Today, the Indian Princess Gold One Dollar Coin remembers the last day of coinage at the Dahlonega Branch Mint on February 28, 1861.
Though located near the gold mines of northern Georgia, the Dahlonega Branch Mint had already seen a reduction in their production of gold coins prior to the civil war.
After the war, the federal government chose not to continue coin stamping at the Dahlonega location.
Several historical references tell the story of the Georgia mint.
From The Merchants’ Magazine and Commercial Review of April 1867:
A mint was established at Dahlonega, in Lumpkin County, in 1837, which has received $600,000 in a single year, with an aggregate coinage to February 28, 1861, of $6,121,919. Of this amount, $5,825,747 was received during the period from 1838 to 1857.
Placer mining has been prosecuted in northern Georgia in a manner and with a success not unlike the experience of California.
Besides the true veins, which traverse the strata in which they lie in various angles of dip and direction, there are many depositories of gold in all directions around Dahlonega, which are auriferous beds of slates, often decomposed, and sometimes containing pyrites, and the gossan resulting from its decomposition.
In Lumpkin and Habersham counties especially, these metalliferous beds have been worked like open quarries, and the gold, in some instances, has been collected with the rocker or the pan, without recourse to crushing; worked, in fact, like deposit mines.
They contain rich nests and fine gold, most unequally diffused through the different layers among the slates; some are perfectly barren, in immediate contact with other streaks that may yield many dollars to the hundred-weight of material; but they are so intimately mixed that all must be treated alike when worked on the large scale.
The immense quantities in which these materials are obtained, and the ease with which they are quarried, sometimes render it an object to work them, though their yield is, on the whole, very small. These conditions are very favorable to the application of hydraulic mining, as carried to perfection in California.
Not long after the confederate confiscation of the southern branch mints, the Confederate Provisional Congress chose to close the Dahlonega Mint.
From Acts and Resolutions of the Second Session of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States, Held at Montgomery, Ala – Confederate States of America, published in 1861:
[No. 122.] AN ACT To suspend the operations of the Mints.
Section 1. The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That from and after the first day of June ensuing, the operations of the several mints in the Confederate States be suspended; and that all officers therein shall cease to exercise their functions or to receive any salaries; and that all moneys and bullion in the hands of any officer shall forthwith be transferred to the Treasurer of the Confederate States.
Sec. 2. That the mint at New Orleans, with the tools, implements and all appurtenances, be placed by the superintendent in charge of some fit person, to be approved by the Secretary of the Treasury; and that the said Secretary be authorized to accept the superintendent as such custodian, and to allow him, or such other person as may be appointed, the use and occupation of the portion heretofore used as a dwelling, in consideration of his undertaking the charge and safe-keeping of the whole establishment.
Sec. 3. That the Secretary of the Treasury, until otherwise directed by law, be authorized to take the same course in relation to the mint and public property connected with it at Dahlonega.
Approved May 14, 1861.
It seems the custodian did his job.
This letter described the Dahlonega facility after the war.
From The War of the Rebellion: Formal reports, both Union and Confederate, of the first seizures of United States property in the Southern States by the United States. War Dept., published in 1897:
Macon, Ga., June 15, 1865.
Secretary of War: I have just learned that the U. S. branch mint at Dahlonega is in good order, all of the buildings and fixtures being complete. I have directed General Winslow to send an officer and a party of men to that place for the purpose of protecting the interests of the Government. Citizens represent that considerable quantities of gold are being dug in the vicinity. The Treasury Department should take the matter in hand. Please send instructions.
J. H. WILSON, Brevet Major-General.
Even though the Dahlonega Mint survived the war, the Director of the Mint advised against re-opening the branch mint.
In his message to the President, he advised it be an assay office only.
From the Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress, at the Commencement of the First Session of the Thirty-Ninth Congress with the Reports of the Heads of Departments, published in 1866:
The suppression of the rebellion and the anticipated early return of the recusant States to their allegiance present the question, What shall be done with the branch mints at New Orleans, Louisiana; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Dahlonega, Georgia?
In my annual report of 1862 it was suggested that the branch mint at New Orleans, after the re-establishment of law and order in Louisiana, might be successfully operated, and that the branch mints at Charlotte and Dahlonega ought not to be employed again for minting purposes.
My opinions on this subject are unchanged. The commercial importance of New Orleans, and the relations of that city to every portion of our country, justified the establishment there of a branch mint; and the amount coined in that institution from its organization, in 1838, to January, 1861, confirmed the propriety of its location at that place.
During the period of its active operations, the total coinage was over seventy millions of dollars, as follows: $40,381,615 in gold, and $29,890,037 in silver. The deposits of silver at this branch have always been large; and it is worthy of consideration whether the coinage there should not, for the present, at least, be confined to silver.
The same reasons for re-opening the branches at Charlotte and Dahlonega do not exist. They are away from the commercial centers, inland, and of little commercial importance in themselves.
The existence of gold mines in their respective localities may be a reason for re-opening them as assay offices, but not for minting purposes.
The results of their operations from their commencement, in 1838, to February, 1861, do not sustain the policy of their original establishment. The coinage of both these branches is limited, by act of Congress, to gold.
At Charlotte the total coinage during the twenty-three years of the existence of this branch was only $5,048,641 50; and at Dahlonega for the same period, $6,121,919; an average annual coinage of about $250,000; declining at Dahlonega, from 1857 to 1861, to an annual coinage of about $70,000; and at Charlotte, for the same period, of less than $150,000.
These facts seem to be conclusive on the question of re-opening these branches for minting purposes, and particularly when there is no great probability of a large increase in the gold production of those localities.
To meet every commercial want of those places, and also the interests of the miners of gold, the re-opening of these branches for melting, refining, assaying, and stamping gold bullion would be amply sufficient; giving to the superintendent or treasurer of each branch authority to issue, in payment for gold-dust, bullion, or bars deposited for assay, drafts or certificates of deposit, payable in specie at the treasury, or any sub-treasury of the United States, to any depositor electing to receive payment in that form.
This provision would wholly supersede the necessity of coining at these branches, or any imaginary benefits resulting therefrom.
The Dahlonega Branch Mint became the main academic and administrative building for the North Georgia Agricultural College until a fire destroyed the original building in December 1878.
Today, the University of North Georgia’s Price Memorial with its gold leaf steeple is located on the site of the Dahlonega Branch Mint.
The Indian Princess Gold One Dollar Coin shows with an image of a North Georgia Agricultural College building, now Price Memorial, on the site of the Dahlonega Branch Mint.