Scouring an old farmhouse in Flowery Branch with a metal detector, Cheryl Collins unearthed a piece of Hall County history that was almost a century old.
Collins, of Cumming, found a Hall County Police badge near the driveway of the Church Street home, roughly 3-4 inches deep in the ground.
After contacting the Hall County Sheriff’s Office to find out information, Collins was eventually connected to retired Gainesville Police Capt. Chad White, the department’s de facto historian.
“When I saw his email and how much information he had and a love for the history of the department … there is absolutely no way I can keep this in my house,” Collins said of her decision to donate the badge to Gainesville Police.
White and Collins met at the department’s headquarters on Queen City Parkway on Jan. 23, to place the badge and a plaque in the display cases.
White, who recently published his history of the Gainesville Police, learned of the short-lived Hall County Police during his research. Working as a supplement to the sheriff’s office in a growing county, Hall County Police only existed between April 1920 and April 1922.
“There was an increase in illegal liquor being hauled throughout the county, so these guys were almost kind of like revenue officers, too,” White said.
One officer, Roscoe Kimsey, would in fact join the revenue department, and the others returned as Gainesville Police officers after county commissioners voted to disband the unit.
White said he plans to go through the land deeds to discover who may have owned the badge. In some of the notes the retired captain gathered, White learned of a vehicle chase in which a suspect fired on two of the officers with a shotgun.
Kimsey was struck in the arm, and John Strickland was shot in the neck.
“Officer Strickland stood up on the running board of the vehicle and began returning fire during the chase. Officer Kimsey was unable to hold his left hand up but did manage to continue driving with his right one. Both (suspects) were able to escape from the officers without injury,” White wrote in his notes. The officers were treated for their injuries at the hospital.
“If you hadn’t brought this up to us, these guys — just like so much other history — would be lost,” White said to Collins.