In South Carolina, gold was first discovered in 1802 in Greenville County, and discoveries soon spread out across the state. However, for the discovery to be anywhere tangible it took close to three more decades, and the first shipment of gold from South Carolina to the United States mint is recorded in 1829.
Much of the gold in South Carolina was found along the Carolina Slate Belt running across the state and parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. The gold-bearing zone actually starts in southern Virginia, and extends diagonally southwards to some portions of Georgia and Alabama, including both Carolinas. Within South Carolina, the belt runs Northeast from Anston and Union counties. Historically, Lancaster and Chesterfield have been the most productive counties in terms of gold mining.
These gold-bearing areas of South Carolina had similarities in geological formations and origins to those of the Slate Belt throughout the Southeast. There are many creeks, streams, terraces and benches within the belt that produced placer gold.
Historic Gold Discoveries in South Carolina
In 1856, a lump of gold was found within in Abbeville County. The discovery afforded the strongest evidence of an valuable vein around the vicinity. More exploration confirmed the richness of this area.
The area around Lowndsville will also produce placer gold in many of the surrounding waters. The main waterways here include the Savannah River and Rocky River. Many small tributaries in this part of South Carolina will also produce some good gold with a gold pan or sluice box.There is both lode gold and placer gold. Add to that all the hard rock mining and we are looking at a massively gold rich state which has the capability to produce decent sized gold nuggets as well. Two notable placer gold deposits were Brewer Mine and Tanyard Pit, located in Chesterfield and Jefferson Counties.
Placer gold yield from these two mines was double that of the lode mines in the surrounding area. Martin Mine near Smyrna is also pretty notable and its biggest claim to fame was the sizable gold nuggets found in the mine. In 1856, two large gold nuggets weighing 9.5 ounces and 17 ounces were found at the Martin mine.
The Henderson Prospect and other gold mines in the towns of Honea Path and Williamston in Anderson County have produced placer gold. Mines in Honea Path relied upon minor gold finds in Chinquola Mill Creek, and placers were also worked around Williamston on Camp Creek and many surrounding drainage.
Even at present times, there is an abundance of placer gold that can be obtained through sluicing, panning or suction dredging in the sediments of the stream and gravel deposits around the Tuscaloosa Formation, or the Coastal Plain region, which refers to the area below the Carolina Sandhills and the coastal zones of South Carolina.
The Dorn Mine was one of the noted and most productive of the South Carolina gold mines in the 19th century. William Dorn, an Edgefield County farmer, discovered what would become one of the richest veins of gold in South Carolina’s history in 1852. Dorn Mine was a pocket mine that was closed after extracting close to $3,000,000 worth of gold.
There were rich lode and placer mines in Greenville County. The most noteworthy were the Briggs and Wildcat Mines that produced lode gold; and the McBee Placer and Westmoreland Placer Mines which had rich placer gold.
Southeast from the town of Verdery in Greenwood County, placer gold was found along many of the streams in the area, including Little Muckaway Creek and Beaverdam Creek. Nearby to the town of Troy, lode gold was produced by the Young Mine.
Gold mining in Kershaw County was not as productive as it was elsewhere in South Carolina, but there is still gold to be found here, especially around Sawneys Creek and Thorntree Creek east of the town of Ridgeway.
Lancaster County contained one of the largest mines in the Appalachian region of the southeastern states— the Haile Mine, which was the most successful gold-mining operation in South Carolina.
York County, located west of Lancaster County was a great gold-producing area, with dozens of lode mines throughout its vicinity. Several creeks and rivers in the area held placer gold. The Broad River and its tributaries are reliable producers of placer gold.
Any of the creeks and gulches around abandoned gold mines are likely to have some placer gold hidden deep down on bedrock. Raw gold erodes from the rock and finds its way into the waterways. Use a gold pan and work the gravels in the vicinity of these mine.
Recreational mining using pans, sluices and small dredges do not require a permit. Whenever crossing or panning in private property, permission has to be obtained from landowners just as with any other activity.
If you are panning in state national parks and forests, free permits are provided for such activities. For most prospectors the Sumter National Forest and Francis Marion National Forests offer good opportunities without needing to get permission from landowners.
Also keep in mind that if your prospecting activity is deemed to violate the “Clean Water Law” of the state, you are liable to receive a citation and penalties. You should be fine as long as you are mining responsibly without too much surface disturbance.
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