Alabama’s Gold Rush: A tiny town once worth millions

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GOLDVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — Goldville, Alabama – population 55.

It’s a town most people in Alabama don’t even know exists.

But, that’s not the way things have always been, as this tiny Tallapoosa County community was once one of the largest cities in Alabama. The reason can be found deep beneath the woods near the main road that runs through town.

James “Coy” Powell, whose ancestors have lived in Goldville for generations, said he hopes the history of this town doesn’t fade away like the population has.

“It’s a sacred spot that I can go back and I can tell people like you, you know this wasn’t easy back in them days,” Powell said.

The “days” that Powell is referencing was the 1820’s, 30’s, and 40’s, when gold mines, like the one WIAT 42 news was able to explore, were dug into the earth – after early European settlers came through the region.

“Passing through here they traded with the Creek Indians, the Creeks knew where the gold was at,” said Powell.

And once the settlers found the gold themselves, numerous mines were bored into the land, just as fast as the manual labor could keep up.

“We don’t know what work is until you go into some of these mines and you see these pick marks, they dug it by pick,” Powell said.

It was because of the gold found in mines like this one and others nearby that a population boom happened in this community. But, that all changed in an instant when a historic event happened out west.

“In 1849, the gold rush in California, gold you could pick up off the ground, and Goldville became a ghost town overnight.” Powell said.

The entire population of nearly 5,000 people packed up and headed west leaving the town dormant, with the exception of a few families who remained.

So, how much gold actually game out of the mines in the Goldville area?

“In today’s market, I would say something like $50 million worth, and that would be a very conservative guess,” said Powell.

$50 million worth of gold, bringing fortunes to many people.

And, it’s that lesson of hard work leading to prosperity that Powell hopes people learn from the story of Goldville, Alabama, appropriately named for the precious metal that put this city on the map.

“My ancestors was here, back in the 1800’s, they worked it, a lot of them went to California, but it’s just a part of me that I grew up in this county with this here,” said Powell.

At the peak of Alabama’s gold rush in the 1820’s, 30’s and 40’s, there were more than 200 gold mines in the Goldville area.

Today, because of nearly two centuries of weather and deterioration, only a handful remain.

The vast majority have collapsed, or were intentionally filled-in by land owners who didn’t want the liability of injuries on their property.

For more information on the history of gold mining in Alabama, check out these links:http://jovikri.tripod.com/public-index.htmlhttp://www.goldrushnuggets.com/goldinalabama.htmlhttp://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1666

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