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Barrow begins centennial celebration with event at courthouse

POSTED: July 9, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Bonny Harper/Barrow County News

Barrow County Poet Laureate Dr. C.B. Skelton reads a 12-minute ballad he wrote on the history of Barrow County.

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Monday marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the bill to authorize the creation of Barrow County, after attempts to form the county had begun as early as 1835.

A celebratory ceremony was held at the Historic Courthouse to commemorate when former Georgia Governor John M. Slaton signed the bill on July 7, 1914.

The Obelisk Unveiling Ceremony—as the event was called by its planners, the Centennial Celebration Planning Committee—began with a welcome from Planning Committee Co-Chair Kathy White, followed by a prayer by Rev. Dr. Edward Saxon, Jr. of Bush Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Former Winder Mayor John Mobley led the about 150 attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance, and then the Chancel Choir of Winder First United Methodist Church, festive for the occasion in red, white and blue apparel, filled the Commission Meeting Room with the strains of the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Next, White retook the podium to introduce Dr. C.B. Skelton, Barrow County’s resident poet laureate, who wrote a special ballad for the occasion.

"Dr. Skelton may have been the first face that some of you saw when you were delivered into Barrow County," White said, which got a laugh from the crowd.

Skelton’s ballad, entitled "Beautiful Bountiful Barrow’s Song," covered a century’s worth of history, and he prefaced it with instructions to the audience: "Hold onto your seats—100 years in less than 12 minutes!"

As Skelton read the ballad aloud, photos of historic Barrow County were displayed on screens, many of them corresponding to stories Skelton was telling.

The audience laughed as Skelton referenced community jokes in his ballad, such as: the legend of "The Wog"; the old tale of a man standing in Jackson County, being shot by a man standing in Gwinnett County and falling dead in Walton County; and the purported origins of the small towns of Russell and Carl.

The audience gave Skelton a standing ovation as he resumed his seat following the reading of the ballad.

The ballad was followed by a presentation of historical photos by Planning Committee Co-Chair Amber Eskew, and then Representative Terry England took the microphone.

England began by informing the crowd of some little-known facts about Barrow County, such as that originally there was a dispute between Barrow and Gwinnett Counties about 6.2 square miles of land near the Apalachee River. Apparently the division of land was supposed to have been decided by a "large tree" on the bank of this river, but there were two large trees.

Thus, England said, the earliest records state that Barrow County had about 170 square miles, while today’s maps show 162.3 square miles.

England also said that Carl was once considered a "resort town" and had a hotel, because the high altitude made for "good air and clean living." However, Carl residents did not want the railroad stop to be in their town, England said, because they didn’t want the "riffraff" that the train might bring in.

Following his presentation of these and more facts and stories about early Barrow County, England read the official legislative proclamation commending Barrow County on its 100th birthday and presented the plaque with the inscription to Senator Frank Ginn.

The Chancel Choir then sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," which also received a standing ovation.

"If we don’t sleep tonight, it won’t be because of the carryings-on outside," White said. "It’ll be because that choir got us so inspired."

Lastly, Chairman of the Barrow County Board of Commissioners Pat Graham told the history of the obelisk around which Monday's ceremony was centered: how it was originally located in the middle of the road at the intersection of the three counties before Barrow was formed, and at some point due to safety concerns for increasing traffic, it was relocated to the corner of Athens and Church Streets, where it sat "unheralded" for decades.

In commemoration of Barrow’s 100th birthday, the obelisk has now been moved to the corner of the Historic Courthouse lawn, merely a few feet from its original location, Graham said.

The relocation of the obelisk and the landscaping for it were donated by Outdoor Works Landscape Management and Winder City Councilman Travis Singley respectively. A commemorative stone marker explaining the historical significance of the obelisk was donated by Graham, and the placement of the marker was donated by Lawson Funeral Home.

The Centennial sign outside the Historic Courthouse, as a reminder that Barrow is celebrating 100 years this year, was donated by the Sign Shop.

Following the ceremony in the Historic Courthouse, Ginn and England went outside and officially unveiled the obelisk for the public to enjoy.

The next event on the Centennial Celebration Planning Committee’s agenda is a celebration of Founders’ Days on Sept. 6 and 7.

Activities will be held on and around the grounds of the Historic Courthouse and the Barrow County Museum and will include: the burial of a community time capsule; a 100th birthday cake; demonstrations of household arts common to 1914 citizens; a model train display; a special event station sponsored by the Barrow Amateur Radio Club; and tours of the Historic Courthouse.

All events are free and open to the public.

 

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