Monday, September 29, 2008

Ghost Town with a Golden Past

Not much is left of Auraria. If you blink twice you might miss the remains of what was once a gold rush boom town. Woody's Store and the crumbling remains of what was once the Graham Hotel, both built around 1830, are most of what is left now.

Gold was discovered in Lumpkin County in 1828 by a fellow named Benjamin Parks while hunting in what was then the domain of the Cherokee Indians. Word soon spread of the discovery and over 1000 miners converged on the area in search of their fortunes. Two separate towns emerged from this influx of citizens, Dahlonega and Auraria. Auraria was the county seat of Lumpkin County for four years beginning in 1828. The main street in Auraria was lined with saloons, dry good stores and other businesses that catered to the needs of the miners.

Dahlonega became the county seat in 1832. Gold production was heavy for the first few years, leading to the establishment of the Dahlonega Federal Mint. Over $20 million in gold was mined in Lumpkin County between 1828 and 1849, when most of the mining and miners mover to California to join the famous west coast gold rush.

Auraria remained a viable town as hydraulic mining was introduced in the late nineteenth century, but the lack of a railroad and the growth of Dahlonega caused Auraria to become less important and a shadow of it's former importance. The old store last known as Woody's continued to operate until the 1980s, when the last vestige of commerce ceased to exist in Auraria.

Today, people pass Auraria on ther way from the nice subdivisions and homes north of Dawsonville to Dahlonega. A mile from the old store, Castleberry Bridge Rd. crosses the Etowah River which is popular with canoeists, fishermen and kayakers. Subtle remnants of the gold days are evident along the river but go unobserved for the most part.

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