Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Mr. Ira Harkins, who, if not officially the historian of the Canada/Suches area of Union County, should be declared so. I am grateful to him and his articles in “The Heritage of Union County” for information about early post offices in that section “across the mountains” from the county seat of Blairsville.
Last week’s column listed three of these early post offices and the postmasters who worked at Gaddistown, Quebec, and Suches. Several other mail stations were located along the hills and hollows of this mountainous area.
Early settlers along Mulky Creek were the Harkins family and the Shopes family. In 1880 Charles W. O’Kelley made application for a post office which he wished to name Harkinsville. However, the US Postmaster General disapproved that name and Shopes was chosen instead, with Mr. O’Kelley becoming the first postmaster on August 8, 1880. This office was short-lived, with the mail routed to Clemeth near the Toccoa River on March 3, 1883.
However, the people served by Shope didn’t want to give up their post office. William L. Smith applied for approval of Polk, Georgia post office in the vicinity of the former Shope station on January 1, 1882. You will recall that this was the second time the name Polk was approved as a Union County post office. The first was named by postmaster John Butt on February 20, 1884 and changed to Choestoe on September 25, 1881. Evidently Polk had been out of disuse as a post office name in the county long enough to be reactivated in a new location. Some of the people who served Polk were Mr. Smith, James H. Shope (rescinded), Mr. Smith (second time), James H. Cavender, Mary A. Cavender, and Samuel Dixon. The last location of Polk was at Mr. Dixon’s homeplace at present-day Dixon Branch a mile south of Mulky Gap. When this Polk post office closed September 7, 1887, the mail was routed to the Coosa post office.
Joe Lunsford applied for a post office which he wanted to name Mist on April 5, 1903. Mist was not approved as a name and Seabolt was designated. This post office served about 300 people in the area of today’s Cooper’s Creek bridge. Seabolt, too, was short-lived, closing on October 31, 1907 with the mail going to Suches. Seabolt was reopened in 1922 with Frank Seabolt as post master and continued for two years when it was closed in 1924. At that closure, Seabolt’s mail was routed through the Baxter post office.
Baxter was the forty-fifth post office established in Union County. Its founding date was June 16, 1900. David M. Jarrard was the first postmaster. It is believed that the wholesale groceryman, John Cannon, persuaded Mr. Jarrard to apply for a post office permit, and at the same site he would operate a grocery store for the community. Baxter post office was located near a sawmill and grist mill on the Toccoa River. David Jarrard and his wife Essie operated the Baxter post office until they moved to Texas in 1901. The Jarrards were followed by James H. Cavender who served from 1901 through 1903. His sister, Mary Ann Cavender, who got her start in post office work at Polk at Mulky Gap, followed her brother and served as postmaster for thirty-two years. Baxter’s next postmaster was Mary Ann’s sister, Nellie Cavender Grizzle who began work in 1935 and served until her death. Then Mrs. Lillie Gurley was postmaster from January 26, 1944 until the post office was closed April 15, 1953 and the mail routed to Gaddistown. She moved the post office into her home about a mile from the former location of Baxter.
For forty-four years Baxter served its constituents and was a gathering place for those who enjoyed trips to the post office to visit with the postmasters and hear the latest news of the day. The last location of the Baxter post office, in an annex of Mrs. Gurley’s house, was still standing in 1994.
Clemeth post office in the Cooper’s Creek district was approved in 1881 and closed out in 1887. The name was from the first postmaster, Clemeth Cavender. In the short six years of its existence, Clemeth had its founder and the following postmasters: Andrew Campbell, James Cavender, William Jones, William A. Jones (was this the same person?), William F. Cavender and James A. Cavender (for the second time). Gaddistown became the recipient of the mail when Clemeth closed. It is interesting to note that in the application, Clemeth Cavender noted that the location on the Toccoa River was thirteen miles from Blairsville, nineteen miles from Dahlonega, forty-eight miles from Gainesville, and 100 miles from Atlanta. The community of Clemeth had a population of “about 200,” a grist mill and saw mill, a general merchandise store, a school and Baptist and Methodist churches.
Sarah post office began in May, 1899 with John Marr as first postmaster. He was followed by his daughter, Fannie Marr Jarrard , then Marr’s son-in-law, James Jarrard. John Marr and Jim Jarrard also operated a grocery store, one in the “John Cannon” chain of stores. This post office was near Mt. Airy Church on Cooper Gap Road. Sarah operated until May 31, 1955, fifty-six years. The mail was routed through Suches.
Natal began in June, 1901 on the headwaters of Cooper Creek two miles west of Wolf Pen Gap. G. W. Gaddis was the postmaster for almost two months. Others serving at Natal were William P. McGee, Emanuel Burnett, Mrs. Lizzie Burnett, and Miss Mollie Jarrard. Natal closed after thirty-five years of operation and the mail was routed through Suches.
Pilot post office, named after Pilot Mountain and the copperhead snakes called “pilots” prevalent there, opened in December, 1911 with the Reverend William Henry Washington Gurley as applicant. He opened the office in his store, but it was his daughter Mary Gurley who was first postmaster. Operation stayed in the Gurley family, with another daughter, Vennie Gurley Hendrix, serving for eight months, and Ethel Akins Gurley for four years. These were followed by Dollie Grizzle, John F. Seabolt, Dollie Grizzle (for the second time), and Mrs. Bertha Tritt. Pilot closed after twenty-one years and the mail was routed through Suches. These post offices in the Suches area made it easier for residents to have a connection to the world outside their mountain stronghold.
Jones; published May 12, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Jones is a retired educator,
freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA