ANNE AMERSON—Goodbye to a beloved author

  • Anne Amerson was a popular and prolific writer who was known for bringing local history to life. (photo by Adair Kucera)
    Anne Amerson was a popular and prolific writer who was known for bringing local history to life. (photo by Adair Kucera)
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A wealth of talent and knowledge was lost to Lumpkin County with the passing of Elizabeth “Anne” Dismukes Amerson. The local historian and author died Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, following declining health.
“I didn’t know Anne well. I knew Amos [Anne’s husband] from the Cooper-Green Men’s
Prayer Group. But I do know, like Madeleine K. Anthony, we’ve lost a valuable resource to our history—and a lovely person,” said Ralph Prescott, who chose Anne as Sunrise Rotary’s Citizen of the Year.
Anne had nearly a dozen published books and numerous newspaper and magazine articles to her credit, all dealing with local history. But stored in her mind were bits and pieces of local lore that could have filled hundreds if not thousands of pages.
Marilou Kinney met Anne in 1992. Her brother, Tim Singleton, shared an office with Amos at what is now the University of North Georgia, where both were professors. Kinney’s family, the Kilgos, were one of the original land lot owners in Lumpkin County when the Cherokee Nation was sold off by the state.
“[Anne] was such a historian. She knew some of my family’s history from running across it in other research she was doing. When one of the Kilgo descendants came down from up North looking for any relatives that might still be living here, she helped him find me. That’s just an example of what a wonderful historian she was, and what a great memory she had—and she was just a wonderful person, and really giving.”
“She was a terrific researcher and writer. I’ll miss knowing she’s ‘just up the road in Dahlonega,’” said Dan Roper, owner, editor and publisher of Georgia Backroads Magazine, to which Anne contributed 20-plus articles over the years.
In an article published in the magazine in the spring of 2010, Roper wrote she was the “dean” of Georgia Backroads. “She had a discerning eye for good material, her love for research and field work, and her gift for clear writing.”
Strangely, in school, history was far from Anne’s favorite subject. To her, “history was dry dates and names.” It was curiosity that set her on the path to researching and writing about her hometown’s past.
Born and raised in Lumpkin County, Anne graduated from Lumpkin County High School and entered the local college at the age of 16. It was there she met her husband, Hinton S. “Amos” Amerson, and spent 24 years moving from posting to posting as a U.S. Army wife.
Upon returning to Dahlonega after Amos retired, she noticed the changes that had taken place since the time she was growing up here and wondered what had taken place in those intervening years. She realized the people who knew the answer were an aging population and the stories would soon be lost if not written down. So she began talking to Lumpkin’s old timers, starting with Smith House owner Vern Smith. She wrote up the interview and showed the result to Amos.
Amos suggested she take the piece to The Dahlonega Nugget—others might be interested, he said. That started a 10-year series (1989-1999) of oral history articles that came to be known as “I Remember Dahlonega.” The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
It was also during this time she began her only novel—an historical fiction titled Dahlonega’s Gold.
Anne may not have been a fan of memorizing names and dates in history class, but she loved historical novels.
"It puts history in a different perspective when you realize it’s 'his' story and 'her' story. These are the events that affect peoples lives. That makes history real, up-close and personal,” she told The Nugget in a 2008 interview.
Gold, of course, was a major factor in Lumpkin County’s history, and at its core was the Chestatee River. In Roper’s article on Anne she said, ““The more I probed into local history, the more I realized how much history had taken place on the Chestatee River .... Having learned about many of the historic sites on the Chestatee River, I was frustrated because many of them were on private land and therefore inaccessible unless I happened to know the land owners.”
“She was fascinated by the river. She did so many stories about the river, from dredging and hydroelectric mining and the diving bell,” Amos said.
So he turned to fellow UNG professor Robert Fuller to help ease his wife’s frustration. Fuller owned a small plane, and Amos arranged for a ride to follow the river to its source and on to where it now flows into Lake Lanier as a birthday present for his wife.
“She was so excited,” Fuller said.
But she was also a little air sick, Amos added.
Later, Fuller worked with Anne in the writing and production of a coffee table book, a collaborative effort between Fuller, a retired UNG professor of geography; Anne; P.J. Jones; and photographer Jack Anthony with an introduction by former sole commissioner J.B. Jones.
“Anne was a talented writer. She was able to put things into context,” Fuller said. “And she was very kind, and quick to give credit to others for things she had really done—including me. Here she was, an accomplished and published writer and I was just a wanna-be, and she was so quick to give me praise and encouragement.”
Anne experienced a more intimate encounter with the river during a canoe trip provided by Ben LaChance, owner of Appalachian Outfitters Canoe Outpost.
It was on this trip in the early ‘90s that Anne discovered the a rusty old piece of local history now known as the Chestatee River Diving Bell. She spotted it sitting on the bank of the river on what is now the Achasta property. It’s history, restoration and eventual placement in Hancock Park became a large part of Anne’s life for the next several years.
The canoe trip touched a chord in Anne that had nothing to do with history, however, but the beauty of the river.
“She liked to go down and sit on the bank and watch what went by,” Amos said.
According to her wishes, her ashes will be scattered on the Chestatee River she loved.
Anne had other talents besides writing. She was also a musician—something that sparked a friendship with Helen Fincher Hardman. Hardman knew Amos from his years in the legislature when she worked in the tourism industry. She met Anne after marrying Bill Hardman and moving to Dahlonega.
“She was the organist and pianist at Dahlonega Methodist Church, and I played organ and piano too,” Hardman said. “She was a great friend over the years, and so talented in so many areas—and so humble about it.”
Remaining humble could not have been easy. Anne “won every award there was,” Amos said.
In 1989 she received the first Madeleine K. Anthony Award for historic preservation from the Lumpkin County Historical Society, where she was a Charter Member.
J.B. Jones chose Anne as the Outstanding Citizen in 1995 and in 2000 she was one of The Nugget’s Magnificent 7. She has consistently been named as Dahlonega’s Best Local Author in the newspaper’s annual “Best of” competition.
In 2003 she was named one of 11 statewide Humanities Heroes, receiving the Governor’s Award in the Humanities, as well as the Georgia Author Award from the Georgia Association of College Stores.
In 2009 she was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame and received a Commendation for Community Service from Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Anne was Sunrise Rotary’s Citizen of the Year in 2012, the same year she received the Chestatee River Diving Bell Award by the fundraising committee for her efforts in researching, restoration and placement of the artifact in Hancock Park.
She was presented with the Historic Preservation Medal by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution the following year—an honor only 26 women nationwide had received at that time.
In 2013 she and Amos were chosen as Gold Rush King and Queen. Typical of Anne, she told The Nugget she thought others were more deserving of the honor.
In 2014 she was chosen as Rainbow Children’s Home’s Leading Lady of Lumpkin County—a singular honor. Residents of the home made the choice after reading nomination letters for each of the candidates. The choice was someone whose life they wished to emulate.
The letter sent about Anne listed some of her honors and information about her writings, but it also listed some things that perhaps weren’t commonly known. She was among those who formed a Friends of the Dahlonega Gold Museum Chapter to help keep the museum open when the state planned to close it two days a week due to budget cuts. She also volunteered to act as a docent twice each month.
She volunteered at the Community Helping Place Free Clinic, and took part in a local Memory Walk to benefit Alzheimer’s research.
She led tours of Dahlonega’s historic Public Square, and was often called on and graciously accepted requests to speak to local clubs and civic organizations.
Anne was truly a bit of Dahlonega gold, with a passion for preserving the history of her home and its people. She was soft spoken and gentle, humble, giving and always wore a smile, approachable and good-hearted. She was many things to many people, and she will be missed.
There will be a gathering of friends to honor Anne’s life Friday, Feb. 7, 5-8 p.m. at Dahlonega Funeral Home, and a memorial service Saturday, Feb. 8, 2 p.m. at the Dahlonega Methodist Church.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the UNG Foundation Scholarship Fund in her name.