Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gold Rush in the North Georgia Mountains!

Dahlonega Gold Museum
With the holiday season now here, the ideal place to look for a nice piece of gold this year might be a stream in the North Georgia mountains!
It is a little known fact that 20 years before the California Gold Rush of 1849, the mountains of Georgia were the scene of America's first major gold rush. Residents of the area around what is now Dahlonega called it the "gold fever" and within just months of the discovery of the first nugget, thousands of men made their way in from all over the United States to search for the elusive yellow metal.

There was so much gold in the North Georgia mountains that Dahlonega was made the site of a U.S. Branch Mint by Congress. Between 1838 and 1861, the mint there turned out $6,000,000 in gold coins. And the face value of those coins was based on the early 19th century evaluation of gold!

Panning for Gold in North Georgia
USFS Photo
The gold rush began in the winter of 1828-1829 when a bit of gold was found in an area about 30 miles north of the Georgia town of Gainesville. This was the area that is now part of Lumpkin County and in the vicinity of the soon to rise boomtowns of Dahlonega and Auraria.

Within just three years after the discovery, an estimated $212,000 in gold was brought out of the North Georgia mountains (in 1831 dollars!). Based on the current prices, that amount of gold today would be worth $18,586,900.

Gold Stream in North Georgia
By 1831, Georgia was America's top gold producing state. The boom days continued until 1849, when news spread east of the strike at Sutter's Mill in California. The departure of so many miners for the west prompted concerns at the U.S. Branch Mint in Dahlonega. Dr. Matthew Stephenson, an assayer for the mint, took to the steps of the Lumpkin County Courthouse (now the Dahlonega Gold Museum) to urge miners to stay.  Pointing at surrounding ridges, he correctly prophesied that millions of dollars in gold remained to be found there.  It is said that he was the first person to use the now well-known phrase, "There's gold in them there hills!"

There is still gold in those hills. As gold prices have soared over the last few years, a whole new generation has begun panning the streams of North Georgia.

To learn more, please visit

While there, be sure to follow the links at the bottom of the page to Dahlonega, the Dahlonega Gold Museum and the U.S. Branch Mint at Dahlonega.

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