I was talking to distant cousin Alan Thomas today about their family’s ties to goldmining for which he had no knowledge. Alan’s ancestor is David M. Thomas who was a blood brother to my great grandfather George Washington Thomas. Before going into David’s background I’d like to say a little about my great grandfather.
George Washington Thomas farmed, ran a saw mill and also a brick making kiln likely first begun by his father-in-law Solomon Pless. Located between present day Stanfield and the town of Big Lick, the 1904-1910 map of Stanly County locates George’s mill on the front side of the old farm south of where his store was once located. It is said George had bags of gold that he hid in his well; that late in the evening you could see him counting his gold by the light of the moon.
So where did George get his gold? He may have mined it and there may have been small amounts of gold gathered from his own and neighboring farms. George may have even received some from his wife’s family. There’s documented evidence that Peter Pless, the grandfather of George’s wife Julia, had also acquired gold. A member of Flat Rock Lutheran Church, surviving church minutes indicate that for a period of time, Peter was banned from the church for selling alcohol to slaves in return for bits of gold. This was in the 1830’s and is supported by a court record in which Peter Pless was charged with selling alcohol to slaves which at that time was forbidden. Learning of this I’ve always wondered if that practice passed down to my great grandfather? Did George Washington Thomas discover and mine gold himself or had he somehow bartered and traded for it?
That’s the story of my Thomas family but as for Alan, his background includes the discovery of a large nugget rivalling those found at Reed’s goldmine. You see, Alan’s ancestor David M. Thomas married Mary Margaret Austin, the daughter of Bryant Deberry Austin and Ellen Elizabeth Hamilton. Bryant (B. D.) Austin’s parents are Jonathan Austin and wife Permilla Williams. Both B. D. Austin and his father Jonathan are buried in the same family cemetery off of present day Sugar and Wine road near the waters of Gold Mine Branch …a clue.
Dated 28 Nov 1828, a deed of sale begins to tell the story of Goldmine Creek. At that time B. D. Austin’s brother Jacob Austin sold out his one and one-half tenth part of 35 acres known as the Anson gold mine (Deed U-284, Anson NC). The land was situated on Weatherford’s Branch near Cedar Branch where it adjoined the lands of William Mullis, Daniel Jenkins, and that belonging to Pinion. There was something big that drove the said Dismukes to buy into this operation and it turns out that gold had been found in the area prior to 1810. Several months prior to the above purchase, the following article dated 28 Aug 1828 appeared in newspapers across the region:
From the above found on Newspapers.com, we now have clear evidence of gold being found on lands owned by the “Heirs of Jonathan Austin.” This would certainly included his son B. D. Austin.
There were numerous articles prior to the above that mentioned Anson Mine and the finding of gold in area creeks surrounding Reed mine. The following was published 28 Jul 1826 in he Raleigh Register:
Bryant Deberry Austin died 5 Jul 1885 and as has been previously stated, is buried at the Austin family cemetery in New Salem NC. He left a sizeable estate mentioning daughter Margaret and her husband David Thomas. But as luck would have it, David died during the probation of his father in-law’s estate. Dated 22 Jan 1889, in a petition for final settlement, the listing of heirs records—— — “Mary Margaret Thomas…who is now a widow”.
So what was the status of the gold operation at the time of the 1889 settlement? Is there anything there to verify what we now know happened? Found among the estate papers is the following:
We know there was a gold mine and we know it yielded sizeable gold including a 13 pound nugget. As late at the 1890’s the Anson Mine was identified in papers as far away as Belfast, Ireland. And like my own great grandfather, Alan Thomas’ ancestor married into gold. He came to it by way of his own father-in-law. It’s important that following David M. Thomas’s death his wife married again and she is buried in downtown Charlotte.
My distant cousin Alan has wondered where his David M Thomas is buried? It’s possible he’s buried in an unmarked grave at the Edmund Davis Cemetery along Gourdvine Creek in Union County. Many of David’s Thomas family are buried there. David could also be buried near his father-in-law at the Austin family cemetery. It would only be natural as the death of a girl’s father was soon after followed by that of her beloved husband. She’d want to be near the two most important men in her life. However, it’s also possible that David is buried near a home place we’ve yet to locate. I think finding that location will be among the family dreams for generations to follow.