Since Columbus first set out for the New World, explorers who sailed West have dreamed of discovering gold. The conquistadors found gold and silver in Central and South America. But where was the first Gold Rush in the newly minted United States of America? If you guessed North Carolina, you are correct. In 1799, Not far from Charlotte, NC in a creek on John Reed's farm.
"The story of North Carolina’s Reed Gold Mine reveals the amazing accidents, drama, and ironies of history that, with variations, occurred in connection with gold rushes around the world. It is the story of an illiterate Hessian mercenary from Germany — an illegal immigrant — who deserted from the British army in Savannah and made his way to backwoods North Carolina, where he settled near Meadow Creek in Mecklenburg County, married, and raised a family. It is the saga of a twelve-year-old boy who went fishing one Sunday and found a seventeen-pound rock that served as a convenient doorstop for three years before being sold to a merchant for a mere $3.50, although it was gold worth a thousand times that modest sum."
Excerpted from Richard F. Knapp, Golden Promise in the Piedmont: The Story of John Reed's Mine, revised edition (North Carolina Office of Archives & History, 1999).
Provided by North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources / Office of
Archives and History.
During the height of the gold mining years in the early 1800's, in North Carolina, Farming was the top occupation in the state, but gold mining was right behind in second place. North Carolina was the top producer of gold in the US until 1848 and at its peak was producing a million dollars of gold a year.
It wasn't until 1848, 49 years from its discovery in North Carolina, that the California gold rush began. When Bank of America dug the foundation for their 60 story building in Charlotte, NC in 1989, it was located on the site of an old gold mine and workers did report seeing gold. Small flecks of gold are still found intermittently in the creeks around Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties
In North Carolina a trip to Reed's Gold mine is a great day trip and offers an opportunity to experience some NC & American History.
Several of the tunnels have been restored and are open for tours. Take a picnic and spend some time trying your hand at panning for gold.
Gold was actively being mined in North Carolina & other areas of the south, but Congress would not provide a Southern mint. A German jeweler & clock maker in Rutherfordton, NC, Christopher Bechtler made the equipment and dies to begin striking gold coins. Because they did not duplicate any US officially minted coins, these coins were legal. Bechtler was also a gold miner and understood the need to have a mint for the area.
In 1831 Bechtler and his sons & nephew began to process raw gold into coins and ingots. In 1832 they were minting $1 coins. Later they added $2.50 and $5 dollar coins. The US mint did not start minting a $1 gold coin until 1849. The quality of their coins met and sometimes exceeded the quality of those of the US Mint.
Below is the link to a pbs video
Eventually a mint was established in Charlotte, NC in 1837 and raw gold was refined at the mint at, what is now, the 400 block of West Trade Street. The Charlotte location minted their first $5 gold half eagle on March 28, 1838.