When I ran across a Woodstock January tidbit recently, I found myself hooked on searching out a few more just for fun. As many times as I had read the city’s original charter, some details hadn’t sunk in. The charter is dated Dec. 8, 1897, implying that the Georgia Legislature was in session in December. The charter noted the appointment of the first mayor and council members whose terms would begin immediately. They would serve until Woodstock citizens elected a new slate on “the first Tuesday of January in 1899.”
That date was Jan. 3, coincidentally the same as this year’s calendar. (Similarity ends there. This is a Leap Year, and 1899 was not.) At some point, city elections were held in December so that officials would take office in January. We think that changes happen all too often in these days, but looks like it has always been so.
Our various governments begin anew in January, making for some interesting headlines. On Jan. 14, 1958, Woodstock City Council voted to change the municipality’s name from Town of Woodstock to City of Woodstock, although the charter already called it that! So much for redundancy.
In the preceding century, Ben Perry established the Cherokee Advance newspaper in Canton in January 1880. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his precise, thoughtful and conscientious reporting, editing and publishing of the County’s news. How fortunate we are that most issues have been preserved on microfilm. We are blessed, as well, with researchers and writers such as John Carver, Rebecca Johnston, Mick Wagner and Lowell Lawson, who care enough to take advantage of this priceless resource. Some January happenings from the Advance reflect the times of a bygone era.
The Jan. 17, 1884, issue contains this news: “Dr. W. L. Dean has moved into his fine, brick residence.” Later articles in various publications confirm that Dr. G. M. Merritt built the house in 1875, and other owners included W. H. Perkinson. Dr. Dean and Lou Boring were married in September of 1883, and this house would be their permanent home where their seven children were born, and where Lou died in 1945, almost 40 years after the death of her husband. Their daughter Eva died the same day as her mother. The house is now the oldest house in Woodstock.
Some January ads in the Advance in the 1880s indicate that merchants were looking ahead to a busy year. In the Jan. 13, 1883, issue, A. J. Steadman’s blacksmithing ad boasts “wagons made and repaired at Woodstock, Georgia. Also coffins made on the shortest notice. All sorts of wood work and iron work done promptly.” (How comforting to know you could get a coffin quickly!) Ironically, on Jan. 3, 1884, Steadman’s death was reported by the Advance.
This note on Jan. 30, 1880, under Woodstock Items, tells a tale worth investigating. “After court adjourned, Paden, Dean and Co. put in operation their steam saw mill for a test of their new saw and kept the crowd until a late hour in the day.” (Folks probably had cabin fever as winter was surely in full swing.)
On Jan. 24, 1884, the Advance spotlighted Woodstock merchant Walt Benson. “Walt Benson is quite an obliging merchant. If a customer calls for an article he has not in stock, he sends an order by wire and gets it on the first train.” Wow, modern technology.
Later generations of Woodstock residents would rely on the Woodstock Star for such information. It is there that we are told that Dr. William Johnston opened Woodstock’s first veterinary clinic in January 1966. Located on Highway 92 at Trickum Road, it would later move close to town on South Main Street.
Over a century earlier, on Jan. 17, 1858, Mark Fowler died at age 52. His name is found on many early property deeds in town. It was his family that built the two homes referred to as the Hendrix House (now demolished) and the Hubbard House, now vacant and available for lease as a restaurant.
But my favorite “Today in History” did not make headlines, and did not need headlines. On Jan. 12, 1935, the MOTH was born in McCaysville. Elvis was four days old. And look at the two of them now! The MOTH carries a pretty good tune himself. There are two other family celebrants, granddaughter Samantha on Jan. 1, and her husband Kevin on Jan. 6. And in loving memory of Woodstock’s beloved Mary Smith Howell, born Jan. 30, 1900. We still miss her.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and the former director of the Woodstock Public Library.