When Georgia was celebrating its bicentennial in 1933, Hall County historian William H. Hosch provided some firsts for Gainesville and Hall County. Some are well-known; others are more obscure.
Instead of Lumpkin County, Hosch said the first gold rush "in the history of mankind" was on Hall County soil from 1828 to 1830. It certainly was Benjamin Parks, a Hall Countian who stubbed his toe on a gold nugget while deer hunting to launch the rush, but most of the activity was in the rich veins north around Dahlonega.
Gold was mined in Hall County well into the next century, but the mother lode was in Lumpkin County before the 1849 California gold rush.
Templeton Reid, as described on a state historical marker on Gainesville's downtown square, established in 1830 the first licensed mint for coining gold south of Philadelphia. Dahlonega became a government mint site, but Reid's was privately operated and apparently was prosperous for a while.
Hosch also cited the Indian Chief George "Corn" Tassel case as the first big states' rights issue taking place in 1830 in Hall County's little 30x50 log courthouse in the center of Gainesville's square. Tassel was convicted of a murder committed in Cherokee territory. His attorneys appealed, arguing that he couldn't be tried by the state. Gov. George Gilmer, however, ordered Tassel's hanging before federal courts could hear the case.
Here are some other local history trivia as unearthed by the historian:
The Gainesville Eagle newspaper was the first in the state to endorse prohibition. At the time, the Eagle was the seventh oldest paper in Georgia, having been established in 1860. It was the predecessor of The Times.
Except for Emmanuel County, Hall is the only other county in the state touched by nine others.
While Hall County was a bustling summer resort, Southeastern Underwriters Association organized at New Holland to become the first and largest such insurance company.
A Hall County native and Brenau College graduate, Anna Belle Matthews, became the first woman on the U.S. Court of Tax Appeals, and another Hall Countian, Henrietta Silva Additon of Flowery Branch, was the first female police commissioner in New York City.
The first diamond to be discovered in America was at Winn's Ferry on the Chattahoochee River in Hall County.
Gainesville was one of the first towns in Georgia to have its own electrical system and waterworks plant.
Dr. Richard Banks was considered the greatest eye surgeon in the country in the 19th century.
The first and only monument to a Confederate soldier on federal property was in Gainesville. That was the statue of Col. C.C. Sanders, which stood on the old Post Office corner at Green and Washington until the 1936 tornado dismantled it. Parts of the monument remain at Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University.
According to Hosch, the first Fiddlers Convention was held in Gainesville in 1890. Speaking of fiddles, one of America's greatest string musicians was born in Gainesville, where he lived most of his life.
George Merck is said to have owned a Stradivarius violin that he bought from a country fiddler for $50.
A Gainesville man, William Hosch Sr., helped found three Georgia towns. He built the first house in Flowery Branch in 1872, and with his brothers, John and Russell A. Hosch, in 1882 built the first house in Hoschton, which was named for them.
In 1886, William and John Hosch got off a 4 a.m. train at Big Spring, where Cordele is located today, and built the first house there. They didn't get credit for founding the town, however. J.E.D. Shipp of Americus did, and Cordele was named for Miss Cordelia Hawkins, daughter of the president of a railroad that ran through there.
Finally, this might not have been a first, but involved a first: First Baptist Church in Gainesville. After the church built a new sanctuary at the corner of Green and Washington streets (where Regions Banks now stands), it was discovered in August 1909 that the dome on top of the building had sunk by 18 inches. The problem was solved by jacking it back up to its original height.
You could imagine the jokes going around about the Baptists raising the roof on their new church.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.