Thursday, December 23, 2004

Honoring a Worthy Grandfather at Christmas Highlights in the life of Francis Jasper "Bud" Collins


Christmas is a time for family, a time to delight in children and grandchildren, a time to honor parents and grandparents.


I have many wonderful memories of my grandfather, Francis Jasper “Bud” Collins (January 30, 1855-December 17, 1941), although I was only a child when he passed away. Among my pleasant recollections of childhood are those times spent at my grandfather’s house where I always enjoyed going to his country store when someone came and rang the bell for service. Grandpa was always generous with the luscious chocolate drops, orange slices and various stick candies he dispensed in his store. He may have inadvertently made me the “chocoholic” I am with his gift of a chocolate drop each time we went into the store.

The day of his death is indelibly printed in my memory. Already another traumatic event, which we’d heard about on radio, had happened ten days prior to his death. That was the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the U. S. declaration of war against that enemy and our country’s entry into World War II. My brother and my cousins were volunteering rather than waiting for the inevitable draft.

Then on the late afternoon of December 17, I looked out our kitchen window as I heard a car approaching on the road below our house. I recognized my cousin Clyde Collins’ car. I knew instinctively that he came as bearer of the news of Grandpa Collins’ death. I was right. That was the sad message he brought to my mother, Azie Collins Dyer. Here, so close to Christmas, when we were practicing Christmas programs both for Choestoe Elementary School and Choestoe Baptist Church, we had to bury our Grandpa Bud, a legend in his time. It was a very sad Christmas that year.

It was not until later that I learned something of the stature and importance of citizen F. J. Collins. He served as Union County’s representative to the Georgia legislature in 1911-1912, in 1915-1917, and in 1917-1918. It has been said that he never wore a “store-bought” suit, but preferred the homemade wool serge suits made completely from the wool gathered from his own sheep, spun, dyed, woven into cloth, and tailored into a suit, first by his wife Georgianne Hunter Collins, and then by his daughters who learned the craft of weaving. Today, one of his wool serge suits is in the archives of the Atlanta Museum, the same suit he wore to the legislature when he represented Union County.

I wish I had listened more to the stories of his days in politics. He must have gotten to Atlanta by riding a horse or mule across Logan Turnpike to Gainesville, boarding the animal there, and catching the train on to Atlanta. I remember the leather satchel which my Aunt Avery and Aunt Ethel told me was his “suitcase” as he went to the legislature.

Francis Jasper Collins was primarily a farmer. He lived on a 400 acre spread, part of the land on which his grandfather, Thompson Colllins, Sr. settled. Bud Collins owned the first threshing machine in the Choestoe community and pulled it from farm to farm with a team of oxen to thresh his neighbors’ grain. Later he got a power-driven engine for the thresher. He was also a merchant, a cattle trader, and a miller. He made sorghum syrup in the fall, sometimes making in excess of 5,000 gallons. His house was the first on Choestoe wired for electricity from the Delco plant he installed.

My first trip to Gainesville, GA when I was a child of six was in Grandfather’s truck, with Garney Fortenberry as driver. I perched on my father’s lap in the cab of the truck with Grandpa between us. While Grandpa traded chickens and eggs bartered at his store for goods to take back to the store for Christmas stock, my dad took me to my first movie. It was a grand day, a highlight in a child’s memory. It was a long day’s trip over Neal Gap to Gainesville and return in the same day by truck.

Bud Collins was said to be mathematically inclined, figuring out intricate arithmetical problems in his head. Always with a keen business acumen, he was able to acquire a good deal of money for his day. He often loaned money to his neighbors and others, never taking a note for the loan. He contended that a person’s word was his bond; otherwise, a piece of paper would not guarantee repayment of the loans. Following his death, since there was no record of loans, many, no doubt, went unpaid. But others, who were honest, paid what was owed to the estate.

Francis Japer Collins and Georgianne Hunter (April 5, 1855-October 3, 1924) were married on January 30, 1873. They lived first in a log cabin Bud built. As their family increased, so did the house, which is still standing today. They had thirteen children as follows:

(1) Ida Collins married Perry Hood.
(2) Andrew (Andy) Collins married Sarah Alice Davis.
(3) Olza A. Collins married Mary Nix.
(4) Eda S. Colllins died at age four.
(5) India Collins never married.
(6) Esley L. Collins, never married.
(7) Lillie Collins married Herschel A. Dyer.
(8) Sarah Collins (Dec. 21-1891-Jan. 10, 1893)
(9) Francis (Frank) Collins died at age nineteen.
(10)Azie Collins married Jewel Marion Dyer.
(11)William Harve Collins married Northa Maybelle Dyer.
(12)Avery Collins never married.
(13)Ethel Georgianne Collins married John Mervil Clement.

Bud Collins’ nephew, Joe G. Collins, lawyer in Gainesville, wrote his uncle a letter on December 5, 1941, twelve days before the elder Collins’ death. In it he paid this tribute to his uncle: “Your character for honesty and making your word your bond and your life of square dealing and fair treatment of everybody has helped others in knowing of it and in coming in contact with you, as it has me.”

At Christmastime we remember a good legacy, and pleasant contacts with a dear grandparent. It is as though hands and hearts from the past reach over time to touch us and make us who we are today.

May yours be a blessed Christmas.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published December 23, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Nancy Collins Souther, Daughter of Thompson Collins, Sr.

Writing about early settler Thompson Collins and his family is like taking up an enthralling story that you can’t put down until you’ve read it all. And even then, you want to fill in gaps, go farther with the story.

In recent articles we’ve explored the first Thompson Collins, holder of vast acreages, progenitor of many who were born and grew up in Choestoe District and went out from there to make their mark in the world. A son, Thompson Collins, Jr. was a long-time Justice of the Peace. A grandson, Thompson Smith Collins, was known as “the poor man’s friend.” In the first year of my writing “Through Mountain Mists,” I traced the remarkable career of Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins, for twenty-five years Georgia’s state school superintendent and a great grandson of the first Thompson Collins. Chief Justice of Georgia Supreme Court, William Henry Duckworth and his brother, J. Lon Duckworth, corporation lawyer, were descendants of Thompson Collins. The branches go on and on…

This article pays tribute to Nancy Collins (February 13, 1829 – July 22, 1888), eighth of the ten children born to Thompson and Celia Self Collins. Nancy and her sister just older than she, Celia (1827-?) who married James West, were born after their parents migrated from North Carolina to Habersham County, Georgia. Her sister Olive (1831-1853) who married Robert McCoy and died in childbirth, and her brother Ivan Kimsey Collins (1835-1898), who was deaf due to a childhood fever and married Martha Hunter, were also born in Georgia.

Nancy Collins married John Combs Hayes Souther (Oct. 22, 1827 – Jan. 4, 1891), born in North Carolina, the second of twelve children of John Souther (1803-1889) and Mary “Polly” Combs Souther (1807-1894). The Souther family had settled in 1836 on land in the locality of present-day New Liberty Baptist Church. In fact, settler John Souther gave the land for that church and cemetery. The marriage of John Combs Hayes Souther and Nancy Collins on February 6, 1852 brought together two prominent early-settler families.

John, better known as “Jack” Souther, took his bride Nancy to live in the log house he and his father had built for Jack about 1850 on land lot # 150. The house still stands today within sight of New Liberty Baptist Church. The old adage, “It takes a lot of living in a house to make it home” could well qualify that house, for three generations of the Jack and Nancy Souther family lived there over a period of more than a century and a half.

Nancy Collins married one week before her twenty-second birthday in 1852. She no doubt felt pride in the fact that her husband Jack had taught the first school in the Choestoe District. Later he would become ordinary of Union County. He was always an advocate of education and good government. On their farm in Choestoe he practiced good farming techniques for that era and was able to support the family. He made many trips over the Logan Turnpike to take produce to market in Gainesville. Having Thompson Collins as a father-in-law and his own father, John Souther, as advisors, John Combs Hayes Souther was in a good position to make his own contributions to his life and times.

When the Union County courthouse was built on the square in 1899, Jack Souther was an advocate for building it. Timber from his land went into a portion of its construction.

Since Nancy’s father, Thompson Collins, had slaves at the time of her marriage, I wonder if one of them was loaned to Nancy and Jack Souther as their children were born to help Nancy with their care and with her housework. There is no record to verify this assumption, but it could reasonably have happened.

The Civil War came when the couple was ten years into their marriage. Jack Souther was a conscientious objector. In order to evade the Confederate draft, he hid out in caves in nearby Bald Mountain. At night he came out of hiding and tilled the crops. It was not an easy time.

The children born to John Combs Hayes and Nancy Collins Souther were:

(1) Mary Elizabeth Souther (1853-1929) married Smith Loransey Brown (1850-1932)
(2) Celia Souther (1854) died when about sixteen years of age.
(3) William Albert Souther (1856-1945) married Elizabeth “Hon” Dyer (1859-1902)
(4) Sarah Evaline Souther (1857-1959) married Bluford Elisha “Bud” Dyer (1855-1926)
(5) John Padgett Souther (1858-1959) married Martha Clementine Brown (1861-1933)
(6) Joseph Newton Souther (1861-1922) married Elderada Swain (1867-1948)
(7) Ruthie Caroline Souther (1863-1928) married (1) William Sullivan and (2) James Logan Souther (1847-1914)
(8) Nancy Roseanna Souther (1865-1938) married William Hulsey (1862-1946)
(9) Martha Souther (1867-1937) married (1) Jasper Todd Hunter (1863-1897) and (2) James Hunter (1847-1912) [Jasper and James were brothers.]
(10) Catherine Souther (1869-1921) married William Bruce Moore (1868- 1905)

Of the nine children who lived to adulthood and married, the descendants of John Combs Hayes and Nancy Collins Souther became legion. Each family has its own story. In fact, geneology lines sometimes are surprising. Their child number four, Sarah Evaline Souther who married Bluford Elisha Dyer is my grandmother. Sarah and Bluford’s tenth child, Jewel Marion Dyer (1890-1974) married Azie Collins (1895-1945), daughter of Francis Jasper Collins. Nancy Collins Souther was my mother’s great aunt. She is my own great grandmother, as well as my great, great aunt.

When I tell my children and grandchildren about these family ties at Christmas and other family gatherings, they sometimes shake their heads in disbelief. Somewhat like the royal families of England and other countries, our forebears, too, made alliances by marriage that have affected subsequent generations.

Have a wonderful Christmas with your family and remember the true meaning of the season.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published December 16, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Thompson Smith Collins - "The Poor Man's Friend"

Mountain families (as well as others) have the tradition of passing down a family given name through the generations. In my research on the Thompson and Celia Self Collins family, I have noted that the name of this first Collins settler in Union County has been a favorite to pass on. Several male descendants to the present generation have the honor of bearing the name of this worthy ancestor.

This week we view the life and times of one in the third generation, Thompson Smith Collins. He was a grandson of the original settler and a son of Francis (Frank) and Rutha Nix Collins. Thompson Smith Collins was born July 5, 1850. His parents lived on a portion of the elder Thompson’s 22,000 acres in a house near the vicinity of where William Clyde Collins, Sr. and Jr. now have residences on Collins Road, Choestoe.

Thompson Smith Collins was called “Thomp” to distinguish him from his uncle Thompson Collins (b. 1818) who was known as “Thompie,” long-time Justice of the Peace.

On October 21, 1869, Thompson Smith Collins (July 5, 1850-March 16, 1917) married Susan (Susie) Jane Cook (October 5, 1849-August 5, 1935). She was a daughter of Jonathan and Rebecca Jackson Cook. Susie’s last name was incorrectly entered as Crouch in the “Union County Marriages” record.

Thomp Collins’ main occupation was farming. He was also a part time blacksmith, cobbler and carpenter. He often did smithy work for neighbors in the community fashioning or honing small tools for farm use. From leather he had tanned, he mended or made shoes at his cobbler’s bench. Many houses and other buildings in the community were products of his building skills, a talent he passed on to his youngest son.

Both Charles Hill in his delightful “Blood Mountain Covenant” (Ivy House Books, 2003) and the Honorable Zell Miller in his autobiography, “The Mountains Within Me” (Cherokee Publishers, 1985) refer to an incident in the life of Thomp Collins that attests to his unrelenting loyalty to friends, even at great cost to himself. Thomp Collins lived by strict principles, practicing them in his daily life.

Sometime in the year 1875 two men came to Thompson Collins’ house. They asked him to use his mules to pull their loaded wagon to the top of Tesnatee Gap. Evidently their own mules could manage the wagon on the descent southward into Cleveland, Georgia on the Logan Turnpike, but the weight was too much for their mules on the ascent from Choestoe up Tesnatee.

The three men and the loaded wagon soon began the journey. About half way up the mountain, the entourage was overtaken by Federal Revenue agents. Quickly the two men disappeared into the forest, escaping. The wagon loaded with a fresh run of mountain moonshine was an easy target for the agents. The agents offered to free Thomp Collins if he would reveal the names of the two who escaped.

Thomp resolutely refused to reveal the men’s names. He himself took the charge of running contraband liquor. He was sent to Federal Prison in New York where he served two years. During his confinement, his family did not know of his whereabouts or whether he was alive or dead.

Then one day a travel-worn, more mature Thomp Collins returned to his home. He had walked the entire distance from New York. He told his wife Susie that due to the hardships he had endured on his return journey, they would never turn anyone away from their door who needed food, lodging, clothing or aid of any sort. Throughout the remainder of his life, Thomp Collins lived by this principle.

Thomp and Susie Collins had seven children but only four of them grew to adulthood. It is interesting to note, as the children wed, how the marriages joined families of other early settlers in Choestoe Valley.

(1) James Monroe “Roe” Collins (Jan. 16, 1871-June 30, 1954) married Nancy Elmira Twiggs (Feb. 17, 1874-Dec. 26, 1953). She was a daughter of the Rev. John Wesley and Sarah Elizabeth Hughes Twiggs. “Roe” and “Nan” married Jan. 2, 1896. He had been to Colorado where he was getting established as a farmer. They made their home in Eaton, Colorado where “Roe” helped to organize First Baptist Church and served as a deacon and treasurer. He also was instrumental in getting waterworks for irrigation of crops. In 1920 he ran on the Democratic ticket as governor of Colorado, but lost because he would not bow to the radical intrigues of some of the political bosses. It was said of “Roe” that he was too honest to become governor. “Roe” and “Nan” had six children.
(2) William Virgil Collins (1874-1944) married Lydia E. Jackson (1875-1956) on September 11, 1892. She was a daughter of William Miles and Nancy Souther Jackson. Lydia’s mother Nancy was a daughter of Jesse and Malinda Nix Souther. Virgil and Lydia lived in Ault, Colorado, near Virgil’s brother “Roe” in Eaton. Virgil became a successful farmer. They reared 11 children.
(3) Joseph Gordon Collins (1876-1958) married Susan Mason Smith (1889-1966). Joe studied law and graduated from the University of Virginia Law School. He passed the Georgia Bar and began practicing in Gainesville, Hall County, GA in 1903. He was Solicitor General of the Northeast Circuit of nine counties for a four-year term. He assisted with writing practices and procedures for appearing before the Supreme Court. He and Susan had no children.


Children (4) (5) and (6) of Thomp and Susie Collins died young. They were Avory Cordelia Collins (1880-1886); Charles Luther Collins (1882-1900); and Mary Rebecca Collins (b/d 1886).

(7) Francis Thurman Collins known as Bob (1890-1969) married first, Mary Viola Collins (1893-1937) on January 3, 1913, daughter of James Johnson and Margaret A. Nix Collins; and second, Pearl Fortenberry (1906-?) on February 2, 1939, daughter of LaFayette and Laura Fortenberry. Bob was a farmer and a carpenter. He built a house beside his mother and father and looked after his mother in her declining years. Bob and Viola had six children, all of whom had outstanding careers: Cecil, Hazel, James Thompson, Robert Neal, Mary Catherine and Betty Jane.

No one held Thompson Smith Collins’ stint in Federal Prison against him. Upon his return to Choestoe, his life could have been that described by the poet. He “lived in his house by the side of the road/and became a friend to man.”

At the mill one day, a man with a hungry family came by. Thomp Collins gave the man his last turn of meal and went out to buy a bushel of corn to have ground for his own family. One day a neighbor came to borrow Thomp’s mule. He asked the man to let him plow the row to the end before unhitching the mule for his neighbor’s use.

On his tombstone in Old Choestoe Cemetery is this epitaph: “The poor man’s friend.” At this Advent Season—and every day---would it not be well for us to remember the example of Thompson Smith Collins’ life and “be a friend to man,” helping those in need?

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published December 9, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, December 2, 2004

A Look at Thompson Collins, Jr.

The two previous articles have traced early settler Thompson Collins, Sr. (ca 1785- ca 1858) and his wife, Celia Self Collins (ca 1787- Sept. 3, 1880). This article will take a look at the fifth of their ten children, Thompson Collins, Jr., known as Thompie.

Characteristics common to the early settlers of Union County were a spirit of independence, unprecedented loyalty, common decency and hard work. These traits were passed to subsequent generations and taught by precept and example. To survive in the land they were carving from the wilderness required exercise of these traits and more. We see them in the life and times of Thompson Collins, Jr.

Thompson, Jr. was born in Buncombe County, NC in November, 1818. He was seven when his parents migrated to Habersham County, Georgia about 1825 and was a young teenager when they settled in the Choestoe Valley of Union County in the 1830’s.

He married Sarah (known as Sallie) Ingram in 1839. She was a daughter of Little and Mary “Polly” Cagle Ingram who migrated from the Pendleton District of South Carolina to the area around Lula, Georgia, Hall County. Later, after Mary’s death, Little Ingram moved to Union County. (The story of this family and their place in Union history will come in subsequent articles.) Thompson and Sarah’s marriage joined two noted early settler families.

Thompson and Sarah Ingram Collins had no children. If they did, they died in infancy. There is no census record of children born to them. We do not know the death dates of this couple, as they were interred at the Old Choestoe Cemetery with field stone grave markers. Birth and death dates have long been obliterated if, indeed, they were ever on the stones.

Thompson Collins, Jr. served for several years as a Justice of the Peace for the Choestoe District. This local magistrate in the nineteenth century had the legal authority to perform marriages, to administer oaths, to hear and settle minor cases of infractions of the law, and to refer more serious cases for trial in a larger court.

A perusal of a very valuable historical resource, “Union County Marriage Records, 1833 -1897” compiled from original court house records by Viola Holden Jones, gives valuable insights into this “marrying” justice of the peace, Thompson Collins, Jr. (although Jr. was not attached to his name then).

The first marriage on record performed by Justice of the Peace Thompson Collins was on November 2, 1854 when he joined Harriet Cannon and Francis M. Tanner. Tanner was a son of Revolutionary War soldier Michael Tanner whose grave is in the Old Choestoe Cemetery.

On February 28, 1875, Thompson Collins officiated at the marriage ceremony of my grandparents, Bluford Elisha Dyer (1855-1926) to Sarah Evaline Souther (1857-1959). In reading the marriage records, it is interesting to note how many of the second and third generation Union citizens were joined in marriage by Thompson Collins. In the record, running concurrently with entries with Thompson Collins spelled out, were marriages performed by T. Collins. It is now a matter of speculation as to whether these designations were for the same person.

Thompson, Jr. and Sarah Ingram Collins settled on some of the acreage owned first by his father, Thompson Collins, Sr. whose domain stretched over 22,000 acres. The bottom land along the Notla River in Choestoe District was prime farming land on which Thompson, Jr. grew abundant crops of corn and sorghum cane. On the hillsides he planted apple trees that grew into a very productive orchard. Neighbors and kin were invited to partake of the orchard’s bounty and gather apples for drying on scaffolds in the sun for winter’s use. Also to preserve the apples to have fresh for Christmas, the best and tastiest from the crop were wrapped in paper and stored in barrels. These provided fresh fruit treats in the dead of winter. Thompson also gathered loads of apples to haul by mule and wagon to Gainesville over the Logan Turnpike through Tesnatee Gap. These apples were bartered for supplies not grown on the Collins farm.

Thompson and Sarah built their house on a hillside overlooking the Notla River. The location was on present-day Collins Road. Going north from the former Marion Dyer residence, it was on the right on the hill about half way between the Dyer house and the present house owned by Wilonell Collins Dyer. We can imagine that Sarah Collins fastidiously kept the house with pride, as many people made their way to the Collins home to be married or to have the justice of the peace hear grievances.

About 1920, my father, Jewel Marion Dyer (1890-1974) purchased land from his brother, Albert Dyer (1877-1962) who moved to White and then to Habersham County.
This was the land owned formerly by Thompson Collins, Jr. It is interesting to see the double relationship here to my parents, Jewel Marion Dyer and Azie Collins Dyer.
Sarah “Sally” Ingram Collins was my father’s great aunt, a sister to his grandmother, Louisa Ingram Dyer who married James Marion Dyer, parents of Bluford Elisha Dyer.
Thompson Collins, Jr. was my mother’s great uncle, brother to her grandfather, Francis (known as Frank) Collins, who was, in turn, a son of the first Thompson Collins and Celia Self Collins. These relationships show how closely interrelated were the people of Choestoe District, Union County, Georgia.

When I was growing up on the old Thompson Collins, Jr. farm, then owned by my father, we still enjoyed a fall harvest of apples from the trees planted by Thompson Collins, Jr. As did the couple who started the orchard, we, too, dried the apples for winter use and packed the best in barrels for Christmas treats. I was fortunate to own a little over six acres of the old Thompson Collins estate. Recently, I passed the land on to my own children. They know the history of the land, and how generations have viewed it as the land of promise, as sacred to generations as the biblical land “flowing with milk and honey.” Thompson Collins and his son, Thompson, Jr. helped to make it so—long ago.


c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published December 2, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thompson and Celia Self Collins Family (Part II)

With our nation celebrating Thanksgiving and our family members together for the traditional turkey feast and all its trimmings, this is a happy time. One of the items on my gratitude list is the marvelous heritage we enjoy, thanks to the sacrifices and hardships our ancestors endured. May we never take for granted the price they paid that we might enjoy freedom, plenty, and security. We can still learn much from their example. I hope we will never forget, ever be grateful.


We began in last week’s column to chronicle Thompson Collins (ca. 1785-ca. 1858) and his wife Celia Self Collins (ca. 1787-Sept. 3, 1880). He had large land holdings along the French Broad and Mills Rivers and McDowell’s Creek in Buncombe County, North Carolina. In 1822, a general migration of people from that area moved to Habersham County, Georgia. A paper on the migration given at “a lawn party” at the home of Henry Williams in Nacoochee Valley in 1822 lists sixty-two different families who made the migration and settled on lands they secured either by lottery or by purchasing from the Indians prior to their removal to western lands. Thompson and Celia Collins were not in this migration of 62 families originating mainly in Burke and Rutherford Counties, NC.

Two years later, in 1824, Thompson Collins purchased 250 acres of land in Habersham (now White) County, District Four, Land Lot 27. He paid $300 for the land to Daniel L. Richardson of Hancock County, Georgia. The latter probably received it in a land lottery, did not plan to move to the mountains, and sold it instead. Thompson and Celia lived on this land which is now where Loudsville Church is located in White County.

He added 250 acres to his holdings on December 1, 1827 when he purchased from R. M. Richardson of Walton County, GA in Land Lot 28, 4th District for $20.00.

Gold fever struck when nuggets were found at Duke’s Creek in 1828. Whether Thompson Collins ever dug for gold is uncertain. However records in the Habersham County Court house show that he sold fifty of the above-listed acres to Charles P. Gordon of Putnam County, Georgia from Lot # 27 “next to Collins Field” for gold mining. The price he received for the sale was $200.

Thompson Collins’ next land transaction was a purchase of 250 acres in Lot # 75, 4th District, from Averette Bonner of Putnam County for $100.

On February 9, 1831, three prospectors, Elijah Reid, James P. Heath and Michael Brown made a mortgage to Thompson Collins for $200 on parts of Land Lots 27 and 28, District 4, for the purpose of mining.

Another 250 acres was purchased May 18, 1831 from Thomas J. Rush in District 4, Lot # 71 for $150.00.

Collins sold to the said Reid, Heath and Brown for $400 in land lots 27 and 28, 250 acres, “except for 50 acres sold to Charles P. Gordon.”

Collins received from Lewis Clark to secure a debt of $846.30 which Clark owed him the following, delivered to him in person: Negro slaves: a woman named Betsy about 25 years old; Lucy, a girl about 16 years old; Henry, a boy about 8 years old; Patience, a girl about 6; Bill, a boy about 4. The slaves were delivered April 2, 1833 and the transaction was recorded in Habersham County records on August 15, 1833.

Thompson Collins and Henry Turner sold to Francis Logan parts of lots 45, 46 and 51 in District Four (Habersham) and lot 51 in Lumpkin County for $900. Jesse Souther and Olaf Collins were witnesses to the legal transaction. On part of this land, Francis Logan built the Logan Turnpike, a toll road that led from the Choestoe Valley in Union County across Tesnatee Gap and down into present-day White County. This toll road operated until Neal Gap Highway (Hwy 129) was opened in 1925.

The move across the mountain to Choestoe District occurred in the early 1830’s, possibly by the time Union County was formed in 1832. Thompson and Celia Collins were in the 1834 (first) Union County census. By the 1849 tax digest, Thompson Collins owned land in Union, Gilmer, Habersham, and Lumpkin Counties. In District 16 of Union County he owned 2,270 acres. Current owners of land in Lots 82, 95, 96, 112, 117, 118, 121 and 134 in Union County have land once owned by Thompson Collins. In 1849 he owned seven slaves and in 1850 five slaves. It is believed that, upon their deaths, some of these slaves were interred in the Old Choestoe Cemetery, Union County.

The Thompson Collins family made their home on land along Choestoe Creek. Six of their ten children were born in Buncombe County, NC before they moved to Habersham County, Georgia. The remaining four were born in Georgia. Children and their spouses were: Archibald Collins (1811) married Mary “Polly” Nix (1818); Sarah “Sallie” Collins (1812) married Jarrett Turner (1806); Elizabeth “Betsy” Collins (1814-1856) married James Nix (1812); Francis (Frank) Collins (1816-1846) married Rutha Nix (1822-1893); Thompson “Thompie” Collins (1818) married Sarah “Sallie” Ingram (1817); Ruth Collins (1820) married Jacob “Jake” Butt (1808); Celia Collins (1826) married James West (1812); Nancy Collins (1829-1888) married John Combs Hayes Souther (1827-1891); Olive Collins (1831-1853) married Robert “Bob” McCoy (1826); and Ivan Kimsey Collins (1835-1901) married Martha J. Hunter (1840-1920).

In 1834 the first extant minutes of Choestoe Baptist Church list Thompson and Celia Collins as members. They were interred in the Old Choestoe Church Cemetery where descendants erected a monument in recent years on which the names of the couple’s children are listed.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 25, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

THOMPSON AND CELIA SELF COLLINS: EARLY UNION SETTLERS

Ask many of those bearing the Collins surname who still live in Union County and they will know that Thompson and Celia Self Collins were among the first settlers in the Choestoe District of Union County. Many, even with surnames other than Collins, can trace their roots back to this hardy pioneer couple.

Those who claim Thompson Collins as an ancestor could wish for more documented information about his origins. Searches have not authenticated who exactly were Thompson Collins’ parents. Since the name Francis was passed down through several generations, it seems reasonable to assume that Francis Collins who died in Buncombe County, North Carolina in 1806 might have been Thompson’s father who had migrated there from Virginia. Another assumption, unauthenticated, holds Nancy Collins (maiden name unknown) to be Thompson Collins’ mother.

The family name of Collins was a distinguished English surname found in authentic records in England more than a thousand years ago. However, Collins is considered to be Irish in origin, derived from O’Coilean and meaning “victory of the people.’ Lords of manors and landowners by the O’Coilean name lived in the North Desmond section of Ireland until wars drove them southward in the thirteenth century.

Another possible origin of the Collins surname is the Welsh Collen, signifying hazel---those with hazel-colored eyes or those who lived near hazelnut groves. Another origin of Collins may be from the Gaelic word Cuilein meaning darling, and referred to one held dear (as a pet puppy).

Collins immigrants were among early settlers in America. One of the earliest was Henry Collins and his wife, Ann, three children and five servants who sailed from England on the ship “Abigail” in 1635. That family settled in Lynn, Massachusetts. Henry Collins soon became a landed gentleman, owning 800 acres. Their son, Joseph, married Duty Knowles in 1671 from whose line many of the northern states Collins descendants came.

In the southern colonies, the first Collins immigrant was John Collins who sailed from Kent, England in 1655 and settled in Lawns Creek Parish, Surrey County, Virginia. He married Elizabeth Caulfield, a daughter of Captain Robert Caulfield. John, Sr. died in Virginia in 1693. Their son John became the progenitor of the Virginia and southern Collins descendants. Although a direct line from them to Thompson Collins, born about 1785 in North Carolina, has not yet been traced, the John, Sr. of England and Virginia is reasonably the progenitor of the Union County Collinses.

Two Collins gentlemen from Virginia, George and Joseph, served in the American Revolution. A rash of trials in Virginia by the Tories (Loyalists) brought charges against any who were patriots. Thomas Collins was convicted of treason against the crown in 1775. Following his trial, in which he was defended by Lawyer William Boulware, he moved his family out of Virginia and into the remote mountainous area of North Carolina where he would be free of the Royalist accusers. The Thomas Collins family moved from Polecat Creek in Caroline County, Virginia. He had sons named John, Francis, James and Thomas, Jr. Since early census takers sometimes missed the trails that led to remote cabins in hidden coves in the mountains of North Carolina, there is no census record of this Thomas Collins, Sr. family in 1780. By the 1790 census, ninety-six Collins families were reported as living in North Carolina.

The Collins family crests I’ve seen show two mottos. One is Favente Deo et Seduliatate,” which, translated, means “By favor of God and assiduity.” The word assiduity is a character-defining word meaning strong diligence, unremitting attention, persistence. That motto seems to define the Collins clan in general throughout history. The other crest motto reads “”Vincit Pericula Virtus” and, translated, means “Virtue Conquers Danger.” Either motto is idealistic and descriptive of character.

We have not found either the exact birth date or the marriage date of Thompson Collins (b. about 1785). He and Celia Self, daughter of Job Self, married about 1810 in North Carolina. She was born to a neighbor of the Collins family about 1787. Her father was Francis Self. She had known siblings Sarah, Jesse and Job.

The first legal documents relating to Thompson Collins are filed in the court house at Asheville, NC and relate to land transactions as follows:

(1) April 3, 1809, from Elliott Jackery to Thompson Collins, 40 acres of land on the French Broad River.
(2) December 21, 1810, from McLain Ephraim to Thompson Collins, 100 acres of land on a small branch of the Mills River for $160.00.
(3) November 24, 1813, on McDowell’s Creek, west side of the French Broad River, purchased 50 acres. Thompson Collins owned 50 acres of land where he now lives, completed transaction December 12, 1812, registered April 13, 1830. This deed shows that a land grant was made to Thompson Collins by the State of North Carolina for fifty shillings for every hundred acres of land.

We learn that Thompson Collins loved the land and added to his acreage as opportunity arose. Perhaps it was the lure of more land, the call of adventure, or the fact that a general exodus of citizens from Buncombe County, North Carolina moved to Habersham County, Georgia in 1824 or 1825 that he moved his family there.

[Next: More on the family of Thompson and Celia Self Collins.]


c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 18, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

James Lon Duckworth, Corporation Lawyer

A younger brother to Chief Justice William Henry Duckworth of the Georgia Supreme Court was James Lon Duckworth who also chose a career in law.

James Lon Duckworth was born October 29, 1899 to John Francis (known as Jack) and Laura Jane Noblet Duckworth. He was the fifth child of ten, eight of whom grew to adulthood. When his father died December 26, 1910, Lon was eleven years of age. The family was living on a farm near Old Liberty Church, part of the property where David and Mary Williamson Duckworth had settled. Lon’s lineage went back to early settler David; David and Mary’s oldest child, John Williamson Duckworth who married Susannah Jackson; General Jackson Duckworth who married Celia Emaline Collins, parents of Lon’s father, John Francis Duckworth.

Laura Duckworth was faced with a challenge at age thirty-five when she was left a widow with eight children. For a time she managed on the Choestoe farm, but desiring that her children have better educational opportunities, she moved to Young Harris. She worked hard to keep the children with food and clothing. The children early learned to work hard.

At a young age Lon Duckworth vowed that if he were ever financially able, he would see that his mother had a good house and economic stability. She moved from Young Harris back to Choestoe where she married, second, Joe Townsend, a farmer and miller, and they had thirty years together before his death. She then moved to the Jacksonville community near Young Harris where J. Lon Duckworth helped to provide a comfortable and convenient house for her declining years.

J. Lon Duckworth graduated from Young Harris College in 1920. From there he entered the Emory University Lamar School of Law and graduated in 1923. He spent a year practicing law in Lousiana, but returned to Atlanta where he was in the McElreath and Scott law firm, and soon was made a partner in that firm with the partnership name of McElreath, Scott, Duckworth and DuVall.

The Life Insurance Company of Georgia invited him to become its corporation lawyer and he began work there on January 1, 1942. Through hard work, integrity and vision, he became Vice-President and General Counsel of the company and held that title when he passed away on October 31, 1964 at a farm he owned near Powder Springs, Georgia. Two days before his death, he and his family had celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday.

He taught the Men’s Bible Class at the Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta for many years, and at the Kirkwood Baptist Church as well. He was active in Kiwanis International, serving as Lieutenant Governor of the Georgia District and as president of the downtown Atlanta Club in 1955-56.

His greatest support, however, went to the school that befriended a farm lad eager to get an education and with little money to pay costs. He was on the Board of Trustees of Young Harris College and served as Executive Vice Chairman of the Board.

Less than a month after his death, the Board of Trustees of Young Harris College, meeting in Atlanta on November 12, 1964, passed a resolution honoring the long-time Board member. Citing his “unselfish service to Young Harris College,” the resolution applauded his business acumen in “a path that led ever upward.” Noted also were his “gentleness and humbleness…He never forgot the way he had come; nor did he ever put from his mind the simple faith and beliefs learned from his Christian parents.”

The Duckworth Library at Young Harris College honors James Lon Duckworth and his brother, Chief Justice William Henry Duckworth. Lon’s wife, Ruth and their daughter, Margaret Duckworth Sewell, survived him.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 11, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

From Humble Beginnings to Chief Justice: Honorable William Henry Duckworth



William Henry Duckworth was the third of ten children born to John Francis (called Jack) and Laura Jane Noblet Duckworth. He was born on the Duckworth farm just east of Old Liberty Baptist Church, Choestoe, where his grandparents, General Jackson and Celia Emaline Collins Duckworth had lived. His birthday was October 21, 1894. Grover Cleveland was serving his second term as twenty-fourth president of the United States. Times were hard. A depression was sweeping the country (not the Great Depression of three decades later, but a time when many were without work and the economy was shaky). The Duckworth family on Choestoe had food grown on their farm, and like their neighbors, managed the best they could.

When Henry was fifteen years of age, his father, Jack, met an untimely death in a shooting match near his home on December 10, 1910 at the hands of a cousin, Jeptha Collins. Henry’s mother, Laura Noblet Duckworth, was left to rear eight children (two had died in infancy). By sheer determination and hard work, Laura Duckworth was able to see the eight children turn into fine, productive citizens.

William Henry Duckworth got his early education in the one-teacher schools in Choestoe. A bright lad, he was invited by Dr. Joseph A. Sharp, then president of Young Harris College, to take a job working there to help defray his tuition. A great uncle of Henry’s, Francis Marion Duckworth, who, with his wife, Nancy Davis Duckworth had taken Henry’s mother into their home to rear when she was a small child, loaned the young student some money for college. In 1917, William Henry Duckworth graduated from Young Harris with honors. Later in his life he would ardently support the college through donations and service. The library at the college is named Duckworth Library, honoring William Henry and his brother, James Lon, also a lawyer.

During World War I, Henry Duckworth joined the U. S. Navy where he served as an Ensign.

His desire to become a lawyer was not thwarted due to lack of finances to attend law school. He read law, a practice generally followed then, in the law office of his friend, E. D. Rivers. He took a correspondence course in law from LaSalle University, Chicago, where he earned the LL. B. degree in 1919. He successfully passed the bar examination. He went to south Georgia where he met and courted Willabel Pilcher, daughter of John Preston and Ida Singletary Pilcher. They were married July 2, 1922 in Thomas County. Three children were born to them: Dorothy, Mary and William Henry, Jr. He practiced law in Cairo, Georgia for several years.

He was elected senator from the 7th District of Georgia in 1931. This launched his career in state government. He successfully managed the gubernatorial candidacy for E. D. Rivers when he was elected Governor of Georgia. They had been classmates at Young Harris College.

He became assistant Attorney General of Georgia and served in that capacity during 1937-1938. He was hoping to be appointed to the next vacancy on the Georgia Supreme Court, only to be told by the incumbent governor that he was “too young” for the position. He ran for the position in a three-man race and won. From October 18, 1938 through January, 1956, he was an associate justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. He was presiding justice from January 1, 1947 through September 10, 1948 when he was installed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, a position he held until his death August 9, 1969.

Keeping his deep-seated integrity and his fearlessness, he wrote some noteworthy decisions in the annals of Georgia law. One was when Governor Eugene Talmadge died before taking office. The Georgia Legislature appointed Herman Talmadge, Eugene’s son, to become governor on the basis of a few hundred write-in votes. The two other contenders for the office of governor were incumbent Governor Ellis Arnall and Lieutenant Governor M. E. Thompson. Chief Justice Duckworth declared M. E. Thompson as the next governor by “majority opinion.” It was said to be the “most explosive” political decision up to that time in Georgia history.

Known for his intensive questioning and his search for truth, Supreme Court Justice Duckworth was adept at finding weak points in arguments and lack of evidence.

During the last sixteen years of his life, he suffered with and was treated for chronic leukemia. In 1953 he had a heart attack that slowed his work for several weeks while he recuperated. It was a heart attack that brought his demise on August 9, 1969.

He had fulfilled his youthful dreams of becoming a lawyer and a Georgia Supreme Court Justice. In 1955 he was elected as chairman of the National Conference of Chief Justices, made up of the top jurists from all the states of the union.

His pastor at Druid Hills Church, Decatur, the Rev. Louie D. Newton, sometimes known as the Dean of Georgia Baptist pastors, conducted his funeral at Spring Hill Chapel, Decatur, on Monday, August 11, 1969. Interment was at Decatur City Cemetery.

Another man went out from the hills of Union County and made his distinctive mark in history.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 4, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Harvey Alfonso "Bud" Twiggs Family

Harvey Alfonso, better known as “Bud” Twiggs, was the youngest of six children born to the early Union County settlers, Willis (1804-1880) and Margaret England Twiggs (1812-1886). Harvey A. was born at Choestoe, Union County, Georgia on June 1, 1848 and died there March 6, 1932. He married Elizabeth Johnson on July 21, 1876, and to “Bud” and “Lizzie” Twiggs were born five children reared on the farm, part of which was inherited from Bud’s father, Willis.

Margaret M. Twiggs (August 2, 1871-May 28, 1949) married Mancil Pruitt Dyer, a son of Choestoe’s inventor of the “Apparatus for Navigating the Air,” Micajah Clark Dyer and his wife, Morena Ownbey Dyer. Mancil Pruitt had the nickname “Mant”. He and Margaret had seven children: Nellie Naomi who married Dallas Nix; Herbert Carter who married Pearl Duckworth; Patrick Henry Lee Dyer who married Cleo Hix; Celia Wilhemina “Minnie” Dyer who married Marshall J. Nix; Harriet who died at nine years of age; and Chartiers McMillan Dyer who married Pearl Parker and Sibyl Franks. When Margaret died in 1949, she was at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Marshall Nix, in Waverly, Colorado where she had lived during a period of ill health. Her body was returned for burial at Pine Top Cemetery, Choestoe, where her husband was buried in 1916.

Bud and Lizzie Twiggs’ second child was James Willis Twiggs (June 15, 1879 – February 1, 1966) known as Jim, this son had a distinctive career as a teacher, public servant, educator and benefactor. He married on December 28, 1910 to Helen Cordelia Collins (March 1, 1886-December 10, 1981), daughter of Dallas and Rosannah Souther Collins. The Rev. Charlie Rich performed their wedding ceremony at the home of the bride’s parents near New Liberty Baptist Church. They had one daughter, Clarice Lorraine Twiggs who married Thomas Jefferson Stephens. Helen Collins was a teacher when she and Jim Twiggs married. During the first years of their marriage both taught school at Talmo, Georgia (Jackson County) for three years, then to South Georgia for three years, and northward to Gwinnett County for three more years. Then they returned to Union County. In 1920 Jim Twiggs was elected County School Superintendent in Union County where he served two four-year terms (1920-1928). He next was with the sales tax unit of the Department of Revenue. He was elected state senator from the ninth congressional district for one term. Following that service he was a supervisor with the Georgia Department of Education until his retirement at age 72. Jim and Helen Twiggs were known for their Christian compassion and community spirit. I personally will ever be grateful to Mr. Jim Twiggs for loaning me the money to complete my AA degree at Truett McConnell College in 1948-1949 at a time when my father had a not-so-good crop year and did not have the money, even with my working at a campus job, to pay my college tuition. Mr. Jim Twiggs came to my rescue with a loan which I repaid during my first year of teaching.

Bud and Lizzie Twiggs’ third child was John Milford Twiggs (June 9, 1881-September 5, 1960). John married Celia Sarah “Sallie” Collins (October 8, 1884 – October 4, 1972), daughter of Ivan Kimsey and Martha J. Hunter Collins on March 1, 1908. John was a farmer on Choestoe, tilling the land settled by his grandfather Willis Twiggs and passed on to him by his father Bud Twiggs. John and Sallie had two sons, Roy Willis Twiggs (1909-1987) and Mercer Franklin Twiggs (1912-1990). Educated at Young Harris and North Georgia Colleges and Oglethorpe University, Roy taught school for several years. Roy became director of Union County’s Department of Family and Children’s Services (then called the Welfare Department) in 1938. World War II came and he served for four years in the U. S. Army. Following military service, he again assumed directorship of the Department of Family and Children’s Services from 1946 through his retirement in 1971. He was named to the Georgia Welfare Hall of Fame in 1985. Quiet, efficient and unassuming, Roy Twiggs is remembered as a compassionate social worker who sincerely had the welfare of his clients uppermost as he sought to help those who really needed aid. Mercer Twiggs had a career of thirty-seven years with the Georgia Highway Department. He married Ruby June Little in 1942 and they had one child, Sarah Rebecca Twiggs who married James Matthew Thompson. John and Sallie Twiggs were buried in the Old Choestoe Cemetery and Roy Twiggs and Mercer Twiggs in the New Choestoe Baptist Church Cemetery.

Fourth child of Bud and Lizzie Twiggs was Naomi Belle Twiggs (May 17, 1886-August 14, 1941). She married Fulton Huey Gaddis and they lived to Barrow County, Georgia.

The fifth and youngest child of Bud and Lizzie Twiggs was Frank Densmore Twiggs (January 10, 1889-July 4, 1979) who married Margaret Lea Self on October 28, 1934. She was a daughter of Willis C. and Mollie Dyer Self. Lea and Frank lived in the Twiggs house that his father, Bud, built. The house is still standing on Collins Road just off Highway 80 and is now owned and maintained by Frank and Lea’s son, Ralph.

Frank taught school in one-teacher schools for a few years, among which was Pine Top. He became a full-time farmer, saying he “liked to be his own boss.” He and Lea had two children, Ralph (born in 1936) and Opal (1937-1944). Frank and Lea Twiggs were wonderful neighbors and extended such kindness to my younger brother, Blueford, and me after our mother died in 1945 when we were young.

Some interesting stories have been passed down in the Twiggs family about the escapades of Harvey Alfonso “Bud” Twiggs. A favorite is how he “broke” a new horse for his son Jim to ride. Determined to tame the horse, he bridled it up and took it into the field. The horse bucked and reared, but Bud held on for dear life. Finally, the horse reared and fell, with Bud Twiggs still holding on. Those who were watching feared that Mr. Twiggs was badly injured, but he got up and refused help in taking the horse back to the barn. A few days later, Bud Twiggs saddled up the horse and came out riding him, with the animal behaving, well-broken and taken to the saddle, ready for his Jim Twiggs to ride. Bud Twiggs was at the ripe age of 80 when he broke the untamed horse. He lived four more years after the horse-breaking incident.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 28, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Lovick Marvin Twiggs, Noted Methodist Minister

Lovick Marvin Twiggs was the fifth of six children born to the Rev. John Wesley Twiggs and his first wife, Sarah Elizabeth Hughes Twiggs of Choestoe. He was born May 30, 1880 at what was lovingly called “the Twiggs homeplace” in Choestoe, where his grandparents Willis and Margaret England Twiggs settled about 1836.

No doubt Marvin went with his father who was an itinerant Methodist circuit preacher. He was only five years of age when his mother died June 2, 1885. He and his younger sister, Nellie Margaret, who was not quite three when their mother died, became very close. The other siblings were Edwin Paxton Twiggs (Nov 6, 1872-July 25, 1954); Nancy Elmira (Feb. 17, 1874-Dec. 26, 1953); Emma California (Feb. 9, 1876-Sept 19, 1903) and Mary Frances (Mar. 19, 1 879-May 3, 1952). Rev. John Wesley Twiggs married his second wife, Georgia Elizabeth Westmoreland from White County on February 4, 1886. It is reported that she was a good step-mother to Rev. John Wesley Twigg’s first six children. Georgia Twiggs had three children, half-siblings to Marvin: Kitty who was born and died in January, 1887; Walter Mondwell (1888-1984), a Methodist minister noted in last week’s column; and Erwin Eugene (1890-1977).

Marvin Twiggs graduated from Young Harris College and later served on the Board of Trustees of that institution. He maintained his love for and support of the college throughout his adult life. Prior to being admitted to the Methodist Conference as a fully-certified minister, he taught school for several years in Cleveland, Georgia. His ordination as a minister came in 1902.

For forty-eight years of his eventful life, he was a minister in the North Georgia Conference. He was admitted for a trial period in 1904, ordained as a deacon in 1905, and as an elder in 1908. To begin his trial period, his first charge as a pastor was in the Hancock Circuit from 1904-1908.

He was pastor at Broadway Methodist Church, Augusta, Georgia in 1910-1911. While there, he and Miss Estelle Middlebrooks were married on September 7, 1910. The marriage joined two strong Methodist families for Estelle was a granddaughter of Bishop George Foster Pierce. Her parents were Henry Lafayette and Claudia Snider Pierce Middlebrooks.

His charges, like those of his brother the Rev. Walter Mondwell Twiggs listed in last week’s column, read like a geography of towns in Georgia; The newly-wed couple was assigned to Harlem from 1912-1915. Consecutive appointments and dates included: Conyers, 1916-19; Madison, 1920-21; Cartersville, 1922: St. John Church, Atlanta, 1923-26; Superintendent of the Griffin District, 1927-1930; LaGrange First Methodist, 1931-34; Dalton First Methodist, 1935-38; Superintendent, Augusta District, 1939-1942; Gainesville First Methodist, 1943-47; first full-time chaplain of Emory University Hospital, 1948-1952.

He retired in 1952, but immediately became associate pastor of Druid Hills Methodist Church in Atlanta from 1952-1958. In denominational service he was a delegate to the General Conference (national) in 1930, 1934, 1938 and 1940. He served on the Methodist Boards of Missions and of Pensions.

An interesting news article appeared in the “Eaton Herald” of Eaton, Colorado in the August 5, 1938 issue. Rev. L. Marvin Twiggs and his family had been visiting his sisters, Mrs. Nancy Elmira Collins, Mrs. Mary Frances Nix and Mrs. Nellie Margaret Allison, and his brother Edwin P. Twiggs of the Greeley area. He cut his visit short in order to return to Georgia to be present at a convocation held at the University of Georgia on Thursday, August 11, 1938 wherein the University conferred upon President Franklin Delano Roosevelt an honorary doctorate of humanities degree. At the time, Rev. Twiggs was a member of the University’s Board of Regents and had voted for the honor for the president of the United States. Rev. Twiggs was present in cap and gown at that significant convocation. Other civic assignments were on the State Board of Corrections and Paroles, on the Georgia Citizens’ Council, and on the Georgia Prison Advisory Commission.

Three children were born to Rev. and Mrs. Twiggs: Claudia Pierce Twiggs (1915), Sara Elizabeth Twiggs (1920) and Lovick Marvin Twiggs, Jr. (1925-1946). Unfortunately, Marvin, Jr. was killed in a jeep accident October 5, 1946 in Gainesville, Georgia. He had completed a two-year term in the U. S. Air Corps and was in his senior year at the University of Georgia when his death occurred.

In a letter from the Rev. Marvin Twiggs in “The Northeast Georgian” published in Blairsville, Georgia May 15, 1908, this man who had gone out from Choestoe wrote from Mayfield, Georgia of his former mountain home: “The mountains of North Georgia furnish a valuable source of inspiration to an aspiring youth. Your intellectual energy is unsurpassable…Never be handicapped nor embarrassed about where you came from, but think seriously about where and how you are going. Hard work and good common sense are two of the most essential requisites for success. The simple life, lived close to nature, susceptible to her heaven-born influences, is the life that has implanted the seed truths of eternity.”

Rev. Marvin Twiggs died January 17, 1962 in Atlanta, Georgia and was buried at Sparta, Georgia. His widow, Estelle, died five years later on August 25, 1967. In the obituary for this outstanding Methodist minister from the mountains, the Reverend Doctor William R. Cannon wrote: “He was both an ecclesiastical statesman and a diplomat of remarkable skill. He knew how forcefully to reach an objective and at the same time to carry the people along with him, without offense…His was a steady march forward toward the kingdom of God, but in that way he never walked alone; he carried his people with him.”

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 21, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Walter Mondwell Twiggs, Noted Methodist Minister

Many have gone out from the hills and valleys of Union County and made distinctive contributions in many professions. The Rev. John Wesley Twiggs of Choestoe had two sons who, like himself, became Methodist ministers. Last week we got an insight into the early life of Walter Mondwell as he went with his father at age seven across the Logan Turnpike to the market in Gainesville in 1885. Walter was the younger of the two preacher sons. Lovick Marvin, eight years older than Walter, became an ordained Methodist minister, outstanding in Georgia. Both Choestoeans contributed greatly through long lives of service. This week we will continue with the life and work of the Rev. Walter Mondwell Twiggs. Next week we will look at contributions made by the Rev. Lovick Marvin Twiggs.

When Walter Mondwell Twiggs was born March 27, 1888 in Choestoe, Georgia to the Rev. John Wesley Twiggs and his second wife, Georgia Elizabeth Westmoreland Twiggs, he had six half-siblings to welcome him. Their mother, Sarah Elizabeth Hughes, had died June 2, 1885. Rev. John Wesley Twiggs married Georgia Elizabeth Westmoreland of White County on February 4, 1886. She was a good step-mother to the “first set” of John Wesley Twiggs’ children: Edwin Paxton, Nancy Elmira, Emma California (Callie), Mary Frances, Lovick Marvin and Nellie Margaret.

Georgia Elizabeth and John Wesley Twiggs had three children: Kitty who was born and died in January, 1887; Walter Mondwell (1888) and Erwin Eugene (May 13, 1890). In his memoirs, Rev. Walter Mondwell Twiggs pays great tribute to the closeness between him and his half-sister, Nellie Margaret, whom he says was “like a little mother to me,” and to his brother Lovick Marvin who was an inspiration to him. The distinction of half- brothers and sisters went unnoticed. Mrs. Twiggs loved all the children. Walter, writing of her, noted: “At night mother would sit around the open wood fireplace, never idle, but patching garments, sewing on buttons, darning socks and otherwise providing for the large family.”

Walter Mondwell Twiggs graduated from Young Harris College. While there at the age of 17, he was strongly impressed with a call to the gospel ministry. But he says he resisted the call for several years, teaching school and then studying law. In 1913 at age 24, he was licensed to preach by the Rev. Bascomb Anthony, then presiding elder of the Dublin, Georgia District, where Walter had gone to teach school. He taught at Powelton, Georgia, an early consolidated schools. He was principal of the Stillmore High School in Emanuel County. It was there he met his future bride who was a member of the faculty.

He and Claudia Lenora Thompson were married June 8, 1916 in Lyons, Georgia. They had three children, two daughters and one son. Phronia Webb Twiggs was born September 9, 1917 in Monticello, Ga. Sara Elizabeth Twiggs was born August 7, 1919 in Atlanta, Georgia; and John Wesley Twiggs (named after Walter’s father) was born and died January 7, 1925 in Atlanta, Georgia. The places of the children’s births show some of the locations of churches where the Rev. Walter Twiggs was pastor.

Shortly after his licensing to the Methodist ministry, he entered Vanderbilt University in Tennessee where he studied theology during 1913 and 1914. He was able to pay his way by a scholarship and through working as a janitor and operating the dormitory telephones. While there, he gained experience as assistant pastor at a Methodist church in Nashville’s west end.

In 1915 he enrolled in the Candler School of Theology of Emory University. While there, he was assistant pastor of the Asbury Methodist Church, 1914-1915. After graduation from Candler, he was assigned to the Monticello Methodist Circuit in 1915 and served there until 1920. He was ordained an elder by Bishop Warren A. Candler. His subsequent charges read like a roll-call of Georgia towns. Some of the places he served and the dates were: Lithonia, 1920-24; Patillo Memorial, Decatur, 1924-29; Hapeville, 1929-1933; Trinity-on-the-Hill, Augusta, 1933-35; Presiding Elder, Griffin District, 1935-39; West Point, 1940-43; District Superintendent, Lagrange District, 1943-49; Cartersville, Sam Jones Memorial, 1949-1953; Bethany, Atlanta, 1953-56. He retired in 1956, lived in LaGrange, Georgia and worked for a time with the Manget Foundation.

It was always a joy to the people of Choestoe District and Salem Methodist when their native son, Rev. Walter Twiggs, returned to speak at homecoming or hold a revival.

Rev. and Mrs. Walter Twiggs became the first residents of the Wesley Woods Towers in Atlanta, a senior citizen retirement home which the Rev. Twiggs had worked diligently to establish. They lived there from April, 1965 through September, 1972 when they went to their daughter Phronia Smith’s home in Griffin. There Mrs. Twiggs died July 27, 1973. Rev. Twiggs spent his last years in Griffin writing his memoirs and speaking or teaching occasionally at churches.

Rev. Walter M. Twiggs was a gifted speaker, an evangelist and a fundraiser, with an unusual talent for raising money for benevolent and church causes. He served on committees in the North Georgia Conference which brought about innovations in ministerial pensions, establishment of Wesley Woods Towers, and erection of church structures. He was a trustee both of the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church and of LaGrange College.

He died quietly in the Brightmoor Nursing Home, Griffin, Georgia, on October 13, 1984 at age 96. He was laid to rest beside his beloved wife at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Newnan, Georgia.

The tall man from Choestoe, measuring well over six feet in height, cast a long shadow and touched many lives through his work and ministry. In one of his last “Memoirs” letters written to his niece Barbara Allison Crawford (his sister Nellie’s child) he noted a quotation that had helped him at an early age to shape his philosophy of life:

“To each is given a bag of tools –
A shapeless mass, a book of rules.
And each must make ‘ere life is flown
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.

Rev. Walter Mondwell Twiggs who went out from Union County made of his “bag of tools” many stepping stones to help others along the way of life.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 14, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Going to Market in 1895 (As Remembered by Walter Mondwell Twiggs)

Walter Mondwell Twiggs was the second of three children born to the Rev. John Wesley Twiggs and his second wife, Georgia Elizabeth Westmoreland. Walter grew up to be a noted Methodist minister in Georgia. After his retirement, he wrote his memoirs. These were never published but some were made available to relatives and friends. Barbara Allison Crawford, a niece who compiled “The Old Homeplace: A Twiggs Family Saga” (1994) had a copy of her Uncle Walter’s “Memoirs,” and shared some of them in her book.

Marvin M. Twiggs’ account of going to market in 1895 gives insight into how the farmers of Choestoe Valley took produce to the market in Gainesville and bartered for items not available to them on their farms.

Marvin Twiggs, born March 27, 1888, was only seven years of age when he was allowed by his father to go in 1895 on his first wagon trip to the market at Gainesville some forty-five miles from their Choestoe farm. His excitement built daily as they readied for the trip which would be the highlight of the boy’s life to that point.

Although Marvin Twiggs does not mention this in his memoirs, it was customary in those days for a wagon train to form and travel together across the Logan Turnpike, crossing Tesnatee Gap by way of Cleveland, Georgia. Even though Mr. Jack Shuler of Upper Choestoe and his sons had a contract to keep the north side of the road in good repair from rock slides and wash-outs, the road was still somewhat rough and special care was needed in driving the mule teams along the narrow mountain road. Being in company with other wagon teams was a safety measure for they helped each other if a break-down or other trouble occurred.

The Twiggs family gathered fall apples from their orchard and filled the bed of the wagon with the luscious fruit. This was to be one of their major items of trade at the market in Gainesville. They added sacks of shelled corn and threshed rye to the load, and even a butchered hog that had been cured in the smokehouse.

The first night the wagon with its load arrived just south of Cleveland, Georgia where they lodged at the home of Marvin’s Great Uncle Ben Allison, brother to his Grandmother Westmoreland. He remembers the gentleman’s goatee and the hospitality with which the Twiggs caravan was received. The Allisons lived in a large house occupied by the old gentleman and his son and family. They arrived at the Allison house in time to go into the town of Cleveland and see the sights before dark.

In a Cleveland store, Marvin Twiggs spied a one-bladed, horn-handled Barlow knife on display. He had no money, not even the five-cent price of the knife. But his desire to own that knife became almost an obsession. That night, before they retired, Marvin told his father, the stern disciplinarian Rev. John Wesley Twiggs, that he would like to have a nickel to spend. Questioning the boy as to whether he wanted to buy candy for the journey, Marvin was evasive, fearing to tell his father he really wanted a knife. But to his delight, his father gave him the nickel. The next morning he was at the store early and purchased the knife. But with his purchase he had a guilty feeling, and he kept the knife well-hidden in his pocket all of the journey and even for some time after they arrived back at home for fear of his father’s punishment. It never was forthcoming, and eventually Marvin began to use the knife.

In two days the Twiggs wagon arrived in Gainesville. They spent their nights there in the home of Bill Dyer, ordinary of Hall County, who lived on Green Street just off the square. Dyer had been a childhood friend of John Wesley Twiggs before moving away from Choestoe. Mrs. Dyer prepared excellent meals for the travelers.

In Gainesville young Marvin Twiggs heard his first train whistle and saw the large steam engine pulling the loaded boxcars behind. He was both excited and frightened by the train, fearing that it might jump the tracks and head in his direction.

Days were spent bartering the load of produce they had brought from the mountains and purchasing cloth and thread for his mother to make garments for the “first” and “second” family; shoes for winter; a barrel of flour; sugar; coffee; rice. They tried to have enough money left to pay taxes for the year.

It took two days to make the trip from Gainesville back to Choestoe. His father knew many families along the route and they always had a place to spend the night. As Marvin grew older and continued to accompany his father on those twice-yearly trading trips, he felt that they were in a sense “sponging” on the good nature of the friends and relatives where they stopped. They enjoyed their hospitality, meals and shelter without paying anything whatsoever. But those were the days when people were neighborly and glad to take in travelers. He remembered stopping in homes of relatives like Ben Allison and Bill Harkins, but also at Densmore, Huff, Allen, Reed and Richardson households along the way.

The journey northward across Tesnatee was another hard pull. When they arrived home with their wagon loaded with the purchases from far-away Gainesville, it was an exciting time for the Twiggs household. They would have to practice frugality to make the staples last until the next trip south for goods. And Mrs. Twiggs would begin right away to make shirts for the men and dresses for the girls from the yard goods.

There, in his pocket, Marvin Twiggs proudly fingered his five-cent Barlow knife. He would have many hours of pleasure using it to cut and whittle, make sourwood whistles and have the satisfaction of being a proud owner of his very own Barlow knife.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 7, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Willis, the First Twiggs in Union County

A name carrying distinction in Union County and beyond is that of Twiggs. Willis Twiggs was the first of the line to settle in Union County, Georgia.


He was born in Rutherford County, NC on December 5, 1804 and died at Choestoe, Union County, Georgia December 11, 1880. He and his wife Margaret England Twiggs (August 9, 1812-December 10, 1886) were both interred in the Old Choestoe Cemetery.

Not proven but believed by those who have traced the Twiggs line, Willis Twiggs was the son of Timothy and Joice Willis Twiggs of Rutherford County, NC. This conjecture seems almost positive by Willis Twiggs’ given name, a custom in that day, for a son (second or later) to receive the maiden name of his mother. Then Willis himself named one of his children Joice Minerva Ann, a name which honored the one believed to be his mother, Joice Willis Twiggs.

Willis Twiggs migrated to Habersham County, Georgia where he had been eligible for one draw in the land lottery of 1832. There he married Margaret England in either 1833 or 1834. Margaret herself had been eligible for a land lot in Habersham County due to her grandfather Daniel England’s patriotic service in the American Revolution. The ancestry of Margaret England is somewhat nebulous, like that of Willis Twiggs. Her father was listed as John Good and her mother Jane England. She was reared as an England and bore that last name.

Willis and Margaret Twiggs’ first child, Mary Louise, was born in Habersham County (now White) on March 12, 1835. She was a baby when her parents moved over the mountain into the Choestoe District of Union County. There, in the 1838 Tax Rolls of Union County, he owned land in the 34th District, described as having “oaks and hickory trees” and “upland”. In June of 1859 Willis Twiggs added to his acreage by purchasing land in the 16th District from James M. Henson. It was on this land that Willis Twiggs built his house, lovingly called “The Homeplace” by descendants. The land has been owned by members of this Twiggs family from the 1830’s to the present.

Willis Twiggs was a very religious man, following the beliefs of the Methodist Church. Beginning at least as early as 1838, church services were held in his home at Choestoe for at least nine years until the first Salem Methodist Church building was erected on Self Mountain in 1847. His obituary printed in “The Wesleyan Advocate” stated that he “professed religion and joined the Methodist Church at age 12.” The death notice cited that he was “an orphan from an early age and his way in the world was quite rough. He learned to trust God for all good. He lived a faithful Christian life.”

Shortly after settling in Choestoe, he made acquaintance with a Methodist missionary of the Holston Conference, and with his assistance held sacred meetings at his home for nine years until the congregation could build the Salem church house.

In addition to Mary Louise who was born before Willis and Margaret Twiggs moved from Habersham County, GA, the couple had five other children, all born in Union County. These were Elizabeth Jane (b. March 1837) who married William C. Hicks on November 4, 1866; Margaret, born 1839, who died at age 19, unmarried; Joice Minerva Ann, born November 27, 1841, who married George W. Bryant on November 29, 1869; John Wesley born January 31, 1846 who married first Sarah Elizabeth Hughes on August 20, 1871 and second, Georgia Elizabeth Westmoreland in 1886. This son of Willis and Margaret Twiggs became a noted itinerant Methodist preacher, a teacher and a farmer. The sixth child of Willis and Margaret was Harvey Alfonso, called “Bud,” born June 1, 1848. He married Elizabeth Johnson on July 21, 1876. Mary Louise, their firstborn, married Spencer Lafayette Curtis on January 25, 1857.

In later columns, we will trace other descendants of Willis and Margaret Twiggs and note the significant contributions they made as they remained in Union County or moved to other areas to live and work.


c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 23, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Rev. John Wesley Twiggs, Methodist Minister

In last week’s column we were introduced to Willis Twiggs (1804-1880), the first of the Twiggs family to move to Union County, Georgia from Rutherford County, NC by way of Habersham County, GA and then into the Choestoe District of Union.


We will trace today some of the life and times of John Wesley Twiggs, fifth child and first son of Willis and Margaret England Twiggs. He was born January 31, 1846 in the Twiggs’ Choestoe home.

Where the young John Wesley Twiggs received his education is unknown, except for the one-teacher schools in the Choesoe District. But evidently he was a learned man (no doubt much of it self-taught) for his day. According to testimony of his children and grandchildren, they were not allowed to speak incorrect English around him, nor even the “hill country lingo” so prevalent in the community. Some believe he was taught by his mother, Margaret England Twiggs, who came from a well-educated family. Her grandparents had migrated from Maryland into Virginia and had more education and refinement than most of the frontier families in the Rutherford, NC area where she and her husband Willis Twiggs lived before moving to Georgia. By whatever means educated, John Wesley Twiggs made good use of it and contributed well to his own community and beyond.

The date of John Wesley Twiggs’ ordination to the gospel ministry is not known. He did have an active part in churches within Union County, riding to his charges on his farm mule or horse. The Old Salem Church had been organized in the home of his father, Willis, where services were conducted for nine years until the first building was erected on Self Mountain in 1847 when John Wesley was about one. When this fifth child of Willis Twiggs grew up and married, first, Sarah Elizabeth Hughes (1847-1885), the family continued to attend Old Salem Methodist Church. Sarah Elizabeth, called Sallie, was from a Methodist family. She was a daughter of the Rev. Thomas M. and Nancy Bird Hughes. Both her father and grandfather were Methodist ministers (Her grandfather was the Rev. Francis Bird).

To John Wesley and Sarah Elizabeth Hughes Twiggs were born Edwin Paxton (1872-1954) who married Mary Elizabeth Dyer; Nancy Elmira (1874-1953) who married James Monroe Collins; Emma California (1876-1903) who married John L. Gillespie; Mary Frances (1874-1952) who married Milton Newton Nix; Lovick Marvin (1880-1962) who married Estelle Middlebrooks; and Nellie Margaret (1883-1974) who married John Gordon Allison.

Sarah Elizabeth Twiggs died June 2, 1885 and was buried at the Old Choestoe Cemetery. Her six children ranged from age 13 to not quite two years. Her obituary printed in the Wesleyan Christian Advocate on July 22, 1885 noted that she had suffered scarlet fever as a child which had left her lungs weakened. On her deathbed, she called all her family to her, gave them her last charge, kissed each one and bade them farewell. The writer stated: “Her face all aglow with the refulgent rays of the Great Shepherd of her soul, she began to repeat the 23rd Psalm, and with the ending of the Psalm God came and kissed her happy soul away, and left His ineffable smile on the brow.”

The Rev. John Wesley Twiggs married Georgia Elizabeth Wesmoreland on February 4, 1886 in White County, Georgia. To them were born three children: Kitty (b. & d. Jan., 1887); Walter Mondwell (1888-1984) who married Claudia Lenora Thompson; and Erwin Eugene (1890-1977) who married Alice Emily Wofford.

Two of Rev. John Wesley Twiggs’ sons became Methodist ministers: Lovick Marvin and Walter Mondwell.

Farmer, minister, and teacher were the three occupations followed by the Rev. John Wesley Twiggs. He kept up with the latest innovations in farming for his day and shared information of agricultural techniques with his neighbors and church members. He was a teacher at Hood’s Chapel School and at Old Liberty School, and perhaps at others in Union County. His ministerial charges ranged over both Union and White County. Known as a strict disciplinarian as a father and a teacher, he believed strongly in bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He died July 30, 1917 at his Choestoe home and was laid to rest beside his first wife, Sarah Elizabeth, in the Old Choestoe Cemetery. Quoting from a resolution from Salem church published in the Union County paper August 14, 1917: “He was not only a father to the young but a dispenser of doctrines to the old…He always held out the bright side of life to us by his noble example and worthy advice. He ingrafted into our lives a deeper sense of love and a keener sight of right.”

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 20, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

'Apparatus for Navigating the Air' Micajah Clark Dyer

My January 4, 2004 column for “Through Mountain Mists” told of Micajah Clark Dyer and his remarkable flying machine that predated the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk, NC by several years. I thought that column would wrap up what I know of legend and fact about this Choestoe, Union County, Georgia inventor who lived from July 23, 1822 through January 26, 1891.

However, a remarkable development has occurred to add new light on Mr. Dyer’s invention and to authenticate what had only been passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation about the nineteenth century genius who watched birds fly and mused (to quote a line from a popular song), “Why, then oh why can’t I?”

Straightaway I have these to thank for discovering the registered patent in the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office and allowing me access to a copy. First, Jimmy Powell, cartoonist of note, went on the Google search engine, typing “Micajah Dyer Patent.” He followed the links to the U. S. Patent office. Jimmy is tied to Micajah Clark Dyer by marriage. His wife, Roxanne Dyer Powell, is the daughter of Wayne Dyer who goes directly back to her great, great, great grandfather Micajah Clark through Johnny, Samuel, Jasper Washington, first born of Micajah Clark Dyer. Then Jimmy Powell told a great, great granddaughter of Clark Dyer, Sylvia Dyer Turnage, who herself went online, and after some difficulty found and paid the cost for a printable copy. This was the long-missing link to prove that Micajah Clark Dyer did, indeed, get his machine far enough along to secure a patent on it. I thank them also for giving me permission to write another column about the inventor and his patent.

And speaking of patents, several of us who have written about his flying machine have noted that the patent application was evidently lost because there seemed to be no documents in Dyer’s papers to show that he received a patent. It was believed by family members that the patent was lost in transit between Choestoe and Washington, DC.

The fact that it was not lost, and that proof of the patent came into the hands of his descendants 130 years later are wonderful authentications of this man’s outstanding work. In fact, September is a good month to be writing about the title he gave to his patent, “Apparatus for Navigating the Air,” for the patent was granted on September 1, 1874, 130 years ago this month. His descendants are elated to learn that drawings of the “apparatus” were a part of the patent, together with extensive written descriptions of the lettered and numbered parts of the drawings.

Usually a model of the machine for which the inventor was applying for a patent accompanied the drawings and the official application. So far, the model has not been discovered at the patent office, but it may have been burned in the fire that devastated parts of the building in Washington in the early twentieth century.

Witnesses at Choestoe to Micajah Dyer’s illustrated and written document were Francis M. Swain (a neighbor) and M. C. Dyer, Jr. (the “other” Micajah Clark Dyer who, to distinguish the two, signed Jr. after his name. He was an uncle to the inventor Micajah Clark Dyer, but they were reared as brothers by Elisha Dyer, Jr., grandfather of Micajah). The document was dated February 16, 1874. It was filed in the patent office on June 10, 1874, and was approved there on September 1, 1874. Official signatures on the front of the document were D. G. Stuart and Leo Van Kiswick, evidently of the patent office. Micajah Dyer’s signature is affixed as inventor. The name of the attorney for the inventor is somewhat difficult to decipher: was he P. Harney or P. Hanney?

The beginning of the written description leads one to believe that there could have been prior applications; certainly prior attempts at an “Apparatus for Navigating the Air.” His opening statement reads:

Be it known that I, Micajah Dyer, of Blairsville, in the county of Union and State of Georgia, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Apparatus for Navigating the Air; and I do declare the following to be a full, clear and exact description of the invention, such as will enable others skilled in the art to which it pertains to make and use it, reference being had to the accompanying drawings, which form part of this specification
In the written account are minute details giving specifications for building the frame, the wings, the large balloon, the rotating paddle wheels, shafts, cranks, connecting rods—no part seems to have been omitted from his description of the apparatus which he so painstakingly thought through, drew and, from testimony of several who saw it, built in his workshop. The description is far too technical and long to include in this account.

No date is given for the “trial run” Micajah Clark Dyer gave his ‘Apparatus for Navigating the Air” on the runway he built to launch it on his property at Choestoe underneath the shadow of Rattlesnake Mountain. The fact that he did so is not a part of the patent but by word passed from generation to generation by people of integrity and honesty.

His great, great granddaughter, Sylvia Dyer Turnage, said: “People said he continued to work on perfecting the machine until his death on January 26, 1891 at age 68. Since the patent we’ve found was registered on September 1, 1874, I believe he had a later and more advanced design in those 17 years.”

I have not authenticated this with another great, great grandson of the inventor, Larry Dyer, but word has it that he is constructing a replica of Micajah Clark Dyer’s machine. Larry, if you read this, and if, indeed you are working on reproducing the “Apparatus for Navigating the Air,” please make a big day of its launch in the field near Rattlesnake Mountain and invite us all to the event. You and we owe this debt of gratitude to a genius of the mountains, one Micajah Clark Dyer.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 16, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

School Consolidation Break-through: Town Creek and Beyond (History of Education in Union County - Part 5)

These columns on the history of education in Union County can only touch the high spots of over seventeen decades since the county’s inception in 1832. With the listing of schools and teachers, perhaps some readers will recognize names of early educators who taught their parents or them.

Imagine the challenge of seven grades and sometimes seventy or more students managed by one teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. In those years, the classroom was tightly disciplined and those who attended school had a desire to learn. Students could accelerate as they listened to lessons of the grades above them. All was not gloom and doom in the poorly furnished, inadequately lighted and ill-equipped classrooms of the country schools. Most of the students wanted an education. If they were disciplined by the teacher for an infraction of the rules, they likewise received discipline and reprimands from their parents. Parental support was a strong positive as mountain citizens wanted a better life for their children than they themselves had received.

In 1916 the educational inspector, Mr. M. L. Duggan, began a section of his report headed “A Problem of Consolidation. Study the Map.” Under this segment he listed six schools:

Track Rock had Miss Ida Self as teacher with six grades and 54 enrolled. By his calculation in distance, it was two and one-half miles from New Liberty School and three miles to Old Liberty. Track Rock had good church equipment with long benches.

School two was New Liberty with J. W. Twiggs as teacher, with six grades and 40 enrolled. The building was of heavy hewed logs, weather-boarded with good poplar lumber, ceiled with walnut lumber, and had small windows which let in only a small amount of light. The benches were not good. It was located one and one-half miles from Pine Top School, three miles from Choestoe School and one and one-half miles to Old Liberty School.

The third school in this listing of six was Pine Top. Allen Dyer was teacher with forty-four pupils in seven grades. It had a blackboard and sandbox, but like the other buildings it was poorly lighted. The church members kept the building in good repair and benches were comfortable.

The fourth school, Old Liberty, had Herschel A. Dyer as teacher and principal with Watson B. Dyer as assistant teacher. These two teachers had an enrollment of seventy-two. Old Liberty was a distance of three miles from Choestoe School, one and one-half miles from New Liberty, two and one-half miles to Track Rock, and three miles southwest was Henson School. The church building at Old Liberty was large, ceiled, painted and with long benches, and blackboards were available.

Choestoe School had seven grades with thirty-seven pupils and W. J. Sullivan was teacher. The building was one room, painted and ceiled, but had no equipment. It was a distance of three miles from both Old and New Liberty Schools and three and one-half miles from Hood School (also called Hood’s Chapel).

Hood School had fifty-three enrolled with H. E. Jones as teacher. Classes met in the church building. It was from one-and one half to three miles to the other schools in Choestoe District.

Mr. Duggan recommended consolidation in other school groupings, even though the mileage was greater for some than what he noted for the six schools listed in the Choestoe District. He commented: “It is hardly probable that these six schools can well be consolidated into one, but very likely two properly located would be accessible for all patrons. County school officials and citizens should give earnest consideration to consolidation.” The only place Mr. Duggan mentioned the Henson School was in its distance from the Old Liberty School. No teacher, appurtenances, enrollment or other data were given for Henson.

By 1933, some of the six schools listed in this grouping had been combined. Town Creek Consolidated had been formed from Old and New Liberty, Pine Top and some of the patrons from Track Rock. (Later, however, Pine Top seems to have been reinstated as a one-room school.)

At Town Creek Consolidated School in 1933, Charles Roscoe Collins was principal with seventy-three pupils; Mrs. Bonnie Collins was a teacher and seventy-three was listed as her enrollment; and Mrs. Ancel Duckworth was another teacher with forty-six enrolled. [Note: This made a total enrollment of 192 for this consolidated school for 1932-1933, its first year of operation.]

Track Rock was still functional in 1933, with Ethel Wimpey and Ethel Collins as teachers, and sixty enrolled. A little later, Herschel A. Dyer was listed as principal and teacher at Track Rock with Irene Penland as associate teacher and 105 enrolled. Hood School (Hood’s Chapel) still operated in 1933 with J. H. Wynn as teacher and twenty-six enrolled.

A personal account is noted from the memoirs of Charles Roscoe Collins, first principal of the Town Creek Consolidated School, who proceeded to become a noted educator and superintendent of Union County Schools. He tells how the school began in 1932.

It was in the height of the Great Depression, but under the supervision of the then county school superintendent, Mr. C. R. Waldroup, from 1928 through 1932 the building with four classrooms and a small office was planned and built. Sawed lumber was used in the construction. The building was one in which the community took great pride.

Mr. Collins was in Colorado with relatives and it was almost time for the new Town Creek School to open. He had gone west looking for work, but because of general hard times in America, was unable to find a job in Colorado. His father, James Collins, sent Charles Roscoe a telegram informing him he had been elected principal of Town Creek School. He was to return to Choestoe immediately if he wanted the job. Roscoe had no money nor did his relatives in Colorado. A friend, Ms. Rose Martin, loaned him $35.00 for a bus ticket and $15.00 for incidentals on the long trip east.

To get from his father’s home to the school, it was a three-mile walk, one way, six miles per day. C. R. gladly made the walk daily. His teaching staff consisted of himself as principal and lead teacher, Ms. Bonnie Collins (Lance), Ms. Sarah Duckworth and Ms. Pauline Davis. The schools that had been combined to form Town Creek were Old and New Liberty, Pine Top, a portion of Track Rock, and Center School (this may have been the Henson School mentioned earlier).

The teachers’ contracts were for a salary of $52.50 per month for a six-month term. This was for the first-class teacher certification license. However, there was no money in county coffers to pay teachers, so they met their classes, month after month, without pay. Just before Christmas in 1932, Mr. Collins received $10. He rode to Gainesville on the back of a truck owned by Rev. Aaron Souther. The truck was loaded with crossties. The weather was bitterly cold and snow covered the ground. With the $10 he bought each of his 7th grade pupils a Christmas present. He spent the remainder on clothing he badly needed for himself. The teachers did not receive their back pay until the summer of 1933 when WPA funds and other monies allowed at least partial payment.

Those were hard times. Much of the country was standing in long soup-lines to prevent starvation. At least the teachers and pupils had food grown on the farms in Choestoe Valley.

Mr. Collins recalled that he walked over 1500 miles while he served as principal and teacher at Town Creek. He went early to build fires in all four classrooms every cold morning. He commented, “The school served a great purpose. Many fine boys and girls finished seventh grade at Town Creek Consolidated School.”

When the next major consolidation was completed in Union County Schools in the 1950s, two school sites were delineated: Blairsville and Woody Gap. All the country schools were closed and busing made it possible for students to attend the centralized schools. Multiple improvements and advancements in buildings, equipment and resources have resulted in state-of-the-art facilities. Students who proceed from Union County Schools to colleges and technical schools hold their ranks among the best.

As a graduate of a two-teacher country school (Choestoe) and of Union County High School, I can attest to the excellent education I received in the public education system there. My first year of teaching was in Union County at Choestoe School, which by then, the 1949-1950 school term, due to small enrollment (25 pupils) qualified for only one teacher for seven grades. That experience gave me impetus to continue as an educator in Bibb, Hart and Fannin Counties and also to teach in colleges.

I observed many great teachers in action as they taught me. They became my inspiration, motivation and example to become a teacher. I reach back to touch them and thank them for their influence upon my life. And to the citizens of Union County, past and present, thank you for placing priority on education. It has made and is making a difference in countless lives.


c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 9, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 2, 2004

The Question of School Consolidation, a Matter of Community Pride (A History of Education in Union County, Part 4)

Mr. M. L. Duggan from the Georgia Department of Education in his 1916 survey of Union County Schools proceeded with his recommendations for consolidation, studying district maps carefully, and computing the distances students would have to travel as they went to a better and more centrally located school. In the Suches Community, he recommended that Zion and Mt. Airy go to Mt. Lebanon and, with some upgrading, that it become a “standard” school.

It took twenty-four more years for consolidation to occur in the five one- and two-teacher schools in the Suches area. Woody Gap School was dedicated in the fall of 1940. A dream of Ranger Arthur Woody and implemented by his son Walter W. Woody, the school was erected on lands where Georgia’s Civil War Governor, the honorable Mr. Joseph Emerson Brown, lived while he was growing up. Woody Gap School stands today as a tribute to those who hold great pride in their community and in accessible education for their children.

Inspector Duggan moved to the Coosa District. Fairview School there had 32 students in four grades in 1916 taught by W. C. Sullivan. The building was in very bad repair and there was no equipment. Mt. Pleasant School was two miles northwest of Coosa School, with mountains to the south. W. T. Sullivan was teacher of the five grades with 37 pupils enrolled. Coosa School, the best of this grouping of three schools, had Miss Docia Lance as teacher, 38 pupils, a good ceiled and painted building with charts, maps, blackboards, long benches and a teacher’s desk. Mr. Duggan’s recommendation was for Fairview and Mt. Pleasant to consolidate at Coosa. This advice may have been followed sometime between 1916 and 1933, for on the latter date Coosa had two teachers, J. C. Hemphill and Ms. Velma Byers, with 55 pupils listed for each. Mt. Pleasant was still operating in 1933 with 50 pupils and Ms. Vianna Hendrix as the sole teacher.

Mr. Duggan’s next grouping had six schools. Smyrna School had Miss Bessie Mauney as teacher and 32 students in 7 grades. Bell School had Miss Belle Mauney as teacher, with 34 pupils in 6 grades. Ebenezer School had I. V. Rogers as teacher with 33 students in 7 grades. Pleasant View School was a dilapidated building where Miss Callie Hill had twenty pupils enrolled but only four present the day Mr. Duggan visited. Russell School had Miss Queen Henson as teacher with 20 students in 7 grades. Antioch School had 45 in 7 grades taught by W. N. Clements. Mr. Duggan’s comments were: “This group calls loudly for consolidation. Mountain barriers would perhaps exclude Bell School and Antioch might well group in another direction.” Some of these schools consolidated or the names were changed by 1933. Antioch was still operating with 57 students with Queen Henson as teacher (this teacher had been at Russell School in 1916—no longer listed as Russell in 1933). Smyrna was still going in 1933 with the same teacher, Bonnie Mauney, teaching 29 pupils. Ebenezer School had E. S. Mauney as teacher with 39 enrolled.

Mr. Duggan recommended that Mt. Pleasant, Corinth and Pleasant Valley Schools be consolidated. In 1916 statistics for them were: Corinth, Clarence Rich, teacher, meeting in a church building in bad repair, five grades, 30 pupils; Mt. Pleasant, Miss Mary Mauldin, teacher, good church building but poor equipment, 24 pupils in 6 grades; and Pleasant Valley School with Miss Janie Carder, teacher, 6 grades and 56 pupils.

How had the picture changed for these three schools by 1933? Mt. Pleasant had 46 enrolled with W. C. Sullivan as teacher; Corinth had 39 enrolled with (Rev.) Claude Boynton as teacher; and Pleasant Valley was manned by Vianna Hendrix with 50 enrolled. In 1932, Corinth School had entered a new two-room school building with a stage where dramas and programs were presented. Peggy Hale School had been built to take the place of the school that had met in the Mt. Pleasant Church. This school, named for a lady, had Mrs. Vienna McDougald (Mrs. W. J.) as teacher and 18 pupils. Spriggs Chapel School was not mentioned by Mr. Duggan in his listing in 1916, but in 1933 Mary Miller was teaching at this school held in a church building and she instructed 22 students.

Under his heading “Some Consolidations Advisable” Mr. Duggan listed five schools that included Union with James Patterson as teacher, seven grades and 33 pupils. He noted that it was only one and three-fourths miles from Mt. Zion School and two miles from Bruce School. Mt. Zion had Miss Myrtle Mauney as teacher in a large two-story building, with lodge rooms on the second floor. Miss Mauney had a large enrollment of 61 students in 7 grades. Bethany School was also a two-story building with lodge hall overhead. Miss Mary McClure was teacher of six grades and 34 enrollment. Bruce School had Miss Flossie Cook as teacher with 24 students. She was meeting in “temporary” quarters because the school building had recently burned. Mt. Olivet School had J. M. Clements as teacher, with an enrolment of 47, but Mr. Duggan did not see the school in session as it was “temporarily closed.” By 1933, Union School was not listed but Mt. Zion had two teachers, J. G. Byers and Annie Colwell, with 80 enrolled. Bruce School was still operating in 1933 with Tennis Bruce as teacher and 39 pupils. Bethany had grown to an enrollment of 57 by 1933 with Florence Dyer as teacher. Miss Flossie Cook had moved to Mt. Olivet School as teacher and in 1933 she had 47 students.

Four schools came in his next grouping: Bethlehem with W. O. Kincaid as teacher and 55 students in 7 grades. It is the only school he noted as having a library with 150 volumes. Confidence School had R. L. Sullivan as teacher and 52 students in 7 grades. Camp Ground School was manned by S. H. Neal, had 50 students and 7 grades. Providence School had Garnett Brackett as teacher in a good church building, six grades and 38 enrolled. Bethlehem was still in full swing in 1933 with Miss Nellie McClure teaching 59 students. Confidence was not in the 1933 list. Camp Ground had Miss Mary McClure as teacher and 40 students in 1933 and Providence had 26 pupils under Miss Mary Lou McAfee’s tutelage.

Mr. Duggan was not able to inspect Young Cane, Bunker Hill and Center Hill Schools in 1916, noting that they were “temporarily closed.” Young Cane was going strong in 1933 with 88 students and three teachers, B. J. Wilson, Vinnie McDougald and Mrs. Tom Conley. Bunker Hill had 38 pupils in 1933 and Ruby Queen was teacher. Center Hill evidently had merged with a nearby school as it was not listed in 1933.

The Rugby School, named for the nearby Rugby Post Office, was founded about 1921 and was made up of the Timber Ridge (sometimes called Chigger Ridge) and Camp Ground Schools. Even though an article in Heritage of Union County History gives the founding date of Rugby as 1921 and its closing date as “between 1945-1950” when further consolidation occurred, both Timber Ridge (A. L. McClure, teacher, 29 pupils) and Camp Ground (Mary McClure, 40 pupils) were listed separately in the 1933 listing of schools.

Why did it take so long for the recommended consolidation to occur? One factor was poor transportation. The second was recovery from World War I, only to be met by the Great Depression and economic decline beginning in October, 1929. But lying at the heart of the question of consolidation was the independence of mountain citizens, community pride, and the desire to have a school at the center of their settlements. Ingrained ways are hard to change and we mountain people, even when it comes to education, operate on the side of conservatism.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 2, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.