Gold Minining History Tallapoosa County, Alabama


Personal Details

My name is Joe Waters. One hobby of mine is prospecting for gold. I have been doing this for 12 years. I enjoy everything that has to do with Gold Prospecting. I do most of my prospecting in Tallapoosa County.My favorite method of recovering gold is GOLD DREDGING. I have been known to load up a truck full of kids and go to Georgia, camping and prospecting.

I have been told that I am leaving something out, my wife's name is Vicky, She doesn't share in my prospecting interests. She teaches at Dadeville High School, in the Science Department. My daughter, Kristi is a student at Dadeville High School. She doesn't share in my prospecting interests either.

This Web Page is about Gold Mining History in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. I have used references to several Gold Mines in my pages, as I do more research I will add more. I do strongly suggest that if you try to visit any of these old mines to get the land owners permission first, also most of these old mines are 150 years old. Please don't think they are safe to enter. There is no amount of gold in this world that is worth someone losing their life over.

Laws pertaining to mining and minerals are many and complex. American Mining Laws originate from the Common Laws of England. Except for National Forest lands and State Parks, Lands in Alabama are Privately Owned. PERMISSION to PROSPECT or EXPLORE REQUIRES WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM THE LAND OWNER.

Back To Contents

Brief History

Except for a brief period in the 1840's gold mining did not involve large numbers of people in Tallapoosa County, however, throughout the 19th century most people lived not very far away from gold mining operations. Most farmers had to be aware of the possibility of finding gold on their land.

Gold mining operations began soon after Tallapoosa County was created in 1832.The first gold was extracted by a method which the miners called "branch mining". The miners worked the sand and gravel in such streams as Owl Holler, Channahatchee, Peru, Long Branch, and Kowliga for placer deposits of gold. Their tools were pick, pan, and shovel. Although "branch mining" yielded some gold, the streams were soon worked out. Many of the streams which contained placer gold are now covered by the waters of Lake Martin. The gold mines and associated mill operations were usually crude, milling machinery was generally inefficient, and underground mining was done by hand.

Tallapoosa County in the early 1840's did in fact have an authentic gold rush. The focus of attention was an area in the northeastern part of Tallapoosa County which properly came to be called Goldville. The town was granted a charter of incorporation in 1843.

Gold Mining operations were carried on in Tallapoosa County from 1842 to 1936. There are no active mines in Tallapoosa County at this time.There are several properties in the county where the mineral rights are still leased every year by mining companies. What little bit of gold found now is by recreational prospectors.

Back To Contents

Goldville District

In 1842, gold was discovered in Northeast Tallapoosa County. The news spread fast and furiously in the same manner as the 1849 strike in California. It brought all kinds of people with the same lust for riches. The population of Goldville quickly reached 3,500. Almost overnight Goldville became one of the largest towns in Alabama.

In the "Goldville District", gold veins were rich. The gold was there, but the methods of obtaining it were crude. There also was free gold, concentrated at the surface by weathering which made it possible to work with a shovel and pan in some places. Gold was worked down to water level. A great amount of work was done as indicated by the trenches, pits, and shafts that can still be found.

There were at least fourteen merchants, seven saloons, and two hotels that served the miners needs. Most of the miners lived in tents. There is not any evidence of a church in the gold rush days. The town of Goldville was born and died between the census of 1840 and 1850.The amount of gold taken from the mines and pits will never be known. Most of the miners were gone before 1850. When news of the California gold strike reached Goldville, the miners packed up and left not even taking time to put out their campfires.

The first mine in the Goldville District was the Birdsong Pits (S4,T24N,R23E) owned and operated by Edward Birdsong who between 1840 and 1850 carried on mining operations with negro labor(slaves). Other mines included the Jones Pits (S5,T24N,R23E) which is one of the oldest mines in the county. The Log Pits (S24,T24N,R23E) which was one of the richest operations ($30,000.00 in gold and a small amount of silver).

The Ulrich Pits, later called Dutch Bend or Romanoff Mine (S8,T23N,R22E) were located on the east bank of Hillabee creek about eight miles from Alexander City. Dr. Ulrich, a German, found gold here while digging a wine cellar. As late as 1906 a stamp-mill was operating on this property. The mining equipment here included a 20 stamp-mill and a cyanide plant. The Ulrich Pits were acquired by Robert A. Russell of Alexander City, who operated these mines till 1934.

Other mines that operated in the Goldville District mostly before 1900 were the Early Pits (SW1/4S26,T24N,R22E), Stone pits (S34,T24N,R22E), the Chisolm prospect (S9,T23N,R22E), the Duncan prospect (S16,T23N,R22E), the Mahan Pits (S4,T23N,R22E), the Croft Pits (S34,T24N,R22E), the Tallapoosa Mine (Sw1/4S26,T24N,R22E), the Tine Burnett Lode (SE1/4S24,T24n,R22E), the Houston Pits (S18,T24N,R23E), the Hawthorne Mine (S8,T24N,R23E), the Goldville Pits (S8,T24N, R23E), the Germany Pits (NW1/4NE1/4S9,T24N,R23E), and the Lowe Mine (NW1/4NE1/4S9,T24N,R23E). There were numerous other pits that were worked and abandoned.

Men in the financial capital of the United States were aware of the gold in Tallapoosa County. A letter to Colonel Dean from E.M. Morgan of R.A. Ammons and Company, bankers and brokers of #2 Wall Street, New York dated December 2, 1887 states " Regarding that Birdsong and Jones property. Mr. Roudebush leaves tomorrow for London and from cables and letters which we have received we are confident that the property will be taken by some people over there." There were many similar inquiries.

Back to Contents

Devil's Backbone District

Is a narrow band which begins in southwest Tallapoosa County at Martin Dam and follows the shores of Lake Martin to Jackson's Gap.

The first gold mine in Tallapoosa County to install machinery for processing the ore was the Silver Hill Gold Mine located on Copper Creek (S16&17,T20N,R22E) near the old Centerport Church. M. Tuomey, the first state geologist, visited the mine in 1845 and reported a prosperous condition that yielded about $96.00 a ton of ore. He reported that the principal vein was about two feet thick on the surface, but thinner and richer at twelve feet. The workings extended eighty feet deep in the center. The ore was hauled about 250 yards to the mill, where there were six-stamps and a badly constructed Burke Rocker. In 1891 the Silver Hill Mine was visited by Dr. William B. Phillips, of the University of Alabama, who reported evidence of haphazard work. According to William Coley Farrow the hills around the operation were cut to pieces. A letter from Major C. H. Parmelee, quoted by Phillips, stated that the Silver Hills refactory ores would yield about $25.00 a ton. The mine discontinued operations before 1900 and is now partly covered by the waters of Lake Martin.

Not far from the Silver Hill Mine was the Dent Hill and Gregory Hill Mines (S33,T21N,R22E). When Phillips visited the mine in 1891 it was being operated by Major Parmelee. According to William Corley Farrow, Parmelee moved his mining equipment from Silver Hill To Gregory Hill Gold Mine. He operated a fifteen-stamp mill there. Farrow recalled that Parmelee took over $80,000.00 out of the mines but it took him $100,000.00 to do this. After his unfortunate experience Parmelee left the mine and it was operated by a Captain Hall for several years.

Another mine in the Devil's Backbone District was the Blue Hill Gold Mine it was adjacent to the Gregory Hill Mine. This mine in later years was owned by the Phillips family. The lower portions of these two mines are now under the waters of Lake Martin. Other mines along the shores of Lake Martin include the Bonner Terrell property (S19,T22N,R23E) and the Holley prospect (S10,T21N,R22E) located to the left of the Dadeville-Young's Ferry Road.

One of the last gold mines to operate in this area was the Farrow Gold Mining Company. Thomas Taylor Farrow owned and operated this mine for over twenty-five years (1880's to early 1900's). Farrow operated a Five-stamp machine which was powered by water. One of the unusual features of the operation was the invention of a self-powered railroad system that he invented. A loaded railroad car of gold ore was utilized to pull the empty car. These cars carried about a ton of ore each. This mine was located above Curry's Camp on Lake Martin. There are still visible signs where the hill was dug for gold including a large tunnel and many ditches. The mine did not prove profitable as it cost $3.00 to produce $1.00 in gold. The operation required too much labor and the gold was reported to have contained to much sulfide.

Possibly the last gold mine to operate in southern Tallapoosa County was the Neal Branch Mining Company. This mine was a "Mull-Mill" and produced twenty-five to thirty tons of ore a day. Like most of the other gold mining operations, this one did not prove to successful.

Some other mines in the Devil's Backbone District were the Mass prospect (S19,T20N,R22E), the Long Branch prospect (S21,T20N,R22E), the Owl Holler Placer (NW1/4S4,T20N,R22E), the Alabama King Mine (NW1/4S25,and 26 T22N,R22E), and the Preacher Gunn property, which is believed to be renamed to the Bonner Terrell property.

Back To Contents

Eagle Creek District

In the Eagle Creek vicinity were numerous mining operations which began as far back as 1840. A stamp-mill was operating on a creek flowing through the Hammock property (SW1/4ofS24,T23N,R23E). Other nearby mines were on the Jennings property (SW1/4S26,T23N,R23E), the Greer property (SE1/4S24,T23N,R23E), the Johnson property (SW1/2SW1/4S17,T23N,R24E) where tunnels and shallow shafts were dug from 1840 to 1845. The Tapley Mine (SE1/4S26,T23N,R23E), the Griffin prospect (S19,T23N,R24E),and the Morgan Placer (S22,T23N,R24E).
Back To Contents

Hog Mountain District

There was more gold removed here and over a longer period of time than any other location in Tallapoosa County.

Hog Mountain, an unfortunate name, is located three miles west of Goldville and ten miles northeast of Alexander City. The mountain reaches an elevation of more than 1,000 feet and stands about 500 feet above Hillabee Creek. Surrounded by hardwood and pine covered hills near the junction of Hillabee and Enantichopko Creeks, the mountain is located in a sparsely populated area and displays some of the most beautiful and rugged country in Tallapoosa County.

The Hog Mountain or Hillabee Mines (S10and15,T24N,R23E) have been operated since 1844 when only the crudest machines were used and hauling of ore to the creek was accomplished with oxen. Many times over the years the mine was abandoned only to be reopened. When Dr. Phillips visited the mine in 1891 there was a ten-stamp mill with an engine and boiler on the site but no work had been done for several years. An assay of ore from the mine in 1886 gave the value of the ore as $7.50 a ton. The site also yielded some silver.

In 1890 the Hog Mountain operations were taken over by the Hillabee Gold Mining Company headed by T. H. Aldrich which used for the first time advanced technology in the gold mining operations. A cyanide plant was installed, air drills and a Blake crusher and rolls were used for crushing the ore. In the 1890's a 200 Horsepower hydroelectric generating plant was constructed on Enantichopko Creek a mile and a half from the mine. Experiments were conducted in treating the ore, including heating in a revolving kiln which had the effect of causing the quartz to shatter, due to the expansion of gas bubbles. The gold recovered by the company totaled $250,000. The mine was closed in 1916 when cyanide became unobtainable because of World War 1.

Operations were renewed about 1932 when a mill with a capacity of 150 tons a day was placed in operation. The so called flotation process was used. As others had found before them, although there "was gold on them hills" the cost of getting it was greater than the return. The company shipped about $500,000 worth of gold but the processing cost amounted to $600,000. The company ceased operations in 1936. It has been estimated that 24,300 ounces of gold were produced, about half of it was produced from 1934-1937.

Back to Contents


I would like to give credit where credit is due. Tallapoosa County Bicentennial Committee. Article titled THE GOLD COUNTRY . Authors name is not mentioned but research credit is given to C.J. Coley and Charles Farrow. Article titled GOLDVILLE by Betty H. Johnson. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF ALABAMA. Circular 104, ALABAMA GOLD by Thomas A. Simpson and Thornton L Neathery. Bulletin 136 , GOLD DEPOSITS of ALABAMA by C. Michael Lesher, Robert B. Cook, and Lewis S. Dean. Information Series 47, MINING and MINERALS in ALABAMA by W. Everett Smith and O. E. Gilbert. Special map 204 MINERAL RESOURCES of TALLAPOOSA COUNTY,ALABAMA by Mirza A.Beg. Thanks to these whose research made this page possible.
Back To Contents

A stamp mill is a tall building where gold bearing ore could be loaded into the top floor.Stamp mills run off a combination of gravity and water power or electricity. The stamp mill crushes the ore and frees the gold from it. When the ore is reduced to fist size , then the mechanical process of a stamp mill could began.

The ore was dumped onto iron grids that separated the large pieces out. The smaller ones fall into a hopper below. The larger ones slid by gravity to a jaw crusher. A jaw crusher was two metal plates, one moved mechanically, the other was stationary, crushing anything in between.

When ore was reduced to very small material it was fed into the stamp mill. A stamp was a large heavy metal shoe, that was mounted to a handle. Near the top of the handle was mounted a wooden cylinder that functioned like a tappet in an automobile engine. The source of power, water or electricity, drove drive belts that turned crescent shaped cams. As the cams turn, they push the wood cylinder and the entire stamp up. When the end of the crescent was reached, the stamp dropped onto a metal plate. The shoe on the bottom was designed to be turned a quarter turn each time the stamp dropped which meant that the ore was crushed and ground. The crushed ore was then washed into a large sluice, which trapped the gold particles.

Back To Contents

Hot List

My Favorite Sites
Alabama Gold Camp
Tom Ashworths Prospectors Cache
Alabama Gold Fields.
U.S.G.S. Prospecting for gold in the United States.
Back to Contents

I love getting E-Mail! Please let me know what you think about my home page, constructive criticism is welcome!

Back to Contents

I hope you enjoyed my page. Ya'll come back now, ya hear. If any one has any stories about gold or prospecting in Tallapoosa County, Alabama I would be interested in hearing them. May all your pans show "color". Joe Waters

Sign My Guestbook Get your own FREE Guestbook from htmlGEAR View My Guestbook

You are prospector numberto visit since 04-13-00