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Johnny Vardeman: Schools starting classes in July are nothing new in Hall County
Johnny_Vardeman
Johnny Vardeman

Most every summer comes discussion of school starting times as vacations have been shortened, some classes beginning as early as July. There’s even a legislative study committee taking up the question. It’s because schools seem to be starting earlier every year. You hear people say when they were in school, classes didn’t start until after Labor Day.

But was that the way it really was? When H.G. Jarrard was Hall County schools superintendent in the 1940s, Chestnut Mountain, Oakwood, Clermont, Brookton and Murrayville schools started as early as July 24. Sardis and Corinth schools opened July 31. 

And that was before schools were air-conditioned.

The remainder of the county schools started either the last Monday in August or the first Monday in September, which would have been Labor Day.


Many are familiar with the story about a diamond found in the Glades District of Hall County between Lula and Brookton decades ago. A couple of other diamonds might have been found around there or in other parts of the county.

James Denton, a White Countian who once wrote news from the mountains, reported that there had been six diamonds found in Georgia. The one from the Glades in Hall County, one near Clayton, one near Atlanta and three in White County. However, Denton said he really didn’t know for sure of any diamonds found in White County.

He did say White County could claim the largest gold nugget found east of the Mississippi River, 500 pennyweight in size.

White Countian Garrison Baker, in his book, “In the Shadow of Yonah,” wrote that some records indicate that largest gold nugget was found in Hamby’s Mine by John Thurmond and weighed 25.5 ounces.

The Hall County diamond, Denton said, was found by a tenant of Dr. Richard Banks, a noted Hall County physician. It is said he gave it to Rafe Banks Jr., and Rafe Banks Sr. bought it at a sale for $300. 

However, another version of the story is that John G. Nelson found the diamond about 1840, took it to the Dahlonega mint, which sent it to the Philadelphia mint, where its superintendent bought it. 

Tom Bell, who became 9th District congressman, is said to have found a second diamond in the Stocking Eater Branch, had it appraised in Europe, and it ended up on the finger of Miss Sue Banks. A third diamond also is said to have been found by Nelson, and there were reports of diamonds found on the Wilson gold mine property of A.J. Odell in southwestern Hall County. One of those diamonds was found by John M. Luther, who sold it for a dime to somebody who sold it for $30, but its real value later was determined at $800.


John Bates, one of the first settlers, supposedly helped decide on Gainesville as the county seat of Hall County. The settlement first was known as Mule Camp Springs because Native Americans and traders visited it to water their livestock and trade their goods. The springs are variously said to have been located near the intersection of Jesse Jewell Parkway and West Academy Street or at the west end of Spring Street. That area, near the present poultry monument, was an important crossroads in the early days.

Bates is said to have lobbied for Gainesville’s name after Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, with whom he served in the War of 1812. Bates also was Hall County’s first state representative and one of the first Inferior Court judges.

But it is John Vance Cotter who actually gets credit for the Gainesville name. He also served under Gaines and was on the Inferior Court with Bates.


Another nugget from the Dahlonega Nugget when the colorful W.B. Townsend was editor of Lumpkin County’s newspaper:

“It being reported last week out in Mill Creek District that the editor of this paper was dead, or about so, caused some right nice things to be said about me. We are truly glad that we were not even sick and return our heartfelt thanks for what they did say. We are still kicking high this morning at 4 a.m., but there is no telling when Mr. Flu will come along, sever the cord of life and jerk a feather out of my cap.”

In the same issue, Townsend reported another false report of a death, that of Chalmers Stow, formerly of Dahlonega, then a Gainesville undertaker. It had been twice incorrectly reported that he had died.

This was in 1918 when the Spanish flu was killing hundreds. Editor Townsend, however, survived, living until July 1934. Just before he passed, he had written in his paper, “Ye editor is sick.”

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times whose columns appear Sundays; email.

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