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Gainesville celebrates 190 years
City continues reign as a regional center
Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy third-grader Kendall Butler takes a big bite of her cupcake Tuesday afternoon after hearing about the history of Gainesville from City Councilman Bob Hamrick. Hamrick’s office supplied the treats for students in celebration of the city’s 190th birthday.

As you might expect at a party, Ms. Posey's third-grade class celebrated the city of Gainesville's 190th birthday with cupcakes on Tuesday.

"Happy Birthday, Gainesville," the Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy class chanted, holding the colorful, frosted goodies while posing for a photo.

Then they bit in.

The celebration was one of a handful held by city officials at Gainesville schools to talk about the city's history.

On Nov. 30, 1821, 190 years ago today, the Georgia legislature approved Gainesville's charter. The city was named for Edmund P. Gaines, a War of 1812 general.

Since then, the once small trading village known as Mule Camp Springs has turned into a center for business, education and medicine in Northeast Georgia.

Councilman Bob Hamrick, who has served the Gainesville City Council for nearly 42 years, tried to give a sense of that evolution to Janet Posey's classroom on Tuesday.

Before the cupcakes were passed out, Hamrick gave a brief history lesson to the children — from the city's origins as a trading post for white settlers and American Indians to the poultry boom of the 20th century.

Posey said it was a good opportunity for her to teach local government to students who typically only learn about state and national politics in school.

"I learned that local taxes pay for school and parks and a lot of other things," said 9-year-old student Meg Hayes, as she licked the blue icing off her cupcake.

Perhaps the most memorable moment for Meg, however, was learning of the man behind the road named Jesse Jewell Parkway.

Jewell is credited with bringing vertical integration into the poultry industry and turning Gainesville into a booming poultry town after World War II.

Hamrick said innovation helped shape Gainesville in the last part of the 20th century.

More than just being the "poultry capital of the world," Hamrick and other Gainesville history buffs said the city has long been a leading community in the region.

"Gainesville leaders through the years have been forward thinking," said Johnny Vardeman, a former editor and current history columnist at The Times.

He said that leadership was especially focused on ensuring Gainesville was part of important transportation routes. In the 1870s, Airline Railroad, later known as Southern, brought a railway into Gainesville, according to the city of Gainesville website. Vardeman said transportation upgrade set the city forward in the development of business.

"We have had leaders that have stepped up at critical times in the history of Gainesville and Hall County to keep the momentum with education, transportation and the quality of life," Vardeman said.

Hamrick mentioned the Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Gainesville's higher education institutions as also being integral to the city's role in the region.

"Children in elementary school can go through (the school system) and get their master's in Gainesville without ever leaving," Hamrick said. "There are not a lot of places where they can do that."

Vardeman said the bad economy has been a setback for Gainesville, as it has been for cities across the nation.

Still, he points to the city's past resiliency as a sign of hope.

Gainesville was severely damaged by fire in the 1800s and came back from two devastating tornados in the 20th century.

"That took a lot to come back," said Vardeman, "both in terms of loss of life and the businesses."

Meanwhile, Harmick sees hope in proposed expansion for Gainesville's Brenau University.