Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gold of North Carolina

The discovery of a 17-pound gold nugget in Cabarrus County, NC in 1799 marks the beginning the North Carolina Gold Rush. Twelve-year-old Conrad Reed found the treasure in the waters of Little Meadow Creek and took it home where it was used as a doorstop for three years.

In 1802, the boy’s father, John Reed, took the rock to a jeweler in Fayetteville who confirmed that it was gold and bought it for $3.50
In 1825, Mattias Barringer, whose farm was about 20 miles from the Reed farm, followed a vein of surface gold down to the gold-bearing rock. The Barringer Gold Mining Company was the first of many in the Charlotte area to try deep vein mining. Subsurface mining required far more equipment and technical skill than placer mining. Within a few years, dozens of companies had been formed to work the deeper gold deposits.
The discoveries and excitement continued to mount. Production increased as experienced miners and engineers arrived from European and South American mines. By 1832, more than fifty mines were operating in North Carolina, employing more than 25,000 people. Next to farming, more people were employed in gold mining than in any other enterprise.
The first gold $1 coins made in the United States were privately minted issues. In 1831 Christopher Bechtler opened a private mint near Rutherfordton responding to the growing public need for reliable assaying and minting of gold by the mining community. The Bechtler mint operated successfully from 1831 through 1857.
The Charlotte Mint opened in 1837 and began minting coins in 1838.

The financial panic of 1837 hit the mining industry hard. Firms went dormant or bankrupt. But over the 10 year period (1838-1847), North Carolina mines still produced an average of more than 14,000 troy ounces of gold annually with a value of $289,000.
The easy discoveries of surface gold has been made. The expense of deep mining was not justified by the returns and attention was turned to California and the western states.
In 1848, California produced $245,000 worth of gold. But by 1850, California dwarfed the Southern states by producing $41 million. California gold mining peaked in 1852 with $81 million. By 1857 production was half that.

After the Civil War, gold mining resumed in North Carolina although it never returned to pre-war levels. Some gold was mined well into the 1900s.