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A lost silver mine in Randolph County?
Monday, July 31, 2006
Cathy Weaver: A lost silver mine in Randolph County?
While doing research for last week's North Carolina pirate trivia quiz, I ran across another bit of intrigue.
Legend has it there's a silver mine hidden in the hills of Randolph County. It's called the Clapham Silver Mine and, according to the book "Buried Treasures of the South" by W. C. Jameson, treasure hunters have been searching for the bounty ever since silver was first mined there in 1765.
A Pennsylvania native by the name of Thomas Clapham traveled to North Carolina in 1765 in search of his fortune. He had heard of rich deposits of gold and silver in the hills and mountains so, despite the threat of hostile Indians, he embarked on his treasure hunt, accompanied only by a slave.
After several weeks of searching for their fortune, Clapham and his slave ended up at a place called Horse Mountain, which is in what we now know as Randolph County. After several more weeks of searching the hills for the "mother lode," as well as water and food, Clapham found a spring that offered him and the slave a good spot for encampment.
Clapham followed the spring to its source and as he cleared brush from the flowing water near the water's origin, he noticed something sparkling in the crystal pool.
Silver nuggets -- a whole handful of them.
So at this site, Clapham and his slave made their camp, building a log cabin and preparing to stay for the winter. Clapham diligently searched for the source of the silver nuggets he had found in the stream. Finally, he found the source of his silver in a bare granite exposure about 40 feet up from the flowing spring. It turned out to be a thick, rich vein, and Clapham and his slave excavated a narrow shaft more than 20 feet into the rock.
As the story goes, the two made it through the winter without incident, keeping their discovery to themselves. In the spring, Clapham was visited by a large party of Indians, but with gifts of tobacco and blankets he was able to peacefully negotiate the encounter, and soon the Indians were on their way.
This close brush with danger, however, motivated Clapham to build a small smelter away from Indians and any wayward trappers so he could melt down his silver and fashion it into ingots. When he had enough silver ingots to load all of his pack animals, Clapham prepared to leave North Carolina and return to his native Pennsylvania a rich man.
In order to remove all traces of his mining expedition, Clapham then destroyed the smelter and covered the entrance to the mine with boulders. However, he did leave cryptic directions to his mine on a large granite boulder nearby.
While packed and ready to leave, Clapham discovered a small sack of silver nuggets he had neglected to melt down so he placed them in a copper cooking pot and buried them under a large poplar tree near the stream. He slashed the bark on the tree to mark the treasure's location and left.
On his way back to Pennsylvania, however, he met a settler named Peter Elliot who befriended Clapham and his slave. So Clapham told Elliot about his good fortune but was vague about the location of the mine and the buried silver. Though Elliot searched for the mine, it remained hidden.
Fast-forward to the 1840s when a descendant of Thomas Clapham discovered some personal effects of the secretive miner, including a journal that revealed the bounty he had excavated and the silver buried under that tree. Though this relative searched for the silver, his efforts were also in vain.
Sometime around 1968, the rock that bore Clapham's inscriptions was found by a man named Henderson Barrow. Barrow never found the mine, and other treasure hunters inspired by the legend also looked for the source of the silver.
In the 1970s, a young man showed up in Greensboro and exchanged silver nuggets for cash, saying he had found them in an old copper pot on the bank of a creek in Randolph County. He said the creek had eroded part of the bank, exposing the pot and its treasure. While the story fits perfectly with legend, we don't know this man's name.
Do you know anything about this lost silver mine? Horse Mountain is west of Asheboro.
The stream that Thomas Clapham described in his journal is thought to be Richland Creek, and that also runs just north of the North Carolina Zoo. Highway 42 runs near both Horse Mountain and Richland Creek.
The silver mine Clapham left behind is still in those hills, just waiting for us.
Mar 29, 2010, 02:39 PM
Re: A lost silver mine in Randolph County?
Well, let's find the boulder. Maybe we can make heads of it?
Nov 08, 2013, 06:40 PM
any luck with that yet ,,,,,, my research says near old horse mountain near the zoo
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