Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Gold Prospector Named Hamby

Stories abound about those who hoped to make their fortune from gold found in Union County mines. One told by the late Preston Turner and Robert Corn is about a mysterious fellow named C. A. Hamby who spent eighteen or more months prospecting along Coosa Creek.

The story goes something like this. It was a cold rainy morning in 1937. Robert Corn was with his father, John, and a neighbor, hunting on Duncan Ridge. There they came upon a man digging along a creek bank. He was unkempt, dirty and looked like a hobo. The hunters learned from him that he had made himself a temporary shelter from bark but would like a more permanent place to stay while prospecting for gold.

The Corn family took him in. They learned his name was C. A. Hamby, he had been born in Western North Carolina, and that he had spent fourteen years teaching in an Indian school in Oklahoma. Mr. Hamby spent most of his days during the next eighteen months out on Coosa Creek and elsewhere digging for gold. He brought in a pound nugget that was assayed at a value of $420.00. In those days, with the nation trying to recuperate from the Great Depression, that was no small find.

With John Corn’s help, Hamby boxed up and shipped forty-five pounds of quartz to a mining company in London, England. The company assayed the ore and made a proposal that if other ore were as rich in gold as the sample, the England Company would finance up to a million dollars to set up mining operations in the area. They instructed C. A. Hamby to purchase mineral rights so that the project could move forward.

As happens with the best laid plans, history interfered and England declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. That London Mining Company could not proceed with plans to finance a gold mine in Union County.

However, Mr. Hamby seemed to have an alternative plan. After his eighteen months of prospecting, he told the Corns that he was going to Seymour, Indiana. He knew a wealthy lady there who could finance the venture. He would go, possibly marry her, and then return with the necessary equipment to mine the rich vein of ore he had found. The nuggets had rich gold on one side and were white on the other side.

On November 2, 1939, John Corn walked with his boarder to Owltown Gap. Hamby was carrying a small pouch of gold nuggets and had only the clothes on his back. The men bade each other farewell.

Later in the day, Mr. W. H. Nix saw C. A. Hamby. He was carrying two heavy suitcases which he did not have when he left the Corn residence. Hamby boarded the bus at Harve Davis’s store, still with the two suitcases in tow.

On November 10, 1939, John Corn received a letter from C. A. Hamby. He had, indeed, reached Seymour, Indiana, and there the “wealthy lady” had become his wife. She had agreed to finance the mining venture. He asked Mr. Corn to hire ten to fifteen men to begin mining operations. He would be back soon to supervise the operations.

Who was this wealthy lady? Her name, if ever known in Union County, has been lost to time. But it is reported that she, herself, came to investigate the situation. She said that C. A. Hamby had borrowed $450. 00 from her to go to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania or to Virginia to purchase mining equipment to send to Union County. As he left her in Indiana, he had the same two heavy suitcases with which he was seen leaving Union County.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was called into the case. Four men, two in New York and two in San Francisco, were caught trying to smuggle raw gold out of the country. That raw gold, by the nature of its golden patina, was identified as gold from Coosa Creek. Was one of these four men the mysterious C. A. Hamby? Or had he been robbed of his heavy suitcases, maybe even murdered? Were others trying to make a fortune from his eighteen months of prospecting and hiding his gold-filled ore?

The unfinished story of Prospector Hamby and his gold cache lies somewhere in the hidden records of mountain mists. Perhaps someone with a propensity for a novel will delve a little deeper and come up with a like-life story of the Corn family’s boarder who made off with two suitcases of Union County gold ore.

[The sources referenced for this article are “Sketches of Union County History, Volume III” (1987), pp. 22-23 and “Mountain Relic, 1980”, pp. 38-40.]

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 3, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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