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.