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These beautiful communities in rural Rutherford County are bordered by the South Mountains and offer gorgeous views at very reasonable prices. Neither area has its own post office, so both are serviced by the Bostic post office. There is not a complete record of historical information about the Golden Valley and Sunshine areas, so some of the history of the area has been handed down generation to generation. Much of what follows is based in historical fact, but all the information has been researched and verified to the best of the author’s ability.
When war broke the Colonial peace in 1775 the area now known as Golden Valley became known as Whiteside’s Company. During the Revolution, William Whiteside, Sr. was appointed captain of a local militia and the entire area of the upper First Broad River, including modern day Golden Valley Community, became known as Whiteside’s Company. Whiteside’s Company consisted mainly of Scotch-Irish and English settlers from Pennsylvania and Virginia. On August 14, 1777, Whiteside signed the The Tryon Resolves, in response to British tyranny, agreeing to stand with the Continental Congress. William’s son, Davis Whiteside, was also a signer of that document and was later killed at The Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780.
On October 14, 1780, one week after The Battle of Kings Mountain, victorious Americans soldiers hung nine British Loayalists taken prisoner at Kings Mountain. The trials and subsequent hangings were held under North Carolina law at Biggerstaff’s Old Fields, which is now one of Golden Valley’s most significant historical sites. The 17 acres of land, now owned by Rutherford County, is part of the original Biggerstaff Farm located off Whitesides Road west of Sunshine and a State Historical Marker marks the location of the “Biggerstaff Hanging Tree”. Some considered these executions to be unnecessarily cruel. However, the hangings achieved their desired effect and, afterward, few local Tories were willing to join the British cause.
In the late 1820’s gold was discovered in the adjacent County of Burke near Brindletown and so started a gold rush in Golden Valley, hence the name. Gold mining at its peak employed more North Carolinians than any occupation other than farming from 1800 to the Civil War years. Though early census figures show most heads of families were employed as farmers, a great number of these farmers were also occupied as gold miners. At that time gold was searched for in the creeks and what could be found lying on the ground. The type of mining employed by our North Carolina miners was very crude and primitive. It was noted at the time that perhaps two-thirds of the gold was wasted in the primitive mining methods and therefore only a small percentage of the gold was retrieved. By the time the Civil War ended in 1865 gold mining in the area was in rapid decline.
On May 16, 1895 the New York Times published the following, “RALEIGH, N. C.,-A new and profitable mining industry is now being pushed in this State. Seven years ago some Northern miners were washing over the gravel of the old gold mines of Golden Valley in Rutherford County, and in this work they discovered a very heavy bright yellow or bluish sand, that remained or settled to the bottom with the gold. This sand was sent North and was analyzed, and was found to contain thoria, and was really more valuable than the quantity of gold found mixed with the sand, because it was the best material used in the manufacture of burners for incandescent gaslights. The sand is known as monazite,…”. Later, in the 1950’s, the thorium found in monazite was being used for its radioactive properties, but by the 1960’s interest in thorium as a potential nuclear fuel was declining.
In 1948, Rutherford County became a dry county. Of course, even before 1948 there was no hard liquor allowed in the County, but now that all alcohol was banned, “bootlegging” (the production of corn whiskey, more commonly known as “white lightning” flourished, particularly in the Golden Valley/Sushine area.
In 2003, the County residents voted to lift the ban on liquor and alcohol and in 2010 Golden Valley became home to Blue Ridge Distilling Co., a distillery producing single malt vodka, whisky as well as gin and seasonal brandies. The area is home to Milliken & Company’s Golden Valley Plant that follows in the County’s textile heritage, manufacturing yarn. It is also home to Sunshine Elementary School, which has some of the highest test scores in the County.
Today, Golden Valley has four gated mountain communities (The Ridge at South Mountain Peaks, The Summit, Golden Valley Estates and Yellowtop Mountain Estates) and three camps (Camp Golden Valley built by the Pioneer Girl Scouts on 600 acres, Camp McCall on 200 acres, and Summer Day Camp at Lone Mountain on 100 acres).
Copyright David Brown 2011