Wednesday, April 28, 2010

28 April 1806: Josiah Meigs Records Last Spring Frost of the Year

On this day in 1806, University of Georgia's second president, Josiah Meigs, recorded that the town of Athens had experienced the last frost of the season.

Before coming to the "healthy and beautiful spot in Georgia" recently named Athens, Josiah Meigs had worked as a tutor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Yale, practiced law in Connecticut and Bermuda, published a newspaper and the first American medical journal, and served as the first city clerk for New Haven, Connecticut. He was a strong proponent of scientific inquiry, and believed all sciences should be taught through experiments. In 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote to congratulate him on his work at "the college of Georgia," noting that "Science is indispensibly necessary."

One of Meigs first responsibilities was surveying and clearing of the land and the initial construction of the campus. In 1804, the Trustees needed money to keep funding the school and requested Meigs survey an area of the property to be sold as city lots for Athens citizens and settlers. The initial parameters of the city sat across Front Street (now Broad) from the University, and were defined by Foundry, Hull, and Hancock Streets, only slightly smaller than the Downtown Athens Historic District today.

President Meigs also was among the first to tout the health benefits of Athens and her water supply. In early 1806, he had published a summary of the 1805 weather and health conditions for Athens in the Augusta Chronicle. In it, he provides a breakdown of wind directions; the number of cloudy, clear, rainy, and snowy days; and explains how the data was collected.

In the report, Meigs notes that only one white person had died in Athens in the previous seven years, crediting "to a very great degree...very excellent water" for "this extraordinary healthfulness." He also attributed the location of the University on a hill as a healthy factor, noting in his first days in the area, "the breezes, particularly from the western semicircle of the horizon, are extremely pleasant." The Augusta Chronicle article is considered the "first research published by the University of Georgia."

As early as 1802, Meigs requested such equipment as thermometers and barometers be provided to the school, and often loudly complained that lack of such tools made it difficult to teach his students properly. His outspoken nature, as well as his lack of religiosity, made enemies for him within the state government and he was demoted to chemistry professor in 1810, finally leaving Athens entirely in 1811.

His next position was as Commissioner of the General Land Offices in 1812, where he "urged Congress to provide for weather observations." Though Congress balked, when the Army Surgeon General also wanted weather equipment, the General Land Offices also received them. Meigs had his officers take three daily weather observations "in the interest of Agriculture, as Thomas Jefferson had done."

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Books in the Heritage Room

On this day, we'd like to tell you about some of the new books now available in the Heritage Room.

We also have The Story of Georgia's Boundaries: A Meeting of History and Geography by William J. Morton in the Heritage Room and in our general collection, where it can be checked out. This book is the 2009 winner of the Lilla M. Hawes Award by the Georgia Historical Society for "the best book in Georgia county or local history."

Friday, April 23, 2010

23 April 1897: First Factory in Georgia "Run By Electric Current."

On this day in 1897, the Athens Weekly Banner ran a story announcing that the Check Factory would become the first cotton mill in Georgia to use electric power. They would get their power from the Athens Electric Railway Company's Mitchell's Bridge hydroelectric plant.

According to the paper, the move from steam power to electric was "a chance to save money" for the Check Factory's owner, Athens Manufacturing Company. It would be several weeks until new motors could be installed, but that
Then the power will be turned on from Mitchell's bridge and Athens will furnish the first cotton mill in Georgia driven by electricity.

That sight will be one well worth seeing and will be a notable event not only in the history of Athens but also of Georgia.

The president of Athens Manufacturing Company was Asbury Hull Hodgson, who in the 1880s had served two terms as Mayor, overseeing the installation of electric street lights in the business district of town. Athens Electric Railroad Company was the primary electricity source in the county, and also provided power to some downtown businesses, as well as for the streetcars that ran through town.

The Check Factory was actually the Athens Manufacturing Company's weaving mill that was known for the "Daisy Checks" gingham fabric they produced and distributed nationwide. In 1862, the land and buildings were converted into the Cook & Brother Armory by Francis L. Cook and Ferdinand W. C. Cook, but were purchased by Robert L. Bloomfield's Athens Manufacturing Company in 1870.

By the mid-1890s, the factory employed hundreds of people and had over 200 weaving looms. In 1947, Johnson & Johnson's Chicopee Mills subsidiary bought the property, later deeding it to the University of Georgia after it closed the mill in 1978. Today, UGA uses the property as their Physical Plant.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

20 April 1847: Ice Cream.

On this day in 1847, the following ad ran on page three of the Southern Banner:

Ice Cream.
THE undersigned would respectfully inform his friends and the public generally, and is now prepared to accommodate those who may wish to indulge in that LUXURY.

Single glasses...........................................12 1/2 cents.
Tickets 10 for ...........................................1.00

Cream warranted to be as good as can be made. Persons wishing cream by the gallon can be supplied at any time with Lemon, Vanilla, Almond, Rose, and when in season, Strawberry and Raspberry Creams. Separate Rooms for Ladies and Gentlemen. Fresh Confectionery, &c. &ct. by A. BRYDIE.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

18 April 1998: Free Widespread Panic Concert on Washington Street

On this day in 1998, Widespread Panic hosted the largest album release party in history for their first live-recorded release, Light Fuse Get Away, on a stage set up in front of the 40 Watt Club on Washington Street. Admission to the show was free, and a day of festivity reigned in downtown Athens.

People from all over the country started to show up on the Friday night before the concert. Widespread Panic had asked their fans to bring food for the Northeast Georgia Food Bank, and one fan from Oregon had 151 pounds of locally-processed chicken delivered to the bank after being told their biggest need was meat. Sandy Creek Park provided camp grounds for fans, and ran shuttles from the park to downtown. The day of the show, bass player Dave Schools told the Banner-Herald that he was happy with the turnout, seeing all the people in town, because "there's a time, when you're young, when it's important to travel around and throw caution to the wind."

The city and band expected somewhere between 15,000 and 35,000 people to come to town. Total turnout was much higher than anticipated, with estimates from police that there were 70,000 people by the time the concert ended. Some organizers thought the turnout was closer to 100,000. It is considered the biggest album release party in history. Among resident concert-goers were Mayor O'Looney, UGA President Michael Adams and his family, and then-Commissioner John Barrow.

Widespread Panic did not want their event to be disruptive to other, previously scheduled events on the 18th. They asked their fans near the stage to be quiet between 6:45pm and the 8pm scheduled start of the show, out of respect for the wedding between Mary Carroll Dillard and Taylor Murray at 7pm at the First United Methodist Church on Lumpkin Street, across from the stage. According to then-Commissioner Doc Eldridge, who was a guest at the service, "Inside the church, you would never have known there were 70,000 people outside." When the bride and groom emerged from the church, hundreds applauded for them.

The band met as students at the University of Georgia, and consider Athens their home. Widespread Panic are longtime underwriters of the local public radio station, WUGA, and wanted the concert to be a gift to their hometown. They had approached then-Mayor Gwen O'Looney in January, 1998, about having the free concert release party in downtown Athens, and had her support. Though Mayor O'Looney was a member of the Athens-Clarke County Downtown Development Authority that would provide some funding for downtown festivals and events, it was the City Manager who had the responsibility to review and approve any special events permits.

The City Manager at the time, Al Crace, was concerned about public sanitation and protection costs to the county. It wasn't until the band's record company, Capricorn Records, and the band itself put up most of the money for the event that the permit was approved, just eight days before the show was scheduled. The Downtown Development Authority used over one-third of their budget to help pay for the concert.

Though the number of people who attended was similar to a typical football Saturday, traffic problems did not occur on the same scale. Sunday morning, there were reports of ankle-deep trash in places on Washington Street near the stage, but total trash collected by the city was only 18.2 tons; in 2009, after a night game versus the South Carolina Gamecocks, UGA removed 70 tons of trash from North Campus.

The band filmed the show, and released it on DVD with the title Panic in the Streets. It is currently sold out on their website.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

14 April 1927: Cofer's Buys 200 Acres for Nursery

On this day in 1927, the Athens Banner-Herald ran a story announcing that Cofer Seed Company had purchased 200 acres in Wilkes county to grow seed for their Athens retail business. Now located on Mitchell Bridge Road, at the time, H. L. Cofer & Company was at 369 North Lumpkin Street downtown, near the intersection with Hancock Street. That site now houses the building for Athens First Bank & Trust.

Throughout this week in 1927, H. L. Cofer & Company had run ads in the paper for spring planting:

Potato plants: 30 cents per hundred; $3.00 per thousand.
Cabbage and onion plants: 20 cents per hundred; $1.75 per thousand.
Tomato plants: 15 cents per dozen; 75 cents per hundred; $3.00 per thousand.

Cofer's began selling to Athens area farmers in 1922, and are "Georgia's oldest family-owned garden center." While they still sell vegetables and herbs in the spring, their primary clientele is now the home gardener or local landscaper. They offer not just ornamentals, but also grills, patio furniture, pots, compost, soil, fruit trees, statuary, and still provide expert advice to their customers.

Stuart Cofer serves on the Board of Directors and Retail Executive committee of the Georgia Green Industry Association, which "advances and promotes the horticulture industry" through legislative advocacy for landscapers and growers, and providing training, certification, trade shows and conferences for those in the "green industry."

Learn More:

Athens Banner-Herald, April 1927 - September 1927 on Microfilm in the Heritage collection.
Athens, Georgia City Directory 1928 in the Heritage collection.
Consumer and Business Guide for Athens, Georgia and Vicinity in the Heritage and Reference collections.
Herbs, Fruits, & Vegetables for Georgia by James A. Fizzell in the general collection.
Vegetables and Fruits by Don Hastings in the Heritage and general collections.
Guide to Georgia Vegetable Gardening by Walter Reeves in the general collection.
Tim and Sally's Vegetable Garden by Grady H. Thrasher in the children's collection.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

11 April 1947: First Dairy Day at UGA

On this day in 1947, the newly formed Dairy Science Club at UGA hosted the first Dairy Day in the Dairy Building on the University campus. Now in its 63rd year, the Georgia Spring Dairy Show still includes cattle judging for contestants from around the state and region in conjunction with Georgia 4-H and Future Farmers of America.

For the first Dairy Day, there were demonstrations of dairy equipment that showed "the processing of milk from the time it leaves the cow until it becomes cheese, butter, or ice cream;" cattle judging of cows entered by University students, 4-H members, and FFA members; dairy product judging; a demonstration of artificial insemination of cattle; and a co-ed milking contest.

That night, Alpha Gamma Rho, the agriculture fraternity, hosted a barbeque for the 150 cattle judging contestants. Touted as an open house to promote the Georgia dairy industry, more than 40 teams entered contests on the campus, and 600 people came to see the various events and speakers.

Winners for the first Dairy Day included Garner Fields of Statesboro in the milk and ice cream competition, as well as in the cattle competition; and Parrie Rogers of Roopville won the co-ed milking contest. The Eatonton FFA team won first place among the 36 chapters competing, and Clarke County's team won the 4-H team competition. Prizes for various teams and individuals were provided by dairy supply companies from around the country.

This year's competition was held on April 9, 2010 in the UGA Livestock Instructional Arena, and was co-sponsored by Georgia Milk Producers, Inc.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

7 April 1964: Official Tree and Flower for Athens Approved

On this day in 1964, the Athens City Council unanimously voted to make the Iris the city's official flower and the Ginkgo the city's official tree. The motion was passed after "councilmen pushed aside the rules of procedure and acted on a letter from the Athens Garden Club."

Also on the agenda that night, the Council approved a 90-day trial of 2-hour limits on parking meters downtown, changed the city code so the police chief could issue a written permit to citizens older than 21 to shoot pest animals on their property, and scheduled a new zoning meeting for April 29th.

Both irises and ginkgo trees are low-maintenance and easy to grow plants. Irises often spread on their own, like full sun, can tolerate poor soil, and are rarely afflicted by diseases. Ginkgo trees are extremely hardy and do not reach maturity for 25-30 years; the oldest on record reached 3,500 years of age. They are considered "living fossils," which means they are "similar or even identical to" trees from the fossil record dating 190 million years ago. Ginkgos can survive a variety of stressful growing conditions, including pollution and confined root space, which makes them a popular choice for urban planting.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Discover Genealogy on the Internet!

On this day, we'd like to let you know there are still spaces available for our Genealogy on the Internet class, Thursday, April 15th, from 6pm to 8:45pm, in the library's Educational Technology Center upstairs.

The class is an introduction to the many and growing resources for researching your family history online, and includes handouts that provide descriptions of the various sites available and their offerings. Time to explore on your own and ask questions is provided in the last part of the session. These resources are not limited to Georgia, or even to the United States. This class is not intended for beginners in computers or genealogy.

The class is free, but space is limited, so registration is required. Call us at (706) 613-3650, ext. 350, or email us at to reserve your space. We hope to see you there!

Friday, April 2, 2010

2 April 1914: The Garden Club Keeps Busy

On this day in 1914, the Society section of the Athens Daily Banner published news from the recent Garden Club meeting, noting that low attendance due to the poor weather meant many decisions for the group had been postponed until their next meeting on April 15th.
Among the questions left undecided was the "Garden Club Vegetable," and the "Garden Club Plant" for exhibit at the Garden Club show this fall; further discussion of Rose Fete in June and sweet pea exhibit. Two prizes were offered for the most attractive back yard.
The group also appointed a committee to ask the Mayor and City Council if they wanted the Club to beautify the grounds around the new City Hall, after having been declined in the past.

For future meetings, they announced that Professor Guy W. Firor, a Horticulture professor at the Georgia State College of Agriculture, would give a lecture on "'The [sic] relation between vegetables and soil'...that is, the kind of soil best suited to different kinds of vegetables."

The Garden Club in Athens began in January of 1891, and was the first garden club in the United States. By 1928, the Garden Club of Georgia was created, and in 1929, 13 state garden clubs came together to form the National Garden Clubs organization. Beyond member education and enhancement of their own gardening, both the state and national organizations also emphasize conservation, preservation, environmental protection, civic beautification, and public education.

The Garden Club of Georgia is also active in a variety of community service pursuits, such as gardening therapy for the mentally ill; historic preservation and establishment of historic markers around the state; watershed protection and conservation advocacy; litter control and highway beautification; and providing landscaping, homeowner education, and free lawn and gardening tools for Habitat for Humanity projects. Formerly headquartered at the Founder's Garden on the UGA campus, in 1998, the Garden Club of Georgia moved into their headquarters building on the campus of the State Botanical Gardens.

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