COMMUNITY NAMES ADD UNIQUENESS
TO WALTON COUNTY
One of the good things about this wet, soggy, cold season we call winter is the opportunity of sharing stories with friends over hot cups of coffee. One such event led to a discussion of the funny names of cities that are sprinkled across this country.
Over the last year or two I wrote a column on how our neighbor Social Circle came to be and more recently revived an old interview with the late Ruby Cook Upshaw who was considered the town’s historian as she spent almost her entire life in that town and knew the area when it was mostly dirt roads with a few houses scattered about with a couple of store fronts facing Main Street.
One of our better known citizens and foremost educators, the late Dr. Rufus C. Harris, came from the community of Good Hope, where his parents lived and farmed until Dr. Harris purchased the old Tichenor home on McDaniel Street and moved his family there. Over the years there have been several families from the Good Hope community and surrounding area who, besides being farmers, also gave our town some beloved and highly respected teachers of note. A couple who were well known and loved in the community were Louise and Euler B. Thompson, both of whom were educators. Louise taught school in Good Hope and then came to Monroe to teach seventh grade. Mr. Thompson, besides being a farmer was also principal of the Good Hope School. His family has been in the Good Hope community since 1910.
Other families from the Good Hope area who had farming as well as teaching ties to Monroe were Nanette & Jim Robison, Mindell & John F. Hester, Ruth & Brannon Thompson and George & Grace J. Robison. Nanette was the long-time American History & Journalism teacher in high school and Mindell & Ruth taught elementary while Grace taught both elementary & high school classes.
And let’s not forget the beloved Miss Moina Michael, nationally known resident of the area who was born just a short distance from Good Hope.
Several weeks ago I invited what was left of my old coffee club fellows to stop in for some hot peppermint coffee or some spiced cider and try to reconnect since the group had almost abandoned over the last year or so due to infirmities and illness.
As conversations bounced around the room, the most entertaining conversation centered on the crazy names some of our cities and communities are named. I tossed names like “Good Hope,” “Social Circle,” “Between,” “Gratis,” “Split Silk,” “Bold Springs,” “Campton,” Walnut Grove,” “Jersey,” & “Cowpens” into the air to see what response they would get. I heard other names such as “Hunter’s Ridge”, “Gravel Rock”, “Split Tree”, “River Bed”, “Gulley Town”, and my favorites, “Swamp Hole” & “Cemetery Junction”.
After the fellows left, there was a nagging in my brain about an article I remembered from the old Atlanta papers, something about Good Hope and if memory served correctly, there was a picture of the late Euler B. Thompson sitting next to a pot-bellied stove. I began searching through my notebooks and found it
The article was written in the late 1970’s by Charles Salter who was better known as the “Georgia Rambler,” who traveled the state looking for and picking out unusual stories which made their way in his column for the Atlanta Journal. Over the thousands of miles he traveled across the state and the many towns, cities and other venues he visited and wrote about, many of these stories found their way into publication in the fascinating book, The Georgia Rambler”, published by the History Press. Salter’s years traveling and writing this column only spanned a short period, from 1976 to 1980, but oh, what a treasure trove of information he passed on to his large following of dedicated readers! Sadly, the column he wrote on Good Hope did not make the cut into the book but I am just happy I snipped it out back in the late 70’s since it featured a town I knew along with a photo of the old gentleman sitting next to an old stove in the general store in Good Hope on a frosty morning.
I am passing along the column Mr. Salter wrote as it gives a perfect example of how life was in the small farming community of Good Hope, Georgia.
“E. B. Thompson rocked contentedly in an old rocker and talked with friends beside a big, pot-belly stove in Cherry Johnson’s general store on a cold morning.
Wearing work clothes, boots and an orange hunting cap, Thompson appeared to be as much at home in his rocker as a king on a throne.
‘On a cold morning you have to get here early to get a chair,’ he remarked as a visitor opened a soft drink,
Thompson, a farmer who served several years as high school principal in Good Hope, glanced up at the very high ceiling and walls of the grocery store which also is the site of the community’s post office.
‘If this old store could talk, it could tell some terrible stories,’ he said, laughing.
One of the stories perhaps, would concern how the town of Good Hope, incorporated in 1905, got its unusual name.
Located on Georgia 83 six miles east of Monroe in Walton County, Good Hope has a population of about 200 and a radius of three-fourths of a mile.
‘There are legends about how it was named Good Hope,’ said Thompson, grinning. ‘Now this story may not make sense, but I heard that years ago they had a big beer-drinking down there at what later was called Old Good Hope, half a mile from here.
‘They sent some fellow off to get a keg of beer. The men were sitting around talking and telling tales, and they got restless.
Thompson continued, ‘Somebody said, “Wonder what became of that fellow we sent to get the keg of beer?’ And someone else said, “Why have good hope. It’ll be here after a while.”
Thompson stopped rocking for a moment, smiled and said, ‘I don’t know if the keg got there or not, but it must have.’
The farmer believes Good Hope’s most famous native son is Dr. Rufus C. Harris, former president of Tulane University and current president of Mercer University in Macon.
He reminded me that Miss Moina Michael, the lady who originated Poppy Day to raise funds to aid thousands of disabled World War I veterans, was born near Good Hope.
Old Good Hope was somewhat of a trading center for farmers and even had a little courthouse but the community moved to its present location when the post office was opened here.
‘This store used to be Harris’ Store and was built by Dr. Rufus Harris’ father,’ said Thompson. ‘Years ago, the justice of the peace had an office in the back, and they even had a jail behind the building.
‘In Good Hope we had two doctors once upon a time and had a big cotton gin and grist mill and several stores. Now we just have this store and a filling station. It’s just one of those little has-been towns.’
Thompson was principal of an accredited high school with an enrollment of 300 students, but it later became only a junior high school and finally closed.
‘Some people have moved out of Good Hope in recent years and gone to other towns to work,’ said Thompson. ‘Most here now are just old people. Most of them have moved to the cemetery.’
Is he hopeful about the future of Good Hope?
‘Well, I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I think in years to come it will be tied in with Monroe and Atlanta. In the next few years I don’t see much future for business.’
Water is piped into Good Hope from Monroe, but there is no sewage disposal system in the town. Good Hope citizens get one break over Monroe residents in not having any city taxes.
What does Thompson find appealing about the town in which he has resided since 1910?
‘I like it because it is quiet, and I think we have some of the best people anywhere, and we have good churches; the Good Hope Christian Church, Good Hope Baptist Church and just outside the city, Bethel Baptist Church.’
Thompson said the general store was burglarized several times before its owner filled in the back windows with brick. But he cannot remember if Good Hope ever had an armed robbery or murder.
And, the folks in Good Hope have high hopes that their little town will remain peaceful and safe.”
And, as a post script, I just learned the Good Hope General Store won the Tribune’s Reader’s Choice Award for best convenience store. What a great honor for a legendary part of Walton County history!