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Johnny Vardeman: More questions on how places received names
Johnny_Vardeman
Johnny Vardeman

Newcomers to Northeast Georgia continue to be curious about the history of the area. This also is the 200th anniversary of Hall County’s founding, so the interest is intensified.

But longtime residents, too, want to know more about the area’s history.

As requested, here are some more origins of names of streets or places:

Helen was named for the daughter of R.M. McCombs, president of Byrd-Matthews Investment Co., which built a sawmill and railroad to haul timber out of the mountains around what became the town. Author Matt Gedney of White County researched the naming of the town and its namesake in his book, “The Story of Helen, Georgia.”

Lula supposedly was named for the daughter of Ferdinand Phinizy, a railroad investor who owned nearby White Sulphur Resort at one time. Next-door neighbor Belton, no longer in existence, was named for Maj. John Bell, an early resident.

Tallulah Falls, legend has it, was named for the daughter of Indian Chief Grey Fox, who forced Tallulah to watch as he ordered her white lover thrown into the gorge.

Brenau University was founded in 1878 as Georgia Baptist Seminary for Young Ladies. After a change in ownership, it was named Brenau College in 1900, the Brenau coming from a combination of the German word “bren” or “brennen” meaning to burn, and “au,” an abbreviation of the Latin word “aurum.” Put together the Brenau definition becomes “gold as refined by fire.”

Screamer Mountain in Rabun County, legend suggests, was named for a Native American woman who screamed all night from the top of the mountain. Or, it could have been a Cherokee Indian woman who jumped from the mountain to her death because she didn’t want to be removed from the North Georgia mountains on the Trail of Tears.

Ball Ground in Cherokee County was named for the fields on which Native Americans played their “stick ball” games.

Chicopee community gets its name from Chicopee Manufacturing Co., which built a model village in Hall County in 1927. It operated into the 1990s, but the village remains, and the former plant buildings are occupied by other industries. The name Chicopee originated from the town in Massachusetts where the company was founded. It is a Nipmuc word meaning “violent water,” applied to the waterfalls that powered the original mill. Nipmuc was the name of the original occupants of that land.

Sautee in White County, name of a son of a chief who was supposed to have been thrown off Yonah Mountain because he dated Nacoochee, daughter of a rival Native American chief. Nacoochee, apparently from Nagutsi, meaning evening star, leaped after her lover.

Lumpkin County was named for Wilson Lumpkin, governor of Georgia when the county was formed in 1832. Auraria from the Latin-French “auderite,” meaning “like gold,” suggested by John C. Calhoun, a mine investor, U.S. senator and American vice president. Dahlonega is from a Cherokee word, “Dalonige,” meaning yellow or gold.

Mount Airy in Habersham County, founded and named by railroad promoter M.C. Wilson for its mountain air. Alto from the railroad term altus, the high point in the rail line. Cornelia, first named Blaine, for the wife of Pope Barrow, a railroad promoter. Habersham named for Joseph Habersham of Revolutionary War fame.

Braselton in Jackson County for John O. Braselton, an early settler.

Piedmont College, for its location in Georgia’s Piedmont section.

Baldwin in Habersham County is named for an official of the Atlanta-Charlotte Airline Railroad, Joseph A. Baldwin.

Banks County is named for Dr. Richard Banks, noted physician and legislator.

Amicalola Falls in Dawson County came from another Cherokee phrase, “ami calolah,” rolling or tumbling water.

A quick review of a few Hall County names:

Thompson Bridge Road, from the pioneer Thompson family who built the bridge over the Chattahoochee River.

Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch, where, naturally, springs sprouted and used as a water source by early settlers. Flowery Branch was the site of an Indian trading post, Nattagasska, meaning “Blossom Creek.”

Chattahoochee, Indian word for “painted rock.”

Clermont, a “clear view of the mountains,” an improvement from the earlier name, “Dip.” 

Green Street, for Dr. Robert Green, who operated a street railway. E.E. Butler Parkway, parts of which once were named Athens Street and Sycamore Street, for the local physician and first black member of Gainesville’s school board. John Morrow Parkway for the first Gainesville black mayor.

Prior Street for Judge Garland Prior; Perry Street for H.H. Perry, prominent lawyer and politician.

If you know the origins of road or place names, contact Johnny Vardeman at the numbers below. 


Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. whose column appears Sundays; e-mail.

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