So this kid, Conrad Reed, comes wandering along the Georgian outback one day back in 1799. Trips across a 17-pound rock in the stream on his father’s property.
Turns out the rock is a gold nugget.
So they do what any self-respecting family would do with 17 pounds of gold…they use it as a door stop.
And thus begins…and just as quickly ends…the first gold rush in Georgia.
They later sold that hunk of yellow rock for $3.50 to a jeweler.
A few years later, along comes Benjamin Parks, Jr., my fourth great-grand uncle.
He was born in 1802 and shuffled on to other gold rushes in 1895. But when he was 27 (sometime in 1828), he reignited the Georgian gold rush by finding gold in the same area.
At the beginning, apparently, it was a stampede the likes of which Georgia hadn’t seen before. An Illustrated History of the Georgia Gold Rush and the United States Branch Mint at Dahloneg, Georgia (by Carl N. Lester), quotes a bit of writing from old Gold Fingers Parks himself:
“The news got abroad, and such excitement you never saw. It seemed within a few days as if the whole world must have heard of it, for men came from every state I had ever heard of. They came afoot, on horseback and in wagons, acting more like crazy men than anything else. All the way from where Dahlonega now stands to Nuckollsville there were men panning out of the branches and making holes in the hillsides .”
That distance form Dahlonega to Nuckollsville is about six miles, and the earlier name for Dahlonega was actually ‘Licklog.’
That’s funny all by itself, but when you combine Licklog with the following account, it’s nothing but damned funny.
“I can hardly conceive of a more unmoral community than exists around these mines; drunkenness, gambling, fighting, lewdness, and every other vice exist here to an awful extent.”
Lewdness and vice in a place called Licklog. Almost hard to believe. Those crazy Georgians.
There were about 15,000 miners there at its height, with all kinds of businesses. One was called Sprawls Hotel and it was called “an establishment,” where drunk miners were allowed to “ooze” until they were dried out and wandered back on their way to their holes in the ground.
I’ve dealt with a lot of drunks and I’ve heard them called, and called them, lots of things. Not once have I ever heard it called oozing. Going to have to try that one on one of my DUI arrests. Might freak them out so badly it leaves them in a quiet and cold sweat in the back of my crime cruiser.
This all happened on land that had only recently – and in some cases still – belonged to the Cherokee Nation. And yes, the forced march you think you remember, the Trail of Tears, was at least partially to get them damned redskins off our land so we could get all that yellow money out the ground.
There were also state-sponsored lotteries which awarded 40 acres of gold-bearing land, yes, land once owned by those same Cherokees, to whoever held winning lottery tickets. That apparently spurred the gold rush further and faster and farther.
There are no records, at least that we’ve found yet, of what he did with his find, or how much gold he managed to yank up out of the Georgian dirt, but I can tell you we ain’t rich now. And haven’t any records of being rich in the past.
Soooo I’m guessing whatever he managed to find wasn’t much.
Or, he could have been like the rest of the miners. Maybe he dug it, sold it, then drank it, and simply oozed until it was time to pick up that shovel again.