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Johnny Vardeman: Markers relate some historic events, sites in Northeast Ga.

POSTED: April 23, 2017 10:05 p.m.

Did you know that a Confederate Army unit that organized in Hall County helped keep Union Gen. U.S. Grant’s army at bay until Gen. Robert E. Lee arrived at Petersburg, Va., during the Civil War?

This same unit, Co. D, 27th Georgia Infantry, Colquitt’s Brigade, “against great odds ...  withstood four attacks by a heavy force of Federals in a great display of bravery.” They fought some of the war’s most pivotal battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Charleston. Those soldiers finally surrendered in Durham, N.C., on April 26, 1865.

Where do you find that little nugget of local history? On a Georgia historical marker. This one is placed at Redwine Methodist Church on Ga. 322, Poplar Springs Road, near Blackshear Place.

Think about historical markers. We pass them everyday, many of us not taking the time to read them or understand why they’re there. You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate them.

The one at Redwine was installed in 1956.

Most residents are familiar with other Hall County historical markers such as the one concerning Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, who lived in Gainesville after the war. It was erected in 1953, along with one honoring Lyman Hall, the county’s namesake who was one of Georgia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. Both are in downtown Gainesville.

There are others, including one on Gainesville’s square telling about Templeton Reid, who operated a mint during gold-mining days in Lumpkin and other counties. Longstreet’s Piedmont Hotel also has a marker at the site of a portion of the restored hotel off Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Most recently, a historical marker at Broad and Maple streets downtown memorializes those who died in the Cooper Pants Factory fire during the 1936 tornado.

Another historical marker installed in 2000 is at the site of the Old Federal Road at Atlanta Highway and Radford Road in Flowery Branch. This was the road that connected Georgia and Tennessee through Indian territory in the early 1800s. The Cherokees granted the right for people to cross their nation in an 1805 treaty. The road crossed the Hall-Jackson counties line and the Chattahoochee River at Vann’s Ferry.

Nearby is a marker noting when Andrew Jackson stopped at Young’s Tavern on the way to fight the Seminole Indians in 1818. The tavern was operated by Robert Young about where Atlanta Highway and Hog Mountain Road intersect. Young farmed 1,600 acres in that area of South Hall County.

At Alta Vista Cemetery on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville is a marker telling about two Georgia governors buried there. The most famous is a Northeast Georgia son, A.D. Candler, who devoted his life to public office and served as governor 1898-02. Several landmarks in Hall and other counties bear his name.

Lesser known is James Milton Smith, governor from 1872-77. He wasn’t born in Hall County, nor lived here. He is buried in Alta Vista because his first wife, Hester Ann Brown Smith, was. She had died at White Sulphur Springs resort in east Hall County in 1880. There wasn’t even a monument to Gov. Smith for 35 years. Smith was a South Georgian, living much of his time in Twiggs County, Thomaston and Columbus.

The “two governors” marker was installed in 1962.

While Hall County has its share of historical markers (and there probably could be more), they are scattered all over Northeast Georgia, which is rich in history.

Habersham County, so very historic, has markers boasting of baseball legend Johnny Mize, who lived in Demorest, the summer home of namesake Joseph Habersham, and Piedmont College. A marker also designates the Unicoi Turnpike, the early road through the mountains.

One of lesser known, but more interesting, is one off the beaten path about the Habersham Iron Works in the old mill village of Habersham near Demorest. The iron works was incorporated in 1837 with South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, a U.S. vice president, among its stockholders. A principal was James Van Buren, a cousin of President Martin Van Buren.

The iron works closed after a few years, only to reopen during the Civil War to supply the Confederates with weapons.

History’s all around us, and historical markers pique our curiosity about how this area came together. Pause and read them next time you almost pass them by.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.



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