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Charlotte is traditionally considered the home of Southern Presbyterianism, but in the 19th century, numerous churches, including Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic formed, eventually giving Charlotte the nickname, “The City of Churches”.
In 1799, in nearby Cabarrus County, 12-year-old Conrad Reed found a 17- pound rock, which his family used as a doorstop. Three years later, a jeweler determined it was nearly solid gold, paying the family a paltry $3.50. The first documented gold find in the United States of any consequence set off the nation’s first gold rush. Many veins of gold were found in the area throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to the 1837 founding of the Charlotte Mint. North Carolina was the chief producer of gold in the United States until the Sierra Nevada find in 1848, although the volume mined in the Charlotte area was dwarfed by subsequent rushes.
Some groups still pan for gold occasionally in local streams and creeks. The Reed Gold Mine operated until 1912. The Charlotte Mint was active until 1861 when Confederate forces seized it at the outbreak of the Civil War. The mint was not reopened at the war’s end, but the building, albeit in a different location, now houses the Mint Museum of Art.
The city’s first boom came after the Civil War, as a cotton processing center and a railroad hub. Charlotte’s city population at the 1880 Census grew to 7,084. In 1910, Charlotte surpassed Wilmington to become North Carolina’s largest city.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 308.6 square miles (799 km2), of which 306.6 square miles (794 km2) is land and 2.0 square miles (5.2 km2) is water. Charlotte lies at an elevation of 751 feet (229 m). Charlotte constitutes most of Mecklenburg County in the Carolina Piedmont. Charlotte center city sits atop a long rise between two creeks, Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek, and was built on the gunnies of the St. Catherine’s and Rudisill gold mines.
Though the Catawba River and its lakes lie several miles west, there are no significant bodies of water or other geological features near the city center. Consequently, development has neither been constrained nor helped by waterways or ports that have contributed to many cities of similar size. The lack of these obstructions has contributed to Charlotte’s growth as a highway, rail, and air transportation hub.