Historical Commission reprints 1972 book on Haile Gold Mine

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By Denyse Middleton

Historical Commission reprints 1972 book on Haile Gold Mine

Denyse Middleton

For The Lancaster News

A book sale and reception is planned for the reprint of a 36-year-old book about Lancaster County's famous gold mine.

To expand the knowledge of the Haile Gold Mine, the Lancaster County Historical Commission decided to reprint the book, "Death of a Gold Mine."

It has taken nearly four years to have the book reprinted, said Melody Craig, chairwoman of the historical commission. Sandlapper Publishing of Orangeburg did the 2008 reprint.

Proceeds from the book sale will go towards a future county museum, Craig said.

"We have purchased several items over the years for the museum," she said. "And once one is established, we will have a permanent exhibit of items from the mine."

'Death of a Gold Mine," by Clyde Pittman, was first published by R.L. Bryan Co. of Columbia in 1972.

In his book, Pittman gives an in-depth account of his childhood memories from 70 years earlier.

He writes about his father securing work at the mine and gives an eyewitness account of a boiler explosion that occurred at the mine on Aug. 10, 1908.

The explosion occurred about 9:15 a.m. It blew the smoke stack 100 feet into the air, dislodged another boiler from its masonry and scattered flues throughout the neighborhood, Pittman recalled.

The explosion was heard and felt in Kershaw, nearly three miles away. The cause of the explosion was said to have been a flaw in the boiler that consisted of a crack that ran the entire length of the boiler.

The ruins of the explosion"was enough to spell the fear of death to all of us," Pittman wrote.

Pittman recalled how he waited for his father to emerge from the ruins and how everyone was finally accounted for, although many were badly injured and seriously burned from the explosion.

The community came to "a standstill," Pittman wrote in the book.

The explosion led to the closing of the mine for many years.

Pittman's book is full of social history of the area, including information of the "Boarding House at Haile Gold Mine" operated by Susie Anders and a local fortune teller named Frank Pearson. According to Pittman, there was also a Women's Literary Guild of Haile Gold Mine.

According to Pittman, the mine, located off S.C. 601, was once the largest producer of gold on the Eastern Seaboard.

Col. Benjamin Haile of Virginia, for whom the mine is named, is said to have first discovered gold at the mine. It opened in 1827.

Over the years, the gold mine had several owners.

Only 500 copies of Pittman's book were printed in 1972. Pittman died before the book was released.

The reprinted book will be available for $20 during a book sale and reception at the Lancaster County Council of Arts from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 28.

A brief history of the mine

The Haile Gold Mine was once the largest gold mine in the Southeast, covering 1,800 acres. It was one of 13 mines in Lancaster County and one of the state's 130 mines.

Mining operations at Haile Gold Mine started with the panning method, moved to small open pit, larger open pit and then went underground. The final phase used the large open pit method. A crude gold/silver mixture called "dore" was shipped from the mine.

Col. Benjamin Haile was the first to discover gold at the site. It was found in Ledbetter Creek near a grist mill on his plantation in 1827.

By 1829, Haile had sent the first shipment of South Carolina gold to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. The mine was operated by his family until the Civil War.

From 1888 to 1908, the Haile Gold Mine produced more than 100 tons of ore per day and was the most productive gold mine in the Southeast.

Between 1827 and 1938, the mine produced nearly $4.5 million in gold from more than a million tons of ore, according to The Lancaster News archives.

The period between 1888 and 1908 is considered the "golden age" of the mine. The mine's last gold pours were made between 1985 and 1992.

During that period, the mine produced 86,000 troy ounces of gold.

Romarco Minerals Inc., a publicly traded Canadian minerals company, is now looking to build a fully operational mine and produce several thousand ounces of gold each year. Company officials have said they expect the endeavor to be very profitable.