Perhaps many remember the days when the Akins Hotel “on the Square” in Blairsville operated in its heyday of receiving guests and feeding crowds of people in its dining hall.
Mr. Marvin Akins who owned and operated it, was ably assisted by his wife, Mollie Coker Akins. Both were hard-working, outgoing entrepreneurs, a step ahead for their time.
The two-story, rambling wood frame building that graced the side of the square where Blue Ridge Street enters was demolished in the early 1950s. But for many years it hosted tourists, lawyers and judges coming to town for court weeks, and people who just enjoyed spending days in a mountain town with favorable climate, especially in summer months.
In 1912 Marvin Akins purchased land on the corner of the square. On the property was a log cabin. Enterprising Marvin and his wife Mollie decided they could take in guests and allow them to sleep in the cabin’s loft on straw mattresses. The arrangements certainly were not quality accommodations, but better than not having a place at all. Some of their first guests were peddlers who came to sell their wares to the few stores in town.
Interest grew and Marvin saw the need of expansion. Over the years he was able to add to the original log cabin. Soon the hotel was a two-story structure boasting twelve bedrooms, four baths (in those days it was not uncommon for guests to share baths “on the hall”), a commodious dining room and a kitchen where much food was prepared. Some remember that Mr. Akins also purchased the Carrie Butt Boarding House, also on the square, about 1920. Perhaps this accounted for part of the expansion of the Akins Hotel from the original cabin that first took in guests in 1912.
The Akins Hotel was known for its good meals, and people often sought out “Miss Mollie’s” good cooking in her hotel dining room. A faithful worker in the hotel kitchen, and also assisting Mrs. Mollie with laundry for the hotel, care of the Akins children, and cleaning was Eliza Trammel, a black lady who worked for many years for the Akins family. Meals were generous, and by today’s standards, extremely low-cost. At one time they advertised “all you can eat for 25 cents.” I can recall eating in the dining hall and enjoying the quality and taste of the food. In 1944, as an “under classman” at Union County High School, I was selected to be one of the servers at the school’s Junior-Senior banquet held at the Akins Hotel. That gave me as a teenager opportunity to see the facility decked out for a special event for Union County High School students.
But the hotel business was not the only work Marvin Akins was engaged in. He once carried the U. S. mail between area post offices, Blairsville to Hemp and on to Blue Ridge, and other routes were from Blairsville to Caldwell Post Office at Track Rock, to Young Harris and to Hiawassee. Since these were station to station deliveries, his responsibility was getting the mail sacks to their locations, not delivering personal mail to individuals. He used his faithful mule and wagon to carry the mail on these routes.
He opened a barber shop and shoe repair shop in a portion of the old court house. He also operated the first mortuary in Blairsville, using an area behind the hotel for a funeral home. That humble beginning was the birth of the Akins Funeral Homes that his sons continued with and expanded at Blairsville and Blue Ridge. He also served as county coroner for a time. And in keeping with his father’s start in the Akins Hotel, the noted Milton Inn was founded and operated by Marvin’s son, Bonnell.
Their family and friends loved to hear the story of how Joseph Marion Akins and his sweetheart, Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” Coker eloped. It took them two tries to accomplish their goal of “running away” and getting married. The first attempt was foiled, but on the second try, their prearranged plans worked out. Marvin went to Bethel Methodist Church on Track Rock Road one bright Sunday in the fall of 1906, riding in his buggy drawn by a prancing horse. He helped Mollie in, and away they went to the home of a Rev. Jones who married them. That was October 21, 1906, Marvin’s twentieth birthday. Why they felt it necessary to elope has not been told. Maybe they were adventuresome, and certainly romantic—rather than parents being opposed to the match. At any rate, their marriage was solid, and both were hard workers. To them were born nine children, seven sons and two daughters: William Randolph, Benjamin Edd, Erwin Bonnell, Mauney Fred, Patrick Henry, Joseph Marvin, Raymond Douglas, Sarah Elizabeth and Mary Sue.
Joseph Marvin Akins’s great grandfather, John Akins, was in Union County by the time of the 1840 census. John Akins, born about 1795 in South Carolina, died November 27, 1863 in Union County. He and his wife Sarah (maiden name unknown, born 1810 in North Carolina, died 1875) were buried in unmarked graves in the Harmony Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, Union County. Joseph Marvin Akins’ grandfather (from whom he received his first name Joseph) was Joseph G. Akins (05/25/1926 – 07/13/1863) who married Mirah Flowers. Joseph was in the 6th Regiment of the Georgia Calvary Volunteers, Company F, during the Civil War and lost his life in the war. He was buried at the National Cemetery, Cumberland Gap, Claiborne, TN. Marvin’s grandmother, Mirah, continued to live on in Union County and was buried at Harmony Grove Cemetery. Joseph Marvin’s parents were Benjamin Calip Akins (07/21/1858 – 12/31/1933) and Rossie Lindy Fields Akins (10/22/1865 – 05/09/1898). They were interred at the Harmony Grove Baptist Church Cemetery.
Joseph Marvin Akins (10/21/1886 – 05/04/1971) and his wife, Mollie C. Akins (02/15/1888 – 10/22/1967) were laid to rest in the (New) Blairsville Cemetery. They were blessed with long and productive lives.
c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 2, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.