Off to Dahlonega, Georgia, site of the first gold rush in the United States. The name comes from the Cherokee word for gold or yellow money. They say the streets in Dahlonega are paved in gold. Are they?
BENJAMIN PARKS AND HIS BOOTS
I knew from the research for my second grade show, MS NOODLEHEAD HAS GEORGIA ON HER MIND, that Benjamin Parks of Dahlonega is credited for the discovery of gold in 1828. He had just had a birthday and went off deer hunting when his boot hit a rock. Upon closer inspection and after whacking it open, he found the yellowiest color which he knew was…GOLD. And voila! The rest is history. So we were off in search of the site where Benjamin Parks found the first gold nugget in a stream somewhere off Hwy 19 that leads from GA 400 into Dahlonega.Off to Dahlonega, Georgia, site of the first gold rush in the United States. The name comes from the Cherokee word for gold or yellow money. They say the streets in Dahlonega are paved in gold. Are they?
WHERE IS THE MARKER?
I had done my homework. I looked on the Dahlonega Visitor’s Center site and found out about a marker–one of those typical Georgia state historical markers–that marked the exact spot. It was supposed to look like this (see photo on right) and was supposed to be located at the corner of Calhoun Gold Mine Road and Hwy 19.
Thank goodness for GPS or we would have missed this dinky little dirt road entirely. In fact, we did miss it and had to backtrack. The visitor’s center website said the marker was pretty much hidden by some red, leafy bushes. No red leafy bushes to be found. Wrong time of year? No marker anywhere.
All we saw was a marker for a wedding up the dirt road. So my husband started taking pictures of the little dribble of a creek where the marker was supposed to be. At least we could put that in the book. And he took a photo of the Calhoun Gold Mine Road sign (see earlier in the text).
A GODSEND OF A VISITOR
All of a sudden, Dean Chuvala appeared. He turned out to be a godsend. He lived on a property on the other side of the creek. He thought we were searching for something we lost–like a hubcap and came to offer his help. He turned out to be this treasure trove of information–perhaps our gold nugget?
First and foremost he authenticated the spot. Yes, that was where Benjamin Parks found the first gold nugget. As for the marker, the county had removed it some while back while some road work was being done. Apparently Calhoun Gold Mine Road washes out quite often onto Hwy 19 and they had been after the county for quite a while to pave this historic road that led up to the original Calhoun Mine. Dean even called some people he knew to see if anyone knew where that durn marker was now–in storage or elsewhere. No luck.
A DISTANT RELATIVE TO PARKS
Then he told us his wife was a distant relative of Benjamin Parks and had even donated some of his things to the Dahlonega Gold Museum in downtown Dahlonega. And he and his wife hoped to one day have a B and B right there on this historic site. We were disappointed in the state of Georgia or the town of Dahlonega or whoever for not making a bigger deal of the place where Benjamin Parks stubbed his toe on a gold nugget!
Then Dean, who indeed was this treasure trove of information, told us that the mine was privately owned by a Mr. Ruskin, now deceased, who did not cotton to people going up his road and snooping around. The mine no longer existed but it had quite a history behind it. Apparently during a drunken stupor, his truck got stuck in a rut on one side of the now muddy, dirt road, and Dean helped pull him out. As a reward Mr. Ruskin offered to let Dean bring friends and family up the road to view the ruins.
So Dean one day took advantage of the offer, only to come face to face with Mr. Ruskin’s shotgun. “Get off my property!” So that was the end of that. And the end of that for anyone, as the property was closed off since Mr. Ruskin’s death. The road is dusty and dirty (and must be a nightmare when it rains…or snows). But that day there was a wedding, not on the Ruskin property, but beside it where there is some sort of party venue. We didn’t feel like partying as we had more places to stop by and photos to take…all before dark.
We were greatly heartened that our first road trip/photo trip turned out to be quite an adventure, a mystery solved, and the meeting of Dean Chuvala, a true treasure himself.
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DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Dahlonega stands out on Memorial Day. The roads of the city and Lumpkin County are lined with memorial markers for the deserving, those who have served and sacrificed in the United States military.
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