America's First Gold Rush

News of the discovery of gold in north Georgia spread as quickly as a lightening strike and prospectors poured in just as fast. The boomtown of Auraria sprung up to accommodate miners, but later mining activities centered in Dahlonega. Frank Moon, a fifth generation gold prospector describes how gold fever gets in one’s system as he demonstrates panning for the shiny ore. The last real effort to mine gold in north Georgia was in the 1930s. Mining efforts have included dynamiting the mountains, crushing the rock, and even blasting the hillsides with water cannons. Local Dahlonega bookstore owner Bill Kinsland describes Benjamin Parks, the man who started it all twenty years before the more well-known California gold rush. Dr. Ray Rensi at Dahlonega’s North Georgia College describes how 10,000 people rushed to the area seeking gold. However, it was the merchants and innkeepers “mining the miners” who got rich. Cecil Summerour’s great, great grandfather was a merchant in Auraria and the records show he did well until the miners left for California. As Bill Kinsland muses, the people who were miners wanted to get rich quick without doing hard work. The lure of gold being easy to find in California was too much for them to stay in Georgia.

Teacher tip: Many simultaneous events occurred around the period of the discovery of gold in Georgia. Have students create a timeline using dates and events in the video and from other resources, listing as many events as possible in order to get a written picture of the time.