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The First Gold Rush in US History
  Indications abound that point to the mining of gold around Dahlonega, Georgia. The Cherokees probably knew of the gold long before Anglo explorers and settlers did. There are indications that Hernando Desoto mined for gold with the assistance of the Cherokees as far back as 1540.

It is known that before Dahlonega’s gold discovery, there was one in North Carolina that occurred in 1799, resulting in the Reed Gold Mining Company. It would be the one at Dahlonega that produced the first gold rush in the U.S.

There’s little for the present day historian to research regarding Dahlonega through the 1700s, except occasional indications of mining activity during that time.
It is believed by many that in 1828, a deer hunter, Benjamin Parks, tripped over a rock about 2 miles south of present-day Dahlonega. For whatever reason he inspected the rock and found that it contained a heavy concentration of gold. However, this story is not necessarily accepted by most historians as being true. There were gold mining activities known to have been in the area already in 1828, prior to Benjamin Parks’ discovery.

When word got out of the discovery, the hills filled up with prospectors, 15,000 of them. It was a gold rush. In the beginning the gold could be found on the ground and was easy pickings for whoever would bend over and pick it up. Panning for it was another alternative. People were getting rich. As the gold became more and more difficult to mine, sluices were installed to facilitate more ore with less work.

In 1845 Nathan Hand developed a system that eased some of the physical labor in gold mining. He designed and built an early version of a hydraulic mining system that involved over 26 miles of pipes and ditches. The water would flow naturally downhill due to gravity. It was then routed into a nozzle with a 5 or 6-inch diameter. The result was pressurized water that could be sprayed onto a mountainside, creating a mudslide. Following each application of pressure, the mudslide would be inspected for gold.

In time, the easy to reach gold was gone. It was later discovered that the gold was in veins of quartz. Within some of these veins were gold deposits.

Located on the side of the mountain that faced Dahlonega, a huge vein of gold-bearing quartz was discovered. While most of the quartz veins in the area measured 2 inches to 8 inches across, this one measured a full 22 feet across! Its discovery eventually led to the development of the Dahlonega Consolidated Gold Mine.

In about 1880, solid rock was reached. Captain Ingersol, later of the Dahlonega Consolidated Gold Mine started testing the hard rock. It would be years before his conclusion would be reached.

This gold was not appearing by itself, it was appearing inside quartz deposits and especially inside this huge deposit! The vein ran deep into the mountain at an approximate angle of 45 degrees.

In 1895, a group of northern investors bought the land and the surrounding small mining operations to form the Dahlonega Consolidated Gold Mining Company, which referred to their find as the “Glory Hole”. In 1906, the company had failed! There are many speculations as to the reason, but most agree that it wasn’t due to a shortage of gold.

Today, you may visit Dahlonega and take a guided tour of the Glory Hole.

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©2008 Wilson Jay