You might miss it if you were to bat an eye traveling down Ga. 60, Candler Road, south of Gainesville.
Nevertheless, Klondike, a once-bustling community, is still there, sitting roughly between the Candler and Belmont communities. And it’s still bustling, though in a different way as the former dirt Candler Road is a paved sometimes congested two-lane thick at times with trucks serving industries along the way.
Klondike used to be a stop on the Gainesville, Jefferson and Southern Railroad, which later became the Gainesville Midland. A bus that rode on the rails would take on and drop off passengers at a little station.
The late James Mathis Sr., who grew up in that area and rode the bus often, once said it was operated by Fred Burchfield. People along the line would flag it down if they couldn’t get to the Klondike stop.
Laverne (Pug) Gowder grew up in Klondike and remembers catching that bus on rails to Gainesville for a day and returning that night. Her father was Joe Davis, whose farm is now a stone quarry. People would tell the Davises they could never grow anything on their rocky land. They did grow some corn, butterbeans and watermelons, but their bumper crop of “rocks” turned out to be more profitable when the land converted to a quarry.
Mrs. Gowder also remembers wanting to ride their mule as soon as she got home from Candler School every day. And the dusty roads and seeing James Mathis ride on his mule to talk to her father for hours, it seemed like. “Pug” graduated from Lyman Hall High School in 1946.
Klondike’s school was consolidated along with those at Belmont and Calvary into Candler School in 1921. Myers Elementary School serves the community today.
Besides its school, Klondike for a time had its own post office.
Diane “Poochie” Nix, Mrs. Gowder’s niece and a member of the Davis family, remembers Klondike as a pleasant place to live, busy enough in her day and excitement when the train came right through the middle of the community. One of the engineers, Leland Byrd, would wave to the watching children and blow his whistle.
Friends nicknamed Becky Fauscett’s father, Howard Bridges, “Klondike” because “that was where he was from.”
The late historian Sybil McRay said the Klondike name came from a slave by that name owned by Moses Tanner, for whom Tanner Mill Road is named, and who once operated a thriving grist mill.
Mathis wrote that the community originally was called “Motan,” a cobbled-together form of the Moses Tanner name. His version of the Klondike name came from J.J. Adams, who operated a cannery there, labeled the cans “Klondike” and wanted the community named that. The railroad people agreed, and the name stuck in the community, according to that story.
The Mathises were a prominent family in the area. James Mathis’ parents were called “Mr. Elmer” and “Miz Nanny.” Their homeplace was at the intersection of Candler Road and Tanner Mill Road.
The Mathises owned Peach Mountain, whose name came from the time it was covered with peach trees. Much of the area at one time was in peach orchards, a resident once commenting there were thousands of trees from Klondike to Mount Airy.
Adams’s Klondike Cannery was a big operation in the early 1900s. It sat on a sidetrack to the railroad and shipped produce on the trains to Athens and other points. Some years, it would produce a half million cans of peaches, blackberries, huckleberries, other fruits and vegetables.
Adams was quite the entrepreneur. When he wasn’t canning, he had hunters bringing him rabbits to sell. In 1911, he boasted of shipping 5,200 rabbits to Athens, getting 15 cents each. He also sold quail. James Mathis also wrote that Adams had a hotel on top of Peach Mountain.
Sherman Pass grew up in nearby Belmont and remembers a cotton gin and feed mill, along with Klondike being a hub for the bus/trolley on rails.
In 1906-07, Klondike was in the running for an agricultural school that ended up in Habersham County and is now North Georgia Technical College in Clarkesville. There had been an intense bidding tug of war between Hall and Habersham counties for becoming the site of the school. Each county offered acreage and money to land the school, Habersham winning out. Other Hall County sites that had been offered included Price, Concord and Lula.
Cross Plain Church and the quarry are among the few landmarks from the old days. Besides the Hanson Quarry, the large contracting company, C.W. Matthews, has a presence around Klondike. Churches in the area include Candler United Methodist and Hopewell Baptist. Naturally, a Dollar General is nearby.
Canada’s Klondike was the site of a gold rush in the 1890s. There’s also a Klondike, a crossroads on U.S. 341 in Houston County, Ga., south of Perry, and a Klondike community south of Decatur in DeKalb County.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; e-mail.