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



Marker Text:

     The discovery of gold in North Carolina in 1799 boosted the economy of western North Carolina. Gold was first discovered at what is now the Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site about twenty miles from the present Gold Hill district. Soon thereafter, an effort was made to survey the region for more potential sources of the mineral. A geological survey was made in 1823 which promised the discovery of gold in Rowan County. A year later gold was indeed found.

     The gold at Gold Hill was mainly in subsurface veins so the first vertical mine shaft east of the Mississippi River, the Barnhardt shaft at Gold Hill, was constructed in 1842 to access deep gold deposits. The Barnhardt shaft reached a depth of over 400 feet. Construction on another nearby shaft, the Randolph, was begun soon after the Barnhardt. The Randolph mine reached a depth of 800 feet and is considered to have been one of the richest and deepest eastern United States mines. A third, smaller shaft was dug but never reached the depth or prosperity of the Barnhardt or Randolph mines. It is estimated that six million dollars in pure gold (approximately one-third from the Randolph Shaft) was shipped out of Gold Hill and many times more than that lost due to inefficient extraction methods. The volume of gold mined in Gold Hill and surrounding areas prompted the federal government to build a mint in Charlotte.

     Additional mining operations discovered quantities of copper and the Union Copper Mine opened near the two largest gold shafts. The operation developed into the largest of the mining operations at Gold Hill and remained active much longer than the gold mining businesses. Attempts to revive the Gold Hill mines persisted throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The attempts took various forms. Attempts to improve extraction and mining methods at Gold Hill were some of the most progressive and technologically advanced in the country, employing the brightest scientists of the day, including Thomas Edison.

Richard Knapp and Brent D. Glass, Gold Mining in North Carolina (1999)
Richard Knapp and Robert M. Topkins, eds., Gold in History, Geology and Culture (2001)
Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site:
Gold Hill Mining Company Records
Gold Mining in North Carolina:
Gold Hill website:
Location: County:

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north carolina highway historical marker program

Miners riding an iron bucket, or kibble, up a shaft at Gold Hill, 1857, from their work site more than 300 feet underground.

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