Friday, November 21, 2014

The Start of Gold Fever

Have you ever been to Dahlonega, Georgia? My brother Bryan and I visited there in 1987. It started a bout of gold fever. That area was one of the first places in the United States to have commercial gold mining operations. Dahlonega, Georgia is located on top of the largest gold deposits found east of the Mississippi River in the USA. Gold was first discovered, completely by accident, in the Dahlonega area in 1828, twenty years before the Gold Rush to California. Deer hunter, Benjamin Parks, tripped over a rock 2 ½ miles south of what is now Dahlonega, upon inspecting the rock, he discovered that it was full of gold! Perhaps you can see one of the reasons for my brother and my fascination. Of course our sir name is Parks too.

Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site

The first time we went there we had a ball. We explored the museum downtown first. It was on the square and housed some really cool displays of real big gold nuggets. One was at least as big as my head. There were all kinds of antique mining equipment and placards with all kinds of information.

After we had enough of the museum, we headed over to a tourist working mine. There one could purchase buckets of ore, and pan out the gold with a gold pan, in troughs they had set up. It was really exciting finding that first bit of color. There was some specks, Then a flake, and now another. Bryan yelled "Ye-haw" when he found a pea sized first nugget. Turning towards me with it between his fingers, and the hugest smile between his ears. It is such a nice image of him for me. So happy.

Crisson Gold Mine

We ended up buying 10 buckets of dirt from to take back home with us. That week we started in on building a sluice. We went to the library for books on it because the internet wasn't there. After we built the sluice, we set a hose in one end and started carefully spooning in the dirt we had bought. We didn't want to waist any of it. By the time we had went through the 10 bags of gold ore, we has 1/3 of an ounce of gold flakes, dust and a few nice little nuggets. It was awesome.

We drove down to Green Cove Springs to visit our dad soon thereafter. When we showed him the gold, he got excited and said come on out to the garage. When we got out there, he whipped out a cast iron skillet and an acetylene torch. We dumped the gold into the skillet and applied some heat. It wasn't long before we had a nice little button of gold. Dad commandeered the gold, but we didn't mind. He said he wanted to make a pendant out of it.

Later Bryan and I studied all we could find about gold mining and the geology of it. We made a lot of trips to Dahlonega to look for gold. There are streams in the area that really have gold in them. You can go under most bridges around there with your pan and get color. Sometimes people get lucky and find a nice concentration. We met people who had tents set up under bridges. They stayed there every season to pan gold.

I think that's how Bryan and I got bit by the gold bug. Two young men with adventure in their hearts, and gold in their eyes. I can totally understand why people in the Yukon gold rush gave up everything to take a chance. The gold bug got my brother and I to give up what we had, and strike out. We were going to go to Alaska, and go for broke. Like so many before us that's what ended up happening. I think I'll reserve that story for another time.