Villa Rica, Georgia - City of Gold
Images From Pine Mountain Museum
The Villa Rica Gold Rush
Mention the US gold rush and most people think of California and the Wild Wild West. But actually, there is a little-know town north west of Atlanta, called Villa Rica, which boasts of the first gold rush in the nation. In fact the name Villa Rica was changed from its original name, Hixtown, to mean City of Gold.
According to history, Spanish explorers who set foot in North America in search of gold were told of a place where the natives wore golden hats and gave gifts of gold to the women who ruled those lands. No one knows for sure when the white settlers actually discovered gold in Georgia. Some believe it to be in 1826, but the gold rush was not publicized until 1829. By the mid 1830s there were as many as 500 gold mines in Georgia and 19 in Villa Rica. The southern gold rush, believed to be the first in the nation, lasted until 1840 and the region stretching from Rabun County through the city of Dahlonega, southward into Paulding and Carroll Counties became known as the Dahlonega (Georgia) Gold Belt. With the discovery of gold, the Cherokee Indians were driven off the land and the gold supplies began to dwindle. By 1849, miners began to leave for California.
Pine Mountain Gold
Villa Rica gold is said to be 98% pure - among the purest in the world. It is found in the form of gold dust, not flakes or nuggets, making it harder to find. However, between 1830 and 1840 about 20,000 pennyweights of gold (that’s over 800 pounds) were produced in the area. Most geologists believe that less than 20% of the gold in the area was mined, so there may still be gold in “them thar hills.”
The Pine Mountain Gold Museum
By the turn of the twentieth century, most of the mines had given way to cotton fields. Only the Pine Mountain Gold Mine in Villa Rica was still operating. Mining ceased after World War II began and most of the equipment was sold for the war effort. However some small pieces of equipment are housed in the Pine Mountain Gold Museum built on the site of the old mine at Stockmar Park. The museum covers 4,800 square feet and houses a 50-seat theatre, an exhibit hall, a covered gold and gemstone panning area and a 27-acre park with over 3 miles of self-guided walking trails.
Schedule And Fees
I took my grandchildren to the museum around 2.00 p.m. in the summer. That was not such a good idea since the museum opens Monday to Saturday from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. I paid the $5.00 fee for myself and $4.00 for each of the children. We were just in time for the 20-minute documentary which gives a lot of information on the history of the gold mine. When it was over, we entered the exhibit hall itself to view the exhibits, some of which you can see in the pictures. By the time we got out of there it was too late for us to do any panning, but we were given a quick demonstration of how it is done. To pan for gold will cost you $5.00 per bucket. By 4.00 p.m it was still too hot to explore the grounds and mining trails so we decided to call it a day, but I promised the children that we will definitely be back.
The museum accommodates groups of 15 or more, but you must call up in advance. The cost for a group tour is $6.00 per person and will include a guided tour of the museum and a panning bucket for each person. If you do visit Atlanta, I highly recommend a side trip to the Pine Mountain Gold Museum . The friendly and courteous staff will be happy to show you around. You will not be disappointed.