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Johnny Vardeman: North Georgia's mining boom lasted after the 1820s rush
Johnny_Vardeman
Johnny Vardeman

Mining was top of mind for many Northeast Georgians in the 1890s. The peak of the Lumpkin County gold rush had diminished decades ago, though gold remains a tourist attraction today in the Dahlonega area.

But toward the end of the 19th century, mining for minerals was enough of an enterprise to cause the Georgia Cracker newspaper in Gainesville to publish a special edition promoting the industry. It listed gold and other mines in the area, locations and owners of operations in what it called the mineral belt.

Commenting on the untapped potential for mining, the Cracker said Northeast Georgia was “not a portion of God’s forsaken country,” but there was a fortune in its red hills and rocky mountains.

William Warren Habersham, a renowned mineralogist of that era, was bullish on the area’s mineral prospects, writing, “It has long been known that the hills of Northeast Georgia abound in almost all the minerals to be found elsewhere. Gold, silver, copper, lead, manganese, graphite, iron are all to be found in and around Flowery Branch.”

Indeed, at the time Gold Hill Mine in Flowery Branch was optimistic about a tunnel drilled into a hill in the town.

Habersham wrote passionately and eloquently about the prospects: “In the mountains of Georgia where the wild roses and mountain laurel unite with the sassafras buds in impregnating the atmosphere with the fragrance of the balm of a thousand flowers and where nature in all her mystic grandeur smiles to think that man should attempt to analyze the mysteries in which she is enshrouded, the ragged miner with pick, shovel and pan is to be found delving among the rocks in search of the untold wealth with which the state abounds.”

Hosch’s hard work

A Flowery Branch native, one of the prominent Hosch brothers, made a name for himself not only in Hall County, but in Missouri as well.

Born in 1880, Walter E. Hosch was active in Hosch Bros. wholesale dry goods company, a fixture in downtown Gainesville for decades. He also is credited with helping start Murrayville School and creating Green Street Circle, that still-quiet neighborhood that once branched off North Green Street and is now reached via Thompson Bridge Road or Holly Drive. He also started W.A. Roper, Inc., a real estate company that W.A. “Cousin Arthur” Roper managed for years.

Hosch later moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and was a pioneer in computing machines. Not the electronic marvels that exist today, but measuring machines, one called a Measuregraph. He also invented a couple of other measuring devices and wrote a book about various other measuring machines. Those around him called him a genius.

He died in St. Louis in 1918. At his request, roses from a bush he had planted at First Methodist Church, then on Green Street, covered his grave in Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville.

George followed Hosch out

That same month, another prominent person in Hall County history, J.B. George, died. He had joined Dr. E.E. Dixon in a pharmacy business in 1891, and when Dr. Dixon died, he became sole owner of George’s Drug Store on the Gainesville downtown square.

Dr. George was a director of the Citizens Bank, an elder in First Presbyterian Church, a Brenau College trustee and on the board of directors at Riverside Military Academy.

The hustlers of Klondike

A writer simply named “Sut from Gainesville” said this about Klondike, a community in south Hall County: “When Dolly Hughes wrote her novel ‘In God’s Country,’ she must have been in the Klondike region of Northeast Georgia for this is certainly the garden spot of the union. Under nature’s gentle touch everything thrives in this section … They (Klondike residents) are plain people, economical and are hustlers 12 months of the year.”

Hell and Forsyth County

Grover Cleveland was the first Democratic president elected after the Civil War. When he won a second term, A.D. Candler from Gainesville, was preparing to run for governor of Georgia. Candler was addressing a crowd of Cleveland supporters when a Cleveland opponent from Forsyth County asked about his county apparently going against the tide. Candler is said to have answered, “Everything went Democratic except hell and Forsyth County.”

Watch for more local history in this column next Sunday.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville; 770-532-2326; vardeman1956@att.net.

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