The discovery of gold in Cromwell and the Otago region in 1861 caused a gold rush of thousands of miners. It began in Gabriel's Gully and within seven months 10,000 miners had flocked to this goldfield. With mine names like Dead Horse Pinch, Serpentine and Lonely Graves, the hardship and bleak optimism of gold fever is apparent. The Golden Progress Mine and Earnscleugh Dredge Tailings show how technology evolved during the rush.
By 1867, around two million ounces of gold had been taken out of Otago. This prosperous time had a major impact on the young New Zealand economy—the grand buildings of Dunedin city are one example of how Otago's riches were spent. As the gold ran out, Cromwell became a service centre for farming and stone fruit growing.