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Wesley O. Connor

Wesley Olin Connor, known as the father of education for the deaf in Georgia, was born near Anderson, South Carolina in 1841. As a youth, he moved to Cave Spring, Georgia to live with a sister. In 1857 he began work at what would become known as the Georgia School for the Deaf. The school closed during the Civil War, and Connor was mustered into the Confederate States Service at Big Shanty, Cobb County, on June 11, 1861. He participated in the following engagements: Cumberland Gap; Warrenton, Mississippi; the Seige of Vicksburg; Missionary Ridge; Resaca; Atlanta; Franklin, Tennessee; Nashville; Tazewell, Tennessee; Baker's Creek; Lookout-Point; Rocky Face; New Hope Church; Jonesboro; Columbia, Tennessee; and Salisbury, North Carolina, serving under Gen. Samuel Green Clemson.

Connor was wounded at Resaca and hospitalized for six weeks in Macon, Georgia. He returned to active duty and was captured by Union troops at Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863. He was paroled, rejoined his unit, and was captured again, at Salisbury, North Carolina on April 13, 1865. This time he was confined at the Camp Chase prison camp near Columbus, Ohio for about six weeks in April, May, and June of 1865. He was released on June 13, 1865 after taking the Oath of Allegiance to United States government. He was later discharged from the service at the rank of Captain.

Following the Civil War, Connor returned to Cave Springs, Georgia and once again lived with his sister, who had lost her husband during the war. In 1867, when the Georgia School for the Deaf was reopened, he was elected Principal, and served in that capacity for the next 49 years, becoming nationally respected for his work with deaf students, and his association with others in the field, most notably Alexander Graham Bell and Helen Keller.

Connor built up a respectable study collection of around 500 mineral specimens over the years, including a number of fine old Southeastern specimens and some good gold and silver specimens. He did not use labels, but each specimen had an affixed hand-written number corresponding to an entry in his catalog. His catalog lists 84 different sources for some of his specimens--at least when those sources were other local collectors with whom he traded. He must have purchased from dealers as well, in order to acquire his foreign specimens, but those sources are not identified in his catalog. Connor died in Cave Spring, Georgia on February 18, 1920. His collection went to Berry College in Rome, Georgia; in recent years it was sold off, a portion going to dealer Keith Williams on behalf of the mineral museum at Clemson University. The rest went to Jennings Bailey "Beau" Gordon, Jr. (Jendon Minerals) of Rome, Georgia, who sold it off piecemeal.

Exhibit: "The Life and Times of Wesley Olin Connor," at the University of Georgia's Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
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