The first authenticated discovery of gold in the U.S. occurred on the Cabarrus County farm of John Reed in 1799, sparking the nation's first gold rush. During its peak years, more than a million dollars of gold was recovered a year, making North Carolina a leader in gold production until 1848. This mill, built by the Mecklenburg Iron Works of Charlotte, North Carolina, is original except for the timber work. Two groups of five 750-pound stamps with 5- to 7-inch lift, rose and fell thirty-five times a minute to yield a finely crushed ore.
The largest mine hoist in the world, it serves the two incline skipways of Shaft No. 2, almost 9,300 feet long. The overhead winding drum has a diameter of 30 feet, of which the cylindrical center section is 10 feet long. The two 10-foot long end sections taper down to a 15-foot diameter. Wire hoisting ropes (almost 27 tons) could be wound onto a small end of the cylindrical drum as the other rope unwound from the cylindrical section.
In the mid-1800s Virginia City was America's greatest producer of high-grade silver and gold ore. When mining activities began, natural springs provided water to the camps. As the population grew, the Virginia and Gold Hill Water Company was formed to address the need for more water. The company first drew water from tunnels that had been driven into the mountains by prospectors. Water was stored in wooden tanks and sent through pipes into the town.