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A gold medal mystery

An overwhelming sense of pride, hidden history and mystery surrounds 10 ounces of gold stashed in a fire-proof box and vault in the Nevada County government building.

As told in several articles published 100 years ago in The Union, the story is one of great pride. However, “it is a piece of history with a lot of questions hanging around it,” said the county’s treasurer and tax collector, Christina Dabis.

Dabis is seeking information from people who know anything about the gold medal given as a gift to Nevada County in 1904 by James D. Hague, then owner of the North Star Mine.



It is known that in 1904, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors was criticized for making what was then referred to as an “extravagant purchase.” For $2,500, the board bought a mineral exhibit that consisted of gold nuggets, gold ore and gold-laden quartz. It was to be sent to the World State Fair in St. Louis, Mo.

Though the citizenry was critical of the supervisors’ purchase, the people took pride in the exhibit that would compete with others from around the world.




Hague, in fact, promised Commissioner Sam Butler that if Nevada County’s mineral exhibit won first place, he would donate gold from the North Star Mine to make the medal out of Nevada County gold.

Several weeks later, on Oct. 21, 1904, the Grass Valley Union headline read: “County Wins Gold Medal. Mineral Exhibit the Best From Any One County at World’s Fair – Will Accept Hague’s Offer.”

Articles were written about how “Nevada County redeemed the glory of California as a mining state” and urged people to “take their hats off.”

All that is known to remain from the event are newspaper articles and the gold medal – which bears the design of the Big Dipper and the North Star on one of the outer edges. The event also confirmed: “Nevada County is Gold Country, the world recognized it,” Dabis said.

The limited information shrouding the medal begs for answers to more questions: What happened to the mineral exhibit? What about the certificate for the medal? What became of James Hague and Commissioner Butler?

Dabis is asking anyone with information about the exhibit or the people involved to call Cheryl Nilsson in the treasurer’s office at 265-1285.

The county hopes to recognize the history of the medal by reproducing it for possible use in the July Fourth parade or as the county’s theme in the State Fair. For now, they would like to gather as much information as possible, Dabis said.


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