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You probably don’t think of North Carolina as a hotbed of gold mining, despite the mascot of the University of North Carolina being a gold prospector. In fact, those unfamiliar with the history of the region might be confused as to why UNC chose this, of all things, as their mascot.  However, once upon a time, it was the second biggest industry in the Tarheel State after agriculture which led to what is known as The Carolina Gold Rush. And it all began with a 12-year-old boy happening upon a gold nugget in Cabarrus County, 50 years before anyone dreamed of finding any gold in the “Golden State.”

Conrad Reed was out playing on Meadow Creek in Cabarrus County (northeast of modern-day Charlotte and in the southern central part of the state), which ran through his family’s farm when he found a 17-pound gold nugget. No one thought there was gold in the area, so no one in his family thought anything of the treasure the boy brought home. The rock was wedge-shaped and approximately the same size as a flatiron. They thought it was an interesting curiosity, but little else and the find was used as a doorstop for several years in the Reed home.

Three years later, Reed’s father showed the “doorstop” to a jeweler who immediately recognized it for what it was and offered to purchase it. Reed decided to sell it, for the princely sum of $3.50 ($62.54 in 2019 dollars), which was the average weekly wage for a farm laborer at that time. The actual value of the nugget was somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,600 at the time, but the current market price of a 17-pound gold nugget is over a quarter-million dollars. They had previously brought the “doorstop” to a silversmith who, unfortunately for the Reeds, was unable to identify the raw gold. 

For what it’s worth, Reed didn’t seem to have any concept of what the gold was worth. It was Reed who suggested $3.50 as the price, which seemed like a large sum of money to him. He did quickly learn about the mistake he had made and the jewelry paid him an additional $1000. After this, the search for more gold on the land began in earnest. They mostly looked during the summer, not just because they weren’t working on tilling the fields, but also because the creek was much drier, which made hunting for gold a more fruitful enterprise. 

Reed eventually learned about the true value of what he had sold and entered into a partnership to extract the massive value from his land. Regional newspapers spread the news of the find and soon everyone was trying to get in on the bonanza. However, the Carolina Gold Rush was different from later gold rushes in that it wasn’t a free-for-all that anyone could get in on. Rather, the Carolina Gold Rush was primarily about small farmers investing in their own land to extract the riches that lay below the surface. It was also mostly a side project for the farmers who would go out hunting for gold after the growing season was over. 

The North Carolina Gold Rush Begins in Earnest

Gold was soon found in the surrounding counties of Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Rowan, Stanly, and Union. People poured into the region hoping to get a piece of land that would have the next big paying gold mine. One of these people was William Thornton, better known as the man who designed the United States Capitol building. He purchased 35,000 acres of land in the region forming the North Carolina Gold Mine Company whose investors included the former Governor of Maryland and a former Treasurer of the United States

Prior to that, there were very few people in the region and it was primarily an underdeveloped backwater. There were fewer than 100 families in the region, primarily of Scots-Irish stock, but also some Germans. They were all farmers raising livestock and some foodstuffs. 

The farmers were able to do this using a technique known as placer mining. This is where a stream is mined for gold in the manner of “panning for gold” using a variety of tools and technologies that were contemporary at the time. Panning for gold doesn’t have the efficiency of more modern techniques, but it was all that farmers were able to do and it served their purposes well enough. The gold extracted through this method is also low-hanging fruit, so by the 1820s, all the deposits that we’re able to be extracted through placer mining were exhausted. This led to the opening of the first lode mine shaft in 1825. There were also significant changes in mining technology around this time that allowed for a greater yield but largely meant that farmers could no longer perform the mining operations. 

Cornish Miners Leave Their Mark on America

The need for skilled miners meant that there was an influx of immigrants from England, primarily from the ceremonial county of Cornwall in the far southwest of England. The spread of news about the big gold strike was not limited to North Carolina or even the United States — it had spread to Europe as well. Copper mining and tin mining were the major projects there but by the early 19th Century there was no more copper and tin to be mined in the region, so those miners were looking for work around the same time that the Carolina Gold Rush started taking off. In addition to how they changed the population of the region, the influence of Cornish miners can be seen in the design of the ore mills, which are nearly identical to the ones in Cornwall. 

They also taught their techniques to the local miners. The techniques that came from Cornwall spread throughout the entire Carolina terrane where they quickly became standard operating procedures in all mining in the region. This labor pool later is what made it possible for the California Gold Rush to happen. The labor supply was there to get gold out of the mines in an efficient way when Americans started finding gold out west. Unsurprisingly, it was typically single men who set out west to find their fortune while the married miners were content to stay in the Carolina region that had previously been so good to them. 

The Carolina Gold Rush was largely put to bed by the fact that it wasn’t a free-for-all and because gold was discovered in Georgia in 1828. The locus of American gold fever thus moved a few hundred miles south, but the region where the Carolina Gold Rush first took place continued to be a powerhouse in terms of gold production in the United States. 

Whatever Happened to John Reed?

John Reed, Conrad’s father, of course, had his own mining operation, known as the Reed Gold Mine. He started with placer mining and a slave named Peter soon found a 28-pound gold nugget, the market value today of which would be closer to a million dollars than not. Underground mining began on the site in 1831. 

John Reed was originally Johannes Reith, an illiterate Hessian soldier who saw action during the American Revolution underneath Colonel Friedrich von Purbeck. He later deserted the British with his arms and equipment somewhere outside of what is now Savannah, Georgia. He settled first in the lower part of North Carolina and later upper Mecklenburg County. He finally landed in Cabarrus County, where an ethnic German enclave had come together. This is where he anglicized his name and also where he struck gold.

Reed died a very rich man thanks to the mine. Still, he lived a modest life, largely investing the money that he made back in the land and in the slaves to work it. He purchased an additional 2,000 acres of land in the area, retaining about half of it and flipping the other half. At a time when the average North Carolinian owned no slaves, Reed and his partners joined the upper crust of society by being part of the top 2 percent of all slave owners in the state. 

Other North Carolina Farmers Get in on the Action

Many of the landowners never profited from gold strikes at all but were able to make a handsome return on their land by selling it to speculators hoping for the next big motherlode of gold. Some kept the land, selling only the mineral rights to the land, which was a very low risk — they could continue to till the land while speculators took all of the risks for gold that might or might not even be there. 

The first lode was found in Stanly County on the land of a man named Tobias Barringer. Union County’s Smart Mine (which was operational from 1835 to 1911) and the Howie Mine (which ran from 1840 to 1942). The Carolina Gold Rush peaked in the 1830s and 1840s when there were fully 56 mines operating in the state. Entire towns sprung up to support the workforce, which had ballooned to 25,000, as well as the industry related to extracting purer forms of gold from the raw ore. Up until 1829, North Carolina was the only state that was producing domestic gold for the purpose of minting coins for the United States. 

Mining activity at the Reed Gold Mine decreased significantly during the American Civil War. The Confederacy badly needed both labor and resources and the Reed Gold Mine was taking too much of the former without providing enough of the latter to justify it continuing to be open. The last significant find through placer mining took place in 1896. Underground mining was discontinued on the site in 1912. But during the late 19th Century and until the mine was shuttered, it was one of the biggest producers of gold for the American treasury. The Charlotte Mint largely existed to process the gold from the Reed Mine and other mines like it in the area of the original Carolina Gold Rush. However, there was gold mined in North Carolina all the way up until 1971, the value of which is somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million. Most of this, however, was mined before 1900. When the preliminary excavations were being performed for the One First Union Center in 1988 and the NationsBank Corporate Center in 1992, trace amounts of gold were found, attesting to the incredible value of the gold in this region. 

North Carolina Gold Mining Today

These days anyone can go to the Reed Gold Mine. It’s a National Historic Site owned and operated by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. There is a museum dedicated to the history of mining in North Carolina. Visitors can also go inside the gold mines, which have been reconstructed for visitation by the general public. 

There is still a little bit of gold mining taking place in the state, but nothing compared to the glory days of the Carolina Gold Rush. Most of the hunt for gold today is about finding ways to extract it from volcanic rock. There are no active mines as such, but some people are still doing a little placer mining in the region, hoping to find a nugget or two that the Carolina Gold Rush and the resulting intensive mining in the region might have missed. All that said, it is estimated that only 2 percent of the gold in the region has actually been mined. 

One of the most important lessons to learn for people who have never heard of the North Carolina Gold Rush is that there is gold to be found in a number of areas that are not necessarily thought of as being “gold-rich.” Indeed, one never knows where the might be gold, even underneath your land. But whatever you do, don’t sell your gold doorstop for a couple of hundred dollars, even if it is simply the first sign that you’re sitting on top of a total bonanza.

The Carolina Gold Rush originally appeared on kellycodetectors.com.

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    • By KellycoDetectors
      Fans of the television series Deadwood will be somewhat familiar with the Black Hills Gold Rush. It is this gold rush that forms the background of the television series. Indeed, it is one of the more transformative events in American history, despite being somewhat lesser-known. 
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      Americans Find Gold on Indian Land
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      More than just economically, the Black Hills Gold Rush changed the makeup of the United States of America. A large section of the country that had been given to the Sioux was annexed to the United States. While it’s likely that this would have happened eventually anyway — it did everywhere else — the Black Hills Gold Rush provided an incentive for it to happen earlier. 
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      The Black Hills Expedition, also known as the Custer Expedition, was dispatched by the federal government in 1874. This was where significant amounts of gold were discovered and before the detachment had even returned to Fort Abraham Lincoln, news had spread across the nation of the gold. What’s more, the Lakota Indians in the region could see the writing on the wall and were taking on a defensive posture.
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      The Black Hills Gold Rush originally appeared on kellycodetectors.com
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    • By KellycoDetectors
      The California Gold Rush certainly was in a far-off land for the Americans of the time, who had to trek long distances to get to their final destination. But the 49’ers had nothing on those brave adventurers who went to Nome, Alaska to seek their fortunes in 1899. Which brings us to the Nome Gold Rush.
      While Nome, Alaska was owned by the United States at the time of the Nome Gold Rush, it might as well have been Mars, both in terms of getting there and in terms of surviving in the harsh and unforgiving climate. Despite the apocryphal quip often attributed to Mark Twain, that the worst winter he ever saw was June in San Francisco, there is simply no comparison between a miserable Northern California summer and any day of the week in Nome, Alaska.
      Nome is not simply in Alaska, it is in a more northern part of the state. It is more than 60 degrees north of the equator (64°30′14″N to be exact), which puts it about 100 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It wasn’t the only gold rush in Alaska — there was also the Fairbanks Gold Rush —  but it might hold the title for the biggest gold rush at the northernmost latitude.
      It was the Nome Gold Rush that made Nome the largest city in Alaska for a period.
      How the Nome Gold Rush Started
      Alaska is known for many things, one being a popular vacation choice. However, Nome started off as a small outpost at the outlet of the Snake River on the Seward Peninsula, which is part of the Norton Sound on the Bering Sea. Prior to the settlement at Nome, Inupiaq Eskimo used the area as a camp dating centuries prior to the arrival of Russians in the area. The Port of St. Michael, about 125 miles southeast of Nome, was founded by the Russians for the purposes of sailing down the Yukon River. This area quickly became a popular destination for whalers and fur traders. Russian Orthodox Church missions began in the 1880s. Council, Alaska was the place where gold was first found a year before it was found in the Nome area.
      The first men to strike gold in the region are known to us by the sobriquet “the Three Lucky Swedes.” These were Jafet Lindeberg (who was actually Norwegian-American) and Swedish-Americans Erik Lindblom and John Brynteson. We will talk more about these men and their fascinating life stories later in this article. The short version is that three men struck gold on Anvil Creek and founded what is now the Nome mining district. Their discovery quickly spread throughout the surrounding camps during the winter, leading to an influx of 10,000 fresh from the Klondike Gold Rush which began three years prior.
      In 1899 there were significant amounts of gold found in the beach sands around the Bering Sea coast. By 1900 there was a tent city along the beach that stretched 30 miles from Cape Rodney to Cape Nome. This only accelerated the influx of treasure-seekers into the region. The spring of 1900 saw arrivals from San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland into the area aboard a newly vibrant steamship line running to the Nome region. People came from much further than the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, coming all the way from Adelaide, Australia aboard Inca, a schooner, in 1902, the maiden voyage of this ship.
      The Nome Gold Rush was also more contentious than other gold rushes in the United States. “Claim jumpers” came onto the land, upset that all the best land had already been taken by earlier arrivals. They attempted to file claims for land that had already been claimed by other gold prospectors. The federal judge for the region decided to recognize the original claims at the expense of the claim jumpers, but the claim jumpers began offering a segment of their land to influential politicians.
      How Mining Worked at Nome
      There were two main locations for mining during the Nome Gold Rush: the beach and the creeks.
      The beach presented a unique problem for prospectors in the region: The beach could not properly be claimed like the rest of the land around Nome. This created tons of problems because there were literally tons of gold on the beach. Much more, in fact, than what was available in the nearby creeks.
      As is often the case, the first gold found on the beaches of Nome was simply panned out of the water. There was that much of it around. By the summer of 1899 people were using human-powered machinery to get it out, such as sluice boxes and rock crushers were present. The next year things got a bit more industrialized. Small machines utilizing hoses and pumps began to show up. By 1902, the big companies had taken over and small claimants and prospectors had virtually all disappeared, bought out by bigger interests who were much more capable of getting the harder to reach gold out of the ground than they were.
      There was a very short window of time every year when the beaches could be worked — June to October. This is because Nome is so far north that even seawater will freeze during part of the year, making gold mining impossible. What’s more, the local police would chase off anyone who wasn’t adequately prepared for the harsh and unforgiving winters of Nome.
      The creeks were less lucrative because not only are they cold, but they run slowly, making panning a much more labor-intensive form of gold mining than it is anywhere else in the world. At the creeks there needed to be special equipment to thaw the ground and suck up all of the gravel. Mining the creeks in Nome was more a question of quantity than quality. The more gravel you were able to suck up the more gold you were going to find. It was a numbers game. Sluices, gravity, and suction were the main ways of doing this. Gold dredges and mine shafts were also used, but in far less abundance then they were in other places that didn’t have frozen ground most of the year. Steam was used both to soften the ground before the actual mining as well as to collect the gravel during the winter months.
      Nome: Alaska’s Gold Rush Boom Town
      Gold rushes always have a massive economic impact on the surrounding areas and the Nome Gold Rush was no exception. What once had been a tiny, insignificant settlement in a backwater of America often referred to as “Seward’s Folly” to reference what was thought to be an imprudent purchase of the land by Secretary of State William Seward, was now a bustling metropolis fueled by the gold rush.
      Before the gold rush, there was virtually nothing to be found in the area. After the gold rush, in 1905 there was just about anything one could want out of their community: schools, churches, saloons, a post office, and multiple newspapers. Even some of the nation’s earliest automobiles started showing up in Nome in short order and would drive down the planks on Front Street. America’s first wireless telegraph that transmitted more than 100 miles was in Nome. Telegraphs were relayed to St. Michael on their way to Seattle.
      Strangely, there was no harbor for large ships during this period, only one for small boats. This isn’t to say that there were no ships coming within striking distance of Nome. Indeed, we have already mentioned one by name – the Inca from Australia. What would happen, however, is that the larger ships would stay out at sea and the people would be ferried to the mainland via smaller boats. This is because of the ice around the area that rarely ever melted, making a direct approach a dangerous endeavor indeed. Sometimes passengers were delivered to the ice itself, then brought ashore by teams of dogs.
      In 1901, the town got a loading crane which certainly made life easier for those who were still mining gold. By 1905 there was a wharf. In 1907 the town got a tramway.
      The Nome Gold Rush Winds Down
      Gold is, of course, a nonrenewable resource and like all other gold rushes, the Nome Gold Rush eventually played out, meaning that individual prospectors could no longer profit from the gold deposits and had to either look for gold somewhere else or sell the claims they had to larger commercial interests capable of large-scale industrial mining projects.
      In 1904 and 1905, gold was discovered on other parts of the beach which made for a sort of mini gold rush that boosted the main one and extended its life. However, none of these new strikes had nearly the same amount of promise as the original. Between 1900 and 1909, Nome was 20,000 strong but by 1909 the population had dropped to a meager 250.
      Gold mining still takes place in Nome and, indeed prospectors continue to show up looking to strike it rich in Alaska. We’re not sure how many people have struck gold in Nome, but we do know of at least three men who made an absolute killing: The Three Lucky Swedes.
      Who Were The Three Lucky Swedes?
      The Three Lucky Swedes were indeed lucky. What else would you call three men who basically tripped over a king’s ransom in gold?
      First, there was Norwegian Jafet Isaksen Lindeberg. His experience in Nome was not the first time he found himself prospecting. Indeed, he was a gold hunter from a very young age, looking for gold in northern Norway during his childhood. He first found himself in Alaska after the United States Congress stepped in to provide some direction during the Klondike Gold Rush. Congress feared a famine or other humanitarian disaster and sought reindeer handlers to ensure the smooth delivery of goods into the region.
      Lindeberg was one of these reindeer handlers. He was recruited in Norway and set sail for the states aboard the SS Manitoba on February 4, 1898.
      Erik Lindblom wasn’t a prospector, but he was from the iron and copper mining region of Sweden, which gave him a working knowledge of mining. He left Sweden at 17 and was involved in mining in Montana, Colorado, and Idaho before he found himself in Nome, Alaska. He became a naturalized citizen in 1894.
      Finally, there was John Brynteson. He came to the United States from Sweden at the age of 16 and worked in copper and iron mining in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He gained his American citizenship in 1896. He came to Alaska under the auspices of the Swedish Mission Covenant.
      These three men began hunting for gold together in mid-September 1898. They quickly happened upon what they knew was a major discovery. Together, they formed the Pioneer Mining and Ditch Company, which quickly became Nome’s biggest mining company.
      Brynteson left Alaska first and was the only one of the three to return to Sweden. Lindblom took his gold profits and invested it in several sectors, including banking, real estate, and transportation. He eventually became the president of the Swedish-American Bank of San Francisco. He personally financed the construction of the ice parks in Stockholm for the 1912 Olympiad. Lindeberg’s life was mostly uneventful after Nome, but while there he was part of a group of masked vigilantes who attacked claim jumpers in an attempt to retain his property.
      You can still visit the Camp Nome mining district, which is a historical tourist attraction in otherwise sleepy Nome. There aren’t even 4,000 people living in the Nome area these days, less than a quarter of what was there at the peak of the Nome Gold Rush. But for one shining instant, this little fishing village on the coast of Alaska became the hottest destination in the world for the most adventurous men alive.
      The Nome Gold Rush and Three Lucky Swedes originally appeared on Kellycodetectors.com.
    • By Joe D.
      Hey all,
          I got up to Treasure Coast for a couple of hunts, to break in my new/used Equinox! I haven't had one for a few months, but i got back into it in a hurry!
          The area is always full of detectorists for any rare erosion event, and this past week was no different! The blue erosion bags are a main indicator of the level of erosion present! Normally they are covered by up to several feet of sand! The orange sand is the original sand we look for, when looking for the old stuff! Last friday was the better of the two days i was there! I found a few pieces of lead, iron, copper, and modern coins! For a few lucky hunters, there were musket ball's and spent bullets! There were a few coin and artifact finds, but those were on various other beaches nearby!
          The highlight of this trip was recognizing, than meeting a local legend here; Terry Shannon, a super nice, very experienced detectorist, and author! He has a few very good books out on Amazon! He was my best "find" of the day!
          I also went Monday, but i caught the tide incoming, and just got beat up by the big waves, with very few targets! But i will keep going there, whenever i get the chance, to finally find some of the elusive and rare Spanish items!👍👍

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