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Return to the story: Canton Story Line Busy Downton

 

Extending the Story: Historical reasoning about a specific inference

By: Guy Clarke, Georgia State Univeristy

 

In this extension we detail our reasoning about a particular inference in the Canton Story line lexia titled Busy Downtown. Specifically we will focus on our reasoning about this sentence.


“The population shift from rural to urban America allowed men such as Asaph Perry to capitalize by supplying a growing and concentrated labor market with everyday goods and services.”


Asaph Perry's lived in Cherokee County Georgia during an era in which modern America would begin to emerge, exemplifying a variety of historical themes in American history, especially that of economic/vocational change. Asaph actively experienced these changes throughout his lifetime, from a childhood where he lived on a farm to his adulthood as a middle-class businessman. The transformation Asaph experienced paralleled economic and social change in the larger communities of North Georgia and the United States that began following the Civil War (1865) and were marked by a dramatic growth in industry.  Asaph would participate in, as well as be affected by, the shift in population from rural to urban in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

 

As we explained earlier in the documenting layer of the "Why Asaph?” lexia the context of the “Busy Downtown” Canton lexia rests the twin assumptions, culled from our substantive knowledge of the period, that 1) North Georgia was primarily agrarian when Asaph was born in 1870 and that 2) parts of North Georgia underwent significant economic and social change between 1870 and 1900. By looking at the census records, we discovered that Asaph was born on a farm. Over the next thirty years, we know that the introduction of industry (primary textile-based) and railroads began to transform the landscape of North Georgia.

 

A collection of undated newspaper clippings referencing the Perry’s allows us to go even further in support our previous inferences and conclusions regarding the economic and social transformation of Asaph to that of a middle-class businessman and/or salesman, as well as corroborating the population shifts, from rural to urban, that were taking place in North Georgia and the larger context of the United States.  These clippings are of no particular value unless referenced within the context we have built using the census records, the loan coupon, and the letters between Ethel and Asaph Perry.  Upon examination of the newspaper clippings, we can see that Asaph and Ethel had made a Wednesday trip to Atlanta, probably to visit Dr. J.R. Hopkins, who Asaph had been corresponding with (1 & 2) about a business venture.  While there could be a number of reasons why the Perry’s would have visited Atlanta, it seems unlikely that Asaph would have left his family to go to Charleston, which is referenced in another newspaper clipping in the collection, without visiting the individual who was financing the business venture, Dr. J.R. Hopkins.  According to the clippings, preparations for Asaph’s trip to Charleston were made by putting Louis Perry in charge of Asaph’s responsibilities at his barber shop until Asaph returned.  We know Asaph returned to Canton from Charleston and spent some time in recuperation from an illness in Cohutta Springs, Georgia (which according to other documents he did many times during his life) before returning to work in Canton.  However, according to the clippings and paralleling the information in the letters between himself and Ethel, as well as Dr. J.R. Hopkins, Asaph “made repairs to his barber shop and now has one of the most up-to-date shops in North Georgia.”  It was these improvements, inferring from the newspaper clippings and previous assertions, which allowed Asaph to sell “one-half interest in his barber, confectionary and jewelry business to W.D. Miller.”  The clipping continues on, noting that “the firm name now is Perry & Miller.  Both are clever and enterprising” men, exemplars of this period in American history.