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Newspapers disagreed over liar population

POSTED: November 7, 2010 1:00 a.m.

Newspaper competition was furious at times in the old days. At one time Hall County had three weekly newspapers.

The Gainesville Eagle and the Georgia Cracker, which later became the Gainesville News, were particularly at odds with one another from time to time. And neither would mince words when they disagreed in their commentaries.

The Eagle in an 1897 edition took the Cracker to task after the Cracker wrote there was "more malicious, slandering liars to the square mile in Gainesville than any like area in the now known world."

The Eagle in turn retorted, "This is a slander on the people of Gainesville. There are liars everywhere in every town and city, but no more in Gainesville than in any other city of 4,000 inhabitants."

Conceding the town wasn't 100 percent pure, the Eagle gave an example: "... a man who sells a post-oak cow for a 4-gallon Jersey — 4 years old with 11 wrinkles and a button on her horns ... We have a few scattering specimens of other kinds of liars, but not an unreasonable number. The people of Gainesville are truthful, orderly, moral, peace-loving and enterprising. They don't all do to suit us, and don't all take our advice, but perhaps that is nothing to their discredit."

So there.

The Cracker actually was founded in 1888 as the Gainesville Industrial News by James I. Toner, who moved to Gainesville from Wisconsin. H.W.J. Ham, who became nationally known as "Snollygaster" on the Chautauqua speaking circuit, changed the name to the Georgia Cracker when he bought it. A.S. Hardy renamed it the Gainesville News when he and his brother B.H. Hardy bought it in 1897.

A.S. Hardy became a civic, national press and political leader during his more than half century with the newspaper, even serving 16 years as Gainesville postmaster in addition to his editorial duties with the weekly newspaper.


One of the more colorful and more quoted editors in these parts was W.B. Townsend of the Dahlonega Nugget. He entertained and outraged readers for more than four decades. An example of his writings: "The only present we received during Christmas was a pair of socks from U.M. England of Atlanta. And ye heretofore soxless editor is all right till these give out."

Though controversial and despised by some, Townsend was popular enough to win several elective offices, including mayor and ordinary, over the years. Rising at 2 a.m., he worked daily up until a day or two before he died in 1934. The last lines he hand-set for his paper were, "Ye editor is sick." Then he went home, went to bed and died.


It is well known that Dr. E.M. Ham is credited with buying the first car in Gainesville, a Locomobile. But how about the miles per gallon? About 10, or 50 miles on 5 gallons. That's not much worse than some SUV's get today. Dr. Ham first drove the car in June 1902, and that first ride was for eight miles. The car cost $850, not a paltry sum for those days.


In the early days of Boy Scouting in Hall County, Dan Ashford was looking for a few good boys - very good boys. In an appeal for recruits, he sought only "wide-awake, full-blooded American boys ... no cursing, chewing, smoking or any bad habit will be allowed in the troop."

Ashford was seeking 60 boys, enticing them with a hike in Nacoochee Valley. The item in the local newspaper at the time didn't say how many answered the call.


Carter Grocery Co. was the first business in Hall County to have merchandise delivered to it by airplane. Wrigley's chewing gum plant in Chicago shipped some of its product to the company in March 1920. Now Wrigley's is just a few miles down Interstate 985 from Gainesville, where the grocery company operated for years.


It was 1941 before a Gainesville bank could boast of being in the million-dollar class. Including deposits and other assets, First National, Citizens and Gainesville National banks reported total worth of $3.3 million. Deposits of the three banks totaled $2.9 million.

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


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