A History of Lumpkin County Georgia

 

Early Inhabitants  

Dahlonega, Georgia, a boom town when Atlanta was just a village, is 73  miles north of Atlanta  in the  foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountain range.  Dahlonega is the center of the richest section of a gold bearing region extending from the Carolinas toward Alabama.  The earliest evidence of humans in the area was discovered in 1990 by an archeologist, who found an early woodland period site about a mile east of town.  The site could date back as far as 1,000 B.C.   In 1828 the Cherokee Indians, the first known people to inhabit the country, occupied over four million North Georgia acres.  The name is from the Cherokee "Ta-lo-Ne-Ga," their word for the  rich yellow. "Dahlonega" is the white man's version of the Cherokee word.  Dahlonega was also called "Licklog"  by early settlers because it was used to leave salt licks for their cattle. 

 
 Discovery of Gold

In 1828, Benjamin Parks went deer hunting and overturned a rock laced with gold.  Parks' discovery led to the first major gold rush in the U.S. and created overnight the boom town of Auraria, with a population of 10,000 by 1832. The first known Confederate soldier wounded in the battle of Manassas, N.C.  Tankersley, was from Auraria, and the Russell brothers founded the first settlement at the present site of Denver, CO and named it Auraria in honor of their hometown. But today Auraria is a ghost town with only a few buildings and a handful of people remaining.  In 1832 Lumpkin County, named after then Georgia Gov. Wilson  Lumpkin [1783-1870], was organized by an Act of the Georgia Legislature, being carved from Hall, Cherokee and Habersham Counties.   In 1833, Dahlonega was named the county seat. Soon after, John C. Calhoun,  former  U.S. Vice President and U.S. Senator from South Carolina, bought the Calhoun Mines in Lumpkin County.  In 1838, the Cherokee were forced by the U.S. Government to leave their beloved mountain land for "the land west of Arkansas".

The Federal Mint

In 1838, the U.S. Government opened one of the first Federal Branch Mints in Dahlonega, where more than $6 million in gold coins were minted. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the mint  was closed and never reopened.  In 1878, the massive foundation remained intact. This property is now North Georgia College. The building's spire is covered with 23 ounces of Dahlonega gold, while the Georgia State Capital has 60 ounces of Dahlonega gold on its dome. 

 

 The Old Courthouse

 The Dahlonega Courthouse was built in 1836 and today is the oldest public building in North Georgia serving as the Dahlonega Gold Museum.  Dahlonega's historic downtown area is authentic 19th-century Georgia, with lawns, trees, brick walks, and flower gardens.    Many of the buildings house Appalachian crafts, pottery shops, specialty shops, a candy store, and antique stores. The old county courthouse, now the Dahlonega Gold Museum, graces the center of the square.  Operated by the DNR, visitors can view old mining equipment, relics, and historical data.  The building was built in 1836 in a pure Classic Greek Revival style, a popular choice in the old South, and has 22-inch thick walls, hand-blown glass windows, and some original floor bricks, with flecks of gold meshes into the clay brick.  There are many other attractions in the area, such as self-guided walking tours of historic Dahlonega and a beautiful self-guided auto tour of North Lumpkin County.

End of the Mining Era

From 1828 to 1848, Dahlonega and its surrounding area produced more than $35 million in gold coins. But in 1849, the California Gold Rush drew most of the local miners west, and by 1906, the last large Dahlonega mining company, Consolidated Mining, closed its operation. There was still plenty of gold left in the area, but the cost of modern mining operations far exceeded the then fixed value ($6 oz.) of the refined gold. The Consolidated Mine, Crisson Mines, where four generations of Crissons operated gold mines from 1847 to 1987, and Gold Miner's Camp offer visitors a taste of what mining was like back in the 1800s.