Activities at Elachee, and on the Chestatee River

Georgia Mountains Archaeological Society (GMAS) members hosted “Georgia Archaeology Day at Elachee” on Saturday, May 10, in the large classroom at our sponsor’s Environmental Education facility near Gainesville. There were exhibits on the various projects the club members have been involved in, field and laboratory techniques used by archaeologists, and experimental archaeology exhibits such as pottery making and stone tool making kits. In addition, there was a big exhibit on African cultural items brought to the U.S. in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by the medical missionary grandfather of John Widdowson, one of our members who is also active in the Bulloch Hall chapter.

On June 7, 11 of our crew made a canoe trip down the Chestatee River to observe and photograph remains of a nineteenth-century gold dredge. This was a huge structure that has been stranded in place for over a century, and is gradually disintegrating and being vandalized by river floaters over the past few years. Club members are trying to find official support and financial assistance to salvage portions of this important Georgia cultural resource before the combination of weather and vandals remove the remains forever. At the very least a HABS/HAER recording should be made of the vessel and its remaining parts. One of the GMAS members, engineer Brian Babcock, has made scaled drawings of the portions of the barge that are clearly visible, augmented by earlier photographs showing parts no longer present. He and chapter President Dan Page have visited and recorded it for several years.


View of the gold dredge (photo courtesy Eric Timms).

The next stage would be to record and salvage the major metal operating parts (chain pulley, two smaller pulleys, shift levers, (suction pipes, and other assorted metal items) before they are removed and show up on eBay or in some private collection. The size of the barge is probably too large to consider removing and preserving it intact. The barge is partly imbedded in the river bottom and under slumped sidewalls of the river. The metal parts will require electrolytic treatment to retard further rusting before they can be used in an exhibit. Treatment of wooden parts may also be required before exhibiting them.

Contact has been made with the Gold Museum in Dahlonega, and they appear happy to cooperate. Communications have begun with other state agencies and professionals on the process of salvaging at least parts of the gold dredge. If you wish to assist in this project, please contact State Archaeologist Dr. David Crass or members of the Georgia Mountains Archaeological Society.