Dahlonega Gold Museum
Type:Museum, Courthouse, State Park
Gold Museum at Dahlonega
Dahlonega Gold Museum, in the old Lumpkin County Courthouse
When the first prospectors came into Auraria and Dahlonega they were barely cities. Deep inside Cherokee land, the men had been drawn with the promise of easy riches courtesy of the Georgia Gold Rush, the first major gold rush in American history. The Dahlonega Gold Museum tells the story of these miners, as well as the ones who followed later, in a combination of historic documents, displays and film.

Before America's First Gold Rush

Mining gold in the mountains of north Georgia goes back 300 years before the first "gold rush." Spanish miners visited the area, possibly even before the widely accepted starting date of 1567. Before the start of the 18th century, Cherokee miners were taking gold from the ground throughout North Georgia. In 1782, Thomas Jefferson became the first modern man to find gold in the Appalachian Mountain region.

Slowly the discovery of gold pushed south. In 1799 Conrad John Reed discovered gold in North Carolina. He did not find out it was gold for another 3 years, but when he did excitement spread throughout the community and a number of gold mining operations sprung up, however, this was not a rush on the scale of the early days of the Georgia rush.

Gold was discovered in Georgia and Tennessee in the early 1820's, but in such limited quantities that large-scale rushes never formed. The discovery of gold in White County, Georgia changed everything in 1829. That year, Frank Logan's slave found a nugget in Duke's Creek that year, leading to the discovery of two gold belts in northeast Georgia. The first, sometimes called the Hall County belt, resulted in a good deal of alluvial gold being found, but only a little being mined (in the Buford and Suwannee area of Gwinnett County). The second belt, which ran from Rabun County in northeast Georgia southwest to Cherokee County north of Atlanta, was considerably larger. It was this belt that attracted men and machinery in such large numbers that it is commonly considered to be America's first gold rush.

Templeton Reid

Between the two belts a man named Templeton Reid decided to build one of the earliest mints in the United States. Private mints were known in Europe, but rare in the U. S. Reid became the first private institution to mint gold coins in the U.S., producing coins with 3 different face values. The mint, located in Gainesville, Georgia, was unprofitable and folded less than a year later.

Lumpkin County Courthouse

The second Lumpkin County Courthouse is one of the earliest surviving brick buildings in Northeast Georgia. Built in 1836, the courthouse was used by the county until 1965, when a new courthouse was built and old courthouse was restored as the gold museum. The mint, which closed in 1861, burned to the ground in 1878. The building's granite footings were used to construct Price Memorial Hall on the nearby campus of North Georgia College.

Assayer Matthew Stephenson
Assayer Matthew Stephenson
In addition to court, the Lumpkin County Courthouse held the assayer's office, so it was a popular stop for the local miners. Matthew Stephenson, who held the position of assayer, is credited as being the inspiration of Mark Twain's character Mulberry Sellers. Stephenson admonished the area miners "Why go to California? In that ridge lies more gold than man ever dreamt of. There's millions in it." Sellers repeated the line "There's millions in it!" and probably inspired "Thar's gold in them thar hills!"

Dahlonega Gold Museum

Inside the musuem, after paying your fee, are maps and primary documents relating to the gold rush. Information includes gold receipts issued by the mint, photographs of miners and mines and an interesting film that tells the story of the gold rush and mining that occurred after through the eyes of the people of Dahlonega.

Location: Center of Dahlonega, Georgia
Directions: Take GA 400 to the end. Turn left and follow signs to downtown Dahlonega.
Additional information:
Dahlonega Gold Museum
City of Dahlonega, Georgia timeline
Fee: $4.00

Date added: May 20, 2005
Last update: May 23, 2005

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