Submitted by Sammy Smith (email@example.com)
The first documented find of gold in Georgia dates to the summer of 1829. By late 1829, hopeful prospectors rushed to northern Georgia. By the next spring, thousands had invaded what was then the Cherokee Nation. Optimistic miners wandered the creek bottoms, looking for good spots to pan for gold. By 1834 slave-owners were dispatching many slaves to do the hard work of mining during slack agricultural seasons (Coulter 2009:14).
E. Merton Coulter’s Auraria: The story of a Georgia gold-mining town (University of Georgia Press, Athens), originally published in 1956 and released in paperback in 2009, relies on archives of the town’s newspaper, Western Herald, to chart the growth and peak of the mining town’s history. The city is now a ghost town. (This book is now available as a PDF through the Digital Library of Georgia in collaboration with the University of Georgia Press’ Georgia History Ebook Project.) As Coulter notes in the Preface (page ix):
Though there is no attempt here to give a history of gold-mining in the South or even in Georgia, the importance of this book goes far beyond a mere local study. Apart from its description of life in a booming and exciting gold-mining town, the first in American history, this book in placing Auraria in its proper perspective, brings in historic developments which concerned the South and the nation as a whole.
At its height, Auraria had a population of perhaps a thousand, and the Lumpkin County perhaps ten thousand (page 18). Coulter tells of merchants, preachers, and lawyers who also moved to the town. As to education, he notes (page 44):
The votaries of education were less loud and even less able to create excitement in their field than those of religion, in theirs. Schools were little mentioned and less cared for in Auraria, and one important reason for this fact was that most of the people in the Auraria country were men or boys beyond the school age of those times all looking for gold instead of education or religion. It would be some years before the population of this region would become settled sufficiently to raise children for schools, or themselves to have time to become interested in religion.
Peruse Coulter’s interesting tale of a town that flourished in the blaze of an economic boom, and think of the many settlements, whether historic-period like Auraria or from prehistoric times like Etowah, that once dotted Georgia’s landscape, and now are no more.