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Johnny Vardeman: Ridge Road was named for a Cherokee Indian chief
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Many assume Ridge Road was so named because it generally follows a ridge from Old Cornelia Highway to Queen City Parkway in Gainesville. One story goes, though, that its namesake was Major Ridge, a Cherokee Indian chief. Gen. Andrew Jackson is said to have commissioned him at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend during the War of 1812.

Ridge’s name actually began as Kahmungdahegan, meaning “a man who walks the mountaintops.” He apparently walked plenty of them because he was born in the mountains around what is now Towns County in 1733.

Ridge became famous riding a white horse staking out Cherokee Indian claims. After he was commissioned a major by Gen. Jackson, he took “Major” as his official first name.

The chief later operated a ferry and trading post on the Oostanaula River near Rome.

Ridge was a leader in negotiating the Treaty of New Echota, under which the Cherokees “sold” their land to the government in exchange for land in Oklahoma. It eventually led to the infamous “Trail of Tears,” when thousands of Indians died on a forced removal from Georgia.

Ridge, his son John, and others moved to Oklahoma ahead of the Trail of Tears. Many of his fellow Indians opposed the treaty and removal. They held a “trial” and voted to assassinate him as a traitor to the Cherokees. Both he and his son John were ambushed and killed, along with another leader.

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Spout Springs Road in southern Hall County is one of the busiest roadways in the area. Residential and commercial development, spilling over from neighboring Gwinnett County, has caused new roads and widened highways in the last few years. Even more construction is planned.           

It was a far cry from yesteryear when Spout Springs Road was just a dirt trail. Yet it was a busy one even back then with wagons, horses and buggies constantly traveling to and from the gushing springs that once supplied the area with water and from which the road derives its name.

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Before the east Hall County towns of Lula and Belton merged into one, there were charges that they operated a speed trap.

The problem was so serious that Gov. Gene Talmadge in 1933 had heard enough complaints about motorists getting caught allegedly going over the speed limit. He called in the sheriffs of Hall and Habersham counties to consider a solution to the problem.

The governor promised he would impose martial law on the communities if nothing else worked. Lulans, including Councilman B.F. Whitworth, told Gov. Talmadge they would increase the speed limit from 20 to 30 miles per hour, a move that apparently wouldn’t slow drivers down, but would keep some of them within the legal speed limit.

Lula Council also put the lone motorcycle policeman on a $15-per-week salary instead of paying him half the fines he collected. Belton didn’t take similar action.

The speed trap situation apparently became more serious when one of the drivers caught in the “trap” was the governor of Florida. The governor was fined $5, which he paid to the policeman in cash on the spot.

There is no official Belton now as it merged with Lula in 1956. Both communities evolved from what was termed the Four-Mile Purchase or Wofford’s Settlement, land that was ceded by the Cherokee Indians in 1804. Lula was incorporated in 1876 and Belton in 1879.

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Who remembers Hall County’s Harmony Band in the 1950s? Grady Watson, longtime clerk of Hall County courts, was the organizer, and played along with Neal Alton, Fred Johnson, W.A. (Humpy) Campbell, George Canada and Harrison Chumbler.

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Some nuggets of wisdom from W.B. Townsend, legendary editor of the Dahlonega Nugget in the 1920s:

“A man who drinks sugar liquor, smokes, chews tobacco and uses snuff so he can’t kiss a baby or anyone else is in a devil of a bad shape.”

“A good many people have lost their lives recently by flying across the country like birds. We will never get killed or crippled this way. We are satisfied with the ground floor.”

“The blockader and bootlegger are very well satisfied with the present so-called prohibition law. Because they get a better price for their liquor than they did before.”

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.

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