This is an 1899 map showing Dunagan, Hall County, Georgia. It is here that Joseph and Joshua Dunagan brought the first group of white settlers. Shortly after their arrival, Ezekiel and Isaiah came with the second group of settlers. Ezekiel stayed and raised his family in this same area. At the time of his death in 1836, he owned three thousand acres. Ezekiel’s descendants remained on his land and built a community that was known as Dunagan, Georgia. The Dunagan community can be seen on this map located under the “A” in the word “HALL”.
This was our fourth year to host the annual Dunagan Reunion for the gathering of Ezekiel and Lydia Ann Brown Dunagan’s descendants. I found that this year I was really looking forward to seeing the familiar faces of my new-found cousins. We have a real sense of family that has developed over these four years. My cousin Brad Dunagan overheard two of our little ones discussing, with astonishment, how many people they were related to. I think it is wonderful that they can come out and know that they belong to a family much bigger than the one they live with.
We began our Saturday at Dunagan’s Chapel located in east Hall County, Georgia. This is the area that Ezekiel and his family lived. It was known as Dunagan, Georgia back then. At the time of his death in 1836, Ezekiel owned over three thousand acres there. We still have Dunagan’s living on parts of his land today. This is also where Ezekiel and Lydia’s graves are located. We visited the gravesite and returned to the church to discuss and share information on our family and its history.
On Sunday we gathered at the Paul E Bolding Post of the American Legion in Gainesville, Hall, Georgia. This is year we honored our family members who labored to develop, defend, and serve this great nation of ours. We have had Dunagan’s and allied family members serve our nation in every conflict since the Revolutionary War to present date. We have also had judges, mayors, congressmen, senators, and governors in our proud lineage.
Reverand Roger L. Dunagan of Lumpkin County, Georgia offered a prayer and blessing on the food, after which we shared a delicious southern pulled pork barbecue with banana pudding for dessert. In addition to good food, and great company, we had music provided by Brad and Mike Dunagan’s band, Longstreet Station.
We had family members traveling from many states to attend this year. Thanks to each of you, near and far, who attended this year’s Dunagan Family Reunion. We are looking forward seeing you all and more next year.
During the 1830’s my ancestor’s continued to be actively engaged in the building and establishing of Hall County Georgia. It had been sixty years since Joshua Dunagan and his brother Joseph Dunagan (my fifth great grandfather) had brought the first group of white settlers into what is now known as Hall County Georgia. The site of their settlement was located near present day Gillsville and was known as Stonethrow. It was a remote frontier located in hostile Indian Territory and even though it has grown and prospered in those sixty years it still remained a remote area that required much from those who lived here during the 1830’s.
The occupation and livelihood of most of its population was chiefly agricultural. Life was hard and laborious work was required to survive and prosper. Social life was largely limited to church and church related social events. Occasional special events would find themselves on the calendar from time to time.
One such special event of the year was the celebration and observance of Independence Day. Hall County citizens gathered to enjoy good food, good company, and hear political speeches orated by the citizens and special guest. The first Fourth of July celebration recorded in Hall County was in the year 1833. The celebration began at the square at 11 o’clock with a procession headed by Major General Bates, his staff, and the officers of the day. They were escorted by the Gainesville Hussars to the Baptist Church where the many citizens were gathered. Reverend Parks addressed the group, followed by a reading of the Declaration of Independence by David C. Neal, Esq., after which an oration was given by Mr. James W. Jones.
The celebration continued into the afternoon with much of the activity held at the Limestone Springs. Limestone Springs was located at what we know today as the intersection of Green Street Circle and Thompson Bridge Road (named so because of the original covered bridges built by Andrew Thompson’s sons).
The dinner, which was prepared by Mr. Joseph Frederick, was enjoyed by the Gentlemen at the Springs. Presiding over the program was a Mr. Rueben Thornton and his assistant Madison R. Mitchel. Formal toasts were offered followed by volunteer toasts from the gathered guest.
There were many “Volunteer Toasts” given that day but for purpose of interest, I am only quoting those pertaining to the Dunagan family.
“By Joseph Dunnagan Esq. – ‘May that patriotism that animated the Heroes of the Revolution be perpetuated in the hearts of their descendants, and may peace and good will abound among every portion of our Citizens, from Main [sic] to Misourie [sic].’ “
“By Joseph Dunnagan Esq. – ‘The protective system; originally advocated by some Southern men, and now strange to tell, the same men are the foremost to advocate unconstitutional measures to get rid of.’ “.
“By Mr. B. Dunnagan – ‘Detested be every…pendant such as the palmetto flag, with all that rally round them, but let all true hearted Americans rally round our star spangle banner emblem of our Union, and long may it wave o’er the land of the free and home of the brave.’ “.
The Independence Day festivities were the spotlight of the political season, the following account is of the 1840 celebration in Hall County Georgia. The celebration began that morning with an assemblage of the citizens at the Court House and a walk to the Academy Spring, where they heard a reading of the Declaration of Independence by Joseph Dunagan and a speech by T. C. Hackett. Keeping with tradition, they partook of an appetizing meal prepared by Wiley Sledge. The preset toasts were once again delivered followed by the volunteer toasts. As said before, many toasts were given that day, but I will quote those only from the Dunagan family.
“By James McClesky [husband of Anna Dunagan], a revolutionary war soldier, May the Lord, with the breath of his mouth, destroy that evil spirit that is now about to enter into the hearts of some of the offspring of our noble soldiers, who fought and bled under the flag of the U.S. and declared themselves independent of Great Britain on this ever memorable day.”
“By James McCleskey – Georgia; On the first Monday in November, she will load her big gun with Democratic principles, wadded with Republicanism, and leveling it at Federalism, will blow Wm. H. Harrison sky high.”
“By Benjamin Dunagan – Maj. Croghan; who so bravely defended Fort Stevenson, contrary to orders of cowardly commander. May he ever be esteemed by the American people as a hero and patriot.”
“By Jas. R. Dunagan – A strict construction of Federal constitution is the sheet anchor of this Government.”
The Dunagan’s of Hall County Georgia have been actively involved in the community and its government since their arrival here in the 1790’s. That tradition continues even today.
May we always remember the great men from whom we came and do honor to them as they did us. I pay tribute to my grandfathers and those whom have fought to build and preserve this great nation of ours.
Joseph Dunagan – He came into Georgia about 1790 and built Dunagan or Donnegan Station in old Franklin County Georgia. A leader among the settlers, he and his brother Joshua lead the settlers into Indian territory where they established the first settlement known as Stonethrow.
Ezekiel Dunagan – A pioneer and founding settler of Hall County, Georgia and a veteran of the War of 1812. Ezekiel served as a spy during the war and his name can be found on the roster hanging in the Georgia State Archives.
Joseph Ellis Dunagan – “Old Constitution” a Georgia State Senator representing Hall County for 23 years and a valiant and staunch defender of the Constitutions of the United States and Georgia.
John Franklin Dunagan – A Civil War Veteran who was also taken prisoner during the war.
Joseph Alexander Dunagan – Born in 1862 while his father was fighting in the Civil War, he was too old to fight in WWI. He came from patriotic men and he raised patriot men.
Lester Commie Dunagan – A proud American who was a veteran of WWI
Lester Commie Dunagan Jr. – My father, who fought bravely in WWII and continued his service to his country for the remainder of his life. Serving as First Sergeant in the Georgia National Guard till retirement, serving as State Commander of the Paul E Bolding Post of the American Legion and serving as State Commander of the Georgia American Legion, he was the most patriotic man I have ever known.
Matthew L. Scruggs- Continuing the tradition is my son who served in the United States Air Force and the Air National Guard with a tour in Iraq.
This is just one line of the great defenders of freedom from which I descend. I am honored to be able to trace my roots back to the beginning of our Great Nation and say those were my ancestors. It is to them and men like them that we owe our freedom!
*Information on the Fourth of July Celebration was taken from newspaper microfilm found in the Hall County Library and was transcribed as written.*
As was stated in “Following Joseph”, we know that Joseph Dunagan (1740-1808) came into Georgia in or around 1790 and settled in Georgia’s original Franklin County. His land was near the Curahee Mountain on the upper North Fork of the Broad River. Posted is a map showing the location of Joseph Dunagan’s land. It is referred to as Donnegan’s Station on the map. Also posted is a letter from the settler’s to the Governor, notice that Joseph’s signature shows that he spelled his name as Dunagin. You will also see documents referring to the building of a blockade on Donnagan’s Plantation and general orders given to build the blockade. Also note on the map that Donnegan’s Station was located ten miles from Fort Mathews and 2 miles from Wofford’s Settlement.
I am a third great granddaughter of Joseph Ellis Dunagan and Lucinda Beall Dunagan. I was born and raised in Hall County Georgia where I grew up hearing the stories of my ancestors. One such story was of Joseph’s elusive buried gold. The following is an account of Joseph’s buried treasure in Hall County Georgia.
Joseph Ellis Dunagan was a man of prominence during his time. He was the son of Ezekiel Dunagan who came here in 1798 with his brother Isaiah, leading in the second group of white settlers into the Indian Territory where present day east Hall County, Georgia is located. Ezekiel followed his father, Joseph and Joseph’s brother Joshua Dunagan (transcribed in some records as Joshua Darnigan) who led the first group to that area. They were all part of the original Wofford settlement.
Joe grew up in a time when men had to work hard to sustain life and that he did with great success. He married the prominent Frederick Beall’s daughter, Lucinda, and bought land by the Chattahoochee River about three miles north of downtown Gainesville, Georgia. There is where he and Lucinda raised a family of eight. I think that Lucinda had to do much of the raising alone with her husband spending a considerable amount of his time traveling to the capital city of Milledgeville, where he served as the state senator representing Hall County, and this he did for 23 years. When not serving his county as a judge of the Inferior Court or as a state senator, he was traveling west. “Old Constitution”, as he was fondly nicknamed, found himself with the contagious ‘gold fever’. He would travel with his family members out west to pan for gold. These travels kept him away from home for long periods of time, and I know that at least once he was away from home for two years.
The story begins when Joe decided to make a trip back to Pike’s Peak to retrieve some gold dust that he had left buried there. It was in the spring of 1861 when Joe packed up and left on his quest. His trip to Pike’s Peak was successful but the retrieval of his buried dust was not. It seems Joe was to return empty-handed. So Joe began his trip back to his family and home. He traveled as far as Illinois when he became ill. He was alone and he knew no one, but the times were friendlier then and he was given aid by strangers. They took him into their home and cared for him but Joe did not recover from his malady. He died there amongst strangers and was buried there also. Unfortunately, for us today, we do not know the whereabouts of his burial.
My second great grandfather, John Franklin Dunagan, told of his treasure hunting experience with his father. He said: “I panned out the first gold that was found after we got to Colorado”. He also stated the following, “Joseph Dunagan was my father. He went to the Rocky Mountains in March, 1860, and came back in the fall and my recollection is that he brought back about $3200.00 in gold dust. He carried it to Dahlonega and got it coined. I saw the dust, I was with him and helped him dig it out…”
Joseph Ellis Dunagan was known to be somewhat eccentric and with no banks available to him in Gainesville, buried his gold coins in the grounds of his land. The location of his buried to treasure was unbeknown to anyone other than himself. Here begins the tale of the unearthing of the buried treasure of Joseph Ellis Dunagan.
After Joseph’s death, his family searched for the buried treasure but it was not to reveal its secret hiding place to anyone at that time. Years passed and the land changed hands. The land where Dunagan had lived in 1860 was purchased by Mr. S.C. Dunlap Sr. Mr. Dunlap had a farmer by the name of Isaac Bales farming the land that had been owned by the late Joe Dunagan. In the early spring of 1887, fifteen year old Cicero ‘Jack’ Bales, the son of Isaac, was bedding cotton rows when he discovered a gold coin. Taking a closer look he discovered quite a few more gold coins, 288 was the number reported. Jack took the gold to his father who in turn, believing the gold to belong rightfully to Dunlap, took the gold to Mr. Dunlap. According to a newspaper article, as told by S. C. Dunlap Jr., his father, Dunlap Sr., held out his derby hat and the gold coins were thus emptied and counted. S.C Dunlap Jr. stated, ”We counted the money and there was $1190.00 in $5 dollar gold pieces –all coined in Dahlonega, Ga. in the year 1860. This gold was bright and new, as if it had just come from the mint.” Continuing, S. C. Dunlap said that Mr. Bales was insistent that the money belonged to Dunlap, but Dunlap said “that he had never had enough money to use in his business, much less to bury any, and stood the position that the gold belonged to Jack, the finder.”
Now keep in mind that John said his father returned in March of 1860 and took the dust to Dahlonega for minting. Then Dunlap Jr. states in his own words that the gold coins, all minted in Dahlonega in 1860, were “bright and new, as if they had just come from the mint”. The gold minted in 1860, buried on Dunagan’s land, the Dunlap’s testifying that it was not their gold, and the well known fact that Joseph Dunagan, who owned the land prior to Dunlap, was a miner who had become quite wealthy from his endeavors, leads me to believe that the gold coins did indeed belong to the Dunagan estate. Now I find it interesting that Bales was more than willing to relinquish his son’s find to Dunlap, who claimed no rights to it, but refused to accept the logical explantion that the gold was indeed that lost buried treasure of Joe Dunagan.
The Bales, thrilled with their found treasure, took the gold to Banks Brother’s Bank where it was counted and deposited to their credit. As you can imagine the news of the Jack’s discovery was spreading throughout the community and the talk was high. When John F. Dunagan and his brother Ezekiel, heirs and administrators to Joseph Dunagan’s estate, heard of the unearthing of the gold coins, they knew immediately that it was their father’s gold. John set out to tell Mr. Bales that the gold belonged to the Dunagan’s but Bales, of course, would not accept the Dunagan’s claim to their ‘gold fortune’. A suit was filed against Bales by the Dunagan’s in the Hall County Georgia Supreme Court.
On March 29, 1887, Bales was duly served and required to give a bond of $2380.00 for the forthcoming property. The first trial thus proceeded and was declared a mistrial.
Again, in November 1888, the case was called and the trial continued. This time the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs. This was not the outcome that Bales neither wanted nor expected, so a motion for a new trial was made. This motion was overruled so the case went to the Supreme Court on a writ of error for the October term. However, this never came to light because both parties were tired of the long drawn out court proceedings and decided to divide the money equally after attorney and court fees were paid.
Now you would think this was the end of the story but it is not. I am not certain to the circumstances as to why the monies were not distributed amongst all the heirs of Joseph Dunagan but obviously they were not. The Dunagan’s found themselves in court again. A Petition and Citation for settlement was filled in Hall County Court by Martha Dunagan Highfield, Fred Dunagan, Mary Dunagan Short, and Elizabeth Dunagan Webster, surviving children of Joseph Dunagan and siblings of John F. Dunagan and Ezekiel Dunagan. A W.P. Smith is named also showing that he is interested as distributee in the Estate of Joseph E. Dunagan for which John and Ezekiel were legal administrators.
The following is an account taken from Reports of Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia, Volume 93
By Georgia. Supreme Court, John Erskine:
DUNAGAN v. WEBSTER et al.
Where one qualifies as administrator of a deceased person it is an undertaking by the administrator equivalent to a contract to duly administer the estate according to the law, for the benefit of the heirs and creditors. If such qualification took place prior to the passage of the homestead act of 1868, a homestead set apart to the wife of the administrator in 1873, out of his land, is subject to a judgment rendered against him by the court of ordinary in favor of the heirs upon a citation for a settlement of his accounts, although the judgment was based upon a failure by the administrator to pay over money belonging to the estate which did not come into his hands until 1887. January 27, 1894
Levy and claim. Before Judge Wellborn. Hall superior court. July term, 1893.
S.C. Dunlap and W.L. Telford, for plaintiff in error. George K. Looper, contra.
Joseph Dunagan died in 1861, and in the same year J.F. and Ezekiel Dunagan qualified as administrators of his estate. In 1887 certain money which had been buried by the deceased was found and went into the hands of the administrators. They were cited by the heirs to a settlement before the ordinary, and a judgment was rendered against them in favor of the heirs. An execution founded upon this judgment was levied on certain land as the property of Ezekiel Dunagan, and his wife interposed a claim to the property as having been set apart to her and her children as a homestead and exemption on March 29th, 1873. It appeared that he had never sold or otherwise disposed of the land. Upon the agreed facts the question whether the land was subject to the execution was submitted to the judge without a jury; and he found that it was, and to this ruling the claimant excepted.
Where one qualifies as administrator, it is and undertaking equivalent to a contract on his part to duly administer the estate according to law for the benefit of heirs and creditors. In the present case the claim of the creditor was based upon this contract on the part of the administrator; and the contract, as we have seen, antedated the constitution of 1868, under which the homestead was set apart. The Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of Gunn v Barry, 15 Wall.610, reversing the decision of this court, held that the homestead right could not prevail against a contract created prior to the constitution-that as to such contracts the homestead is a nullity; and that ruling has since been followed in several decisions of this court. It has also been held that, as between the homestead right and the claim of a creditor founded upon such a contract, the date of the contract and not of the breach of it governs in determining the question of priority.
Van Dyke v. Kilgo, 54 Ga. 551; Drinkwater v. Moreman 61 Ga. 395; Hunt v. Juhan, 63 Ga. 162; Douglass v. Boylston, 69 Ga. 186; Willis v. Thornton, 73 Ga. 128.
It follows that the court below did not err in holding the property subject. Judgment affirmed.
So it seems that the monies from the gold were never distributed amongst Joseph’s surviving children. The Dunagan’s share,prior to court and attorney fees, would have been $590.00 after the division with the Isaac Bales. The 1887 dollar value of $590.00 would be $14,390.24 today. The amount is calculated strictly on an inflation rate of the dollar value not the gold value. Since the money was in $5.00 gold pieces the value could be higher.
As previously stated, in 1893 when the suit was filed, Joseph’s remaining children, excluding Ezekiel, were Martha, Mary, Elizabeth and Frederick. John died in 1890 leaving Ezekiel the only surviving administrator of the estate. This is why John is not mentioned in the above document. I am curious as to what happened to Ezekiel’s land and how it was distributed after the court finding. I am assuming it would have been sold and the profits divided. More research is needed to determine this.
This is all that I have been able to ‘dig up’ on the gold of Old Joe Dunagan. I will keep digging in hopes of finding even more clues to the lost fortune of the Honorable Joseph Dunagan.
We also find land warrants issued in Hall County Georgia to Benjamin Dunagan and Isaiah Dunagan. Benjamin was given 250 acres in East Hall County near the North Oconee River 3 May 1853. Isaiah’s warrant was dated 4 July 1854 but the acreage is unreadable.
The following is a transcription of a letter found in “The Wood Family Papers”.
July the 10th 1895
Mr. R C WOOD dear sir
by the request of Mr. WELCHEL I write you a few lines he stated that you wanted to
no what had becom of all the BUFFINGTONs and MARTINs and DUNAGANs the
Old set of the DUNAGANs is all Ded except my self & cister BETSEY EBERHART
BRO JEF & cister JANE McCLESKEY is living yet they ar in Texas the balance of
them is ded to I have heard the Old set of the BUFFENGTONs is all dead & a number
of the yonge set is dead WILLIAM BUFFINGTON & several of his family is
dead his wife dide be fore he did TOM & BERRIAN & JOHN ar living on the old
place yet last monday we buried old Mrs LANGFORD I think she was a bout 88 year
old JONATHAN MARTON & JOHN MARTIN & PINCKNEY MARTIN & Old Squr
SPENCER MARTIN & his Brother JON ar all dead all the Old set of GILMERs is
dead Little Bull as he is cawld is living yet his wife dide a bout 10 days ago Uncle
MOSE BRYAND and wife is ded WM BRYANT & BEN BRYANT is dead AMES
BRYANT is living yet he is a bout 85 years old and his wife is living yet old man
LEWIS JONES & JACEY MORRIS and their wives ar all dead in fact all the old cittersons
that was living hear when you left is dead. DAVID MARTIN & ELISHA WILLIAMS
ar both living yet thrue the Murcy of the good Lord I have been speard. I am
now turnd in my 75th year I have good helth EVALINE my wifes helth is not very
good I was glad to hear from Mr WELCHEL that you was living. you write to me
and if there is any thin perticuler you want no I write it to you I have one daughter
living in Ala MARGARETT WATS__ they live in Jackson County Ala. I have 9 mor
children close round me all groan and all married but 3. I dont no what else to
write to you so I will close if we never meat on earth I expect to meat you in Heaven
Jas. R. Dunagan
P. S. Durect you leters to
[Jef – possibly Thomas Jefferson McCluskey b 1833, son of Isabella Rhea McCleskey McCluskey & Miles