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Johnny Vardeman: Tallulah Falls Study Club has its final meeting after 67 years
Johnny_Vardeman

A study club that has been in existence in Gainesville for 67 years is no more.

The Tallulah Falls Study Club held its final meeting last month, dwindling membership the main reason for its demise.

One would think by the name the club originated in Tallulah Falls, that picturesque mountain community on the Habersham-Rabun counties line. But when the club organized in 1951, its mission was to support tiny Tallulah Falls School serving students from the surrounding mountain communities who had few educational opportunities. The school has grown into a respected independent co-educational college preparatory boarding school with a wide-ranging diverse enrollment.

The Georgia Federation of Women’s Club was a prime founder and supporter of the school, so the Tallulah Falls Study Club took it on as a project filling whatever needs it could, sending donations and providing gifts to students at Christmastime. The study club later left the federation and headed in a different direction.

Tallulah Falls Study Club began when another study club, 20th Century, filled its own membership quota. It sponsored Tallulah Falls, whose first meeting was at the home of Hallie Ann Porter on Walker Street in Gainesville, according to Mary Jo Powell, who with Hallie Ann was a charter member. Ten women were at that first meeting.

Tallulah Falls Study Club started with a membership quota of 30, but later raised it to 35. Its original dues were $5 a year, later doubled to $10.

After several years in the Federation of Women’s Clubs, it decided to become just a social club. A member would be a hostess in her home every month, and another member would provide a speaker. Officers of the club would hold an elaborate luncheon at Christmastime using linen tablecloths and napkins, fine china and sterling silver flatware. Each member would bring a wrapped gift for children at Tallulah Falls School. That was when members would dress in their “church clothes,” but meetings became more casual over the years.

The club also discontinued formal programs, and meetings were just plain social occasions. Donations continued, however, but to different local charities.

Most meetings had been on the serious side with interesting speakers, Mary Jo said. After meeting for years in members’ homes, the club met for a while at Peach State Bank, and lately at First Presbyterian Church.

Mary Jo Powell was the last living charter member. Joanne Frierson, who died recently, was another charter member, and Lillian Hudgins was Tallulah Falls Study Club’s first president.

Some members moved away, some died, some had health issues, and others just quit coming to meetings.

“We only had 12 or 15 active members at the last,” Mary Jo said. “It was a difficult decision to make when we decided to disband, but it is time. The same officers have taken their jobs for several years.” 

Mary Jo was the treasurer for the past 15 to 20 years. She had attended the vast majority of the meetings over the years. That first official meeting was Sept. 11, 1951, and the final one was May 8, 2018. Carol Snelling presided as the last president.

The final meeting at First Presbyterian Church was sad in a way, Mary Jo said, “but we were glad that day that we did it.”


The name “Tallulah Falls” is said to have originated from an Indian legend. E. Merton Coulter, the late Georgia historian, once wrote that Tallulah was the daughter of an Indian chief, Grey Eagle, whose tribe lived around what is now Tallulah Gorge. Tallulah fell in love with a white explorer from Savannah, and when her father found out, he ordered the man thrown into the gorge.

Tallulah was forced to watch, and as her lover fell to his death, she followed him with a leap of her own.

If that is to be believed, there must have been an epidemic of lovers leaping off cliffs.  Sautee and Nacoochee were lovers from rival Indian tribes. When Nacoochee’s father found out about the affair, he ordered Sautee thrown from the cliffs of Yonah Mountain in what is now White County. Chief Wahoo’s daughter, Nacoochee, was forced to watch, but instead chose to leap after Sautee. 

Legend or not, that was the end of Sautee, Nacoochee, Tallulah and her lover. Now Tallulah Falls Study Club has joined them, though none of its tribe chose to jump off a mountain.

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

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