In 1832, Christopher Bechtler of Rutherfordton, NC, minted the country’s first $1 gold coin, 17 years before the U.S. mint. During the mid-1800s, the Bechtlers minted more than $2.24 million in gold coins.
North Carolina Gold and Christopher Bechtler’s Private Mint
Drawn by the gold to be found in the rivers of western North Carolina, thousands of fortune seekers kindled a North Carolina Gold Rush to the foothills of the Blue Ridge in the 1820s. Among them was the German jeweler Christopher Bechtler who bought land in Rutherford County in 1830 and began his own – not very successful – search for gold.
At the time, the only mint in the United States was in Philadelphia, and it was difficult and dangerous to transport the raw gold there. A bill was proposed to Congress by Samuel Carson, a Rutherford resident, to open a mint in Rutherfordton, but the bill never reached a vote. A year after Bechtler and his family moved to the area, gold miners urged him to create a market for raw gold by opening a private mint.
First minting coins in $5 and $2.50 denominations, in 1832, Bechtler minted the country’s first $1 gold coin, 17 years before the U.S. mint. During the mid-1800s, the Bechtlers minted more than $2.24 million in gold coins.
Visiting the Historic Bechtler Mint in Rutherfordton, NC
Christopher Bechtler’s historic 1838 home has now been fashioned into a public heritage center. History and architecture enthusiasts alike can revel in the home’s details and exhibits.
The Bechtler Mint Site is the western anchor on North Carolina’s “golden crescent” that extends to the Reed Gold Mine east of Charlotte. Since Bechtler’s death in 1842, his land has passed through many hands, once selling to speculators for over $1 million and once selling at auction for less than $100. Farmers, loggers and curio-seekers have churned up its soil and erased many features.
The Mint Site was not protected until 1990 when the Rutherford County Historical Society negotiated its donation to Rutherford County. In 1997 the Mint Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, recognizing that Christopher Bechtler’s gold-working skills transformed the economic life of the South.
The Bechtler Mint Site and home are now part of a new North Carolina Gold Trail. View a PBS documentary that was created around this remarkable story.
The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is a program of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership.