Gold Panning and Prospecting in Virginia
Virginia is known as relic hunter's paradise! There is such a tremendous volume written on the history of Virginia's early settlements and battlefields, that we will only graze the surface here. For an easy reference to see what happened in your area, scroll to the bottom of this page for links to online maps of Civil War engagement areas. Of course, Virginia has been involved in many other conflicts.
If you've ever thought about diving or beach hunting, Matt Mattson @ Treasuresites.com contributed the following leads for 1860s sites:
Mulberry Point -- Naval boats at Mulberry Point and the point opposite from it commanded the Wash Channel on the James River in the Civil War.
Hardin's Point Battery -- on the James River, near Mulberry Island Point.
Pig Point -- a battery located here.
Cedar Point -- a battery located here.
Barrel Point -- a battery located here.
Dog's Point -- a battery located here.
In front of Fortress Monroe are some remnants of the gunboat Oregon, destroyed by a shell in 1862.
March 8, 1862 -- Gunboat Whitehall is burned in front of Fortress Monroe by a Confederate shell.
Newport News -- Union battery location on the riverfront.
Gosport -- opposite Norfolk, on the W. bank of the Elizabeth River, a Confederate naval battery was located in front of the Naval Hospital.
Penner's Point -- a Confederate Naval battery of 12 guns located here.
Soller's Point -- 3 Confederate naval batteries laid out for six guns apiece was here.
Fort Norfolk -- Confederate Col. Talcott mounted 5 guns in a naval battery between the fort and wharf.
Craney Island -- a Confederate naval battery of 20 guns located here.
Bushy Bluff -- at Norfolk, a Confederate naval battery of four guns erected here by private citizens.
Jamestown Island -- on the James River, Confederate naval batteries were erected by General Magruder.
Old Fort Powhatan -- several companies of Va. Volunteers and six or eight 42-pounders mounted on naval carriages were here, situated a short distance below City Point, on the James River.
The first gold bearing rock was found alongside the Rappahonnack River about four miles below the fall line near Fredericksburg in 1785. However, it wasn't until normalcy resumed in the state after the war when Virginia's gold would receive it's due attention. In 1806, it was discovered in the western section of Spotsylvania County. Fever caught on and gold deposits were discovered in an area called the the Gold-Pyrite Belt including the following counties: Buckingham, Carroll, Culpepper, Cumberland, Fairfax, Tauquer, Floyd, Fluvanna, Goochland, Halifax, Louisa, Montgomery, Orange, Patrick, Prince William, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Warren.
The first operating gold mine in Virginia was organized in 1834 in Orange County Virginia. Several more successful mining operations sprang up in counties which include Culpeper, Orange, Spotsylvania, and Stafford. Several had deep shafts to deep veins and others had open pits. Fifteen years later, the California Gold Rush caught the dreams of these early prospectors, and Virginia's gold was largely forgotten.
You can always ask for permission to hunt on any private property, but you can also pan and metal detect in public access areas. The only known gold producing areas on public lands are in the Buckingham / Appomatox State Forest. There are numerous mines and probable placer locations in washes in the area which extends in a NE to SW line along the west side of US 15 through Sprouse's Corner & US 60 and into the State Forest. Contact the local Local Forest Ranger for more information including maps and regulations.
Update: August 09: reader reports the following information for VA Buckingham/Appomatox State Forest and their gold panning activities: "I called them this morning and spoke to the forest ranger and he said that gold panning is not allowed in their state park or any in the state of VA." Always be sure to verify the legalities of all prospecting before you venture out.
The Carolina slate belt and major gold mines (modified from Hatcher and Butler, 1979).
Some of the information posted is from the GPAA Mining Guide. The GPAA is a professional, family oriented organization that's been around for awhile and they'll treat you right. There's many more areas to find gold in Virginia than what's listed above. If you are serious about finding gold, we recommend that you check out your local club to learn the proper techniques and some good spots to hunt from the pros. The only alternative is to spend a whole lot of money on gas and wasting valuable time doing your own thing.
A deposit of garnet is located on a steep bluff on the northeast side of the Tyle River about 6.5 km south of Arrington in Nelson County. The small, dull-red garnets are found in a sericitic schist. Attempts were made to mine the deposit in the past, but there is no record of commercial production.
Two mines in Amelia County account for the majority of the production of gem-quality garnet, they are the Morefield and Rutherford. The spessartine from these mines, primarily the Rutherford, are etched-crystal masses and fragments, not individual perfect crystals. The pieces range from pea size to as large as a grapefruit. In 1991, a single piece, dubbed the Rutherford Lady, was found that weighed more than 2,800 carats. Color varies from a fantastic light pure orange, almost yellow to shades of red-orange, red, and brownish-red, but the orange overtone always is present.
Amazonite from Amelia County, Virginia, sets the world standard for quality. The deep, blue-green, translucent amazonite from the Morefield and Rutherford Mines is the finest in the world. The Morefield Mine is currently operated both as a commercial gemstone mine and as a fee-for-dig mine. The Morefield Mine ensures an adequate supply of high quality amazonite for cabochons, beads, carvings, and spheres. High-quality material from the Morefield is available in pieces over 0.5 kilogram in weight. The Rutherford Mine is open only a single weekend per year on a fee-for-dig basis.
COINS & JEWELRY
Virginia offers many incredible opportunities. If this is your interest, here's a few ideas to get you started:
Schools and College Campuses
Parks / Playgrounds / Picnic Areas
Foundations, Wells, and Cellar Holes of Old Churches or Houses
Downtown Construction Sites
Swimming Holes and Beaches
Camp Grounds, Boy Scout Camps, WPA Camps, and Railroad Camps
Rodeo Arenas, Riding Stables, and Race Tracks
Old Fair and Carnival Locations
Old Town Dumpsites
There are many tales of lost treasure in Virginia concerning caches buried for safety. In many of these stories, people either died or forgot where they buried the stash. Contributing factors include:
1. Fear of "foraging" troops during the Civil War (General Sherman)
2. Distrust of banks during the Great Depression.
In Saltville, Abraham Smith and his sons are said to have buried $46,000 worth of silver and gold coins under a roadbed during the Civil War to prevent them from falling into the hands of Union soldiers.
In Fauquier County, William Kirk amassed a large fortune by the late eighteenth century, and is said to have hidden it on the grounds of his estate, thus accounting for various scattered discoveries of coins in later years. However, the bulk remains unlocated.
On a hill near McGaheysville, Rockingham County, a treasure was buried and never found again according to local accounts.
These excerpts are a sampling from American Coin Treasures and Hoards
Info courtesy of www.treasurefish.com