It reads: “June, 1935 Erected to the Memory of BONNELL STONE December 3, 1887 – May 25, 1935 by THE GEORGIA FORESTRY ASSOCIATION of which he was a founder and secretary. His public service as a trained forester merits him the distinction of being THE FATHER OF FORETRY IN GEORGIA He inspired the donation of Vogel State Park”
Many mountains mists have risen and dispersed over the sign that memorializes Stone. Who was he and what significance did his work and leadership have upon Union County?
Bonnell H. Stone was born in Oxford, Georgia on December 3, 1887 and returned there after his retirement to become the town’s mayor. He died in his native Oxford on May 25, 1935. But most of his working years were spent in Union County. His accomplishments read like a merit sheet of a hero.
He received his education from Emory-at-Oxford and the University of Georgia where he majored in forestry. He took a job with the U. S. Forest Service and worked with that government entity until he took a job with the Phister and Vogel Land Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As advisor to this land company with large holdings here in the mountains, and as their forest ranger, he managed thousands of acres owned by the company from 1913 through 1931. It was while he worked for Phister and Vogel that he inspired the donation of land that was to become Vogel State Park and Lake Trahlyta, one of Georgia’s most popular state parks.
In addition to assisting in the establishment of Vogel State Park, Stone worked to get Highway 129 built across Neal Gap. This road opened in 1925. It replaced the Old Logan Turnpike across Tesnatee Gap and into Cleveland, Georgia. Highway 129 connected Gainesville and Atlanta in the south to Blairsville and points northward. Stone wrote of the road: “The highway is not only a main truck line between Atlanta, Ga., Asheville, NC, and Knoxville, Tenn., but as an agricultural and market road it will be unsurpassed in importance to the State of Georgia, opening up as it does the vast possibilities and resources of Union County and her highly flavored fruits, vegetables and berries, her poultry, livestock and small grain. Not only will Georgia establish her claim to this territory on the north side of the Blue Ridge when the highway is formally opened through Neal Gap, but the counties of Clay and Cherokee in North Carolina will then be more closely identified with Atlanta and other Georgia centers than with Asheville or Knoxville or other cities further to the north.” (article written by Stone Nov. 30, 1924).
In the fall of 1915 the Union County Good Roads Association was organized in Blairsville with Bonnell H. Stone as first president. He was able to get Dr. C. M. Strahn of the University of Georgia to speak to the newly-formed association. Col. Pat Haralson, attorney and representative, was active in the association and worked hand-in-hand with Stone to get the road across the mountain.
A bond issue was voted on and passed. Union County was among the first counties in the state to vote the limit in road bonds. The vote was 9 to 1 to pass the bond issue and the amount was $80,000. Citizens proved the slogan, “In Union there is strength.” Dr. Strahn, the speaker in 1915 at the Union County Good Roads Association, became the first chairman of the Georgia Highway Commission. Stone stated: “The hand of Providence placed Dr. Strahn at the head (of the GHC).”
In his work other than forestry and road building, Bonnell H. Stone served as chairman of the Blairsville Pubic Schools Board, president of the Union County Chamber of Commerce, was active and served as an officer in the Appalachian Scenic Highway Association, was president of the Union County Good Roads Association and the Southern Good Roads Association. He was also a member of the National Council of Outdoor Recreation and the National Conference of State Parks. He was a founding member of the Georgia Forestry Association and served on the state forestry board. Moreover, he had two terms in the Georgia Legislature from Union County, 1925-1926 and 1929-1931. As representative, he worked for the interests of the area.
A conservationist, a visionary, a hard worker, Bonnell H. Stone is listed in volumes of “Who’s Who” and “Hall of Fame” as one whose dedicated service benefited his and future generations. Blairsville and Union County are richer because he lived and worked here.
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Feb. 25, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.