North Carolina Gold Mines

In case you haven’t noticed, gold has skyrocketed during the recent financial crisis and is now trading at just under $900 per ounce.  When it gets that high, it’s kind of tempting to try one’s hand at a little panning.

Doing some prospecting really isn’t that far-fetched for folks around here, because back before the California Gold Rush of 1849, much of our nation’s gold production came from North Carolina.  The peak period was during the 1830s through ’50s, but commercial mining continued off and on at some localities through the late-19th century and up into the 20th century.  Lots of gold came out of Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Burke, McDowell and Rutherford counties. 

Click the following link for a brief history of gold mining in North Carolina; and here’s another link with a focus on the ante bellum period.

The Reed Gold Mine State Historic site, just an hour and a half or so south of Greensboro near Concord, is the location of “the first documented gold find in the United States” — a seventeen pound nugget discovered about 1799 which the John Reed family allegedly used as a doorstop for three years before quite literally realizing they were “sitting on top of a gold mine.”  Though that nugget was found in a nearby stream, over the years most of the gold there was mined from deep underground. 

The last tunneling for gold (or “deep vein” mining) at the Reed Mine occurred in 1912; it opened as a State historic site in 1977.  A large network of shafts is now open to visitors, and at the visitor center you can find some neat displays of old mining equipment.  If you want to try your hand at panning for gold you can do that too — for $2 per pan, April through October.        

I was also able to find several links to mines open to the public in the Marion, North Carolina area, including the Thermal City Gold Mine, Lucky Strike Gold and Gem Mine, and Heather Grove Gold and Gem Panning.  These locations offer opportunities for pretty serious prospectors which go beyond mere panning, such as dredging and what they call “highbanking,” which involves processing material scooped up by a front-end loader. 

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the availability of gold panning at Castle McCulloch, here in Guilford County near Jamestown.  

Books and videos owned by Greensboro Public Library on North Carolina gold mining include:  a North Carolina Division of Archives and History production called All That Glitters (video recording); The Carolina Gold Rush by Bruce Roberts; The Carolina Gold Rush:  America’s First (video recording); Gold Deposits in North Carolina by Herman Bryson (non-circulating NC Reference only); The Gold Hill Mining District of North Carolina by Francis Baker Laney (NC Reference only); Gold in North Carolina by P. Albert Carpenter, III; Gold Mines in North Carolina by John Hairr and Jody Powell; Gold Mining in North Carolina:  A Bicentennial History by Richard F. Knapp and Brent D. Glass; Gold Mining in North Carolina and Adjacent South Appalachian Regions by Henry B. C. Nitze and H. A. J. Wilkens (NC Reference only); Gold Resources of North Carolina by P.A. Carpenter, III; Golden Promise in the Piedmont:  The Story of John Reed’s Mine by Richard F. Knapp; and Reed Gold Mine:  Guidebook by Linda Funk, editor.

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