That is the peculiarity of gold mining; it is just like gambling

Posted by | February 13, 2013

“The gold,” he mused; “yes, I will come to that. It was just by accident that I came across it; the site is now that of the Calhoun Mine. I was deer hunting, one day, when I kicked up something that caught my eye. I examined it, and decided that it was gold. The place belonged to Rev. Mr. Obarr, who, though a preacher, was a hard man, and very desperate.

19th century gold miners in North GeorgiaEngraving of gold miners in Georgia. Artist unknown. From “Gold-Mining in Georgia,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine,(June to November 1879): p. 519.

“I went to him, and told him that I thought I could find gold on his place if he would give me a lease of it. He laughed, as though he did not believe me, and consented. So a lease for forty years was written out, the consideration of which was that I was to give him one fourth of the gold mined. I took into partnership a friend in whom I had confidence. I went over to the spot with a pan, and turning over some earth it looked like the yellow of an egg. It was more than my eyes could believe.

“The news got abroad and such excitement you never saw. It seemed within a few days as if the whole world must have heard of it, for men came from every State I had ever heard of. They came afoot, on horseback, and in wagons, acting more like crazy men than anything else. All the way from where Dahlonega now stands to Nuckollsville there were men panning out of the branches and making holes in the hillsides. The saddest man in the county was Preacher Obarr from whom I had leased the land. He thought the lease was a joke but now he found out that it was in earnest.

“One day he came to me and said:

“‘Mr. Parks, I want your lease.’

“‘ But I will not sell it to you,’ I replied.

“‘Why not?’ he asked.

“‘Well,’ I answered, ‘even if I were willing, it is now out of my power, for I have taken a partner, and I know he would never consent to it. I have given him my word and I will keep it.’

“‘You will suffer for this, yet,’ said Obarr, menacingly, as he went away.

“Two weeks later I saw a party of two women and two men approaching. I knew it was Obarr’s family, intent upon trouble. Knowing Obarr’s fondness for litigation, I warned my men to hold their own, but to take no offensive step.

“‘Mr. Parks,’ were Obarr’s first words, ‘I want that mine.’

“‘If you were to pay me ten times its value.’ I replied, ‘I would not sell it to you.’

“‘Well, the longest pole will knock off the persimmon,’ he said threateningly.

“At that moment Mrs. Obarr broke the sluice gates to let out the water. A laborer was in the ditch and the woman threw rocks in the water in order to splash him. Failing to make him aggressive, she burst into tears; when her son advanced to attack him I caught him by the collar and flung him back.

“Then the party went off, swore out warrants against us, and had us all arrested. All this was done for intimidation, but it failed to work, and the next thing I heard was that Obarr had sold the place to Judge Underwood, who in turn sold it to Senator John C Calhoun of South Carolina, and then I lost a fortune.

“Senator Calhoun wanted to buy my lease, and I sold it for what I thought was a good price. The very first month after the sale he took out 24,000 pennyweights of gold, and then I was inclined to be as mad with him as Obarr had been with me. But that is the peculiarity of gold mining. You will go day after day exhausting your means and your strength until you give it up. Then the first man who touches the spot, finds the gold the first opening he makes. It is just like gambling; all luck.”

—Benjamin Parks, from an 1894 interview in the Atlanta Constitution. Parks is said by some to be the person who discovered gold in Georgia in 1828, west of the Chestatee River in Lumpkin County.

source: “A preliminary report on a part of the gold deposits of Georgia, Bulletin No. 4-A,” by William Smith Yeates and Samuel Washington McCallie, Geological Survey of Georgia, 1896

One Response

  • Mardine Campbell says:

    Thank you for publishing this. My gg grandfather prospected in northern Georgia in Lumpkin county in the 1840s before moving to Pickens county, Georgia, where he farmed and mined. He didn’t strike it rich but he made enough to buy his farm and provide cash.

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