Bolding Bridge over the Chestatee River arm of Lake Lanier on Ga. 53 at the Hall-Forsyth counties line has been in the news lately because peregrine falcons find it convenient to build their nests atop it.
The bridge was built when Buford Dam created Lake Lanier in the mid-1950s. The original wood-covered Bolding Bridge, believed to have been built as early as 1800, was upstream the Chestatee a bit, and a second bridge succeeded that one.
Many area residents remember the old bridge and Bolding Mill. It was a place to get grain ground, but also provided a pond that was a popular recreation spot as well as the site of numerous church baptisms.
The covered Bolding Bridge was considered dangerous, as robbers would hide in its rafters and pounce on people passing through on wagons, buggies or horseback.
That bridge made news back in 1871 for another reason. Federal revenue agents had conducted a massive, several-day raid on whisky distilleries in Forsyth, Dawson, Lumpkin and Hall counties. They destroyed 15 stills and made 13 arrests, including a 13-year-old boy and several prominent citizens. They also shot some hogs and confiscated hundreds of gallons of corn whiskey and brandy and four mules.
An article in an Atlanta newspaper headlined an incident that followed, “Outrage Upon a Citizen of Georgia.”
“A petty official, clothed with a little brief authority and guarded by federal bayonets, has without any provocation seized a person of a citizen and subjected him to the ignominy of the handcuff,” the newspaper wrote.
The article was referring to W.R. Bolding, prominent Hall County citizen and owner of Bolding Bridge, which required a toll for those crossing it.
The revenue officer was leading the raid in the four counties and commanded a squad of soldiers and a train of wagons. When the convoy approached Bolding Bridge, the revenuer ordered the bridgekeeper to open the gate that would allow his entourage to pass. The bridgekeeper refused, telling the officer he would have to pay the toll just like anyone else.
The officer demanded free passage, and about this time, the bridge owner, Bolding, came up and told the revenuer he would have to pay before he would open the gate to the bridge.
With that, the officer ordered one of the soldiers to bring an ax to tear the gate down. Not wanting his bridge damaged, Bolding reluctantly produced the key to the lock on the gate to allow the federals to pass. By now, the officer, both drunk with power and some of the liquor he had seized, according to the newspaper report, had lost patience and ordered the gate destroyed anyway.
He also placed Bolding under arrest and handcuffed him. The revenuers dragged Bolding to Atlanta without even letting him speak to his wife or children.
Residents and local and Atlanta newspapers were outraged.
“Mr. Bolding is one of the first citizens of the county,” a Gainesville paper wrote, “a peaceable, law-abiding, high-toned Christian gentleman.”
Presumably, Bolding was eventually released, and the officer in charge of the raiding party reprimanded for excessive use of his authority.
Bolding, indeed, was a substantial citizen. He had served as postmaster at Brown’s Bridge in 1849 and Wooley’s Ford in 1857. Lucinda Bolding also was in charge of a post office.
Hall and Dawson counties joined to buy Bolding Bridge for $500 in 1898 and turned it into a free public bridge.
W.R. Bolding’s descendants included Judge W.E. Bolding, who served as Hall County ordinary, an office that is now probate judge, and his son, Paul E. Bolding, one of the first Hall County casualties in World War I, and for whom American Legion Post 7 is named.
While ordinaries were ordinarily called on to marry couples, Judge Bolding never did.
“The thought of pronouncing the words that, as the officiating officer, shall make a man and woman husband and wife makes me nervous and trembly,” he confessed to a reporter. “And to stand before a couple I believe verily I would shake all over and might not be able to make my tongue perform the function ... I am afraid my voice would quiver so that a minister ... would have to be called to complete the ceremony.”
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times, and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle, NE, Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays in The Times and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.