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With their graves about to move again, don’t forget these early settlers in Hall County
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A small stone marker tells of the 24 graves moved to a site along Dunlap Drive in 1957 during the building of Lake Lanier. Today, a builder is hoping to have the cemetery moved again as it is at a construction site along Dunlap Drive. - photo by Scott Rogers

Andrew Thompson came to what is Hall County now in 1806. Where he landed was in Cherokee Indian territory north of the Chattahoochee River, now Lake Lanier.

Johnny Vardeman
He married 16-year-old Cynthia Reed, daughter of William and Violet Reed, first settlers of Hall County. Their names are sometimes spelled Reid. Their two-room log home was 10 miles from their nearest non-Indian neighbor.

Gainesville wouldn’t be officially formed for another 15 years, so Andrew would travel to Athens to buy supplies. That would leave Cynthia at home alone surrounded by Cherokee Indians. On occasion, as many as 250 Indians would approach the cabin, peeping in through cracks in the logs.

Rather than hiding, Cynthia would open the door and invite some of them in. They were there to trade, perhaps gold or furs for calico, beads and trinkets. A trading post operated in the front part of the house.

That was one of the stories Thompson descendants have passed down through the years.

The Thompsons at one time owned about 50 slaves. Andrew lived until June 8, 1857, and Cynthia to 1861. The two are among those who were buried in the old Thompson Cemetery. Theirs and other descendants’ graves will be relocated from off Dunlap Drive in Gainesville to Alta Vista Cemetery. It will be the second relocation as the original cemetery was covered by Lake Lanier in1957.

The late Ed Dunlap Jr. was the great-great-grandson of Andrew Thompson. In his memoirs, he wrote that William and Violet Brown Reed built the original home in Cherokee Territory. Violet was buried in the Thompson cemetery, but William is buried in Tennessee.

According to Dunlap, Andrew Thompson’s sons, Guilford and Ovid, were among many North Georgians who headed west to prospect for gold on Cherry Creek, Colorado, and later California. They returned to Hall County in 1853.

The two sons helped their father fell trees on the bluffs of Little River and floated them down to the Chattahoochee River to build Thompson Bridge. The covered bridge stood until 1946 when vandals set it afire. Andrew Thompson operated it as a toll bridge until it was sold to Hall County for $3,000 in 1898. It was the last toll bridge in Hall County.

Wes Hulsey, son of the late John Burl and Mary Louise Hulsey, is a direct descendant of the Thompsons and has been involved in the relocation of the graves to Alta Vista Cemetery. He praises the work of the late Paul Little, one of the founders of Little-Davenport Funeral Home, in the first relocation of the graves from where Lake Lanier would rise. He took great care in preserving the remains, Hulsey said. Twenty-two of the 24 graves contained some human remains.

One of those was that of 11-year-old Andrew Thompson, son of Ovid and Marguerite Thompson, who drowned in Bee Gum Creek in 1867. His body was preserved with a special treatment and buried in a metal casket with a viewing window. Dunlap wrote when the graves were reinterred the first time, he viewed the child’s body with his eyes open. He said some people wanted to put the casket on display, but he wouldn’t allow it.

Wes Hulsey’s grandfather was Claude Hulsey. Andrew Jeff Hulsey was the owner of Hulsey’s Men’s Store with his son Jack. Mattie Thompson Hulsey, was the granddaughter of Andrew Thompson and was Wes Hulsey’s great-grandmother. She was married to John M. Hulsey Sr., founder of Gainesville’s Citizens Bank.

Among those in the Thompson Cemetery are the Thompson sons, including Guilford, along with his two wives, Roena Adams and Mary Stovall, and Ovid Brown Thompson and wife Marguerite, Edgar B. Dunlap, Minnie Thompson Hulsey, Andrew and Cynthia Thompson and several unknown.

Dunlap wrote that when Andrew Thompson died in 1857 his $18,721 estate included 2,600 acres and 15 slaves. At least two slaves are buried in the Thompson cemetery, others at Wahoo Baptist Church Cemetery on Nancy Creek Road. 

Watch for more local history in this column next Sunday.

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

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