Gunpowder and Turpentine

by Chris Worick Categories // History & Heritage

Gunpowder and Turpentine

Discovering Dahlonega comes in many forms.

It's safe to say that when you think of the top ten things to see and do in Dahlonega, our local library doesn't make the list. This is understandable given the number of events, festivals, and permanent attractions the "Golden City" has to offer. However, one of the hidden treasures of Lumpkin County, are the local history files contained in the Madeleine K. Anthony research room. During her lifetime, Mrs. Anthony amassed a collection of subject files which reflect the families, places, and events which shaped Lumpkin County.

One of the more intriguing and often humorous folders contains local old home remedies for a variety of ailments. During a time when doctors were scarce and medical treatments too expensive, many people looked to the old ways of healing as a cheap alternative. Locally made recipes for cures typically consisted of an assortment of native plants, available household products, or combination thereof. In some cases, these concoctions were closely guarded family secrets which were passed down through the generations.

Although many of the ingredients in local remedies might be looked upon with skepticism by today's standards, there are still those who swear by some of these tried and true cures.

One such recipe which appeared in the January 1st, 1894 edition of the Dahlonega Signal was submitted by the man credited for the discovery of gold in Lumpkin County, Benjamin Parks. "Uncle Benny" as he was referred to, provides his cure for jaundice, guaranteed to never fail. "Gun powder, two tablespoons to one quart of whiskey, take a good swallow three times a day just before each meal."

Not surprisingly, whiskey or some other type of intoxicating liquor appears in many home recipes. Unlike magic elixirs peddled by travelling medicine shows which featured such fantastical potions labeled as "Snake Oil" or "Swamp Root," local remedies were trusted because people knew what the cures actually contained.

Amy Trammell, a longtime resident of Auraria, provides many remedies for common ailments. Some of her cures can actually be found in the Foxfire series of books from the 1970's-80's.

For an upset stomach, Amy recommended: "Cut a peach tree limb, scrape off the bark into a glass of water. Let it sit a little while. Then strain and drink the water often."

For Ringworm: "Put the juice of a green walnut hull on the spot to stop the ringworm." Another remedy is to take turpentine and work it into hog's lard. Put that on the ringworm and pop it right out."

Earache: "Blow smoke from rabbit tobacco in the affected ear."

Chest congestion: "Mix some lard and turpentine together, put it on a cloth and place on your chest." Some might associate this remedy with Vick's vapor rub.

For frostbite, Amy explains that men would often pour whiskey in their boots as a protection against frostbite. It was said to keep their feet warm for a long time and didn't even get their boots or shoes wet.

Men working in the mines also came up with a cure for what was termed the "Dynamite Headache." They would rub Hartshorn ammonia on their shirt or jacket like cheap cologne as a sort of inhalant to counteract the effects of the dynamite fumes.

Thee are just a few examples of our literary golden nuggets awaiting you in Lumpkin County. So if you are searching for a discovery of a different sort, consider making our library one of your places to visit the next time choose Dahlonega.

About the Author

Chris Worick

Chris Worick

Chris Worick has lived in Dahlonega since 2001 and spends much of his free time researching the history of Lumpkin County and the 1829 Gold Rush. Chris is an active member of the Lumpkin County Historical Society and regularly writes articles of historical interest for the Dahlonega Nugget.

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