The first stop on my north Georgia trip was the Dahlonega Gold Museum on Wednesday morning. The museum is located in Dahlonega’s Public Square inside of the historic 1836 Lumpkin County Courthouse. After visiting the museum, I wandered around downtown Dahlonega and had lunch at one of the restaurants along the Public Square. My interest was more in the history of Dahlonega, but for those interested in such things, the Public Square area of Dahlonega is compact, with a variety of stores and restaurants within easy walking distance.
Georgia experienced the second gold rush in the history of the United States after gold was discovered in north Georgia in 1828. It turned out that there was a gold belt that stretched from southwest to northeast across north Georgia and eventually, the gold rush centered in Dahlonega. The Georgia Gold Rush would play a major part in the removal of the Cherokees and the Trail of Tears because much of the land the gold was found in was Cherokee Land. Their removal opened the land up for miners and mining companies. In 1838, a US Mint was opened in Dahlonega to mint coins from the Dahlonega gold; it coined over $6 million in gold before it shut down in 1861 with the beginning of the Civil War. The Georgia Gold Rush quickly petered out; by the 1840s mining had declined considerably and many of the miners moved west when the California Gold Rush began in the late 1840s. Mining would continue on after the Civil War, but nothing on the scale of what it initially was in the 1830s.
The Dahlonega Gold Museum is inside the 1836 Lumpkin County Courthouse sits in the center of Dahlonega’s Public Square. There are exhibits on the first and second floor related to the Georgia Gold Rush and the courthouse itself. There is also a very informative short film on the second floor. The upper left and upper middle photos show the Museum in the center of the Public Square. The upper right photo shows hydraulic mining equipment, the use of which caused terrible damage to the land where it was used. The lower left photo is a display of various types of gold found in the Dahlonega area and examples of the gold coins minted by the Dahlonega mint. The bottom middle and bottom right photos show the Courthouse’s Judges Office and Jury Room as they would have appeared in the 1940s. It’s a small museum, but it’s very informative. I learned a lot from the film and the exhibits. If you’re not familiar with the history of Georgia’s gold rush, it should definitely be on your list of historic sites to visit.
Just to the north of the museum in Hancock Park, is a Diving Bell that was used in gold mining. This diving bell was built in 1875 and designed to enable miners to retrieve gold from the bottom of deeper parts of rivers. It was lowered from a boat to the bottom of a river, water was forced out and then miners descended through the air lock from the surface to river bed. The miners would shovel up gravel into a vacuum tube where it was pumped up to the boat and and processed to find the gold in it. Brought to Dahlonega, it was tested and began to be used in late Autumn of 1875 and Winter of 1875/1876. In October of 1876, the bell and the boat it was being used from sank in the Chestatee River near Dahlonega and remained on the bottom until recovered in 1981. After visiting the Gold Museum, it really is worth it to walk over to the park and take a look at the diving bell and the informative panel there with it.
After visiting the Gold Museum and dining bell, I walked around the Public Square and other parts of Downtown Dahlonega and the University of North Georgia. The top left photo below is of part of the Public Square from the second floor of the Gold Museum. The top middle, top right, and bottom left photos are of some of the buildings around the Public Square. The bottom middle photo is St Luke’s Catholic Church, just off of the Public Square, which was originally built in 1899/1900 as a Presbyterian Church. The bottom left photo is the University of North Georgia’s Price Memorial Hall, which stands where the US Mint I mentioned above once stood.
After walking around the Public Square I stopped for lunch in one of it’s restaurants, 19 Degrees North Seafood and Grill. It’s a Bar and Grill serving seafood, steaks, and southern food just across the street from the Gold Museum. I had the Traditional Fish and Chips and it was delicious. It was a good way to recharge the batteries before the next stop of the day: Amicalola Falls near Dawsonville.
Although small, the Dahlonega Gold Museum is really informative and it sparked an interest in the Georgia Gold Rush, which I didn’t know much about (the Georgia History course I took in college was primarily about the coastal area and colonial era of Georgia). Before leaving, I bought a couple of books from the museum’s gift shop and hope to expand my knowledge of what looks to be a fascinating part of the state’s history.