GCGSI April Meeting: Gilmer County Genealogical Society, Inc.: Past to Present
April 15 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
As Betty Riddle, a founding member of GCGSI, has shared in writings, back in February of 1995, a small group of people interested in the history, heritage, and genealogy of the people of Gilmer County began the task of publishing their first book: The Heritage of Gilmer County: 1836-1996. At that time, researchers had a small room set aside for genealogy and history in the Gilmer County Library, located at that time on Dalton Street next to the Watkins house. Mrs. Anita Summers was the library manager and there were three bookshelves that held four or five genealogy books, some related to Gilmer County, however the Fannin County Heritage was the most used.
Glenda Garland, the library assistant, managed this room and aided many researchers by recommending the courthouse, probate office, and other locations of Gilmer County public records. Often on her lunch, she would visit these buildings to answer genealogy questions that had been received in the mail. When researchers would visit the library, she also kept a sign-in sheet with the researchers’ names and addresses as well as the Gilmer County ancestors they were researching.
Mr. Don Mills, the owner of Walsworth Publishing Company in North Carolina, used this list to gauge interest in a creating a Gilmer County heritage book. Invitations to a meeting were mailed and a meeting was scheduled for Thursday, February 9, 1995, in a small court room of the old court house. There had been a big snow recently and it was still evident that cold day. The small group that met on that day were Miss Dora Parks and two ladies; five people from Chatsworth who were interested in starting a genealogy group in Gordon County; Kathryn and Mike Watkins; Betty and Phil Riddle; and a court official who kept everyone entertained telling of his ancestor whose sole duty was to make whiskey for the officers and injured during the Civil War.
Throughout the next year, various committees met and family stories and photos were collected, proofread, and sorted. Ads were sold to businesses to support the publication and orders were taken for the finished product. Exactly one year from the first meeting, on February 9, 1996, the materials for the book were sent to the publisher. Shirley Sluder, Merle Weaver, George and Evylene Canup, Morris Parks, Lamar Partridge, Betty Riddle, Kathryn Watkins, Edgar and Jerrie Marie Crump, Dr. Jim and Sonya Burleson, Gail Freundt, Estelle Wall, and Earl Cagle were recognized at the front of the book as those who had diligently worked together to create this product.
While working on the book, discussions surfaced among the workers about organizing a genealogical society, so in the spring of 1996, the Gilmer County Genealogical Society, Inc. was formed. Regular meetings were scheduled in the library; the charter had been obtained from the State of Georgia; officers were elected; and by-laws were approved. The first officers were Lamar Partridge, President; Morris Parks, Vice-President; and Shirley Sluder, Treasurer. Gilmer County had a society and a book!
Twenty-seven years later, GCGSI continues to be a chartered organization that assists in research for individuals desiring to know their ancestry and history; provides genealogical resources for the Gilmer County Library; publishes books and quarterly newsletters; promotes family and local history of Gilmer County; meets regularly with presentations for the membership on a variety of historical and genealogical topics; and oversees The First Families of Gilmer County, Georgia, a program to honor the descendants of Gilmer County’s earliest settlers.
At our regular monthly meeting in April, Earl Cagle and Glenda Garland, two of the founding members of GCGSI, will share their memories of the people and their collaborative efforts of those early years. They will also discuss the changes as well as the things that have remained the same throughout the twenty-seven year timeline of the Gilmer County Genealogical Society, Inc.
The meeting will take place on Saturday, April 15, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. in the Gilmer County Library. The public is invited and admission is free.