Banjos, Gold and a few Ghost Stories

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The room was filled with visual displays of history and the sounds of Bluegrass music. I found myself in the midst of the long running weekly Friday night Bluegrass gathering with an audience of enthusiastic toe tapping fans.

I’m also a big a fan of Bluegrass music and the culture that defines it.  A few years back, during an on location production trip to Leatherwood Mountains in the Blue Ridge, I had a long conversation with Jared Shumate. I had been considering producing a program about the culture of Bluegrass music for some time. I wanted to hear Jared’s thoughts because of his work as an associate producer on Life In The Carolinas.  More than that we had the common experience of growing up in the foothills of North Carolina where great Bluegrass music is common place. It was during that conversation that the decision was made to launch The Bluegrass People, which can best be described as a living organic documentary project; it has a growing national and international following.

Over the years I have made several trips to Gold Hill NC for different stories, including the Friday night bluegrass event at the Montgomery General Store, run by Vivian and Hoppy. Vivian Hopkins is a business owner, an author, musician, road scholar and the President of the NC Bluegrass Music Association. Most important, she has become a wonderful friend and has worked with me on many projects, including The Bluegrass People.

Gold Hill is a charming historic destination with a definite place in history. It was once said by the mayor of Charlotte that he hoped that one day Charlotte would become as prosperous as Gold Hill. It is noteworthy that his wish did come true.   The reason for the area's great wealth was due to the fact that Gold Hill was a successful gold mining community that predated the great California Gold Rush. Nearby Reed Gold Mine, established in 1799, has the prestige of being the first gold mine in America.

The dirt streets from the past have been paved. However, a wooden boardwalk on each side of the street gives you a sense of days gone by. It looks a bit like a movie set but the buildings and the people are real.

I discovered that there are many ghost stories relating to the time when Gold Hill was thriving. The area was home to thousands of miners, hotels, salons, brothels and a few churches. There are stories of fits of rage with love gone wrong, business dealings gone afoul and just plain horrific accidents that cost the lives of many. So if there were to be a place with a good offering of ghost stores, Gold Hill certainly has a past that fosters that notion.

I had the opportunity to produce a TV special on the subject of the Gold Hill’s history and ghost stories, and there were things that happened that I have no answer for. I did not feel fear or threatened in any way, but I do understand why these ghost stories have survived the passage of time.

I love discovering places that have many sides to them. You know, the kind of place where every time you visit you find something new.

Gold Hill has given me several gifts. I have enjoyed music and the family-like spirit that represents an important part of the wonderful culture of this region. I have learned more about American history and how gold was a game changer for so many.

I have walked where some of our ancestors walked and where some say they still do.