Gainesville was just becoming known as a health resort and a North Georgia leader in 1878 when it was host to a convention of Georgia editors and publishers, the largest such gathering ever held at the time.
Their comments about the town give insight into what this area was like in those days and some bits of history.
A Macon Telegraph editor wrote about Gen. James Longstreet's new hotel, the Piedmont, which at the time was leased to J.G. Trammell and a man named Smith. "It is a commodious and well-kept establishment with attentive servants and a bountifully supplied table," he said.
He also referred to New Holland Springs, which the Piedmont operators would open shortly. The editors took a special train to New Holland, which one described as "a charming spot, handsomely improved, and is exceedingly popular ... " This was before the textile mill and accompanying village were built.
"There are numerous other well-kept hotels and boarding houses in Gainesville, and the people are affable and courteous to strangers, and seem resolved to build up their pleasant little city, which is certainly one of the most desirable points for health and recreation in Georgia," the writer continued.
"To the people of the seaboard, Upper Georgia is a far more agreeable and less expensive resort ... owing to its delightful climate, pure water, pure springs and nice hotels (Gainesville has) become of late a great resort for those able to seek a cooler clime during the summer months."
What would become Brenau University was just coming out of the ground. "The people of Gainesville are as clever as they can be ... they are a public-spirited and enterprising people," another editor wrote. "They run three newspapers, support two large schools, have just erected a large brick, two-story college building, have just located the lot and are preparing to commence operations on a Baptist Female College, and have made a splendid commencement in the way of a public library."
Apparently there was some controversy concerning the location of the college as editors referred to "unpleasant jarrings concerning the location, which now threaten the enterprise."
The college, of course, flourishes today as Brenau University, but a library was slow in coming. There was a place referred to by the visiting editors as "Library Hall," but they described it more as a party site than a building of books.
It wasn't until 1930 that women of Grace Episcopal Church started a library in the church's basement. The 1936 tornado destroyed the church, and the next year the public library became a reality in the basement of the new Hall County Courthouse. Today it has a main library in downtown Gainesville and branches throughout the county.
At the time of the 1878 press convention, Gainesville had a population of about 3,000 and was home to six hotels, among them, besides the Piedmont, the Brown House and the Kimball House.
The "Queen City of the Mountains" moniker was just taking hold. "It is sometimes called ‘the Queen City, and that is a fitting name in the truest sense of the words," an editor wrote. "With nearly all its buildings new and tastefully constructed, its well-shaded walks and groves, its crystal water, its cool, health-giving breezes wafted from the mountains, and eminently located amidst the most picturesque and attractive scenery to be found in the state, Gainesville is indeed a ‘Queen City.'"
But tourism wasn't its only attraction. While gold mining in Lumpkin County was diminishing, there remained considerable prospecting for other minerals even in Hall County.
"Its vast resources of metals, both useful and precious, as yet undeveloped, will soon bring hither a teeming population," an editor predicted. "Why just think of it, gold was dug up in the streets here today. Mr. W.W. Habersham, mining editor of The Eagle, informs us that the deposits of gold and silver hereabouts are excellent and that machinery is now being erected nearby for collecting the same."
The journalists were quite smitten, too, with more human attractions, women, for instance. "We must say right here that the mountainous region seems to be peculiarly adapted to the development of beauty, judging from the rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes and graceful figures of the fair sex that we saw present," one concluded.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appear Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.