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Johnny Vardeman: Ferry operators of early 1900s viewed bridges as competitors

POSTED: May 7, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Just as multilane highways today are replacing narrow two-laners, and just as rutted dirt roads were replaced by paved roads, bridges over wide streams were replacing ferries in the early 1900s. J.M. Nunn of Gainesville built two bridges over the Broad River in Elbert County, but hardly before they were completed, he lost them.

The first one broke up in its midsection just before the county accepted it, and the other one burned. Seems some culprits sawed the timbers in the middle in one, causing it to fall in. Arson was suspected in the burning of the second one.

Nunn speculated it was because the bridges were providing competition for nearby ferries that were operating on the river. The ferries were charging fees, and the bridges operated by the county would be toll-free eventually, so the ferries would go out of business. Ferry operators had opposed the county building the bridges.

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Silver City today is a bustling community at the Forsyth-Dawson counties line, right by Ga. 400 between Dahlonega and Atlanta.

Its location and the extension of 400 have made it a prime place to live and do business. Ga. 9, an old route that has served the community for many decades, also runs right through Silver City. Residential areas have built up because Atlanta area workers can zip right up 400 to their jobs.

Well, “zip up” isn’t quite accurate today because 400 has become so congested. Still, as the population increased so did surrounding businesses, including the Premium Outlets and numerous other enterprises taking advantage of the mushrooming rooftops.

In horse-and-wagon days, it was considered a three-day ride from Dahlonega to Roswell generally along the route that is Ga. 9 today. Silver City, just a day’s ride to Roswell, was perhaps a stop along the way.

The community’s original name was Tatum, after the post office by the same name. It is said that settlers from North Carolina might have changed it to Silver City because some of them came from a community by the same name. Another story is it was named that because there was considerable trade in silver.

The post office changed its name to Silver City in 1886. John Pruitt took over the post office in 1894, operating it from his store, which was common in those days. He ran the post office until 1907.

Silver City’s estimated population today is 15,000, with a median income of near $80,000.

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Hall County has a connection to two American astronauts, Roy Bridges Jr. and John H. Casper. Bridges graduated from Gainesville High School in 1961 and rode rockets into space before becoming director of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center. Casper made several trips into space, and though not growing up in Hall County, considered Gainesville his home. His parents and grandmother lived here, as well as his brother, Mike Casper

There was a third astronaut with Hall County connections, too, but they date pretty far back in time. Gordon Cooper is a descendant of the Simmons and Stearns families from Hall County. Some of those distant relatives remain in the county, and some are buried in the area.

A building in Shawnee, Okla., is named for Gordon Cooper’s father, Leroy Cooper. Maud, Okla., is named for Gordon Cooper’s grandmother’s sister, Maud Stearns.

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Two longtime legendary law enforcement officers from Hall County retired early in the same year, 1971. Hoyt Henry, who rose from the ranks, retired as police chief of Gainesville. He had been chief 18 years and won high praise for his conduct of the small department. Henry didn’t really retire, however, moving into Lake Lanier Islands’s top security position.

The other retiree was Fred Culberson, best known as a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent. Culberson served in law enforcement 40 years, retiring as enforcement chief for the Georgia Revenue Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax division. He got his start as a deputy sheriff in Jackson County, then served 25 years with the GBI and State Patrol.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.



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