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Reed Gold Mine

Reed Gold Mine, located in Midland, 12 miles southeast of Concord, is the site at which the first authenticated discovery of gold in the United States occurred. In 1799 Conrad Reed, the 12-year-old son of German immigrant John Reed, uncovered a 17-pound gold nugget while fishing in Little Meadow Creek. Within four years, the first gold mine in the country had been established, starting as a placer mine and later expanding to vein or lode mining. As mining spread, North Carolina experienced a gold rush that made it the largest domestic producer of the precious metal until the California rush of the 1850s. Reed Gold Mine was one of the richest mines in the South and was noted for its large nuggets, weighing up to 28 pounds.

The most impressive physical work at the mine occurred in about 1854, when miners greatly expanded the underground workings and built a substantial engine millhouse with a stone chimney and a steam engine. The Reed mine's success was sporadic, and like many other mines in the state, after the Civil War it operated intermittently. In 1895 the Kelly family of Springfield, Ohio, purchased almost exactly the undivided acreage that John Reed had owned. They did not operate the mine profitably but instead kept the property for nearly eight decades as a southern retreat. The site was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1966, and the North Carolina Department of Archives and History three years later consulted the heirs of Armin L. Kelly about acquiring it. In December 1971 the Kellys sold 760 acres at a very reasonable price and donated 70 acres for the establishment of Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site.

The National Park Service prepared a master plan for the site, and Geological Resources, Inc., of Raleigh prepared a study of the underground workings at the mine. Further planning and historical research were undertaken, and a support group, the Gold History Corporation, was formed. In 1971 the General Assembly appropriated funds for development, and a staff began work at the site. Artifacts were collected; a visitors center was built; 400 feet of underground tunnel was restored; roads, bridges, and walking trails were laid out; and the site was opened to the public in April 1977. In the ensuing years, mining machinery and equipment reclaimed from other abandoned mines were displayed at the Reed Gold Mine site. The staff at the site provides interpretive programs, special events, and educational work, and a panning area allows visitors to try panning for gold.


P. Albert Carpenter III, Gold in North Carolina (1993).

Linda Funk, Reed Gold Mine Guidebook (1979).

Richard F. Knapp, "Golden Promise in the Piedmont: The Story of John Reed's Mine," NCHR 52 (January 1975).

Knapp, ed., North Carolina's State Historic Sites: A Brief History and Status Report (1995).

M. A. Schwalm, A Hessian Immigrant Finds Gold: The Story of John Reed (1996).

Additional Resources:

National Park Service Historic Landmark:

ANCHOR, Reed Gold Mine:

NC Historic Sites, Reed Gold Mine:

NC Historical Marker L-7, Reed Gold Mine:

1979 Act to appropriate funds for Reed Gold Mine:

Origin - location: 



My ancestor’s brother Isham Clay owned land on Little Meadow Creek in 1800 but sold shortly after. Does anyone know where I might find land records or any info on him or brothers Dennis or James.


Hi Barbara,

Thank you so much for visiting NCpedia! I suggest consulting the following resources:

These titles are available, in print, at the State Library of North Carolina's Government and Heritage Library. There is an entry for an "Isam Clay" in both resources. 

Molly Goldston, NC Government & Heritage Library


The Reed family are distant relatives to me. Can you tell me how John Reed is related to Elizabeth Reed Motley (1794-1851)?



Thanks for visiting NCpedia and asking your question.

I am forwarding your query to our Reference services who can assist you:

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


just wondering how is every body are doing. at the Reed. From Lawrence Carriker.


Hey my daughter wanted to know if you could buy that first gold nugget that was found by Conrad Reed


Great question! Actually you may already own part of it! The original nugget was sold to a jeweler by Conrad Reed's father, John in Fayetteville, NC in 1802. It is likely that the jeweler melted down the nugget and made it into jewelry or other uses. Gold gets melted down and reused as jewelry, electronics, ornamental coatings, etc. So part of that nugget may be in your cell phone or computer or a piece of jewelry at your home!


hi ! I am looking into discovering some really cool and unuque gold panning or even gem panning in north carolina ( near areas of smokeys, gatlinburg, blowing rock) with an expert. would you happen to get some advise on who I could do this with in real off the grid spots ? thanks !



Take a look at This talks about the history of gold in NC, present-day laws about panning for gold, and where to find gold. 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


Great text

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