Monday, September 2, 2013

Looking For Gold in Them, There Hills

Cherokee County Gold State Historical Marker
photo by David Seibert

Travel back 150 years ago and most of my and my husband's relatives were farmers or laborers.  One of my husband's relatives, however, had an different occupation.  According to the 1860 census, this second great grand uncle, Samuel Hillhouse, was a gold digger in Cherokee County, Georgia.  

Although Samuel Hillhouse had returned to farming by the 1870 census, his occupation was a first in my research, and I wanted to learn more about it.  My husband and I both grew up in North Georgia, but neither of us were familiar with gold mining in Georgia anywhere other than around Dahlonega, Georgia.  It took a little research to learn more about other areas where gold had been mined or found in our home state.

According to the State Historical Marker pictured above, Cherokee County was part of Georgia's Gold Belt.  The county had a number of small mines, especially in an area called Sixes after the six small placer mines previously worked by the Cherokee Indians.(1)  In fact, the gold from the Sixes Mine was considered to be extremely pure.(2)  Finally. the name of the Sixes community, home to relatives on both sides of the family, made sense!

It is surprising to realize that people still occasionally find gold in the streams near the old mines.  The Allatoona Gold Panners club has an interesting slide presentationan about the locations, equipment, and techniques that are part of pursuing this present day hobby.  These days, most of the former mines in Cherokee are beneath Lake Allatoona.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers even has a Gold Panning Policy for "recreation panning" around the shores of Lake Allatoona.(3)  Another former mine is near an exclusive residential community.   From the photo below, there apparently is still some gold to be found.  

Vial of Cherokee County placer gold
photo by Mike Jacoby, 
Cherokee Life

It just seemed natural to mention Samuel Hillhouse and his occupation on Labor Day.  Thanks for the history lesson, Samuel.

(1) Jackson, Ed, webmaster, GeorgiaInfo, online images and essays; "Georgia Historical Markers" : 2013.
(2) "Cherokee County",, online images and essays; : 2013
(3) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, "Gold Panning Policy, Allatoona Lake." : 2013

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