Readers of our hometown newspaper, the Dahlonega Nugget, might argue that the weekly incidents in the "Crime Beat" section could rival the comic pages of any larger publication in how humorous they are. What makes the Crime Beat different than the comics is that the situations reported are all true.
Not surprisingly, the amount of unusual behavior which grace the pages of the Nugget only increases over the holidays. This was true over one hundred years ago. Anyone reading copies of the Dahlonega Nugget dated from the turn of the century, will be shocked to find that what was casually mentioned back then might be considered a criminal offense today. Typically page three was devoted to local news and there was no shortage of gossip happening between Christmas and New Year's.
As would be expected, drinking and inevitably a fight or two topped the list of favorite activities within the county. Curiously enough, many of the incidents reported occurred just after a church gathering. Apparently, some county residents were enjoying with more than one type of holiday spirits. Women were not excluded from participating in the fun either. Numerous accounts of ladies "going to war" with each other reflect the festive nature of the season. Thankfully, most of the incidents only resulted in a little hair pulling, scratching and biting without any permanent damage.
Firecrackers were liberally available for sale by merchants around the holidays. Widely popular with young boys, firecrackers and other noise makers occasionally caused more damage than intended. On more than one occasion, firecrackers were responsible for starting a fire in a pile of straw or some other dry material which resulted in the loss of a barn or home. With the majority of the buildings on the Public Square being constructed of wood, fire was a constant danger. In Dahlonega's history, several prominent buildings around the town have succumbed to conflagrations over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Most notable was the loss of the North Georgia Agricultural College building, formerly the old mint, which burned to the foundation on December 20th, 1878. To tamp down the possibility of a town fire, a city ordinance was passed in the 1890's prohibiting fireworks in the Dahlonega city limits.
Less dangerous but nonetheless bothersome to some residents was the ringing in of the new year typically punctuated by the firing of a college cannon at midnight. Cadets and other local men often found creative ways to help usher in January first. Many would take turns ringing the college or a church bell continuously for a few hours. Of course the usual drunken revelry was not appreciated by many of the good citizens but rather tolerated as only once a year. One unusual tradition which took hold around the 1880's or 90's was the practice of blocking the roads leading into the public square with wagons, lumber, wood barrels and occasionally livestock. Much to the chagrin of the town merchants who had to clean up the mess in the following days.
Have a safe and happy New Year's celebration.
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau | 13 South Park Street | Dahlonega, GA 30533 | (706) 864-3711 or (800) 231-5543.