At Thermal City Gold Mine, you can pan for gold as seen in our last post. Or you can operate a small gold trommel (from the Dutch word for drum.) which can reprocess trainloads of dirt if you are up to it. But you have to do your own work like a real miner. This experience costs $60 for a bucket load of material in the hopper, a little over a ton. Owner Lloyd Nanney told me, “The customer feeds in the dirt that water washes down a flume into a rotating sieve. Anything larger than the holes in the drum goes right through and falls into a wheelbarrow to be rolled away. Anything smaller than the holes runs down into the sluice box that jigs back and forth. Probably when operated correctly it’s 98% efficient for anything less than a 50th of an inch.” Lloyd said they have rebuilt the machines, worn them out and rebuilt them again and again. They’re better than new.
Other equipment available to customers has no moving parts except for the pump. A scoop of material is dumped out behind the “high banker,” and a customer has 3 1/2 hours to run it, shovel into it, with water going into a stationary sluice box. There are two shifts scheduled daily, 9-12:30 and 1-4:30. (See their website http://www.thermalcitygoldmine.com) Lloyd tells me some people bring their own machine and just buy the dirt. “Back in the old days, there’d be 15 of ’em on a Saturday morning.”
Lloyd took me to the back of his property and pointed out a big pit where he had dug for ten years. Several years ago, he bought 39 more acres just to ensure they wouldn’t run out of dirt.
Thermal City Gold Mine sits on the county line across the street from Lloyd’s old homeplace. His brother Bruce runs a mechanic’s shop nearby. Lloyd recommends him, since he’s got “all the modern stuff, computers, four inside lifts, and one outside lift that I’ve had that big dump truck on.” The old house burned in 1957. Their father rebuilt it close enough to the same site so that he could use the same spring. Paul worked for the State, building roads for 37 years, and then went to work for Lloyd’s uncle Johnny Dowdle, almost 80 now, and did grade work on a dozer for ten years. “Then he came up here and hauled material for five years. He was a worker. I mean (he) wanted to work, run a machine. On toward the last his eyes got messed up, and he couldn’t see level.”
“My dad was not a talker, and I never knew about that copperhead thing.” (Chapter 41 of the Nanney Saga). But one day they did get to talking, and he told Lloyd a story that nobody else knew. In 1942, Paul and his granddaddy Perminter were “working in that field where the highway runs now, and he asked him about the ditch coming down the edge of a bank.” Paul knew it went up that valley, but it didn’t make sense to a 14 year old. Lloyd said, “Dad was told that the ditch was dug by the old gold miners, and it was explained to him that they went up that creek a good ways to get enough height and dug that ditch down here where that house trailer is now and built a flume across the river to their operation.” (Close to Lloyd’s ten year old pit.) They did all of that because they didn’t have the 5hp Brigg & Stratton pump. They were right there at the river, but they were 15′ higher than they needed to be.” So they dug for weeks and weeks to overcome the grade. And Lloyd knows that story was not unusual. “There was a long ditch line up here at Rhomtown that came down almost 18 miles. People didn’t back off for anything. There was no “we can’t get water”.” No excuses.
The campground at Thermal City Gem Mine has several RV’s spaced throughout a wooded area. The campground also has rentals available. Most of the people I saw on my tour were here long term, even yearly. Some come to relax as did one retired couple who have a very nice camper. They once lived on a 50′ boat and travelled the intra-coastal, and Great Lakes, etc. and now they have a peaceful spot on the Second Broad River. One guy comes up from South Carolina three times a week. Another is from PA.
And some people enjoyed their stay here so much, their families wanted them to be forever remembered in a small memorial on site. Such as the Russian guy who came for several years with his wife. Another was a hippie guitar picker whose tribute reads: peace, love, music.
Truly these are satisfied customers. Not just looking for gold for extra cash. They are looking for lasting value.
Below is a photo of Lloyd by gemstones that have been mined at Thermal City. He is wearing the company T-shirt with the logo sketched by his cousin Ramona, Wade’s daughter.
If I have not written this well enough for you to understand, you will have to drop by Thermal City Gold Mine and talk to Lloyd. He will be happy to show you around and answer your questions. http://thermalcitygoldmine.com
The Nanneys are a great American family. It has been a pleasure getting to know them.
Copyright August 2016 Georgia Wilson