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Dahlonega Fifty Years Ago

 

Dahlonega Signal - Friday January 21, 1887

DAHLONEGA FIFTY YEARS AGO

The Incidents and Happenings as Related by an Inhabitant of our City at That Time

Some Time back as our heavy-weight reporter was meandering around in search of something newsy to enlighten the "civilized world" he entered the store of Mr. A. G. Wimpy with a light heart and an open note book ready to receive anything that would be of interest to the readers of the Signal. In conversation with Mr. Wimpy that gentleman happened to mention the fact that he had been in Dahlonega fifty years on the 8th of this month. This long residence in our little town of course impressed us with the idea that much could be told by Mr. Wimpy regarding her past history, and we listened attentively as Mr. Wimpy's vivid recollections of events transpiring in those good old days were made known to us. And so we will endeavor to give our readers a sketch of Dahlonega in those remote days as given to us through the kindness of Mr. Wimpy:

In the first part of 1833 the place where Dahlonega is now situated was nothing but a forest, no house of any kind being visible except a rude cabin not far from the present site of the College, but the miners who were around here thought that a town could be built and so a few houses went up and in the early part of 1834 the town was planned out. From this houses and stores began to be built. The late Harrison Riley was one of the most prominent men of those days. He was wealthy and was the man who erected the first store house. After the first house had been built an era of prosperity frowned upon the place. New people came in, the miners estabilshed little huts all along the roads now leading out from Dahlonega, and the news that a town had been built in this section flew far and wide.

About the year 1834 the pride of the Dahlonega citizens wanted the county court house located here, the county having been established in 1832. They were opposed by the people living around where Auraria now is, they desiring the court house located there, but the contention was at last settled as Dahlonega was victorious and the work of building the present court house was begun in 1836. It was completed in 1837. Before going further it might be well to state that in 1833 Auraria and the branches and creeks around it contained over 5,000 inhabitants.

The first newspaper published in the county was printed at Auraria in 1833 and was called the "Western Herald." The paper was edited by Allen P. Tambrough, and in politics it was of the extreme nullification school. After the county seat was established at Dahlonega the paper was moved here, but soon died, and the press and type were carried to Athens. In 1834 Milton H. Gathright purchased the old press and type again and removed them to Auraria where he established the "Miners Recorder and Spy in the West." It was printed by Patrick Jack. Geo. W. Paschal and Henry B. Shaw were the principal editors of the paper. Gathright was at one time county Judge of this county. Paschal and Shaw were lawyers.

Mr. Wimpy relates the fact that Judge Gathright once gave a man the right to put up a bar room in the corner of the court house where the fire engine now is. The man bought lumber and was starting to put up the shelves, when a party of the citizens politely told Judge Gathright that if the groggery was put up they would tear it down. The Judge knew that they meant exactly what they said and so it was not built.

The noise of the great gold pounding mill of to-day did not echo through the hollows then as now. The miners went to their work with a pan, shovel and pick, and many a time luck was struck and they went to their log huts with a nice little fortune after a day's work.

Whiskey flowed freely and it was no common sight to see fifty drunken men on the streets on Sunday. The bar rooms were open on Sunday as well as any other day of the week. The genuine old fist-fights were plentiful.

The iron horse of the railroad did not in those times snort through valleys and over hills. Freight of all kinds had to be hauled by wagon. The merchants bought their goods in Augusta, Ga., and the wagoners charged $3 for every one hundred pounds of freight hauled between here and Augusta. But the merchants did not care for this seemingly exorbitant freight rate for they made a profit on their goods that none of them make now.

Dahlonega became the trading post for everybody in North Georgia and away back as far into Tennessee as Knoxville. Mr. Wimpy says that he has bought corn from men who came from the other side of Knoxville. The price of corn fluctuated greatly, retailing from the stores at from 50 to $1.50 per bushel. Common calico sold at 37 cents per yard; broadcloth $12 per yard; from 10 to 20 pounds of sugar were sold for a dollar; coffee 10 to 16 pounds for a dollar.

The banking facilities will next claim our attention. The first bank in the county was the "Pigeon Roost," at Auraria. In 1837 Dahlonega concluded to have a bank, and so the citizens had one started up. It was a branch of the Darien at Savannah. The goldminers would occasionally deposit their gold in the bank. Some would put it in the bank at Augusta. The miners sold their gold here, and in Augusta and Charleston. They received about 93 cents a pennyweight.

A county jail was built soon after the court house had been erected. It stood near the residence of Col. Baker. A man by the name of Jones was the first Sheriff of the county.

The U. S. Mint was built in 1837 and commenced work in 1838. There is many a piece of gold coin in circulation in the United States that was coined in the mint here.

There are many other things that we would like to mention in relation to old times in Dahlonega, but space forbids too much being said. How ever, we may be able to some day mention more. Many amusing things are told by Mr. Wimpy that we would like to mention.

 

 

2016