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Early 1800's


Gold Mining

By Joyce Handsel

In Cabarrus County , North Carolina in 1799 there lived in the German Speaking community a man named John Reed. His son, Conrad, twelve years old at the time, found a seventeen pound gold nugget in a creek on their property. Thus began the North Carolina Gold Rush - the first gold rush in America.

Gold mining became a major industry in many North Carolina counties, Lincoln and Gaston being two. Though early census figures show most heads of families were employed as farmers, a great number of these farmers were also occupied as gold miners. Gold mining at its peak employed more North Carolinians than any occupation other than farming from 1800 to the Civil War years. Entire families, including the children from five to six years up worked in the mines.

As in Cabarrus County and in other areas of Lincoln and Gaston County, Stanley had its share of gold mining. The early pioneers into the Stanley area were mostly hunters or seekers of gold. Hence our Stanley Creek was named for the elusive Mr. Stanley who was a gold prospector. At that time gold was searched for in the creeks and what could be found lying on the ground.

The type of mining employed by our North Carolina miners, Stanley miners included, was very crude and primitive. The miners were for the most part poor people with little capital to go on the mining and were poorly trained in mining. It was noted at the time that perhaps two-thirds of the gold was wasted in the primitive mining methods and therefore only a small percentage of the gold was retrieved.

In 1830 in Charlotte a newspaper was begun called The Miners and Farmers Journal, because practically every farm in the North Carolina Piedmont had a gold mine on it or at least a prospect. The newspaper had many ads to sell mines that were deposit or placer mines near streams.

In 1845 a farmer from Lincoln County wrote of his early spring planting schedule, "I have planted 60 acres of corn and will not plant more until we have rain. I will keep some of the hands working a pretty fair gold vein on my land. I would not think of mining if it were not on my land, and we would not have to let go our laborers or find new sources of income. I am acting with caution in the gold business - Raising the ore first - not making the mill before we know what it will run on."

This farmer's statement reflects the cautious nature of the gold miners during that period attributed mostly to their poor training and lack of skills. A lot of farmers like the above moved on out west after their farms were no longer productive, which was actually caused by erosive farming practices. Farmers left behind were less venturesome and even less knowledgeable in the mining industry.

From 1804 to 1828 all domestic gold coined by the United States Mint came from North Carolina. During that time thousands of foreign immigrants poured into the Piedmont area. North Carolina was known as the "Golden State."

A small boost to gold mining did occur when immigrant experienced miners from England and Ireland entered the state.

A Charlotte newspaper, The Mecklenburg Jeffersonian on February 17, 1847 ran an advertisement calling attention to Gold Miners! The ad stated that 175 acres of the property of John Duffey who had recently died, would be sold to the public in Lincolnton on the 2nd of March. The property was known as Duffey's Gold Mine and described as being located 4 miles west of the Tuckaseege Ford and near an extensive water power on the South Fork River.

The ad also stated that a large quantity of ore had been raised. A number of buildings suitable for dwellings, offices and shops were included on the property. Also stated was the fact that Mr. Duffey had been previously offered $10,000 for the property which he declined. (Duffey's Gold Mine was located a short distance from Stanley near Spencers Mountain. William Richards of Stanley was a later investor in Duffey's Gold Mine).

The Gold Mine apparently was still in operation in 1878, for Records in the North Carolina Archives state that one William Huffstickler died from a wound received from a pistol shot on the 3rd of December, 1878 at Duffey's Gold Mine. The report went on to say that the pistol was supposed to be in the hands of John Richards (son of William Richards) at the time it was fired. A jury of inquest was summoned and questioned witnesses which included Moses H. Rhyne, Henry Shipp, Evans Wilburn, Joseph Kitchen, States Morgan, Grace Jenkins, Caroline Bumgamer and William Jones. The jurors made their report that "the said William Huffstickler did come to his death on the 3rd instant from an accidental shot from a pistol in his own hands, that he so expressed himself to different persons and we hereby so report." The jurors were Edward Jenkins, Peter Ingle, Laban Kenedy, Jones Flowers, Moses Lowe, J. H. Wilson, Jr., G. F. Flowers, C. N. Abemathy, D. M. Padget, S. Hoffman, I. M. Holobough, H. N. Miller.

It seems as though gold mining was a rough and tough business because just a few days later on December 12, 1878 a Mr. D. J. Simpson died and his tomb- stone in Spencer Mountain Cemetery bears the words, "Died from wound at Duffy's Mine."

Another gold mine in the Stanley area was the Moore Gold Mine. It was located on the Alexander Moore property southwest of Stanley. On September 7, 1821 Alexander Moore, Sr. conveyed to Alexander Moore, Jr. the land which contained the Moore Gold Mine. Alexander Moore, Jr. sold the gold mine property to a Mr. William H. Folger who in turn sold the mine on October 20, 1832 to the Cabarrus Gold Mining Company of North Carolina.

The deed of sale for the above transaction as well as the Inventory list of Moore's Gold Mine is recorded in Lincoln County Courthouse Register of Deeds Book #35, pages 157, 158, 159 and 160.

It seems that Peter Smith also had a Gold Mine in the Stanley area. He lived out near the area of the Moore lands. An indenture was recorded on 8 May 1833 whereby Peter Smith Sr. and Jr. sold land to Cabarras Gold mining Company, this land being on Hoyles Creek. That deed is recorded in Lincoln County Court Records Book #35, page 156. On the 1850 Census Peter Smith's occupation is recorded as farmer and miner.

There were several gold mines in the Stanley Creek area. Samuel Rankin from the Stanley Creek vicinity was listed on the 1850 Census as a miner. It was reported that a small amount of gold, not enough to be profitable, was found near the Thomas Rhyne (1799) home. There are several holes dug in the ground in the hills above Stanley Creek that are called old gold holes, these being left as evidence of earlier efforts to locate gold.

Gold mining began to wane especially after the 1849 discovery of gold in California. Even though some mining continued, most interest in gold was concentrated out west. 26 Also in the 1860's the Civil War began, calling a halt to mining. During that period some mining for iron was still in progress, especially for using the ore to manufacture weapons and utensils needed for the war. As mining uncovered the iron ore, some gold was also discovered, but never again to the point that it had been before the California Gold Rush.

In June of 1926, on her 88th birthday celebration, Mrs. Lanira Robinson, daughter of Mr. William Benjamin Smith, who was a son of Peter Smith, was reminiscing about the mining of gold in the days past. She said her father had no mining experience and had employed his brother-in-law, Mr. William Richards, and Mr. Richards' two brothers, who were from England, to do his mining. A hidden rich vein of ore had been discovered that far exceeded any these miners had seen in England.

Mrs. Robinson said that Mr. Richards offered her father $6,000 for the 45 acre tract of land and Mr. Smith was about to accept the offer when his daughter persuaded him to decline. Afterwards Mr. Smith learned of the rich vein of gold.

In an act of revenge, the story goes, Mr. Richards destroyed the shafts and refused to work the mines, leaving them to the elements. As time went by the exact location of the mine shaft was concealed by growth of plants and trees. Years later the tract of land was sold at auction and bought by Dr. Howard Reedy who rented the property to Mr. Wade Rutledge.

During the time gold was being drawn from the mine, Mr. Smith would walk to the Mint in Charlotte with as much as $300 worth of gold and have it processed into gold coins.

Mr. Smith presented each of his daughters with a gold ring made of the gold from the Smith Gold Mine. Mrs. Robinson showed everyone her ring at the celebration.


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