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States’ rights was flag issue at courthouse

POSTED: March 6, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Georgia has had a series of flag controversies, mostly over changing the state flag in recent years.

But there was one dispute in Gainesville concerning the U.S. flag in 1834 that would have made a good plot for a comedy.

Feelings were running high over states' rights, nullification and other issues that years later would embroil the North vs. the South in the Civil War. Andrew Jackson, "Old Hickory" as they called him because of his toughness, was president during this period.

On July 4, 1834, pro-Jackson people hoisted a flag accompanied by hickory branches atop the Hall County Courthouse, a small log structure originally located on Athens Road.

Jackson, though a Southerner naturally sympathetic to Southern causes, nevertheless was in favor of a strong federal government. Thomas Holland, one of Hall County's early officials, and apparently a strong states' righter, took the hickory branches as an insult to the U.S. flag. He ordered it down, whereupon Joseph Frederick, who put the flag on the courthouse to begin with, stuck it back up.

This went on back and forth all day as a Fourth of July celebration. It was undetermined as to who won the battle for the flag.

Just a few years before, in 1830, the famous Indian George Tassel was in a tug of war between the federal and state governments. Tassel had been accused of murdering an Indian in Cherokee territory. But he was charged and jailed in Hall County. The case went to court in a battle of states' rights, the federal government contending Georgia had no jurisdiction because the incident happened in Cherokee territory.

Nevertheless, Gov. George Gilmer sent an emissary to Hall County ordering the sheriff to hang Tassel, which he did before the U.S. Supreme Court had a chance to rule on the larger issue.

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 A Gainesville man became involved in a controversy when Gilmer was running for governor in 1831 against Wilson Lumpkin. Somehow word got out that Thomas Haynes of Gainesville was a candidate for governor. However, he let it be known he wasn't, but another Thomas Haynes of Sparta apparently had offered as a candidate.

Turned out neither Haynes ran for governor. Lumpkin won the race, succeeding Gilmer, who in the next race succeeded Lumpkin. Two mountain counties bear their names.

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 You could ride bicycles on the sidewalks in Gainesville in 1911, but there were laws you had to observe. City police arrested two boys on bikes on what was then West Broad Street after they failed to dismount when meeting a pedestrian. The law required that bicyclists stop and get off their bikes when passing or meeting somebody walking the sidewalks.

People walked and used the sidewalks more back then, and the bicycles apparently had become a nuisance. The bicyclists also probably thought pedestrians were a nuisance.

The city at that time also required youngsters be off the streets by 11 p.m.

Motor vehicles just appearing on roads or streets in Gainesville and Hall County had no speed limit. The first limits came after Judge J.B. Jones recommended to the grand jury that vehicles slow down to six miles per hour on bridges and curves. Otherwise, motorists apparently could go as fast as those early "tin lizzies" would take them.

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 Long before the automobile and trains entered the picture, people rode horses or in wagons or buggies. Those who traveled some distance and could afford it would ride stage coaches.

The most popular routes in the 1830s were the prospering gold fields around Dahlonega or to tourist resorts around Gainesville and Habersham County.

G. Longstreet advertised his new routes for four-horse stages from Gainesville to Clarkesville and connecting with a route from Athens to Dahlonega. A stage coach left Athens every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning to reach Dahlonega by evening. Those riders could stop in Gainesville and catch another stage to Clarkesville, also arriving by evening, if they didn't want to go to Dahlonega.

"Travelers will find this route preferable to any other from the low-country to the mountains, the roads being good, and the whole distance accomplished without night traveling," Longstreet said in a newspaper advertisement. He promised no delays, a tall order for the times.

 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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