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Paving square got anti-tax opposition, too

POSTED: June 26, 2011 1:00 a.m.

Before the Gainesville downtown streets were paved, it was a common sight for mules and horses pulling wagons to be mired in near knee-deep mud.

On Saturdays when everybody came to town to either sell their produce or other products from the backs of their wagons, and even more came to buy, the square could be almost like a swamp if it had rained recently.

One would think, then, that there would be a fervent outcry to get the square paved.

Yet, according to late newspaper publisher Albert Hardy, there was serious opposition. Hardy was publisher of the Gainesville News back in the late 1800s into the 20th century.

In a newspaper interview, Hardy was quoted as saying, "The square was a sea of mud waist high. The covered wagons and the mule teams were tethered to a log cabin. But when paving of the square was brought up, even then there were some people who offered opposition."

The News and its competitor, the Gainesville Eagle, often went at each other taking opposite sides on local issues. But when the pave-the-square topic was raised, both newspapers were on the same side supporting the paving.

Hardy said the main opposition to the plan was an increase in taxes required to do the work. He said anytime anybody proposed something that would raise taxes, there would be vigorous opposition.

So the current controversy over Hall County's budget crisis isn't something new. Many apparently favor closing some libraries and parks or make other cuts to avoid a tax increase.

Hardy bought the Gainesville News in 1877 and continued to publish it for half a century before his son Charles took it over and converted it into the daily Morning News in 1955. The daily ceased publication the next year. The Eagle converted into the Gainesville Daily Times in 1947.

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The Eagle not only reported the news, sometimes it was the news. One of its editors, W.H. Craig, could be cantankerous at times. In 1901, Craig wrote something critical about Tom Bell, consummate politician and longtime congressman.

Bell, who was known to get feisty himself, didn't like what the editor wrote and knocked Craig over the head with a walking cane the next time he saw him. At the time Bell was clerk of superior court and chair of a Confederate Veterans Reunion.

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Helen Longstreet, second wife of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, made a name for herself as an author defending her husband's actions in the Civil War, as a pioneer environmentalist, politician and working in an airplane factory during World War II. But she wasn't always prosperous.

In April 1936, the same month a tornado killed more than 200 in her hometown of Gainesville, Mrs. Longstreet appealed to friends to give her money because she was broke.

An article in the Washington (D.C.) Herald reported her "stranded, penniless and perhaps near death" when she asked for help from her Washington friends. She needed $60 to return to the United States from the Virgin Islands and receive medical treatment.

The Herald reported, "She wrote to Mrs. Margaret Hopkins Worth, president of the Department of the Potomac, Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, saying she had developed a serious condition with high blood pressure and other troubles, which doctors here know nothing about. ‘I feel that if I stay on here, I shall not be alive much longer. But there are a few last things I want to do, and I don't want to die here.'"

The paper said her only income was $60 in pension. Russian Princess Julia Grant Cantacusene, granddaughter of Gen. U.S. Grant, sent the newspaper a check for $60 to be forwarded to Mrs. Longstreet, the Herald reported. She also volunteered to help raise money for Mrs. Longstreet's medical expenses.

Gens. Grant and Longstreet, though on opposite sides of the Civil War, had been close friends.

All the help Mrs. Longstreet received apparently did the trick because she lived until 1962.

During her lifetime, she fought Georgia Power Co. for building dams on the Tallulah River, ran for governor against Herman Talmadge and became the first woman to serve as state librarian. Her husband had died in 1904.

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/johnny.



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