Dahlonega – The Original Source of Gold Fever
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The first major gold rush in the United States began in Dahlonega, Georgia around August 1, 1829. Mining operations quickly began to spring up in Lumpkin county and the surrounding areas. Local residents were very pleased to discover that the gold deposits known to exist in other areas of the southern Appalachian Mountains also extended into northern Georgia. Much of the land which contained the new found gold deposits were under the control of the Cherokee Indians. However, in a few years, over 4000 miners were working on the Yahoola Creek in Lumpkin County. By 1930, it is estimated that over 300 ounces of gold per day were being produced in the northern Georgia region. At today’s high prices of gold, that would amount to $540,000 per day being produced.
The majority of the mining activities consisted of placer mining. This left large swatch of the landscape scared with open pits. Back in the early 1800′s, there were no laws to prevent destruction of the top soil and vegetation. The region still shows signs of the placer mining today, almost 200 years later.
In the early 1830′s, boom towns such as Dahlonega and Auraria began to spring up in support of the miners. It is estimated that 15,000 miners called Dahlonega home during the height of the gold rush. During this rapid influx of new people, tensions began to rise rapidly with the Cherokee Indians. This tension and the desire to steal the Gold producing land ultimately led to the forced migration of the NAtive Americans to other territories. This became know as the Trail of Tears for good reason. A large percentage of the Cherokee perished on their way to their new home.
By the 1840′s, most of the easily gotten gold had been found and efforts began to shift to more normal mining operations. Miners began working the ore deposits and attempting to identify and track the gold ore deep inside the earth. When word of the California Gold Rush reached Northern Georgia, a mass exodus of miners occurred. The operators of the Dahlonega mint attempted in vain to get the miners to stay. The mint continued to operate until the the Civil War when it was seized by the Confederate Army. Following the end of the Civil War, the United States decided against reopening the mint.
There are several Gold mines in operation around the Dahlonega area today. Recreational miners call live the thrill of striking it rich as they pan for gold in one of the many tourist destinations.