Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dahlonega and Them Thar Hills Then

I originally wrote this post in 2006  I came across it the other day, so here I am getting more mileage of it.

Since the below was written we have been to Dahlonega several times and found the nearby ghost down of Auraria, which was actually the gold mining town.


Up until 1832 it was illegal for white men to come north of the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. A treaty existed to keep white men out that was signed by the representatives of the Creek Indians, Cherokee Indians, and the United States Government.

Then, gold was discovered in Dahlonega by white men. The fact that the white men were there illegally to discover the gold was not even considered, as far as I know.

“There is gold in them’ thar hills” was originated by Georgians talking about Dahlonega. The Treaty to keep white men out was quickly voided. What legal loophole did the government use to allow white men to come in and mine for the gold? Who needs a legality loophole? Gold is gold and Indians were not even Americans.

However, the Indians did sue and carried the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor. Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson was president then. He made a statement something like, “Supreme Court Chef Justice John Marshall made the decision, now, lets see him enforce it.” In other words, the Indians lost, because gold is gold and greed is greed.

The State of Georgia had a land lottery which several of my ancestors got land in and mined for gold.  Another ancestor, Jason H. Hunter, was one of the soldiers in the infamous “Trail of Tears” that marched the Indians, inhumanely, to Oklahoma.

Now, in present time the land of Lumpkin County has been hydraulically stripped, where in many places the land is not good for much except to trap tourists and be nice to the yuppie people who have cabins near by.

I have had friends right after our high school years to make bootleg moonshine trips from Dahlonega and Dawsonville to Marietta from time to time. To make a moonshine haul was something of a status symbol. The movie “Thunder Road” impressed us.

My senior year in high school, I think it was probably spring of 1960, a friend found out that their was a certain cliff north of Dahlonega that at the foot of it, many feet down, were a bunch of cars that went off the road. Some of the people there in Lumpkin County, and neighboring Fannin and Union Counties after they got tired of paying car payments would push their cars off that certain cliff and collect the money from the insurance.

Several of us decided that we would go up very early one weekend and with a long rope lower ourselves to the bottom and pick prime parts from the various vehicles and hoist them up via the rope.  We planned to be there at the top at daybreak. We preplanned to leave home at midnight.

What we didn’t plan was our social life. I think four of us went on the trip. Two of us went to a party on the spur of the moment and got drunk, just a few hours before our planned time to leave. That was a dumb thing to do.

On the way up we drunk plenty of coffee. North of Dahlonega is a fork in the road. At the fork is a big pile of rocks and boulders. The legend is that an Indian princess was buried there, I think there was also a love story involved, like in every Lover’s Leap place you have been to. If you turn right at the fork you would go over Blood Mountain, by Vogel State Park, and into Blairsville. If you turn left you would go more directly north and head towards Suches, Georgia, and Morganton, Georgia, which is the road we went.

We arrived at the spot much earlier than we had planned. It were hours before daylight. We pulled over and parked. On one side of us was the cliff over looking a valley of blackness but with some speckled lights. On the right, was a mountain. We were on a outward curve of a bend.

Not much to do until it got light, so we sat around in the road and talked and talked about adventures of the past.

One friend named Larry went off on the mountain side and found a several fallen limbs. He loved to build fires of big logs, which he did – in the middle of the road, in a outward bend, which hid by the geography of the road…. Gasp!

We continued to talk about old times, good times, and what all. Then, off in the distance we heard a truck shifting gears on the mountain terrain. We knew it was headed towards us. We tried stomping out the fire, we tried moving the burning logs but couldn’t because they were covered in flames and the truck was getting louder and louder.

Oh shit! Was about our only verbal response.

Around the corner its headlights materialized and his brakes begin to squall. We took off to the side of the road.

In a last minute decision the driver decided to accelerate and plow right through it. KAPOW! Red cinders flew up in the air, and the flaming logs scattered. A couple even went off the cliff. Luckily for us no big fire occurred that got uncontrollable.

We must have been doing something right…. What?

He kept on going.

I brought up that when he got someplace he would probably call the law and report us. So, we left.

We went up near the town of Blue Ridge, Ga., and drove back.

We timed it pretty good and arrived back at the site at daybreak and lowered the rope. Larry went down, then Gene, then me. The other Larry was going to stay up top to raise the rope as we died parts to it.

Half-way down I began to feel woozy. On a dangling rope with many feet straight down I was getting sick. I couldn’t let go. I hung on for dear life and vomited. Which splattered on Gene. He took it good stride and even laughed about it later.

Gene had about 2 months to live at that point. He was in a drag race, which he collided head-on with a policeman, a Mr. Hood, who had just left his house for dinner, and apparently forgot to turn on his headlights. He and Gene were killed instantly. Gene was a freshman at Georgia Tech.

We got to the bottom and there were 3 cars. Larry looked around each one and anything of value had already been stripped off.

So, back home.

Dahlonega was just about the only town of any size you would first come to as you went to the north Georgia mountains from Marietta. I remember one time double dating we were getting gas in the middle of town and there was a big sign beside the service station saying, “MAKE PEACE WITH JESUS”. Joe, the other male in the car, read the sign aloud and said, “I didn’t know we were at war with Him.”

Before the year 2000 I read in the magazine North Georgia Journal or Georgia Back Roads (the magazine changed names) about a rose farm in Dahlonega. The rose farm was a family business and it told of all their species, varieties, and what all. I don’t have much interest in roses but I had an interest in the family. Their name was Ridley, which is my mother’s mother’s maiden name. I think I figured out what relationship these Ridleys were, but wanted to know more so I went to see them in 2001. When I got there I found out the Ridleys sold their rose operation to a Japanese corporation and they moved to Florida.

Sometime in the past four or five years Anna and I went to the gold museum in Dahlonega which used to be the courthouse, is in the dead center of town, and the downtown street loops one-way around it.

Dahlonega is also the home of the North Georgia Military Academy.

Last fall we went with another couple who live in nearby Cleveland to an outing in Dahlonega. It is now full of antique and gift shops. Tourists were all over the place. Yep, Gold is still in those thar hills.

The reason I just wrote just about everything I can think about Dahlonega is this coming Saturday we are going to an arts and craft festival there – a weekend event called “Bear In-The Tree Fair”. The reason we are going is that they are also having a week end long blue-grass fest there. A friend that our son went to Europe with will be there playing with his new band and we would like to hear him play again.


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