Monday, January 7, 2008

Gold: North Carolina to Georgia

From The Gold Placers of the Vicinity of Dahlonega, Georgia, by William Phipps Blake, Charles Thomas Jackson, published 1859:

    According to [John] Wheeler,* the first piece of gold found in the United States, was picked up in 1799, by Conrad Keed, a boy twelve years of age, in the bed of a small stream on his father's farm in Cabarus [sic, Cabarrus] county, North Carolina, It was about the size of a small smoothing-iron, and was kept for several years in the house to hold the door open, and then sold to a silversmith for three dollars and a half. In the same stream many pieces of gold were afterwards found at intervals of several years, the largest being the twenty-eight pound lump so often cited. In 1829, the placers were opened in Burke and McDowell counties, in the same State, and from these mines the gold was traced southward into Georgia, where it was first discovered on Duke's Creek, in Habersham, now White county, in part, in the same year. The first fragment found weighed three ounces, and was taken out by John Witheroods, of North Carolina, but his claim of priority of discovery in Georgia is disputed by Jesse Hogan, also of North Carolina, who claims to have first taken out gold on a branch of Ward's Creek, in Lumpkin county, not far from Dahlonega, then in the Cherokee nation.
    ... At that time [1829] Habersham was an organized county, but the rest of the gold region was included in the Cherokee nation, over which the United States exercised a supervisory care. The richness of the newly-discovered mines soon brought together a large number of miners from Georgia and the adjoining States. These commenced mining chiefly on the lands of the Cherokees, and on that portion now included within the limits of Lumpkin county, the Chestatee River then being the eastern boundary of the Cherokee nation. This rush for the mines brought into the country thousands of men of great diversity of character, many of them dissipated and regardless of the future. Shanty groceries were set up all over the country, where whiskey was freely sold, and mountebanks attended with all kinds of tricks and shows, in the endeavor to share the easily-gotten gold of the miners. Drinking, gambling and righting were rife, and laws were little known and less cared for. The poor Indians saw with dismay their beautiful hill-sides, where they and their fathers had chased the deer for centuries, occupied by these centres of vice and immorality, and their lovely valleys and cool dells dug over and rendered hideous to the sight. These were known as the "times of the intrusion." To protect the Cherokees from this intrusion the United States stationed troops about five miles below where Dahlonega is now situated. The attempt was made to drive back the intruders beyond the Chestatee into Habersham county, where mining was also in progress, but with little or no success. While the miners were being driven from one creek or valley they would return to another, and so the robbery of the Cherokees continued. Parties often formed to cross the river in the night, and secure as much rich gravel as possible from some selected spot, with which they would recross the river in order to wash it out during the next day. Many deposits were stealthily worked and in great precipitation and haste, only the best spots being selected.
*History of North Carolina, ii. p. 64.