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Johnny Vardeman: Cool off in the heat by remembering frigid winters
Johnny Vardeman

The middle of July is a good time to have some cooling thoughts about weather to come. If not sooner, temperatures will begin to moderate in six weeks or so, then begin to cool down as leaves begin to turn and fall off the trees.

Maybe the winter to come won’t be like the winter of 1917-18 in Gainesville, but by the time summer ends, most people look forward to when they can fish out those sweaters and coats from their closets.

That winter of 1917-18 was pretty severe with snow and ice staying on the ground for what seemed like forever. Snow fell Dec. 11, 1917, and that and other ice and snow that accumulated later didn’t melt until 49 days later. In between, temperatures fell to zero, and readings of 4, 8 and 10 above were recorded on other days.

1940 was a rough winter also when 11 inches of snow fell, and wind piled drifts as high as 20 inches in January. A few days later, the thermometer registered minus-1.

Other winters that are remembered by many include 1960 when three weeks of snow and sleet practically paralyzed Gainesville and other communities and 1993 when a blizzard did the same just at winter’s end in March.

1921 wasn’t a very good year for Dewberry Baptist Church No. 2 on what is now U.S. 129 between Gainesville and Quillians Corner. Black graves at Dewberry Baptist No. 2 Cemetery on Cleveland Road were vandalized April 23, 1921. The vandals broke tombstones on more than a half dozen graves. They also entered the church, overturned the pews and did other damage. They caught the scoundrels eventually, four people arrested on vandalism charges..

This followed burning of black homes and a school in the Quillians/Dewberry No. 2 area. There had been racial troubles in that area for a few weeks.

Then in December that year, Dewberry No. 2 burned. The fire was discovered quickly, and windows, shutters, the pulpit and organ were salvaged. But the building itself had to be re-built, and services resumed in April 1922.

When A.A. Hope was born in Hall County in 1823, just five years after the county’s founding, the area was mostly wilderness with Indians roaming the hills and forests. He didn’t fight in the Civil War but delivered mail between Stone Mountain and Lawrenceville. A livery man, he hauled sand to be used in construction of the foundation of the old First Baptist Church before the new one was built at the corner of Washington and Green streets in Gainesville, the predecessor of the present building on North Green Street. 

Mr. Hope died Dec. 29, 1918, which would have been two weeks after the 100th anniversary of the county’s formal founding. Hall County will mark its 200th anniversary Dec. 15 of this year.

It was 1939 before most rural areas of Hall County got electricity other than the few that had their own limited systems. Jackson Electric Membership Corp. received $212,000 to begin running 224 miles of lines through Hall, Gwinnett, Jackson and Lumpkin counties. Seventy-nine miles of those lines would be in Hall County. 

In 1947, Southern Bell added 900 telephones in Hall County. That made the total at the time 4,500 with 900 applications for service pending.

Ivey Terrace Street, sometimes spelled Ivy, in Gainesville once was known as Quarry Road. Obviously that was because a stone quarry once operated along that street and also along what is known today as Wilshire Road. A popular park now runs along both of those streets. Evidence of the quarry remains with high cliffs on one side and huge stones scattered here and there along aptly named Rock Creek, which runs through the parks.

When automobiles began to appear on the streets in Gainesville in the early 1900s, the Gainesville News commented: “It is getting so in Gainesville that it keeps the average fellow dodging now to keep out of the way of automobiles they are getting so numerous here. 

“The bringing of four machines here by the Gainesville Auto Co. has increased the number perceptibly in a short time, and with the establishment of a garage and another auto-mobile agency, interest is stimulated in the people in these wonderful machines, and it is likely that several new automobiles will be in use here,” As far as pedestrians dodging automobiles, little has changed.

More local history to come in next week’s column.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times whose column appears Sundays. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville; e-mail