Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site

Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site (NC)


In the spring of 1799 the young son of John Reed, named Conrad, was wandering along the banks of Little Meadow Creek in today's Cabarrus County. His intent, contrary to his parents’ wishes to attend church on that Sunday morning, was to do a bit of fishing. As he ambled along looking for the prefect spot to cast his line he noticed something shimmering in the water. Plucking out a large rock, weighing about 17 pounds, he admired its yellowish color and promptly carried it back home to his father. No doubt a bit miffed that his son had skipped the service that morning, and with no training in metallurgy, John Reed took the rock from Conrad and placed it ungraciously on the front step as the new family doorstop. For about three years this yellow rock performed admirably in its duties until a jeweler acquaintance of John's in nearby Fayetteville predictably took notice when informed of it. The jeweler explained to John that what he had was a large chunk of gold and shrewdly, knowing John's ignorance on the matter, asked what he might pay to take it off the Reed's hands. This was John's lucky day! Any price! John Reed though a moment and decided a week’s wages, about $3.50, sounded like a fair sum. I can only imagine how hard it was for the jeweler to count out the $3.50 to pay for a rock that he would soon be able to sell for over $3,600!!!

There really isn't any record of John Reed's reaction when he found out he had been duped though he did manage to recoup $1,000 from the dishonest jeweler. He took this tidy sum (about $16,000 in today's money) and set about starting his own mining operation on the banks of Little Meadow Creek. Over the next quarter century somewhere around $100,000 ($1.6 million today) of gold was mined from his property which had expanded to include over 2,000 acres of the surrounding countryside by the time of his death. After John Reed's death in 1845 the mine was sold and bought and sold again on numerous occasions with varying degrees of success in finding gold. The last big nugget was found on the property in 1896, a 23-pound whopper. By 1912 the prospects of finding new riches at the property finally faded and the mining operations along the Little Meadow Creek ceased for good.

The Reed discovery in 1799 was the first documented discovery of gold in the United States. It kicked off a gold rush in the Carolina's the likes of which wouldn't be seen again until the Sutter's Mill find in California in 1848. Today the old mill site and the surrounding property are recognized as a National Historic Landmark and is managed as a North Carolina State Historic Site. Interpretive trail lead you through one of the old mine shafts and past remnants of mining operations that took place here. The visitor center has some fine displays for a site this size and in the summer months you can even try your luck panning for a few gold flakes yourself. This is a quick winter tour of the site and my first visit. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the preservation and can say it’s one of the finest historic sites I've visited thus far in North Carolina...

1-4-2014