In 1733 the new colony of Georgia spread all the way from the marshy islands of the Atlantic coast to the banks of the Mississippi. James Edward Oglethorpe, an idealistic member of Parliament, had obtained a charter that would make the vast expanse of forested land a refuge for Britain’s destitute and religious dissidents — a place for a second chance.
Exotic and virtually tropical in the eyes of the English, Georgia also held promise as a place to produce the spices, silks, and wines needed by the mother country. Soon it was evident that those commodities would never materialize — but the land was rife with other possibilities. The marshes along the coast were ideal for growing rice, and the land farther west would quickly yield a bounty of cotton and peaches. The earth would also give up marble, granite, and even gold (Dahlonega was the site of the nation’s first gold rush in 1828, beating California by two decades).