Autauga Heritage

Panning for Gold

I am proud of my state. There is a lot of history if the truth be told in Alabama with many stories surrounding my small town of Autauga. I know it all by heart having studied it in grade school in great depth. When a friend told me he has found places to pan for gold, I was surprised. “What? You can still do that?” I asked. “Let me tell you plain and simple that the state is one of the better gold producing states if you look east of the Mississippi, especially long ago My family has prospected for years in the Talladega National Forest and I bet someone in your family has gone gold panning there, too. “I can tell you more,” he went on. “Gold exists here in lode and placer deposits. Go to the area near the Georgia border for the best finds.” I was eating it all up. Tell me more.

I was not about to rush out and get the best gold panning kit just yet, but I wanted more info. He got out a map to show me the major discoveries in at least nine counties. Talladega is known for more than car racing. Think of the Hog Mountain district and you have hit the nail on the head. Cyanide leaching is used to find gold as it is most effective given our particular geography. When you get into gold mining, you learn your geology. There are many creeks in which to pan as a recreational activity my friend added. Mining has a long history in the area and its own gold rush days in the 1830’s and when gold was a byproduct of copper production. I suppose that much family wealth has been accumulated over generations in this industry. Not surprisingly, many miners left home to join the California Gold Rush years later.

I am most interested in Autauga county having lived in Prattville, the country seat. Other counties may have more rich lodes like Clay, Chilton, and Cleburne, but we have some noted areas. I am happy enough that the state has so much to offer in terms of precious metals. All of a sudden, this new knowledge has become a point of pride. I hear that in addition to state-run forests, some gold is still found on private land. You can’t go there, of course, without permission. And my friend is not about to give out his secret spots.

One day he might ask me to come along and I will find out his discoveries. I don’t expect to get rich any more than he has, but it will be something really novel and fun. You may live far away from my wonderful southern state, but no doubt you can also pan for gold somewhere in your vicinity. Meanwhile, given that Alabama gold mines have been largely idle for so many years, I might get some results if I take a pick and shovel.