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Liquid assets drew tourists to Hall County area
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It’s been well documented how popular North Georgia and Hall County in particular were as health resorts during the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

Tourism was so vibrant that local newspapers would print a count of the number of guests in hotels and resorts, sometimes even listing their names and hometowns. In the summer of 1870, more than 300 already were lodged in the area, and another 500 were expected. Among them, White Sulphur Springs had 30 guests, Piedmont Hotel 26, Richmond House 24, Quattlebaum’s 19, Porter Springs 110, Gower Springs 40, New Holland 34, Rich’s 17, the Brown House 14 and Johnson’s 12.

An Atlanta chemist had analyzed the water from Gower Springs, concluding, "This is one of the best chalybeate waters I have ever examined." He found a long list of elements the waters contained, everything from free hydrosulpheric acid to sulphates of lime and magnesia.

Despite his glowing report, however, an 1880 edition of the Gainesville Eagle might better explain the popularity of area resorts with a brief article about a couple of South Carolinians who came to sip the miracle waters from the various springs. The gentlemen were Dr. W.D. Jennings and A.T. Broadwater from Edgefield, "invalids of long standing," as the Eagle described them. The doctor said after two weeks he had recovered, and Mr. Broadwater was improving rapidly.

The two had made the rounds of Gower, New Holland and White Sulphur springs as guests of hotelier Daniel Quattlebaum. Said the Eagle, "We know that both gentlemen have been greatly benefitted and are much improved, but do not know which has been most potent in bringing about the happy results, the different springs, or the magic medicinal properties which Uncle Dan always carries about his person …"

Perhaps a little corn had been mixed with water from the mineral springs to produce those "magic medicinal properties." That was another thing North Georgia had a reputation for down through history.


One of the first times women were allowed to vote following ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 was a special election in Hall County to choose a successor to W.D. (Dave) Whelchel, ordinary, who died in office after serving 13 years. His popular wife, Emma, was a candidate, probably an additional reason so many women showed up to vote.

"There used to be so much talk about women getting their dresses soiled and becoming contaminated at the polls," the Gainesville News commented. "But last Friday’s was the decentest and most orderly election we have ever seen. It looked like a church affair. No loud talking. No bleary eyes and spitting tobacco juice over the floor. Wives and daughters and sisters and mothers came up and voted just like going to Sunday School. So that instead of women becoming contaminated at the polls, they have knocked out the contamination. They have poured a few buckets of salt into the proceedings."

Despite the turnout of women, however, Mrs. Whelchel could carry but two precincts and lost to Arnold Bennett by 132 votes out of more than 1,000 cast. She became well known as the proprietor of Mahomee, a sort of bed-and-breakfast home on Riverside Drive that catered to visiting parents of Riverside Military Academy students and other visitors.


Footnote on Gov. James Milton Smith, one of two governors buried in Alta Vista Cemetery: When he died in Columbus in 1890, his body was shipped via train to Gainesville, where his first wife, Hester Brown Smith, was buried after dying at White Sulphur Springs in 1880. His second wife, Florida Abercrombie Wellborn, died in 1923 and is buried in Linwood Cemetery in Columbus.


James Dorsey’s Volume Two, "The History of Hall County," is off the press. This one covers the period 1900-45. Volume One was from 1818 to 1900.

Volume Two follows the county’s history often through archived newspapers of the era, reprinting articles of note or using excerpts. He breaks the period down through eight chapters covering business, wars, the Roaring Twenties, the 1936 tornado, social and racial relations.

The book is available at Northeast Georgia History Center or through Magnolia Press, P.O. Box 1515, Gainesville, GA 30503. The author is a former Chestatee Regional Library director.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and on gainesville