On October 28, 1865, geologist Henry H. Eames returned to St. Paul after initiating a survey of the mineral wealth present in the Lake Vermilion area only to find an abundance of rumors concerning a valuable gold strike on the shores of that lake. A number of gold mining companies were quickly organized, and a St. Paul newspaper dispatched a special correspondent to the Vermilion gold field. Hundreds of men including recently discharged civil war veterans made their way to Duluth, where they purchased food and supplies for the trek north to the supposed gold fields.
During the winter of 1865-66, many of these men were employed by the mining co. to break open a road from Duluth to Pike Bay of Lake Vermilion. This road followed in part an old Indian trail from the Head of the Lakes. The improved trail stretched 85 miles to the north and in time, became known as the Old Vermilion Trail. At first only a winter road, it was improved in 1868-69 by George R. Stuntz who directed a resurvey and construction project financed in part by government funds.
Three quarters of a mile NE of this marker the gold prospectors created a log cabin and shack community named Winston City. In 1866 it boasted several stores, a hotel, four saloons and a post office. But gold was not found in quantities sufficient to cover the cost of mining. In 1867 the disappointed miners deserted their gold diggings and Winston City shortly became the first ghost town of the Vermilion Range.