2022 Mining History Association


On the Way to the MHA...

Reed Gold Mine State Historic Park
Midland, North Carolina
June 28, 2022


Mike and Pat Kaas



Driving back to Virginia from the Mining History Association annual conference in Birmingham, Alabama, we stopped at the Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site near Charlotte.  The historic site celebrates “America’s First Gold” which was discovered in 1799 in what is now Cabarrus County.  This and subsequent discoveries led to the Carolina Gold Rush in the 1820s,decades before the 1849 California Gold Rush. 


We knew about the general history of precious metals mining in the Carolina Slate Belt from research on the Silver Hill Mine in the Cid District near Lexington, about an hour further north of the Reed Mine.  Unlike that area where there are few remains of historic mining, the Reed Mine State Historic Site not only has an excellent museum on Carolina gold mining but also has one of the few underground metal mines that can be visited east of the Mississippi.  CLICK HERE for a map of gold mines in the Carolina Slate Belt (Carpenter, 1991).


(Above) A state historical marker announces that we were in Carolina Gold Country.


(Right) The Reed Gold Mine, outside Midland, is a National Historic Landmark and is owned by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

The Reed Mine Visitors’ Center and Museum is pretty plain on the outside, but…

The Chilean Mill on the lawn tells us that mining was going on here.

Excellent museum displays enable visitors to learn about John Reed.  In 1799, his son, Conrad, found a 17 pound gold nugget in a nearby creek.

A model of a 23 pound gold nugget found at the Reed Mine is displayed in a safe.

(Above) In 1834, the discovery of a 9.5 pound nugget by Reed’s son, George, precipitated a  legal battle that idled the mine for ten years.

(Right)  The exact amount of North Carolina gold production is unknown because only a fraction of the gold was sent to the mints.

Early gold mining was done at the surface by placer mining.  Much of the work at the early mines was done by enslaved Africans.

In 1825 gold was discovered in “hardrock” quartz veins.  This started the first Gold Rush and underground mining.

(Above) In 1896, Jacob Shinn found the last large nugget at the Reed Mine.  It weighed 23 pounds.


(Right) As mining developed, the assayer with his chemistry lab became an important person in the gold mining areas.

The Mecklenburg Iron Works in Charlotte became an important manufacturer of mining equipment like stamp mills..

In 1898, Warren Kelly built a 10-stamp mill at the Reed Mine. The display explains the crushing process used to free the gold from the quartz rock.


(Left)  Crushed ore from the stamps was first washed over copper plates coated with mercury on the apron table.  In this amalgamation process, gold particles adheared to the mercury.


(Above) Finer particles of gold were recoveded by gravity separation on a vibrating concentrating table.

The melting furnace was used to further remove impurities and cast the gold into bars.

Modern gold mining is still taking place in South Carolina, not far from Charlotte.


“Generalized Geologic Map of North Carolina,” North Carolina Geological Survey, (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, 1993).  Accessed, August 11, 2022, https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/energy-mineral-and-land-resources/north-carolina-geological-survey/ncgs-publications/statewide-geologic-maps-north-carolina.

Richard F. Knapp and Brent D. Glass, “Gold Mining in North Carolina: A Bicentennial History,” (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1999).

P. Albert Carpenter, III, “Gold in North Carolina,” Information Circular 29, North Carolina Geological Survey, (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, 1993).  Accessed, August 11, 2022, https://cdm16062.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16062coll9/id/251301.


J. T. Pardee and C. F. Park, Jr., “Gold Deposits of the Southern Piedmont,” Professional Paper 213, U. S. Geological Survey, (Washington: GPO, 1945). Accessed August 11, 2022, https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/pp213.

Unless Otherwise Noted, Photos Courtesy of Mike and Pat Kaas





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