Thursday, January 29, 2004

Blairsville Collegiate Institute

The Blairsville Collegiate Institute held a good record for providing education for youth of the mountain region from 1905 through 1930. Its twenty-five years of operation touched many lives for good and provided the impetus for many to pursue education beyond what the boarding school offered.

During the school year 1928 and 1929, my uncle, Dr. Norman Vester Dyer, served as president of Blairsville Collegiate Institute. In publicity and the collegiate catalog he released that year, he had a history of the school. From his historical sketch, I have compiled this account of the school.

About 1904 a preacher named Rev. Theodore Swanson traveled through Union County and stopped in Choestoe at the residence of Bluford Elisha (“Bud”) Dyer to spend the night. Their conversation soon turned to education. Rev. Swanson was a “college man,” and much interested in lifting the level of the schools that then operated as one-teacher entities for a few months of the year in many of the communities Rev. Swanson visited. New Liberty School within the shadow of Enotah Bald was one of these schools. Mr. Dyer and Rev. Swanson talked of what it would take to expand New Liberty and make it into a high school.

Rev. Swanson took charge of New Liberty School and he and Mr. Dyer conferred almost daily about their dreams for the school. Dyer said he could furnish the lumber for any buildings necessary to expand the school.

A meeting was held at Choestoe Baptist Church. One of the men present, Mitch Swain, offered twenty acres of land on which to build the consolidated school. Rev. Swanson made arrangements with another friend to move a sawmill onto the Dyer farm. Volunteers eagerly went into the woods and cut timber to be sawed into lumber. It seemed that the school would soon be a reality.

Then in 1905 the Notla River Baptist Association met. The question arose of denominational sponsorship of the proposed high school. After much deliberation, and after hearing the report of a committee that had studied the proposal, the motion that Blairsville, a more central location to the whole county than Choestoe, be selected as the site.

Twenty acres of land were donated in Blairsville for the school campus. Colonel W. E. Candler and Colonel M. L. Ledford were strong proponents of the school and gave of their time, means and energy to bring the school to fruition. A building containing classrooms and administrative office was the first to be erected “situated on an elevated plain overlooking the little town of Blairsville.” Some of the lumber sawed at the B. E. Dyer farm was transported to Blairsville and used in the first building.

Mr. J. T. Walker served as the first principal. It was called Notla River Baptist High School until Professor J. R. Lunsford was elected principal in 1910 and served through 1913. The class of 1912 was the first to graduate, with Florence Bowling, Sallie Rogers and Ethel Walker as first graduates. It was during Mr. J. R. Lunsford’s tenure that the Home Mission Board began to lend support and the name was changed to Blairsville Collegiate Institute.

With help from the Board and from Notla River Baptist Association, a three-story dormitory building was erected in 1911. Instead of having to find places to board in town, the dormitory made it possible for several of the students to live in that facility.

In 1911, A. E. Brown, superintendent of the Board, reported that Blairsville Collegiate Institute had two buildings, five teachers and 233 students. Subsequent annual reports from the Home Mission Board showed student enrollment of from 150 to over 200.

A 1916 report listed faculty as H. E. Nelson, Mrs. H. E. Nelson, Miss Addie Kate Reid, Miss June Candler, Miss Etta Colclough and Mrs. Maud Haralson. It was then the only high school in Union County and had an academic building, a dormitory with forty bedrooms, a parlor, offices and a library with 250 volumes. In addition, wells, barns, stables and outhouses comprised the campus complex. The school term was for eight months and 150 were enrolled. Water was dispensed from covered coolers with individual cups. “Patent desks” (not homemade) made up the classroom furnishings.

Also included in the 1916 report on education in Union County, credit is given to Miss Etta Colclough who seems to have taught home economics at Blairsville Collegiate Institute and also worked under the “State College of Agriculture” and the U. S. Department of Agriculture. “Under her direction and influence,” so the report states, “nearly 25,000 cans of tomatoes and other vegetables have been put up by the Girls’ Clubs and in their homes this year. This work has also served to quicken the interest in public education throughout the county and to influence it in a proper direction.” (From report of M. L. Duggan, Rural School Agent for Georgia, October 15, 1916).

Continuing in his Collegiate catalog of 1929, Dr. N. V. Dyer, president, wrote: “The curriculum is such as will prepare the boy and girl to enter the best colleges and universities of the south. The faculty consists of well-trained and experienced teachers who devote their full time and talents to their work.

“The buildings and equipment consist of a large main building and a dormitory. The dormitory is the most completely equipped and architecturally arranged of any of its kind in the state. Any boy or girl wishing to obtain an education at the least possible expense will make no mistake in attending Blairsville Institute.”

Many students enrolled over the twenty-five years of the school. They studied, they went out to other institutions and did well. Among those who graduated and made a name in education were Miss Addie Kate Reid and Miss Dora Hunter (Mrs. Dora Hunter Allison Spiva) each of whom taught at the Institute; Mr. Charles Roscoe Collins, teacher, administrator, historian; Dr. James M. Nicholson, who led in the transition from Blairsville Collegiate Institute to Union County High School when the facilities of the Institute were bought by the Union County Board of Education for $1,000 and the county high school began in the 1930 academic year.

Mountain schools, among which the Blairsville Collegiate Institute was a major one, had their distinctive place in the educational history of the area.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 29, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Rev. Elisha Hedden, Circuit-Riding Preacher- (Part 2)

Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr.
Juanita Caroline Butt Hedden

When Elisha Hedden, Jr. was twenty-four and his bride was seventeen, he married Juanita Caroline Butt, who was called “Neety.” The marriage took place on July 19, 1838. Neety was one of eleven children of John Butt, Sr. (1780-1843) and Sarah (Rider or Smithers?) Butt (1784-1855). Neety’s father had helped her grandfather operate a gold mine at Duke’s Creek in Habersham County on land lot 68. The Butts family moved across the mountain and settled in Union County, first on the Virge Waldroup place on Choestoe. Later acquiring more land, they moved farther north toward the county seat of Blairsville. Their home was at the foot of Wellborn Mountain alongside the Nottley River. Evidence exists that John Butt mined for gold on his farm. An entrance to an old mine shaft is not far from where their homeplace stood. Neety’s parents were buried near the old mineshaft on the Butt farm where their weathered tombstones may be viewed today.

Elisha Hedden, Jr. was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1839 at the Antioch Baptist Church in Habersham County, Georgia. His ordination was requested by a church in Rabun County, Persimmon Creek, where he was a member and where he had made known his call and separation to the ministry. At the time of the 1840 census, Elisha Hedden, Jr. and his young wife were living near her parents in Union County, Georgia. They lived in Union until 1851 when they moved to nearby Cherokee County, NC. Another move was made in 1860 when they returned to Georgia and settled near Hiawassee where they lived the rest of their lives.

Whether, in his crippled condition, he did any farm labor is not known. However, soon after his ordination, he began preaching at various churches in the mountain area. The fiery young preacher was often called upon to lead revivals and was a popular evangelist in the area summer camp meetings. Although the latter were mainly sponsored by the Methodist Episcopal Church South, the organizers of the camp meetings did not consider religious denomination a factor and sought to get the best preacher possible for the protracted (one, two or three week) meetings. Records show that Elisha Hedden, Jr. preached at the Fightingtown Camp Meeting in Fannin County, at the Choestoe Camp meeting, and at locations in Towns County and Cherokee County, North Carolina. Other devout preachers who helped in these summer revivals were the Rev. Alfred Corn and the Rev. Humphrey Posey.

So effective was Rev. Hedden as a preacher that he was appointed by the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board and the Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention to be a missionary in the mountains. His preaching influenced the conversion of George W. Truett and Fernando C. McConnell, first cousins, who became outstanding ministers of the twentieth century. He was faithful in his calling for over forty years and wielded a far-reaching influence for good as a church planter, a pastor, an evangelist and a missionary. He believed in cooperation among churches and led in the formation of Baptist Associations. He was Hiawassee Association’s first messenger to the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1853.

While her husband was on his preaching circuit, Juanita Caroline Butt Hedden was a stay-at-home mother. They had ten children:

Jeffrey Allen (1839-1883) married Cynthia Adeline Gray. He was in the Confederate Army. He lost his life in and accident at his sawmill in Ellijay, GA.

John B. (1841-?) married Millie Leatherwood.

Sophronia J. (1841-?) married a Logan. They lived at Hayesville, NC.

Samantha Adeline (1846-?) married Rev. John Tyler Platt. They lived in Clay County, NC.

William Worth called “Bud” (1848-1944) married Nancy M. Sutton. He was a merchant in Hiawassee.

Sarah (1850-1935) married William Taylor Parker. They lived in Maysville, GA.

Armeda (1852-?) married Meed Curley. They moved to Grand Junction, CO.

Martha C. (1856-1912) married Rev. Howell Cobb Standridge. They were last in Clermont, GA where both are buried.

Elisha Dean (1858-1940) married Ireland Ann Texas Ledford. He was buried in Alabama.

Warne K. (1861-1941) married (1) Texie Anna Ledford and (2) Violet Virginia Hooper. This family lived in Towns County.

In addition to his preaching, the Rev. Hedden was also active in community affairs and politics. In 1847 he was elected from Union County to the Georgia House of Representatives. He became an organizer and charter member of the Allegheny Lodge #114 of Free and Accepted Masons of Union County, formed in 1849. He was also a charter and founding member of the Unicoi Lodge # 259 in Hiawassee in 1890. He served as Ordinary (now called Commissioner) of Towns County from 1875-1877.

His beloved wife Juanita Caroline Butt Hedden (b. Sept. 21, 1821) died January 21, 1896 in Hiawassee, Georgia. She was buried in the Osborn Cemetery there. Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr. (b. Feb. 2, 1814) died August 23, 1900 at age 86. The Rev. Alfred Corn who was then quite elderly himself, gave the eulogy, assisted by the Revs. Frank Lloyd and J. J. Kimsey.

The epigraph of William Wadsworth Longfellow in his “Psalm of Life” certainly holds true for the Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr: “Lives of great men all remind us/We can make our lives sublime;/ And departing leave behind us/Footprints on the sands of time.”

[Sources for the “Life and Times of the Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr.:
Hearthstones of Home: Foundations of Towns County, Georgia, Volume I, 1983. Pp. 106-108.

The Heritage of Union County, Georgia, 1832-1994.” 1994. P. 91.

Cemetery Records of Union County. 1990. P. 193.

“Reverend Humphrey Posey,” from The Fairview (NC) Town Crier, Nov. 1999.

Skinner, Winston, “Rev. Humphrey Posey,” in Viewpoints, Vol. 10, 1986, published by the Georgia Baptist Convention Historical Commission.

Various church and associational records, Fannin, Union and Towns Counties.]

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 22, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The Life and Times of a Circuit-Riding Preacher: The Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr. (Part 1)

It has been said of the Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr. (2/2/1814-8/23/1900), mountain preacher of the nineteenth century, that “few, if any, men have done more to extend the influence of the Gospel in North Georgia or have been the means of leading greater numbers to the Cross.” [in Hearthstones of Home, p. 107].

So far as opportunities went, his were accepted under the most stringent of circumstances and with a great deal of personal duress. He was a cripple and used a crutch to get about. What caused this disability is unknown to this writer.

He was born in Spartanburg County, SC on February 2, 1814. Only six years after his birth, in 1820, his father, died. His mother was the former Elizabeth Pinson, the second wife of Elisha Hedden, Sr. They had eight children. Seven had been born to his first wife. Elisha, Jr. was next to the youngest of his full siblings who were, in order of birth: George, Joel, Garet, Mariah, Cate, Doshe, Elisha, Jr., and Jeffrey.

Elisha Hedden, Sr. had served for seven years in the Revolutionary War, and was wounded several times. He received land grants for his service and settled on the Tyger River in Spartanburg, County, SC where he engaged in farming. His will was tied up in legal complications for 19 years after his death, and was never settled satisfactorily. Perhaps that is why, when his widow Elizabeth married again on October 19, 1821 to William Visage, she had him draw up a legal bond in Pendleton District, SC which assured that $1,000 be set aside for her two minor children and that he “shall carefully and handsomely bring up Elisha Headin, seven years old next February, and Jeffrey Headin, five years old, during their minority and nonage with necessary meat, drink, washing, lodging, apparel, and learning, according to their degree, and the said William Visage shall during the time be guardian and tutor unto the said Elisha and Jeffrey Headin...Defend them from hurt of body, loss of goods and lands, so far as in his power lieth.” [Hearthstones..., p. 106]. The legal bond further stipulated that the two Hedden boys duly receive whatever property was due them when they should come of age.

That legal action on the part of their mother with her new husband, William Visage, apparently was honored. The Visage/Hedden family moved to Rabun County, Georgia in 1823, as did Elizabeth Visage’s parents, Joseph and Margery Pinson. There the daughter, Mariah, married Joseph Eller. Ten years later they moved over the mountain to the Upper Hightower section of Old Union County in the area that became Towns County in 1856. There Elisha Hedden, Jr.’s step-father opened the Visage post office and became its postmaster. The boys received their early education in country schools in these North Georgia locations.

While they were still young lads, Elisha, Jr. and Jeffrey Hedden came in contact with a noted minister and missionary to the Cherokee Indians, the Rev. Humphrey Posey. It is possible that they heard him preach before they moved out of South Carolina, for he taught school and started churches there. Appointed by the Home Mission Board to minister to the Indians at Valley Town in the Murphy, NC area, Rev. Posey had begun a mission school for Indians there that lasted until the Removal on the Trail of Tears. Rev. Posey went on preaching tours into Georgia, western North Carolina, and South Carolina. He was instrumental in starting many Baptist churches in the area. He also was active in promoting the Mercer Institute (now Mercer University) organized in Penfield, Georgia in 1833. When the Rev. Posey spoke, people took notice. Colonel A. T. Davidson, writing of him, stated: “He was a man greatly endowed by nature to be a leader, of great physical force, singularly marked with a fine profile, a fine voice and manner, singularly simple and eloquent.” [quoted in Whitaker, Bruce, “Reverend Humphrey Posey” in the Fairview, NC Town Crier.]

Elisha, Jr., in his future preaching career, would emulate in his own sermon delivery style the bold characteristics of the Rev. Humphrey Posey.

Keeping his pre-marital contract to give the Hedden boys “the best education possible,” William Visage and their mother, Elizabeth Pinson Hedden Visage, sent Elisha, Jr. and Jeffery Hedden to middle Georgia to begin their advanced educational studies at Mercer Manual Labor School at Penfield. Unfortunately, Jeffrey, who was born in 1816, died while a student at Penfield in the spring of 1838. Elisha, Jr. finished his course of study there and was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1839.

[Next: Continuing the life and work of the Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr.]

(Sources: Information for this article was derived from these sources: Hearthstones of Home: Foundations of Towns County, Georgia, Volume I, 1983. Pp. 106-108. The Fairview Town Crier, Fairview, NC, “Reverend Humphrey Posey,” Nov. 99. church and associational documents of Union, Towns and Fannin Counties, Georgia, and Viewpoints, a publication of the Georgia Baptist Historical Commission.]

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 15, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Federal Investigator Frank Loransey Souther

Frank Loransey Souther
(04/30/1881 - 07/13/1937)
U. S. Marshall - 1920-1937

The career Frank Loransey Souther chose was fraught with danger and he eventually lost his life in the line of duty. Maybe he thought, “Somebody has to do this; why not I?” He no doubt was propelled by a sense of duty to stop some of the illicit manufacture and trade of alcohol in the mountain counties of Georgia and thereby prevent some of the suffering alcoholism brought to innocent victims.

He was an investigator from 1920 until his death in 1937 for the U. S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tax Unit. The common name mountaineers used for Ransey Souther’s job was “Revenue Officer,” and his aim was to find moonshine stills and bring their owners to justice.

Born April 30, 1881 and reared in the Choestoe District of Union County, Frank Loransey Souther was the first child of seven born to William Albert Souther (1856-1945) and Elizabeth Dyer Souther (1859-1902). Soon this son’s name was shortened to Ransey. The family lived in the Town Creek section of Choestoe District. The highest mountain in Georgia, Brasstown Bald, towered in the distance above the “Bill Albert” Souther family farm where Ransey grew up. As a lad, he would have learned of the moonshine stills hidden away in coves and hollows beside mountain creeks. He could have seen the smoke rising slowly from a hidden still as the moonshiners plied their trade. But a sad impression grew as he saw the devastation that over-use of the moonshine could bring to families as men became addicted to its use and women and children suffered abuse.

On December 15, 1904, Frank Loransey Souther married Nancy Elizabeth Johnson (1886-1969). To them were born three children. Ethel Lee Souther (1907-1998) married John Prescott Davenport (1901-1949); Evia Mae Souther (1911-1997) married Charles Swinfield Jenkins (1904-1993); and Rudolph Souther who lived only from October 15, 1915 to January 16, 1916.

Frank Loransey Souther, US Marshall, is pictured front center beside a copper moonshine still he took as evidence in a case against "moonshiners." To his right is Jake Burton Kelly, a deputy marshall, and seated at the wheel of the car is Grayson Souther, brother to Frank Loransey Souther. The other men in the picture are unidentified. Frank Loransey Souther was a revenue officer from 1920 until his death in 1937.

Frank Loransey Souther began his work with the U. S. Treasury’s Department Alcohol and Tax Unit on December 20, 1920. Before he took the job, he knew that he might have to report some neighbors or even kin who plied their trade deep within the ivy hollows of the north Georgia mountains. He soon gained the reputation of being a “fearless, fair and square lawman,” Well known over the counties assigned to him, he had an easy, friendly way with people and soon gained their confidence. It was said that he never carried a gun on his raids of a moonshine still. Strong and agile, he depended on his physical prowess to out-run and catch the distiller as he tried to escape through the mountains. Had he kept a journal or if the records of his “finds” and “break-ups” could be added to this story, it would give insight into his seventeen years as a respected lawman. He met his death in the line of duty on July 13, 1937. His wife, daughters, their families, his father William Albert and scores of relatives and friends were left to mourn his passing.

A resolution by the Federal Grand Jury in Atlanta on August 23, 1937, Honorable Marvin Underwood, Judge, was passed and a copy sent to the family. The statement shows the regard in which Mr. Souther was held:

“We have learned of the passing of Mr. F. L. Souther, investigator of the Tax Alcohol Unit.

“Whereas: By his great courage, his clear wisdom and his remarkable patience and unusual thoroughness, he established a fine reputation among his fellow officers and was held in high esteem by the citizens of Union and surrounding counties. Those whom he arrested respected him and placed implicit confidence in his statements to them concerning their guilt or innocence.

“He died in the line of duty.

“Therefore, be it resolved, that the deepest sympathy of every member of the Federal Grand Jury be extended to his family.”

The document was signed by George West, Foreman, Benjamin S. Barker, Secretary, and eighteen members of the Federal Grand Jury.

Another letter of significance was from R. E. Tuttle of the U. S. Treasury Department, addressed to the Honorable Tom Candler, U. S. Commissioner at Blairsville, (later judge) dated July 14, 1937 and shared with the family. This letter is reproduced on page 56 of The Heritage of Union County, 1832-1994. Those with the county history book may read the letter in its entirety there. I quote from the letter:

“The nemesis of the moonshiner and a friend of all law-abiding people who knew him, he cannot be replaced in the territory which he served. The hills and valleys of White, Rabun and Habersham will see his coming no more and be the sadder for his absence. His feet have trod every path known to the human habitants of that section. He had explored every branch from mouth to source until he knew his bearings in the night time as well as in the day - could sense the location of a moonshine still with greater ease than any officer I ever saw in action.”

The letter also noted: “Souther derived his greatest pleasure in the performance of his duty and did not relinquish the pursuit of that duty as long as his body held out. I know, of my personal knowledge, that for the last year of his service his fast-weakening body was driven and motivated by an untiring and unrelenting spirit.”

Frank Loransey Souther was buried at Old Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery, Town Creek, in the community he called home during his earthly life. His beloved wife, Nancy Elizabeth, better known as “Doan”, lived for thirty-two more years after Ransey’s death. She died June 4, 1969 and was interred beside her husband. Descendants of this couple are still making their distinctive contributions as solid, contributing citizens, “motivated by an untiring and unrelenting spirit” as was their ancestor, Frank Loransey Souther.

The life and times of Ransey Souther who died at age 56 were challenging. He bravely did his part to implement law and order and bring justice to those whose way of life infringed upon the laws of the land.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 8, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, January 1, 2004

The Wright Brothers Craft Came After Clark Dyer's Flying Machine

On December 17, 2003, America stood poised to see a reproduction of the Wright Brothers’ flying machine lift from Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It was in commemoration of one hundred years of flight, 1903-2003. The replica, however, with all the attention to details, did not fly as well as the Wright Brothers’ plane, and the 100 year celebration hit an unexpected snag.

One Micajah Clark Dyer, an inventor who lived and worked in the Choestoe District of Union County, made a flying machine that pre-dated that of the Wright brothers by fifteen years or more. The reason we do not hear more about this amazing feat of a mountain genius is that he did not secure a patent for his machine and he died before he could perfect it and get the publicity necessary for making his invention a part of flight history.

Micajah Clark Dyer was born in South Carolina on July 23, 1822. His mother was Sallie Dyer (b. about 1804 in SC), eldest daughter of Elisha Dyer, Jr. (b. about 1785, d. 1847) and Elizabeth Clark Dyer (b. about 1783, d. 1861). When Sallie Dyer was about eighteen, she gave birth to Micajah Clark Dyer out of wedlock. It has been a matter of family legend that the baby’s father was one John Meyers, but he did not ever marry Sallie nor claim his son. The baby, Micajah Clark Dyer, was named after Sallie’s grandfather, Micajah Clark, her mother Elizabeth’s father. Elisha, Jr. and Elizabeth Clark Dyer raised Sallie’s son as their own. They did, however, confuse the record a bit, because they had already named their eighth child, a son, born in 1817, Micajah Clark Dyer. Some have surmised that the inventor Micajah Clark Dyer’s father, John Meyers, must have been very mechanical-minded, because Micajah Clark early on showed propensities toward inventiveness.

The 1822 Micajah Clark Dyer moved to Union County, Georgia with his Grandfather Elisha Dyer, Jr.’s large family and they settled in the Cane Creek section of Choestoe District. The family was in Union County when the first county census was made in 1834, two years after the county’s founding.

Micajah Clark’s mother, Sallie, married Eli Townsend and they had a family. However, it is believed that Macajah Clark continued to live in the household of his grandfather Elisha Dyer, Jr. and did not grow up with his half-siblings which included Andrew, Elisha, Thomas, Polly Ann, William and Sarah Elizabeth Townsend.

Micajah Clark Dyer was introspective by nature. His education in the one-room teacher school for a few months of each year was supplemented by his own innate ability to “figure out” things for himself. On July 23, 1842, when he was twenty, he married Morena Elizabeth Ownbey (1819-1892). To them were born nine children: Jasper Washington Dyer (1843-1913 who married Emaline E. Lance); (Rev.) John M. Dyer (1847-? who married Elizabeth Ann Sullivan); Andrew Henderson Dyer (1848-1903 who married Adeline Sullivan); Marcus Lafayette Dyer (1850-1921 who married Clarissa Wimpey); Cynthia C. Dyer (1852-1917) who married John P. Smith); Mancil Pruitt Dyer (1854-1916 who married [1] Rebecca Jarrard and [2] Margaret M. Twiggs); Robert F. Dyer (1856-? who married Elizabeth Fortenberry); Morena Elizabeth Dyer (1859-1903 who married James A. Wimpey); and Johnson B. Dyer (1861-1885 who married Mary Hunter. Many descendants of Micajah Clark and Morena Ownbey Dyer still reside in Union County, Georgia.

Morena Dyer had the convenience of running water in their home at Choestoe, as Clark devised his own water system consisting of hollowed-out logs run from the bold spring on the mountain to their house. When he was not busy with cultivating the land on his farm and tilling the crops necessary to the economy of his large family, Clark Dyer labored in his workshop.

There, he experimented with a flying machine made of lightweight cured river canes and covered with cloth. Drawings on the flyleaves of the family Bible, now in the possession of one of Clark’s great, great grandsons, show how he thought out the engineering technicalities of motion and counter-motion by a series of rotational whirli-gigs. He built a ramp on the side of the mountain and succeeded in getting his flying machine airborne for a short time.

Evidently, to hide his contraption from curious eyes and to keep his invention a secret from those who would think him strange and wasting time from necessary farm work, Clark Dyer kept his machine stored behind lock and key in his barn. Those who would not ridicule the inventor were allowed to see the fabulous machine. Among them were several who bore testimony to seeing the plane; namely his grandson, Johnny Wimpey, son of Morena Dyer and James A. Wimpey; Herschel A. Dyer, son of Bluford Elisha and Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer; and James Washington Lance, son of the Rev. John H. and Caroline Turner Lance.

Just when the fabulous trial flights (more than one) occurred on the mountainside in Choestoe is uncertain, but it certainly happened before Clark Dyer’s untimely death on January 26, 1891 when he was 68 years of age. Prior to his death, he had invented a “perpetual motion” machine. Mr. Virgil Waldroup, a justice of the peace and merchant in the area, had helped Clark Dyer to “send off” to Washington for a patent on his inventions, but these were not forthcoming before Dyer’s death. It is also a part of family tradition that his son, Mancil Pruitt Dyer, turned down an offer of $30,000 for the patent purchase of the perpetual motion machine, evidently thinking that if he held out for more money he could receive it. And still another family story holds that Clark’s widow, Morena Ownbey Dyer, sold the flying machine and its design to the Redwine Brothers of Atlanta, who, in turn, sold the ideas to the Wright Brothers of North Carolina.

The facts of the fabulous flying machine of Choestoe are lost in Mountain Mists and family legends. But it is a known fact that one inventor named Micajah Clark Dyer watched the birds fly and asked, “Why not man?” and proceeded to act on his dream to invent a machine that would defy gravity. It actually got off the ground in the late 1880's. Pine Top around 1890 might have been the Kitty Hawk of 1903 had times and circumstances been more conducive.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 1, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.