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Johnny Vardeman: Political party split lost job for postmaster in 1904
Johnny Vardeman

Political party infighting isn’t something new. Today’s major parties, Democrat and Republican, are good examples of serious friction between their extremes.

Republicans in Georgia weren’t much of a factor in the early 1900s as many residents still resented their “carpetbagger” reputation after the Civil War when many Northerners moved to the South to “reconstruct” it.

The division in the Republican Party at that time was evident in the 1904 race for 9th District Congress and the politicking for the Gainesville postmaster position. Postmaster jobs at the time were purely political appointments eventually approved by the nation’s president.

H.P. Farrow, who also operated the popular Porter Springs resort in Lumpkin County, was Gainesville’s postmaster at the time. A longtime prominent Republican and former state attorney general, he didn’t support his party’s nomination of James Ashley for 9th District Congress. Farrow called him a “carpetbagger” and disputed his claim that he was a resident of Dawson County, a part of the 9th District.

Farrow, chair of the district GOP, also had not supported Republican J.B. Gaston for Gainesville mayor.

As a result, many area Republicans lobbied him out of his Gainesville postmaster’s job.

In October 1904, a month before the general election, Farrow was removed as postmaster. Those in the party whom he opposed apparently pulled the strings to get him out. Ashley claimed Farrow wasn’t a resident of Gainesville and had been absent from his job, while Farrow countered that he had had to spend considerable time at the bedside of his wife, who had been seriously ill at their Porter Springs hotel and had died two months earlier. He also maintained he did have a home in Gainesville. 

Most Gainesvillians expressed satisfaction with Farrow’s service as postmaster. He said he was never told why he was removed. He had just received a raise from $2,100 a year to $2,200.

In the congressional election, Farrow supported Democrat Tom Bell of Hall County, who easily defeated Ashley.

Helen D. Longstreet, widow of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, succeeded Farrow as postmaster. Hall County residents didn’t seem to mind as long as the post office operated efficiently. Mrs. Longstreet, whose husband died in January of 1904, had supported Republican Theodore Roosevelt for president, who won that year’s election.

Mrs. Longstreet served at a critical time for the nation’s postal service. Fees were charged for mail delivery, though carriers often delivered mail two or three times a day to businesses. Cities of 10,000 or more population or post offices with $10,000 annual receipts could have free postal service. Gainesville wasn’t quite there under H.P. Farrow’s tenure, but it came about during Mrs. Longstreet’s in March 1905. Gainesville’s post office then had four carriers and two substitutes.

She also campaigned for a new post office, the building now standing at the corner of Washington and Green streets just off the public square and serving as the Federal Building and courthouse. Rural Free Delivery also was being implemented across the nation and eventually reached Hall County and Northeast Georgia.

It was a tough time for Hall County’s textile mills early in the 20th century. Gainesville Cotton Mills, later known as Pacolet’s Gainesville Mill, had been devastated by the 1903 tornado. The next year, Pacolet’s New Holland Mill had to close because of the high price of cotton and the low price it could get for finished goods. Gainesville Cotton Mill resumed in April 1904, returning work to some 300 employees.

The New Holland mill closed early in the year, but paid those who would promise to return to work half pay plus free rent for their homes and free medical care, including medicines. The mill resumed some operations in June that year, eventually returning to full time.

Gainesville’s first real sewer system began service in February 1904. Sewer lines were operational on Main, Broad, Spring, Washington, Maple, Church, Race, Bradford and Green streets. City officials boasted that the system was capable of serving a city of 40,000 residents.

In March of that year, Gainesville school students first occupied what became known as Main Street School. For the next several years, it accommodated both high school and elementary students.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326; e-mail

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