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State officials pay was puny a century ago
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People seem more concerned than ever these days about how taxes are spent on the local, state and national levels.

They are particularly concerned about salaries and benefits of government workers.

Georgia's governor makes about $136,000 plus more than $50,000 in travel expenses. Nathan Deal is the second governor to serve from Hall County. The other one, A.D. Candler, who served a term beginning in 1898, drew an annual salary of only $3,000. Of course, a dollar back then went a lot further than a dollar today.

Today's Georgia secretary of state makes about $64,000, compared to $2,000 back when Candler served. The commissioner of agriculture today draws about $118,000 compared to $2,000 in 1899.

Today's Department of Transportation commissioner makes $144,000. When Candler was governor, the state didn't have anybody by that title. However, there were three railroad commissioners who each made $2,500 a year. The state treasurer made $2,000 in 1899, while the treasurer of one agency alone, the State Road and Tollway Authority, earns $120,000. The treasurer of today's Department of Transportation makes $144,000.

Georgia's attorney general today makes about $134,000 compared to $2,000 then, and today's state school superintendent makes about $125,000 while the commissioner of education made $2,000 a year in 1899.

State Supreme Court justices draw about $163,000. Back then, the six justices earned about $3,000 a year.

Of course, that's just the approximate base salaries for those 2011 offices. They get travel and other expenses, as well as numerous other perks. And the jobs are bigger in state government today. Georgia was much smaller in population and complexity 112 years ago, so there probably wasn't as much work to preside over.

However, voters were just as concerned about how much their elected officials made and whether or not they were earning their keep. At one point, teachers' pay was delayed for months, although Gov. Candler increased the education budget. Colleges didn't get any state funds at that time.

E.D. Kenyon was a respected legendary Gainesville lawyer, First Methodist Church Sunday school teacher and storyteller interested in the history of this area.

He once told a story about a Hall Countian, John Barnes, who fought in the Civil War. His wife, Nancy, hearing her husband had been wounded, rushed to find him in a hospital in Atlanta. Upon arriving, she found John in an open tent needing more medical attention and a lack of supplies to treat him.

Nancy made the trip back to Hall County to collect supplies and organize things at home, preparing to stay in Atlanta to help nurse him back to health. She loaded up food, medicine, bandages and other supplies for a friend to rush them to Atlanta in his wagon. Later she began the return trip herself in a carriage.

But just outside of Gainesville, she met the friend she had asked to take the supplies on his way back from Atlanta and asked him how her husband was faring. The man told her John had died, and, in fact, had his body in the back of his wagon and covered with brush.

Nancy Barnes turned her carriage around and followed the wagon back to their home. She then blew a horn to summon the family's slaves to tell them her husband had died. She picked out a burial site in view of the mountains and valley. The slaves dug the grave, Nancy read from the Bible and her husband was buried.

Another Civil War story Kenyon sometimes told was about two men who didn't want to go to battle. Instead, they, like some others, avoided Confederate officers who were gathering men to fight the Union soldiers.

These particular two men found a hiding place under a bridge near Airline Baptist Church in Hall County. One of the men carried a quilt from home to keep warm when the air turned cool during the night. He and the other man, quiltless, began to fight over the cover, making considerable noise. The racket aroused neighbors or passers-by, who apparently turned them in, and the two had to march off to war anyway.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays. and at