The Joys of Collecting column from Feb. 29, 2016, Weekly issue of
Pursuing his own interests and satisfying his curiosity, geologist
and adventurer George W. Featherstonhaugh visited the private Bechtler
Mint in Rutherfordton, N.C., in 1837.
He penned this account later published in two volumes whimsically
titled A Canoe Voyage Up the Minnay Sotor.
Quite a few years ago I bought these copies. The other day, more or
less by chance, I came across the text on the Internet.
My gosh, how simple can research get? I share his account (excerpted):
“After breakfast I walked a few miles to visit a German of the name
of [Christopher] Bechtler. I passed a great part of the day with him
at his cottage in the woods. He had resided seven years in this
country and had established for himself a character for integrity as
well as skill in his profession. I found him rather mystical and
imaginative, as many Germans are.
“The greater part of the small streams in this part of the gold
region have more or less gold in them. Bechtler had obtained some in
the usual manner, and having made a die, coined his gold into five
dollar pieces. At the period of my visit his gold coin circulated more
freely than that of the United States, which were very scarce.
“It would be in his power to take improper advantage of the
confidence placed in him, but I heard of no instances of his having
attempted this. When I mentioned the possibility of this, he answered
that it was what an honest man would not do, and that if any man were
to do it, he would soon be found out, for the gold did not remain long
in circulation, since if found its way very soon to the United States
Mint, where it was necessary for him to keep a good character.”
“I never was so pleased with observing transactions of business as
those I saw at his house during the time I was there. Several country
people came in with rough gold to be left for coinage. He waited
before them and entered it in his book, where there was marginal room
for noting the subsequent assay.
“To others he delivered the coin he had struck. The most perfect
confidence prevailed betwixt them, and the transactions were conducted
with quite as much simplicity as those at a country grist mill, where
the miller deducts [his fee] for the grist he has manufactured.”