ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Gold Mines of North Georgia
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Gold Mines of North Georgia
Gold Stream in North Georgia
Recreational panning for gold is allowed in many
of the streams of the Chattahoochee - Oconnee
National Forest in North Georgia's Mountains.
Panning for Georgia Gold
With gold prices soaring,
many enthusiasts are trying
their hands at panning for
gold in North Georgia.
USFS Photo
Dahlonega Gold Museum
It was from the steps of the
Lumpkin County Courthouse,
now the Gold Museum, that
the phrase "There's gold in
them there hills!" was coined.
Gold Mines of the North Georgia Mountains
Gold Panning in North Georgia
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
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Gold Sparkles in the Sun
Pure Georgia gold sparkles
from the steeple of Price
Memorial at North Georgia
College & State University.
Gold and the mining for it have played a
critical role in the history of Georgia and its
mountains. And with gold prices soaring, it
might well again.

The lure of gold has always attracted people
to the North Georgia mountains. Hernando
de Soto passed through the region in 1540,
looking for wealth. The Indians there told him
of yellow metal higher in the mountains. He
sent out a search party to look and the men
came back reporting they had seen favorable
sites for gold mines.

The discovery of gold in the Carolinas in the
1820s led miners south into Georgia to
investigate the possibility it could be found
there. It didn't take long before they hit it big.

There is some debate over the exact date
and location of the first gold strike. Some say
it took place in 1828, some in 1829. Different
communities also lay claim to being the
location where gold was first pulled from a
running mountain stream.

According to a report by a Congressional
select committee dated February 15, 1831,
the first discovery took place 30 miles north
of Gainesville near the Chattahoochee River.
This supports the claims of both Auraria and
Dahlonega.

While the exact location of the first strike
remains something of a mystery, the
importance of the discovery is undisputed.
The Congressional report indicates that by
the summer of 1829, as many as 3,000
miners were panning and digging for gold
along the streams and rivers of the North
Georgia mountains.

By 1830, hundreds of thousands of dollars in
gold had been extracted from the North
Georgia mines, some of which were on land
legally belonging to the Cherokee. Gold fever
gripped the region and people flooded down
from other states, hoping to strike it rich.

The gold mines put pressure on the
Cherokee and were a contributing factor to
the forced removal of that nation on the Trail
of Tears. The taking of Indian lands from the
Cherokee opened up even more territory for
mining and prospecting.

So much gold was coming out of the Georgia
mountains that in 1838 the government built
the U.S. Branch Mint at Dahlonega. Over its
26 years of existence, the mint would turn out
over $6,000,000 in gold coins.

The mint building no longer stands, but Price
Memorial Hall at North Georgia College &
State University was built on its ruins. The
steeple atop the building is leafed in pure
Georgia gold. The foundations of the original
mint building can still be seen, along with a
historical marker detailing the significance of
the site.

The gold fever in North Georgia slowly
calmed as some miners struck it rich, while
most found little gold but lots of hard work. By
1849, when gold was found in California,
many of the miners working the Georgia gold
fields were ready for new opportunity.

Miners from the mountains joined in the rush
for California, despite a famed and prophetic
plea from the assayer at Dahlonega.
"Gold in them there hills!"
How much gold remains in
the North Georgia mountains
is anyone's guess. The
beauty of the hills, though, is
far more precious.
With so many miners leaving the area, Dr.
Matthew Stephenson took to the steps of the
Lumpkin County Courthouse in Dahlonega to
urge others to stay. Pointing at the nearby
ridge, he promised that millions of dollars in
gold remained to be discovered.

Legend holds that he said, "There's gold in
them there hills!" The phrase became an
important part of American culture and is
used by prospectors even today.

The courthouse from which the assayer
made his famous plea now houses the
Dahlonega Gold Museum, which traces the
history of gold mining in North Georgia.

Stephenson was right, there was millions of
dollars worth of gold still in the hills. Mining
continued into the 20th century, with large
operations digging down hundreds of feet in
search of new veins.

The surge in gold prices over the last few
years has ignited a new gold rush of sorts in
North Georgia. Avocational miners come
from far and wide to pan in streams and
creeks hoping to find even just a bit of gold.

While commercial gold mining is not allowed
on federal lands, amateurs are welcome to
come and pan on many of the lands in the
Chattahoochee - Oconnee National Forest.
No permission, permits or fees are required
so long as you stay in approved areas and
use only a pan and trowel or small hand
shovel and do not disturb streams.

Please click here for other rules and details
from the U.S. Forest Service.

Historically, the most significant finds have
taken place in the mountains around
Dahlonega, which is rich in gold mining
history.

Please click here to learn more about the city
and its historic sites.
Photos by Savannah Brininstool