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19th century teacher had tough words for parents

POSTED: June 28, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Educators sometimes are frustrated that parents don't get more involved in their children's education. But their problems today hardly compare to the late 1800s when children were expected to pull their weight on the family farm.

W.F. Lawrence, a teacher who established a school in the Wahoo community along the Hall-Lumpkin counties line, expressed his exasperation in a lecture to parents in the fall of 1877. He had just closed the school in October because of the lack of parental support.

"The average attendance has not been so large as expected on account of fodder-pulling, cotton -picking and many other things to keep the children at home," he wrote. "This is the case with some, but others, I am sorry to say, want their children to carry corn to mill in one end of the sack and a rock in the other just because they have made out in that way.

"If there is anything that is distressing, it is to see a man take so little interest in his children as to let them grow up without giving them opportunity to improve the talents which God has given to them. It is to be hoped that those who are unconcerned in the welfare of their children will go to praying and get forgiveness for neglecting them and never be guilty of such again."
Many educators today would agree such stern words would be entirely appropriate to some parents even now.

• • •

A Gainesville man, who signed only his initials "M.H.," wrote about mica mines in Gainesville in the 1870s.

Mica was an important mineral back then, used as mirrors, peepholes in carriage curtains as well as a substitute for glass where needed in certain heaters. It has been commonly known as isinglass. You can still find it all over North Georgia, especially in rocks around the shore of Lake Lanier when the water is down.

"M.H." didn't pinpoint the location of the Gainesville mines except to say they were two miles from the city. He was leading a group from Connecticut on a tour of the site, possibly in the area known as Sandy Flats in the Holly Drive/Piedmont Road area of northwest Gainesville. The mines were operated by a man named Merck.

Apparently a tornado had come through that area about 1876 because the group traveled by foot "through the tangled ruins of a recent cyclone that prostrated all the large trees." He mentioned that the site contained ruins of the Mound Builders, probably native Americans who built mounds as burial sites or religion monuments.

Connecticut became a major mica mining area along with other Northeastern states, perhaps partially as a result of the Gainesville tour. Mica became even more important with the advent of the automobile as it was used in windows and electrical parts. Several mica mines operated in other North Georgia counties.

• • •

Tom Bell, a popular Gainesville lawyer and businessman who served as 9th District congressman from 1904 to 1930, had a large walnut tree cut down on Yonah Mountain in White County to make a bedroom suite. After he died, Dr. Jesse Meeks doctored his widow mostly for free in her home on Washington Street near St. Paul Methodist Church.

In return she gave him her husband's four-poster walnut bed, chest and chairs. Dr. Meeks later gave his daughter Margie Meeks Perine the furniture, which has remained in the Meeks' home on Brenau Avenue in Gainesville these many years.
When Margie visits her sister Jean at the family home, she sleeps in Tom Bell's bed.

• • •

The Postal Service from time to time considers eliminating Saturday delivery to cut costs despite increasing rates for stamps and services.

In 1912, Gainesvillians were lamenting the elimination of Sunday delivery. But, as the Gainesville News reported, "The law was passed for the benefit of the postal employees and gives them no work on Sundays. Doubtless a majority of the people are willing for the employees to have rest on Sundays ..."

The newspaper worried though that its papers that were delivered by mail wouldn't be available Sundays even if a customer had a box at the post office.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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