north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     The discovery of gold on John Reed’s farm in Cabarrus County (now a State Historic Site) in 1799 marked the beginning of the gold mining industry in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State’s gold rush preceded California’s by a half-century. The impact of the industry was considerable during the antebellum era, placing it second to agriculture in the number of persons employed. Surveys of the industry in 1936 and 1993 identified as many as 700 former gold mines, most concentrated in the south central Piedmont.

     The significance of the Barringer Mine in Stanly County, near Pfeiffer University and about four miles southeast of the Gold Hill mining district in Rowan County, rests in the fact that it marked the beginning of vein (or lode) mining in the state. Surface mining, used exclusively up to that point, involved reliance upon alluvial action to deposit the gold in creek beds and its extraction by panning or the use of rockers.

     Matthias Barringer had engaged in surface (or placer) mining subsequent to Reed’s discovery, just as had many others in the Piedmont. Barringer in 1825 found that a vein of gold-bearing quartz extended into a hillside along a stream through his property. Word of the find spread quickly through the newspapers, reigniting the North Carolina gold rush, and soon lode mining was instituted throughout the area. In 1831 underground mining was used for the first time at Reed. At nearby Gold Hill the precious metal was discovered in 1842 with surface mining only to start but, with outside investment, lode mining was soon instituted.

     In its heyday the Barringer mine supplied a very rich ore, with values of up to $500 per ton reported. Mining there, as elsewhere, was sporadic after the Civil War. Some mines were reopened during the Depression but a state report in 1936 indicated that “no work has been done on this mine during the past forty years.”

Richard F. Knapp and Brent D. Glass, Gold Mining in North Carolina: A Bicentennial History (1999)
Richard F. Knapp and Robert M. Topkins, eds., Gold Mining in History, Geology, and Culture: Collected Essays (2001)
P. A. Carpenter, III, Gold in North Carolina (revised, 1993)
Herman J. Bryson, Gold Deposits in North Carolina (1936)
Brent D. Glass, “King Midas and Old Rip: The Gold Hill Mining District of North Carolina” (Ph.D. dissertation, UNC-CH, 1980) and related articles in North Carolina Historical Review
Niles’ Weekly Register, March 26, 1825
Raleigh Register, April 5, 1825
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north carolina highway historical marker program

Representation of 19th century reinforced mine shafts.

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources