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Georgia Gold Rush

Much has been written as to who discovered gold in Georgia and when. Mines operated illegally in Cherokee Territory for years, but the first contemporary reference to a gold mining operation in the state points to present-day White County (then Habersham County) in 1829. By then at least two mines had been constructed in the Nacoochee Valley and there are indications are they were in operation in late 1828. Most modern historians and the state of Georgia discount the story of Benjamin Parks discovering gold at Licklog (Dahlonega, Lumpkin Co.).

Few words in the English language create the fervor that the cry of "Gold" does in man. A driving force in the colonization of America, gold was the primary reason for Hernando De Soto to visit the North Georgia region in the early 1540's. Indians along the Chattahoochee River north of Atlanta routinely panned for gold and found significant amounts of the material. Spanish miners joined them and formed minor settlements that operated almost continuously until the early 1700's.

After the Spanish were forced from Georgia, interest in gold died for a number of years, but mining continued off and on throughout 18th century and into the 19th century. As early as 1819 there is evidence that gold was being mined by whites near the Cherokee town of Sixes. Although people knew of the gold, Frank Logan "discovered" it in White County in 1828. Benjamin Parks is frequently credited with the discovery in Lumpkin County mostly because that's what he told anybody who would listen to him for almost 70 years. By 1829 mining operations had begun in White County (then part of Habersham County). Later that same year operations began in Lumpkin, Union, and Cherokee . This promise of easy money literally floating down a river brought large amounts of men and money into the region. It also caused much pain.

The Cherokee controlled most of the land in the gold region. The Georgia legislature began to plan their removal almost immediately after the discovery of gold. This eventually led to the "Trail of Tears."

John C. Calhoun's hotel in AurariaBy 1830 more than 300 ounces a day were being produced in the area from north of Blairsville to the southeast corner of what is now Cherokee County. The center of gold production shifted to Auraria (Latin for "City of Gold"), just south of Dahlonega (Licklog). It became a boom town overnight and quickly had a major road, newspaper, post office and hotel owned by John C. Calhoun, then Vice-President of the United States. There was so much gold being produced in the region that the Federal government completed a mint in Dahlonega in 1838, however by that time production had begun to decrease. The rush continued until 1849, when word of gold in California reached Georgia and many of the miners left. By 1858, most of the gold mining had ceased. That year, hydraulic mining was introduced to the state. Production of gold reached a low point during the Civil War, but by 1880 mining was again flourishing, thanks to hydraulic mining, which devastated the environment. Although mining continues in the area today, production has been decreasing steadily since 1915.

Some people say the streets of Atlanta are paved with gold and they are. Building materials from North Georgia frequently have measurable amounts of the metal in them. In fact, when the Mint was torn down bricks used to build it were crushed and the gold was extracted. After heavy rains the employees of water treatment plants in Atlanta have found gold nuggets. Runoff from rivers like the Chattahoochee and Peachtree Creek does contain small amounts of the metal.

In 1958 the citizens of Dahlonega presented the state with a gift of gold. The metal was pounded into thin sheets and attached to the top of the State House in Atlanta. The gold dome remains as a lasting symbol to the first of our nation's gold rushes.

Author David Williams gives one of the best documented descriptions of miners, their lives and the terrible pain that was inflicted on the Cherokee Nation because of The Georgia Gold Rush / (Twenty-niners, Cherokees, and Gold Fever). About North Georgia recommends the book for anyone with an interest in the gold rush, Georgia history, or the Cherokee Removal.

 



 

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