The Dahlonega Gold Belt
The Dahlonega Gold Belt is an extensive gold deposit that covers Georgia from Alabama to North Carolina. These mines are part of an extensive gold deposit that covers Georgia from Alabama to North Carolina and has been mined or prospected at least 217 sites.
While Dahlonega is currently nestled in the low-relief foothills of the rolling Blue Ridge mountains, the Dahlonega gold deposits at the Crisson Gold Mines and Consolidated Gold Mines remind us of a time in earth history when the Eastern side of North America was constantly subject to the colossal forces of tectonic collision.
Around 540 million years ago (about 290 million years before the first dinosaurs), a volcanic island arc chain formed outboard of what is now the eastern United States. Gold was deposited alongside island arc basalts between cracks of the ancient seafloor. Then, changes in plate tectonics shoved the entire ocean floor, and eventually the volcanic island arc, underneath the southeastern edge of North America. During this period of intense metamorphism (which was caused by the collision of North America and the island arc), the volcanic gold deposits were reorganized and concentrated into the thin, stringy veins of quartzite that are found around Dahlonega today.
Auraria is a present-day ghost town situated just south of the more well-known Dahlonega. Similar to Dahlonega, Auraria was a bustling gold mining town in its heyday, and was one of my towns that sprung up as a result of the Georgia Gold Rush of 1829 (Georgia Historical Commission, 1954). In 1832, Auraria was established as the county seat of Lumpkin County and boasted a tavern, hotel, and some small buildings to temporarily house the large influx of miners during the time. The demand for space was so high that a lottery, named the Georgia Gold Lottery of 1832, was held to distribute land, including land that was owned by Cherokee Indians. By May 1833, the population grew to be a tenth of the entire population in the county (10,000).
Half of the land just east of Auraria and noted on the historical marker of the town was purchased by then-Confederate Vice President John C. Calhoun. The Calhoun Mine was mined by slaves, which is unsurprising given the fact that Calhoun was a staunch defender of slavery.
More gold mines sprung up around the area, especially along the local creeks and rivers like the Etowah River and Camp Creek. The 40-acre gold lot that Auraria stood on was won by a man named John R. Plummer in the Georgia Gold Lottery. However, there were doubts regarding his qualifications for being able to participate in the lottery. Because many businesses and miners were pouring into the area, they chose to locate elsewhere for business due to Plummer’s legal debacle. Over time, the exodus of businesses northwards from the town took a permanent toll on the town which had no other economic means to boast besides gold mining. Having lost miners to more stable towns in the North, Auraria eventually lost its county seat to Dahlonega, and fell into deep decline.
Today, Auraria is a ghost town at the intersection of Castleberry Bridge Rd and Auraria Rd (also known as State Route 9E). All that stands today are a few homes, an abandoned hotel that is very unsafe to enter formerly called Graham’s Hotel, and Woody’s Convenience Store, which has many items still remaining in the store.
Contributors: Maya Bradford, Graham Stopa, Angela Jiang
Stone, P. (2012). The demise of the Iapetus Ocean as recorded in the rocks of southern Scotland. Open University Geological Society Journal, 33(1), 29-36.