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Where is courthouse cornerstone?

POSTED: September 5, 2010 1:00 a.m.

Hall County's first courthouse was a log structure built in 1818; its second burned in 1882.

The cornerstone for the third was laid Sept. 19, 1883. The marble slab was engraved with the words, "Erected 1883. J.B.M. Winburn, ordinary; John L. Gaines, sheriff; W.B. Smith, clerk; Bruce and Morgan, architects; Joe B. Patton, contractor; W.L. Room, superintendent."

County officials placed within the cornerstone a $1,000 Confederate bond, a $2 bill, Gainesville city scrip, six Confederate bills, bank check, copies of the Gainesville Southron and Eagle newspapers, an Air Line Railroad bond, a Gainesville Orchestra ticket, a list of manufacturers, merchants, bankers, colleges, county officers and other relics.

Another courthouse replaced that one after the 1936 tornado that destroyed downtown Gainesville. The bronze, one-ton courthouse bell that was blown 300 yards away is now on display at the entrance of the courthouse that replaced the 1936 version.

But what about the cornerstone and its contents? Does anybody know their whereabouts? Did the 1936 tornado blow them away? They would make a nice display for the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University.

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Apples are a principal crop on some farms in North Georgia. Thousands make fall treks to orchards around Ellijay and at Jaemor Farms in Hall County. Habersham County once was well known for its apples, hence the famous monument to the fruit at the Cornelia railroad depot.

Perhaps the beginnings of the mountains and foothills' fruit production came in 1911 when George T. Powell, president of the Agricultural Experts of New York, visited the area. He proclaimed that mountain areas would be good for fruit after visiting lands owned by Atlantan Louis B. Mapid, whose acreage was primarily in Habersham and Rabun counties. Powell especially emphasized the potential for growing apples.

Only since the 1950s has Hall County claimed to be the "World's Broiler Capital." However, poultry raising long has been a major component of the area's agricultural economy. In 1903, "the chicken market," as a local newspaper referred to it, was valued at $500,000 and "the greatest in the world."

While cotton long was a principal crop in this area, in the 1880s, wheat was one of the main crops on local farms. In July 1884, the Weekly Constitution of Atlanta wrote, "Thousands of scythe blades working the wheat fields ... Col. Buice of Belton in Hall County shipped 2,000 crates north, from which he has realized handsomely." Wheat harvests in Lumpkin and Forsyth counties also were the best in years.

Horse trading continues in today's economy, but it's usually for cars, houses or antiques at flea markets or yard sales. In the late 1800s, real horse trading was a big deal. A horse swappers convention in Gainesville attracted as many as 5,000 people.

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Atlanta apparently always has been a thirsty city. It had a unique idea to solve its water problems in the early 1900s. The city got serious about piping water from the mountains. It would sell its waterworks for a million dollars and other property to raise money.

It was estimated pipe laid from the mountains to Atlanta would require several thousand acres of watershed and at least $2.5 million. Never happened, of course.

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Limestone Creek in the late 1800s was one of the attractions of New Holland Springs, a noted health resort, whose property became the New Holland textile complex in the early 1900s.

In 1944, the creek had become polluted, causing property owners in the area to protest to the mill. They petitioned Pacolet Manufacturing, which operated the mill, to begin filtering or purifying wastewater discharged into the creek because it "has become so stagnant and unpleasant as to be unbearable" to those living nearby.

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Footnote: H.H. Perry, former state legislator, gubernatorial candidate, prominent Hall County lawyer in the early 1900s and subject of a recent column, was the grandfather of Henry H. Perry, who in 1940 married Lenora, who lives in Baldwin. Henry died in 2006. Their first son and first grandson also are named Henry.

H.H. Perry's first wife was Frances Lewis, daughter of David Lewis, first president of what is now North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega. One of H.H. Perry's first jobs was as a teacher at the college.

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

 



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