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Book teaches youngsters local history

POSTED: August 28, 2011 1:00 a.m.

There are plenty of history books and resources available on Gainesville and Hall County.

Local history buffs down through the years, including William Hosch, Lester Hosch, Sybil McRay, Ruth Waters, Gordon Sawyer and James Dorsey, preserved piles of information about the community's past.

But, Laura Rauch Sumner decided, there wasn't anything geared for children. Her parents, Sam and Pat Rauch, challenged her to put something together on Gainesville's history for the younger set.

"I grew up here, loved the town and its history, but I didn't know some of it ... like the names of streets," she said. "I knew some of the resort history ... White Sulphur Springs ... but not the extent of how popular they were."

Laura took the challenge. The whole family helped in some way. Her father, Dr. Sam Rauch, who had painted some watercolors, provided most of the illustrations. Her and Sean's children, Satchel, Spencer and Max, furnished feedback, and the older boys technical help with computer issues. She could tell, for instance, where they would lose interest when reading through the book more than once.

Others edited, proofread and offered counsel over the two years it took to complete the project.

The tour guide in "IKE's Brief History of Gainesville, Georgia (For the Young and Old)," is a character named IKE (I Know Everything.) He takes the reader from the area's Cherokee Indian days to its development as a trading crossroads known as Mule Camp Springs. All of the text is in rhyme: "In its early days Gainesville's square was typical in the new U.S. of A. There was a log courthouse, a carriage maker, and a stable for pay."

Laura learned that Gainesville played only a minor role in the Civil War, with the nearest major battles in the Atlanta area and northwest Georgia. The railroads that arrived after the war launched Gainesville as a more significant North Georgia community, a standing that has been enhanced over the years.

IKE explains how Confederate Gen. James Longstreet figured in the town's history after he moved to Gainesville years after the Civil War. The resort era, the street cars, early recreation spots and the establishment of Georgia Baptist Female Seminary, now Brenau University, and Riverside Military Academy are covered in the book. One illustration shows part of Gainesville's downtown aglow with streetlights, among the first in the South.

The growth of textiles as a major industry comes next, as well as a look at the development of the Green Street residential area, the downtown square's Confederate monument, airport and roads. The 1936 tornado takes up two pages in the book, including before-and-after illustrations of ground zero, the downtown square.

Then came the poultry boom, primarily fathered by J.D. Jewell, and its continued prominence in the industry today. Lake Lanier followed shortly, and the town advanced as a medical center as well. Gainesville attracted more national attention in 1996 as local leaders brought the Olympics to town at Clarks Bridge Park.

Laura touches on other community amenities, including parks, the arts, Northeast Georgia History Center and Elachee Nature Science Center.

If you've wondered about the origin of some of the names of streets, places and people in Gainesville's history, she and IKE provide a list.

"Gainesville is a wonderful place to live and grow up," she said. "When you know the history, it's even more endearing."

Laura's biggest challenge in writing the book was what to include and what to leave out. She ended up with a general overview of the important periods of the community's growth and development. She hopes it shows how industry and transportation shaped Gainesville and the area.

Some local elementary school teachers already are using the book to expose their students to Gainesville history. North Georgia Community Foundation plans to provide more to teachers and school libraries.

The beauty of the book, Laura says, is Good News Clinics reaps the proceeds from its sale. It's available for $20 at Northeast Georgia History Center, Hall County Library, Little Lady Bug, Cozy Corner, Window Shop at the medical center, Next Chapter book store, Hall Book Exchange, Interactive Neighborhood for Kids and Good News Clinics, 810 Pine St. SW.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.



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