Local philanthropists honored for generous contributions

Betty Phillips -Historical Society

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Towns County Historical Society honored Betty Phillips and her late husband, Dr. Richard Allen Schmidtke, at its March meeting for their generous financial contributions toward the preservation of local history.

“This is a resolution in honor of Betty Phillips and in memory of Dr. Richard Allen Schmidtke by the Towns County Historical Society Executive Board, and Betty had another meeting she’s gone to, and (nephew) Kris is accepting this on her behalf,” Towns County Historical Society Vice-President Jerry Taylor said.

Towns County Historical society

Kris Phillips accepted the recognition on Betty Phillips’ behalf from historical society officers.

“And the resolution is; whereas Betty Phillips is a lifetime member of the Towns County Historical Society who has provided immeasurable support to our organization; and whereas Dr. Schmidtke held advanced degrees in mechanical engineering; and whereas he served his county with distinction in World War II, mainly as staff sergeant in the U.S. Army and the Manhatten Project as a 19-year-old who helped with the design of the ‘Fat Man’ Nagasaki bomb and other notable projects; and whereas he retired to the north Georgia mountains and adopted Towns County as his home; and whereas he married Towns County native Betty Phillips and became a life member of the Towns County Historical Society; and whereas by their anonymous generosity they supported the historical society and the Old rock jail Museum; and whereas Dr. Schmidtke passed away March the 27th, 2017. Therefore, we, the Executive Board of the Towns County Historical Society, honor Betty Phillips and the memory of Dr. Schmidtke on the anniversary of his passing by acknowledging the identity of our anonymous benefactors this 9th day of March 2020. Signed, Sandra Green, President; Jerry Taylor, Vice-President; Tyler Osborn, Secretary; Francis Shook, Treasurer; and Mary Ann Miller, Membership Secretary.”

Betty Philiips

Plaque presented in honor of Betty Phillips and Dr. Richard Allen Schmidtke.

In addition to a framed resolution, a plaque was presented in honor of the benevolent couple.

“This plaque is in recognition of Betty’s many years as a member of the historical society and all the contributions, financial contributions, that she and Dr. Schmidtke have given over the years,” President Green said. “And as everyone knows, that knows Betty Phillips, they know how devoted she is to the cause of veterans. And so the plaque will be at the Old Rock Jail Museum in front of the veterans’ display room in honor of Dr. Schmidtke and Betty in honor of her love for the veterans.”

Phillips has graciously hosted an annual program for Towns County veterans each summer since 2014.

“I know she’ll appreciate that very much,” Kris Phillips said.

Alpha Delta Kappa educators recognized by Towns County commissioner


HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Alpha Delta Kappa International Honorary Organization for Women Educators month was recognized via proclamation by Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw Oct. 7. “Whereas women in education constitute a great portion of the nation’s working force,and are constantly striving to serve their communities and nation in educational, cultural, and charitable programs leading to harmony, happiness, and peace among all people…,” the proclamation reads in part. Betty Phillips

Alpha Delta Kappa was founded in 1947 by Agnes Shipman Robertson, Marie Neal, Marion Southall and Hattie Poppino – visionary women who saw a need to recognize and support the professional efforts of outstanding women educators. Since 1947, over 125,000 women educators around the world have discovered the many opportunities provided by membership in Alpha Delta Kappa — opportunities for recognition of commitment to educational excellence, for personal and professional growth and for collectively channeling their energies toward the good of schools, communities, the teaching profession and the world.

More than 30,000 women educators around the world have discovered the many opportunities provided by membership in the sorority — opportunities for recognition of their commitment to educational excellence, for personal and professional growth and for collectively channeling their energies toward the good of their schools, communities, the teaching profession and the world. Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, Alpha Delta Kappa has more than 1,200 chapters located in towns and cities in every state in the U.S., and around the world in Australia, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Membership, which is honorary and based on peer recognition, provides a wealth of opportunities for leadership development and networking through workshops, training sessions, conferences and conventions. But, perhaps the greatest opportunity the group provides is the opportunity to make a difference. Around the world, Alpha Delta Kappa members combine their energies and talents to enrich their lives and the lives of others through thousands of heartwarming, community-based altruistic projects.

Towns County Historical Society officers unexpectedly vacate posts

Towns County Historical Society

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Historical Society President Sandra Green announced on Thursday, Jan. 10, that four officers, herself included, have resigned their positions, effective immediately, and will not seek reelection on Monday, Jan. 14.

In addition to Green, Treasurer Frances Shook and Membership Secretary Mary Ann Miller will no longer serve on the board. A statement that Vice President Nancy Cody would not seek reelection was delivered at the historical society’s December meeting.

“It has been a joy to be part of leading the organization and watching it grow for as long as we’ve held our positions. To the best of our knowledge Betty Phillips is still on the ballot as Secretary and David & Myrtle Sokol will still be videoing the meetings,” Green announced, signing off with, “sincerely and with sadness.”

While the specific circumstances surrounding the decision to step down from the positions are unclear at the time of publication, FYN will continue to seek clarity in the coming days. It is known that the society met earlier in the day for an executive session where alleged conflict ensued, leading to the resignation of the officers.

Towns County Historical Society meets at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan 14, at 900 North Main St. in Hiawassee. Members are eligible to vote in the officer election.

Towns County GOP draws State candidates days before run-off election

Election 2018, News, Politics
Mayor Jim Conley
Towns County GOP

Vendors set up shop, selling their wares

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Republican Party hosted an “Old-Fashion Rally and BBQ” on Hiawassee Town Square, the weekend prior to the state run-off election. Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young organized and orchestrated the event, drawing Gubernatorial candidate Casey Cagle , and Secretary of State candidate David Belle Isle, to visit with constituents.

Commissioner Cliff Bradshawe

Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young and County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw review the day’s agenda

Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon spoke on behalf of Lieutenant Governor candidate David Shafer, and former State Representative Stephen Allison represented Gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp. Kemp was unable to attend due to an engagement with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Macon, Georgia.


Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton and his band rocked the Square

Vendors set up shop along Berrong Street, and K&K Killer Kue served smoked pork barbeque sandwiches to guests.

The Republican Party held a bake sale, and the President’s Team manned an information booth.

Radio host of EXtreme Carolina, Michael Levi Borkman, served as Master of Ceremony.

Former Towns County Republican Chair Mark Wolchko streamed music, leading up to the candidate “stumping”.

Michael Levi Borkman

(L-R) Master of Ceremony Michael Levi Borkman and Secretary of State candidate David Belle Isle

Chris Clinton, who serves as Towns County Sheriff, and his band provided live entertainment.

Hiawassee Police Department chipped in, providing not only security, but supplying a needed tent and table for visitors.

Betty Phillips Towns County

Local resident Betty Phillips visits the President’s Team booth

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, staying throughout, and Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales made a brief appearance at the event.

The State Run-Off Election takes place tomorrow, July 24. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

(Feature Image: Blairsville Mayor Jim Conley shakes hands with Gubernatorial candidate Casey Cagle)

Towns County Historical Society honors military heritage

Community, News
Fronz Goring

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Historical Society honored local military veterans on Saturday, July 14, during an annual heritage ceremony which began in 2014, founded by Historical Society Secretary Betty Phillips.

Phillips – the daughter of a veteran, and the widow of a World War 2 United States Army Staff Sergeant – recalled a conversation with her late husband before the program began. “Richie knew how much I loved history, and one day he made a point of reminding me of how different our history would be without our veterans. He said, ‘Betty, would you have the freedom to preserve history without the veterans?’ His words inspired me,” Phillips said with a smile.

The room in the former recreation center on Main Street, which now serves as a meeting hall for the historical society, quickly filled with veterans and supporters on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. Historical Society President Sandra Green opened the ceremony, acknowledging the dedicated effort Phillips applied to the project. The Pledge of Allegiance was followed by the National Anthem, sung by Karli Cheeks, and an invocation was offered by Doug Nicholson.

“I am truly blessed and honored to be standing up here because I don’t feel worthy of it, necessarily, because we owe it to those that have served,” Phillips emoted, “Either they were drafted, or they were willing to go and volunteer. We would not have a society like we have today if they had not sacrificed. Now, some people paid the ultimate price, and in Towns County, we have one of the nicest veterans’ parks that you can find anywhere. It’s in a beautiful location. It overlooks Lake Chatuge and the mountains, and most of all, the names of the veterans go on that wall. The other day, I started counting the names. There are over 1300 names on that wall. Now, the ones who paid the ultimate price, they have their own monument, their picture and their plaque.” Phillips noted that in World War 1, there were eight veterans who sacrified their lives for the sake of American freedom, three of which were Phillips’ relatives. During World War 2, thirteen service members paid the ultimate price. The veterans’ memorial is located in front of Towns County School on Highway 76 East.

James Richard Lewis

World War 2 veteran James Richard Lewis

The keynote speakers were World War 2 veterans James Richard Lewis, 96, and Fronz Goring, 97.

Lewis, reminised on his childhood, and his love for aeronatics; an appreciation which led to serving as a naval mechanic during the second World War. Lewis reenlisted in 1950, and served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. Lewis listed serving under four Commanders-in-Chiefs: Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Nixon. “If the current Commander-in-Chief asked me to join the fight, I’d carry it to the gates of hell for him,” Lewis asserted.

Towns County’s oldest veteran, Goring, recalled his military service, and spoke lovingly of his late wife, Mason L. Goring, also a veteran, whose name is enscribed on the local veterans’ memorial wall. The couple met Thanksgiving Day of 1945, married Jan. 13, 1945, and spent 61 years together. “Right now, I’m stationed at Brasstown Manor Resort,” Goring joked.

A decorated table filled with photographs of local veterans lined a wall, and a touching video clip of an interview of local World War 2 veteran Bud Johnson, 95, who attended Saturday’s ceremony, at the late Governor Zell Miller’s recent memorial service in Young Harris, was shown on a projection screen.

Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales attended the program, offering words of gratitude to the veterans and their families.

Members of Friendship Baptist Church presented certificates of recognition to veterans of different eras, and ensured that the crowd received a Chick-Fil-A sandwich, chips, cookies, and a soft drink at the conclusion of the program.

Towns County Historical Society expressed appreciation to its members, and to Alpha Delta Kappa Sorority, for helping to make the hertiage program possible.

Next year’s ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, July 13, 2019.

(Feature Photo: Towns County’s oldest veteran, Fronz Goring, age 97)

HIstorical Society officers rescind resignations due to public outcry

Towns County Historical Society

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Four days after announcing a decision to vacate posts, three Towns County Historical Society officers have rescinded their resignations, choosing to remain on tonight’s election ballot.

“As you may be aware, several officers submitted an unofficial oral resignation at the last officer’s meeting and notification was posted on Facebook and via email,” Green stated, “Due to overwhelming outcry from the membership, these officers have decided to rescind their resignations for the good of the mission of the Towns County Historical Society: preserving and sharing the rich history of our area.

“At the December meeting, the nominating committee presented a slate of nominations including Sandra Green for president, Jerry Taylor for vice president, Frances Shook for treasurer, Betty Phillips for secretary, and Mary Ann Miller for membership secretary. An additional nomination was made from the floor of Terry Lynn Marshall for president. The election will proceed as planned, and there will be an opportunity for additional nominations before the election. Please remember that only members who are current on their membership dues are eligible to vote.”

Towns County Historical Society meets this evening, Monday, Jan. 14, at 5:30 p.m. at the Old Recreation Center, located at 900 N. Main St. in Hiawassee.

Jerry Taylor will present a program on the Cherokee names of the area, following the business portion of the meeting.

Towns County Historical Society focuses on Macedonia Baptist Church

Community, News
Macedonia Baptist Church

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Macedonia Baptist Church, a landmark sitting high on a hill along Highway 76, east of Hiawassee city limits, has a deep history that is unbeknownst to many. The story of the chapel was the focus of discussion at the Towns County Historical Society meeting on Oct. 8, 2018. The informative program was presented by Macedonia Baptist Church Deacon Roger Dyer, and lifelong member Daren “Bear” Osborn.

The room was filled to near capacity with church members and county residents, including Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and former Commissioner Bill Kendall, both instrumental in preserving the beloved history of Towns County.

Founded as Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in 1839, with the land deeded by Major Josiah Carter, the first of four eventual structures was built behind where the current church now stands. The Hiwassee River rushed along the chapel, and it was said that when the water level in Lake Chatuge sinks low, the steps leading from the original church can still be found. The river witnessed many baptisms throughout the following years, although the initial converts consisted of 11 members. Reverend Adam Corn, an Asheville, NC, transplant, born in 1782, is thought to have been Macedonia’s first preacher, initially serving as a missionary to Native Americans upon local arrival.

Major Carter was a delegate at the founding Southern Baptist Convention in Augusta, GA, in 1845, along with other area preachers. The Hiawassee Baptist Association was organized in 1849, and included Macedonia Baptist beside 23 sister churches from Clay and Cherokee County, NC, and Union and Rabun County, GA.Macedonia Baptist Church

Carter, along with 27 of Macedonia Baptist Church’s first members, lies at rest in Carter Cemetery, tucked behind what is now Towns County Schools.

Macedonia was once known as Shady Grove, GA, and the land was a part of Union County until Towns County was established in 1856. The church was said to have housed soldiers during the Civil War era, although official records were stored in the Union County Courthouse which was later destroyed by fire in 1899.

In 1932, “God’s Acre Plan” was established by Reverend Frank Lloyd. Volunteer labor was used to prepare the land to plant, cultivate, and harvest crops. The farming endeavor served as revenue for Macedonia Baptist Church for years to come.

Macedonia Baptist Church Hiawassee

The second Macedonia Baptist Church – Photo courtesy of Town County Historical Society

The second church was constructed in 1942, the result of the addition of Lake Chatuge which caused a need to move Macedonia Baptist to higher ground. The congregation was urged to pray for God’s guidance, and the original chapel was deconstructed, relocated, and reassembled upon an elevated mound. The first homecoming was held in 1945, and it continues to be honored annually on May 15.

In 1957, the congregation desired to build a more modern structure. The government supplied timber from the High Shoals area, and $802 in revenue from “God’s Acre Plan” set the project into motion. The church was built by the hands of church members, with dedication taking place on April 27, 1958. The building remains standing, adjacent to the current church which was constructed in 1995. Reverend Harold Ledford served Macedonia Baptist Church for 30 years until his death on Feb. 11, 2017.  Reverend Ed Jump is serving as Macedonia’s transitional pastor at the time of publication.

Numerous historical photographs were displayed on a projector screen throughout the presentation as Dyer and Osborn offered detailed narrative, and DVDs of the monthly meetings in their entirety are available for a nominal fee through the Towns County Historical Society. Historical Society Secretary Betty Phillips opened the presentation by acknowledging the dedicated efforts of David and Myrtle Sokol in preserving the meetings through videography.

Towns County Historical Society meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the former Recreation Center at 900 north Main St. in Hiawassee.

Of note, the Old Rock Jail Museum will close between the months of November and April. Appointments to tour the historical site during the off-season can be arranged through the Towns County Historical Society.


Feature Photo Credit: Macedonia Baptist Church


Towns County Historical Society holds officer election despite recent conflict

Towns County Historical Society

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Historical Society held their 2019 board election on the evening of Monday, Jan. 14, following rescinded resignations from three presiding officers. President Sandra Green faced challenger Terry Lynne Marshall, with Green securing reestablishment, along with the unopposed reelection of Treasurer Frances Shook and Membership Secretary Mary Ann Miller. Historian Jerry Taylor was elected to serve as vice president, a post vacated by former officer Nancy Cody. Secretary Betty Phillips was defeated by 22-year-old Tyler Osborn. Phillips graciously congratulated Osborn, adding that she believes the group can continue to work together to benefit the society’s mission. Nominations were unexpectedly accepted from the floor, adding Osborn to the ballot on election night.

Tyler Osborn

Newly-elected Towns County Historical Society Secretary Tyler Osborn

Brief, sole-sided conflict ensued preceding the paper-ballot vote as presidential candidate Terry Lynne Marshall adamantly refused to speak with President Sandra Green situated beside the podium. Marshall recited a lengthy resume of qualifications, stating, “I really don’t want to be president, but I feel the need to be now for this group.” Marshall served as the historical society’s president from 2003 until 2012, relinquishing the post to care for her aging parents.

Marshall relayed that her paramount concern involves proper, permanent preservation of “Wisdom of our Elders,” a historical timeline of recorded interviews. Marshall voiced dissatisfaction with the current handling of the records, and strives to forge a group of volunteers dedicated to the project.

Prior to the casting of ballots, Green, a key player in the restoration of the Old Rock Jail museum, humbly stated a passion for history as her cardinal qualification, explaining that the Towns County Historical Society is the only organization to which she is devoted, adding, “I am very proud of what I have done.” Green remained composed throughout the meeting.

FYN spoke with Green after the election to inquire whether the matter regarding the recorded interviews will be addressed. Green stated that discussion will take place at the society’s upcoming executive meeting, with the item potentially placed on February’s agenda.

“Congratulations to Jerry Taylor on being elected as vice president of the Historical Society this evening,” Green later wrote on social media, “Also to Tyler Osborn who was elected as secretary. I look forward to working with them as well as Frances Shook and Mary Ann Miller, who were re-elected as treasurer and membership secretary. 2019 should be an exciting year for us. I look forward to working with them to make the organization better than ever! Hope you’ll make our 2nd Monday of each month meetings a regular part of your schedule! Thanks for your support.”

Feature Photo: Towns County Historical Society President Sandra Green


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