The earliest recording of gold mining activity in Virginia began about 1804 as placer mining, followed quickly by lode mining. Mining continued unabated until the onset of the California Gold Rush, at which point most serious speculators moved west. Production continued at a low level until the Civil War, when it virtually ground to a halt.
Near the end of the war, Union troops began a systematic campaign to destroy the economic base of the South. Many gold mines were subsequently damaged beyond repair. Most were, by this time, marginal producers, their ores of such low concentrate as to stretch the limits of the mercury amalgam (chemistry) recovery technology of the day. Many of these mines never reopened.
Other mines did, however, and gold production in Virginia continued until World War II, when, on October 8, 1942, the War Production Board issued Limitation Order L-208, which branded gold production as a non-essential and directed all but the smallest of gold mines to shut down so their labor force could be used elsewhere to support the war effort.
Economic conditions following the war were such that few miners returned to mining, so only a handful of mines reopened. For all practical purposes, commercial gold production in Virginia ceased after 1948.
At its peak, Virginia was the third largest gold producing state, and the heart of the gold production area was at the junction of Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Greene near Wood Dr., and Orange counties near Wilderness.
- Green, Fletcher (October 1937). “Gold Mining in Ante-Bellum Virginia”. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 45 (4): 363, 366.
- “History of Gold Mining in the US”. miningeducation.com. Technology Industry Of Gold Mining. Retrieved 28 January2017.