The first US gold rush was right here in the Piedmont of NC. In 1799, John Reed found a nugget on his farm and used it as a door step for three years before somebody recognized what it was a 17 pound nugget of gold. Word got out and people came from all over. Farmers prospected in their off time and the population shifted west.
“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.’
“For many years, North Carolina provided the only native gold for the United States mint. Once the gold was shipped to Philadelphia to be minted, however, little came back to circulate in the Tar Heel state. As a result, North Carolinians wanted a government mint.”
“While Congress delayed in deciding to establish the mint, private enterprise met the demand. With home-made equipment, Christopher Bechtler coined gold, including the first minted-gold dollar. Historians report that Bechtler coined $109,000 in his first four years of business (1831-1835). Always trusted, the Bechtler mint lasted until 1857, a decade and half after its founders’ death. “
There may be a new gold rush on the way. From last year:
“Now a second gold rush is going on in the piedmont area. Mining Companies using new technologies are investing in gold mining. Old mines are being revived, thanks largely to the high price of gold making exploration profitable again. Mines that have been abandoned for more than a hundred years are being opened and gold is being extracted.
A large nugget was found in 1997 but now those nuggets seem to be weekly finds. During this year’s Heritage Days event, a student found a nugget worth about $300. “The spot price for gold was at $1,475 per ounce,” Robinson said. “I offered him $300 out of my own pocket, but he was a smart kid and turned me down. He knew he had found something special.”
Just two weeks before, a French Exchange student found a nugget weighing approximately three grams. Robinson offered for that nugget too, for the museum at the site, but was turned down as well.
Since the start of the gold panning season in March, Robinson said there have been record numbers of panners at the mine. For $2 per pan, visitors search through dirt taken directly from Little Meadow Creek and have a chance to find a fortune. “Anything found in the panning area belongs to the panner, not the state,” Robinson said. “Your $2 ticket is your claim. So, if you did happen to find a 17 pound gold nugget at the bottom of your pan, it would be yours to keep.”