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Johnny Vardeman: Tales of beans, tomatoes, cornpones and a roads name
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Black Mountain Beans

Questions about local history often come across this desk, and, though no expert, this column attempts to answer them from time to time.

Hall County is notorious for having some unique road and street names. One of the most curious is “Nopone Road,” which runs between U.S. 129 (Cleveland Road) and Clark’s Bridge Road (Ga. 284).

Longtime North Hall residents several years ago told the story of how Nopone got its name. Here it is again for those who might have missed it or for newcomers to the area who haven’t heard it:

The late Frank Peck was a large landowner in what is now the Mount Vernon Road area. A county commissioner, he also ran a store on the road when it was called Peck Road. Fields of cotton at one time were common in the still mostly rural area. Farmers would take their cotton to Peck’s gin.

The story goes that one couple farming for Peck was having it rough in lean times just at the end of the cotton season. The wife told her husband something to the effect that he needed to go see Mr. Peck to get their money, or “there would be no pone of bread on the table.”

You know what the woman was talking about if you’ve ever had cornpones cooked in one of those cast iron griddles that form mini-corn-shaped loaves.

Thereafter, whenever Mr. Peck would go up the road where the couple lived to check on his fields, he would say he was going up “the nopone road.” People called it that from then on, and it eventually became official.

However, the original Nopone Road ran from Peck Road (what is now Mount Vernon) to where Jim Hood and Highland roads intersect. The Nopone name now is on the road that connects the Gainesville-Cleveland Road and Clark’s Bridge Road.

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This is the beginning of prime time for locally grown veggies. Farmers’ markets are beginning to brim with produce. If not already, people will be breaking out the mayonnaise, white bread and homegrown tomatoes to enjoy that delicacy that only emerges when those Big Boys ripen red on the vine in somebody’s backyard or some farmer’s field.

Fresh string beans are just as much anticipated and devoured this time of year. Many varieties abound, among the favorites white half-runners and Blue Lake.

There’s one string bean you can’t buy seeds for in the stores. They are passed down family to family for generations. Mountain Black Beans might be traced further back than the 1960s, but Carol Shope knows Clyde Morgan of the Sugar Hill community between Gainesville and Jefferson passed them along to her father, W.M. Payne. Morgan got them from relatives in the Blue Ridge Mountains who probably had been growing them for decades.

The beans are unique, very flavorful and colorful. The beans inside turn dark, a kind of burgundy black, Carol Shope says. She has passed seeds down to any number of friends through the years.

Jim and Carol grow a small amount of Mountain Black Beans, and their friends of more than 60 years, Tom and Mellie Price of Benton, Tenn., are proud of their annual crop, which grows so tall it takes a ladder to pick all the beans.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.

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