First discovered in Chilton County in the late 1830s, gold, or the promise of it, is credited with the establishment of many communities and gold-mining operations in east-central Alabama in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1845, early boom town Arbacoochee was home to about 5,000 people. In 1849, most gold miners left the state to join the California Gold Rush, and communities like Arbacoochee became ghost towns.
Despite brief revivals in 1853, the 1880s, and 1903, gold prospecting failed to yield significant quantities. Today, gold mining and panning is still popular as a hobby in the several gold–bearing streams and branches in the Talladega National Forest.
Photos courtesy of: Alabama Department of Archives and History, Getty Images, Alamy