Note: This article was originally written in April 2015. It is the follow-up article to the one printed last week. It is a good precursor to the July 4 celebration for this year which will highlight Dade County’s return to the Union on July 4, 1945.
Last week, I dropped what I considered would be a bombshell about the origin of the moniker, “State of Dade.” No one called or picketed, but Ken and I did get one “nice work” from someone at the Chickamauga National Military Park whose opinion is valued.
In 1945, when a very savvy group of politicians orchestrated the return to the Union of the State of Dade, I wonder if the stories that they told were actual documented fact or if they were the same stories that have been handed down for at least four generations. They probably had been reared on the same tales that we were. After all, there was no internet or even a local library to check any kind of facts. None of those 1945 political leaders were born before the 1890s. By then the story had been shared for 40 years or more. So the legend became the fact.
As I read through the old newspaper articles, I continue to find some common themes. The same people appear over and over again. Robert H. Tatum and Robert M. Parris appear often. There was a reason for that. They were leading citizens in a county with fewer than 3000 citizens. From 1850 to 1880, each took turn holding some type of public office. In one article, that I can’t lay my hands on at the moment, it tells that they were members of opposing parties and seemed to take turns being elected to the legislature. Georgia was under the county unit system then and that meant that each county in the state had a legislator from the home county. That little plan proved to be a problem in the 1950s and 1960s when the idea of “one man-one vote” became the law of the land. A plan that a little county like Dade would give equal clout in the legislature as a DeKalb or Fulton just did not fly.
Another phrase that is common to our legend and the old articles is: “if Georgia does not secede from the Union; then Dade County will secede from Georgia ...”
Context means so much when reading a phrase. If something is left out of the sentence, then the whole meaning changes. Check out the following article from The Macon Telegraph on July 18, 1877.
“The State of Dade”—How Dade County came to be called the State of Dade is explained by a correspondent of the Chattanooga Times thus: The commonwealth owes its existence to the following circumstances: During the canvas of 1850-51, when McDonald was running as the secession candidate for Governor of Georgia and Cobb as the Constitutional Union candidate, a large meeting of Union men was held in the wareroom adjoining the storehouse of Benj. Hawkins, in Trenton, the present county seat.
The following resolution, drafted by Julius Beeman, on the head of a whisky barrel, was then offered and unanimously adopted.
Resolved, “That in the event of the election of Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia and Georgia secedes from the Union; Dade County will secede from Georgia and declare herself an independent State.
It appears from this article that the Dade’s prerequisite for seceding from Georgia was that Charles J. McDonald be elected as Governor of Georgia. He was not elected and we did not really secede in 1851 or 1861 or any other time (even though we often feel that we really are on our own). In fact the election of Howell Cobb seems to have been orchestrated with a really different coalition of people. He did carry Dade County, by the way.
For me, all of these answers bring more questions. The new party was called the Constitutional Unionist Party; Union party for short. Is this party of the 1850s the reason that Dade was thought to lean more toward the northern point of view during the War Between the States? Was it simply because our forebears voted for candidates on the Union ticket? Was it because not many slaves were owned? At 112 or so slaves in 1860, Dade really did not have a very big stake in the slavery side. Our men did not rush off to join the war effort. Most of them did not go until the spring of 1862. I could list a half dozen more questions, but that could really be confusing.
In conclusion, I am satisfied that we did threaten to secede in 1851. As the inquisitive being that I am, I am not satisfied that I have learned everything that there is to find.
So the quest for answers to questions continues.
--Donna M. Street