by Chris Tacker
Originally posted on Research & Collections:
Every now and then I get tired of answering the same questions over and over again, so I write something to treat that question in detail. Then when I get the question, I direct the questioners to the article, roll over and go back to sleep.
The first article addressed the question of The First Gold Rush in North America: North Carolina or Georgia? Looking into the question in detail yields some interesting results.
Schoolkids in North Carolina are taught the story of Conrad Reed, skipping church to shoot fish in the creek, and finding a huge gold nugget instead. That was in 1799. Gold was first discovered in Guilford County, North Carolina, and sent to Governor Josiah Martin in 1774. Gold was later found in Virginia in 1787, as recorded by Thomas Jefferson himself. The reality is that “gold fever” spread exactly like a disease, starting at the Reed property in 1799 (now Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site, well worth the visit), then to the neighboring farms, then to that region of North Carolina. These weren’t really gold rushes, they were just the development of a new money-maker in the communities. In 1828, the Brindletown Gold Rush started in Burke County, North Carolina. Winter of 1829-1830 saw the spread of the fever throughout the Southeast with the start of the Dahlonega Gold Rush in Georgia. In 1849 gold was discovered in California and the gold fever was a nationwide phenom. Historically, it grew exponentially like any other disease, with isolated cases in 1774, 1787, and 1799.