Drye writes about Barringer Gold Mine in Our State
Richfield native Willie Drye grew up with stories about the old Barringer Gold Mine, which was a short distance from his home in Misenheimer. He spent a lot of time as a young kid roaming around the woods.
Many of the old dilapidated buildings and holes associated with the former mine property — the last vestiges of an earlier period in American history — interested him.
“You grow up in a small town, you tend to think that not much happens there or ever happened there,” he said about his childhood in Richfield. “You take local history for granted.”
But the history of the mine, which Drye said he only knew “scraps of information,” continued to intrigue him.
“I grew up there, I was always kind of fascinated by it,” Drye said of the mine. “I kind of always wondered what had happened there.”
His curiosity never left him. He recently researched Barringer Mine on the internet and tons of old newspaper articles popped up, some dating all the way back to the early 19th century.
“I kept poking around and poking around and I thought, ‘well you know hmm, there’s a story here,” he said.
After extensive research, Drye, an award-winning author and journalist and a contributing editor at National Geographic News, was able to get in touch with Our State magazine. He wrote a feature about the history of the mine.
The mine is named after Matthias Tobias Barringer, who was inspired to search for gold after John Reed, a Cabarrus County farmer, discovered a 17-pound nugget in a creek and sold it to a local jeweler for $3.50 — the equivalent of around $80 in today’s money, according to Drye.
Barringer began finding gold nuggets along a section of Long Creek worth about $8,000 (more than $179,000 today). News traveled across the country about Barringer’s discoveries — his find was chronicled in 24 newspapers — and people flocked to the state, eager for their chance to strike it rich. Drye wrote how “gold-seekers from all over the world began arriving” in the area.
The Barringer Mine is likely best remembered now for being the first gold mine in the Southern Piedmont to use lode mining (pure mining from mineral deposits).
Drye writes in detail about the mine’s interesting history, including a tragic episode that occurred during the early 20th century. The mine property changed hands numerous times, with many continuing to find gold long after Matthias’ initial discovery in 1825. Though the mine has been closed for several decades, a state historic marker stands at U.S. Highway 52 and N.C. Highway 49 in Richfield, briefly retelling the story of the Barringer Mine.
Drye credits the the mine for helping instill in him an interest in history.
“I was always curious about what had happened there, what had gone on in those old buildings that were still standing when I was a kid, “he said. “I guess that curiosity never left me.”
For more information about the mine, pick up the March edition of Our State or find the article online at https://www.ourstate.com under the history section.
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