Wednesday, December 30, 2009

30 December 1842 - Of Chemistry, Agriculture, and "Healthfulness"

On this day in 1842, future prominent University of Georgia chemistry professor Henry Clay White was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He came to the University of Georgia in August, 1872, where he was initially hired as the "Professor of Natural Science, and Terrell Professor of Agriculture, and of General and Analytical Chemistry with its application to the Arts." The William Terrell endowed chair at the University, established in 1854, is now called the "William Terrell Distinguished Professor of Crop and Soil Sciences," and was created for the study and exploration of (among other things) "Agriculture as a Science."

During his 55 years in Athens, Professor White was State Chemist, Chief Chemist of the Georgia Experiment Station, the first head of a UGA chemistry department, and President of the State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. He also came within one vote of becoming University of Georgia Chancellor in 1888, losing only because of "stories circulated by the opposition concerning the serving of cocktails at dinner parties given at his home."

Professor White was also known in the community for his "home testimony" often found in newspaper ads for products as Bludwine (a soda drink) and Horsford's Self-Raising Bread Preparation (a baking powder), where he confirmed that the products contained the ingredients they claimed and possessed "healthfulness." Such local endorsements, typically from local physicians, were common features in advertisements for food and medical products during the late 19th and early 20th century.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

28 December 1907 - An Escape from the Asylum

On this day in 1907, the Athens Banner published a front-page story about a young woman named Miss Este Parkman who had come to the local Y.W.C.A. claiming to be recently emancipated from the Hapeville orphanage and hoping to find a stenographer job in Athens. According the article, Miss Parkman was "tall, emaciated, even melancholy in her appearance."

When the lady disappeared the next day, it was discovered she was not from the orphanage, but had escaped from the asylum in Milledgeville, something "the authorities" at the asylum did not realize until the Y.W.C.A. called in concern over Miss Parkman's welfare. She was last seen purchasing a train ticket to Atlanta at the Southern depot, and nothing more was published about her in the surviving newspapers.

Many colleges and universities, including the University of Georgia, did not admit women in the early 20th century. For many young women, their only option was attending business school to learn stenography, shorthand, bookkeeping, and typing. The Y.W.C.A. offered these women, who frequently had leave their families to find office work in larger towns, a safe and reputable place to live. The Y.W.C.A. had women-only residences throughout the United States and all over the world. In Athens, the Y.W.C.A. was on the corner of N. Thomas and Washington Streets, where the Hilton Garden Inn is today.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

25 December 1820 - The First Presbyterian Church Is Founded

On this day in 1820, the First Presbyterian Church of Athens, Georgia was founded with just 18 charter members. The church was organized by new University of Georgia President Reverend Moses Waddel. Rev. Waddel had come to UGA in 1819, at the age of 49, with a reputation as "one of the most influential and effective of southern educators." He also was a Presbyterian minister, and served as the new congregation's pastor until 1830.

When Rev. Waddel came to UGA, the school was not faring well. He was the fifth President in eight years. There was one faculty member to instruct the mere seven students enrolled, and the campus consisted of Old College, the President's House, and "a dilapidated building serving as a chapel." An effort to move the University from Athens to Milledgeville was afoot because "the rusticity of the local population did not provide the proper cultural context in which the institution might flower."

By all accounts, Rev. Waddel preferred the ministry to the politics of salvaging the University, but his time in office did restore the school. During his administration, student enrollment increased to over 100, and three major new buildings were constructed: New College (1823), Demosthenian Hall (1824), and Philosophical Hall (1821, now the Dean Rusk Center). Said the Senatus Academicus of the school in 1825, "We can confidently rely upon the annual overflowings of this Georgia Nile for the fertilization of our rising country."

Rev. Waddel resigned from UGA in 1829. He was succeeding in office by Alonzo Church, who served as University President for the next 30 years.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

20 December 1994 - The Legacy of Dean Rusk

On this day in 1994, Dean Rusk died at the age of 83. Rusk served as Secretary of State from 1961-1969, in both the John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations.

Rusk's diplomatic skills helped diffuse the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and helped the United States and Soviet Union come to agreement on the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, ending the practice of above-ground testing of nuclear weapons. Rusk was proponent of the Domino Theory of foreign policy, and therefore a strong supporter of the United States intervention in Viet Nam.

After Nixon's election in 1968, Rusk came to the University of Georgia where he taught International Law until 1985, when he took emeritus status. In 1977, the University created the Dean Rusk Center for International, Comparative, and Legal Graduate Studies. He is buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ever Wonder How to Get Started with Genealogy?

Then come to the Heritage Room tomorrow, Thursday, December 17th, at 2pm! The free informal session gives you the basics for how to research your family tree, including which resources are available here in Athens. You don't need to be researching Georgia to find this session helpful.

Please bring something to write with and a sweater (the room can be a bit chilly). For ages 12-up. Call (706) 613-3650, ext. 350 for more information.

Monday, December 14, 2009

14 December 1914 - "Why Not A Victrola?"

On this day in 1914, Athens merchants Bernstein Brothers, then located on Broad Street, published an ad in the Athens Daily Herald with the suggestion, "Make This A Furniture Christmas" because "It may be, reader, that you have overlooked the possibilities furniture offers in this direction and if so we invite you cordially to look over our highly suggestive holiday stock."

Specific suggestions "For Father" included a smoking stand, a reclining chair, or a writing desk; "For Mother," a hall mirror, a dressing table, an art square, or a telephone stand. Other gift ideas included "Why Not Give This Ideal Fireless Cook Stove?," "Why Not A Victrola?," and "Rockers Are Very Acceptable Christmas Presents."

Bernstein Brothers started out as furniture makers for the Athens area around the start of the 20th century, and it was not unusual for such businesses to receive orders for coffins as well. Bernstein Brothers started their funeral business in 1911, and are one of the oldest funeral homes in Athens.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

13 December 1834 - "Has Left Me Without Any Provocation"

On this day in 1834, this Notice by Thomas J. Rawlins of Pulaski County appeared on page 3 of the weekly Athens newspaper The Southern Banner:
"This is to certify that my wife, Sarah Rawlins, has left me without any provocation; therefore I forewarn all persons from trading with her with the expectation that I will be accountable for her contracts, as I design to pay off none of her debts contracted since she left my house in April last."
While such a notice seems surprising today, they do occur occasionally in 19th century newspapers. Divorce in Georgia in the early 1800s was no easy proposition. Originally, a couple would have to appeal to the state legislature after they had already had a trial by jury in the Superior Court. After 1833, the Superior Court was given the power to grant final divorce decrees, but only after "two concurrent verdicts of two special juries."

It doesn't appear that Thomas married Sarah in Pulaski County. What happened to Sarah, or what would cause her to leave is unknown. Thomas's name is listed as a winner in the 1832 Land Lottery, and by 1840, he had remarried in Pulaski County, a Miss Elender Davis.

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Updating Athens

On this day, we hope you'll plan to come to the library auditorium at 3pm to hear local author Frances Taliaferro Thomas talk about the new edition of her book, A Portrait of Historic Athens and Clarke County.

Mrs. Thomas will also answer questions from the audience, and be available to sign copies of the book after the presentation. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

10 December 1862 - "Who Wants a Substitute?"

On this day in 1862, a notice was published in the Athens, Georgia newspaper Southern Watchman under the heading "Who Wants a Substitute?" James Monore, at the time residing in Snow Creek, SC, placed the ad, volunteering to substitute himself as a volunteer for the Confederate Army for any "gentleman in Georgia who will pay him four thousand dollars." In today's dollars, that's more than $88,000.00.

In April of 1862, the Confederate Congress, after much debate, passed a law creating the first military draft in North America. Initially including all white men between the ages of 18 and 35 for a three-year term in the Confederate military, by September, the age range extended to 45. This provision was unpopular in some quarters, so the law also allowed anyone who could "by their own arrangements...hire as substitutes any able-bodied men not subject to the law."

Those exempt from conscription were engaged in professions needed to keep the war machine and home front working, such as rail road employees, educators, miners, clerics, some medical personnel, foundry workers, and of course, state and national office holders. Georgia Governor Joe Brown fought the draft, even taking the law to court, where he lost the case, but continued to grant exceptions and withhold troops to defend his state.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Find Out What You're Missing...

by subscribing to the Genealogy and History Events email newsletter!

It covers events, exhibits, classes, and programs around Georgia relating to genealogy research and history, and is a great way to find out fun, interesting ways to spend a day, an afternoon, or even just your lunch hour. You'll receive a copy in your email box at the start of each month, so you'll have time to register, buy tickets, or just pencil it in to your calendar. Sign up today!

Monday, December 7, 2009

7 December 1921 - "The Realm of the Unexpected"

On this day in 1921, the Athens Banner published a story from "the realm of the unexpected"--the University of Georgia registrar's office was offereing reimbursements of $2.60 to each student had paid a fee the previous year "to be used arranging temporary quarters for the dormitory overflow students."

The endeavor had created a surplus of $2,250.00, and the students had to come to the registrar's office to receive their checks. According to the Banner, "the line of students waiting to get in the registrar's office resembled that when a run is being made on a bank."

Living quarters on the campus were tight in the early 1920s. Men's dorms needed repair, and in 1918, the University be
gan enrolling female undergraduate students for the first time. Ground was broken for a female dormitory that year, but Soule Hall (named for Andrew M. Soule, then President of the Georgia College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts) was not completed until 1920.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

5 December 1801 - Clarke County Is Created

On this day in 1801, there was no Athens yet, but the Georgia State Legislature did create Clarke County by carving out 250 square miles from Jackson County. Today, Clarke County is only about half that size, the geographically smallest county in Georgia.

The county is named for Georgia frontiersman and Revolutionary War General Elijah Clarke (1742-1799), who led the defeat of six hundred Loyalists at the Battle of Kettle Creek in Wilkes County, where he lived and fought with more than just those loyal to the Crown. There are indications the family actually spelled their name "Clark," but the county has kept the extra "e," as has the Elijah Clarke Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the Revolution.

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Friday, December 4, 2009


On this day (and yesterday), we're public a little earlier than intended, but hope you will check back or subscribe via Twitter, rss, email, or become a fan of the Athens-Clarke County Heritage Room on Facebook to receive a couple of history items per week related to Athens and Clarke County.

Subjects will range from milestone events and important people in our history to newspaper stories and notices that provide a peek into daily life of Athens, Georgia in another era. For each post, we'll provide links to the Athens-Clarke County Library online catalog and other websites where you can learn more about the subjects covered in the post.

We'll also provide updates on events and classes sponsored by the Heritage Room, as well as new books when they arrive. Thank you for visiting our blog!