Remembering the first Jamestown gold miners.
By Mary Browning
If you are curious about old mines near Jamestown, any fellow who spent his school years in Jamestown can probably show you at least one. These places are dangerous and locations are pretty well disguised now, but boys pass this knowledge on from one to the next. Those of us who were not Jamestown schoolboys either have to find a guide or settle for reading about the mines.
The Guilford County Atlas published in 1976 by the county commissioners shows five mine sites in Jamestown Township. First is Gardner Hill Mine, located on the east side of Reddicks Creek, north of Wiley Davis Rd., and probably in Grandover now. Then there is a row of three—Jack’s Hill Mine, North State Mine and Lindsay Mine—between Harvey Rd. and Bus. 85, spaced along between S.R.1354 and Riverdale. The last one is Gold King Mine, not precisely placed, but lying east of Groometown Rd., north of Deep River, and near the Sumner Township line. These reflect the names reported in the 1887 Geological Report of North Carolina, under the title of Ores of North Carolina, by W. C. Kerr and Geo. B. Hanna.
The first reported gold discovery in North Carolina was in 1799 when John Reed found the mineral at what is now known as the Reed Gold Mine north of Charlotte. This of course set off a search for more of the wondrous stuff, and at some time before 1819 gold had been discovered on William Hodson’s property near Deep River in Guilford Co. We know this because an agreement between William Hodson and Edward Poor, dated Jan. 25, 1819, was recorded with the county register of deeds, stating that Poor was entitled to “work & use wood & water in working a gold mine on the land of said William.” Poor had posted a bond of $5,000 and was to pay Hodson one-fourth part of the gold or metal recovered.
Edward Poor was successful enough during the next few years to cause the honorary title of “Captain,” to be placed on this tombstone. He died in 1827, and was buried in Old Union graveyard, also called Holton-Vickrey cemetery, on River Rd. A number of deeds, including the agreement with Hodson mentioned above, were recorded following his death as part of his estate settlement. These records give the distinct impression that Edward Poor was a real wheeler-dealer, a man with gold fever. His various tracts shared boundary lines with Robert Hodson and Jesse Fields
William Hodson or Hodgson, mentioned above, came from a sizeable tribe of the name. Another member was Robert W. Hodson, who also owned one of the earliest mines. In his later years, Robert wrote about mining in the 1825-1831 period. In an article in The Guilford Genealogist, No. 29, Jack Perdue quoted from this 1879 letter from Robert to a Guilford Co. cousin, Philip Horney Hodson. Robert had moved to Indiana in 1831. The letter said, in part:
“I think in the year 1825 my brother Jeremiah and I in prospecting along a branch found some particles of gold by washing the sand in a pan (a little previous I think some particles had been found on John Teague’s land near by on another branch, perhaps by Wm. Jessup, which was afterwards known as the Horney Mine.) From some knowledge of the geological stratas of the earth we coursed the vein over the high land to the next branch, thence up the hill some distance, where a ledge of quartz jutted out, not more than a foot thick, leading S.S.W., the general course of ledges of rock in that section of the country. We found some particles of gold in quartz. After harvest that summer my brother and I commenced sinking a pit on the hill. We went perhaps 15 or 18 feet deep, looking for larger pieces of gold than are generally found in the veins, but finding none then gave up the pursuit till next summer.”
The letter says that Robert read all he could about geology, mineralogy and metallurgy “from the best books, papers, men, etc., in my reach.” Then they went back to work, following the vein of quartz, washing the ore, crushing it in mortars and grinding it, and washing it with mercury.
“The gold in the ore was pure,” he continued,” but there was sulphates of various metals combined in the ore. When we succeeded in the work, it produced a wonderful excitement. Men came from far and near, went to work sinking shafts at random and getting no pay.”
Robert also mentioned again the Horney Mine—location not mentioned, saying that it opened soon afterward and was moderately successful, as were other places in Guilford and Randolph. They were worked for gold, but copper was plentiful in some of the mines.
The Hodsons worked at their mine for about four years, finding some very rich small pockets:
“Some days we did not make more than $1.00 to the hand, other days much more. The largest day’s work we ever done, was to dig out the ore, haul it to the washing place and wash out a little over $90.00, or $30.00 to the hand. We only went a little over fifty feet deep while I worked the vein. The vein thickened from near a foot on the surface to near five feet in the bottom. We sold out, I think, in the Spring of 1831 to Andrew Lindsey, James Robbins and Jesse Shelly.”
According to Fred Hughes’ book Guilford County, N.C.: a map supplement, F. W. Davis built a dam and geared mill at the present site of Oakdale cotton mill in 1826, the purpose being to power a grist mill, saw mill and pounding works.
In 1833, the heirs of Edward Poor sold mineral rights on a tract that Edward had sold to Isaac Person. Purchasing those mineral rights was Charles McCulloch. This was the same Charles McCulloch who built the rock engine house on Copper Creek on property purchased from Robert Hodson.
As it turned out, that was only the beginning.
News & Record, Sunday, December 11, 2005
Reprinted with permission of the News & Record
and of the author