The California Gold Rush and the legendary Miner 49ers. We all learned about that gold rush in school. But, did you know that before gold was found in California, there was a gold rush in North Georgia? It’s true! There were many Georgia gold mines! Gold was discovered around Dahlonega in 1828, twenty years before gold was found at Sutter’s Mill.
At the height the of the gold rush, there were over 500 gold mines operating in 37 counties in North Georgia. Boom towns sprang up, miners streamed into the state, and many people found riches. And gold flowed out of the mines – so much so that a mint was opened 1838 in Dahlonega to process the gold into coins. Wikipedia says it’s estimated that from 1828 through the mid-2oth century (when commercial gold mining in Georgia stopped) 870,000 troy ounces of gold were mined. At today’s price of $1218/ounce, that is over $1 billion!!
In 1832, the state of Georgia held a Gold lottery, selling 40 acre lots across North Georgia – land that belonged to the Cherokee. Despite protests from the Cherokee, the lottery winners swarmed into the lands and settled. The Cherokee were soon to be forcibly relocated along the infamous Trial of Tears. In The Gemstone Chronicles Book One: The Carnelian, Aidan finds some staurolite fairy crosses. One of the legends regarding the staurolite fairy crosses is that they are the result of the tears the Cherokee shed as they were forced from their home in the mountains.
Staurolite Fairy Cross
I plan a future post of the Gold Lottery of 1832 and the Trail of Tears, so I won’t go deeper into that subject here.
There were some notable figures with ties to the Georgia Gold Rush. John C. Calhoun, Senator and the 7th Vice President of the United States, owned the Calhoun Mine. The Calhoun Mine produced a lot of gold during its time, as did the Loud Mine and the Consolidated Mine. The Calhoun Mine was managed for a time by Thomas Clemson, the founder of Clemson University.
Much of the gold found during the beginning of the gold rush was placer gold. Placer gold is gold that eroded away from the vein and deposited in stream beds, at the mouths of rivers, and other such places. Gravity wins with gold, as it is about 19 times heavier than water, so it won’t travel far from the source. By some estimates, gold will only travel about 1500 feet from the source. After the easily found gold was exhausted, miners invaded the creeks, streams, and rivers to dig into the beds and pan for gold. Below is a gold nugget found in the Dahlonega area.
Dahlonega gold nugget
According to the Consolidated Gold Mine website, in 1845, John Hand developed a hydraulic mining method to dislodge material from the hillsides. This method meant that water cannons would point at a hillside and blast away the mountain and send the mud and rocks down the hillside and into sluices positioned below. Another method was to find the gold-bearing quartz (quartz is plentiful in Georgia), run the quartz through a stamp mill, crush the rock, and extract the gold. If you are lucky enough to be able to prospect on some of the lands around Dahlonega, you can still find tailing piles from the hydraulic mining days, and yes, there is still gold in them!
The gold rush in Georgia really died out when gold was discovered in California. With the difficulties of extracting the gold from the mountains, miners moved west and left the Georgia mountains. Wikipedia tells us the assayer at the Dahlonega Mint told the miners that there were still millions in the mountains, but he couldn’t persuade the miners to stay.
However, gold mining in Georgia wasn’t done. As mentioned above, commercial mining continued until the mid-20th century. The Consolidated Mine operated from 1895 until 1906 when the company failed. Whatever the reason it failed, it appears that it wasn’t due to a lack of gold! Below is a picture of the Glory Hole from the Consolidated Gold Mine. The hole is shown looking upward. Imagine finding that much gold!
Consolidated Gold Mine Glory Hole
There is still gold in the Georgia mountains. It may be hard to come by, but the search is half the fun. I have a small sluice box that I use when I go gemstone hunting. I haven’t found any gold yet, but I have found where it wasn’t! Like Beebop’s character in The Gemstone Chronicles, though, I will keep looking because you never know! I might just start the next Georgia Gold Rush!
Are there gold mines where you live? Have you prospected? Just in case you might want to, here is a link to a site that gives links to prospecting clubs by state: http://www.goldminershq.com/clubs/gold1.htm.
If you have prospected, leave me a comment with the results of your search. I look forward to hearing about your adventures!
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