Blairsville, Georgia (high 80, low 57)
We decided to head south for a day trip. There are so many interesting places nearby, but we chose Dahlonega, Georgia.
We ended up taking highway 180 and then onto 60, taking us on the Suches Loop/Georgias Dragon, which is a popular motorcycle route due to the many curves. It’s a twisty 2 lane road with steep drop offs and very few places to pull over. We went up and over Blood Mountain and got over 3200 feet in elevation. I don’t think I’d want to drive it on the week-end when most of the motorcycles are out. If you are a motorcycle enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of this road. It’s a very popular ride. Definitely not for rv’s.
Once we got into Dahlonega, we found the old courthouse, which is now the Dahlonega Gold Museum. The courthouse was built in 1836 and is the oldest surviving courthouse in Georgia. It was used until 1965.
The Georgia gold rush started in 1828, which was before the California gold rush. The discovery of gold was attributed to a young man named Benjamin Parks. It’s said he stepped on an unusual “rock” while out deer hunting. It turned out to be a large nugget of gold. Word quickly got out and soon 15,000 men had flocked into the area to try to strike it rich.
Unfortunately, the Cherokee Indians who had been living in the area were “in the way” and not inclined to leave. In 1838 the remaining Indians were rounded up and forced to march to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears. Many of them died. That a shame.
In 1835, Dahlonega, New Orleans and Charlotte, NC were approved to be the sites of the nations first mints. The Dahlonega mint was operational until 1861 when in its last year of operation receipts were more than 6 million dollars, with over one million of gold coins minted.
Somehow, we ran out of time and never got to tour the old mint. Another trip I guess!
The mint closed after the start of the Civil War, the mint closed and in 1871 the building and 10 acres were donated. Unfortunately, the mint building burned.
There had been talk of gold in California and many of the miners were making plans to head west.
In 1849 a crowd gathered in front of the courthouse to hear assayer Matthew Stephenson speak. He pointed to a ridge in front of him and begged the miners to stay, saying “there is millions in it.” Mark Twain hearing of the assayers plea from a friend, wrote his famous version, “There’s gold in them thar hills.”
Georgia gold was of a higher quality and more pure than what was later found in California.
The old courthouse is now a state historic site, so we paid our money for the tour. We watched a great film on the history of the Georgia gold rush. There were a lot of exhibits and definitely well worth the money.
Here is Al in front of the old safe.
The view from the upstairs balcony at the old courthouse was very nice. You can see the fall colors are starting to change.
After the courthouse tour, we had lunch and then headed over to the old Consolidated Mines. There were several mines there at one time and they finally consolidated them all. Unfortunately, the old buildings burned years ago and the outside doesn’t look like much now.
There were some old mining tools of the trade outside.
A tour of the mine was $15 per person and included a little gold panning afterwards.
We walked down below ground into the mine which was at the time, the largest hard rock gold mine east of the Mississippi. Miners had to blast veins of quartz to uncover huge veins of gold. One vein of quartz was over 22 feet wide.
Our guide was very good and knew the history of the mine very well. I have always been fascinated with rocks and I particularly liked seeing the beautiful rocks inside the mine.
The tour moved a little fast for me, as I wanted to stop and look and photograph the rocks.
Aren’t they beautiful?
We started the tour off at the front of the group, but soon realized we needed to bring up the back because I kept holding everyone up when I stopped to take a picture.
The next problem was I kept hearing Al say, “hurry up, I don’t want to get left behind and lost.”
This was an original car that was used to haul the gold back up.
The guide explaining how they had to chip into the rock to make holes to insert dynamite sticks. After a while, new technology brought them these new tools that made the job a little easier, using water pressure to drill the holes.
The only problem with this tool was that it caused pretty rapid hearing loss. The guys that ran this tool got $1.50 per day, compared to the going rate for other miners of $1.00 per day.
We loved the gold mine, but after about 40 minutes the tour was over and we went the 200 feet back to ground level. I could have stayed a lot longer.
Next was our chance to pan for real gold. We didn’t enjoy that too much, but we did find a few flakes of gold. They put them in little glass vials, but I neglected to take a picture of our gold. It would have been hard to see anyway. :)
The gold panning was a part of the tour, but if you wanted to try your luck at gem mining, that would be extra. You pay for the size bucket you want. I think it started at $15, and up $100. We opted for the $30 bucket and split it.
We got a big bucket full of sand and ????? treasures…ruby’s, emeralds, garnets, ?????
What valuable gems would we find??
I had to slow Al down a bit. If I hadn’t, he would have sifted through all the sand in 2 minutes. For $30, I wanted us to take our time and enjoy it.
The next pictures are what we found.
They don’t look like much, but when we took them over to the table to compare them with actual gems, we found we did have some good stuff.
There were a lot we couldn’t id, so we took them to the guy that will (for a price) cut your gemstones for you.
He went over each stone and laid out the stones that were actual gems and were “cutable”
He sorted them out by what they were and laid them out on a by what they were. The guide showed what the stone was and what it looked like after it was cut.
I took a picture so that I could remember.
You can see that we got some rubies, emeralds, smokey quartz, garnets and much more. He thought we had a nice emerald. It would cost either $112 ot $186 to cut it, depending on the size gem we wanted. I think we’ll pass for now.
It was fun. We thoroughly enjoyed our day at the gold/gem mine. It cost us $60, but we felt it was worth it for a few hours entertainment.
It was time to leave Dahlonega, and head back over the mountain. We found a new (and less mountainous) route for our trip home.
We still had to go back up and over Blood Mountain, but this part was a wider road with passing lanes, so it was a little easier.
Al always, we found some mountain streams, with some little waterfalls alongside the road.
When we got home, our neighbor Alice brought over her dog Mr. Luke for a visit. I can’t remember his breed, but he is a a hairless breed. I was going to take a picture of his bald little butt, but Alice picked him up first. :) His eyes are sensitive, so he likes to wear sunglasses.
Later while taking Baxter on a golf cart ride, we ran across Spanky, walking his parents Doug and Sharon.
It was a long day, but we rested up and are back out it again. We may head Fort Mountain State Park.