The first gold discovery in the United States occurred in 1799 when young Conrad Reed went fishing in Little Meadow Creek in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. The 17-pound nugget he found was used by his family as a doorstop until they figured out what the strange rock was. This chance discovery set off the first gold rush in the nation s history. For more than a century, men extracted gold from the rolling hills and valleys of the North Carolina piedmont, as well as from the high peaks and rugged mountains of the western part of the state. Prior to the California Gold Rush of 1849, North Carolina led the nation in production of this precious metal and was the largest gold-producing state in the South well into the 20th century.