Wednesday, April 27, 2011

27 April 1905: Frightening Accident at the Cemetery

On this day in 1905, the following story ran on the front page of the Athens Banner:

Miss Susie Gerdine Badly Hurt Yesterday by Her Horse Falling at Cemetery.

     Yesterday afternoon about seven o'clock Miss Susie Gerdine sustained painful and serious injuries in Oconee cemetery, while riding her horse across teh river bridge.
     The horse wanted to come back towards the city and Miss Gerdine wanted to cross into the new part of the cemetery.
     In attempting to make the horse cross the bridge the animal became unmanageable and reared on its haunches. Miss Gerdine slipped from the horse's back and the animal fell across her body.
     Mr. Edward Bancroft was near by [sic] and went to her assistance and in a moment several ladies were present. She was carried to the residence of Mr. J. H. Bisson and as soon as possible Dr. Carlton was summoned. It was deemed advisable to remove her in her home on Hancock avenue. This was done and as soon as she reached home, the physician made a careful examination of her injuries.
     Below her waist she had no use of her body for several hours, and the indications are that she is suffering from a severe shock to the spine.
     Late last night Miss Gerdine had partly recovered the use of one side of her body.
Athens Banner, 27 April 1905, p. 1, col. 5

Miss Susie Gerdine was, at the time, a teacher in the Athens city schools and a charter member of the Athens chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Her accident occured on Confederate Memorial Day, April 26th, where there were commemorations at Oconee Hill Cemetery for the veterans of the war buried there.

The next news of Miss Gerdine in the Athens papers comes on 3 May 1905, as part of the Society page, simply noting that "Miss Susie Gerdine is very much better." 

In 1908, Miss Gerdine was hired with Anne Wallis Brumby to be co-principals for a three-year term of the Lucy Cobb Institute, of which both women were alumnae. The women gave academics at Lucy Cobb Institute an upgrade, requiring math and Latin in order to graduate with a diploma, though other special certificates of completion were offered for those focusing on music or other areas. Those given demerits had to memorize long stanzas of poetry, with Miss Gerdine picking a different poet each year. They also introduced basketball to the school, and encouraged both mental and physical fitness in their students.

In 1916, Anne Brumby decided to resign as co-principal, and Susie Gerdine chose to follow her lead rather than give up teaching in order to handle the demands of running a large school alone. In June, 1919, they would both be part of the first class of women to graduate from the University of Georgia while continuing to teach at Lucy Cobb.

"Miss Susie," as she was known to the students, taught history, physics, and swimming until 1931, and "was universally admired" by her students. It was Miss Susie who would preview movies when they came to town, and, if deemed appropriate for her students, would then chaperone them on their walk downtown to and from the theatre in two straight lines on the sidewalk. Decades later, her students would remember her as "our favorite" and "the best teacher I ever had...(she) made history live then and it continues to live for me now,"  and that her classes "made the past and its people real."

Miss Susie Gerdine died on 8 October 1932, at the age of 59. She is buried with her family in Oconee Hill Cemetery.

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