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Column: Governor A.D. Candler left his mark on Gainesville
Johnny Vardeman

Working on Sunday used to be a crime.

Hall County City Court in 1901 sentenced Burke Waters to six months in the chain gang or a $65 fine for working on what many consider the Sabbath. The case went all the way to the State Supreme Court, which denied Waters a new trial. The court ruled, “The charge being the accused pursued on the Lord’s Day the work of his ordinary calling, the same not being a work of necessity or charity.” The local court’s verdict of guilty stood, and the state court found no error in denying a new trial. 

Waters was a Seventh-day Adventist, whose members worship every day but consider Saturday as the Sabbath. 

Gov. A.D. Candler apparently didn’t cotton to government interference in any religion, and therefore commuted Waters’ sentence to a $5 fine.

The governor, one of two buried in Gainesville’s Alta Vista Cemetery, was a popular politician, having never lost an election for Gainesville mayor, the Georgia Senate and House, Secretary of State, 9th District Congress and the state’s 56th governor.

12172017 AD CANDLER
Georgia Gov. A.D. Candler of Gainesville is buried in Alta Vista Cemetery. A Civil War officer, he served in both the U.S. House and Senate, as Secretary of State, and as governor from 1898-1902. He died Oct. 26, 1910. - photo by For The Times

A couple of his colorful quotations were widely circulated. After the Civil War, he settled in Jonesboro, where he said he was luckier than many who fought in the war, ending up with “one wife, one child, one eye and one silver dollar.” He had lost an eye in a Battle of Manassas, and one of his political opponents tried to disparage him by calling him a one-eyed plowboy from Pigeon Roost. Candler turned that around on him and campaigned as “the one-eyed plowboy from Pigeon Roost,” the tiny place where he was born in Lumpkin County.

For all the high political offices he held, sometimes the mark he made on Gainesville is overlooked. He established Gainesville’s first sawmill, using 32 oxen to haul it and set it up near Gower Springs, a resort near the end of today’s Green Street Circle. Candler also started the city’s first brickyard on Broad Street, today’s Jesse Jewell Parkway. He and Dr. Robert Green started the street railway that ran from the Southern Railway depot as far as New Holland and the end of today’s Riverside Drive. It was while Candler was mayor that the city named Green Street after his friend and business partner, Dr. Green.

Candler, W.C. Wilkes and David E. Butler laid the cornerstone for Georgia Female Seminary, today’s Brenau University. Wilkes was its first president. Candler also built some of the buildings on the campus.

He also built the Arlington Hotel, predecessor of the Dixie-Hunt Hotel, now Hunt Tower in downtown Gainesville.  

The Candler homeplace was at the corner of Green and Candler streets across from today’s Quinlan Visual Arts Center. The brick house sitting there now replaced it. Candler donated property for the construction of Candler Street, named in his honor, of course, and Boulevard, originally named Race Street because races used to run there. Boulevard parallels Green Street.

All his ventures, however, weren’t successful. He was a partner in the old Gainesville, Jefferson and Southern Railroad, which failed, but evolved into the highly successful Gainesville Midland Railroad. He also was a part of a movement for a rail line from Gainesville to Dahlonega, which was never completed.

When Thor Morrison was in Gainesville Middle School in 1984, he wrote an essay about his famous great-great-great-great-grandfather. Besides the Morrisons, the Romberg family in Gainesville descended from the Candlers. The Candlers’ ancestry reached into British royalty, having connections to two queens, Mary and Anne, as well as England’s Lord High Chancellor.

Candler died Oct. 26, 1910. His body lay in state in Georgia’s capitol. Gov. Joe Brown and former governor Joe Terrell were among pallbearers at the funeral at First Baptist Church. Warren A. Candler, his cousin, officiated. Candler Horse Guards, a state militia unit, the mayor and council were among those present.

Mrs. Candler, who as Eugenia Williams married her husband at age 16, moved to Decatur after his death to be near kinfolk. She was quoted as saying there were only three houses on Green Street when they moved to Gainesville in 1871. She recollected she and neighbors used to go to a spring on what is now Brenau Avenue, to harvest white mud to whitewash their fireplaces.

Candler names

Besides Candler Street, Candler County and Hall County’s Candler community also were named for A.D. Candler. The Candler community actually was incorporated in 1911, but there is no local government structure nor elected officials.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; 770-532-2326; or His column publishes weekly.

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