AN OVERVIEW OF GOLD MINING AND THE NC GOLD FESTIVAL
Listen to Anne and Liz here:
(The interviews with Anne and Liz were originally aired on WNCW-FM and are used by permission from WNCW and its license holder Isothermal Community College.)
DR. JAMES HANEY TRACES THE HISTORY OF MCDOWELL GOLD
Dr. Haney is one of McDowell County’s foremost historians and the author of several books. He notes that gold mining was the first industry in the county, employing some 5,000 people in the mid-1800s. Dr. Haney tells us about the two phases of gold mining in the area and locations of the mines, explains the methods used, plus details the involvement of McDowell’s most prominent families. He also relates the story of “Fed”, a mining slave whose threat of an insurrection had citizens in three counties terrified.
Listen to Dr. Haney here:
Dr. Haney also talks about some of the paper currency issued by the gold mines: This rare currency is on display in the Historic Carson House, located on Highway 70 between Marion and Old Fort. The Carson House collection also includes some remarkable gold mining artifacts:
DOUG McCORMICK OF THE LUCKY STRIKE MINE EXPLAINS DREDGING
Gold mining in McDowell County is not a relic of the past, it’s happening successfully to this day. Here, Doug McCormick of the Lucky Strike Gold and Gem Mine steps into the creek to talk about dredging. He also gives us a brief geology lesson. (When you stop by The Lucky Strike, he’ll wow you with his command of the subject.)
A LESSON IN PANNING FOR GOLD
At The Lucky Strike, you can look for gold in many different ways, but panning is the most accessible and relaxing. In this video, Doug and Liz McCormick teach us that there is a bit of a zen master in every prospector. You’ll meet longtime miner Bob Libby, and their eager student is our sound man Jon Orr (who jealously guarded the gold nuggets he found all the way home). Also, we’re wondering if Liz ever did find that piece of gold that Doug let get away!
Sluicing for gold, or “high-banking” is considered by many to be the next step up from panning, and opportunities to try your hand at it abound at the Lucky Strike. When you high-bank for gold, you shovel sand and gravel into a hopper where it is then sprayed by a gas-powered water pump. Anything small enough to drop through the hopper (like gold!) ends up in the top of a sluice box while larger debris is scraped away with a shovel. The smaller objects continue to be washed off with a spray of water until any precious metals are all that remain.
And if you do have a “lucky strike”, there’s no need to scurry off to a fancy jeweler in town. There’s a full-service lapidary on site to evaluate and cut any gemstones you find. You can find out more about Mountain Lapidary from the folks at The Lucky Strike.
MORE ABOUT GOLD: Be sure to also read the post on the main page of this website: Brackettown: Gold Mining Center of the Country.