Streets of Gold

The historic Dorn Mill in McCormick.

Two hours of back roads and about 98 miles will take you to McCormick, where the second-richest vein of gold in South Carolina history was discovered. In February 1852, William Burkhalter Dorn discovered gold where McCormick sits. The Dorn Gold Mine in McCormick is one of the more important gold mines in South Carolina. Dorn excavated close to $1 million in gold before the mine ran out in the late 1850s. McCormick stands over the old sites of gold discovery. Dorn himself became wealthy but lost much of his fortune after the Civil War.

Cyrus H. McCormick, inventor of the mechanical reaper, bought the property. When the mines didn’t pan out, McCormick planned the town that took his name.

Evidence of boom times remains. McCormick has an historic mill, a grand courthouse and a fine old hotel that once housed train travelers. The Dorn Mill, restored in 1973, is one of the few remaining gristmills of its type in the United States. The three-story building, built circa 1898, has two steam boilers that powered two 10-ton stationary steam engines. Inside is a boiler made by the Lombard Iron Works of Augusta. That boiler powered this attrition mill where grinding plates revolved in opposite direction at 2,200 revolutions per minute. When this mill was up and running the din must have been unbelievable. A beautiful aspect of the old mill is its many hues of wood. Beams chutes and railings are blond, red and tan. Beautiful too is the Silver Creek Flour Packer.

Viewed from the front the mill has a medieval look. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places it’s lauded as an outstanding example of rural industrial architecture. The dominant feature of the exterior is a three-story brick wall built in 1915 to support a water tower tank.

Hotel Keturah, circa 1910, a building also on the National Register of Historic Places, faces the railroad tracks running through town. In front of the hotel, you’ll see six stones sunk into a sloping shoulder of grass just off the rail tracks. Down these “steps” black gentlemen in tuxedoes escorted train passengers to Hotel Keturah. Keturah, by the way, is the name of the wife of W.J. Conner. And who might he be? The man who built not one, but two hotels on this site and named them both in his wife’s honor (the first Hotel Keturah, 1900, burned in 1909).

Just beyond Hotel Keturah stands the handsome seat of justice. At 133 South Mine Street stands an historic building. Built in 1923, seven years after McCormick County was formed, the building is a Neo-Classical style brick building. The interior features pressed metal ceilings and the original transoms and doors. Like the gristmill and Hotel Keturah, it too is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gold, a famous inventor and historic buildings wait in McCormick. And it’s a day trip away.

If You Go …


• Chamber of Commerce: 864-852-2382

• Baker Creek State Park: 864-443-2457

• Hickory Knob State Park: 864-391-2450

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected].

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]