Dahlonega -- the name means Gold in Cherokee. Licklog, Dahlonega's first name, was a place deer would come and drink water. Benjamin Parks was hunting deer here in 1828 when he stumbled on the purest vein of gold in the world.
When the cry of Gold! hit the Georgia coast fortune hunters headed west for Dahlonega and its nearby neighbor Auraria (Latin for gold). The Calhoun Mine, at the center of The Gold Rush, lies south of the city on private property. Owned and operated by South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun this mine, and others nearby, provided employment for men from the coast. After the Georgia Land Lottery of 1832, Lumpkin County began work on a brick courthouse (now the Dahlonega Gold Museum) and the U. S. began plans for a mint (North Georgia College's Price Memorial Building sits on the mint's foundation). By the time the mint was completed in 1838 the heyday of the Gold Rush had past. Over the next 100 years men would rekindle hopes of finding commercial quantities of gold, but success was limited.
Many colorful characters would populate the streets of Dahlonega over the next 150 years. "General" Riley, a wealthy businessman, owned a hotel and tavern in the city from the Gold Rush until the 1870's. He frequently got in fights, especially with the fathers and husbands of Dahlonega women.
Captain Frank Hall, who's Hall Block is pictured at the top right, was a merchant and land owner who discovered gold in the basement of the house he was building just off the square in downtown. Town fathers turned down his application for a mining permit so close to Dahlonega's center. Hall's home still stands today, as the world-famous Smith House. The Captain also owned the Dahlonega Nugget, a local newspaper.
W. B. Townsend ran the Nugget from 1892 to 1934. Many consider him to be Georgia's most colorful newspaperman. Poor spelling and grammar didn't get in his way. During Townsend's reign as publisher of the Nugget the Fox Studios decided to try making pictures in the area. Just before World War I actors, cameras and crews moved into the area around Dahlonega because the studio felt it had an old west look to it. After making just three films the studio left, never to return. Most famous of the movies shot in the town was The Plunderer, a fictional tale about a mine called "The Cross of Gold and its owner Bill Matthews (William Farnum).
And no history of Dahlonega would be complete without mention of Graham C. Dugas. Born in 1888, Graham was an orphan who attended The College of Notre Dame as a young man. A decorated pilot in World War I (his family still has the medal the King of Italy awarded him), he was married three times and tried to build a hospital for Appalachian women. In addition to being a pilot, Dugas also served as a legislator and was a miner.
During his later years he spent money on developing a coin sorting machine, which left him bankrupt. Some of Dahlonega's seniors can relate stories of his gold-plated Cadillac tooling around town.
Today Dahlonega is a major entry point for tourists going to the Chattahoochee National Forest and the North Georgia mountains.