When we hear “gold rush,” we immediately think of California’s gold rush, which started in 1849, and Alaska’s gold rush from 1899 to 1909; however, gold was discovered first in the Eastern states, east of the Appalachian Mountains, from Maryland and Virginia, down to the Carolinas and Georgia.
There are reports of mined gold in Georgia by the Spanish and French explorers from 1560 to 1690, and Thomas Jefferson first referenced a gold discovery in Virginia in 1782. In 1799, gold was discovered in North Carolina. Gold was found in Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1828 and one year later in Maryland. Gold was found in Maryland within quartz veins, together with pyrite and/ or galena, mostly near the Great Falls of Potomac (Maryland Gold Fever, Walter A. Goetz, 1979, revised 1996). The Maryland state became the northern end of the “Appalachian Gold Belt.” One of my first rockhounding field trips was gold-panning in Maryland with fellow club members from the Gem, Mineral & Lapidary Society of Washington D.C, back in the 1990s.
Having the “gold fever bug,” my husband has taken every opportunity to pan for gold during our Montana and Colorado trips. But the place we spent a whole day gold-panning was in Dahlonega, a historic town nestled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. We visited Georgia a few years ago as I was giving a lecture and participated in “The Art of Minerals” exhibit at the Weinman Mineral Museum (now the Tellus Museum) in Cartersville, Georgia.
We first visited the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site (www. gastateparks.org/DahlonegaGoldMuseum ). This wonderful museum is housed in the 1836 Old Lumpkin County Courthouse. The museum’s exhibits share the history of the 1828 gold discovery, two and a half miles south of Dahlonega by deer hunter Benjamin Parks. That discovery triggered America’s first major gold rush in northwest Georgia, where thousands of prospectors poured into the Cherokee Nation area within the next year. The intruding miners did not respect the Cherokee lands and agreements with the Federal government and caused a lot of problems and lawlessness.
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