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Running head: REED GOLD MINE 1

Reed Gold Mine


Nicole Framiglio
In partial fulfillment of the requirements for ELED 3223
May 6, 2014
Please choose ctrl + Click your mouse on the URL below- to view my
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Reed Gold Mine
Gold has always been a metal that people aim to have. It increases ones wealth, is a symbol of
status, and gives the promise of a future without financial burden. In the early 19
th
century, there
was promise of gold in North Carolinas Reed Gold Mine. This mine attracted people from all
over with the promise of a future full of gold (Reed Gold Mine, 2014).
When one hears of gold in America, one rarely thinks of the eastern side of the United
States or dates preceding 1849. Little do people know that there were references of gold in
Virginia in 1782 by Thomas Jefferson. Before those references, there were suspected cases of
gold found by Native Americans dating earlier than the Revolutionary War (Chavis, 1977).
Though there are references of gold throughout the history of the United States, the first
documented piece of gold was not found until 1799. This gold nugget was 17 pounds and valued
at $3,500 at the time (Reed Gold Mine, 2014). Many would not assume that this gold nugget
was actually found in North Carolina on land that is now known as Reed Gold Mine (Chavis,
1977; Funk, 1979; Knapp, 1999; Knapp & Glass, 1999; Roberts, 1971). More often than not, the
term gold rush is often associated with the more popular 1849 California gold rush (Knapp,
1999). Many do not realize that there were gold mines throughout North Carolina, such as Reed
Gold Mine, yielding millions of dollars worth of gold (Knapp & Glass, 1999). Compared to the
California Gold Rush, the North Carolina Gold Rush may be small, but still an integral part of
history that encouraged many to migrate with the hopes of striking it rich. Area that was once
simply farmland in North Carolina quickly blossomed into a mining community. Originally
owned by John Reed, Reed Gold Mine is site that made its mark in North Carolina history,
producing millions of dollars for the economy, and drawing in migrant workers with hopes of
getting rich from the mine (Chavis, 1977; Knapp & Glass, 1999).
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Historical Perspective
The Discovery of Gold
John Reed is a man with a vague, uncertain past when it comes to his life before coming
to America. What is known for certain is that he was from Germany and came to America as a
Hessian soldier. When attempting to trace Reeds roots to Germany, one will not find him under
the name of John Reed, but of Johannes Rieth (or Ried). With this information, his origin has
been traced to Appenfeld, a small German village. Records from local churches indicate that
Reed may have been born on April 14
th
, 1759 as a result of adultery (Knapp, 1999).
When Reed was old enough, he joined the Hessian militia or the German militia that had
a contract with the British. By 1776, Reed was on his way to the America with the militia.
Immediately, Reed and the rest of his regiment were transferred to Savannah to take over the
city. Once they claimed the city, the Hessian soldiers occupied the area for many years. By
1782, Reed was one of the many Hessians that deserted the military. Later that year, Reed found
himself in a German community in Cabarrus County, North Carolina where he met his soon to
be wife, Sarah Kizer (or Kiser). In Cabarrus County, in what is now Locust, Reed settled into
the life of a humble farmer, husband, and soon to be father (Funk, 1979; Knapp, 1999).
Come 1799, one of Reeds sons, Conrad, stayed home from church one day to go bow
and arrow fishing at. It was during this time that Conrad Reed made a discovery in Little
Meadow Creek on the Reeds property. That day, Conrad found a 17 lb. gold nugget. Conrad
could tell that the nugget had some sort of metallic property, but he had no idea what it was.
When he took it to his father, John Reed was uncertain about the nugget as well. When Reed had
a chance, he took it to the local metal expert to see if he knew what the nugget was.
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Unfortunately, the expert was only able to tell him what it was not- silver or copper. For the time
being, the nugget served as a doorstop in the Reed family home. Three years later, Reed found
himself in Fayetteville on business and made it a point to bring the nugget. It was there that a
jeweler was able to determine that the nugget was, in fact, gold. The jeweler asked Reed to name
his price; being uneducated about gold, Reed felt a weeks worth of wages was sufficient
enough. He sold the 17 lb. gold nugget for only $3.50. In reality, at the time, the nugget was
worth closer to $3,500 (Chavis, 1977; Funk, 1979; Knapp, 1999; Knapp & Glass, 1999; Roberts,
1971).
Early Mining
By 1803, John Reed had taken on 3 partners to help him with mining. Reeds partners
supplied slaves to mine Reeds land. For the first 40 years of mining on the Reed property, only
placer, or surface, mining was practiced. Placer mining consisted of panning and searching the
creek as well as shallow digging. The first pit was not actually created until 1831. This pit
produced $5 per bushel mined. The tools used in the beginning were very primitive and often
consisted of tools the farmers already had such as shovels or pans from kitchens. To help
separate gold from dirt, rockers were created. Rockers were normally were hollowed out logs
that could be shifted back and forth. Dirt and water were in the hollowed out logs. Gold, being
heavier than dirt, would shift to the bottom of the rockers while the dirt was washed away.
Around Little Meadow Creek was where the richest placer mining took place. Near the creek
was where one of the slaves, Peter, of Reeds partners found a 28 lb. gold nugget. This is the
largest nugget recorded to be found at Reed Gold Mine. The promise seen at Reed Gold Mine
and the other mines surfacing in the area, attracted the attention of designer and architect known
as William Thorton. Thorton formed a joint-stock company called the North Carolina Gold Mine
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Company to mine near Reed Gold Mine in 1805 (Chavis, 1977; Funk, 1977; Knapp & Topkins,
2001; Knapp & Glass, 1999; Roberts, 1971).
For years, Reed gold mine was worked, attracting attention by those who wanted their
shot at fortune. When everything seemed to be going well, trouble struck Reed Gold Mine.
Reeds son, George, secured an injunction that closed the mine for a decade. George Reed closed
the mine because he wanted reimbursed for gold that was found on the mine when he was not
there. Eventually, George won the fight for his reimbursement and received $535 plus interest.
After that was settled, the mine reopened in 1844. Unfortunately, John Reed died a year later; he
had just recently become a citizen (Knapp, 1999; Knapp & Glass, 1999; Knapp & Topkins,
2001).
Working at the Mine
After Reeds death, his grandson, Timothy Reed took charge of the mine. It was under
the control of Timothy Reed that mining on Reed land expanding to underground mining. The pit
from 1831 was just the beginning. At this point in time, gunpowder was being used to blast
through the quartz rock. Throughout the years, the Mine switched ownership multiple times.
Some owners were very fortunate with their purchase and received gold in return, others, not so
much. As time passed, Reed Gold Mine became more up to date as far as mining technology and
methods. Chilean Mills, which were large stone wheels that rolled around on a base stone and
crushed mill. Horses or donkeys were the main source of power that made the wheels move. As
ore was crushed, it made it easier to extract the gold. Eventually, a stamp mill was built on the
property. The stamp mill contains different machines used for the processing of ore. The first
machine is made up of large, heavy stamps that crush ore into smaller pieces, close to the
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consistency of dirt. From there the crushed ore is rinsed down towards a special table with
certain grooves made for catching gold. This table shakes and works somewhat like panning
(Funk, 1979; Knapp, 1999).
The Last Noteworthy Find
Over the years, the mine had switched ownership multiple times. Some people bought
the mine and found their moneys worth of gold within a matter of months. Others were not as
fortunate and did not make as much money as they spent on the property. As time went on and
the mine changed hands multiple times, the gold yielded on the property decreased greatly. It
was a great surprise when Jacob L. Shin found a 22 lb. placer nugget in April of 1896.
Unfortunately, this was the last major find ever at Reed Gold Mine (Funk, 1979; Roberts, 1971).
Economic Perspective
As mining in North Carolina grew, political leaders found hope that it would help the
economy. In the early years of mining in North Carolina, it was seasonal and only a part time
business. Reed actually forbade mining on cultivated land (Knapp & Glass, 1999; Knapp &
Topkins, 2001). When gold was found, a portion of it was sent to the mint in Philadelphia. Over
the years, 1,300 ounces of gold were sent to them mint for analysis from Cabarrus County. Out
of the many mines that were started in the United States, the mines from Cabarrus County
produced some of the purest gold found. The worst piece of gold sent to the mint was no less
than 22 carats. It is suspected, thought that less than half the gold found in Cabarrus County
actually made it to the mint. By 1824, over $5,000 worth of gold was given to the Philadelphia
Mint. The gold that did not make it to the mint was actually used as currency and sold to artisans
in North Carolina. It was not uncommon for people to have gold and a scale handy for trading.
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At one point in time, North Carolina only had 3 banks to cater to its 600,000 people. It was no
wonder why gold was popular as currency. For about 20 years, Reeds mine was the main source
of gold in the state of North Carolina (Chavis, 1977; Funk, 1979; Knapp, 1999, Knapp & Glass,
1999; Knapp & Topkins, 2001). In order to increase the production from gold from his mine,
Reed brought on two people as partners. One supplied slaves and the other mining equipment.
For the most part, while John Reed was in charge of the mine, the miners did not go past placer
mining, or finding gold on the surface. When John Reeds grandson, Timothy Reed took over
the mine, underground mining became a popular form of mining on the Reed land (Knapp &
Glass, 1999; Knapp & Topkins, 2001).
With all the success in gold mining happening in the piedmont region of North Carolina,
it was only a matter of time before a branch of the Mint opened in Charlotte. Come 1835,
Congress authorized branches of the Mint to open; the Charlotte Mint being one of those
branches. December of 1837, the first deposit was made to the new Charlotte Mint. The
Charlotte Mint produced what was known as eagles ($5.00) and eagles ($2.50). It was not
until 1849 that the gold dollar was added. Though the Charlotte Mint was the first of the
branches to open, it was not the first place that gold was coined in North Carolina. In Rutherford
County, there was a German immigrant named Christopher Bechtler who was very skilled and
seized the opportunity presented by the gold being found in the area. Many miners brought their
gold to Bechtler to be coined. This was a private mint, which surprisingly was not illegal at the
time. Prior to 1840, Bechtler produced roughly $3,700, 000 in gold coins (Funk, 1979; Roberts,
1971).
Cultural Perspective
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Before the discovery of gold, the Cabarrus County area had a large population of German
immigrants. They say that the German community may have been what drew John Reed to the
area after deserting the army. More than likely the other Germans in the area came from similar
situations. John Reed settled down and started his life as an illiterate, hardworking, farmer. It
was in his new found home that he met his future wife, Sarah Kiser, who was also from a
German family. John Reeds life in Cabarrus County started off pretty simple, he was not rich,
but he was not poor. Reed lived on a farm, with a decent size plot of land rich with vegetation
and trees (Funk, 1979; Knapp, 1999).
After the discovery of gold, a lot of the area changed. In terms of the environment, the
land was barren and disturbed. There were only few places that remained untouched around the
Reed farm. In order to preserve what Reed knew, his livelihood, he banned mining on cultivated
land. In the piedmont region of North Carolina, mining was only a part time job. During the
parts of the year where crops required attention, the people were farmers while in the off season,
they were miners. During the growing season, at privately owned mines, one would often see the
women of the family doing the mining while men tended fields. This mining mainly consisted of
surface, or placer, mining and panning. The tools used were very basic such as pans they used in
the kitchen, buckets, and contraptions known as a rockers; rockers were easily made from a
hollowed out log. When one could afford it, the farm owners would allow some of their slaves to
mine during the growing season. For the most part, mining was only a seasonal job. Mining
revolved around the growing season for crops. To appeal to both the mining and farming
culture, the Miners and Farmers Journal was published to appeal to both groups (Chavis,
1977; Funk, 1979; Knapp & Glass, 1999; Roberts, 1971).
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With mining becoming more popular in North Carolina, people from all over started
migrating to the gold looking for opportunity. These people that came into worked the mines
brought with them disease, alcohol, and rowdiness. What once was a quiet area full of peaceful
farmers quickly became inhabited and spotted with mining villages. Often these villages were
made up of simple huts made from logs; the rich miners were able to afford cabins. Many of the
workers simply draped blankets over poles to make small tents or used tree branches to make
simple shelters. Often, groups would work together and share a shelter. For the most part, many
of the minors slept under the stars (Funk, 1979; Roberts, 1971).
Throughout the mining villages, there would be liquor carts, merchants selling tools and
other goods. As mining became more popular, the tools became more professional and expanded
beyond what the workers had lying around. Other goods that were sold in the area mainly
consisted of alcohol. Alcoholism started taking over the mining population leading some mine
owners to ban alcohol from their land. With the increase usage of alcohol in the village came the
decline in morals and increase in rowdiness and violence. Though the mining communities
throughout the piedmont region of North Carolina seem a little rough compared to the way life
had been before the gold, it is said that they communities that later surfaced in other parts of the
United States were far more rowdy, dripping with decadence, and declining moral. North
Carolina, being home to the first gold rush in the United States, people traveled from all over to
take their shot at fortune. Often, the road to get to the gold was one that was difficult to travel or
nonexistent. Eventually, the mining attracted attention from various populations from Europe;
one in particular would be the Cornish (Funk, 1979).
The Cornish had a strong background in mining, and with them they brought methods
and tools that revolutionized the way mines were worked in North Carolina. The Cornish earned
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the title of experts of underground mining. Due to the skills of the Cornish miners, they were
often hired to work mines at higher wages than that of others who came to the mine looking for
fortune. The Cornish miners were paid an average of $30-$35 a month. Depending on skills and
the area of the mine worked, wages could range anywhere from $1-$5 a day (Funk, 1979; Knapp
& Glass, 1999; Roberts, 1971).
Conclusion and Reflection
Overall, Reed Gold Mine is a historic site that is loaded with history and that has
impacted the United States. In addition to being the location for the first documented case of
gold, it is also the location where the first gold rush took place in the United States. The
discovery of gold was just the beginning to a period of gold mining in the United States. With
the discovery of gold came changes in the economy. About 1/3-1/2 the gold found was sent to
the Mint to be coined. The remainder of the gold circulated as currency and often made its way
to local artisans. Ultimately, the discovery of gold aided the economy and gave people an
opportunity to work when farming did not yield enough of a profit. With this hope of getting rich
off of the gold, people came great distances to have their shot at gold mining. The people that
came to mine affected the culture in both positive and negative ways. Negatively speaking, the
people brought with them alcoholism, decaying morals, and violence. Positive aspects of the
people traveling to the area would be the technology they brought. For the case of the Cornish
miners, they brought both experience and new ways to mine involving new technology. Reed
Gold Mine not only impacted history, but the economy and culture in the area as well (Chavis,
1977; Funk, 1979; Knapp, 1999; Knapp & Glass, 1999; Knapp & Topkins, 2001; Roberts, 1971).
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Working on this project has taught me a lot about the mine that I visited a lot as a child.
Not only has this mine played a major role in my life, but the history of the area as well as the
United States. Before researching this topic, I did not realize the significance of Reed Gold Mine
and how it affected the surrounding area. The changes in the area brought on by Reed Gold
Mine, can easily be connected to the NCSCOS standard 4.H.1.3., which states: explain how
people events and developments brought about changes to communities in various regions of
North Carolina. As a teacher, I would definitely teach my students what I learned while
researching this topic. Though Reed Gold Mine plays a significant role in North Carolina
history, it is also relevant to the history of the United States. Due to Reed Gold Mines impact
nationally, it could be taught in any state.










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Resources
Chavis, D. W. (1977). Southern gold. New York: Vantage Press.
Funk, L. (1979). Reed gold mine guidebook. Raleigh, N.C.: N.C. Dept. of Cultural Resources.
Knapp, R. F. (1999). Golden promise in the Piedmont: the story of John Reed's mine (Revised
ed.). Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Dept. of Cultural
Resources.
Knapp, R. F., & Glass, B. D. (1999). Gold mining in North Carolina: a bicentennial history.
Raleigh, N.C.: North Carolina, Dept. of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and
History.
Knapp, R. F. & Topkins, R.F. (2001). Gold in history, geology, and culture: collected essays:
published in commemoration of the Bicentennial of the first discovery of gold in the
United States, Cabarrus County, North Carolina, 1799. Raleigh: Division of Archives
and History, North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources.
Reed Gold Mine. N.C. Historic Site. 9621 Reed Mine R.d., Midland, N.C. January 25, 2014.
Roberts, B. (1971). The Carolina gold rush ([1st ed.). Charlotte, N.C.: McNally and Loftin.






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