It was the original Gold Rush, and it kicked off 21 years before the California event we usually associate with that phrase. Gold fever raged in Lumpkin County, GA till the close of the nineteenth century, and Dahlonega attorney Wier Boyd placed himself in the midst of the myriad legal dealings.
Boyd was admitted to the bar in 1856, and later represented his county and district in both branches of the Georgia legislature. He and his son Marion formed Boyd & Boyd in 1870 and acted as a broker, collector and liaison for a number of mining clients.
Correspondence to Colonel Boyd (he served in the Civil War) now online at the Digital Library of Georgia documents the activities of the Rider Mine (1868-1883), the Yahoola and Cane Creek Hydraulic Mining Company (1868-1883), the Consolidated Mines (1879-1882), and the Phoenix Gold Mining company (1891-1892).
Here’s a typical example, a letter from an F. E. Dickie, secretary of the Phoenix Gold Mining Company, to Wier Boyd, dated April 28, 1892. Dickie promises to pay Boyd for costs associated with preparing the Exter v. Etowah Gold Mining Company case for argument before the Supreme Court.
Dickie asks to compare Boyd’s bill of exceptions with that of his own lawyer in preparation for the case. He argues that because F. C. Exter accepted stock in lieu of monetary compensation, he does not have a valid claim against Etowah Gold Mining Company for monetary compensation. On those grounds, Dickie believes they can get the case dismissed.
Your favor of the 25th inst [instant] at hand and noted. In reply will say, please prepare the case for the Supreme Court, and on Monday or Tuesday of next week I will send you a check for $50 to pay costs in the matter.
When you have prepared your bill of exceptions inasmuch as the suit that we contemplate bringing at this end against the old management might be affected by the suit at your place, if agreeable I wish you would forward the bill to me so that I could refer it to my lawyer who being more thoroughly acquainted with the whole matter might be able to suggest some things that would benefit us in our suit here and which could be put in the bill of exceptions as prepared by you. I think we would have time to do this.
In regard to President Cheney will say, that we must go to the Supreme Court without his appearing in the case at all. We do not question the employment of Mr. Exter, but we do question the consideration that he claimed for the employment; his consideration for the employment was the large amount of stock that he held and for which he did not pay a nickel. If he did not receive the stock then he would be entitled to a money consideration, but he did accept the stock, and as you will notice in his testimony swore to having sold some of it and kept the proceeds. This of itself ought to be sufficient to throw his case out. We can prove by the Vice President that he was to receive nothing as Gen’l [General] Manager, except as stated above.
F. E. Dickie
Gold mining continued on a limited scale in Dahlonega until the turn of the twentieth century, when the advent of new mining technologies gave rise to a flurry of new activity. Amory Dexter, a gold mining entrepreneur with business interests in Dahlonega, had alluded in letters to Wier Boyd that board members of the Yahoola Mining Company of Boston, MA would probably decide to erect a mill in Dahlonega.
Construction of the Consolidated Gold Mining Company began in Dahlonega in 1899, during a revived interest in the area’s gold. The company was the largest gold-processing plant east of the Mississippi River.
Several companies did indeed set up new gold-processing plants locally. The one erected by the Dahlonega Consolidated Gold Mining Company in 1899 on Yahoola Creek was the largest ever built east of the Mississippi River. None of the operations were able to turn a profit, though, and they soon went out of business.
Wier Boyd did not live to see that turn of events. In November of 1893, in company with his son, he was returning from an inspection trip to one of his gold mines on the outskirts of town. In front of the residence of E. E. Crisson, on Clarkesville Street, Col. Boyd suddenly exclaimed that he was very sick; and as he spoke, he dropped dead.