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Gold in Northern Virginia

Here’s a nugget, so to speak, that I gathered last weekend on the drive home from Pittsburgh (where my daughter is attending grad school this fall):

Did you know that they used to mine gold in Northern Virginia?

There’s a sign along Highway 17 in Fauquier County commemorating that fact, not far from Goldvein.

A little Internet research, and I learned they used to mine a lot of gold in Northern Virginia. A couple of quick facts:

There used to be gold mines and prospecting sites all throughout Virginia in the 19th century, more than 300 at one time or another. Serious mining began in 1804; the last time gold was mined commercially was in 1947.

The 200-mile-long gold streak starts roughly in Fairfax County and runs through many of the Northern Virginia counties, more or less follows Interstate 95, then veers southwest to the North Carolina border.

Thomas Jefferson allegedly was the first to discover gold in the Old Dominion. TJ supposedly found a big nugget in Fauquier County and set off a minor rush.

Virginia was the major producer of gold in the country until the glittery stuff was discovered in California in 1849. At that time, many prospectors ditched Virginia and headed west.

The Franklin mine in Fauquier was one of the biggest and most lucrative mines, producing more than a million dollars’ worth of gold between 1825 and 1860. That’s pre-Civil War dollars. During the war, Union forces destroyed a number of mines in an effort to cripple the Confederacy economically.

Best names of mines: The Bull Neck Mine in Fairfax, the Rough and Ready Mine in Buckingham and the Rattlesnake Mine in Stafford.

There is a museum commemorating Virginia gold mining at Goldvein. On Sept. 11, Goldvein is hosting a Jubilee, with activities that include, yes, panning for gold.

Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania includes the site of the old Goodwin gold mine; the park offers mine tours, panning and historical info on mining there.

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