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 road.