Lisa Cooper is off this week. This column previously ran in July and is being reprinted today as Douglas County's 147th birthday approaches this Tuesday, Oct. 17.
I was cleaning up my office this week and ran across some old research I had regarding the William Stovall Zellars family out of Palmetto just down the road a piece. The first Zellars in his line who reached American shores was his grandfather, Jacob Zellars, a native of Germany who came to the colony of Virginia and later fought in the American Revolution. It is said for years the family held Jacob's old gun and powder horn as a treasured relic.
Jacob Zellars came to Georgia in 1790 and settled in Lincoln County which was described at that time as "dense woods." Jacob's son, Solomon was born in 1798. When he was grown he settled first in Newton County followed by Campbell County in 1849.
William Stovall Zellars, one of Solomon's sons, taught school for several years, and then attended what is now Vanderbilt University. He later took classes at Atlanta Medical College before returning to Campbell County and beginning a successful medical practice at Palmetto.
When Palmetto was first named in 1847, it was W.S. Zellars who served as the first town official. He was given the title "town intendant" which was similar to what we think of as a city manager.
In 1867, Zellars was appointed Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue, an office he held until he was elected to Georgia's House of Representatives representing the people of Campbell County in 1868. He served until the end of 1870 and after sitting out for a few years was again elected in 1880 for another term.
In the matter of introducing legislation he wasn't exactly a powerhouse, but he did introduce the bill that provided for the formation of Douglas County, and for that reason he is an important figure in Douglas County history.
At that time newspapers all across the state generally reported the business of the General Assembly each day it was in session including the progress of pending legislation and discussions pertaining to it. In early September 1868 Zellars introduced a bill to create a new county from Coweta, Campbell, and Fayette Counties. It appears this bill died in committee. In August 1870 Zellars introduced a bill to amend the act which incorporated the town of Palmetto, and during the third week of August 1870 during the morning session, W.S. Zellars introduced "a bill to lay off a new county from Carroll and Campbell Counties ..."
I've researched the process many times over the last few years, and compared to other pieces of legislation documented for that year, the bill that birthed Douglas County took just mere weeks from introduction to passage. Zellars' bill for a new county was read a third time during the last week of September 1870, and a short discussion ensued. Representative Scott (Floyd) read from Georgia's Constitution the "portion prescribing the number of Representatives at 175 and that no change can be made in the apportionment, except after the taking of the census by the General Government." Scott further "argued that the new county (Douglas) couldn't have a representative under this constitutional provision."
Timing is everything, and it seems that the data from the 1870 census would not be ready for publishing until 1871, at least. Another representative, Mr. Anderson (Cobb), said "he understood that the people of the proposed new county were in favor of the change." Mr. Hall (Meriwether) moved to indefinitely postpone the bill, but when the vote was taken the nays won meaning legislation for Douglas County would not be postponed even if the citizens might not have representation for a few months. A motion was then made to "adopt the report of the committee recommending the passage of the bill. The yeas and nays were called with the following result -- yeas 66, nays 28, so the bill was passed.
And just like that Douglas County existed, though the citizens would not be able to elect their own representation in the General Assembly until determination was made regarding how the legislators would be apportioned. In the meantime the legislators for Campbell County would continue to work on the behalf of Douglas citizens. The Census of 1870 wasn't completed until August, 1871, and it would take a couple of more years for the General Assembly to revisit the apportionment issue and provide for Douglas County's representation, but that's a story for another time which I'll provide soon.
Regarding the naming of Douglas County, Mr. Zellars' official General Assembly biography published in 1880 states, "It was very well known that in 1860 Zellars was an ardent supporter of Stephen A. Douglas, and in 1870, when he introduced the bill to create the county of Douglas, he at the same time named it in honor of that great statesman."
Sadly, Zellars outlived his entire immediate family. His first wife, Annie Watts passed in 1858. His son, William A. Zellars, also a doctor, died in 1890.
He had married Margaret K. Camp in 1867, daughter of Benjamin Camp, a pioneer settler of Campbell County, before the county existed. Zellars had no children with Margaret, but it is said they "provided for the education of several" students through the years.
W.S. Zellars died at his Palmetto home on November 7, 1907.
Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her books can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art, The Farmer's Table and Lithia Springs Pharmacy.