The Reed Gold Mine

by Joey Hughes
8th Grade, Community House Middle School, Charlotte, NC
Mr. Schulman’s Class

 

Summary

John Reed’s son, Conrad, found a 17 pound yellow rock in a creek bed near his house. Upon discovering it was gold they sold it and created a mine (shown on left) to find more. This marked the beginning of the North Carolina gold rush, which had a profound positive effect on North Carolina’s economy and image. The site that this gold was found and the mine nearby make up the Reed Gold Mine Site. This site is still open today and has many activities still available.

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Rush History

The gold rush first began when John Reed, a former Hessian soldier, settled in Piedmont North Carolina. One day in 1799 one of his sons, Conrad, found an estimated 17 pound yellow rock in a creekbed near their property. This rock made a very effective doorstop for three years until 1802 when a jeweler recognized the rock as gold. Reed proceeded to sell this rock for 0.1% of it’s value, $3.50.

Reed, three other men, and some slaves began to hunt in the creek for more gold. One of the slaves, Peter, discovered a 28 pound nugget, contributing to the more than $100,000 made by 1824, which would be worth much, much more today. This method of finding gold, however, was inefficient and much better ways were soon found. The state had University of North Carolina faculty member Denison Olmsted survey the land in 1823 and find the regions with the most potential for gold. It was found that most of the gold could be hiding in veins of white quartz, fueling the interest of North Carolinians and in 1825 the first deep vein gold mine was made by Matthias Barringer and the Barringer Gold Mining Company.

The Reed family created and first activated their mine in 1831, but familial issues caused the mine to be shut down quite early, in 1835. Despite this, other mines were very large and destructive to the landscape. The English geologist George Featherstonhaugh noted this and observed that the destruction of the topsoil was ruining the lands future for agricultural uses.

News of the gold reached other inhabitants of Piedmont and elsewhere, and soon there were miners flowing into North Carolina hoping for a chance to find gold and get rich. These new civilians in NC were a big reason of the economic development during this time period. One of these people, the German Christopher Bechtler, arrived in North Carolina in 1830 and, since miners were unhappy with having pure gold and not coins, started the Bechtler minting company a year later. This company was the first way for North Carolinians to mint raw gold into coins or ingots locally without having to travel the long and dangerous journey to the government mint in Philadelphia.

This problem was remedied by Congress when they established a Charlotte mint after the many requests in 1837. Minting was one of the only things the government did to involve itself with the gold rush, the others usually being charters for companies to begin underground mining. Bechtler had already established his company as the best minting location, so when the government created their mint in Charlotte the Bechtler business wasn’t needed anymore and slowly began its decline. The Bechtler business officially went out of business in 1857, 15 years after Christopher Bechtler died.

 

 

The building of the government mint and the discovery of gold in California convinced some people to begin gold mining again. This only lasted for a short time since new technology started to become useful for mining but the outcome couldn’t outweigh the costs. The miners moving to California and the inadequacy of the gain added up to the gold mining stopping during the civil war (but not because of it).

The North Carolina gold rush was an overall positive thing for the state. The new miners added to the population, the little government involvement allowed smaller businesses to rise up, and the mining created more value to the state. North Carolina became one of the leading rural manufacturing states, and the outside perspective on NC improved greatly. And to think this all started with a little boy finding a yellow rock in his creek.

 

Present-day Site

The Reed Gold Mine and site is still available for visit today. There is some of the original gold and tools the family used on display. Some gold can even be panned for like the Reed family did back in the 1800s. There are even some tunnels from the vein mine that have been restored and are available for guided tours. For more information, go to http://www.nchistoricsites.org/reed/. When asked about the full size of the tunnels, the site responded that there are about 450 feet of the mine restored and available, and there are many other branches that are unrestored. The exact measurements of the unrestored areas are unknown, but it is important to note that the Reed Gold Mine was never a huge mine in the first place. Also, when questioned about the gold that is still left on the site they responded saying that people do regularly find some flakes of gold, and they do sometimes put flakes in pans to give people a better chance of finding it. There has been some marginally big chunks of gold found naturally which pictures, provided by the mine, are shown below.

 

 

 

Sources

“North Carolina Historic Sites.” NC Historic Sites – Reed Gold Mine – The Site Today.
www.nchistoricsites.org/reed/main.htm.
“The History of Gold in North Carolina.” Gold Fever and The Bechtler Mint.
goldfever.unctv.org/history
Kickler, Dr. Troy L. “Antebellum Gold Mining (1820-1860).” North Carolina History Project.
northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/antebellum-gold-mining-1820-1860/.

 

Picture Sources

 

https://www.ncfieldfamily.org/travel/nuggets-history-reed-gold-mine/

https://coinweek.com/education/the-story-of-the-charlotte-nc-mint/