the story, also worked to bring settlers to the province. Bearspaw later led expeditions seeking the mine.

• An article in Alberta Report for Feb. 20, 1989, said geologist Grant Stewart researched the Lemon mine hoping to separate myth from fact.

• Many legends had placed the lost mine near Alberta's Highwood River. Stewart and his research partner Robert Cantin decided to look 160 kilometres further south.

• At a place called the Crowsnest Volcanic, the pair took about 27 kilograms of rock and sent it off for analysis.

• The results were astounding: the rock contained "significant" amounts of gold.

• Stewart and Cantin theorized that the mine had never been found because seekers were looking for the wrong thing. Most gold finds in Western Canada are in stream-bottom beds; the gold they found was in a volcanic formation, hidden alongside worthless pyrite (fool's gold). Once Lemon and Blackjack had chipped away the visible outcropping of gold, the mine disappeared.

• In January 1989 the pair formed Crowsnest Metallics to pursue their find. At a press conference they estimated the area could hold up to 17 million ounces of gold.

• After this announcement the skeptics lined up. Geologist Elmer Stewart said: "A couple of samples don't make a mine." A financial columnist for the Globe and Mail said the mine find was scarcely as plausible as the legend itself.

• According to a 1995 article in Skyline magazine, the site discovered by Ron Stewart and Robert Cantin never yielded much gold. "Even with some reports as high as .074 ounces of gold per ton of rock," wrote author Ward Cameron, "the values were too low for commercial exploitation."



Monsters, Myths and Mystery: Great Canadian Legends more