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The North Carolina Gold Rush

Unlike most gold rushes where the discovery is found by some lonely prospector, the North Carolina gold rush was found by accident. It was in 1799 that a young 12 year old boy by the name of Conrad Reed found a 17 pound yellow colored rock in a creek close to what is Charlotte, North Carolina today. The real funny part of the story here is that this 17 pound yellow rock was pure gold and it was used as a door stop at the young boys home. This rock would sit on the floor being used as a door stop for the next three years.

In 1802 the father John Reed took this yellow rock to a local jeweler and found out that the rock was indeed gold. The jeweler then offered to buy the 17 pound chunck of gold from John and offered him $3.50. John being farmer and not a miner had really no idea what the rock would be worth. Later he realized he had been scammed and the jeweler has made thousands. It was then that the John decided to to go out and start mining where his boy had found that big yellow rock.

Word got out about this big nugget and soon there were lots of folks out looking for gold. Most of the areas people were farmers and early settlers and the idea of getting some gold to help pay for their farms and homes was just an added blessing. Over the next few years there was other nuggets found. There was even a 22 pound nugget found of the same claim where the 17 pound nugget had been found. It was then in 1805 that John Reed found the Reed Gold Mining Company to raise money that could be used to purchase equipment to expand a mining operation. It seemed that there was gold everywhere and so the government decided to hire a geologist to see where the gold was coming from and where more gold might be so miners would at least be able to search in areas that had potential for gold. Denison Olmsted and a mining engineer named Charles Rothe were assigned the task and soon had a report that they handed to the government. Soon there was even more excitement in this gold rush and many more people flocked into the area.

Then in 1825 a farmer by the name of Mattias Barringer, who farmed about 20 miles from the Reed farm, found a vein of gold. This turned out to be a pretty good find and soon the Barringer Gold Mining Company was started. This mine was the first of it's kind going deep into hard rock using tunneling. Most mining in the area had been aluvial mining which was done by hand panning using simple tools like shovels, pans, rockers and sluices. By this time there was about 25,000 people in the area working at various mines.

One of the biggest problems at the time though was selling the gold for cash. There was only a government mint in Philadelphia but getting there took a long time as there was no really good roads or other types of transportation. Most gold back then would be melted into bars and then sent off by ship to Europe to sell but that too proved time consuming and costly. Lots of miners complained about the situation but the US congress of the day seemed not to care. Then in 1830 a fellow named Christopher Bechtler moved into the area. He was a jeweler by trade but also could do assaying. He purchased some land to mine and set up shop. Soon the miners where selling him their gold and he was minting the gold into coins. His first coins were equal to $2.50 and $5.00 coins issued by the U.S. mint.

Christopher did well in the minting business until 1838. That is when the US govenment built a mint in Charlotte and the miners where then selling their gold there. Mining continued in the area until 1849 when word got out of the California gold rush. A lot of the miners left and headed west to new ground and stories of bigger gold.