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November 30, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Gold: Booker Mine


Shaft mining in central Virginia, c. 1865 (Harper’s New Monthly Magazine)

On July 14, 1838, a letter to the Editor ran in the Washington D.C. newspaper, Madisonian, for the Country. It was in response to “extracts from the New York Gazette, on the subject of Gold Mines in Virginia.” The letter discusses several Buckingham County gold mines which were active in 1838 and was signed, simply, BUCKINGHAM.

The Booker mine went into the hands of a company in the fall of 1836, and some thirty or forty thousand dollars were expended in preparation of machinery upon a very large scale, (to be propelled by two steam engines,) and in sinking a shaft, which was unfortunately located and failed.  But this plan was changed last fall – a cheaper one adopted – and machinery, propelled by one of the Engineers, has been recently put to work.  The vein has been opened some fifty feet deep, and their prospects appear very flattering.  The vein is large and the ore productive.  The machinery consists of stamps and washers, which the superintendent is increasing in number, with full confidence, it is said, of producing an abundance of good ore, and making the establishment very profitable. There is little doubt that the Company will realize a handsome profit, with proper management, notwithstanding the expenses incurred, delay, &c.


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  1. Kimberly / Dec 2 2013 9:54 am

    I have no idea what the output of the Booker Gold mine actually was. The story goes that Bernard Gaines Booker had a carriage with a gold crest on it and his coachman’s buttons were solid gold. In 1840, the census indicates that he had 36 slaves (and there were ten free white persons living in his household), so that seems to indicate that he was doing fairly well at that time. However, ten years later, in 1850, he and his immediate family were living in Kentucky and he was a farmer, with no value to his property (indicated on the census.) So, sometime in that decade, the gold mine must have been tapped out.

    Do you know if there is any connection between the folks who mined gold in Buckingham and to Gold Rush out west? Seems like some of them might have packed up shop on the east coast and taken the equipment, etc, out to California.

    • Joanne Yeck / Dec 2 2013 10:17 am

      Kimberly, The information about the Booker family from the 1840 census is indeed impressive. Based on the 1850 census, perhaps the Booker family spent a little too extravagantly. Now, we know from the newspaper article, that getting started at the Booker mine was very expensive. I don’t know if there was a strong connection between those who worked the Virginia gold deposits and the rush in California. Perhaps another Slate River Ramblings reader can speak to that.


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