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Johnny Vardeman: Georgia Power's roots run deep in Hall County
Johnny_Vardeman
Johnny Vardeman

Georgia Power Co. stays in the news a lot. It recently said it would double production of solar power. The Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion constantly makes the headlines because of being behind schedule and way over budget. And the company recently announced it would seek increases in electric rates for customers.

It has been said all this started in Hall County — Georgia Power Co., that is. That’s somewhat accurate because a big piece of the company was chartered in Hall County.

The first legal advertising locally appeared Sept. 23, 1908, incorporating Georgia Power Co. The petition for incorporation listed G.H. Prior and James A. Rudolph of Hall County as petitioners, as well as Jack J. Spalding of Fulton County. The advertisement stated the company’s main office and place of business would be in Hall County. It would be capitalized at $1.5 million, and shares of the company could be purchased for $100 each.

The purpose of Georgia Power in Hall County would be to acquire, own and develop water power projects and build electric plants and transmission lines to distribute electricity for light, heat and power. The company also proposed to build dams on the Chattahoochee River or any other river in the state. It also would have the power of eminent domain to condemn property it needed to conduct its business.

King, Spalding and Little of Atlanta were the lawyers for the power company.

So, while it is correct to say Georgia Power had its origins in Hall County, at the same time other “Georgia Powers” were similarly being formed in other parts of the state.

Actually, the company that first brought electric power to Atlanta in 1884 eventually became what is known as Georgia Power Co. During the 1880s and into the 1900s, electricity was making its way into the South and other parts of the country. The various start-up companies that distributed electricity gradually merged into other entities until they pretty much became one big company.

One of those early electric power producers was the Georgia Railway and Power Co., which began in 1902. It ran streetcars in Atlanta and provided electricity for lighting houses, streets and businesses. In July 1916 it acquired Gainesville Railway and Power Co., which ran Gainesville’s street railway and owned Dunlap Dam on the Chattahoochee River at the end of Riverside Drive. The local concern also operated Tallulah Falls hydroelectric plant. The transaction was for $190,000.

Chattahoochee Park, a popular recreation area for local residents and visitors, also was part of the deal. The power company developed it as a camp for its employees. At one time a convention hall was proposed to be built on the property. American Legion Post 7 in Gainesville now owns the property, and a pavilion built by the power company has been restored and remains in use. The Legion also owns boat docks on part of its Lake Lanier shoreline.

Gainesville Railway and Power Co. succeeded North Georgia Electric Co., which was the early electricity provider in Hall County. Its officers were W.A. Carlisle, president, and W.H. Slack, vice president and general manager.

There also was a Gainesville and Dahlonega Electric and Railway Co. It was formed and headed by A.J. Warner as was Gainesville Railway and Power. It operated a dam on the Chestatee River 15 miles northwest of Gainesville and provided electricity to Gainesville.

That company was the one that proposed a railroad from Gainesville to Dahlonega. The road bed was graded within eight miles of Dahlonega, but the line was never built. A.D. Candler of Gainesville, who became governor, once headed a company that started a railroad line toward, but not reaching, Dahlonega.

Hall County’s fledgling electric power projects were a big part of the growth of Georgia Power Co. The power company indeed continues a large presence in North Georgia, building dams to back up popular lakes Rabun, Burton, Seed, Tallulah, Tugalo and Yonah.

Georgia Power today provides electricity to parts of 155 of Georgia’s 159 counties and counts 2.4 million customers. It is the largest of the power companies in the Southern Co.

Watch for more local history in this column next Sunday.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville; 770-532-2326; johnny.peggy1956@gmail.com.

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