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Column: Hall County pioneer families’ reunion dates back a century
Johnny_Vardeman
Johnny Vardeman
Lawson Tanner
Lawson Tanner was born into slavery around 1830 and worked for the White Mose Tanner family who owned Tanner’s Mill, a grist mill and a water-powered cotton mill that made cloth for the Confederate Army. (Photo courtesy Angel Randolph)

Many of Hall County’s Black families originated from the plantation culture in pre-Civil War Belmont and Candler, and around Braselton and Hoschton in Jackson County.

The Tanner-Young-Yarbrough families held their 100th reunion Juneteenth weekend at several sites around Hall County. More than 200 attended.

The first reunion was in Belmont in 1922, a Christmas dinner at one of the family’s homes. The tradition continued into the 1960s, always in a Hall County home. In 1963, because so many members of the families had scattered across the country — making it hard for them to travel for a single-day event — they changed it to the fourth Sunday in June. The families would gather at the former E.E.Butler High School or, as in 1986, at Laurel Park on Lake Lanier.

They decided in 1990 to alternate the reunion to other cities, but for the 100th anniversary returned to Hall County. It started with a meet-and-greet at New Holland Parlor in the old mill recreation center. High school and college graduates were honored at a gala at the Civic Center Friday night. The picnic returned to Laurel Park Saturday, and the Centennial Celebration Service was Sunday at Cross Plains Missionary Baptist Church, considered the family’s home church in the Candler-Belmont area.

Angel Randolph, whose great-great-grandfather was Carl Yarbrough, remembers her first reunion in the early 1980s, memories of various cakes baked by her kin and going from trunk to trunk heaping her plate with home-cooked food.

Carl Yarbrough worked for John D. Braselton in Braselton and cared for Royce Braselton when he became ill, Randolph said.

Lawson Tanner was born into slavery around 1830 and worked for the White Mose Tanner family who owned Tanner’s Mill, a grist mill and a water-powered cotton mill that made cloth for the Confederate Army. A March 1933 article in the Gainesville News reported Loss (nickname for Lawson, perhaps) Tanner, a former slave, dying at age 108. He lived all his life near Tanner’s Mill. The newspaper wrote that he helped raise Charlie Tanner, Mose Tanner, Mrs. B.C. Boggs and Mollie Davis. The funeral was at Cross Plains Church near Klondike, a community in the Candler-Belmont area.

Lafoye Young also was born into slavery around 1830 and worked on a plantation in the Candler area.

The Yarbroughs and Youngs are related from the first generation of the families.

Randall Lott’s grandfather was Carl Yarbrough, who he said tried to vote in Braselton the1950s when he was told to get out of the line. When he didn’t, a poll worker kicked him.

That was among stories told during the reunion. Lott said in former days, many of the Black people in Gainesville lived on Black and Cooley drives on one side of Athens Road, and Whites lived on the other. When a Black family moved across the road into the White neighborhood, the White families moved out, according to Lott. The Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in the neighborhood, and later, a Black church in that area burned, he said.

Tanner’s Mill

Tanner’s Mill is said to have been built around 1835 and ground grain into the 1980s. Vandals burned it in 1986.

Candler, Klondike, Belmont

The Eagle newspaper reported in 1881, “A new town has been located on the Gainesville & Jefferson road to be called ‘Candler’ in honor of Col. Candler, president of the road.” A.D. Candler of Hall County later became governor of Georgia.

The area contained several plantations, including those owned by the Tanners, Bells, Blackstocks, Clarks, Cobbs, Fowlers, Lancasters, Parks, Prices, Mathises, Reids, Sailors, Simmons and Whelchels.

The community of Klondike is said to have been named for a slave owned by Mose Tanner.

Belmont was named for early Bell settlers of the community whose home was on a small mountain or big hill.

The late Sybil McRay, a Hall County historian, wrote that legend had it that Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto worked Native American slaves on gold mines he opened in the Candler area.

Of course, legends have DeSoto all over North Georgia, and while he might have traveled through, real evidence is lacking.


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 johnnyvardeman@gmail.com. His column publishes weekly.