LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

gold nugget

It doesn’t look like much, but a nugget of raw gold reshaped the economy of North Carolina’s southern Piedmont. Image source.

In 1799, twelve year-old Conrad Reed of Cabarrus County found a seventeen-pound gold nugget in a streambed. It was the first discovery of gold in the United States, and within a few years, his father owned a mine that made him a wealthy man. Throughout the region, mines were dug, and men came from across the country — and from Europe — to work them. The nation’s first gold rush was on. In this chapter, you’ll learn about the Reed family, the lives of the men who came to work in the mines, and the impact gold had on North Carolina’s society and economy.