The Chestatee River Diving Bell that was used to hold men in dry safety underwater as they searched the depths of the river for gold.
The 6-ton bell is 8-feet high, 15-feet long and 6-feet wide. It was purchased by local inventor Philologus Loud in 1875 and shipped to Gainesville by rail, then on to Dahlonega by wagon. It then was attached to another boat called the Chestatee. Miners would drop anchor over a location where gold was believed to exist and the bell would be lowered. Once seated on the river bed, excess water was forced out by pressurized air.
Miners would descended into the bell through two hatches. An air valve allowed them to regulate the atmospheric pressure. Gravel was shoveled into a vacuum tube, pumped to the boat’s deck and washed in a sluice box.
Unfortunately, the bell had a very short life span. The boat sank under mysterious circumstances in 1876 and the bell remained partially submerged until 1997 when Birch River LLC purchased the land along the river to develop a golf course. Suspecting its historical significance, the company hired a metal worker to make repairs and apply protective coating.
The few who knew abou thte diving bell considered it merely an interesting curiousity. It would take recognition by the national and international nautical archaeological communitiies to affirm the diving bell as a historical treasure worthy of preservation. As word spraed about the diviing bell, several maritime museums expressed interest in acquiring the artifact but local consensus was that it should remain in Lumpkin County where it was used. It is now on display for all to see!