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Friday, October 16, 2009

Gold Mining in North Carolina

North Carolina, which has produced more gold than any of the other Southeastern States, has
many gold mines arranged in zones within two physiographic provinces--the Piedmont and the
Blue Ridge. Most of the deposits and the most productive mines are in the Piedmont province in
Mecklenburg, Rowan, Cabarrus, and Davidson Counties. Deposits in the Blue Ridge province
are in Burke and Transylvania Counties. Much of the bedrock in the gold-producing areas
is granite, mica schist, and gneiss and hornblende gneiss of Precambrian, Precambrian(?) and Paleozoic(?) age. All these rocks were intruded by granite, diorite, and monzonite of Paleozoic age. Also syenite, pyroxenite, and dunite of Paleozoic age form small intrusive masses in both physiographic provinces. The first information on gold production in North Carolina was in 1799, when a 17-pound nugget was found on the Reed plantation in Cabarrus County. This discovery and others on the Reed property stimulated interest in gold mining in the Southeastern States, and by 1825 mining was in full swing. During the period 1829-55, the most productive in the State's history, 393,119 ounces of gold was produced.
An interesting sidelight, pointing out the importance of North Carolina as a gold producer, was the private coinage of gold by Christian Bechtler and his son, jewelers, who coined gold in $1.00, $2.50, and $5.00 denominations with the consent of the Federal Government from
1831 to 1857. No record of gold coined was maintained for these 26 years; therefore, total gold production for the pre-Civil War years is very difficult to estimate. The first production in North Carolina was from placers and saprolite; by 1850 several important lode mines were opened, namely the Reed, Gold Hill, Kings Mountain, Rudisil, Conrad Hill, and Phoenix. These mines were closed during the Civil War, but most of them were reactivated after the war. The periods that stand out as especially productive in the post-Civil War history of North Carolina are 1882-91, 1902-6, and 1912-15. From 1954 through 1960 a few thousand ounces of gold was produced from the Ore Knob mine in Ashe County and the Hammee mine in Vance County as a byproduct in the mining of copper and tungsten. Total gold production of North Carolina from
1799 through 1960 is estimated at 1,168,000 ounces.

In Burke County the Mills property (Brindletown placers), 13 miles southwest of Morganton in the South Mountain region, was worked as early as 1828, and by 1916, this property had produced an estimated $1 million (50,000 ounces) in gold. A few small quartz veins were worked for a time, but the placers were the more productive. The only activity ill this area in recent years was an unsuccessful attempt in 1953-54 to mine placer monazite with byproduct gold on the upper part of the First Broad River about 8 miles southeast of Brindletown at the southern end
of Richland Mountain. Apparently little, if any, gold was produced.

PHOENIX MINE: In Cabarrus County, the Phoenix mine, 6 miles southeast of the town of Concord, was discovered some time before 1856 and was worked for short intervals until 1906. There is no record of more recent activity. The total gold production was about $400,000 (about 19,400 ounces).

REED MINE: The reed (Reid) mine is 21/2 miles south of the town of Georgeville in Cabarrus County. This mine was the site of the first authenticated discovery of gold in North Carolina. In 1799, Conrad Reed, a 12-year-old boy, found a nugget of gold weighing 17 pounds in the gravels of a creek on his father's plantation. Between 1803 and 1835 additional nuggets, weighing an aggregate 115 pounds, were found on the property. In 1831 lode deposits were discovered and were worked profitably for a few years, but for a long time the mine was idle pending the settlement of the Reed Estate. There were brief periods of activity in the 1880's and 1890's; the most recent work in the area consisted of some small-scale placer operations in the mid-1930's. Production of the mines is estimated at somewhat in excess of 91 million (about 50,000 ounces) in gold.
The Cid district is an area of about 125 square miles in southern Davidson County that extends
from the Yadkin River on the southwest to about a mile beyond the village of Cid on the northeast. The earliest record of activity in this district is
in 1832 at which time the Conrad Hill mine was already producing. The Silver Hill mine began operation a few years later. Other important mines in the district were the Cid and the Emmons. Except for the Civil War period when the mines were closed, most of the activity of the Cid district occurred before 1885. The last brief flurry was in. In 1959 the mines were inaccessible and the buildings were in ruins. Production for this district is difficult to determine because of fragmentary early records. The estimated total yield is $75,000 to $250,000 in gold from the Conrad Hill mine and $1 million or more in lead, silver, zinc, and a little gold from the Silver Hill mine. Total gold production from all mines probably did not exceed 20,000 ounces.
In Franklin County the only important gold production has come from the Portis placers in the
northeast corner of the county, just east of the Wood Post Office. From 1840 to 1935, placer mining was sporadic in this area. Both alluvial placers and saprolite deposits were worked, but scarcity of water for hydraulic mining was a great obstacle to any large-scale operations. Total gold production is unknown, but estimates of value range from several hundred thousand to more than one million dollars.
The Kings Mountain mine is about 2 miles south of the town of Kings Mountain, near the Gaston-Cleveland County line. The lode deposit at Kings Mountain was worked
intermittently from 1834 to about 1895 and produced an estimated $750,000 to $1 million in gold
. Most of the gold came from quartz veins, but some came from placers in the streams below the mine and some came from saprolite.
Most of the gold production of Guilford County came from the Gardner Hill, Lindsay, North States, and Jacks Hill mines, which are grouped in the southern part of the county, 8 to 12 miles south-west of Greensboro. The mines were opened in the early 1850's, but by 1860 most of them were closed, and after a brief revival in the 1880's, they remained closed. No production records were found for the mines, but the value of their output was estimated to be $225,000 including an undetermined amount in copper.

The St. Catherine and Rudisil mines, the principal gold producers in Mecklenburg County, are in the city of Charlotte about half a mile apart on opposite ends of the same vein. The St. Catherine mine was opened in 1826. Its early history is obscure, and after the Civil War it was worked by the operators of the Rudisil mine. The Rudisil mine, discovered in 1829, produced $30,000 in gold during 1 month in 1830; thereafter, ownership of the property changed several times. The mine operated from 1840 until the outbreak of the Civil War, from 1880 to 1887, and from 1905 to 1908. In 1934 the mine was dewatered, reopened, and was productive through 1937. It was idle again from 1937 through 1959. Total gold production from these two mines was probably not less than 60,000 ounces.

Ore deposits are along the contact of the Cretaceous Coastal Plain sediments with the meta-
morphosed tuffs, flows, and breccias of the Paleozoic(?) volcanic rocks of the Carolina slate belt. The deposits are in narrow veins, in siliceous pyritic zones in schist, and in groups of stringer veins. Most of the ore came from the Iola vein, which was worked for 2,000 feet along its strike. The ore contained very few sulfides and was free milling. The Iola and Uwarra mines, in eastern Montgomery County 2 miles west of the town of Candor, exploited the same vein. They were discovered in 1900 and are among the more recent gold discoveries in the Piedmont. By 1915, the Iola had produced $900,000 (about 45,000 ounces) and the Uwarra, $100,000 (about 5,000 ounces) in gold. Operations were suspended in and the properties remained idle through

RUSSELL AND STEEL MINES: are in northwestern Montgomery County along the Uwharrie River, 2 to 3 miles west of Ophir. The early history of these two lode mines is obscure. Gold was discovered at the Steel mine about 1832, but no information concerning time of its discovery at the Russell site could be found. Both mines have been idle for a long time; the buildings were in ruins and the workings were inaccessible at the time they were visited by 1948. Production data are fragmentary and are based on estimates. Total production of the Russell mine is estimated at
about $300,000 (about 15,000 ounces) in gold. Production data of the Steel mines is available only for 1887, when $150,000 (about 7,500 ounces) in gold was produced.

The Hoover Hill mine, the principal gold producer in Randolph County, is about 12 miles west-
northwest of Asheboro, on the east side of the Uwharrie River. The lode deposit was discovered in 1848 and was worked for several years by lessees, a practice which inhibited its efficient development. In 1881, the Hoover Hill Gold Mining Co., Ltd., of London, England, gained control of the mine, and in the following 14 years a total of $300,000 in gold
was extracted. The mine was inactive from 1895 to 1914. Small-scale activity was reported in 1914 and again in 1917, after which the property was closed and remained so through 1959. Total gold production was about $350,000 (about 17,000 ounces). The deposit is in a dark-gray rhyolite and flow breccia of Paleozoic(?) age in the sequence of sedimentary and pyroclastic rocks in the slate belt. The ore bodies occur in sheared northeastward-trending zones interlaced with quartz seams which contain free gold and a very small amount of sulfide. The ore is free milling.
GOLD HILL DISTRICT: is a strip about 18 miles long and 8 miles wide in southeastern Rowan
and northeastern Cabarrus County and extends from the Yadkin River on the north to near the town of Mount Pleasant on the south. The settlement of Gold Hill is near the center of the district. The search for gold in this part of North Carolina was stimulated by the discoveries of the large nuggets on the Reed plantation in 1799. Gold was first found in the Gold Hill district at the Barringer mine before 1824, and by 1842 the principal veins of the district had been located. The district developed fairly rapidly and produced an estimated $3 million in gold before the Civil War. The mines were re-opened after the war and were active until they were closed in 1915. The principal mines of the district were the Randolph, Barnhardt and Old Field, the Honeycutt, the Troutman, the Union Copper, and the Whitney. Their combined production was about $3,300,000 or about 160,000 ounces, in gold. The shaft of the Randolph mine was 820 feet deep and was one of the deepest in the Piedmont.
PARKER MINE: located at the town of New London in northern Stanly County, was one of the
first mines to be worked in North Carolina and was very productive in the years before the Civil War. Most of the gold was mined from colluvial placers, although veins were worked in later years. In the 1890's considerable underground exploration was done with favorable results, but apparently there was no sustained production. In 1935 there was brief activity at the Parker mine when a rich pocket in a quartz vein yielded several hundred ounces of gold. The property was inactive from 1935 through 1959. Total gold production from the Parker mine was somewhat in excess of the 10,000 ounces estimated from the early placer operations.

FHIRFIELD VALLEY PLACERS: are in southern Transylvania County between lat 35"03' and 35"08' N. and long 82"50' and 83"00' W., in the northern drainage area of the Toxaway River.
This area has been only briefly discussed in the published literature. Most of the production was in the 1800's; deposits have been idle for many years. The gravels along Georgetown Creek, one of the tributaries of the Toxaway, yielded between $200,000 and $300,000 in gold (about 10,000 to 15,000 ounces). Considerable reserves of auriferous gravels remained in the area.
HOWIE MINE: which is 3 miles northwest of Waxhaw, was the largest in Union County. It was
developed some time before 1840 as a consequence of placer mining in the vicinity. The lodes were quickly exploited, yielding an estimated $250,000 in 1854. After a period of idleness brought on by the Civil War, the mine was again opened in 1885 and remained active on a
small scale at intervals until 1934. No activity was reported from 1934 through 1959. Estimated production of the mine was about 50,000 ounces of gold.

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