Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Maryland Native Gold Classic

Simply try to imagine pulling from the ground ---in Maryland---the likes of what is pictured above. It was collected prior to 1940 at the Maryland Gold Mine near Great Falls in Montgromery County, Maryland, and measures 97.51 mm. x 39.1 mm. x 16.26mm. Once part of the Edgar T. Ingalls collection, it has been all but lost lost for 40 years.

Mr. Ingalls, who died in 1974, was the the Maryland Gold Mine's gold-fevered foreman in the years before it closed in 1940 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt froze the gold price at $40 during the Great Depression. First opened in 1868, the Maryland Mine was the oldest and by nearly all accounts the richest of numerous gold mines and prospects in its immediate vicinity. When it closed, Mr. Ingalls went to work with the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant on MacArthur Boulevard. He and his the family continued to live in the same Potomac farmhouse on Oaklyn Road

During that period, Edgar T. Ingalls maintained the collection, which also included paintings of mining life by his wife Marie. He kept it at their Potomac farmhouse. a part of which became a mini-museum that was open to the public on weekends. Upon moving to North Carolina in 1971, he sold the entire collection to the U.S. National Park Service with the understanding that it be displayed for the the public to enjoy. This never happened; instead, all the material ended up packed away in boxes, first in the basement of the Great Falls Tavern, later in a facility at Antietam, after that in Springfield, Virginia.

For years, the family shared concerns over what had happened to the collection, and ultimately became vociferous. Their pleadings prompted the National Park Service, at the direction of C&O Canal Historian Ahna Wilson, to locate the collection and transport it to the Park Service's Museum Resource Center in Landover, Maryland.

That news, which the Washington Post reported in late April, reached Jeff Nagy, who is actively compiling and authoring an updated revision of the 1980 Maryland Geological Survey Publication Minerals of the Washington D.C. Area by Lawrence Bernstein. On July 12, 2011, I accompanied Jeff and the noted Maryland collector Fred Parker, who is helping research the book, to the Landover facility, where Ms. Wilson and a friendly National Park Staff had laid out the collection for us to examine and photograph.

It included an array of gold ore samples, nuggets, amalgams, gold dust, tools, Marie's paintings, and even an ore cart. While it all proved to be of great interest, not to mention historical and educational merit, the content of this post's title picture amazed us most. Having long believed the Maryland gold specimen on display at the Smithsonian (pictured at right) to be the finest example of Maryland gold in existence, my opinion quickly changed.

In a recent conversation, Edgar Ingalls' grandson Byron Ricketts, emphasized that his family feels very strongly that this collection deserves to be on display where the public can see it. So do Jeff Nagy, Fred Parker, and Yours Truly. That such material is part of our state's natural bounty is sure to fascinate plenty of Marylanders. Ahna Wilson agrees with us, and Jeff is already making inquiries.


  1. As a 10-year resident of Montgomery County, I'm fascinated to know that "there's gold in them thar hills"! This would make a great traveling exhibit at farmer's markets and shopping malls and Rockville Town Square--any place that people actually spend time. Great stuff, and thanks for chasing it down.

  2. yuuuup!
    there is definately a fine amount in our montgomery co. rivers. who'd of thunk'd it??


  4. I spent many a fine summer's evening sitting on the Potomac porch eating Marie Ingalls strawberry shortcake and talking to Ed about his time in the mine and panning thereafter. During and after a heavy rainstorm he would pan the tailings (rock brought up and crushed) from the mine.