Northeast Georgia’s gold rush began in the late 1820s and continued until the Civil War in the 1860s.
However, mining for gold resumed for decades afterward, as well as dreams of new strikes for many years. Looking for gold nowadays primarily involves hobbyists who pan the streams more for fun. The gold story is told in Lumpkin County as a tourist attraction.
Even in the late 19th century, speculators visualized fortunes as mine property traded back and forth.
One of the richest gold veins in White County was known as the Reynolds Mine. Benjamin Reynolds supposedly almost went broke in South Carolina and came to Georgia in the 1830s with two slaves and $500. Exploring a ravine, they found a vein in what was known as Lot No. 10.
After coining $35,000 of the metal at the Dahlonega mint, Reynolds went back to South Carolina, bought 75 slaves and brought them to Nacoochee Valley to mine more gold. Several years later, he had taken a half million dollars of gold from White County mines.
When he died, he left an estate of $250,000, but told his children never to mine for gold. He also told them, however, never to sell Lot No. 10, which contained the Reynolds vein. Reynolds believed advancements in mining techniques and equipment would yield even more gold eventually.
His son, H.P. Reynolds of Floyd County, inherited Lot. No. 10, but its value had diminished. A sale didn’t attract much of a price, and it took a court to set aside whatever sale was made. The property went back to the son, who later sold it to J.R. Lumsden and J.H. Westmoreland apparently for what he thought was a fairer price.
That mine and others in White County continued to produce, but at a much smaller volume. Nevertheless, placer or surface mines are said to have yielded as much as $25 million by the 20th Century, and some said they were not exhausted. You can still see evidence of such mining in White County along such streams as Town Creek, Jenny Creek, Duke’s Creek and others.
Gold was mined in Hall County, but it was not in the same gold belt as Lumpkin and White counties. However, a gold belt ran right through the middle of Hall County from northeast to southwest. Some gold was even mined in Gainesville. Other mines were in Flowery Branch and Murrayville. Considerable mining was done in the area known as The Glades between Lula and Brookton.
In 1903, S.B. Cantrell found a gold vein on his farm just north of Gainesville. It assayed at between $98 and $104 per ton. That same year, gold prospectors invested in the Briar Patch mining area of Lumpkin County. They estimated the gold produced would rival that of the Alaskan gold fields.
By 1908, gold mining activity was brisk enough that an effort was made to locate an assay office in Gainesville. Proponents boasted that more than $1 million of gold had been mined in the area in the past 10 years. They also argued that more gold came out of Georgia than North or South Carolina, yet North Carolina had an assayer’s office.
More hoofnotes, memories from long-ago horse riders in Gainesville:
Missy Cronia Theobald rode around town from age 7 through high school, appearing in horse shows and riding to demonstrate horses for traders, which used to be a big business when an auction barn thrived at the Northeast Georgia Fairgrounds. She and fellow rider, Diane West, recently reminisced about 20 or so riders making it up Enota Drive hill.
Another time, a group of riders who used to swim their horses in Lake Lanier at the end of Dixon Drive came upon a body floating in the water. Her horse-riding group also got caught “riding the bases” at the Roper Park Little League baseball field.
And still another memory: They tied their horses and ponies to an awning at a hot dog place on Thompson Bridge Road when a motorcycle spooked the horses, and they proceeded to drag the awning into the road.
Theobald recently rode off into the sunset of a career that included riding, training and showing horses, mostly in Mississippi, having left Gainesville in 1969.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Sundays.