On this Independence Day Weekend, take a brief look at Lyman Hall, for whom Hall County is named.
He wasn’t merely one of three Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence; he actually has been called a hero in the nation’s struggle to become an independent nation.
A controversial minister in New England, Hall later became a doctor, moving to South Carolina before coming to Georgia, settling in the Sunbury coastal community he helped found. Since his arrival, he had been trying to nudge Georgia into movements that would result in a United States of America, though others in the state were against it. Finally, he was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress, the only Georgian when he arrived at the sessions in May 1775.
Inspired by Hall’s leadership, Georgia’s Provincial Congress two months later chose four more men to join him in the endeavor. As the document that would be the Declaration of Independence came together, the words debated, Hall would grant his blessing as it contained most of the elements he had been espousing for years.
When the Declaration of Independence was completed, Hall was one of the first to rush forward to sign it. The other Georgians were his longtime friend Button Gwinnett and George Walton.
During the Revolutionary War, Hall fled with his family from Georgia as the British burned Sunbury and his plantation because of his efforts toward independence.
After the war, he returned and re-established himself enough to become the state’s first governor following the Revolution. While he is best known as a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Hall might be overlooked for his role in the establishment of what would become the University of Georgia during his one-year term as governor.
So not just Hall Countians, but all Georgians, especially Georgia Dawgs, should appreciate his place in the state’s history.
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When retiring Gainesville school superintendent Merrianne Dyer was cleaning out her desk, she came upon a 1954 Gainesville High School ring with initials “MJE.” It had been given to her by Peg Ellett Sheffield, whose late mother Margaret Ellett had found it in a park.
Merrianne wanted to reconnect the ring to its owner. With help of school board member Sammy Smith and other GHS alumni, she learned it belonged to Mary Joan Ellard, now deceased. They contacted her son, Barry Suggs, who also attended Gainesville schools and was most grateful for receiving something that had belonged to his mother.
Barry’s father, Maurice Suggs, said the ring had literally been around the world as Joan gave it to him to wear while serving in the military abroad.
So happens this is the 60th anniversary of the Class of ’54.
Incidentally, Smith, Dyer and Sheffield all are members of Gainesville High’s Class of 1970.
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Belton or Bellton no longer exists in Hall County. It once was the really close next-door neighbor to Lula, the east Hall County town. When the decision was made to off Belton, some suggested the two towns merge and call them LulaBell. Didn’t work. They merged in 1956, with Lula winning the name contest.
Lula’s name might have been spelled “Lulah” with an “h” at the end because legend has it that it was named for the daughter of Ferdinand Phinizy, owner of nearby White Sulphur Springs resort at the time. And “Lulah” was how she spelled her name.
While Belton often was spelled with one “L”, it actually was named for Maj. John Bell. Before that it was called “Glade Mines.” Gold actually was mined in the area known as “The Glades,” where Hall County now plans a reservoir across Ga. 365 from Lula.
Belton actually had a hotel before it was officially a town, chartered in 1879. You could eat there for 50 cents a meal or stay a night for $1.50, a week for $6, or month for $20. S.G. Hughen was proprietor.
Visitors to the area could find peaches for 15 cents a bushel. Nowadays, you pay $25 for a half bushel. Of course, in those golden olden days you could buy neckties for a dime, a suite of furniture for $25 and attend a private school for $1.50 a month.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.