When the gold rush came to town

Photos by Todd DeFeo / (c) 2011, 2012

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — The city’s fortunes changed forever in 1828 when gold was discovered in the area.

It was nearly two decades before the famous California Gold Rush took place when gold was discovered. Exactly who discovered the gold — and where and when — is open to some debate. But, what’s not subject to discussion is the impact gold had on the city.

The U.S. Mint opened a branch mint in the city, which remained in operation until the start of the Civil War; the Confederate Treasury Department took over the facility following secession. The dome of the state capitol in Atlanta has 60 ounces of gold panned in Dahlonega.

Between 1838 and 1861, the mint coined more than $6 million in gold.

Today, the 1836 Lumpkin County Courthouse located on the town’s square – the oldest in the state – is home to the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site. The state park tells the story of the nation’s first major gold rush, which happened two decades before California’s major rush

The museum’s collection includes exhibits about how gold is mined, tools miners used and actual samples of gold.

In addition, each year, the city hosts “Gold Rush Days,” a celebration of the city’s past. The festival features everything one would expect from a festival – from arts and crafts to food to a gold panning contest.

Dahlonega, a city of about 5,000, is located about 70 minutes north of Atlanta.

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