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Sluicing in streamThere’s a saying among the members of the Central Virginia Gold Prospectors: “If you want gold, buy it; if you want to have fun, prospect.” That philosophy is evident if you happen to attend one of the club’s monthly digs in Buckingham County. Hanging out with these guys is like reverting back to your childhood; that of playing in streams, digging, and hopefully, finding treasures.

On every third Saturday of the month since 1998, the club members have descended upon Buckingham County. They come from all over – Roanoke, Suffolk, Fredericksburg, Amherst, Powhatan, Midlothian, and as far away as Pennsylvania. One member, Jim Windle, decided to purchase a home in Buckingham after coming to the county for over 30 years. “My wife teaches at Longwood University,” said Windle. “She got tired of the weekend drives, so we moved here.”

Buckingham has a history of being an area that has some of the purest gold in the country. And that gold can be found, if you know where to look and how to prospect. 

In order to establish claims with Buckingham landowners, the club had to research historical archives and use word of mouth. “Buckingham was the largest producer of gold in the country before the Civil War,” said John Schlaback, club president, who hails from Waynesboro. “There were a large number of gold mines in the county.” Names such as Morrow Mine, Seay Mine, Booker Mine, and Bondurant Mine are part of Buckingham’s goldmining history.

The California Gold Rush enticed many prospectors to leave the Buckingham mines and head west. The Civil War also pulled the miners away, causing the mines to be abandoned. Many of the mines were also burned during the war. It has only been in the past 30 years that these mines have been rediscovered and explored.

“We have land rights to come to Buckingham and prospect,” said Lynne Shaw, club treasurer.  “We pay a lease to use private property. It’s sort of like hunting rights. Hunters take away game; we take away gold.” 

The club’s website has a large amount of information on the history of gold in Virginia. The site notes that Thomas Jefferson made one of the first references to gold in 1782, when he described finding a gold-bearing rock, weighing four pounds, north of the Rappahannock River. Buckingham County’s Booker Mine was opened in 1835 and the Bondurant in 1836, during a time that was known at the golden age, or the first gold rush.

The Booker Mine was one of the first goldmines that conducted underground mining. 

On a bright and cool Saturday morning in June, I joined the club members at a claim site south of Sprouses Corner.  The meeting began with the minutes read, then the committee report was given.  This particular club meeting was known as a “common dig.” Members go out on the claim property to search and bring back gold, with all sharing in the rewards. Other times, it’s every man (and occasionally, woman) for themselves. While people are prospecting, other members are preparing for their return with a grilled lunch of burgers and hot dogs. A raffle will also take place before lunch starts. The members have a good time together, no matter the results of the dig.

I had the good luck to be assigned to prospectors Ron Schekovske, from Midlothian, and Graham Watts, from Amherst. After leaving the club meeting site we drove down an old dirt road for at least a mile, forded a couple of small streams, ending up at one of the most beautiful creeks I’ve seen in this county. Eight feet wide in some places, with an old rock wall at one section, it contained a variety of rocks and boulders, which only added to its beauty and charm. “We believe that this was part of a dam for an old goldmine,” said Schekovske. “There were three mines on this property: Morrow, Seay, and Booker Mines.”

Watts explained how club members prospect. “Some people will go directly to a stream and dig,” he said. “Others will look for ‘spots.’” Spots are mounds in the woods, near streams, that may represent a pile of dirt that was thrown off when miners were prospecting in the 1800s. “Spots may very well contain nuggets that miners accidentally threw away,” said Watts.

Grabbing buckets, shovels, pans, and a sluice, as we headed down the stream to find a spot in the stream to prospect, we came upon club member Ron Perry, from Midlothian. “I didn’t get here in time for the meeting so I decided to go ahead and start,” he said.

Perry seemed to be in a bit of personal heaven as he stood in the stream. “I’ve always loved treasure hunting,” he said with a big grin. With high water boots on and surrounded by his prospecting equipment, Perry seemed to be exactly where he wanted to be on a cool and pleasant Saturday morning.

Watts and Schekovske picked our spot in the creek and we settled in for prospecting. As Schekovske held a five-gallon bucket with a pan on top, Watts, who was digging deep into the stream bed to get into the creek bottom, was placing shovelfuls of dirt and river rock into the pan. Schekovske would then toss away the large stones while looking for nuggets. In the meantime, the dirt and silt from the creek bottom was settling in the bottom of the bucket.

“Now we’re ready to sluice,” said Schekovske. He started placing handfuls of silt on the sluice as it sat in the bubbling and fast-moving creek. What was so amazing is that the gold, because it is a heavy metal, settled to the bottom of the sluice, as everything else washed downstream. Schekovske pointed out the small flakes of gold that remained on the sluice. Eureka!

Watts also demonstrated a different method of prospecting, called panning. “Everyone likes to pan because if there’s any gold, you can get immediate results,” he said. “However, you will have more success using a sluice, even if it takes longer.” It was obvious that these two men would be happy to stay in the creek for hours. Many club members do just that.

Back at the meeting site, the food was being prepared and some members were relaxing and enjoying the pleasant Saturday morning weather. The conversation always ends up being about gold, found nuggets, past digs, and their love of the hunt. “Gold is used in so many everyday things,” said one club member. “Cell phones, old smoke detectors, old VCRs, watches, radar, all telecommunications, camera cards, printers, and TVs. Gold is an excellent conductor of electricity.”

Another member shared that one of the two prisons in Buckingham was built on or very close to an old goldmine called London in Virginia.  One of the roads leading to the prisons is called Goldmine Street. The road also has a historical marker nearby.

The club members also like to educate people about gold. “We go into science classrooms and talk about the metal,” said Lynne Shaw. “We also do weekend campouts with area Scouts and take them prospecting. We want very much to educate our young people about the history of gold and its unique value.”

The club also has informational booths at Buckingham’s Fall Fest, Field Day of the Past, and Cowboy Day of Victoria. Club members will also advise landowners about possible gold on their properties.
As the club members began drifting in for lunch, talk continued about nuggets found, their size and value. Some members had taken pieces and made jewelry for their loved ones. Others had small vials with gold pieces glowing inside. Very few members sell their gold.

Along with having fun, the club’s presence in Buckingham is an asset to the county. “We support Buckingham’s businesses,” noted Shaw. “Our website encourages members and visitors to utilize the business resources of the country.”

The club, which has five claims in Buckingham and one in Goochland, always welcomes new members. “You can come and prospect with us for one time free,” said Shaw. “Membership is $100 a year.”

So give them a call and see what the excitement’s all about. You are not guaranteed anything other than the joy and pleasure of playing in a stream and searching for treasure.

For more information about the Central Virginia Prospectors Club go to http://cvgp.net or contact Lynne Shaw at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .