A tradition in Dahlonega, Georgia is a festival known as Gold Rush Days. The event, rated as one of the top twenty in the Southeast, is celebrated the third weekend in October when the leaves are spectacular in color.
Years ago as a newbie to the state, I vowed to make the festival an annual tradition. Later, I learned the reason behind the celebration.
The Discovery of Gold
The Gold Rush of 1828, began when Frank Logan, a prospector, found gold at Duke’s Creek, a branch of the Chattahoochee River. Benjamin Parks and others also claimed to have found gold in the area. When newspapers published news of the find, prospectors flooded into the region.
I learned of this fact while researching the history of The Old Federal Road the route by which miners transported the gold. I was shocked to learn most of the gold was found on land belonging to the Cherokee Indians. In 1838, the state seized the territory and the Indians were relocated to Oklahoma.
According to “Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Hills”, gold was typically mined by “deposit mining or placer mining.” Gold that eroded from hills and mountains accumulated in streams and riverbeds. Panned gold is known as “alluvial gold” because it is found in riverbeds.
• First Gold Rush in North America
• The Georgia Gold Rush lasted approximately twenty years.
• Prompted the establishment of towns in the Northeast Georgia area.
• The Cherokees, who were displaced from their land, called the migration of miners “Great Intrusion.”
• Georgia miners included African Americans, Native Americans, farmers, and women.
The Dahlonega Mint
In 1835 Congress authorized a mint to be established in Dahlonega. Difficulties finding skilled labor and transporting supplies delayed construction and the opening of the mint until1838. In a span of two decades $6,000,000 worth of gold coins were produced until the mint closed in 1861 due to the Civil War.
After the war, gold mining revived but the mint never reopened. A new building stands on the site of original mint building.
Elizabeth W. Etheridge wrote that, “Despite difficulties, coins minted in Dahlonega were of high quality and are still prized by coin collectors.” The coins were solid gold and marked with a “D”.
Surprisingly, the gold ran out several years after the mint opened and some gold was shipped to the Georgia Mint from the west. On one of my ventures to Dahlonega, I panned for gold at a local business set up for tourists. Dipping my pan and swirling the water, waiting for the silt to settle stirred eagerness within me that the early miners must have experienced, waiting for a shiny gold nugget to appear.
Today panning for gold is a novelty and tourist attraction in Northeast Georgia. What signs of the past remain in your community today? Are any events of the past celebrated today like Gold Rush in Dahlonega?
Etheridge, Elizabeth W. “Branch Mint at Dahlonega.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 09 December 2013. Web. 24 September 2014.