Gold Mining in Stafford County E-17

Historical Marker Text
Near here are located ten of the nineteenth-century gold mines of Stafford County. The best-known were the Eagle, Rattlesnake (Horse Pen), Lee, New Hope, and Monroe mines. The Eagle Gold Mining Company, Rappahannock Gold Mine Company of New York, Rapidan Mining and Milling Company of Pennsylvania, United States Mining Company, and Stafford Mining Company operated here between the 1830s and the early twentieth century. Mining activities gradually ceased because of declining profits. [1990]

Extended Research
The first documented gold found in Virginia was a four-pound, gold-bearing rock reported by Thomas Jefferson in 1782, along the north side of the Rappahannock River (Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME) “Gold”). However, the first reported discovery of a lode deposit was not until 1806, at the Whitehill Mine in western Spotsylvania County (Sweet and Trimble 185). Virginia became one of the country’s first gold-producing states, and there are known to have been over 300 mines, prospects, or occurrences within it (DMME “Gold”). Most were a part of the Gold-Pyrite Belt, which ran 140 miles from Fairfax County to southwestern Buckingham County (Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME) Gold in Virginia). Many mining companies were created to operate the mines, and a variety of production methods were used, including panning, hand shoveling, sluicing, and dredging (DMME “Gold”).

Over the years 1804 through 1947, Virginia produced 98,609 troy ounces of gold, from both placer and lode deposits. The peak of gold production was in the 1840s, with a climax in 1849, just before the California Gold Rush, after which there was a dramatic decrease. Beginning in 1864, toward the end of the Civil War, Union troops destroyed Virginia gold mines in order to damage the South’s economy, yet some reopened after the war, although with less production than before (Sweet and Trimble 2). During World War II, mines producing only gold were ordered to shut down so that their labor could be directed toward the war effort. Virginia’s gold production thus declined, and the last reported production was at a lead and zinc mine in Spotsylvania County in 1947 (DMME Gold in Virginia).

The former gold mines in Stafford County were all in its southwest region, as part of the gold-pyrite belt, and all drained into the Rappahannock. The eleven mines and prospects are:
Eagle (Rappahannock, Smith, Morgan and Rappahannock); Elliot Farm; Horse Pen (Horse Pin, Hospen, Rattlesnake), which is two mines; Lee Prospect; MacDonald Prospect; Monroe; New Hope; Pris-King, which had two shafts; Prospect A; Rattlesnake; and Wise Farm (Sweet and Trimble 184).

Gold mines and prospects in Virginia

Image Credit
“Gold in Virginia,” Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy, http://geology.state.va.us/DMR3/gold.shtml (accessed April 8, 2008).

For Further Reference

Lonsdale, John T. Geology of the Gold-Pyrite Belt of the Northeastern Piedmont, Virginia. Charlottesville, VA: The Mitchie Company, 1927.

Spears, D. B., and M. L. Upchurch. Metallic Mines, Prospects and Occurrences in the Gold-Pyrite Belt of Virginia. Charlottesville, VA: Division of Mineral Resources, 1997. Also available online at https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/commerce/ProductDetails.aspx?ProductID=1281 (accessed April 21, 2008).

Sweet, P.C. Gold in Virginia. Charlottesville, VA: Division of Mineral Resources, 1980. Also available online at https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/commerce/ProductDetails.aspx?productID=1282 (accessed April 21, 2008).

Sweet, P. C., and D. Trimble. Virginia Gold-Resource Data. Charlottesville, VA: Division of Mineral Resources, 1983. Also available online at https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/commerce/ProductDetails.aspx?productID=1283 (accessed April 21, 2008).

Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. “Gold.” Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. http://geology.state.va.us/DMR3/gold.shtml (accessed March 12, 2008).

Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy. Gold in Virginia. Charlottesville, VA: Division of Mineral Resources, 1993.

Department of Historic Resources map and directions

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