Archives of Lumpkin County


 
Archives of Lumpkin County
From the editors of
Roadside Georgia
Established in 1832. Named in honor of Wilson Lumpkin who served in both state houses, as governor, in the U. S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Wilson
Lumpkin
The history of Lumpkin County long predates the naming of the county in 1832. As white men colonized the northern areas of the North American continent in the 1600's they moved inland and pushed the Cherokee further south and west onto land that belonged to the Creek. At that time Lumpkin and much of North Georgia was Creek land. Near Blood Mountain, in an area now called Slaughter Gap on the border with Union County, the Creek and Cherokee fought a tremendous battle that continued for a number of days. The Creek lost and retreated to a line roughly south of the Etowah River. Since neither the Cherokee or Creek had a written language, only oral history records the battle, but supporting evidence of a conflict has been found near the gap.

Long before the Georgia Gold Rush both white men and Indians knew of the existence of the precious material in the mountains of present day Lumpkin County. Spanish miners visited the area on a number of occasions before they were completely expelled in the 1730's by white English settlers who cut off their supply route from Florida.

Photo of General Store, one of two remaining buildings from Auraria's Gold Rush daysSometime before 1830 gold was discovered in Lumpkin County, although mining of gold in White County was already under way. Lumpkin County resident Benjamin Parks is often mistakenly credited with the discovery because he spent much of his later years retelling the story of how he found it. Men and material poured into the area from Canton to Blairsville, forcing out the Cherokee. The town of Auraria sprang up to serve the needs of the miners while the county was still a part of Indian Territory. At one time Auraria could boast of 1500 residents and a newspaper, the Western Herald. A nearby area known as Licklog would eventually become Dahlonega. In an 1834 novel, William Gilmore Simms described Lumpkin County as "the wildest region of the then little-settled state of Georgia-doubly wild as forming the debatable land between the savage and the civilized-partaking of the ferocity of the one, and the skill, cunning and cupidity of the other."

By the time Mr. Simms novel was published Fort Dahlonega had been completed. One of the infamous Cherokee Removal Forts, the structure stood near present-day downtown Dahlonega. It would be used to house Cherokee from the area before their forced removal on "The Trail of Tears."

Beautiful Dahlonega, Ga.Early mining operations were so successful that the United States government authorized the building of a mint in Dahlonega, which was completed less than 10 years after the first strike. From 1838 to 1861 this mint produced over 6,000,000 dollars in gold coins. When the Civil War broke out the Confederate government used the mint briefly, producing another 23,000 dollars in gold coinage. The officials found running the mint too expensive and shut it down.

In 1849 the California Gold Rush began to attract miners from Lumpkin County. The highly respected assayer and state geologist Dr. Matthew Stephenson asked the miners to stay pointing out that "there's millions in it." This phrase inspired Mark Twain's "Thars gold in them thar hills." However, miners began to search for the precious metal elsewhere.

During the Civil War Lumpkin gave its men to both sides, as did many counties in the North Georgia mountains. But the atmosphere in Lumpkin alone was described as "contentious", possibly because the small band of Confederate Home Guard was kept busy repressing the pro-Union factions in the county.

Six years after the end of the war North Georgia College began as a land grant and military school. The people of Lumpkin embraced the school especially during parades that reminded the citizens of their contribution to the bloody conflict.

In the 1880's interest in Lumpkin County revived briefly as a second, albeit smaller Gold Rush brought a few hardy souls back into the area. By 1900 this had "panned out" and once again the county watched an exodus of men to richer mines in Montana and Alaska. Dredging operations were popular until 1920 in Lumpkin and Dawson counties.

As early as 1910 the Federal Government began acquiring lands in Lumpkin County for the purpose of preservation. By 1920 this effort spread throughout the entire northern third of the state and in 1936 the federal government created the Chattahoochee National Forest out of the purchases that had begun in Lumpkin County 26 years earlier thanks, in part, to the efforts of Arthur Woody.

Electricity was not available to all Lumpkin County residents until after World War II, when modern life began to encroach on the people who had encroached on the Cherokee. Many of the residents lived the home their daddy or granddaddy had built, often without water or a floor.

The advent of the automobile brought another change to Lumpkin County. Previously accessible only to people on horseback or in carriages the automobile opened up Lumpkin County to tourism, it's third gold rush.

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