First gold rush was in Villa Rica

If you’re new in town or have questions about this special place we call home, ask us! E-mail Andy Johnston at q&a@ajc.com or call 404-222-2002.

Q: I’ve always known about Dahlonega’s gold rush, but I recently heard there was one in another Georgia city before that one. Is that true? If so, where was it?

A: The name of the city gives sort of gives it away, but some knowledge of Spanish helps.

Villa Rica was Georgia’s original village of riches, home to a small gold rush in 1826 that beat Dahlonega’s more famous dash for cash by a couple of years.

I came across info about Villa Rica’s gold rush when I researched the explosion that killed 12 people there in December 1957, which I wrote about last month. I might have heard about Villa Rica’s gold rush in the past, but couldn’t remember, so I did a little more digging to unearth some nuggets.

Villa Rica hasn’t always gone by that name.

Originally called Hixtown, after one of the first settlers, gold was soon discovered, which led to an influx of prospectors.

Folks flooded the area and paid a premium for claims, which gave the town “a Wild West atmosphere, complete with Indians, horse thieves and vigilante justice,” VillaRica.org states.

Some prospectors headed to Dahlonega when gold was found there in 1828, but others stayed, and by 1832, there were about 2,000 residents (about 60 percent of the population of Carroll County, the website states).

Hixtown and neighboring Cheevestown later merged to form Villa Rica, a name that was chosen with the gold in mind, and it incorporated in 1881.

Villa Rica holds an annual gold rush festival. There’s also the Pine Mountain Gold Museum at Stockmar Park that’s open seven days a week and includes exhibits, a panning area and ruins.

For more information, go to www.pinemountaingoldmuseum.com or call 770-459-8455.

Q: Who was the Henry who gave his name to Henry County? Was he a Georgian?

A: Henry County's namesake wasn't from Georgia, but don't hold that against him.

He certainly was prestigious enough for the honor.

Henry County was named for Patrick Henry, the patriot from Virginia who uttered the famous words, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” in a speech at the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775.

The speech wasn’t published until 1815, or about six years before Henry County was created.

McDonough, who was named for Commodore Thomas Macdonough, a War of 1812 hero, was incorporated as its county seat in 1823.

There’s no record if somebody said, “Give me county or give me death.”