It could have been Lyman Hall instead of Old Joe on Gainesville's downtown square. In 1901, Somebody suggested a statue of Hall, the county's namesake and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, be erected in the middle of the square.
Eight years later, the United Daughters of the Confederacy persuaded county commissioners instead to allow a statue in memory of Confederate soldiers to stand in the square. A grand jury recommended a perpetual 99-year lease to the UDC for enough property in the middle of the square to provide for a monument.
The late Nell Robert Murphy, longtime secretary of the Longstreet Chapter, UDC, wrote many years ago in no uncertain terms that the public square belongs to Hall County and could never become property of Gainesville.
Neither could the Confederate monument be moved to another site, although some have suggested it over the years.
No other site was imagined or considered by the UDC, Hall County or the grand jury, Mrs. Murphy wrote. Mrs. C.C. Sanders, wife of the Confederate colonel, led the effort to get the statue placed in the middle of the square. She resisted the first efforts to have it moved, and the UDC has followed her example through the years.
Mrs. A.W. (Miss Lucy) Van Hoose headed the statue design committee. She chose the "at ready" position for the statue, saying, "The Confederate soldier, ‘at ready' and facing the north, informs the world that whenever states' rights is (sic) attacked, the Southern gentleman stands ready to defend his state."
The Chicago statue company didn't have a mold for an "at ready" statue and tried to persuade the UDC to go along with the "at rest" position normally used. The persistent UDC prevailed, of course. Six horses hauled the marble for the base of the statue from Tate into Gainesville.
The statue actually is dedicated to the Confederate dead of the 9th U.S. House District, not just Hall County.
Somebody years ago nicknamed the statue "Old Joe," and it has stuck over time. Some people assume the statue is of Gen. James Longstreet, who lived in Gainesville after the Civil War. However, no statue of him existed in Gainesville until a few years ago when one was erected at his old homesite on Longstreet Circle.
There was a statue of Col. Sanders on the old Post Office grounds at the corner of Washington and Green downtown until the 1936 tornado blew it apart. It was the first Confederate monument on federal property. It is on display at the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University.
Meanwhile, whatever movement there was in the early 1900s to have a statue of Lyman Hall erected on the public square got nowhere, and he had to settle for a historical marker on the courthouse grounds.
The Macon Telegraph came to the defense of Gainesville in 1886 when townfolk ran off a "drummer" (traveling salesman) who took part in a prohibition campaign and advocated mixing of the races. The New York Times first took a stab at Gainesville, saying, "The people in Gainesville in particular, in common with the people of Georgia, are wondering why the natural advantages of the South do not attract wealth and enterprise and immigration of the North." Because of bullying, mobbing and murdering strangers whose opinions differ from their own, The Times suggested.
The Telegraph retorted, "There is far less bullying, mobbing and murdering in Georgia than in New York," noting it took 750 policemen to patrol a street car route. "The South, especially Georgia," The Telegraph wrote, "was built with pluck and enterprise of its own." It suggested those who didn't like it "may expect to ornament convenient telegraph or light poles."
President William McKinley received a gold nugget as a gift from North Georgia Agricultural College in Dahlonega, site of an 1830s gold rush. The trustees of the college gave the nugget from a Dahlonega mine during Christmastime 1898 in keeping with a Cherokee Indian tradition that awarded gold to visiting chiefs.
McKinley made gold the basis of American currency during his first term. He died by an assassin's bullet less than a year into his second term.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, Ga. 30501. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.