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‘Bloody 9th’ was slow to report election night returns

POSTED: January 5, 2014 12:30 a.m.

This election year, voting results from the various precincts around the 9th Congressional District will show up on computer screens and other electronic devices not long after the polls close.

Yet, the 9th District, which includes remote voting places in the mountains, remains one of the most difficult districts to retrieve election returns. This despite modern voting machines in most of the counties.

In the days of paper ballots, The Times went to great lengths to get precinct-by-precinct returns from all the counties in the district because of the usual close races. Besides having a contact in every county to phone in results, the newspaper joined with radio station WGGA in Hall County to post people in every precinct from Pea Ridge to Polksville.

Still results were slow to come in, and it might be the next afternoon before an outcome became conclusive. This was because precinct workers often would take ballots home with them to count after eating supper. Sometimes reporters would help count the ballots to speed up the process.

Some poll managers in distant precincts might go home, have supper and not count ballots till the next morning. Those results might not be known until the poll managers took them to the courthouse the day after the election.

Those primitive ways are pretty much in the past in today’s era of electronics, voting machines and tighter oversight of the polls.

But, talk about primitive. In the 1890s, the 9th District was known as “the Bloody 9th” because of some close and brutal elections. It also was considered the hardest district to pry voting returns from, and it might be days before official results were known.

The mountain counties were especially tough. The Atlanta Constitution worked hard to expedite election reporting. It assigned messengers in every county to compile results and get them to the newspaper before it went to press. They didn’t always succeed.

Fewer than half the counties at the time had telegraph offices. The nearest ones might be 40 miles away, usually at railroad stations.

The Union County messenger in one election had to ride by horseback to Nottely, N.C., on the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad to telegraph his results. The Towns County correspondent rode 30 miles over the mountains and streams to Murphy, N.C., to get to a telegrapher. White County’s messenger rode horseback to Belton next door to Lula to reach a railroad telegraph office, and the Dawson County correspondent rode 25 miles to Gainesville.

Even then, it could be a long wait before people knew whom they had elected.

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There are two markers noting Gen. Andrew Jackson’s troops marching through Georgia toward Florida during the Seminole War.

To clarify, the one between Jefferson and Winder on Jackson Trail was erected by the Atlanta Daughters of American Revolution and the Sunbury DAR of Winder. Those DAR chapters’ names are inscribed on the monument, which also reads, “This is the same road over which marched the famous Gen. Andrew Jackson.” The marker was dedicated in April 1926.

No doubt the William Candler chapter DAR participated in that ceremony, but it went to great trouble to erect a monument marking the Jackson Trail and Gen. Jackson’s stop at Young’s Tavern near Flowery Branch.

Helen Martin combed through DAR minutes and found three pages relating to the Young’s Tavern marker from 1927 to 1956. Mrs. John Hulsey, DAR regent, gave the boulder from Stone Mountain to the chapter for the monument.

Those participating in the unveiling ceremony attended a luncheon at the Princeton Hotel prior to the program. The monument was placed in a triangle at the intersection of what was then called the Appalachian Scenic Highway, now the Atlanta Highway, and the Old Federal Road.

In the 1940s, the DAR appealed to county commissioners to fence in the boulder and place it on a concrete pad.

In the 1950s, the monument was damaged, and the DAR had it repaired and relocated along with a historical marker from the Georgia Historical Society Jan. 23, 1958. Dr. Rafe Banks Jr., whose ancestor was Robert Young of Young’s Tavern, was the speaker for the unveiling. Gen. Jackson spent the night at Young’s Tavern in 1818.

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


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