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Gold Rush

The First US Gold Rush Started in North Carolina in 1803 When a 12-Year-Old Boy Found a 17-Pound Gold Nugget on His Father’s Farm.

Most people believe that the first significant gold rush occurred in California. This is a common misconception because the California gold rush is well-documented and widely regarded as one of our country’s most pivotal periods. But did you know where it all began?

The first gold rush in the United States began in North Carolina in 1803 when a 12-year-old boy discovered a 17-pound gold nugget on his father’s farm. Until 1829, it supplied all the gold for the nation’s mints.

Who was Conrad Reed?

Conrad Reed, a young boy, is the turning point for the most famous moment in gold rush history. Reed was already working on his family’s farm at twelve, assisting his father with harvest and other projects. The young boy was at Little Meadow Creek one day when he discovered what he thought was a beautiful yellow rock. He had no idea he’d discovered a sixteen-pound gold nugget.

He brought the rock home as a present for his father, John Reed. Gold was so rare then that his father didn’t recognize it for what it was. The Reeds used this gold as a weighted doorstop for three years. It wasn’t until a passing jeweler that they realized what it was.

The Reed family was delighted when the jeweler offered to buy it from them after informing them that it was made of gold. He advised John Reed to choose a price, and he would come up with the cash. Three dollars and fifty cents were the whole amounts that John requested. At the time, that was roughly the same as a farmer’s income for a week. The jeweler handed him the cash and left. The Reed family didn’t learn the value of that nugget until later—about $36,000! (Source: Piddlin)

The Gold Mining Operation

John Reed discovered much more gold on his property than he had originally thought in 1803, and he decided to launch his own modest gold mining business. Soon after he made this decision, an enslaved person named Peter discovered a 28-pound gold nugget. 

Reed just employed a placer mining technique for some years. In this case, stream beds are being mined. Surface excavating equipment or an open pit might be used. It can also use tunneling equipment.

He continued this trend until 1831, when he began underground mining as well. He died in 1845 as a very wealthy man. The gold from his property had certainly changed his way of life. Mining went on until 1912 at the Reed family farm. (Source: Piddlin)

The Charlotte Mint

The Charlotte Mint was built in response to the large quantities of gold discovered in this state and region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Andrew Jackson erected it in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1835.

The North Carolina gold rush attracted almost 30,000 participants. Naturally, this greatly impacted the state’s economy and population growth. (Source: Piddlin)

Image from Ungerboeck