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Column: Remembering important dates from Gainesville’s 200-year history
Johnny Vardeman

As part of Gainesville’s 200th birthday observance, the city’s website features pieces of the past.

For instance, during Black History Month, it spotlighted Black people who played prominent roles in Gainesville’s history.

Gainesville was formed in 1821, three years following the creation of Hall County, which in 1822 had a population of 5,086 souls, including 4,681 whites people, six free Black people and 399 enslaved people.

Geographically at the time, Hall County was a skinny county, the Chattahoochee River, as it is today, its western boundary. Parts of Jackson and Franklin counties were later added to Hall. Cherokee occupied the area west of the Chattahoochee, that is until 1838 when they were forced by the Indian Removal Act to relocate out of Georgia westward to what is now Oklahoma.

The fourth land lottery in Georgia was in 1821, affecting what are now the counties of Fayette, Dooley, Monroe, Houston and Henry. Several of the lottery winners were from Hall County, including W.M. Albertson, Daniel Blackstock, John Bramblet and Reuben Brasselton.

James Monroe was entering his second term as president of the United States in 1821, the United States was officially acquiring the territory that became Florida, and Missouri was accepted as the country’s 24th state.

James Longstreet, who became a celebrated Confederate general during the Civil War, was born Jan. 8, 1821, and spent his last years in Gainesville. 

Longstreet never had the celebrated status of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and other Confederate leaders after the war. He became a pariah as he fought for reconstruction and advocated civil rights, including voting rights, for freed slaves.

He is buried in Alta Vista Cemetery.

Gainesville’s neighboring cities of Lawrenceville and Duluth in Gwinnett County also have their 200th birthdays this year.

More restaurant recollections

There’s no end to reminiscing about long-gone Hall eateries, as those engaging in nostalgic chatter on Facebook can attest to. A couple of late entries: John Lackey brings up Cyclone’s on Washington Street across from the old Gainesville High School. Many students used it as a hangout and a place to get a bite if the cafeteria food wasn’t appetizing. That site, which is in the building at the corner of Maple and Washington now partially occupied by Urbain Hair Artistry, also housed Dill’s Grill at one time.

Lackey also brings to mind Farmer’s Café and H&W Cafeteria, which operated on Bradford Street behind Gallant-Belk in the 1950s. Both catered to the courthouse crowd, who came to lunch from across the street.

Hugh Blackstock recalls “Ma” Richards’ restaurant on Grove Street. Marguerite Richards also operated a grocery at the site. Phil Hudgins remembers Main Street School students shopping for Blue Horse notebook paper at the store. Mrs. Richards, he said, would ask them if they saved the Blue Horse coupons because she wanted them if they didn’t.

Gower water

Gower Springs was a resort of sorts at the end of what is now Green Street Circle in Gainesville. It was among a number of such popular mineral springs sites that drew tourists to Hall County in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In 1910, entrepreneurs W.E. Hosch and Luther Roberts advertised to Gainesville residents they would deliver to their doors “Gower Springs water for 10 cents a gallon.”

Gower Springs was developed by Ebernezer B. Gower. He once owned all the property that became the Green Street Circle neighborhood. His properties also included land from what is now Green Street Circle to Gainesville’s downtown square.

In 1888, P.B. Holtzendorf was listed as proprietor of the Gower Springs Hotel. You could stay at the hotel for $2 a day or $30 a month. A street car ran from the railroad depot to Gower Springs.

The water from the springs was advertised as good for “ … all kidney troubles, indigestion, hemorrhoids, and cases requiring a tonic.”

W.J. Land, a chemist, declared Gower Springs “one of the best chalybeate waters I have ever examined.” However, while the city of Gainesville was analyzing water from various streams for an expanded water system in 1911, Gower Springs didn’t fare so well. The State Board of Health declared the same water “quite bad.”

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, His column publishes weekly.

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