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Published: October 3rd 2018
My father-in-law has been a minister for 40 years this year. His first church appointment was at a tiny little chapel in Gold Hill, North Carolina in the late 1970s. Gold Hill is a small mining community that lies about an hour outside of Salisbury, NC. Back in the mid to late 1800s, it was one of the nation’s major gold mining hubs. Now, all that is left of the gold in this area remains deeply embedded in the underground rock, so it is inaccessible. Still, the locals have kept the locale relevant, upfitting the old shacks and homes that once housed the miners into craft, hobby and art shops that all share a laid-back and eclectic vibe.
This past weekend, my little family of four decided to take a trip to Gold Hill for its annual Founder’s Day, wherein the residents and visitors alike can celebrate the community’s past, its heritage and the mark it made on society. We had never ventured out to Gold Hill before as it is about two hours from our home in Wallburg, NC but we wanted to go to see where my father-in-law first got his start.
The Founder’s Day celebration was
held at the Historic Gold Hill Park, a 100-acre spread that also held a few old historic buildings-turned-museums as well as a sprawling playground and amphitheater. We arrived around 1:00, which was too late to catch the parade, though we learned later that a scheduling mix-up meant that many of the float vendors weren’t even aware of the celebration and as such, the parade was sparse. We parked and entered through a long line of vendors who had set up tents to showcase their wares. There were homemade soaps, birdhouses, dreamcatchers, wooden toy trains, scarves and much more. We took our time browsing around for a little while though we had all agreed to spend a majority of our money on food, as we knew there were going to be a few food trucks at the event.
Sure enough, as we walked a little farther into the park, we began to smell the wafting scents of fried corn, homemade ice cream, funnel cakes and cheesesteak sandwiches. We each got what we wanted and sat down on a log to make a makeshift gathering spot. After we fueled up, we visited a local fire department trailer, where the firemen crew
had created a “smoke room.” We learned about fire safety and how to carefully evacuate a smoke-filled room. I’ll have to admit, the smoke room was a little too realistic for my taste, but it was informative and something I was glad my kids got to experience.
Next, we found out we were just in time for a hayride historical tour. We ran across the street to find the truck and trailer full of hay bales, and hopped on. Our first stop on the Gold Hill Rail Trail, located within the Gold Hill Historic Park, was the Randolph Mine. This was the location where the original mine used to be. A company in Europe now owns the shaft after purchasing it in the early 1900s. In its heyday, this location, which was constructed in the late 1840s, was around 800 feet deep and was considered to be one of the most valuable mines in all of the eastern United States. Today, it is only one of a few stops along the trail. We made a stop, our tour guide hopped out to explain its significance, and we kept along.
Then, we came to the Gold Hill Dam and
Pond. This was also located along the Gold Hill Rail Trail and was a sight to see. It was clear to us that the dam was constructed for operational and functional purposes, as there was no recreational area set up around it. Still, it was interesting to hear about its backstory and the many local ways it is used. Our last stop was what’s known as the Powder House. This was an in-ground cave that the British created to store gunpowder, to keep it away from the rest of the town. Today, you can walk into it and hear your echo, but it isn’t used for anything besides tourism.
At this stop, my husband felt the need to tell our tour guide about his father, and how he used to serve a local church in the area. When we shared his name, our tour guide took off his hat and got a little misty-eyed. Turns out, my father-in-law was there in the hospital with him when his child was born back in the late 1970s. It was the first church member birth that he had ever attended as a local pastor, and it was for this man’s daughter. She
is now in her mid-forties and we were so thrilled to meet her at the end of the hayride! Turns out, besides a brief stint working overseas as an English teacher in Japan (you can consult this guide
to learn more about how those opportunities work), she has lived in Gold Hill her entire life! It was a full-circle, small world moment that we were grateful for.
Before we left, we took one last stroll around the town. This time, we wandered a little bit away from the hustle and bustle of the craft fair and instead found ourselves in the local arts district. This is where all of the old mining buildings had been converted into retail shops. They are not open during the week, but on the weekends, they come alive with live music, incredible food and unique, handmade gifts. We browsed around the shops, which were set back off the road in a rural, village setting. My daughter helped a man play the chimes and bluegrass guitar and we even found a man pedaling a bicycle with a cooler attached, selling homemade popsicles! All in all, it was a wonderful day. We capped it off with some
late-night barbecue at Lexington BBQ on the way home, then rode back to our own small town talking about how much fun we had and how sweet the entire experience was.
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