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William McGaughey

This is a good example of an individual being
of importance to Murray County but so little
information about him being available.

William McGaughey is not a unique name of his time. The one associated with Murray County, Georgia was born May 17, 1798, in Tennessee, probably in Blount County. He married Hannah Varnell on March 20, 1829.

Both of them died at Red Clay (Whitfield County), Georgia, she on February 7, 1881, he on August 31, 1888.

Although he served as Murray County's State Representative in the Georgia Legislature in 1842, and as Murray County Sheriff (years he served unknown), few reliable records from his time seem to exist.

The following newspaper article from The New York Times, November 3, 1885, contains interesting details about this man's unusual life.

The First Ticket to Atlanta

As the legend goes, the first railroad ticket ever issued to "Atlanta" was to William McGaughey, who now lives in Red Clay, and is now in his eighty-ninth year. The story is an interesting one.

He had represented Murray County in the Legislature, after having served several years as its sheriff, and walked to and from Milledgeville, then the capital of the state.

Returning home, he refused to offer for re-election and went into the trading business, and shortly afterward went to Augusta with a load of hogs to market. On the way there three of the hogs dropped out of the car and were killed.

The company adjusted the loss by offering him a free pass back to what was then called Marthasville. In issuing the pass the officer in charge remarked that "the question of a change of name has been debated long enough," and he proposed to issue the pass to "Atlanta," which name had been practically settled on by the company. This was done, and Mr. McGaughey made the first ride on a ticket issued to Atlanta.

"Uncle Billy," as he is known, is well preserved for one of his years, of herculean frame, and stands over 6 feet. He says that he remembers well the time when he traveled the county road which is now Whitehall Street, and saw the first house built here, when it stood solitary and alone, nestled in a forest of oaks. "Those were the good old days," said he, "and it looks as if but a decade had passed since I enjoyed the pleasures which they carried with them. I have watched Atlanta's progress from the time its first house was built, and when I look back the few years of its existence its growth really seems miraculous. Why, I remember that the finest huckleberry patch I ever saw grew on the ground where the Kimball now stands, and near by was a spring, at which many a time I have stopped and camped for the night or for a noon rest as I traveled to Augusta or Milledgeville."

At that time North Georgia was thickly populated by the Indians, the section between Marietta and North Georgia Railroad, toward the Alabama line, being thickly settled with the Cherokees. "Many a time," said Uncle Billy, "have I attended their councils, which were sometimes at the old council grounds, now known as Red Clay, or at what is now Ball Ground in Cherokee County. I then traded with them. Two of the most noted Cherokee chiefs of that time, he continued, "were Sleeping Rabbit and Crawling Snake, and they were well known among the white people of the State."

Note: If the details in the article are correct, then Mr. McGaughey was Sheriff of Murray County before 1842, when he served in the Georgia Legislature.

Note 2: If anyone can provide reliable information about this man's off-spring, such information can be added to this report. Information available in several family trees on the internet seems erroneous. That information shows two children, both born several years before he was married, but showing his wife as their mother. At least one family tree indicated that their son was born in San Diego, California in 1821; marriage was in 1829.


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