Reed Gold Mine

Reed Gold Mine

Although most people think of California or the Alaskan Klondike when they hear the term "gold rush," the discovery of gold in the United States happened right in the North Carolina piedmont.

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The Reed Gold Mine in Cabarrus County is the site of the country's first documented gold find, back in 1799. Charlotte's financial structure began with the nation's first Gold Rush.

Gold mining soon spread gradually to nearby counties and eventually into other Southern states. During its peak years, gold mining was second only to farming in the number employed in North Carolina. The estimated value of gold recovered reached over $1 million a year. In fact, North Carolina led the nation in gold production until 1848, when it was eclipsed by the great rush in California.

The story starts with John Reed, a Hessian soldier, who left the British army near the end of the Revolutionary War and settled near fellow Germans living in the lower Piedmont of North Carolina. Like most people at that time, Reed lived off of what they raised on their modest family-run farms, where they produced small grain crops such as corn and wheat.

The life of farmer John Reed would have been long forgotten had it not been for a seemingly minor event one Sunday in 1799. Twelve year-old Conrad Reed discovered a seventeen pound nugget here in Little Meadow Creek On that day, Reed's son, Conrad, found a large yellow rock in Little Meadow Creek on the family's farm. The family kept the unusual looking yellow rock, and, the story goes, used it as a doorstop for three years.

Experience twelve year-old Conrad Reed discovered a seventeen pound nugget here in Little Meadow Creek, placer mining, or panning, uncovered the largest nuggets at the Reed Goldmine, rock was sent above ground through Morgan's shaft, machine that really takes a pounding; it crushes quartz into fine dust for gold extraction, tour groups see firsthand where miners went to find gold, your hand at panning for gold—and take your findings home with you, a audio tour is available from kiosks throughout the grounds, the view from the bottom of Morgan's shaft, 60 feet underground, what is now the Charlotte Mint Museum was once an Assay Office, Over $5 million in gold were coined at the Charlotte Mint...

 In 1802, a Fayetteville jeweler identified the rock as a gold nugget. He paid what Reed asked for, $3.50, though the actual value was around $3,600. Reed, an uneducated but not ignorant man, later settled with the jeweler for $1,000.

The following year, John Reed formed a partnership with three local men and began a mining operation on his farm. The partners supplied equipment and workers to dig for gold in the creek bed, while Reed provided the land. The men mined mainly in the off-season from farming, dividing the returns equally, but giving first priority to their crops. Before the end of the first year, however, a slave named Peter had unearthed a 28-pound nugget. Using only pans and rockers to wash the creek gravel, the part-time miners recovered an estimated yield of $100,000 by 1824.

Hearing of Reed's good fortune, other Piedmont farmers began exploring their creeks and finding gold. The fever began to take hold. Men and women of all ages worked in the gold fields. The lure of gold drew miners from as far as the Cornish coast in England.

"Placer," or creek, gold mining was followed by underground mining when it was discovered in 1825 that the metal also existed in veins of white quartz. The search for underground or "lode" gold required much more money, labor, and machinery. Underground work at the Reed mine did not begun until 1831. Four years later, a family squabble resulted in a court injunction, closing the mine for a decade.

Over $5 million in gold were coined at the Charlotte Mint, Stanfield, North CarolinaThe mine made John Reed a wealthy man. Soon after his death in 1845, the mine was sold at public auction, and changed hands many times through the years. Placer miners found the last large nugget there in 1896, which weighed approximately 23 pounds. The last underground mining there ended in 1912.

Portions of the underground tunnels at the Reed mine have been restored for guided tours, with a visitor center containing exhibits of gold and historical mining equipment. An orientation film highlights the first gold discovery, and visitors can tour a restored ore-crushing stamp mill. There is picnicking on the grounds and trails that wind through the property. Interactive kiosks explain the geological relevance of rock found at various points along the trail.

Visitors can try their hand at panning for gold and can take their finds home with them. Panning is available on a seasonal basis, or weather permitting.

Carolina Gold Facts

  • The Reed gold Mine produced over 200 pounds of gold nuggets that weighed one pound or more.
  • From 1804 - 1825, North Carolina mines supplied all domestic gold coined by the U.S. Mint, worth a total of $134,000 at that time.
  • Between 1800 and 1948, there were 294 mines and prospects in the central Piedmont of North Carolina, and 50 in South Carolina.
  • By 1849, approximately $2.6 million in gold came from Charlotte mines.
  • By contrast, between 1800 and 1848, it is estimated that the Reed mine in Cabarrus County had produced over $10 million dollars in gold.
  • From 1876 to 1891, $2.1 million in gold bullion were assayed in Charlotte.
  • In 1891, five gold mines existed in the immediate suburbs of Charlotte and 60 could be found in Mecklenburg County.
  • Estimates say 20,000 tons of ore are still underground in Mecklenburg County, but high labor costs make the gold unprofitable to mine. Mecklenburg ore is worth $50 to $180 per ton.
  • Records of gold production for North Carolina total $24 million, but experts believe those records reflect only about half of the gold that was actually mined.
  • The total gold production is estimated at $50 million to $65 million.
  • Assuming gold prices today were $400 per ounce, that same amount of gold would be worth $742,856,800. dollars.

Hours at Reed Gold Mine are:

April through October:
Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday 1 - 5 p.m.
November through March:
Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunday 1 - 4 p.m.
Closed Mondays and most major holidays.

Admission is free. A fee is charged for panning. Groups are requested to make advance reservations. The stamp mill and panning area are operated on a seasonal basis.

For more information, contact:    

Reed Gold Mine
9621 Reed Mine Road
Midland, N.C. 28107
Phone: 704.721.4653, Fax: (704) 721-4657, Email: r...@ncmail.net
Website: http://www.nchistoricsites.org/reed/reed.htm

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