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White County marks 'discovery' of gold with bronze statue
North Georgia woman donates money for gold miner sculpture
The bronze statue of a gold miner stands in front of the old White County courthouse in Cleveland. It was unveiled at a recent ceremony. - photo by J.K. Devine

White County has a new discovery to add to its rich gold mining history.

This month, the White County Historical Society in Cleveland unveiled an original bronze sculpture, “The Discovery,” commemorating the discovery of gold in the county. The six-foot-tall sculpture depicts a 19th century gold miner holding a gold nugget above his head.

Master sculptor Gregory Johnson, of Cumming, created the monument while Mark Irwin designed and built the pedestal it stands on. The sculpture was given to the society by Annette Adams in memory of her late husband, Eugene Adams.

The Adamses were very involved with the historical society and supported historic preservation. Judy Lovell, immediate past president of White County Historical Society, said the gift was the most generous the society has ever received to her knowledge.

Lovell said she believes the statue will become a tourist attraction for people visiting Cleveland. More than 100 people attended the recent unveiling of the sculpture at the old county courthouse, the present-day historical society museum.

The Georgia gold rush began more than 180 years ago, but people are still looking for the shiny mineral in streams and at roadside gold panning businesses.

“People are still intrigued with the fact that gold was discovered here and the possibility that there probably still is some gold,” Lovell said. “Maybe not a lot but there could be some gold in the creeks in the area. There’s a lot of panning that still goes on here and all over in the North Georgia area.”

According to the historical society, gold was first discovered in 1828 in the county by a slave in a tributary of Dukes Creek in Nacoochee Valley of what is now White County. Gold was also discovered in the nearby city of Dahlonega in Lumpkin County the same year. These discoveries sparked the first U.S. gold rush.

White County boasts of being the site of the largest gold nugget found east of the Mississippi River in the Hamby Mines by John Phillip Thurmond in 1889. The nugget weighed about 25.5 ounces. At the time the nugget was valued at $882.

Another large piece of gold was found in 1952 by 17-year old Jere Chambers on the road near his home just outside of Cleveland. The nugget was worth about $156 at the time. His descendant, Danny Brown, attended the dedication ceremony of the statue and brought the gold piece to show to the audience and Annette Adams.

Lovell said tourists to the area are always interested in learning more about the history of Georgia’s gold rush and she believes the statue will help educate those who are interested. A plaque with information about the area’s history hangs near the statue. There are also several historical markers in the county indicating the location of historic sites.