Dade in 1850: More Surprises

January 27, 2020

Editor's Note: This is the final installment of Joy Odom's Georgia Land Lottery series. For the others, click the history icon from the home page or go to Columns, then History in the Navigator above.


In 1850, most of the households in Dade were headed by people who were not native to Georgia. As a matter of fact, of the 412 heads of household listed in the census, only 32 were born in this state. The largest number, 88,  were born in Tennessee; 74 were born in North Carolina; 50 in South Carolina; and 11 in Alabama.


There was also a healthy representation from farther-flung areas: 17 from Virginia, 16 from Kentucky, and five foreign-born males who somehow found their way to Dade County.


Some of the names are classic and illustrative: Samuel McCalley from Ireland who, although he was 80 years old, was game enough to take on a new and still-primitive place. There were also August McCall, 68, of Scotland, and Charles Hoffman, 22, of Germany, who had acquired a wife in North Carolina on his way here.


Few of these folks were totally new to Georgia, however. People outside the state had been watching the progress of Georgia’s lotteries over the years and many had to decide to come and get in on the action. Most were, of course, not eligible to draw land, but they were certainly eligible to buy it from the “fortunate drawers” and they came into the state with plans to do so.


This is evident when we take a look at the ages of children in their families. John G. Jacoway, a 31 year-old farmer from Kentucky, whose family would become very prominent here in later years, had ventured from his home state to Tennessee where he married and had a child, but his three younger children who were four and under in 1850, were all born in Georgia, so we know that he and his family had been in the state for at least that long waiting for a place to settle.


As was true throughout the South of 1850, Dade was a very agriculture-oriented place. The 1850 census listed 421 heads of households surveyed; of those, 312 - almost 75 percent were listed as farmers. And almost all the rest practiced occupations which were either related to or in support of farming. I was surprised to find that Dade had 10 practicing blacksmiths in 1850 which sounded like a lot until I saw the statistic that there were 640 horses and 117 mules here so those blacksmiths were probably busy most of the time.


In addition to shoeing horses and mules, the smiths also made hinges for doors and such household items as the hooks people used to cook their food in fireplaces, so their work was crucial to the community.


There were also two wagon makers and four wheelwrights. The latter specialized in making and fixing wagon wheels which I am told is a more challenging job than making the wagon. There was at least one tanner whose operation was probably located off the beaten path somewhere as his work (treating and curing animal skins) resulted in terrible odors that usually consigned them to the edges of civilization. The practitioners also stank--no matter how often they washed.


In 1850 Dade, there were at least three preachers, a miller, three carpenters, one “whiskey seller,” one attorney, two doctors and two midwives. One of these was 84, the other 63 years old, so they probably had a lot of experience with delivering babies. There were also three houses of ill repute, all headed by women who were widows and had small children to feed. Very few jobs were open to females in that day, so those who had no husbands were often forced to earn money in less socially acceptable ways.


It was evident that the census-taker for Dade, Stephen L. Pace, another settler whose family would become very prominent here, took a dim view of such goings-on or, at least, believed in calling a spade a spade. When he listed the occupation of these women, he used the “f” word on the census form! The ladies are not to be found in the 1860 census in Dade. I suspect they did a lot of moving.


There were also a few surprise occupations present. Most people in 1850 wore clothing made from homespun fabric, but, for those who needed a more traditional suit of clothes, there were a tailor and a hatter in town. There were also six merchants who, I presume, sold whatever else was necessary and couldn’t be produced on the farms.


Last but not least, there were several occupations listed that either surprised or mystified me so that a little research was in order. There was a “clay maker” whom we would call a potter today. There was also a “refiner,” two “colliers” (coal producers and/or merchants) and four people who called themselves “bloomers” which was certainly a new one on me. I found a dictionary of old occupations and learned that bloomers were folks who produced iron from iron ore and were also called “bloom smithies.” I can see where they could come in very handy in a farming community, as well.


Today, as we watch our county become more diverse in terms of having residents from many places and origins, it’s interesting and surprising to note that it started out that way from the beginning!



This ends the series on the early settlement of the county. Sincere thanks to those of you who have let me know you read and enjoyed these articles. I had a great time researching and writing them.


--Joy Odom





Note from Donna Street: Here is a calendar of activities planned by the historical society for this year.


Dade County Historical Society       

2020 Calendar of Activities


Jan 13     2020 Planning by Officers and

                 Executive Committee

Jan 26    Social for Members 2-4pm Sun

Feb 4      Planning Cemetery Walk 1pm

Feb 29    Business Meeting 10:30 am Sat

Mar         Cemetery Committee work

Mar         McMahan Book work continues

Mar 31    Genealogy Workshop 6-8pm Tue

Apr 18     Cemetery Walk

Apr 25     Cemetery Walk (rain date)       

May 16    Business Meeting 10:30am Sat

Jun 10     New Echota Field Trip

Aug 8       Business Meeting 10:30

Aug 8       Genealogy Workshop 11:30-1:30        

Oct           Book ready for publication

Oct           Wreaths Across America plans

Oct 3        Genealogy SWAP (Forester)

Nov 7       Business Meeting 10:30 AM Sat

Nov 5       Genealogy Workshop 6-8 Tues

Dec 19     Wreath Laying at National Cemetery


Join us for a busy year of fun.

Dues are $10 per year.


Contact us on Facebook at Dade County Historical Society of Trenton, Georgia.


All meetings and workshops are held at the Dade County Public Library.


--Donna Street

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