A Hall County man was among the first to be drafted for military service during World War I.
Thomas Arthur Moore had been assigned the number, 258, in the brand-new Selective Service System. Some others in the 1 million-plus pool of potential draftees had the same number, but it meant that Moore would be among the first of more than 10,000 draftees in the country.
Moore and six other Hall County draftees left Sept. 7, 1917, for Camp Gordon to begin training. He then was sent to France, where his 2nd Division battled the Germans. He fought 14 months on foreign battlefields, but survived to return home in September 1919.
The first draftee remembered vividly his feelings facing a war and leaving home when that No. 258 was drawn. He had to hurriedly sell goods to close his grocery on South Bradford Street and head for the Army.
Secretary of War Newton Baker drew the first numbers in a dramatic ceremony in a Senate office in Washington. The numbers were written in red ink on a tiny piece of paper in capsules that were tightly sealed in a glass jar. No. 258 was the first one he pulled from the jar. That didn’t mean there were 257 inductees before Moore, but all who had been assigned No. 258 were the first to be called.
Moore died Nov. 15, 1928, at age 40 after a long illness, apparently contracted while overseas. He was buried with full military honors performed by the American Legion and Riverside Military Academy cadets in Alta Vista Cemetery. The Gainesville News described Moore as one of the county’s most popular citizens with “sterling integrity, highest honor and principles.”
“Over There” was probably the most popular song during World War I. The chorus of George M. Cohan’s song contained the line, “The Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming ...” as Americans rushed to Europe’s aid.
The term “Yankees” dates to 1713 as slang for excellence among college students at Cambridge, Mass. It later sometimes was used in a derogatory manner, for example, in the Civil War. Southerners called the Union soldiers Yankees, while the Northerners labeled the South’s soldiers “rebels.” Some Southerners today still call their Northern neighbors Yankees, though in a less disparaging context.
Actually, American soldiers at first were called “Sammies” during World War I. That term apparently came from the French “les amies,” or “the friends,” grateful for the American effort against the Germans who invaded France. Americans who weren’t familiar with the French language corrupted the term to be pronounced “Sammies.”
That led to Gen. Peyton C. March appealing to the public to drop the “Sammies” name and refer to the Americans as Yanks, as was so patriotically sung in Cohan’s song.
A Dawson County native who lived most of his life in Hall County became a hero for the Confederates in the Civil War.
Capt. Frank S. Barrett commanded a torpedo boat at Mobile Bay in 1865 just as torpedo warfare was introduced in the war. He captured so many Federal supply ships that the Union put a price on his head. Barrett was captured twice, but when caught at Meridian, Miss., gave an assumed name that confused his enemy enough to allow him to escape execution just before the South surrendered.
Barrett and his wife Josephine settled in Flowery Branch years after the war, and he worked for Gainesville Harness Co. He died at age 80 in 1921.
Dr. J.H. Downey is credited with building the first hospital between Atlanta and Greenville, S.C., in Gainesville in 1909 and three years later built the first accredited 36-bed hospital in the state. The old brick building, which later served as offices for Hall County Board of Education, was located on Sycamore Street, now E.E. Butler Parkway.
Another hospital, Park View, came along in 1919 and was located across from Gainesville’s City Park on Riverside Drive. Dr. Charles W. Larrabee led 18 doctors in founding the hospital. He previously operated a hospital in Helen. Park View began in the former home of Mrs. John A. Webb. The doctors also bought the five-room Sloan house on Green Street across from Green Street Circle to provide housing for nurses.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.