In 1792, the United States was just starting out as a new nation, George Washington was its President, Kentucky became its 15th state, and Philadelphia was its capital and second largest city. Philadelphia would house the first US mint, being that the majority of the United States population at the time was north of there. At the time, gold coins were made from gold that came from Europe and Spanish Territories, but this would soon change.
The First Authenticated Discovery of Gold in the United States
In 1799, almost 50 years before the discovery of gold at Sutter Mill in California, a 12 year old boy by the name of Conrad Reed was fishing in Little Meadow Creek on the family farm in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. While fishing, he discovered a yellow rock which weighed about 17 pounds. He showed it to his father John Reed, a Hessian immigrant. Not knowing what he had, John used the rock as a doorstop. It wasn’t until 1802 when a jeweler told him it was gold. Not knowing how much gold was worth, Reed sold the nugget for a petty $3.50. The purchaser was happy to pay that amount and and ended up making over a thousand times that amount with that nugget. Supposedly, when Reed found out how much it was worth, the jeweler ended up giving him around $1,000.
Of course, Reed and his family started looking for more yellow rocks in the creek. In time, he hired some men including slaves to assist so they could help search while he farmed his crops. One slave, Peter, would discover a 28 pound nugget. This nugget would be worth over $6,600. Needless to say, John Reed, an uneducated German immigrant, becomes a rich man. He would continue mining the stream bed and in 1831 started underground mining.
The Charlotte Mint
With gold being discovered in North Carolina and Georgia, Congress approved an act to build branch mints close by. The Reed Gold Mine was around 20 miles from Charlotte. So in 1835, the US Treasury purchased some land in Charlotte to build a US Mint Building. On July 27, 1837, the Charlotte Mint opened. The first gold coin minted here was a Five Dollar Gold Half Eagle on March 28, 1838. For the first time, a mint mark was added to a coin. To distinguish if the coin was from Charlotte, a “C” mint mark was put on the reverse of the coin. Only Gold Coins would be minted in Charlotte.
The Charlotte Mint would produce Quarter Eagles and Half Eagles from 1838 to 1861, but in 1844, a fire destroyed the building. Production halted in Charlotte and no Gold Coins would be minted in 1845. A new building was opened in 1846, making 1844-C and 1846-C key dates. In 1849, Gold Dollars started being minted in Charlotte and would continue until 1861.
After the Mint
With the Civil War beginning in 1861, North Carolina would secede the union in May, making the Confederacy in control of the Charlotte Mint and would convert it to be used as a hospital and military office. During the Reconstruction Period after the Civil War, there was talk of reopening the Charlotte, Dahlonega GA and New Orleans mints. Only the New Orleans Mint would reopen in 1879. Mining at the Reed Gold Mine had decreased and the last gold nugget was found in 1896. The building would be used as an assay office until 1913. During World War I, it was used as a Red Cross Station and home to the Charlotte Women’s Club until 1919.
The building was almost demolished in 1931, but a local citizen’s group purchased the building and moved it from North Trade Street to Randolph Road. It is now known as the Mint Museum and contains art from North America, Europe and Africa.
Maybe someday, I can visit the building in Charlotte that produced the first gold coins that were minted from actual US gold. How about you?
A history lesson on the discovery of gold in the US. I’ve never heard of the Charlotte mint before from studying American History but I suppose the government would want to build one to generate gold coins.
It is funny how gold was found in California by a child going fishing, not realizing the rock he found had any value because it was a rare metal.
Is the Charlotte mint a historical museum by any chance?
No, you wouldn’t hear about the Charlotte or the Dahlonega GA mints in American History, but you might have heard how the US Government went back on their word and mined in Native American land. Then moved them from their homes near the gold mines west to the Mississippi River. It was known as the “Trail of Tears”.
The child was fishing in a creek in North Carolina, playing hooky from church. His family was simple farmers who had never known what gold was.
The mint building is now and art museum known as the Mint Museum.
Nice job. I would love to have a gold nugget for a door stop.
Me too. Hard to believe it took him 3 years to discover what it actually was, but he was a simple farmer. Probably never heard of gold.
Oh my gosh!!! The first piece of gold was used as a doorstop!?! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…I would gladly have taken it 🙂 😀
I have never been to north carolina or charlotte before actually (despite loving to travel) but it is now calling my name!!
I know! It’s hard to believe, but back then, a lot of the people who lived in the US around 1800 were poor illiterate farmers who neither saw or knew what gold was.
I have yet to go to Charlotte. I was close last year when I drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, but only made it as far as the North Carolina border.