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Of schools, potholes and Gen. Sherman

POSTED: February 13, 2011 1:00 a.m.

When the Gainesville School System was just beginning in 1877, the city council at the time decreed that "one-fourth of 1 percent property tax" would be used to fund the schools.

The council would build a building, providing space for primary, intermediate and higher grades concentrating on spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, Latin and Greek. Students would have to pay 50 cents a month tuition, but those who couldn't afford it could attend school free.

The council would provide schools for white and black students, with funds allocated from the amount raised through property taxes paid by white property owners for the white school and black property owners for the black school.

J.M. Proctor was president and E.H. George professor of Gainesville College, which was established in 1873 in a building that cost $10,000. The Columbus Enquirer reported in January 1877 that Professor C.B. LaHatte, a minister, who had fought in the Civil War and had headed schools in the Columbus area, had been appointed president of Gainesville College. The college apparently later included military discipline led by R.E. Mitchell. However, military wasn't mandatory for students.

The Rev. J.J. Methvin was listed as president of Gainesville College in an 1882 city directory.

An 1888 brochure advertising Gainesville mentioned Gainesville College, but not the military aspect.

H.G. Jarrard and Garland Perdue, late Hall County educators, in their history of local education, wrote that a Hall County Academy had been established in 1821, the year of Gainesville's official founding. Hall County's school system formed in 1871, the year the state began funding a public school system. Eighty schools comprised the county school system by 1898.

LaHatte in 1881 opened Methodist College in Gainesville under auspices of the North Georgia Conference. It was advertised as a school for young ladies. A 1926 Gainesville Eagle article indicated LaHatte had bought the former Baptist Church property between South Main and South Bradford streets. With a capacity for 200 students, the school enrolled young people from throughout the area.

The Baptist Female Seminary, predecessor of today's Brenau University, had been in operation since 1878. W.C. Wilkes was its first president. When Wilkes died, the school was inactive until A.W. Van Hoose, who had been associated with Gainesville College, and H.J. Pearce acquired it.

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 With potholes popping up all over the place after the winter snow and ice, present-day Gainesville residents can identify with this little blurb from the Gainesville Eagle in 1876:

"We are glad to see the street force on Green Street as there are some places needing attention; and as it is the grand thoroughfare to Gower Springs, we imagine invalids will be pleased to know there are a less number of jolts between them and the springs than formerly."

Gower Springs was located on what is now Green Street Circle and was one of several resorts around capitalizing on the area's many mineral springs.

Winter 2010-11 n North Georgia has been long and cold with the rest of February and half of March yet to come with their unpredictable weather. In December 1876, a newspaper writer complained, "We've had one month of honest winter weather" that included five days straight of snow and sleet.

In March 1960, three consecutive sleet and snow storms kept many North Georgia roads so covered with ice, the National Guard had to be called out to deliver feed to livestock.

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 Occasionally you'll see those "Forget, hell!" tags or bumper stickers on vehicles of those who don't want to forget those Rebels who fought for the South during the Civil War. Southerners who survived the war never forgave Union Gen. William T. Sherman for the way he devastated everything in his path as he marched through the South. This item appeared in the Griffin newspaper barely a decade after the war's end:

"Gen. Sherman declines to speak at Republican political meetings and says he shall devote the remainder of his days to his profession. We suppose he means the profession of arms, though at one time the people down this way thought he was a graduate of some incendiary and poultry stealing college. We hope he don't intend to devote himself to the latter any more. If he does, goodbye gin houses and chicken coops, and farewell lambs, pigs and yearling heifers."

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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