History of North Carolina Gold Rush
http://youtu.be/ITzn5TT6xEE - Michael Harget speaks about GOLD and why this area was settled.
The Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first documented gold find in the United States. From this discovery, gold mining spread gradually to nearby counties and eventually into other southern states. During its peak years gold mining was second only to farming in the number of North Carolinians it employed. The estimated value of gold recovered reached over one million dollars a year. North Carolina led the nation in gold production until 1848, when it was eclipsed by the great rush to California
In 1799, 12 year-old Conrad Reed made the first documented gold find near Charlotte, in Cabarrus County. Soon thereafter, everyone from farmers to investors began to pan for gold. It didn't take long to create some 300 mines, employing locals and immigrants from South America and Europe.
As time passed, North Carolina became the only producer of domestic gold between 1804 and 1828. North Carolina was the highest gold producer in the nation, until 1848 when gold was discovered in California.
While there are plenty of stories and tales surrounding this period, the majority of mining activity occurred in the southern area of present day McDowell County, known as Vein Mountain. Some streams and regions employed up to 3,000 workers. Members of McDowell County's "founding families" purchased acreage in the region. The McDowell and Carson families were at the forefront of this era, also sending slaves to work their mines. Some slaves became free men after working those stream beds and mines.
Information taken from: History Of McDowell County by Mildred B. Fossett Copyright 1976