The Georgia Gold Rush

Miners panning for gold in a sluice flume. From the "Thar's gold in them thar hills": Gold and Gold Mining in Georgia, 1830s-1940s Collection.
August 1, 1829 article from the Georgia Journal documenting the discovery of gold. From the Milledgeville Historic Newspaper Archive.

 

++++No one knows for sure when the nugget that initiated Georgia’s gold rush was found, but the existence of gold in Georgia was first documented in 1829. An article from the Georgia Journal (above) verifies that the veins of gold found in North and South Carolina stretch into north Georgia. It goes on to warn that the consequences of mining this gold would be significant, severe, and should even be prohibited.

However, these words could not stop the thousands of miners that inhabited a section of Hall County (now part of modern-day Lumpkin County), fueled by a thirst for gold. By the late 1830s, almost  six thousand people had settled there, many of them in the county seat of Dahlonega. Pictured above are two men engaging in deposit mining (panning). Later, as more and more people settled and the gold rush was in full swing, hard-rock mining (which involved drilling directly into the gold veins) would become the favored method. These migrations were not without consequence: the arrival of  these miners displaced thousands of Cherokees from the northern part of the state. Dubbed the “Great Intrusion,” this dismissal of native people preceded the Cherokee Removal, where  four thousand Cherokees from southern states died as they were forced by Army troops to relocate to Oklahoma during the winter of 1838-1839.

Hydraulic mining. Image from promotional material given to potential investors in the Dahlonega Consolidated Gold Mining Company, 1899. From the From the "Thar's gold in them thar hills": Gold and Gold Mining in Georgia, 1830s-1940s Collection.

The gold rush died down in the 1840s, when the remaining hard-rock gold veins became more difficult and dangerous to mine. Miners could no longer expect to make a decent living deposit mining, and, beginning in 1849, many relocated to California to seek their fortune. However, some mining continued until the turn of the century, and mining companies such as the Dahlonega Consolidated Gold Mining Company would continue to seek community investment as they employed hydraulic mining techniques that their colleagues brought back from California.

Hydraulic mining proved to be less profitable than the mining companies promised, and they soon went out of business. Although financial hardships emptied the mines, gold mining in Georgia was not forgotten. Modern-day gold-related tourism remains a staple for the city of Dahlonega, which hosts an October festival marking the glory days of the miners, and the dome of the Georgia state capitol building in Atlanta is crowned with locally-mined gold.  Though the gold rush lasted only fifty years, it made its mark on both Georgia history and in the imaginations of those who have ever dreamed of striking it rich in the north Georgia mountains.

The Dahlonega Consolidated Gold Mining Company, between 1899-1906. From the Vanishing Georgia Collection.

To find out more about the gold rush in Georgia, you can view the Digital Library of Georgia collections “Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Hills”: Gold and Gold Mining in Georgia, 1830s-1940s, the Milledgeville Historic Newspaper Archive, and the entry “Gold Rush” in the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Additional images of gold and gold mining are available from the Vanishing Georgia collection, which can be viewed at the Digital Library of Georgia and at the Georgia Archives websites.


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