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"Our Best Friend"

Gilbert Elwood Nash



                        GILBERT ELWOOD "PETE" NASH



I would like to take a moment to celebrate the life of Gilbert Elwood Nash known to the world as "Pete" and to a few lucky individuals as Prospector Pete.  Pete was a man of character and in more ways than one he was just a character!  I feel honored to be able to tell you a small portion of Pete's story.  Pete like so many in his family accomplished so many things he simply became a living legend!  Pete's first job paid him .25 cents and a can of Prince Albert smoking tobacco per week.  During his life he became an accomplished dancer, golfer, fisherman, real estate broker, underground hard rock miner, panner and survivor of several airplane crashes and a direct lightening strike in 1971 which left him unconscious for 9 days and with multiple health problems for the next 32 years.  The strike occurred while Pete was fishing on the Santee Cooper River and ruined the 150 horsepower motor, melted his grip into the aluminum steering wheel and changed his life forever.  His injuries were so extensive and unusual for the person to survive that he appeared on Good Morning America.


I met Pete and Harold Nash the first day on my new job, as manager of Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site, June 15, 1979.  The location was on the family farm and they were doing what they loved to do find gold by dredging in Black Run Creek.  Formal introductions had been handled and Pete cocked his head and looked up at me standing on the bank and simply said-you will never learn how to dredge standing up there.  From that simple-but effective comment I tried to absorb all of Pete's knowledge which he passed along freely you see that is the most obvious of Pete's qualities-he was a generous and caring man.  Pete lived by the motto-- to do a good turn daily.


The state of North Carolina and the Historic Site division and me personally are indebted to Pete and the Nash family for contributions to the preservation of the history of gold Mining in North Carolina.  I have stated many times that if you walk into the visitor center at Reed and close your eyes and reach out and touch an artifact it would not have been placed in the visitor center without the Nash connection.  Harold served as the President of the Gold History Corporation and chairman of the artifact acquisition team and like Pete was always available to help me with projects at the site.  Harold always thought the site needed a four wheel drive vehicle and to get us started in the right direction he donated a Kawasaki three wheel motorcycle to the corporation-so we could have better and quicker access to the property it has served the site well for 18 years.  Harold was also a prospector, panner, educator, politician and historian and he wrote the following concerning his brother in 1985.


On January 10, 1955, Gilbert E. Nash was appointed mine captain with full supervisory responsibilities for the rehabilitation of both the Furniss and Phoenix mines.  The title, Mine Captain, is synonymous to that of superintendent or supervisor and is of Cornish origin.  Thus, Captain Nash joined the ranks of men who contributed much to the mining history of North Carolina.  A far from complete list would include Captain John Wilkes of the Capps mine, Captain J. C. Mills of Burke County, Captain Jones of the Keystone Mine, Captain Moyle, Martin and Peters of the Gold Hill Mines, Captain Hause, Orchard, Morris, Slocum, and Thies of the Phoenix Mines and Captain Carson of the Rudisil Mine, to mention a few.  Pete was the last surviving member of this elite group of mining men and now his name will be written down in the history books for his contributions to the history of gold mining in the state of North Carolina.


Pete was a true character and in that respect he was a great interview and tremendous help in my job of promoting Reed Gold Mine.  His stories brought to life the mining history of Cabarrus county and the state of North Carolina.  Never ask a prospector where he found his gold and how much he found and expect to get a real true answer.  I was fortunate to dredge with Pete many times over the years and one thing was obvious-his boast of never having been skunked meaning no gold in the pan-- was true I never witnessed him come up with a clean pan. 


Some people talk about cars, golf-Pete did not lose golf balls-he literally hit the same ball so many times he wore it out basketball or any sport, with Pete the subject revolved around gold.  Gold was a part of his life and he passed on that love to others and the excitement the very mention of the word gets the adrenalin pumping-he was convinced there was more gold at Reed and one of the richest veins in Cabarrus County was now under an asphalt road.  You would find yourself wanting to live the dream with him and I am fortunate to have done just that for 24 years.


Pete found more gold in his lifetime than a man could lift.  In May of this year he was inducted into the World Panning Hall of Fame.  He was the chief judge at the annual panning competition at Reed.  He received plaques and certificates for his work in preserving gold mining history in 1985, 1992, and 1999.  During the fall meeting the Gold History Corporation made him an honorary lifetime board member.  Pete assisted the corporation in acquiring a large collection of North Carolina gold nuggets on display at Reed Gold Mine and he worked with Hugh Morton on the display at Grandfather Mountain including the largest nugget on display in the state-13.9 ounces. 


Pete was at Reed before it opened to the public and there on opening day-when a large nugget he had placed in the Governors pan was lost and he was there at least once a week for years.  He never ate much for lunch; I guess it was all those lunches at the farm that consisted of Vienna sausage and a pack of crackers.  Pete would buy the staff at Reed lunch-just to say thank you and to make them happy.  The story would not be complete without the number of beaming kids and adults that came in contact with Pete in the panning area.  He would routinely give away $100-150 worth of gold per visit.  Pete just got a huge kick out of seeing people get gold fever, he was a loving, caring and generous man whose goal was to do a good turn daily.  Pete Nash panned for gold throughout his life, not just in the rivers and streams of North Carolina but in the people he met.  I know that I am honored to have known him and to call him my friend!

                                                                         John B. Dysart