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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