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The beautifully diverse city of Charlotte became what it is today only after generations of settling and searching for a lasting identity. History tells us that, like many other areas of the United States, Charlotte was a place first inhabited by Native Americans, in particular from the Catawba tribe. First recorded around 1567, the tribe became impacted drastically by smallpox, and its population dwindled down to a mere 110 by the first quarter of the 19th century. Like any budding community reliant upon trade, goods and resources, Charlotte’s growth and progress depended upon the influx of more civilians. And thanks to the somewhat bizarre story of Conrad Reed and our country’s first gold rush, Charlotte may well have been gifted a great boost in that domain. Conrad Reed was just 12 years old in 1799 when he found a shiny, 17-pound rock while playing by a creek on his family’s farm in Cabarrus County. He and his family used the rock as a doorstop for three years until his father, John Reed, decided to take the rock to a jeweler who recognized it as containing gold, and offered John a measly $3.50. Unaware of its value, John obliged, and with word of the presence of gold spreading throughout the surrounding areas, soon Charlotte would see an influx of settlers looking to strike it rich. Though Charlotte never became the kind of buzzing hub for gold-seekers that California did, it certainly maintained a mild reputation of mining mystique following the discovery of the sparkling rock. John Reed subsequently set up The Reed Gold Mine, which was eventually designated as a national historic landmark. A few decades later, in 1835, President Andrew Jackson signed into law a bill that opened a branch mint in Charlotte. In 1861, following North Carolina’s secession from the Union, the Confederacy took control of the Charlotte Mint for a short time until it was converted into a hospital for the remainder of the Civil War. And finally, in 1936, it was re-designated as the Mint Museum of Art, the very first art museum in Charlotte. Nearly 300 years after place was carved in our country’s history for Charlotte, the story of Conrad Reed and the nation’s first gold rush is still working to bring new faces to this inclusive, incredible city.

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