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Johnny Vardeman: Quillians played important roles across Georgia

POSTED: May 14, 2017 1:00 a.m.

So, is Sally Quillian Yates one of the Hall County Quillians Corner Quillians?

That question is logically asked because Mrs. Yates has been in the national (even international) news lately because President Donald Trump fired her as acting U.S. attorney general.

The answer is yes and no. Explains Dr. Ed Quillian, a veterinarian and one of the Hall County Quillians: “All we Quillians in Georgia are related.”

Sally might not be a direct descendant of the Quillians Corner Quillians, but there is a strong Northeast Georgia connection. Her father was Judge Kelley Quillian, who was chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals and native of Winder. He practiced law in Winder and Atlanta before becoming Court of Appeals justice.

His father and Sally Yates’ grandfather was Joseph Dillard Quillian, who served on the state Court of Appeals and Georgia Supreme Court. He married his first wife, Jeanette Evans, in Lula in 1916. She died of influenza in 1920, and an infant was buried with her in Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville.

Judge Quillian’s second wife, Tabitha Caroline Sims, was from Barrow County. Judge Joseph Quillian was born in Dalton. He also had served as Buford city attorney.

Sally Quillian Yates distinguished herself as a tough prosecutor as Northern District U.S. Attorney, especially in white-collar criminal cases against some high-profile defendants. She later became deputy U.S. attorney general, then acting attorney general.

As for the Hall County Quillians, they originally came here from North Carolina. Four Quillian brothers amassed thousands of acres and operated farms and businesses in the Lula-Clermont-Mossy Creek area. They grew and ginned cotton, and the center of their activity was at the intersection of what is now Ga. 52 and U.S. 129, which continues to be known as Quillians Corner.

John E. Quillian became a powerful political force in the 1950s as a member of the State Highway Board, now called the Department of Transportation.

The Quillians were strong Methodists, one of the pioneers, James Quillian, a minister and Revolutionary War soldier who moved his family to Mossy Creek. Several Hall County Quillians became Methodist ministers. The Quillians helped establish Trinity United Methodist Church, which remains active on Clark’s Bridge Road.

J. Quillian was pastor of Gainesville’s First Methodist Church during the Civil War, and the Rev. W.F. Quillian served the church in the early 1900s. The Rev. Wylie Quillian was the presiding elder for the Gainesville Methodist District at one time.

Sally Quillian Yates also is an active Methodist as were her father and grandfather. She is 56 years old and married to Comer Yates, who once ran for Congress.

• • 

When the Quillian Brothers became the largest land owners in Hall County in November 1913, the Gainesville News commented: “A person could walk over the holdings of the Quillian Brothers and go until he was too tired to walk and then not be able to cover part of it. In fact, one could ride a horse down on Quillian property, and then need a fresh animal to take them over their holdings.”

The Quillians had just bought 1,100 acres from the Pass estate, including a mill and gin for $11,584. That brought their holdings to 12,100 acres in the county.

At one time, the Quillians had 120 tenants on their farms and would entertain them with a big feast at Christmastime.

• • •

Gainesville might have become a tobacco town years ago. Some tobacco was grown in this area from time to time, perhaps more recently in Dawson County. But there were no tobacco product plants nearby. The closest was in Asheville, N.C.

Union County tobacco growers suggested a plant for Hall County, but it never materialized, and what few tobacco crops there were dwindled to nothing over time. Farmers had been somewhat tempted to grow tobacco when it sold for a dime a pound compared to 9 cents or less for cotton, which was the major crop in this area for many years.

Indians also are known to have grown tobacco in this area.

• • •

When Gainesville Mayor R.D. Mitchell left office in 1907, he pointed out that Green Street now had a curb. In addition, tile blocks were laid to provide sidewalks on each side. Sidewalk tiles also were provided on South Main Street from the railroad depot to the square.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.



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