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By Brandon Hembree

A famous quote often associated with success provides readers with the wisdom that “from humble beginnings come great things”. Looking back on our past we may look at our personal history and think that this quote captures our own life, or we may apply it to a person or place we know in our present. Sugar Hill is such a place that began with humble beginnings and has evolved into a great community for the nearly 24,000 residents that now call it their city of residence. However, the Sugar Hill of 1939 is a lot different from the community we all call home in 2019. Sugar Hill was first created as the Town of Sugar Hill and it literally began in the humble barber shop of the town’s first City Clerk, J.B. Mercier.

SH Ledger
This original ledger was maintained by Sugar Hill’s first City Clerk, J.B. Mercier. Photo courtesy Brandon Hembree

In Georgia, the creation of towns and cities is solely under the power of the Georgia General Assembly. Sugar Hill’s charter was approved by legislative action in 1939 and it officially began as a town when the charter legislation was signed by Governor E.D. Rivers on March 24. Alton Tucker was the first Mayor. The community’s first Councilmen were Theodore Pirkle, Butell Robinson, H.H. Green, Rocky Venable, and J.B. Mercier. Each man serving the newly established town had humble beginnings, but by 1939 all of these men were already business leaders in the community. Butell owned a local car dealership and Rocky was the local mercantile selling everything from motor oil to candy. J.B. was the town barber and, no doubt, one of the more well-known men in the community. The group met for the first time in J.B.’s barbershop on April 24 and selected Theodore as Mayor Pro Tempore. J. B. would serve as the first Town Clerk, and he recorded meeting minutes in the ledger book for the group’s first meetings. This ledger book provides us with an amazing glimpse at our humble beginnings as an official town.

At the first meeting on April 24 several resolutions were debated and voted on by the newly sworn Councilmen, but the focus of two of the ordinances are very interesting in light of Sugar Hill’s history. One ordinance was adopted prohibiting the sale of wine, beer, or intoxicating liquors in any form. A second ordinance was adopted that prohibited traveling medicine shows unless given permission by the Mayor of Sugar Hill. Both ordinances focused entirely and interestingly on alcohol sales. Medicine, sold at traveling shows, was most often alcohol or something even more scandalous. The group would not meet in May or June but did renew legislative action during their next meeting on July 10.

Ledger Page
The document shown here is from J.B. Mercier’s ledger where he recorded the minutes for the first official meeting for the newly formed City of Sugar Hill.  Photo courtesy Brandon Hembree

At their second official meeting, the Mayor and Council passed a resolution and an ordinance dealing with speeding “automobiles, trucks, and buses”. Resolution Number 3 requested that the state highway foreman provide speed limit signs denoting speed limits for 35 miles per hour and 20 miles per hour. Thirty-five miles per hour signs were to be installed on Buford Highway and Cumming Highway. School zones were designated for the 20 miles per hour signs. Ordinance Number 3 officially established the speed zones for the community. The ledger for this meeting ends with a sentence that states: “The same shall be punished for violating this ordinance on conviction of said offense as provided by Section II of the code of Sugar Hill.”

History doesn’t always provide us with every detail. Sometimes it is up to the student of history to fill in the blanks. The focus of Sugar Hill’s first two council meetings is interesting in a community that, at the time, was home to both moonshine makers and moonshine runners. It is likely that the newly established Town of Sugar Hill and its new leaders wanted to move forward from its past. Sugar Hill’s humble history as a community, often linked to moonshining, had come full circle by 1939. In 1975, the community would be renamed the City of Sugar Hill.

1 Comment

    • Marlena Trant -

    • June 26, 2019 at 21:06 pm

    I always enjoy reading Brandon’s articles, and this is another wonderful piece.

    I’m curious why the M repeats itself in the vertical row of alphabet letters on the right side of the document from the ledger. I’m thinking it’s for Moonshine….

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