This month's featured token was used circa 1900 in Kershaw County at the Haile Gold Mine. It is made of aluminum, a popular token-manufacturing material at the turn-of-the-century and measures 19.5 mm in diameter. It is listed in the First Supplement to South Carolina Tokens as catalog number 1820-A5 and carries the highest rarity rating of R10. Only two specimens are known in collectors' hands, the one pictured above and a badly-damaged specimen.
In 1827, Colonel Benjamin Haile, an early settler in the Kershaw area, discovered gold in one of the creek beds on his farm. He began to pan the placer deposits on his property on a regular basis, and did so for several years. In 1837, the first stamp mill was erected, and actual mining operations began in earnest. The mine continued to operate through the Civil War, as the Hailes had some sort of arrangement with the Confederacy to supply much needed gold and other minerals. Union General William T. Sherman destroyed the whole works during the closing days of the war.
The Haile family sold the mine in 1866 to James Eldridge who, in 1880, sold out to a New York syndicate. The new owners invested heavily in equipment and resumed operations on a large scale. In 1887, Dr. Adolph Thies was hired as foreman, and he soon perfected a process known as "barrel chlorination," which more easily extracted the gold from the ore. This process became the technical innovation of the day, so much so that Thomas Edison visited Thies to learn about it.
A photo of the Dr. Adolph Thies, Sr., circa 1904.
During the twenty-one year period from 1887 to 1908, the mine did very well. Besides several large buildings that housed machinery for the mining operations, there was a large office building, a company store, a post office, and a boarding house, all of which covered an area of 1800 acres. It was during this time that tokens were issued.
A pre-1908 photo showing shaft workings, hoister building and rock crusher plant.
In 1904, Dr. Thies retired and his son, "Captain" Ernest Thies, took control of daily operations. On August 10, 1908, the huge boiler that provided power for all of the mining equipment exploded. The force of the ruined several buildings, killed "Captain" Thies and another employee, and injured several other workers. The physical and emotional devastation was so great that the mine did not reopen for several years.
Southeast view of the stamp mill plant made a few days after the boiler explosion - August 1908.
Several companies have attempted to work the mine since then. Most have had limited success. The mine was most recently reopened by the Piedmont Mining Company in 1984. The first gold from the reopened mine was poured in April, 1985. The mine was again closed down in the late 1990s.
Copyright 1990, 1999 by Tony Chibbaro. Part of the text above was excerpted from South Carolina Tokens, by Tony Chibbaro, published by the Token and Medal Society in 1990. If you are interested in purchasing the reference work from which the above was excerpted, please click on the following link: Books.
If you collect or have a casual interest in South Carolina tokens or tokens issued by cotton mills, lumber companies, or other types of businesses, you may want to purchase my book, South Carolina Tokens and its two supplements. To read a description of these standard references, please click on this link: Books.
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