There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills
…at least that’s what Mark Twain said! What was actually said by mint assayer Matthew Stephenson during his famous speech in which he asked miners to stay in Georgia was: “Why go to California? In that ridge lies more gold than man ever dreamt of. There’s millions in it!”
There’s a lot more to the North Georgia mountains than hiking the Appalachian Trail and cycling! Today, Josh and I explored more about the history of Dahlonega. Many of our guests are surprised to learn that the first gold rush in the United States was NOT in California, but right here in Dahlonega! Dahlonega is actually a Cherokee Indian word that translates to “gold,” “gold city” or “yellow money,” depending on what document you read.
Our first stop was the Dahlonega Gold Museum, which is located in the center of downtown Dahlonega in the original courthouse building. The museum is technically a self-guided tour, but one of the staff members was eager to share his knowledge and we were happy to listen! There are mining artifacts, a stamp mill, gems and minerals, as well as gold coins that were minted in Dahlonega. Every half hour there is short film shown in the upstairs portion of the building (the old courtroom). The film discusses mining history and includes old photos and interviews with locals who were miners. I found myself trying to figure out where the old photos were taken and how they would appear in today’s landscape.
The entrance fee is $7 for adults and is valid all day….just in case one tour isn’t enough!
Next, we checked out Consolidated Gold Mines, which was the largest hard rock mine east of the Mississippi! It originally operated from 1896-1906, and in the end was 5 MILES long and 1000 feet deep! We took an underground tour into the mine, which included a section called the “Glory Hole,” where a band of quartz 22 FEET wide was discovered. This is the largest band of quartz containing gold ever discovered. There is electricity throughout the tunnels (and there was when the mine operated, too) so it was easy to see everything. Old rail cars, rails along the tunnel floor, mining tools and even an operational pneumatic drill are still inside. Our guide turned on the drill for about 2 seconds and it was absolutely deafening. I can’t imagine the noise with 30 drills running at once all day. Miners were paid $1.00-$1.50/day depending on his job. Children were also hired to work in the mines. At 50 cents/day their job was to run though the low, narrow tunnels to physically warn miners when dynamite was going to be used, since yelling would not be heard. I thought the tour was fascinating and would recommend it for children and adults.
The tour fee is $15 for adults and $9 for children and also includes the opportunity to pan for gold before or after the tour. There is also gemstone mining available. If you happen find a gemstone, there are two full time gem cutters on site. Consolidated Gold Mines is located (literally) underneath Wal-Mart. From the Hiker Hostel, turn right to head south on Hwy 19/60. At the second traffic light, turn left, then take an immediate right to go down the hill to the mine.