On a drive to my cousin Daphne’s house in Gold Ridge, Alabama, a question popped into my mind. “I wonder why it’s called Gold Ridge?” Born and raised in Cullman County, I’d never heard of anyone panning for gold. I reasoned with myself that it was more than likely named for a ridge of poplar trees. Anyone in the South can attest to how leaves of poplar trees glow like gold during the height of Autumn.
A few days later as I drove through the tiny town of Baileyton, a street sign caught my attention. Though I had driven by it daily I had never really thought about its name “Pan Creek Road” Okay…..now my curiosity is peaked. When I got home I started searching on-line. In deed gold has been found in numerous places in Alabama! It was stated that Alabama is one of the better gold producing states east of the Mississippi! Actually mentioning the “Southern Gold Belt” that enters the state from central Georgia. It’s about 60 miles wide and 100 miles long. In case you aren’t familiar with the geography of Alabama. Cullman is in north Alabama and quite a ways from this gold belt but it does increase the probability that gold could have been found locally sometime.
In a conversation with my friend Suzy and her husband Butch, I shared my astonishment of never knowing about Alabama’s history of gold. Then Butch said “Heck, you ain’t never heard about ole’ Colonel Cullman and that Indian chief with the cave filled with gold?” With my eyes sparkling like nuggets I listened to an incredible story!!
Stay tuned for my next blog “Gold in them there hills, of Alabama? part 2”
In 1875, my hometown of Cullman, Alabama became a city. Founded by Colonel Cullman, a German refugee who worked hard and mastered the American dream. After purchasing land on both sides of the railroad tracks, he brought in German settlers. Most of the locals that had just survived the tribulations of the Civil War and simply looked down there noses at these non-English immigrants. There feelings were made apparent by an assignation attempt. The Colonel was stabbed in the head leaving him with a lifetime scar. In my opinion he was a man with an unyielding determination that overcame countless obstacles to leave a legacy of an entire county.
As I listened to Butch share his story, the time-table is the late 1800’s because Col. Cullman passed away of pneumonia in 1895.
“Well, old Colonel Cullman had heard rumors of a cave with gold in it for years. Somehow he found out that a local Cherokee knew where this cave was. Then Cullman started trying to convince this Indian to show him.” Butch said in a matter of fact form. “So after a time of threatening this Indian with his life, he and Cullman made a deal.” The story began to sound like a late night western.
The moon was full on the night the four Native Americans arrived at Colonel Cullman’s home. With a blindfold to cover his eyes, he mounted a mule. For Four hours, he went over hills and crossed creeks to finally arrive at a cave. Making sure he wouldn’t have any idea where he was, not until he was inside was his blindfold removed. According to legend what Cullman seen was stupendous! A room the size of a train’s boxcar and a vein of bright gold that encircled the entire room! The Native Americans then put back on the his blindfold and used another four hours to get him back to his house. Knowing now that the room wasn’t simply a fable, and it was within 4 hours ride of his home. He was determined to find his way back. He mapped out a circular perimeter and tried for years to locate the cave but found nothing but an obsession. “They say he never stopped looking for it. But that ain’t the only story about gold around here. These two guys were fishing on the Mulberry and found a gold vein that went clear across the bottom of the creek. The men came back to try to get the gold but it had rained and flash flooded so they never found it again!” Butch said. “A friend and I have canoed that river hundreds of times but never found it. The problem is that with every rain and flash flood that little river changes!”
Is there a cave filled with gold? Does the Mulberry River really have vein of gold that runs across it? I may never know if either are true but I do know that finding gold in Alabama isn’t impossible!