Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Little History of the University of Georgia

If those people from Union County, Georgia who have attended the University of Georgia throughout the years were lined up, they would make a long stretch probably from county line to county line. Add those who are fans and support the Georgia Dawgs and you get another expansive line.

It is good to call to memory that the University of Georgia was the first state-chartered university in America. Its charter was incorporated by an act of the General Assembly on January 27, 1785. This was an act in the making for two years, for the first mention of it came in 1783, and in 1784 action was taken by setting aside 40,000 acres of land in the northeastern expanse of Georgia to endow a university. The land-grant college, however, did not begin in 1785 to open doors to students. The journey to getting it established took several years by the appointed Board of Trustees and the Academicus Senatus, the two Boards entrusted with its business.

The first meeting of the Board of Trustees held in Augusta February 13, 1786 elected Abraham Baldwin as president of the university. He kept this position for several years, although the proposed school had not been officially opened. A native of Connecticut, he had been a professor at Yale, and was active in national politics. He moved to Georgia in 1784. He did, however, draft the charter and set the parameters for the new school.

In the early years, money for the university was "earned" by renting and/or selling portions of the 40,000 acres that had been designated as an endowment for the school. The Trustees had difficulty getting a quorum together for a meeting. Several factors contributed to this fact. One no doubt was poor communication. Another was distance and the difficulty of getting to Augusta, Louisville or some other designated place of meeting. One year, a great smallpox epidemic prevented the meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Several academies existed throughout the state. The Trustees sent out questionnaires asking for information about cost of maintaining the schools, the curriculum offered, and what the instructors were paid. They intended to use this information to help them establish the university.

The University, although chartered in 1785, did not begin until 1801. A committee of the Board of Trustees selected a land site. John Milledge, who later became governor of Georgia, purchased 633 acres of land on the Oconee River in northeast Georgia and gave the land to the Trustees.

Josiah Meigs was elected president of the university. Work began on building the first unit of the university, called at first Franklin College in honor of the venerable Benjamin Franklin. Abraham Baldwin had observed Josiah Meigs as a professor at Yale and thought him worthy to become the first president and professor. At first, Meigs was the only employee of the University until student population built up and more staff was needed.

The first class graduated from the University of Georgia in 1804. Gradually the curricular offerings and the staff grew until, at present there are fifteen colleges and schools offering degrees from bachelors to doctorates in various fields. These branches and their starting dates are as follows: Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, 1801; College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 1859; School of Law, 1859; College of Pharmacy, 1903; Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, 1906; College of Education, 1908; Graduate School, 1910; Terry College of Business, 1912; Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication, 1915; College of Family and Consumer Sciences, 1933; College of Veterinary Medicine, 1946; School of Social Work, 1964; College of Environment and Design, 1969; School of Public and International Affairs, 2001; and the College of Public Health, 2005.

In Union County, we are fortunate to have what we have called through the years "The Experiment Station," an entity of the University of Georgia's School of Agriculture, with similar branches at strategic locations about the state. These provide valuable controlled growth and experimentation in agricultural practices.

Now all the various locations of Georgia colleges and universities are under the jurisdiction of a single board, the University System of Georgia, governed by regents. Each school within the system has its own local governing board, faculty and staff.

The early years of the University met challenges and hardships. But Georgians should be proud that we have the first state-chartered university in the United States.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 31, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Haralson Legacy – Patrick and Maude

The Haralson Civic Center stands as a memorial to two people who were solid citizens of Union County in past years and contributed much to the growth and culture of the town.

Following the deaths of the Honorable Patrick Henry Haralson and his wife Maude Mildred Conley Harrison, both of whom died in 1956, land was donated by the family on which the Haralson Civic Center was built. The building was named in their honor and has been a location for many events since its erection.

We go back in time to trace the Haralson family. To note how some of them bore names of outstanding citizens in early America attests to the patriotism of this family.

Thomas Jefferson Haralson (1819-1899), father of Patrick Henry Haralson, was an early merchant in the town of Blairsville. He also owned and operated the tan yard to which many of the citizens brought their skins to be treated and turned into leather. Thomas Jefferson Haralson married Mary Logan (1828-1892) of White County.

Patrick Henry Haralson was born to Thomas Jefferson and Mary Logan Haralson on October 30, 1871. Notice how they gave this son the name of another famous American Patriot, Patrick Henry, whose famed quotation, "Give me liberty or give me death," reverberates to this day. Perhaps the name was prophetic of what the new baby would become, a public servant.

When Patrick Henry Haralson was born, the Civil War was just six years in the past, and, although not scathed by battles here, the county was still struggling to overcome post-war problems.

Pat Haralson, as he was known, showed early signs of scholarship. He was educated in the schools at Blairsville and entered Young Harris College when it was in its struggling early years. Upon graduation from Young Harris, he entered the University of Georgia, pursuing a degree in law. He graduated in 1897, having earned top honors in two areas of law study. He was admitted to the Georgia Bar and opened his law practice in 1897.

Pat Haralson had been courting a young lady with ties to the Ivy Log District of Union County. A bright young lady, she was a graduate of Brenau College, Gainesville, Georgia, with a major in music. She was said to be the first woman from Union County to receive a college degree.

Maude Mildred Conley and Patrick Henry Haralson were married May 11, 1902. Her parents were Francis Edward and Davie Colwell Conley. Her father owned and operated a mercantile business at Ivy Log. Later, in Madison, Georgia, her father opened a wholesale grocery warehouse. Moving back to Blairsville, the Conley family became active in First Baptist Church where Francis Conley was a deacon. He was postmaster at Blairsville and also represented the county in the state legislature. From this background, Maude Mildred Conley Haralson was well-equipped to serve as the wife of a lawyer and legislator.

Maude Conley Haralson's parents were active Baptists. Merchant Thomas Jefferson Haralson, Pat's father, was a Presbyterian. But because that denomination had very few members in the Blairsville area in the nineteenth century, the land on which the First Methodist Church of Blairsville was erected was given by Thomas Jefferson Haralson. That family became active Methodists and supporters of that church. Thomas Jefferson Haralson (1819-1899) and Mary Logan Haralson (1828- 1892) were buried in the "old" Blairsville Cemetery alongside the graves of some of their children who died at an early age.

To Patrick and Maude Conley Haralson Conley were born four children: Juanita Pat, Frank Conley, Austine and Thelma Louise.

Patrick Henry Haralson, with some success as a lawyer in his native Union County, as well as in the US District Court, the Court of Appeals, and in US Superior Court cases, entered politics. He represented Union, Towns and Rabun Counties, then known as District 40, both as a state legislator and a senator from the district. His tenures at the state capitol also saw him serving as Assistant Secretary in the Georgia Senate.

He was appointed to the Governor's Staff in 1943. He also served as the attorney for the Neel Gap Bus Line and the Georgia representative for the Tennessee Copper Company at Copperhill, Tennessee. Litigation for these businesses kept him watchful and on his legal toes.

A most helpful proposal before the state government was for the road across Neel Gap, completed in 1925 and now known as US Highway 129. Prior to the completion of this fourteen-foot-wide paved road, Blairsville was cut off from Gainesville and Atlanta except through the Logan Turnpike over Tesnatee Gap, a steep dirt road used for wagon traffic, yet the best road available prior to 1925 for Union County farmers to get their produce to market. As president of the Union County Good Roads Association, Lawyer Haralson was active in getting the highway built and operable.

Many of us remember the stately Haralson House which stood just off the square in Blairsville as the street led out to Young Harris. A few years ago, that landmark was purchased, moved and set up in another location in Union County. The moving of the house marked the close of an era.

Patrick Henry Haralson died September 15, 1956. A little less than two months later, on November 12, 1956, his beloved wife, Maude Mildred Conley Haralson died. Both were buried in what is called the "new" Blairsville Cemetery just off Blue Ridge Street leading west out of Blairsville.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 24, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ishmael Theodore Thomas – Preservationist of the Year 2005

Some of you, as I, may wonder what has happened recently to Ted Thomas who lived in Union County, Georgia for awhile, was named Historical Preservationist of the Year by Union County Historical Society in 2005, and then decided to move back to Oklahoma to live out his days. Ted is still alive and well, and still engaged in fixing up things that need his special touch. He is modest when it comes to owning up to any achievements he might have accomplished.

While he was in Union County, the land of his forebears, he did much to help preserve historical artifacts. The old courthouse bell was his special project, and for it he received the prestigious "Preservationist of the Year" award in 2005.

He was also quite interested in the Old Souther Mill at Choestoe, a landmark of his forebears. He uncovered a portion of the old mill in the debris where the old mill pond once provided the water power to turn the turbine that ground wheat, rye and corn for the community. That retrieved mechanism now stands proudly on display at the Butt House Annex in Blairsville, a testament to this humble man who appreciates and wants to save for posterity remnants of the past. He worked with his cousin, the late John Paul Souther, to erect a marker at the old mill place on Highway 180 to tell the history of the mill and to mark the spot where the mill once operated.

Ted Thomas's sojourn in Union County was notable by the deeds he left behind him. A few years ago he departed these environs and moved back to the place he grew up, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, wishing to live out his days among the familiar places of his childhood and youth.

Recently, the Tahlequah Daily Press had a feature article by Betty Smith entitled "Coming home." It was about this great, great grandson of the famed Adam Poole Vandiver, "Hunter of Tallulah" of Blue Ridge Mountains fame, and how Ted is now spending his days in Tahlequah.

The reporter, seeking an interview, found the 87-year-young Ted Thomas on a ladder, dressed in his typical bib overalls, carpenter's apron, and repairing a shed. There is little time for an easy chair or rest for this active octogenarian.

Ishmael Theodore Thomas was born May 18, 1920, the eleventh of thirteen children born to Frances (Frankie) Roseanna Vandiver Thomas and John Wesley Thomas. His mother Roseanna claimed deep ties to early Union County settlers. Her mother was Rhoda Lucinda Souther who married John Edward Floyd Vandiver. Earlier through this column, their story of going west was recounted. They stopped awhile in Arkansas and then moved on to Wyoming. But Frankie Roseannah and John Wesley Thomas remained in Arkansas and then went on to Oklahoma where they reared twelve of the thirteen children born to them.

Many of us may not know of the life and career of Ishmael Theodore Thomas, lovingly known as Ted. Born nine years before the Great Depression struck, his education was cut short. But what he did with his six years of schooling received at the old Bald Hill School near Tahlequah (Robbins) would put many of us to shame.

He and his brother farmed to help the family make a living. They bought a hay baler and drove it around the countryside, hiring out to bale neighbors' hay in season. Ted Thomas remembers the first Model A Ford that came into Tahlequah. He also remembers his father going into the First National Bank and borrowing $500 to see his family through a hard depression time. The banker, Mr. Upton, required no signature, but only a handshake from Ted's father. The money was summarily paid back.

Then came World War II. By then, Ted Thomas's father had died and he was helping to care for his ailing mother. He got a temporary deferment, but realized he was going to be drafted so he volunteered for the Navy and entered service August 3, 1942. It was there he distinguished himself as a worker on submarines. The USS Batfish, which is now on display at the military museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma, was one of the 140 submarines for which Theodore Thomas fabricated many of the parts. One of the most effective parts was a successful firing pin for the torpedoes launched from US submarines.

Thomas was on an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific when news came that the war was over. He said he would never forget the lights coming on in various vessels that had been running dark to avoid enemy attack. "Suddenly it looked like a galaxy across the water," he said. Proceeding on to Japan, he and his crew survived a gigantic typhoon.

Upon his honorable discharge from the Navy, he married his sweetheart, Bonnie Lee Watkins. Their lives read like a storybook, rearing a family, being a peppermint farmer in the Columbia River Valley of Oregon; then to Kansas City, Kansas where he was a carpenter and a feed mill maintenance man and builder; and then with Koppers Sprout Waldron, a Fortune 500 Company, where he spent the next eighteen years of his life, until his retirement, traveling the world and troubleshooting in equipment maintenance and plant development.

In his travels, he grew to have an appreciation for old things. He once collected wood cook stoves and had over 200 of them that he had repaired and restored. In Clinton, Missouri, he and his wife bought and restored an old 1896 Queen Anne mansion which made the Register of Historic Places. He said he opened his mouth once too often, and found the house sold in less than thirty minutes. He also restored a number of old cabins and stone houses in the Ava, Missouri area.

After his wife Bonnie Lee died in 1996, Theodore came to Georgia to live for awhile. It was during that period that he actively researched his family genealogy and got involved with the Union County Historical Society, making various contributions to the preservation of local history.

At age 87, still active and alert, Ted Thomas, the great, great grandson of Adam Poole Vandiver (1788-1877), has this to say: "I've always enjoyed life. I'd like to push a button and do it all over again!"

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 17, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

When Union became a county in 1832

This past December 3, 2007 was Union County's 175th birthday. By an Act of the Georgia Legislature, signed into law by then Governor Wilson Lumpkin, Union became one of ten counties carved from the vast territory once known as Cherokee County, and the eighty-third county in Georgia. This northern reach of Cherokee, Georgia was so named because it was still the dwelling place of the Cherokee Indians that inhabited the coves, mountains and valleys of the beautiful land.

In the late 1820's, gold was discovered in the vast Cherokee County, with deposits found along Duke's Creek in what would become White County, Yahoola Creek in the Lumpkin County area, and Dooly in the future Union County. Drawings for the 40-acre gold lots and the 160-acre land lots were conducted. Many who drew the lots for land did not want to settle in the remote mountainous areas of North Georgia. Therefore, they sold their land lots, making them available to more hardy pioneers mainly from North Carolina. Ancestors of these, in turn, had first settled in Virginia and were of sturdy Scots-Irish descent. Some of these pioneers had already made their way into what became Union County in 1832 and had settled on small farms along the creek and river bottoms, with the mountains stretching above them as a veritable fortress against the outside world.

Citizen John Thomas was a representative from this mountain region to the Georgia Legislature meeting in 1832. Whether he was the one to introduce the bill to form the county of Union is not known to this writer. However, it is a matter of public record that, when asked what to name the new county, John Thomas was quick to respond: "Name it Union, for none but Union-like men reside in it!"

We are not to confuse John Thomas's suggestion for a name for the newly-formed Union County as being indicative of the later pro-Union and pro-Confederacy political leanings. The Civil War was some thirty years in the future when Union County was formed in 1832. Rather, Representative Thomas had in mind the Union Party, a political group that held, "Our federal Union--it must be preserved!" In the fairly young and struggling nation, having won its independence from Great Britain in the Revolutionary War, and reinforced that freedom from Britain's over-lordship in the War of 1812, America's independence was dear, but seen as strong only if citizens could uphold the Union itself.

In 1832, Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of the United States, serving his second term. Jackson hailed from the frontier state of Tennessee. Vice-president was John Caldwell Calhoun of South Carolina. Jackson and Calhoun were often at cross-purposes in their philosophy of government. Jackson was the first president elected from among "the common people," not from the group of well-know Revolutionary War supporters. Jackson had distinguished himself as a general in the War of 1812, the Indian Wars, and in the famous Battle of New Orleans.

Jackson signed the "Indian Removal Act" into law in 1830. The famous US Supreme Court case of Worcester versus Georgia occurred in 1832, in which the Cherokee Nation challenged the Removal Act. The Supreme Court upheld the Cherokee position to maintain their mountain stronghold, but Jackson did not try to enforce the court's decision, giving his answer as "John Marshall (Supreme Court Justice) has made his decision. Now let him enforce it!" We know the succeeding story. By 1838, when Union County was less than six years old, the Trail of Tears occurred, and the Indians that remained within the confines of Union County were moved west.

The first officers of the new county of Union in 1832 have evidently been lost in a courthouse fire or lack of preserving public documents. In all my research for the first county officers, I could not find names or dates of service of the first leaders of the county. It is unfortunate that we do not know to whom to give credit for Union County's beginning government.

The first census of Union County was ordered by an Act of the Georgia Legislature of 1833 for the ten new counties formed in 1832. The census was completed March 24, 1834 by William B. Gilliland. It showed a population in Union County then of 903 persons living in 147 listed households. An examination of last names of many of these householders in 1834 shows that descendants of these first settlers have remained as citizens of Union County for the past 175 years. I am proud to name among them my own ancestors of Dyer, Collins, Hunter and England and others.

By the time of the 1840 Union County census, the population had increased to 3,152, showing that Union had become a popular place to settle in the eight years of the county's existence. In the 1840 census, slaveholders were listed as being eighteen of the total population, and slaves numbered eighty-seven. The smaller farms of the mountainous Union County terrain did not foster great plantations as found in the Piedmont and Southern areas of Georgia. The largest slave-owner in 1840 was Morton Saunders who owned twenty-three slaves. It would be interesting to know where his land holdings were located.

More than 175 years have passed since Union County's founding. Political leaders have come and gone, many making their mark in local, state, national and even world affairs. But still nestled within one of the most beautiful stretches of earth is the 323 square-mile area of Union County, still drawing population to its pristine forests and fields, developments and tourist areas.

Now the Appalachian Development Highway (also known in places as the Zell Miller Parkway) has replaced the Logan and Unicoi Turnpikes and the Indian Trails of lore. But the call of the hills is ever present. The days of the "daring horsemen" (Naduhli - Nottely) have long passed. But we should hope that the lure of "Tsistu-yi"- dancing place of rabbits- and the land of the "Ani-yun-wi-ya," "peaceful people" will never fade from our beloved North Georgia map.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published January 10, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Thoughts on the Threshold of a New Year

Christmas and New Year's Eve are past, the vistas of 2007 have passed into history, and we stand on the threshold of a brand new year.

Perhaps you, as I, often think: "If only I had the foresight to know what this year holds of good or ill!" But at the same time we should know that not possessing such foreknowledge is a blessing, indeed. Christ himself, the greatest sage of all time, said: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matthew 6:34b). We can usually handle each day as it comes, surprising though it may be. It is when we try to probe larger segments of time that we become overwhelmed and thwarted from life's purposes.

With these philosophical thoughts, may you and I face the year 2008 with confidence, grateful to be alive, to be aware and eager to see what the year brings forth.

Speaking of the New Year, celebrations of the old year's passage and another's beginning have been recorded in secular and religious history for at least 4,000 years. The Spring Equinox marked the Babylonian New Year. For the Assyrians, Egyptians, Phoenicians and Persians, the Fall Equinox began the New Year. The ancient Greeks lauded the Winter Solstice as the dawn of the New Year. When the Julian (Roman calendar) was introduced, January 1 started in 153 B. C. Now, 2,161 years later, we still observe January 1 as the beginning of our New Year. Stretching ahead of us for 2008 are the days of this Leap Year, which gives us an added day in February.

What can we expect in 2008, if the days of finite time extend throughout its length?

Another presidential election will have come and gone. We will hear promises from presidential hopefuls, weigh them on scales of political justice (if there is, indeed, such a standard for judgment), and as free Americans we will make a choice for the next president of the United States. We will hear and be aware of his or her platform and cabinet to begin in early 2009, and pray that America will be able to stand and move forward as a free nation.

Will we be acutely aware throughout 2008 that many issues face America, leader of the free world? What will be our stance in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other trouble spots in the world? Shall our military continue to be exposed to danger, death and ridicule? Will 2008, as 2007, record the largest number of deaths since the beginning of the Iraq War? (899 was the count for 2007, according to a news report on December 31, 2007) Will our country pull together, or be ever at an internal tug-of-war because the political factions cannot find common ground and common purposes?

Will we be more aware of critical issues that face our environment, like global warming and scarcity of resources of water, food and fuel? Or shall we go our incognizant way thinking that somehow the problems will resolve themselves without much change in our lifestyles and habits?

The past 100 years have brought innumerable firsts. When our grandparents or great grandparents greeted the New Year in 1908, the first great lighted ball dropped in Times Square. But most of them had to learn about it from printed reports for they could not be there in person to see the phenomenon, nor could they watch it on TV, as did we. The Boy Scouts began in 1908, the Bureau of Investigation was organized (and later was named the FBI), and the US War Department signed the first contract to produce a military airplane with Orville Wright. Oil was discovered in Iraq in 1908. This was a springboard for the building of Ford Motor Company in America and the introduction of the famous Model T. Ford. We might summarize the events of a hundred years ago by saying that we morphed from the horse and buggy age to the mechanical age, to the technological age, to the space age and to the electronic age. There seems no end to leaps of scientific achievement.

Two hundred years ago, on January 1, 1808, a law prohibiting the importation of slaves into the United States went into effect. The law was long overdue. Passage of the law did not prohibit further infringements through contraband actions or buying, selling and trading of slaves, an issue which continued until the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln January 1, 1863.

As 2008 dawns, we have what common sense tells us of foresight, although no crystal ball is available to show us the turn of events in this new year. Hindsight is a better indicator of pitfalls to avoid and good deeds to emulate. May we apply what we know of good will to the days of 2008 and live them out as happily and productively as we are able.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 3, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.