An important piece of Hall County history relating to the founding of Gainesville in 1821 will be highlighted Saturday at Air Line Baptist Church Cemetery.
The Gen. John Baytop Scott Chapter of the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 will place a memorial marker at the grave of Laurette Bates Hulsey, daughter of John Bates, one of five justices who secured Gainesville as the Hall County seat of government and gave the town its name. Bates also was Hall County's first elected state representative, serving in the Georgia House 16 years.
Bates, who was a major general, commanded the 7th Division Georgia Militia from 1832 to 1835. Popular belief is that he resigned his position in opposition to the removal of the Cherokee Indians to Oklahoma. He had been an officer in the War of 1812.
The Gen. John Baytop Scott chapter organized in Gainesville's Dixie Hunt Hotel ballroom in 1938 under president Mattie Thompson Hulsey (Mrs. John McAfee). State and national Daughters of 1812 officers attended, along with local civic leaders.
Its namesake, Gen. Scott, was a brigadier general in the War of 1812. He was a commissioner, legislator and justice of peace in Jefferson County, and was the contractor when a new statehouse was built in Milledgeville.
Saturday's ceremony at Air Line Baptist Church Cemetery is at 2 p.m. The Daughters of 1812 state president, Dianne Cannestra, plans to attend.
Laurette Bates, who is buried in the cemetery, was born in 1815. She married Burrell Hulsey, and they have numerous descendants still living in Hall County.
Her father, John Bates, and his fellow justices struggled to get Hall County and Gainesville organized.
A history of the county written by William H. Hosch in the 1930s places the first courthouse at the home of John McDuffy on an Indian trail, later to be known as the State Road or the road from Gainesville to Athens. He had built a log barn that became the county's first courthouse, one mile from what eventually became Gainesville's public square.
Soon residents and county officers alike began to complain about the lack of a water source on the temporary courthouse site. That began a protracted discussion about a more permanent place for a courthouse.
But the dialogue and complaints continued for three years before any action was taken.
The justices narrowed the choices of a permanent site to two locations: Lime Kiln Spring and Big Spring at New Holland. They called an election in April 1819 for residents to decide.
Legend has it that Mule Camp Springs wasn't on the ballot, but won a majority of the votes because Indians and nonresidents, lured to the election by liberal amounts of whisky, participated. The precise site, however, was next to a deep ravine, probably the one at the end of today's West Spring Street.
Justices looked at other sites, eventually declaring them unfit, and called a meeting of leaders from all over the county to make a decision. The crowd was so large it had to meet outside the temporary courthouse.
Hosch's history said the six sites considered were Big Limestone Spring, Flat Creek spring on what is now Brenau Avenue, Thompson's Ferry road spring on what is now Green Street, Mule Camp Springs, Dorsey Street spring and the old Lime Kiln Spring near what is now Chicopee.
The meeting came to no consensus after more than three hours. The controversy continued until March 1820, when Chairman John V. Cotter marched fellow justices to the thickly wooded site where Gainesville's downtown square is today. After careful inspection, they decided it would work for a courthouse and public square.
John Bates made the motion to choose the site, noting that the trees to be cleared could be used for building a courthouse and village stores, and two nearby springs would supply ample water.
The Rev. W.J. Cotter, son of Justice Cotter, interviewed by historian Hosch, said his father chopped down a blackjack sapling for a stake to drive into the ground to mark the spot where a new courthouse would be built. Then, as he prayed, he suggested the site be named Gainesville in honor of Gen. Edmund Pendleton Gaines, with whom he served in the War of 1812.
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.