History of Gold in Alabama
Alabama’s gold fields occur in a northeast trending belt about 100 miles long and 60 miles wide, in a region known as the Piedmont Uplift.1 The Piedmont Uplift covers about 3,500 square miles in Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Elmore, Randolph, Talladega and Tallapoosa Counties.
The first major gold strike in Alabama occurred in 1830 along the tributaries of Blue Creek (32.8083342, -86.4710693), on Lake Mitchell and Chestnut Creek in Chilton County near Clanton, Alabama. For a decade there were thousands of miners working the area.This discovery made Alabama one of the prolific gold-producing states east of the Mississippi River, with almost 80,000 ounces of gold from 1830 to 1990.
Significant gold discoveries continued throughout the coming years and gold was discovered throughout Talladega, Tallapoosa, Chambers, Coosa, Clay, Chilton, Elmore, Cleburne, and Randolph Counties. Historical documents reported that one of the early gold districts, Arbacoochee, is said to have given employment to 600 men and in 1845 had a contributory population of 5,000 inhabitants. Goldville, another Alabama gold district, was said to have had 14 stores and the population in the locality was at least 3,000. Goldville later became a cross-roads without a store.
The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) resulted in the miners abandoning the mines. After the Civil War, work took place until World War II. In the 1930’s, with the rise in the price of gold, there was another boom which lasted until 1942. Gold is still being found in Alabama, mostly in the form of lode gold mining, also called hard rock mining and placer gold found in soils and gravel.
1916 Bulletin of the Geological Survey of Alabama:
GOLD AND SILVER
By James M. Hill.
IN 1916 there were mined in Alabama 418.44 ounces of gold, valued at $8,650, and 53 ounces of silver, valued at $35, an increase of 164.81 ounces of gold and of 41 ounces of silver in 1916 over 1915. The production in 1916 came from 3 placer mines and 2 deep mines in Chilton, Cleburne, Talladega, and Tallapoosa counties, as compared with 2 placers and 1 deep mine in 1915. There were 11,063 tons of ore treated by amalgamation at the two deep mines in operation, the greater part being from Tallapoosa County.
The discovery of lead ore is reported near Jamestown, Cherokee County, and near Huntsville, Marshall County.
Other details concerning the Gold and Silver production in Alabama may be seen in the tables following:
Mine production of (/old and silver in Alabama in 1916.
Mine production of gold and silrcr in Alabama in 1916, by sources, in fine ounces.
Fuller accounts of the occurrences and former activities in the mining and milling of gold and silver in Alabama will be found in our statistical reports for 1914 and 1915.
Paris, T,A, 1985, The Goldville project—Results from an exploration project for gold in the northern Alabama Piedmont, in Misra, K.C., ed., Volcanogenic sulfide and precious metal mineralization in the southern Appalachians: University of Tennessee, Studies in Geology 16, p. 182–205.
Excerpt from Minerals and Mines Along the Southern Railway
Issued by Land and Industrial Department, Southern Railway, 1899:
The gold belt of the South is a very extensive one. It follows the Southern Appalachians, appearing in the Piedmont and mountain regions from Virginia to Alabama. The general trend is from northeast to southwest, and the gold-bearing regions are nearly all along or near the Southern Railway’s main line from Washington City southwest, or some one of its numerous branches leading out from that line. The belt is nearly 70o miles long and from 5o to 12o miles wide. This area may be divided into several minor gold-bearing belts: (1) the Virginia belt; (2) the Eastern Carolina belt; (3) the Carolina State belt; (4) the Carolina igneous belt; (5) the King’s Mountain belt; (6) the South Mountain belt; (7) the Georgia belt ; (8) the Alabama belt.
In some of these minor belts there is at present a good amount of work being carried on, and several mines are yielding a good profit. These are the mines where the latest and most approved mining and milling methods are in operation, by which the low-grade ores can be utilized. In former years the gold-fields of the South, especially of North Carolina and Georgia, yielded quite heavily, and had a most important position among the gold-fields of the world. In those days mining methods were crude, and as soon as the old methods became unprofitable the mines were abandoned. In recent years new attention is being given to the South by gold miners. The possibilities of the field are again being realized, and exploration and development work is being done in many places, while at others the mining industry is being steadily pushed. This is owing to the introduction of the new methods, and especially of the chlorination process of extracting the gold from low-grade ore. The ores of the Southern field are mostly low grade, but there are many mines which yield a fair amount per ton. By the Thies process, low-grade ores are worked with good profit. Some of the old mines, long since abandoned, are found to have ore sufficiently rich to work, and new discoveries are being made. The Southern gold-fields are probably destined to again assume a very great importance among the gold-producing regions of the country. They will, at least, furnish work for many men and bring fortunes to many who understand modern mining methods. Many authorities in mining matters predict that this gold field is to become one of the greatest gold-bearing belts of the continent. The field will ctrtainly bear and warrant the most careful investigation mining men.