Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gold in Them There Hills! - Gold Mines of the North Georgia Mountains

Panning for Gold in Georgia
USFS Photo
America's first major gold rush took place not in California in 1849, but in Georgia twenty years earlier!
The great Georgia Gold Rush was sparked in 1829 (although some say the actual discovery was made the previous year) when news spread that gold had been found in the mountains about thirty miles north of Gainesville, Georgia. This is in the area of the present-day town of Dahlonega.

Men hoping to "strike it rich" flooded into North Georgia from all over the fledgling United States, much to the chagrin of the Cherokee Indians who owned much of the gold territory. The Cherokee, however, were forced west at bayonet point on the Trail of Tears in 1836-1838 and the entire gold country was opened to the whites once and for all.

Gold Stream in North Georgia
A Congressional report indicates that by the summer of 1829 - even before the forced removal of the Cherokee - as many as 3,000 men were prospecting for gold in the mountains. They primarily used pans or sluices to extract the precious yellow metal from stream and creek beds and the amount the found was impressive. By 1830, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold had been found (in 19th century dollars).

The wealth of the Georgia gold fields led towns such as Dahlonega and Auraria to spring up almost overnight. The U.S. Government even built a branch U.S. Mint in Dahlonega and turned out over $6,000,000 in coins there in just 23 years.

Old Lumpkin County Courthouse
Today's Dahlonega Gold Museum
The gold fever in Georgia was already wavering by 1849 when a new strike in California sent miners flooding west, but gold was still coming out of the hills. In an effort to encourage miners to stick it out and dig deeper, the assayer for the Dahlonega branch mint took to the steps of the old Lumpkin County courthouse, pointed to the surrounding ridges and exclaimed, "There's gold in them there hills!"  The phrase became an important part of American culture.

There was still gold in the hills and millions more would be extracted. People still find it there today, in fact, and the U.S. Forest Service even allows the public to pan for a little of their own in the Chattahoochee National Forest!

To learn more, please visit

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