Gold Rush in North Carolina? Yes Really

By / Life on the Island / Tuesday, 28 March 2017 04:00

When people think of gold discoveries in the United States they immediately think California or even Alaska given the popularity of TV shows like “Gold Rush”, but very few people know the first gold found in the United States was discovered in what is now Midland, NC at the Reed Gold Mine.   
Initially it was just a stream in which a 12 year old boy named Conrad Reed found a "pretty yellow rock" (a 17 lb gold nugget) while fishing.  The nugget was found in 1799 but used as a doorstop until 1802 when his father John sold the nugget to a jeweler in Fayetteville for a whopping $3.50, which was about one weeks' wages. The nugget was worth $3400.   At today's gold prices, it would be worth over $311,500.  Eventually the family learned the value of gold, and bought up the surrounding land to control the mining of the gold. Mining gold back then was dangerous since most of the gold was intermixed with quartz, requiring it to be pulverized using a "stamp mill" and then mixed with mercury which attracted out the gold.  Mercury of course is toxic.   
The largest nugget found at the Reed mine weighed in at 28 pounds. North Carolina led the nation in gold production until 1848 when the California gold rush hit full swing.  This large gold output prompted Congress to establish the Charlotte Mint on March 3, 1835 in the 400 block of West Trade Street.  This mint came into existence at the same time as the New Orleans Mint in Louisiana and the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia through an Act of Law that President Andrew Jackson signed on this same date.  
The first coin minted in Charlotte was the $5 Gold Half Eagle Liberty Without Turban coin, but they are most known for the  Liberty Head Gold Dollars.   All of the coins bear the "C" mintmark and there were 1,206,538 coins produced worth over $5 million.  Today the rarity of the coins make them worth much more than just the gold value.
In May 1861, NC seceded from the Union and the Mint was taken over by the Confederacy to serve as a hospital and military offices, but not before the South used every ounce of the gold bullion up.  After the completion of the Civil War, the NC General Assembly petitioned Congress to re-open the Mint in Charlotte, but was denied.   The Mint building was later relocated and now serves as an art museum.
When people think of gold discoveries in the United States they immediately think California or even Alaska given the popularity of TV shows like “Gold Rush”, but very few people know the first gold found in the United States was discovered in what is now Midland, NC at the Reed Gold Mine.   Initially it was just a stream in which a 12 year old boy named Conrad Reed found a "pretty yellow rock" (a 17 lb gold nugget) while fishing.  The nugget was found in 1799 but used as a doorstop until 1802 when his father John sold the nugget to a jeweler in Fayetteville for a whopping $3.50, which was about one weeks' wages.  The nugget was worth $3400.   At today's gold prices, it would be worth over $311,500.  Eventually the family learned the value of gold, and bought up the surrounding land to control the mining of the gold.  Mining gold back then was dangerous since most of the gold was intermixed with quartz, requiring it to be pulverized using a "stamp mill" and then mixed with mercury which attracted out the gold.  Mercury of course is toxic.   The largest nugget found at the Reed mine weighed in at 28 pounds.   
North Carolina led the nation in gold production until 1848 when the California gold rush hit full swing.  This large gold output prompted Congress to establish the Charlotte Mint on March 3, 1835 in the 400 block of West Trade Street.  This mint came into existence at the same time as the New Orleans Mint in Louisiana and the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia through an Act of Law that President Andrew Jackson signed on this same date.  The first coin minted in Charlotte was the $5 Gold Half Eagle Liberty Without Turban coin, but they are most known for the  Liberty Head Gold Dollars.   All of the coins bear the "C" mintmark and there were 1,206,538 coins produced worth over $5 million.  Today the rarity of the coins make them worth much more than just the gold value.
 In May 1861, NC seceded from the Union and the Mint was taken over by the Confederacy to serve as a hospital and military offices, but not before the South used every ounce of the gold bullion up.  After the completion of the Civil War, the NC General Assembly petitioned Congress to re-open the Mint in Charlotte, but was denied.   The Mint building was later relocated and now serves as an art museum.
If you have an interest in viewing some beautiful Charlotte Liberty Head Gold Dollars, the Lower Cape Fear Coin Club is sponsoring the Azalea Festival Coin Show at the Elks Lodge located at 5102 Oleander Drive on Saturday April 8th (10 am- 5 pm) and Sunday April 9th (10 am- 4 pm), which showcases all types of coins, paper money, gold and silver, including the Charlotte Mint coins.   Gold History Corporation associated with the Reed Gold Mine (a NC Historic site) will be at the show.  $5 buys a pan of dirt from a working mine and you can learn the techniques of "panning" developed 200 years ago, and still used today.
  There is a Kids Korner with free coins and prizes for young collectors.  David Meisky, a confederate money expert who often portrays Col. William (Extra Billy) Smith who was also Governor of Virginia during the war will be presenting from 11AM-12PM each day.  On Saturday, we have 2 special events, a Boy Scout Merit Badge Clinic from 1:30-3:30 PM and the Azalea Princess and her court will be present at 3:30 for photo ops and chatting.
 So, if you just want to have some fun, or you are curious about how much that old coin your grandpa gave you is really worth, come on out to the coin show, bring it along and find out!  If you ask, dealers will provide free estimates of a coin's value.  Admission is free but we do ask for a whopping $1 donation which also gets you a raffle ticket for one of 11 prizes including 10 unique coin related gifts and a gold coin.   The show is amazingly fun for the whole family, even more so if you're lucky enough to win a prize.

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