In Nash County, North Carolina, a father-son treasure-hunting duo bought a piece of land in 2016 on the exact spot where the Portis Gold Mine once operated from 1835 during the North Carolina Gold Rush—America’s first real gold rush.
Adventure was in store there, Tim Fisher, 60, and his son Ross, 31, knew. They started digging in the waterlogged lowland area in October—after discovering what they learned was the Robinson Gold Dredge ship, originally built in New York City over 100 years ago, which once mined the valley for gold.
How it ended up in the mud, 100 feet up a creek valley in North Carolina, is an epic tale itself.
Tim and Ross, producers of their own treasure-hunting TV show “Eastern Outdoor Expeditions,” are currently excavating the two-storied dredge—or “pirate ship,” as they call it—which measures 94 feet long, 32 feet wide, and 7 feet deep. It’s wooden hull is preserved with artifacts and treasure inside.
“The doors are still in it, the windows are still in it, glass is in it,” Tim told The Epoch Times. “It’s still got the red paint, so we know it was the color red. … And we do find gold in there as well.
“The branch of water … it used to run a lot through the dredge, and it filled the dredge up with all the material mined uphill where they were already mining.”
He added, “We do know that there’s gold there, there’s no telling how much.”
Other findings include wiring insulators from the early 1900s (indicating electricity use on the ship), a mason jar with a 3-ounce silver spoon inside, and numerous other antique trinkets.
The pair enlisted a small crew of highly devoted treasure hunting friends and have so far unearthed about half of the top deck.
After being built in New York City in 1905, the Robinson Gold Dredge was disassembled and transported by railroad to North Carolina where it was reassembled on a shallow creek near Ransoms Bridge to dredge for the precious metal.
The dredge required a depth of at least 3 feet of water in order to float. To make it that far up the valley, it dredged up the creek bed and expelled tailing piles, behind which would form dikes and cause the water level to rise, gradually allowing the vessel to float its way up the valley past its current location.
Once gold was more or less depleted in 1912, the dredge, owned by Carolina Gold Dredging Company, was apparently abandoned in the mud to be buried in sediment.
In 2019, Tim and Ross struck wood, what was then believed to be a gold-mining dam at the Portis Mine on their newly acquired land.
It took two years of leg work for the father-son duo to comply with government standards and the EPA before finally starting to dig in October 2021—a process that two previous floods had facilitated by changing the the water’s course, which helped dry out the creek.
“We’re on our own now because we stayed within their guidelines,” Tim said.
“We’ve found a lot of gold,” Ross told the newspaper after recently inspecting some of the numerous dredge piles littering their 14 acres of land.
Ross recently finished building part of what is to be a campground on the site for sightseers and hopeful treasure hunters to stay at and visit the historic dredge—which they’re planning to rebuild back to her former glory—red paint and all—in the not-too-distant future.