Talmo City History
Indian trails crossed Jackson County and in 1803, permission was received from the Cherokees to build the Federal Road through the county along the ridge from Oconee Heights through what is now Talmo to Belmont. Talmo was settled around 1840. Many others soon followed, some settling near the present site ofMountain Creek Church near Hickory Siding. Talmo was a small community, 10 miles north of Jefferson and 13 miles south of Gainesville on what was to be theGainesville Midland Railroad line, and was little more than a wilderness in 1865, with only a few houses. In 1866, the Rev. W.H. Bridges moved to the area and had the people build a log school house, which was used as a church named Mountain Creek. The area was decimated by deaths in the War Between the States, with numerous women being left widows. Talmo began to grow in the early 1900’s when Gainesville Midland put a side track in the area. The community’s people, at their expense and labor, built a depot. More stores were added. The railroad made Talmo a regular stop. Citizens could take the train to Gainesville for 10 cents. Talmo was incorporated on August 9, 1920. The origin of Talmo’s name is derived from the Creek Indian word Talomeco, which means “Home of the Chief Tallassee.”
The first “large” school was located in the Mountain Creek Community in the Johnnies Hill Masonic Lodge in 1882. Members of the lodge built a two-story building, with the lower part being used as a school. In 1906, a school was built on four acres adjoining the church parking lot at a cost of $2,500. The school was furnished with single patent desk, blackboards, maps in sets, charts, small globes, framed pictures, a library of 75 volumes, an organ, a teacher’s desk, a well, a covered water cooler and individual drinking cups. There were 99 students taught by F.K. McGee and Miss Irene Bailey. There was a Boys Corn Club, History Club and a 32-week school year in two terms of 24 and 8-week periods. Talmo received $517 from the state and $489.18 from a local tax based on five mills. The last school built in Talmo was in 1925, one of the largest in the county, on the same site as the former one, which had burned. It had five classrooms and a large auditorium with a stage and red velvet drapes. A lunchroom was added later. Students attended grades one through nine and then went to high school in Jefferson.
Talmo had several businesses in the early 1900’s, including two large stores, a post office, a railroad depot, a blacksmith and repair shop, a large cotton ginning plant, two large warehouses, a rock quarry, a doctor’s office, a quano company and a school. During the cotton era, Talmo prospered and grew. Talmo, in particular, was recognized for its cotton. In the cotton trade, it was known as “Talmo Cotton” or “Gold Cotton” the finest short staple cotton (curly fiber) in the world. Talmo Cotton brought some of the best prices in the cotton industry. A visitor to the area in 1908 reported seeing acres and acres of cotton, as well as new machinery for ginning the fiber. This was short-lived as the region was hit by boll weevils in 1919. In September 1920, the South had reached a financial state of “crisis”. Countless jobs were lost, and some prosperous families were forced into bankruptcy. By 1921 farmers began raising cattle and hogs as alternatives to cotton. Cotton made somewhat of a comeback in the mid twenties but the Depression era and continuing shifts in the supply and demand of the cotton market led to a low price of just four cents per pound in 1942. Gradually “King Cotton” lost its agricultural importance and farmers turned more seriously to cattle, poultry and other crops.
A Talmo man is known as the “father of the commercial broiler production” in Georgia. M. E. “Ellis” Murphy began producing broilers in the early 1920’s with thousands of broilers on his Talmo farm. The feed was bought from J.D. Jewell, a feed dealer in Gainesville, and was hauled to Talmo. Dried buttermilk and cod liver oil were also purchased for chickens, along with the feed. The cod liver oil was fed to the chickens to take the place of sunshine. Chickens were grown on floors and in tiers, or batteries of cages stacked upon each other. Many of the chicken houses were heated with steam. When the chickens were grown, they were often shipped in railroad cars. The Talmo man also hatched eggs, delivering the baby chicks to producers. Murphy’s success attracted the attention of his neighbors who began similar operations. Talmo soon became known as a major broiler production community. Murphy was also an inventor and created the tie rod that fastened to fenders of Model T Fords to keep them from vibrating. Ellis’ brothers, King, Scott, Hoyt and Jack, ran one of the largest and most successful businesses in Talmo in the early 1900’s, T.W. Murphy and Sons, a general merchandise business. The family also had a cotton gin, blacksmith shop and 100 mules. The Murphy’s controlled 10,000 acres of land in Talmo with tenant workers farming it. King Murphy was also very influential in the political world. He never ran for office, but those he supported and pushed were usually elected. “He was a shrewd man,” said one Talmo man who worked for him. “He stayed in the background. He put most people here in Jackson County in office. In January 1931 Talmo was hit when a “disastrous” fire that destroyed several buildings. In October of that year the Murphy warehouse succumbed to flames. The industry the Murphy brothers helped foster continued to grow in the Talmo area and Jackson County, and poultry production became a huge source of income for county residents. Even in 1999, a point which the area was in full-scale ”exurban” growth, poultry farming was still big business. Jackson County remains today in the top 10 in terms of poultry production and beef cattle production in Georgia. One of the first major industries to locate in Talmo was McEver Packing Company, which came to the town when its founder R. H. McEver, moved to Talmo in 1929. The business was North Georgia’s largest and fastest-growing meat packing business in 1956. The company merged with Gold Kist in 1970. Another business was Kinney’s Store, which opened in 1955. Local folks shared many a conversation and lots of good times around the pot-bellied stove in the general store, where a wide range of items – from groceries to overalls to pipe fittings – were found.
Even after the advent of the automobile county citizens remained at risk from their animals. In 1925, at least two mule-related mishaps were reported in the pages of the local paper. On June 4, readers learned that a Mr. Mahaffey met a “horrible death” after being dragged a quarter of a mile by his mule. His body was mutilated and he lived for only an hour. Two weeks later, reports surfaced that another citizen had died while plowing. Plowing again proved dangerous, in July 1927, when a youth was “killed instantly by lightning” while tilling the soil. In the same week, it was reported that another man was, killed by a falling tree. Death by car was very common even if the early years of the automobile, when speeds were relatively low with seatbelts non-existent and most roads unpaved. In the 1930’s newspaper editorials railed against children riding on running boards as well as high speeds.
Talmo has a full time City Clerk and an active city council consisting of Mayor and four council members; they moved into its current 4,000 square foot facility in April 2004. The new City Hall was a home built in 1910 and was purchased and owned by a Doctor Kennedy for the price of $350.00 on April 13th, 1910. When the city first moved into the house it needed a few updates to make it amendable, such as wheel chair accessibility and a handi-cap accessible restroom. In December of 2006, the city paid off the remainder of the note with remaining SPLOST revenues right under $200,000.00 dollars. The new City Hall also houses the City Library. At last count the Talmo Library had approximately 1,800 books; the current librarian is continually working to upgrade the book inventory. See the library page to check when they are open. Wayne and Jill Miller, owners of Talmo Ranch, have bought several of the old buildings in the downtown area and have restored them with a Historic appeal.
The former city hall was located in a general store dating back to the early years of Talmo’s beginning. The building has been placed on the National Register of Historic Placesas have other building restored by the Millers. The majority of the property in Talmo is still agricultural but with the rapid influx of new citizens from metro Atlanta, the rural atmosphere may be lost in years to come.