Gold Mining in Virginia
As Virginia was one of the earliest states settled, there is a relation between the discovery of gold and the Indians. Tales of wealth of the New World in gold and silver had undoubtedly reached England from Spain, and without doubt the early immigrants fully expected to find the precious metals in abundance. In fact, the great character granted by King James in 1606 to the London and Plymouth Companies giving them the right to explore and settle the North American continent, provided that one-fifth of the gold and silver and one-fifteenth of the copper discovered should go to the crown.
An expedition under Captain John Smith sought to establish connection with the Pacific Ocean by way of the Chickahominy River. Sometime later, a miner excitement, probably the first in the United States, occurred, which was caused by the discovery of what was supposed to be gold. A large quantity was sent to London where it was found to be only pyrite; yet, strange enough, gold was found later in the same place. Gold is said to have been first discovered in the state by the English as early as 1799. It is mentioned a discovery of gold nugget below the falls of the Rappahannock River in 1782, but there were not mint returns until 1829.
The Tellurium and Vaucluse mines were discovered in 1832, which probably marks the beginning of a vein mining in the state. Probably, the first stamp mill erected was at the Tellurium mine , in 1835 or 1836. It was a 6-stamp mill, the individual stamp weighed 50 pounds. An attempt was made to smelt the ores of the Vaucluse mine in 1847, but without success. A gold quartz vein was discovered in Louisa County in 1845 by G. Fisher. Gold and silver were reported as occurring in the shales of the coal measures of the Panhandle, West Virginia, in the early 1850, but no extensive mining was done. Concentration of sulphides was performed at the Vaucluse mine by means of tables and strakes. Raw amalgamation was also practiced here, and was probably the first application of the process in this country. Pyritic smelting was also tried at the Vaucluse mine, but was abandoned. Gold was found in Patrick, Carroll and Grayson counties, but is small quantities and associated with copper.
The gold belt consisted of an accumulation of veins of pyrite associated with chalcopyrite. The veins had quartz-fillings in which the gold occurred as spangles, plates, grains and well developed crystals. Pyrite was evidently the matrix of the gold and silver. In Louisa County, were noted large bodies of pyrite occurring in lenses, often 60 feet thick and over 600 feet long. Traces of gold were found in the pyrite deposits, which also contained small quartz-veins bearing gold. The State Hill mine of this county reported some quartz-veins with gold.
Some lode and placer mining operations were carried out in this state. Considerable placer mining was done in Spottsylvania and Louisa counties. Placers were worked at Pigeon Run in the former county and at the Tinder Flats in the latter, both of these localities produced gold. Othe localities in which gravel deposits were worked the Rattle, Snake mine in Stafford County and some points in Fluvanna and Goochland counties.