Friday, April 19, 2013

Dahlonega Gold Museum

On the way home from a recent vacation to the North Carolina mountains, we stopped in Dahlonega, Georgia, to visit the historic town—and quite a charming town it is—also home of the Dahlonega Gold Museum


Dahlonega Gold Museum, former Lumpkin County Courthouse
Dahlonega Gold Museum, former Lumpkin County Courthouse
Most Atlantans know Dahlonega as the city where the gold comes from to guild the dome of the Georgia State Capitol Building. But there's so much more to their story. In this post, I'm going to write about the Dahlonega Gold Museum, and touch on a few historic milestones, as well. Enjoy the photos from the Museum intertwined in my reverie.


Lumpkin County safe used 1886 to 1965
Lumpkin County safe used 1886 to 1965
First, the building that houses the Museum is actually Georgia's oldest existing courthouse. That's impressive enough, but the courthouse was built in 1836, more than 175 years ago! Of a Federal design with Greek Revival influences, the building nearly met with destruction to put in a parking lot—that was 1965. 


Hand-sewn Masonic Apron
Hand-sewn Masonic Apron
Instead, due to the remarkable efforts of concerned citizens, Lumpkin County sold the building and property to the State of Georgia for $10, which invested $100,000 to  revitalize the structure after which it became the Gold Museum. It's also on the National Historic Register.


Gold and other minerals and precious metals on are display
Gold and other minerals and precious metals on are display
The word Dahlonega come from the Cherokee word "dalanigei," which means "yellow money" or in another word, gold. 

In 1830, when Georgia assumed ownership of the Cherokee Nation, the land was named Cherokee County, which was later divided into 10 smaller counties, one of them being Lumpkin County.

In 1838, federal troop rounded up the remaining Cherokee Indians and forced them to march to Oklahoma, the deadly "Trail of Tears"...4,000 of the relocated 15,000 Cherokees of that forced exile died.


Gold Belts of Georgia
Gold Belts of Georgia
In 1835, Congress approved Dahlonega to be one of three new U.S. Branch Mints, which went into operation in 1838 and continued minting until the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War.


William Windom, Representative & Senator
William Windom, Representative & Senator
Those who know me well will understand my excitement when I discovered a connection between the Dahlonega Gold Rush and Star Trek...yes, Star Trek!

Turns out, the president of the Lumkin-Chestatee Mining Company, William Windom, who also served as a U.S. Representative and a U.S. Senator, is the great-grandfather of the recently deceased actor William Windom, Commodore Decker on Star Trek: The Original Series. Interestingly enough, the Decker character wore a "gold" tunic on the show. Windom had quite the illustrious acting career!


Gold-processing Tools, Dahlonega Gold Museum
Gold-processing Tools, Dahlonega Gold Museum
Some of the many, many, many gold mining artifacts.


Pick Axe used for mining gold in the 1800s
Pick Axe used for mining gold in the 1800s
The Museum has countless artifacts on display and the Museum experience begins with a film that chronicles the history of America's first major gold rush...I highly recommend making time for the video. It's extremely well done.


Five-stamp Mill, Dahlonega Gold Museum
Five-stamp Mill
One of the many artifacts in the Museum is a five-stamp mill that's taller than me and the stamps, used to crush ore to test for gold, were 150 pounds, yet the contraption was moved from mine to mine.


Bornite, Dahlonega Gold Museum
Bornite, Dahlonega Gold Museum
One thing that the Museum is famous for is its rare, complete collection of of U.S. Branch Mint gold coins. While the coins are on public display, photography of them is prohibited. Visitors may make photos anywhere else in the Museum.

There's a LOT more to this Museum, but instead of tell you everything—which would require writing a novel—I'll just encourage you to go visit yourself. It's not that far and it's a lovely drive. 

Head over to the wanderlust ATLANTA Facebook Page where you'll find even more photos from this visit. Enjoy!

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