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Column: Bells tolled long for family ties in Congress race
Johnny Vardeman

During the 1904 campaign for Congress for the 9th District, Tom Bell of White and Hall counties was seeking to unseat Rep. F. Carter Tate of Pickens County.

Bell scheduled a speech in Lawrenceville, and Tate surprised him by also showing up. Bell reminded Tate that he had married into the Bell family, making them fourth cousins by marriage. He told the audience that he would keep the congressional seat in the family if he won. Tate responded that voters should keep him in office as swapping one Bell kin for another would be no different than swapping a dollar bill from one hand to the other.

“It would be the same dollar bill,” he said.

Bell told the audience that he had been the first to suggest Tate run for Congress in 1892, but he didn’t expect him to keep the office for life, Tate having served five terms. Nevertheless, Bell unseated Tate, but went on to serve 13 terms himself.

Campaign finance

Millions of dollars were spent on the U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia and the nationwide presidential election in November. Campaign financing has forever been an issue. The Gainesville News in 1904 wrote: “If the same interest was taken in behalf of religion, and the same amount of money to elect favorite candidates to promote the cause was expended on behalf of the church, what grand results would flow there from.”

Required vaccinations

As vaccines to combat the coronavirus become available, controversy continues over some people not wanting to be vaccinated.

When smallpox was raging in the early 1900s, health officials tried to contain its spread. Hall County commissioners even required vaccinations and quarantines for certain people. The disease was particularly prevalent in the New Holland village.

Commissioners mandated that people infected by smallpox enter a hospital furnished by the county. Otherwise, they could stay home “if properly provided for or guarded at their own expense.”

Anybody exposed to smallpox was required to be vaccinated.

Quick recovery

People didn’t stay sick long enough, the Gainesville News complained. 

“When we put in the paper that Mr. So-and-So is sick, then go out and meet him on the street about the time the paper is issued, we think he is not acting in good faith. He ought to remain sick long enough to keep the reputation of the paper from being spoiled for truth.”


It didn’t take much to make the newspaper in 1893. From the Cleveland Progress: “Horse belonging to James Lathem died Tuesday morning ... Bill Killion from Blairsville passed through Cleveland last week with the finest drove of mules that we have ever seen this season. He was on his way to South Georgia.”

From the Fork District of Hall County, the confluence of the Chestatee and Chattahoochee rivers, May 1902: “The farmers are working over their corn this week and are looking forward to the corn crop as the only source for bread. It looks as if they will have to cut a low stubble for biscuit ... It seems as if the boys and girls have decided to stop marrying until next spring.”

Eating high on the hog

As spring sprung and planting time approached in March 1904, the Gainesville News commented, “The time is now at hand when you will begin to expend about $50 on your garden and gather about 50 cents worth of vegetables.”

Very long trip

A minister told his congregation, “My brethren, the collection will now be taken for my expenses for my trip for I am going away for my health. The more money collected, the longer I will stay.”

It was reported it was the largest collection ever taken in the church.

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; email, or His column publishes weekly.

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