|The Hand Ditch was built between 1859 and 1861 to provide water to the mining operations around Dahlonega. The ditch wandered 14 miles generally following the contours of the hills to just north of Dahlonega seven miles to the south. The water was used initially to operate giant water cannons for hydraulic mining and processing of the ore at a large number of the mines in the area. The water cannons operating with water stored at much higher elevation and delivered to the cannon by hose had the power to wash away hillsides in a short time leaving the gold bearing rock which was then crushed by stamp mills to recover the gold. The water was purchased by the various mines from the owner of the ditch based on a measure of the "miner's inch." This information was obtained from a report made by the Southeastern Archeological Services, Inc. in 1994 titled "The Hand Ditch of Lumpkin couunty, Georgia". The study was commissioned by the U. S. Corps of Engineers and Camp Frank D. Merrill, the Army Ranger's mountain training camp and reprinted by the Lumpkin County Historical Society in 2002.
Washing away the loose dirt in many cases left "cuts" or large trenches in the hillside. Several of these cuts still exist in Lumpkin County and at least in one instance the remnents of a stamp mill at the bottom of Findley Ridge are still scattered at the original location of the mill.