Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas at poet Byron Herbert Reece’s house

Byron Herbert Reece composed several poems about Christmas. I have taken writer’s license in this story to imagine how he might have written the poems during a week of snow leading up to Christmas as World War II raged in 1942. He still had regrets that he was rejected for service at his physical examination because of a nervous tic in his face. Having lived in the same community as Poet Reece, growing up on a neighboring farm near his family, knowing how we all lived during the wintertime, and having heard him speak as a lay preacher at Salem Church, it was not hard for me to imagine this story:

It was a week before Christmas. Hub Reece, as his family, friends and neighbors knew him, went on his regular rounds feeding and caring for the farm animals, milking the cows and making sure all the animals were comfortable in the barn alongside Wolf Creek.

Returning to the house that cold winter morning, he noted how the clouds formed over nearby Blood Mountain. Snow is in store, he thought, and soon Choestoe Valley and these mountains will be a fantasy-land of white. Already, ice crystals were forming along the edge of Wolf Creek as the water flowed over time-worn stones. He heard the melody made by water on rocks, its rhythms beating out iambic lines that played on the chords of his imagination.

The odor of bacon, eggs and hot biscuits met him as he opened the kitchen door. His mother, Emma Lance Reece, took the pail of milk. Hub quickly washed up and the family sat down to a hearty early morning meal. Hub and his father Juan discussed the weather, both noting the signs of impending snow.

“I’ve shored up the animals,” Hub told Juan. “And there’s enough wood on the front porch for both the fireplace and the kitchen stove to get us through several weeks of bad weather.”

“And enough food in the cellar and preserved, even for Christmas,” said Emma. We can use the cured ham for our Christmas dinner, and I will make a stack cake from the dried apples.”

“Don’t forget the peanut brittle and the candy canes we enjoy making from sorghum syrup,” said Eva Mae, Hub’s sister, a teacher at Pine Top School. “I’ll make these Christmas treats,” she said.

With all the crops gathered in and the animals sheltered in their stalls, Hub Reece had a luxury on his hands seldom known to this farmer-poet. Time. Time to write poems that edged his imagination as poignantly as if the Muse were there in person dictating what he should write. “Excuse me,” Hub said. “feel strangely moved on this cold day to go up to my attic room and write. I will sit by the chimney where I will be warm from the fireplace below.”

“Hub,” his mother addressed him. “What about Christmas at church” You know if a big snow comes, our pastor may not be able to travel the roads from Blairsville to Salem Church for the Christmas service. Since you’ve been made a lay preacher, you may have to substitute. Do you have something in mind, if this happens?”

“Mother, you’re always thinking up ways for me to preach!” Hub teased Emma.

“Don’t worry, Mother. We’ll have Christmas at Salem Church one way or the other.”

Comfortably settled in his attic room, Hub began thinking about Christmas and its deep meaning. How could he get its truths into simple and meaningful lyrics? Taking his pad and pencil in hand, he began to write: “When I think of Christmas time/It’s not of candlestick nor chime, It’s not of bells nor mistletoe/ It’s of a Babe born long ago.” The lines almost wrote themselves, coming in steady cadence until ten stanzas were on the page. He read what he had written. How could he improve its message, rhythm, rhyme? The poem covered Christ’s life from birth to death in a simple but profound poem. The last stanza was a plea for the present age to keep Christmas with reverence and honor: “Therefore let My Birthday be/A time of joyful jubilee/With the Host hosannas sing;/I am born anew to be thy King/On Christmas day,/On Christmas day,/On Christmas day in the morning.” [When I Think of Christmas Time was later published in A Song of Joy and Other Poems, p. 112-113].

He was in an extremely creative mood. He thought of the newborn lambs in their own barn. His mother wanted them to raise a few sheep so she could process the wool and use it to knit socks, sweaters and scarves for the family. He wrote: “Since Christ was a lamb O/A lamb O,/A lamb O, Since Christ was a lamb O,/Blessed are the sheep.”

The four stanzas pictured Christ as a baby lamb, a child, a man, the Savior. When he read his penciled lines, he felt a sense of accomplishment. Could he sing this poem if the occasion arose? Maybe so. [Since Christ Was a Lamb O was published in Songs of Joy and Other Poems, p. 114-115.]

Just as quickly, Hub penned five more Christmas poems: As Mary Was Awalking, The Gifting, In Palestine, It Fell Upon a Winter’s Morn, and The Little Blind Boy of Bethlehem. The words flowed in story-poems of the Advent, giving aspects of the nearly unfathomable truths of Emmanuel, God-with-us. [These poems were published in The Season of Flesh, p. 59-65.]

“Byron Herbert Reece!” he heard from below. When his mother used his full name, she meant that he listen and heed. “Your dinner is ready. Come down and eat it before it gets cold.” Dinner for the Reece family, as for most country families, was the noon meal. He took his journal with him and over the hot meal shared what he had written that morning.

While Hub had been writing away the morning in his attic room, snow had come slowly. The mowed hayfield was a white expanse of beauty alongside Wolf Creek and the trees had been turned into a winter wonderland of Christmas loveliness. Eva Mae had dismissed school early at Pine Top School, urging her students (all who walked to school) to hurry home before the snow got too deep. She had made it home safely in her old car before the roads got too filled with snow.

On Christmas Eve Hub hitched the mules to the family wagon. It would be a better vehicle than Eva Mae’s car to take them the two miles to Salem Church. Emma had prepared bags containing gingerbread men she had made, using sorghum syrup for sweetening instead of rationed sugar. She had also put into each bag an apple preserved from their fall harvest and stored in their apple barrel for Christmas enjoyment. These would be little gifts for the community children who came to the Christmas Eve service. Eva Mae loaded the small Christmas tree she had used at Pine Top School, already decorated with strings of popcorn and ornaments made by the children.

As the mules drew the wagon on toward Salem Church, the lines of one of his poems pounded at the edge of Reece’s mind and he quoted it almost in rhythm to the wagon wheels on the snow: “When the land is white with snow.../And always the wind comes on to blow.../Turn to peace, remembering/That the twice divided year/Is quartered toward the spring. [Published in The Season of Flesh, p. 56.]

Surely enough, as Emma had predicted, the roads were too bad for the pastor to travel from Blairsville to Salem. Soon Juan had a good fire going in the potbellied stove that heated the white-frame church building. Eva Lou placed the tree on a table near the altar, and Emma’s goodie bags were arranged underneath the tree. People began arriving, stamping the snow from their shoes on the steps leading up to the church house door. Hub Reece read the Christmas account from Matthew and Luke. And as his own offering to the Christ Child, he read the poems he had composed the week before as he took out time from his farm chores made possible by the inclement weather. He made up a tune to Since Christ Was a Lamb O and sang it. That was followed by congregational singing of Away in the Manger, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Angels from the Realms of Glory, the words and tunes familiar to all.

After the gifts were distributed and a prayer for the blessings of Christmas led by the lay preacher, Byron Herbert Reece, the congregation was dismissed. Some lingered to talk about the war, the weather, how they had been blessed with good crops that year.

Juan and Hub banked the fire and closed up the stove. Eva Mae took her Christmas tree, and they quickly looked about to make sure the church house was neat before closing the door.

On the way back to the Reece home on Wolf Creek, Emma and Juan were filled with parental pride that their son could speak so boldly and beautifully about Christmas and write poems that gave added insight to its meaning. Eva Mae was awed at her brother’s ability with words.

Hub Reece had his own thoughts. Why was he blessed with the gift of words?

Coming from some deep well of inspiration and understanding, he was composing in his mind another poem, one that declared his life’s ambition. He would write the words down as soon as he was warm in his attic room at home: “Unto a speechless kingdom I/Have pledged my tongue,/I have given my word/To make the centuries-silent sky/As vocal as a bird.../And I being pledged to fashion speech/For all the speechless joy to find/The wonderful words that each to each/They utter in my mind.” [The Speechless Kingdom, published in Bow Down in Jericho, p. 114]

[Note from author: Thank you, Sentinel readers, for following my column throughout 2005. I have brought each article to you with joy and thanksgiving. God bless you and yours at Christmas. —Ethelene Dyer Jones]

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published December 22, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Time to be Counted Among Those Keeping Christmas

I feel a holy indignation toward those who are trying to take Christ out of Christmas. A subtle movement is under way in America to be “politically correct” about our most revered time of year. Dark and daunting, this action by a minority would seek to rob us of the meaning of Christmas.

It is not the possible loss of our wonderful traditions that angers me most. It is the apathetic way we Christians stand aside and allow the season to be just that, “A Season of Happy Holidays.” And when a minority dictates what will offend and what is acceptable, we generally keep quiet. I, for one, want my voice to be heard.

Do we have the fortitude to boycott stores that refuse to put “Christmas” in any of their advertisements or in their decorations? Those who refuse any reference to the birth of Christ as the reason for the season? Those that have prohibited the Salvation Army personnel to stand outside stores with the familiar kettle and bell asking for donations for people in need? Are we willing to be counted among those who care about Christmas and send letters of protest to stores that make huge profits from the season but are unwilling to admit what the season means and why we celebrate it? Why we buy gifts in the first place?

If you detect a sense of being “fed up” flowing through these lines, that’s exactly what I am—fed up with those who are in the minority yet are getting their way about our important age-old customs that speak of our faith. I’ve been active in sending messages of protest. According to Agape Press and the American Family Association, our voices are being heard. Big merchandisers are taking another view of Christmas and promise that, even though it is too late this year, next year will be different in their advertisements and approach to Christmas.

Many “pro” and “con” arguments are being aired about Christmas. To list a few let us look first at the date, December 25.

It is true that we don’t know the exact date of the birth of Jesus. December 25 is an “assigned” date, taken at the time of the Roman saturnalia which already existed and was pagan in nature. In my thinking, the date is not a matter of argument. The Bible tells us that “in the fullness of time” God became flesh and dwelt among men.

Another argument is that there wasn’t even an inn in Bethlehem, so how could there be “no room in the inn” for the Holy Family? For those doubters, scholars tell us that inns for wayfarers date back as far as the Exodus, Joshua, Jeremiah and Isaiah. Public inns existed throughout the Greek and Roman Empires. The wayside inns had water available for travelers, a walled-in space for protection, rooms for rent and a keep for animals. For those who argue that Bethlehem was too small to have an inn, the stopping place might have been a private dwelling with rooms to rent. The inn-keeper helped the Holy Family find room among the animals. His was a hospitality house much like Jesus referred to later in his parable of the Good Samaritan.

Agnostics argue that the information in Luke about a census is wrong and does not match Roman history of the period. Herod the Great died in AD 4 and Cyrenius was Governor of Syria in AD 6-9. How can there be truth in such a disparity in time?

Scholars place the birth of Jesus at 6 B. C., not AD 1 as we so often assume. Considered in this light, Jesus was born during the time when Herod ruled. Records show that Cyrenius functioned as military governor in Syria synonymously with the political governor, Sentius Saturnius. The reference of the census in Luke is of a general census of the Roman world for both taxation and military conscription. Gamaliel, the Jewish historian, stated that Judas of Galilee rose up in rebellion “in the days of the census.” We must remember that our calendar has undergone many changes from the pivotal point in time when Christ’s birth began to mark Anno Domini—“in the year of our Lord.” But there is history to confirm a census at the time of Jesus’ birth.

It takes faith to overlook the arguments of the naysayers against Christmas.

As we walk through the malls and drive through our towns during days leading up to Christmas, 2006, we will find changes from the familiar. In many places nativity scenes are banned because such a display might “offend.” The Christmas tree is called a “holiday” tree. The word Christmas is absent from advertising. Christmas carols are muted or the words have been changed so as not to mention the Holy Family. Imagine singing these words to the melody of “Silent Night,” that beloved carol made famous by Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr. The new words go: “Cold in the night, no one in sight, winter winds whirl and bite, how I wish I were happy and warm, safe with my family out of the storm.” The pessimism of these new words holds no candle to the promise of the original words of “Silent Night.”

I have a very strong conviction that the majority of Americans still want Christmas in its truest sense as the apex of this “holiday season”. Why then do we stand idly by and let the minority water down, steal, and seek to hide the very meaning of Christmas?

I, for one, am ready to stand up and be counted for Christmas which I love and cherish. Keeping Christmas holy and full of its intended meaning is both a heart-acceptance and a mind-acceptance, something to hold in deep faith. I hope readers will seriously consider and join me in a “holy” Christmas, the time when God came to earth, Emmanuel, God with us. This news is transcendent and to persons among whom there is good will, it is held in highest reverence.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 15, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

The Christmas Truce of 1914

On Christmas Day soccer games were organized and enemy soldiers laughed and sported as they engaged in the games. I heard the story of how enemies during the Great War, which we call World War I, the “war to end all wars,” had a truce on Christmas Day, 1914.

It had been five months since the war began in Europe. British, French, Belgian and Russian forces were allied in defensive warfare against Germany. In the “no man’s land” that delineated the eastern and western fronts, signs in broken English began appearing along the German lines on Christmas Eve, 1914, with the message, “You no fight, we no fight.”

Were the signs a ruse to ensnare the allies in yet another German trap? The weather was cold. In the trenches both allied soldiers and the German troops experienced all the dread of war. Christmas season seemed to maximize their loneliness, deprivation, separation from families, the bitter cold and discomfort of a severe winter, the fear of war with its mortar shells, and, even worse, face-to-face confrontation with the enemy bringing mortal wounds at any time with bayonet or gunfire. Add to that the monotony of field rations as visions of sugarplums and the Christmas feasts they had enjoyed back home came to mind again and again.

“You no fight, we no fight!”? Daresome, indeed. Had the allied forces the courage to venture forth to see if the Germans actually meant to declare a truce or if it was a dirty war trick to get the allied forces into a position for good aim.

Some from warring factions met, bayonets at rest. They shook hands, and shared gifts they had received in care packages from home, miraculously delivered by Christmas Eve.

Throughout the German battlefield, the strains of “Silent Night” sounded with lyrics in the language of the soldiers. The tune was familiar, having been used throughout most of the churches in Europe since Franz Gruber composed the music in 1818 set to words by Father Joseph Mohr written two years earlier. The lovely and simple carol had become a favorite at Christmastime.

In language native to soldiers on every side, the words were raised to the stars that twinkled in the cold December sky as the chorus of the music echoed along the trenches. It was a “Stille Nacht,” a night of wonder when enemies celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace. Guns were silent. The men slept more peacefully in their trenches that Christmas Eve night, drawing their field blankets about them in an effort to find some creature comfort from the biting cold.

On Christmas Day soccer games were organized and enemy soldiers laughed and sported as they engaged in the games.

Officers on both sides could hardly contain their consternation. They had not ordered cessation of hostilities. The soldiers had managed it on their own. One French general, still suspecting the move to be a trap set by the Germans, ordered explosives laid just in case it was a trick. Another fear of the allied officers was that such action on the part of enemy troops would damper plans to defeat the enemy. After all, what soldiers would want to fight and kill those with whom they had enjoyed Christmas?

After that unique Christmas truce in 1914, hostilities continued for almost four years with America joining the Allied Forces on April 6, 1917. It was not until November 11, 1918 that Armistice was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

A historical commentator has written of that Great War, “the war to end all wars”:

“It was more than a war between nations. It was a war between what was and what was to be. The ‘old world’ was dying, and the new world had yet to be born. People of all classes and nations saw it as a great cleansing fire that would accelerate this battle and lead to a better world. But, when it was over, more than men had died in the mud of the battlefields. The naive dream of progress, along with the innocence of the pre-war world, faith in God, and hope in the future all died in the trenches of Europe.” (from ww1). This was indeed, a pessimistic view of the results of the Great War. Faith did not die, nor did hope.
During a time of truce on a German battlefield at Christmas time, 1914, the strains of “Silent Night” lifted through the cold of wintertime to become a sacred moment of shared beliefs and mutual yearnings for peace on earth among men of good will.

[Note: The news of this event was published on January 9, 1915 in The Illustrated London News under the headline “Saxons and Anglo-Saxons Fraternize on Battlefield.” The article had pictures of smiling soldiers from both sides engaged in greetings and friendly games.]

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 8, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

December Comes: Take a Look at Some Presidents With December Birthdays

The poet A. E. Houseman penned the sentiments I feel when I realize how rapidly December descends upon us and how near Time hovers at the end of 2005.
The night is freezing fast.
Tomorrow comes December;
And winterfalls of old
Are with me from the past.” (-A. E. Housman, 1859-1936)

This name of the last month of our calendar year actually gets its name from the Latin word “decem” which means tenth. Like November, October, and September, the three preceding months, December is misnamed for the Latin words meaning numbers tenth, ninth, eighth and seventh, because these months held these positions in the Roman calendar until the two months of January and February were added in the seventh century B.C. under Roman Emperor Numa Pompilius. Emperor Julius Ceasar revised the Roman calendar again in 46 B.C. His calendar had 365 and 1/4 days and was known as the Julian Calendar until Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 ordered the system we know now as “leap year” with an extra day coming every four years in the second month, February. We live and work, therefore, according to the Gregorian calender, and rarely do we consider the old meaning of the word “December” as deriving from the Latin word meaning tenth.

One of my favorite columns in the daily newspaper to which I subscribe is “Today in History.” If your newspaper carries this syndicated column, perhaps you, as I, delight in seeing the list of important events and births that happened in December. As Poet Housman wrote,

“And winterfalls of old/Are with me from the past.”
With December dawning the day this issue of Sentinel is published, let’s look at a few significant dates in Decembers past.

Fifty years ago, on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks a black seamstress in Montgomery, Ala., refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. Her stance has been noted as one of the significant events of the Civil Rights Movement that spurred bus boycotts, marches and voting privileges for her race. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. She died October 24, 2005. Born Rosa Louise McCauley, she lived in fear as a child, heard the Klu Klux Klan ride and demonstrate in her neighborhood in Pine Level, Alabama, saw them burn houses and perform lynchings. She was the first woman in America who was chosen for the honor of lying in state in the rotunda of the nation’s capitol at her death, an honor usually reserved for presidents.

Three United States Presidents thus far had December birthdays. Martin Van Buren was born December 5, 1782 in Kinderhook, N.Y. The eighth president of our country, he was the first chief executive to be born an American citizen after the United States became an independent nation. His term of service was from March 4, 1837 through March 3, 1841. Van Buren died in his hometown of Kinderhook on July 24, 1862.

The seventeenth president of the United States, Andrew Johnson, was born December 29, 1808 in Raleigh, N.C. He had a rugged childhood. His father, a handyman at a tavern, died when Andrew was 3. His mother had to take in washing to care for her children. Andrew did not go to school as a child, and was apprenticed early to a tailor where he learned the trade and also how to read. At age 16 he left Raleigh and went to Greenville, Tenn., and set up his own tailor’s shop. At 18, he married 16-year-old Eliza McCardle. She was much better educated than Andrew, and taught him how to write and to read better. He began to walk to a school that would let him participate in student debates. His quick mind, booming voice, and familiarity with current events on which the teams debated made him a champion debater and prepared him for his career in politics. He was first on the town council, then mayor, next congressman, at age 45 became governor of Tennessee, following which he was elected for two terms to the U.S. Senate. Johnson remained in Congress at the outbreak of the Civil War, and in 1864, he was nominated from the “Union” Party as Vice-President for Abraham Lincoln’s second term. No one foresaw Johnson becoming president, but when President Lincoln was assassinated, Andrew Johnson became president, serving from April 15, 1865 through March 3, 1869. Civil unrest and the strong impetus on punishing the rebelling south made Johnson’s term one of trials and troubles. In fact, Congress tried to impeach him, but by one vote Johnson remained as president. The seventeenth president, with the nickname “Tennessee Tailor,” died July 31, 1875 in Carter Station, Tenn.

The next president with a December birthday was Woodrow Wilson, twenty-eighth president, born December 29, 1856 in Staunton, Va. Son and grandson of Presbyterian ministers, at one time his father’s church in Augusta, Ga., was turned into a hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers. Educated at Davidson College, the College of New Jersey and later at Princeton, he received a degree in law and for a short time practiced law in Atlanta, Ga. He received a Doctor of Philosophy degree from John Hopkins University and began to teach. He became president of Princeton University in 1902. In 1910 he was elected governor of New Jersey and in 1912 was elected president of the United States. His term of service was from March 4, 1913 through March 3, 1921. When he was reelected to a second term in 1916, his slogan had been: “Wilson kept us out of war.” But when German warships began to sink American ships in the Atlantic, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. Following the Armistice in 1918, Wilson worked hard on his famous “Fourteen Points” peace plan and for the establishment of the League of Nations. However, because the U.S. Senate would never vote to join the League of Nations, Wilson’s dream of America becoming a leading member was not realized. He was married first to Ellen Axxon of Rome, Ga., who died during his first term in 1914. They had three daughters. He married Edith Bolling Galt in December 1915. When Wilson suffered a massive stroke on October 2, 1919, his wife Edith read government reports, shielded him from visitors and relayed his decisions. He finished out his second term as an invalid and died quietly in Washington in 1924.

Rosa Parks, Civil Rights proponent, and three U.S. Presidents had December birthdays, as well as a host of other notable people. But the month reminds us more of the birthday of Emmanuel, God with us, which we celebrate on December 25, although the exact date of His birth has been lost in the mists of time. The fight is on to call the season only “Happy Holidays” and omit any mention of Christmas, which means “birthday of Christ.” My hope is that we all remember the “reason for the season,” and as December comes we will prepare hearts to celebrate the best birthday of all time.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 1, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Brief Thoughts on Thanksgiving and a Look at the Firstborn Son of the Rev. Milford G. Hamby

As you gather with family and/or friends for a Thanksgiving Day celebration may you find many things for which to give thanks. In our family celebration, no two years are exactly the same, except that the menu does not vary that much. But with extended family, we never know who will be invited for the first time or who will be unable for scheduling and other reasons to attend the Thanksgiving fest. For many years one thing has remained traditional with our family. As we hold hands around the laden board, ready to offer thanks, one by one each names a highlight in the year just past for which he or she is thankful. This tradition helps us to focus on God’s providence in our lives and the true meaning of Thanksgiving. We are admonished: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thes. 5:18).

Last week this column was about the Rev. Milford Gilead Hamby (1833-1911), outstanding early circuit-riding preacher whose influence reached across not only Union County but into many counties in north Georgia.

While Rev. M. G. Hamby was in his charge in Franklin County, GA, at Carnesville, his first son, named William Thomas Hamby, was born September 16, 1860.

It has been written that with 25 churches to visit and exhort, the young son’s father was gone from home much of the time. Monday was an exception because it was “wash day” when Rev. Milford’s wife, Eleanor Caroline Hughes Hamby, got her husband’s clothes laundered and ready for his week’s circuit. Likewise, much of the rearing of Elder Hamby’s ten children was left to their mother, who succeeded well at mothering.

It was noted of the Rev. William Thomas Hamby that “blood of preachers coursed through his veins.” He was the fourth generation of known Methodist ministers. He being in the fourth generation ordained, his father, Milford, in the third, his grandfather, Rev. Thomas M. Hughes, in the second, and his great, great grandfather, the Rev. Francis Bird, in the first. There could have been preachers in generations back of these, but these are known. Likewise, three uncles were Methodist preachers: the Revs. W. C. Hughes, Francis Goodman Hughes and Tom Coke Hughes.

Rev. W. T. Hamby spent forty-five years in the active ministry. His first charge was the Hiawassee, Georgia Mission. He held pastorates at Calhoun, Winder, Trinity Methodist in Rome, Epworth, Buford, Barnesville, Walker Street Methodist in Atlanta, Carrollton, Marietta, and Kirkwood in Atlanta. In one year at Kirkwood, he made 1,046 church-related visits and took into the membership 146 persons. He also served as Superintendent and Presiding Elder in both the Augusta and Gainesville Districts. He was a trustee of Young Harris College for 45 years and served as president of the Board.

In retirement he remained active, preaching on the average of 75 times per year. In a news article lauding his life of service, he was called the “nestor of Methodism.” During his active ministry he delivered 8,000 sermons, conducted 500 funerals and married 300 couples. His annual salary for pastoral duties ranged from $65 in the beginning to $3,250 at his retirement.

Some of the lighter moments he shared were about weddings. While he was at Calhoun, he drove a wild horse 20 miles in a storm to get to the place of the wedding. After he had performed the ceremony, the groom took him aside and said he wanted to “reverence” him for his trouble. The preacher was given 50 cents. At a wedding at Walker Street in Atlanta, the groom gave Rev. Hamby an envelope with the words, “I think this will make you happy.” When the pastor opened the envelope, neatly written on a piece of paper were the words, “Thank you.” When he was pastor at Marietta, he had more weddings than at any other church. One he counted unique was of a man who had received six honorable discharges from the U. S. Army. His own wedding was the first the military man had ever attended.

Rev. W. T. Hamby married Emma Jane Curtis, daughter of Spencer Lafayette Curtis (1835-1865) and Mary Lou Twiggs (1835-1899). To William and Emma Jane were born five children: Frank Munsey Hamby (1883-1894); Nellie Lou Hamby (1889-1979); George Robins Hamby (b. & d. 1893); Fannie Lee Hamby (1895-1903); and Emma Lillian Hamby (1901-1902). Only one of the five children grew to adulthood. Nellie Lou Hamby marrried Dr. William Lester Matthews in Rome, Georgia on April 7, 1918.

Emma Jane Curtis Hamby was born October 10, 1860 and died in Rome, Ga., Dec. 23, 1901, evidently from complications from the birth of her last child, Emma Lillian, who died January 14, 1902. Rev. Hamby married, second, Mozelle Whitehead. Rev. William Thomas Hamby died August 25, 1947 in Decatur, Ga., shortly before his 87th birthday.

At Thanksgiving, another item to place on our thanks list is the legacy of a good ancestry. From our forebears we get not only physical characteristics that mark us as their descendants but the upbringing that helps to mold and make us who we are.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 24, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Circuit riding preacher—Rev. Milford Gilead Hamby

The work of circuit riding ministers in the early days of settlement in the mountain counties of north Georgia required a person of strong physical constitution as well as one with strong commitment and dedication to the spread of the gospel ministry.

Milford Gilead Hamby was born in Spartanburg, S. C on May 18, 1833. His parents were William and Nancy Christopher Hamby. In 1852 when he was nineteen years of age, he received a license to preach and was soon accepted into the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church.

By 1855 he was a fullfledged minister whose circuit included Dahlonega in Lumpkin County and a far-flung area including Upson (it is not clear if this is Upson County or a town named Upson), Cusseta, Blairsville in Union County, Carnesville in Franklin County, Canton, Cumming, Powder Springs, Ellijay, Morganton in Fannin County, and Homer, Georgia, in Banks County. From 1855 through 1885, a total of thirty years, he kept 29 appointments per month. Before modern transportation, except perhaps a train in some areas that would take him to Powder Springs, we can only imagine what trusty steeds he must have owned during this period to get him to his charges.

An error appears in the marriage date of this minister of the gospel in both the article in the “Union County, Georgia” History book (1994, p. 176) and the earlier “Sketches of Union County History, Volume 2” (1978, p. 70), both of which list him as marrying in 1850. The Union County marriage record gives the date of his marriage to Eleanor C. Hughes as August 9, 1859, with Joseph Chambers, minister of the gospel, performing the ceremony.

Eleanor Hughes, known as Nellie, was the daughter of a Methodist Minister and a merchant, the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes (1809-1882). Eleanor’s mother was Nancy Bird Hughes (1818-1881), daughter of the Rev. Francis Bird, another early Methodist Minister in Rutherford County, N.C. Like so many early settlers to Union County, the Hughes family stopped first in Habersham County. They were among those who moved over the famed Unicoi Turnpike to settle in Habersham, and then across the mountain later to Union before 1850.

Born to Milford G. and Eleanor Hughes Hamby were seven sons and three daughters. Son William Thomas Hamby became a noted Methodist minister; other sons were Francis B., Joseph O., Melvin, John M., Lovick O. and Manley P.; and daughters Nancy, Martha and Sallie.

During the Civil War Milford G. Hamby served for six months in the Cherokee Legion, Company A. of the Georgia State Guard. Records show his pay was forty cents per day.

In the eulogy to his wife, Eleanor Hughes (April 1, 1827-July 18, 1902) published in the “Wesleyan Advocate,” this account is given of how she helped him during the Civil War:

“During the war, while her husband was serving the Canton Circuit, surrounded by both armies, Brother Hamby’s wearing apparel was so badly worn that he thought he would have to stay at home. Sister Hamby happened to think of an old sheep skin that was in the house. She sheared the wool off and with some thread which she had, she made her husband a pair of pants that he might be able to go on with his work.”

The eulogy praises her for “walking by the side of her husband for forty-three years, proving herself in deed and in truth his helpmeet, cheerfully sharing with him the joys and hardships of the itinerant work.”

I looked for a printed eulogy for the Rev. Hamby who died in May, 1911, but to date my research has turned up only the one for Eleanor Hughes Hamby, who, upon her death in 1902, left “a devoted husband and six children to mourn their loss.” Both Mrs. Hamby and Rev. Hamby were interred at the Shady Grove Methodist Cemetery in the Owltown District of Union County where their tombstones may be viewed. Many are the Hamby descendants of these two stalwart ancestors who worked hard in the mountain region in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 17, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Armistice Day, Veterans' Day--Nov. 11

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 in the Forest of Compiegne in France, the Allied Forces and Germans signed a cease-fire and armistice that brought fighting in World War I to an end.

You may have read that “The Great War” officially ended with the Treaty of Versailles, signed June 28, 1919 in the Palace of Versailles. It is true that it did take from November 11, 1918 until June 28, 1919 for terms of the peace agreement to be reached, but for celebratory purposes, November 11, 1918 marked the end of “the war to end all wars.”

President Woodrow Wilson of the United States declared November 11 as Armistice Day, and began the public and official commemoration on that date in 1919, one year after fighting ceased. He declared that the observance of a day of remembrance will enable “America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

In reading some of the early proclamations for Armistice Day, Congress and the President urged that the national holiday be observed with “thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

When General Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a veteran of World War II, was president, Public Law 380 was passed on June 1, 1954, declaring that November 11 become not only the memorable Armistice Day commemorating the end of World War I, but Veterans Day, honoring American veterans of all wars. On October 8, 1954, President Eisenhower issued a proclamation that a Veterans’ Day National Committee work with the Chairman (now Secretary) of Veterans’ Affairs to plan for the day. Regardless of the day of the week on which Veterans’ Day falls, it is observed on November 11 to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love for country, and willingness to sacrifice their lives for the common good of all citizens of this nation.

Another significant milestone happened in American history. On November 11, 1921, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated at Arlington Cemetery on a hill overlooking the nation’s capital. The caskets of four unknown soldiers interred in France during the Great War were disinterred, and Sgt. Edward F. Younger, wounded in World War I and a highly decorated hero, chose the third casket from the left and placed white roses on it. Thus was designated the Unknown Soldier from World War I. The Unknown’s casket was transported to America aboard the USS Olympia and lay in state in the rotunda of the capital until Armistice Day, November 11, 1921. The other three unknown American soldiers of World War I whose remains stayed in France were buried in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery in France.

President Warren G. Harding presided at memorial services on the dedication day of Arlington Cemetery on November 11, 1921. The Unknown Soldier was interred in the white marble sarcophagus with symbols representing Peace, Victory and Valor. The inscription on the tomb reads: “Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier known only to God.”

Since that day in 1921, three other unknown soldiers from World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War have been interred west of the sarcophagus, their graves marked with white marble slabs.

In 1930, the perpetual military guard was set up to patrol the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is a unique honor to be chosen for this assignment. Guards must pledge to abstinence, and cannot disgrace the uniform they wear by swearing or any sort of immorality. They take their duties as seriously and somberly as any soldier preparing for battle. Their 21 steps in formation are representative of a 21 gun salute. The gun carried by a guard is always away from the tomb. A 21 second pause comes with each about-face after each 21 pace march is completed. Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. They chose to serve when urged not to do so as Hurricane Isabelle threatened Washington in 2003. The servicemen chosen for this guard duty consider it the highest honor given to them. Each serves for two years.

To veterans, we salute and honor you. To those of us who are not veterans, we can only imagine the price you paid for the freedoms we enjoy. With deepest gratitude, we thank you.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 10, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

A tribute to Otis Cecil Dyer, Sr.

In the mists of grief as I remember one of my favorite cousins, I will recall that I heard of his death on October 31, 2005, Halloween. I will remember the circumstances of hearing the news.

My daughter and I had taken my husband, her father, the Rev. Grover D. Jones to Macon, Ga., for a 3:30 p.m. appointment with a dermatologist who specializes in MOHS surgery for skin cancer. The waiting room was full to overflowing because Dr. Kent was ill and his patients had been rescheduled to another doctor in the Dermatologic Diseases Group. My cell phone rang. When I answered, my sister Louise said, “Our Cousin Otis died a little while ago.”

We both knew he had been very sick and his death was expected. But Otis was only a month away from being a centenarian. He, his close family and cousins had hoped he would live to reach his 100th on December, 1, 2005. He died one month and one day shy of ten decades of a very good life. Somehow we though wise, good, gentlemanly Otis would be with us on and on with his sage but quiet advice, his encouragement, his genuine concern for people.

Otis Cecil Dyer was the first and only child born to Herschel Arthur Dyer (1880-1974) and his first wife, Sarah Rosetta Sullivan Dyer (1882-1920). Otis’s parents married January 5, 1904 and the next year, December 5, 1905, Otis came into their home. Early on, his parents told him of his ancestors who had been early settlers in the Choestoe Valley where the family lived. On his paternal Dyer side he went back to Elisha Jr. and Elizabeth Clark Dyer, James Marion and Eliza Louisa Ingram Dyer, and Bluford Elisha and Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer and on his paternal Souther side he descended from John and Mary “Polly” Combs Souther, John Combs Hayes and Nancy Collins Souther.

Otis’s father, Herschel, was a teacher, educated in county schools near his Choestoe home, and Young Harris College.

Otis’s mother, Sarah Rosetta, Sullivan, had descended from John and Elizabeth Hunter, builder of the Hunter-England old cabin. One of their sons, William, had married Margaret Elizabeth “Peggy” England and they were parents of Margaret Eliza Hunter (1852-1919) who married William L. Sullivan (1856-1897).

When Otis started to elementary school about age 5, he went to whichever school his father was teaching. Some of them were the Henson School (often known as the Wild Boar Institute), Old and New Liberty Schools, Track Rock School, and Choestoe School. When Otis was ready for high school, he attended the Blairsville Collegiate Institute and then Young Harris College. Later he would graduate from Piedmont College, Demorest, Ga., (BA.), the University of Georgia (MA). He did post-graduate work at the University of New York.

When Otis was 15, his mother died on February 27, 1920. She was buried at the Old Choestoe Cemetery near her parents. His father married, second, to Lillie Collins (1888-1975), a sister to his sister-in-law, Azie Collins Dyer, married to his brother Jewel Marion Dyer, and a sister to his brother-in-law, William Harve Collins, married to Herschel’s sister, Northa Maybell Dyer Collins. His stepmother was a loving mother to Otis and always treated him as she did her own children (and Otis’s half-siblings), Valera, India and H. A. Jr.

As a young man, Otis met his bride-to-be at the Blairsville Collegiate Institute. She was Margie Lee Cagle, daughter of Strawbridge and Edith Smith Cagle of Union County. Otis and Margie married November 5, 1927. With the Great Depression a near reality at the time of their marriage, they survived and built a strong home based on Christian principles and commitment.

Otis, the son of a teacher and seeing the example of a good teacher from his father, entered the teaching profession. At first he was a teacher in the Habersham County, Georgia School system and later a principal there.

In 1942, just as America was entering World War II, Otis became an employee of the Georgia Department of Education in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. He was a counselor and later supervisor of Training and Placement Services. Otis retired from his position with Vocational Rehabilitation in 1969. Otis and Margie lived in Atlanta. She preceded him in death and was interred in the West View Cemetery, Atlanta.

Otis Dyer and Margie Cagle Dyer had three children, Harry Vaughn, Sarah Edith and Cecil Otis Jr. Sarah and Otis Jr. were twins, but the little boy lived only about 11 months. Otis delighted in his grandchildren, Margie Rose Dyer and Sarah Estelle Adams. He lived to enjoy five great grandchildren.

As his first cousin more the age of his son and daughter than Otis himself, I appreciate the encouragement Otis gave me at tough times in my life. When my mother died, I was one year younger than he had been when his own mother died. He knew how to give love and empathy, because his experience had been similar to mine. When I was struggling to get a college education without much money to support me, Otis encouraged me to keep my goals and press forward. When I became Dyer-Souther Family Historian, he told me many stories of our common ancestry, helping me to see and appreciate what a rich legacy we shared. If I could summarize Otis’s almost 100 years of life, I would use the adjective STALWART. He was a Christian gentleman always, serving as a deacon and in many other capacities in the church. He was a teacher and counselor, a lover of family, and a friend whose loyalty did not waver. Chaucer wrote in his Canterbury Tales: “And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.” And Henry Adams, American educator, wrote: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” These quotations characterize Otis Cecil Dyer Sr., stalwart to the end.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 3, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

England siblings settled in Union

Jonathan (called “Athan”) England, Daniel England and Margaret Elizabeth (called “Peggy”) England were all children of William Richard England and Martha (called “Patsy”) Montgomery England. They married and settled near each other “over the mountain” from Helen on the former Cherokee land after it became Union County in 1832.

Taking these three children of Richard England (who died in 1835 and was buried in the England Cemetery at Helen, Ga.) in order, we will trace a bit of these siblings’ history.

Jonathan “Athan” England (9/26/1815-10/6/1893) was born in North Carolina, the first-born of Richard and Martha England. In Union County marriage records, Athan is listed as Arthur. He married Nancy Ingram (born 4/13/1823 in Hall County, Ga., died 6/24/1897) who was one of the ten children born to Little Ingram and his first wife, Mary “Polly” Cagle Ingram. Their neighbor and Nancy’s brother-in-law, married to Nancy’s older sister, Sarah Ingram, was Justice of the Peace Thompson Collins Jr. He performed the marriage ceremony for “Athan” and Nancy on April 15, 1860.

Athan England’s farm was in the Owltown District. A portion of that now owned by Georgia Mountain Experiment Station was once farmed along the Nottely River by Athan England. He and Nancy had five children: C. E. England (1861), Tom P. England (1862), Richard Little England (1863), William H. England (1865) and John E. England (1867). Notice that Athan’s children were born just prior to, during and just after the Civil War. This writer does not have a record of whether Athan served in the war. At any rate, the general upheaval and unrest during the period did not provide a good environment for rearing a family of five children. Many of their crops and goods would have been confiscated by roving bands set on stealing and marauding. Athan and Nancy England were buried in the Shady Grove Church Cemetery where readable tombstones mark their resting places.

Daniel England (b. 1818 in NC, d. 1897 in Union Co., Ga.) was the second child of Richard and Martha England. He left the Helen Valley and went across the mountain to Choestoe District prior to the Civil War. He married Harriet E. (Elizabeth?) Hunter (1821, NC ?) in Union County on December 29, 1842. She was a daughter of John and Elizabeth Hunter who had moved their family from Buncombe County, N.C., to the Choestoe District of Union County prior to or about the time the county was formed. In 1834, John Hunter began building the cabin that still stands (in very bad repair) just off Highway 129 South about eight miles from Blairsville. Family legend about the Hunter family is that some had to stand watch to fight off the Indians because the white men had moved onto their lands and were erecting permanent dwellings. Some believe that Daniel England built the cabin. He and his family did not build it, but lived in it. Overlooking the Nottley River and with good land to farm, John Hunter was set to be able to care for his family. After John Hunter’s death, evidently his son-in-law, Daniel England and his daughter, Harriet Hunter England, moved into the cabin to help look after Harriet’s mother, the widow Elizabeth Hunter. That is how the historical house got the name Hunter-England cabin. Daniel and Harriet England had ten children, the first four born in North Carolina and the last six born in Georgia: John Richard (1843), Martha (1845), Mary Amanda (1847), Harriet (1849); William Andrew (1852), Thomas Noah (1855), Exton Virgil (1856, called “Eck”), Margaret (1859), James A. Polk (1862), and Emma Jane (1866).

Athan and Daniel England’s sister, Margaret Elizabeth (called “Peggy,” born in North Carolina in 1819, died Union County, 1894), married in 1839 to William Jonathan Hunter (1813-1893), son of John and Elizabeth Hunter. He was a brother to Daniel’s wife, Harriet. In 1840, William Jonathan Hunter began building a frame house near Town Creek not far from where it emptied into the Nottley River. That house, where several generations of Hunters have lived since William Jonathan’s time, is still standing just off Liberty Church Road, Choestoe. To William and Peggy England Hunter were born ten known children: Martha J. (1840), Mary E. (1842), John A. (1844), James A. (1847), Amanda Rebecca (1849), Margaret Eliza (1852), Willliam J. (1854), Georgianne (1855), Josephine (1858), Jerome (1861) and Jasper Francis “Todd” (1863).

These three England siblings were progenitors of Union County citizens almost too numerous to number. Through the years since the 1800s when the above-listed families first came to claim lands along the Nottely River, descendants of Englands, Ingrams and Hunters have proliferated and led out in many professions.

c2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 27, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Some Englands become Union County settlers

With the Gold Rush simmering down some around Duke’s Creek in Habersahm County (later White), and with the patriarch Richard England dying in 1835 and interred in the England Cemetery near the Chattahoochee River there, some of the England young men went “across the mountains” once again and settled in the area that had become Union County in 1832.

Martin England (1800-1899), son of Joseph England, grandson of Charles England, first listed in the 1834 (first Union) census, claimed land along the headwaters of the Hiawassee River that was included in Towns County when it was formed in 1856.

There he established a sizeable, productive farm. In the 1850 census he was listed as owning four slaves. He married first Elizabeth Carroll and they had eleven children: Sarah Adaline (1824), Charles Newton (1818), Mary (1830), Martha (1833), William Jasper (1834), Martin Van Buren (1836), Amanda America (1838), Margaret Ann Elizabeth (1840), Harvey Pinson (1841 ? went to California about 1868 and died there shortly thereafter), Andrew (1843) and an infant who died at birth. Martin England’s first wife Elizabeth died in 1868 and was buried in the Mt. Zion Cemetery. The Englands had helped to found that church in what is now Towns County. Martin married, second, Mrs. Sarah Melton from Athens, but the union ended in divorce. His third wife was Minerva Grist Brown, widow of Lafayette Brown. Martin and Minerva had three children: Harvey Pinson (1877), named for the 1841 son of Martin who had died in California; Iva (1879) who died young, and Lizzie (1882). Minerva England died and Martin married his fourth wife, M. E. (Mary Elizabeth?) Buckner in 1884. The family of Martin England has many descendants in Union, Towns and elsewhere.

In the 1834 (first) census of Union County, Elijah England was a resident. He was listed with eight males and six females in the household, a large family.

Elijah, like Martin, first settled in the Helen area of then Habersham County, buying Land Lot 38 from the lottery winner of the land and paying $1,000 for the lot in February 1822. Elijah about 30 years old, his wife Elizabeth, and four children (three sons, one daughter) and Elijah’s father William settled on Land Lot 38, moving there from Franklin County. It seems that his wife Elizabeth died while Elijah lived there. In 1824 Elijah sold half of Land Lot 38 for $725, and in 1828 he sold the remaining half to Henry Conley for $1,000. In six years, Elijah had made a profit of $725 on the sale of his land lot. He went back to North Carolina (probably where he had lived prior to going to Franklin County). But it wasn’t long until he was back in Georgia, some 30 miles from his old Land Lot 38, for by 1834 he was across the mountain in the new county, Union. Even though the Indians were not evacuated completely until 1838, white settlers were encouraged to go into Cherokee lands and take up residence. Elijah England and his family accepted that challenge.

Evidently Elijah England had slaves to assist him with his farming operations. In 1832 he sold five slaves to Adam Pitner who had settled in the Helen Valley. However, Elisha listed his own residence then as North Carolina. In the 1840 census of Union, he owned no slaves. His household, including himself, had five males and six females (one his wife), and no slaves. The 1850 census of Union lists the names in the Elijah England household: Elijah, 60; Caroline, 38; Eliza, 32; Sally, 22; James, 19; Lafayette, 19; Marinda, 14; Floyd, 10; and Engela (Angela?), 2.

Elijah England was one of the 33 slave holders listed in Union County in the 1860 census. He owned six of the county’s 133 slaves. I did not find a listing for either Elijah England or his wife Caroline in the Union County Cemeteries list. Perhaps they were buried in unmarked graves somewhere on his farm.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 20, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Englands were early settlers - England families used Unicoi Turnpike and settled first in Habersham County

Many living today in Union County, Georgia descend from the England families that came along the Unicoi Turnpike and settled near present-day Helen in what was, about 1826, Habersham County.

The old England Cemetery is on a knoll above the Chattahoochee River that winds its way just south of Helen. Behind the Comer Vandiver house, under a giant beech tree, said to be the largest of its kind in Georgia, some dozen unmarked stones seem to be a part of the landscape, so settled are these stones in their hillside setting. I shall never forget the feeling of connection I had the day, several years ago, when Mr. Vandiver showed my husband and me the cemetery known as the England Cemetery. There, in two of the graves marked only by fieldstones, were interred my ancestors on my mother’s side, William Richard England and his wife Martha “Patsy” Montgomery England, my great, great, great grandparents.

Richard England and his wife Martha “Patsy” Montgomery England moved from Burke County, North Carolina with a general migration of settlers to the Nacoochee Valley about 1826. Richard was the youngest of ten children born to Daniel England (1752-1818) and Margaret Gwynn/Guinn England (1758-1847). In Burke County, NC, Daniel and Margaret England lived at Hunting Creek on their plantation located near present-day Morganton, NC. Daniel England operated an iron foundry there and rendered material aid in the Revolutionary War through supplying iron for weapons. His widow received land in Habersham County, Georgia in the land lot drawings. Richard’s oldest brother, Elisha, had settled at Mossy Creek about ten miles south of Helen in 1820.

When Richard and his family moved over the Unicoi Turnpike they brought with them his mother Margaret who went on to Mossy Creek to live with her eldest son, Elisha and his family, already settled into their cabin. With Richard and Martha were their children born in North Carolina: Jonathan Athan (1816), Daniel (1818), and Margaret Elizabeth (1819). The couple had four children after they made the move to Georgia, but evidently they went back and forth from Georgia to North Carolina, for one at least (as indicated) was born there: Jerome (1822, GA), Coleman (1826, NC), Mary Amanda (1828, GA), Mary Ann (1831, GA). With Richard on the move to Georgia in 1826 were his sisters, Nancy, who had married (and later divorced) Moses Harshaw) who settled at Sautee; and Isabella who married Groves Morris.

Richard England owned two large tracks of land in the valley. One was located where Helen’s present-day water-treatment plant lies, and the Gold Mine tourist site. Then he bought a large valley lot at the base of Hamby Mountain at present-day Robertstown. There he built up a good farm.

Richard became very ill in 1835 and immediately made his will, evidently thinking that he would not recover. He did not. He willed his estate to his wife with a distribution of a child’s part to each of their children as they came of age. Martha England never remarried after Richard’s death in 1835. Their place in the upper Helen valley at Robertstown became known as “The Widow England’s Place.” He was buried in the England Cemetery that overlooks the Chattahoochee River. Other graves there are those of Joseph, Martha and Coleman England and Priar Pitner and perhaps some young children of the early settlers.

Several of the Englands traveled across the Blue Ridge from the valleys along the Chattahoochee River and settled in the new county of Union. The old Choestoe Indian Trail left the Unicoi Turnpike about three miles north of Helen and crossed Low Gap. The Tesnatee Trail was west of the Choestoe Trail and crossed the Tesnatee Gap. This latter trail became the Logan Turnpike. Daniel England, second son of Richard and Martha England, went “across the mountain” and built a cabin about 1834 near the Nottely River. The old England cabin still stands today where it was originally built. In bad repair and showing the ravages of time and neglect, it is near Georgia Highway 129 about seven miles south of Blairsville.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 13, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Tale of the Unicoi Turnpike

From ancient Indian trail to the Unicoi Turnpike covered a period from unrecorded history in the mountain area to a time when ancestors responded to the urge to settle lands in the North Georgia wilderness and see if there was, indeed, “gold in them thar hills” as was quickly rumored. Parts of the road remained intact until 1925 and into the 1930s when state roads replaced the old route.

During the Revolutionary War, South Carolina militiamen targeted Cherokee outposts aligned with the British. Pushing through Rabun Gap, they attacked and destroyed a Cherokee settlement near present day Franklin, NC. Marching onward, they went to Quo-neashee (Hiawassee Town) and overcame the Cherokees there. They faced southward, and going on the Unicoi Trail across the Gap, they were wary of possible ambush from the enemy hiding in the laurel thickets. In a journal of the militia’s expedition, they told of sixteen stream crossings from the foot of the mountain on the north side to the Chota settlement in the Nacoochee Valley.

With the Revolution won, America began to make treaties with the Indians to claim the area of the mountains that formerly held Cherokee settlements aligned with the British. A peace settlement was made with the Cherokee nation about 1795. Through various treaties after that, portions of land were opened up for white settlement.

Negotiations began for a permanent road or turnpike following rather closely the Old Unicoi Trail from Augusta to Maryville, Tennessee. In 1812 Georgia’s General Assembly requested approval from the federal government for establishing the road. In March, 1813, the US Cherokee Agency in Tennessee signed a treaty for work on the road to begin. The Unicoi Turnpike Company had charge of both construction and management and the Cherokees were to be paid $160.00 per year for a period of twenty years for use of the land that comprised the road.

In 1816, Georgia officially chartered the road and set tolls for its use. It is interesting to read the tolls compiled in Lucius Q. C. Lamar’s Compilation of the Laws of the State of Georgia, 1810-1819, Act # 489, pages 774-776: ‘For every man and horse, 12 and 1/2 cents; for every led horse not in a drove, 6 and 1/4 cents; for every loose horse in a drove, 4 cents; for every foot man, 6 and 1/4 cents; for every waggon (sic) and team, one dollar; for every coach, chariot, other four-wheel carriage, chaise, chair or other carriage of pleasure, one dollar and twenty-five cents; for every two-wheel carriage (etc.) for pleasure, seventy-five cents; for every cart and team, fifty cents; for each head of cattle, two cents; for each head of sheep, goats, or lambs, one cent; and for each head of hogs, one cent.”

Where feasible, the roadbed was dug out following the ancient trail. It was required to be twenty feet wide, twelve feet wide where bridges or stream crossings occurred. Only hand tools were used to grade the route. It was tedious, back-breaking work, and required much longer than anticipated. The work started on the road in March, 1814. The Georgia Legislature had asked for completion in 1817, but had to renegotiate for the road to open in November 1818. The Tennessee crews were having the same delays. The road finally opened for full operation in 1819, and was advertised as “a safe route and with as much convenience as any other road through Cherokee Country” (from a brochure by Robert Bouwman, Traveler’s Rest and Tugaloo Crossroads by Georgia Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites, 1980). There was irony in this advertisement about the Unicoi Turnpike, because there was no ‘other road’ offering competition at that time.

Financial troubles beset the Unicoi Turnpike Company. The Georgia Legislature “loaned” the company $3,000 in 1821. The Cherokees complained that the promised $160 per year had not been paid their agency. In its early years, the Unicoi Turnpike was 150 miles in length. Road houses and accommodations sprang up about every twelve miles along the road, as that was about the distance that could be made in one day with droves of animals for market, or a covered wagon loaded with goods.

Our earliest ancestors came over the Unicoi Turnpike, settling first in areas of Habersham County in the late 1820s. In 1828, gold was found on Duke’s Creek. Then the busiest period of the Unicoi Turnpike opened with prospectors, miners, land-lot and gold-lot claimers going to Nacoochee Valley to settle. A virtual stampede of travelers traversed the Unicoi Turnpike to what they considered a land of promise. It was a vital route for Georgia’s economy in the mountain area and a “shining white road” to new lands and fulfilled aspirations for our ancestors.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 6, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Old Unicoi Trail and Unicoi Toll Road

If you have taken time to stop and read the inscription on the historical marker near the Nacoochee Indian mound south of Helen, GA, you will find information about the trail and the road which was at first a trade route and later became a major vehicular road to bring early settlers into Habersham and other mountain counties formed from Cherokee lands.

The sign reads:

“This is the Unicoi Turnpike, the first vehicular road to link eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and north Georgia with the head of navigation on the Savannah the Tugalo River to the east of Toccoa, the road led through Unicoi Gap, via Murphy, N.C., to Nine Mile Creek in Maryville, Tenn. Permission to open the way as a toll road was given by the Cherokees in 1813 to a company of Indians and white men. Georgia and Tennessee granted charters to the company.”

Historian Chandler in his “The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia” (Vol. 22, Part II, page 245, 1913) states that the Unicoi Road contract drawn in 1813 was not the first venture to set a road into the wilderness of North Georgia.

As early as 1740 the young Georgia colony (founded in 1733) had a trading route from Augusta on the Savannah River overland to Toccoa, and then later into Nacoochee Valley and on to Hiawassee Town. This first route was the Unicoi Trail, mainly a horse route, whereon riders strapped their goods for trade and made their way inland. Both Indians and white traders plied this route. Called “Unicoi” by the Indians, the name means “white road.” It is not known whether the Indians derived the name from the white fogs that surrounded the mountains in spring, summer and fall, the frosts and snows of winter, or because the “white skinned traders” also used the road.

But even before 1840, we have a record of travels on the Unicoi Trail. In January of 1716, Colonel George Chicken, a white Indian trader, travelled the Unicoi Trail. Coming from South Carolina, he probably accessed the trail at Augusta and then went on to the town of Chota in Nacoochee Valley. From there he went over Unicoi Gap to another Indian settlement, Quo-neashee, located near present-day Hiawassee, Georgia.

Colonel Chicken kept a journal of his travels. He wrote that he set out on a Sunday (ye 22 of January, 1716) from Chota at eight o’clock in the morning and went to Quo-neashee. He must have had several in his party because he said they “marched 20 miles” over very steep and stony ground. He wrote of seeing the headwaters of the ‘Chatoochee’ River that runs south and east and “another river” (the Hiawassee) “that rones into masashipey” (the Mississippi). He tells of coming into the village at Quoneashee (Hiawassee) about half after five o’clock in the late afternoon. He thought he had traveled forty miles that day, probably because of the rough terrain. But the actual distance from Chota to Hiawassee town was 20 miles. Even at that, Colonel Chicken had a good perception of the geography, recognizing the headwaters of both the Chattahoochee and the Hiawassee rivers and the directions in which they flowed.

(Next week: More on the Unicoi Trail and Toll Road.)

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 29, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes

The last column looked at the life and work of the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes (1809-1882), an early Union County settler who was associated with the noted Methodist minister, the Rev. William Jasper Cotter, who became the official Methodist Conference appointee to the Blairsville Mountain Mission Charge in 1846.

Rev. Thomas M. Hughes and his wife, Nancy Bird (1818-1881) daughter of the Rev Francis Bird and Frances Abernathy Bird, had thirteen children. The eighth of these children was Thomas Coke Hughes who himself became a Methodist Minister and worked as a circuit-riding preacher in Union, Towns and Fannin counties.

Thomas Coke Hughes was born June 22, 1844. He was eighteen years of age when he joined the Confederate Army on September 27, 1862, enlisting in Company G of the 65th Regiment of the Georgia Infantry. One of his good friends, Eugene Butt, joined at the same time. His particular unit was known as the Infantry Battalion of Smith’s Legion and also as the “Georgia Partisan Rangers.” The roll for August 31, 1864 shows that Hughes was present. He and his friend Eugene Butt came through the fighting without injury. Hughes was an officer, a 2nd Lieutenant of his Battalion. Records show that he surrendered with his command at the close of the war. In 1911 he received a pension for his service in the Confederate Army.

Rev. Hughes was a self-educated man. After the Civil War, he read avidly, choosing as his theological and Biblical guides Clarke’s Commentaries of the Holy Bible and the Theological Encyclopedia. It is said that he studied the grammatical structures and spellings in the Blue Back Speller so that he could become literate in good English usage for his writings and speaking.
Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes married twice. On September 23, 1868 he married Rhoda (also called Rady) P. Butt. Rev. Milfred G. Hamby, performed the ceremony. He was a brother in-law to Rev. Hughes, married to his sister Eleanor (Nellie) Hughes Hamby. To Thomas Coke and Rhoda Butt Hughes were born six children.

Rhoda died and the minister married, second, Sallie Daniel on April 13, 1884. Again, the Rev. Milford G. Hamby, brother-in-law, performed the ceremony. Four children were born to Thomas C. and Sallie Daniel Hughes. This writer did not find the names of all the ten children born to Rev. Hughes. However, two sons of Sallie were William Coke Hughes (b. 1890) and Claude Cofer Hughes (b. 1893). Both of these sons attended the Blairsville Collegiate Institute and served in the U. S. Army during World War I. Both sons also worked for the Georgia State Highway Department. William Coke (Bill) worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority during the time when TVA dams for generating electric power were being built. Claude owned and operated the first Farmers’ Cooperative Exchange in Union County.

Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes owned a good horse that would take him to the Methodist Churches in his circuit throughout Towns, Union and Fannin Counties. He was known as a preacher of power, plain spoken and dynamic. He was often in demand as a revival preacher and for the Methodist Camp Meetings held throughout the mountains in the summertime.

He was especially beloved by the black Methodist Church members in Union County. When he preached at the black church, it was reported that the members became so filled with the Spirit that someone always accompanied Rev. Hughes to help him safely through the crowd when the congregation was caught up in spiritual enthusiasm. Rev. Hughes was often referred to as “The Bishop of the Mountains.”

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 22, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

An early Union County Minister: Rev. Thomas M. Hughes

For several weeks now we’ve explored aspects of the Eli Townsend family and its branches. That subject still has many avenues to explore, but for now I change directions and focus on the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes family. His legacy in Union and other north Georgia counties was as an early minister of the Methodist Church.

In 1846 the Rev. William Jasper Cotter, a noted Methodist minister in his own right, was sent by the Conference to his new charge at Blairsville, Ga. In writing his autobiography published in 1917 when he was an old man, Rev. Cotter made several references to Rev. Thomas M. Hughes. He wrote of arriving at the Blairsville Mission.

“The next evening (after five days on the road from Murray County) we reached Blairsville and were kindly received at the home of Rev. Thomas M. Hughes, a local preacher.” The Rev. Hughes helped the Cotters to find a cabin to live in and helped them get settled. The Hughes family and the Cotters became steadfast friends. While Rev. Cotter was on preaching missions to Tennessee, North Carolina and throughout North Georgia, he wrote in his autobiography: “Our good friends, the Hugheses…never allowed Rachel to spend a night alone while I was gone.”

The Rev. Thomas M. Hughes was born in Buncombe County, N.C., on January 31, 1809. He was a son of Goodman Hughes and Eleanor Payne Hughes. In Habersham County, Ga., on January 1, 1828, he married Nancy Bird. She was a daughter of the Rev. Francis Bird and Frankie (Frances) Abernathy Bird. Nancy was born in Rutherford County, N.C. Both the Hughes and the Bird families had come to north Georgia to live when Cherokee lands were opened up for settlement.

Rev. and Mrs. Thomas M. Hughes had a family of thirteen children. Martha (1828-1881) married Joab Addington and William R. Logan; William Chapel (1830-1906); Francis Goodman (1833-1908) married Amanda F. Goodrum and became a Methodist minister; Louisa (1834-?); Eleanor C. called “Nellie” (1834-1902) married the Rev. M. G. Hamby; Frances Jane (1840-1904) married W. R. Duncan; Rosetta (1841-1912) married James Calvin Erwin; Thomas Coke (1844-1932) married Rhoda Butt and Sallie Daniel and became a Methodist minister; Sarah Elizabeth (1847-1885) married the Rev. John Wesley Twiggs; John Wesley; Andrew Paxton; Calley; and Samuel.

Rev. and Mrs. Thomas M. Hughes, through his ministry and through their family, contributed much toward the upbuilding of the Methodist Church in the 19th century. Rev. Cotter in an article in “The Wesleyan Advocate” following Rev. Thomas M. Hughes and Nancy Bird Hughes’ deaths wrote: “Brother Hughes was a worthy local preacher, gifted in song, popular in his county, filling offices of trust…Sister Hughes was Miss Nancy Bird before her marriage, and like her husband, a sweet singer, amenable, and one of the best of women. Her father, Rev. Francis Bird, joined the S. C. Conference in 1805 with Lovick Pierce and Reddick Pierce. Rev. Bird baptized me in 1842. He was the son of Rev. Thomas Bird who lived to be quite old. This places brothers Francis Goodman Hughes (son of Thomas and Nancy) and W. T. Hamby (grandson of William and Nancy) in a long sacerdotal line.”

In an obituary in “The Wesleyan Advocate” written by Weir Boyd following Rev. Thomas M. Hughes’ death, these outstanding achievements were noted about his life: He was licensed to preach in 1839, ordained a deacon in 1847, and ordained as an elder in 1867 by Bishop Pierce. He was a local preacher, in labors abundant, regular and prompt in appointments, impressive in his preaching. He was stable of character, uniform in deportment, the patriarch of a large family several of whom are ministers of the gospel. He served as Clerk of the Superior Court of Union County for sixteen consecutive years. In addition to his duties as a local pastor and as Clerk of Court, he also was a merchant. He died August 22, 1882 in the 74th year of his life.

A lofty obituary to Nancy Bird Hughes was written for The Wesleyan Christian Advocate by J. B. Allen. In it he praised Mrs. Hughes as one who sought first and foremost “the will of God,” was faithful in “the great congregation, in the Sunday School, in her family circle.” Three of her sons became ministers of the gospel. She died March 9, 1881 and her slipping the earthly vale was described as follows: “Her face beamed with divine light, and her whole appearance presented anything but that of fear and sorrow... We have seen many die but none so triumphantly.”

Rev. and Mrs. Hughes were interred in the Old Blairsville Cemetery.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 15, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Tracing more Townsend ties

With the disaster of Katrina and that hurricane’s aftermath, the thousands dislodged from their homes, the hundreds injured and killed, and with statistics and losses still rising, it is difficult to pull away from reports of the present catastrophe long enough to return to a quieter time and trace connections through the mists of time.

The ties to Eli Townsend and Sarah Elizabeth (Sally) Dyer Townsend’s descendants are so numerous that to trace them all would take a long book. For the benefit of this short column, I will focus today on a child of Eli and Sally’s first child, Andrew (Andrew Crockett Townsend, Sr.) and trace connections through Andrew’s sixth child, Elizabeth, who married William Jackson Shuler.

Elizabeth Townsend Shuler (Feb. 1, 1861-June 9, 1947) grew up in a household of seven children. They were the children of Andrew Townsend (1826-?) and Malinda Ingram Townsend (1829-1903). Malinda’s parents were John Little Ingram and Mary “Polly” Cagle Ingram. The marriage of Andrew and Malinda brought together two early-settler families of Union County.

Elizabeth’s siblings were Thompson L. (known as “Bud”) Townsend; Thomas Simpson (known as “Simp”) Townsend who married Ruthie West and Wilda Hood; Nancy J. Townsend (who married Thomas N. England); Amanda Jane (who married Enoch Chapman Hood).; Andrew Crockett Jr. (who married Myra Anne Duckworth, Mary Duckworth, and Mary Hunter); and Clarasie Townsend (who married Joshua Columbus Fortenberry).

The story of Elizabeth Townsend Shuler and William Jackson Shuler is told in the book by their third child, the Rev. Edward Leander Shuler, entitled Blood Mountain: An Historical Story about Choestoe and Choestoeans. To the union of Elizabeth and Jack Shuler were born 14 children, all but two of whom grew to adulthood and married. Two sets of twin girls were among the 14 children. The children grew into productive citizens, two becoming ministers, five choosing to be teachers and the others following other vocations.

In order of birth the 14 children were: Allen Candler Shuler (April 19, 1883-Sept. 1, 1967) married Lillian Lipscomb and Louise Rogers. William T. (Sept 8, 1884-April 16, 1901) died at age 16; Edward Leander (March 15, 1886-?) married Laura Collins (sister to Dr. M.D. Collins, Georgia’s long-time State Superintendent of Schools); Benjamin Franklin (Feb. 14, 1888-March 7, 1978) married Gertrude Wilson (March 27,1892-March 6, 1980). They were educators, she teaching mainly at Union County High School and Frank serving for 20 years as Superintendent of Union County Schools. He was a founding director of the Union County Bank. Andrew Harve (1889-?) married Ophelia Maddox. Della (1891 ?) married J. M. Chastain. Lydia Jane (1893-1967) married Lester Stovall. Ruth (1894-1948) married Epp L. Russell. Ada and Ida, twins, (born April 21, 1897, death dates unknown); Ada married Ralph Cavender and Ida married Herbert Jones. Alice (March 27, 1899-March 21, 1989) married James I. Wilson, a brother to her sister-in-law, Gertrude Wilson Shuler. Henry Grady (Dec. 31, 1900 ? June 16, 1901) was buried at Union Baptist Church Cemetery. Twins Myrtle and Bert, known as Mert and Bert, were born February 10, 1904. Mert married Watson Collins. She was a teacher. She died January 29, 1988. Bert married Joseph Warnie Dyer. She died May 31, 1987. The twins Mert and Bert and their spouses were interred at the Choestoe Baptist Church Cemetery.

In his book recounting life at the Jack Shuler farm along the Logan Turpike, Edward Shuler tells about the Ponder Post Office being in a portion of their house and of travelers stopping by to spend the night and take the supper meal and breakfast with the Shulers and rest their mules or horses before going on to Blairsville or to Cleveland, depending on whether they were traveling north or south. The Shuler boys helped their father keep the Logan Turnpike, the major trade route in those days, in repair by removing brush, filling in potholes, and shoring up the roadbed. Never knowing when guests might arrive unannounced, Elizabeth Townsend Shuler always seemed ready to give them a good mountain meal of cured meat, vegetables, cornbread and biscuits, and fruit cobbler or apple stack cake for dessert. Jack Shuler also had a country store. He and his wife were founding members of the Union Baptist Church.

Even though their formal education was only in the oneteacher schools of the communities where they grew up, they were ambitious for their children to get an education. The girls went to the Blairsville Collegiate Institute. The boys attended Hiawassee Academy. Beyond these institutions, the children on their own pursued further college education. Two sons, Allen Candler and Benjamin Franklin served in World War I and were deployed to France.

When surveying was in progress for the right-of-way for Highway 129, Jack Shuler “walked many miles with the surveyors over the hollows and around the cliffs out in the Blue Ridge…on Oak Mountain …above Harkins old fields over in White County…at Tesnatee Gap…by Cow Rock and Camp Branch to Frogtown Gap…northward along Wolf Creek and down under Blood Mountain.” (Shuler, “Blood Mountain,” p. 142) The road was finished and opened in 1925. It took the place of the old Logan Turnpike, and the laborious work Mr. Shuler and his boys had done to keep the old road open was no longer necessary. Jack Shuler built his third house in “Lower Choestoe” close to the new highway, but he always longed to return to the Hood Chapel and Union Church Community where he and Elizabeth Townsend Shuler had reared their large family. They were interred in the cemetery at Union Church. Their tombstones read: Elizabeth Townsend Shuler (Feb. 1, 1861Jun. 9, 1947); William Jackson Shuler (June 14, 1860-July 4, 1936).

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 8, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

The mystery surrounding William Townsend

William Townsend was the sixth child and fifth son of Elisha (Eli) and Sarah Elizabeth (Sallie) Dyer Townsend. He was born in 1840 or 1841 and appeared in two census records of 1850. He was listed in Union County in the home of his mother Sarah when he was 9, together with siblings Andrew, 24; Thomas, 18; Polly Ann, 14; Caleb 12; and Sarah, 5. Nearby is a married son of Sallie Townsend, Elisha, age 23, and his wife, Caroline Anthony Townsend, and their one-year old child, Martha.

The Cherokee County, Ga., census of the same year lists William Townsend as 10 years of age along with his sister Mary Ann, age 13. In the Union census Mary Ann had been listed as Polly Ann, age 14. Polly was a common nickname for Mary. These two were evidently visiting in the home of their aunt, Serena Townsend, who had in her care when the census taker called, three other children, also her nephews: David Townsend, age 8; Ezekiel Townsend, age 6; and Kimsey Townsend, age 3.

The mystery of the elder Eli Townsend’s whereabouts in 1850 is unknown. After the transaction to sell the grant of land received for his service in the Mexican War in 1849, he does not appear on census records either in Union or Cherokee County (where his father, Edward, lived).

Some of the descendants of Eli Townsend believe that the three younger children in his sister Syrena’s care in Cherokee County when the 1850 census was taken were the children of the elder Eli Townsend by “another woman” other than his wife, Sarah Elizabeth (Sallie) Dyer Townsend. Thus begins one of the mysteries surrounding the life of William Townsend, sixth child of Eli and Sallie. Did he live part of the time in his early years with his Aunt Serena in Cherokee County, Ga.?

He returned to Union County and to the home of his mother Sallie, for it was in Union County where he married Eliza Bower on July 15, 1860. Thompson Collins, Justice of the Peace, performed the ceremony. With the Civil War brewing, William Townsend enlisted for service with the Confederacy.

And with his enlistments came another mystery. War records show that William Townson (the spelling used) enlisted in Company G, 52nd Regiment of the Georgia Infantry on March 4, 1862 in Captain Lewis B. Beard’s unit. He signed up at Blairsville and received $50 for his enlistment. However, the Muster Roll lists him as “deserted” August 1, 1862. The same company shows him “absent without leave” for January and February 1863. However, in November and December of 1863, the roll shows him present. The archives records show that a William Townson, Private, in Company I, 6th Regiment of the Georgia Calvary enlisted on February 1, 1863 for a period of three years by Colonel J. S. Fain. Did he leave one company and enlist in another? Apparently so.

He signed the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, subscribed on March 5, 1864, at Chattanooga, Tenn. We get a physical description of the 24-year-old man from this record. He was five feet eleven inches in height, had a fair complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes.

His wife, Eliza, remained in Union County with their young children while William Townsend served in the Civil War. The 1870 census lists William, age 27 (which age poses another mystery about the birth date of William Townsend). In 1870, their children were Sarah, age 10; Elizabeth, age 8; Thomas, age 5; Andrew, age 3, and Rosa, age 1.

Between 1870 and 1880, four more children were born to William and Eliza Townsend: Newton (age 9 in 1880), Laura (5), Alice (2), and Virgil (11 months).

But William Townsend was not listed in the 1880 census with his wife Eliza, then age 42. And this brings us to the fourth mystery surrounding William Townsend—his death which occurred on January 5, 1880.

The Grand Jury of May term of court in Union County drew up a true bill declaring that William Townsend had been murdered. Arthur Owenby, Thomas Owenby “and others” were charged in his murder. Arthur Owenby was William Townsend’s brother-in-law, the husband of William’s sister, Mary Ann, called Polly. Thomas Owenby was probably his nephew, a son of Mary Ann and Arthur. The “others” were listed as Columbus Teague, Malinda Teague, James Colly, Joseph Colly and Jehue Dean.

These “unlawfully and with force and arms did with malice aforethought unlawfully against one William Townson (sic) with knives, their hands and fists and other weapons to the jurours (sic) unknown with intent unlawfully to kill and murder him…cutting, stabbing, holding, pulling, hitting, knocking, beating and wounding him, the said William Townson…and thereby inflicting many mortal wounds…The said William Townson then and there died.”

What caused such a mortal fight? Stories of the murder of that cold day January 5, 1880 say that the fracas was an argument about “the other” family of Eli Townsend and its denial by the family. Another story hints of disagreements over gold holdings and diggings. At any rate, a young man with a large family of nine children lay dead.

Union County Court Records show that the trial was completed on March 28, 1881 and that Thomas Owenby, evidently the main perpetrator of the crime, pleaded not guilty. The panel of traverse jurors found Owenby not guilty of the crime. Accessories to the crime went free as well.

With no 1890 census records to check the whereabouts of Eliza Bower Townsend and her nine children, this writer does not know how long she may have remained in Union County. However, after the heart-breaking incident of her husband’s murder, she evidently moved away, taking her children with her, for she is not listed in subsequent Union County census records. Three of her children could have married in Union County: A Rose Townson (sic) married an Owen on August 2, 1890; Alice Townson (sic) married Samuel Colley June 17, 1894; and Andrew Townson (sic) married Mary Duckworth June 2, 1895. It is difficult to tell whether these are the Rose, Alice and Andrew, children of Eliza and William Townsend, for first names were common and often the same among the various Townsend families. I did not find a marked gravestone for the murdered William Townsend in cemetery records of Union County.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 1, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Patriarch of Union County Townsends, Eli, son of Edward

From the Norman Conquest to about 1832 or shortly after is a span in history of about 766 years. When Eli Townsend came into Union County with his wife, Sarah “Sally” Dyer Townsend and their children, he could not follow through with the meaning of the surname Towns-end, for Union County then was barely building the town of Blairsville, the county seat. Eli and Sally settled in the Choestoe District next door to her parents, Elisha Jr. and Elizabeth Clark Dyer. They did not settle at “towns-end” or the edge of town. The family of Eli Townsend is shown first in the 1840 Union County census with seven children. The census-taker spelled the last name Townsel.
Elisha (Eli) Townsend

Eli (short for Elisha) Townsend’s father was Edward Townsend Sr. Edward’s estate in Pickens County, Ga., covered 2,100 acres of land. He owned 18 slaves. Appraisal of land, slaves, and goods, all listed February 3, 1860, showed an evaluation of $10,000. Edward Sr. and Anna Townsend had 16 children. Eli’s parents were buried in a family cemetery near Tate, Ga., Pickens County, as was a sister of Eli’s. Their tombstones read as follows: Edward Townsend (Aug 9, 1789-Jan 29, 1860); Anna Townsend (April 30, 1796-Sept 19, 1838); and Elizabeth Townsend (Jan. 9, 1836-Jan. 9, 1852).

Eli (ca. 1809-1849?) was the first-born of Edward Sr. and Anna (Kimsey or McKinney?) Townsend. He married Sarah “Sally” Dyer sometime before 1830, for they were listed in the Habersham County, Ga., census of 1830, already with three male children under 10 years of age. When Eli married Sally, she already had a child, Micajah Clark Dyer, who was born in 1822 and was being reared by grandparents, Elisha Jr. and Elizabeth Clark Dyer. This son of Sally’s became quite well known as the inventor of “the machine for navigating the air,” the airplane he built and for which he secured a patent in July 1875.

Eli Townsend, farmer and soldier, served in the Mexican-American War. His war records give valuable information. His statement given at “Perote Castle” stated that Morgan County, Ga., was his place of birth. He was enlisted into service of the United States July 7, 1847 and was 38 years of age at the time of enlistment, which would make his birthdate in 1809. He was a sergeant of Company C of the Georgia Battalion of Foot Volunteers. He was honorably discharged “by reason of Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability” on January 7, 1848. How badly he was wounded is not known. It seems that his sixmonths term of service entitled him to a land grant for which he applied on March 4, 1848 at Cassville, Ga. Why the grant was applied for at Cassville (now Bartow County) is not known. His residence was established as being in Union County. He did receive a Land Warrant (15900) on May 23, 1848, but the land was in Wisconsin.

He did not go there to settle on that land, but rather sold his patent to one John Fitzgerald in the Green Bay Land District of Wisconsin. The transaction was authenticated by John Butt, Judge of the Inferior Court of Union County, Georgia on August 30, 1848. This document is the last authentic record of Eli Townsend in Union County.

The 1850 census of Union lists Elizabeth (Sally) Townsend but not her husband, Eli. Some say that he had a second wife in another place, possibly in Cherokee County, Ga. This has not been proven authentically. The children of Eli and Sally Dyer Townsend were Andrew (Andrew Crockett Sr. born in Lumpkin County in 1826); Elisha; Thomas; Mary Ann called Polly; Caleb (called Cale), William and Sarah Elizabeth (called Betsy).

Andrew, the eldest son, also served in the Mexican-American War at about the same time his father Eli served. He enlisted on July 5, 1847 in John S. Fain’s Company C, Georgia Battalion of Foot Volunteers. He was honorably discharged on July 13, 1848 at Mobile, Ala., when his year’s term was up. Andrew Townsend received a land grant of 160 acres, also in Wisconsin, which he sold.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 25, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Origin and history of the name Townsend

James Savage wrote: “By an instinct of our nature, we all learn to love the places of our birth, and the chief circumstances in the lives of our progenitors.”

There it is—our reasons for getting hooked on genealogy. The writer states unequivocally that the love for it is “an instinct of our nature.”

The ancestral name Townsend is spelled in various ways: The most common is Townsend; you might see it as Townshend, Townson, Townsil and, much older, atte-Towns-End, which means, of course, living at the place where the town ends. This later was from the Norman “de Alta Ville” and meant at Towns-end.

Lodovic, a noble Norman, settled in England during the reign of King Henry I. He married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas de Hoville who was Knight of the Manor of Raynham in Norfolkshire. Lodovic assumed the name Townshend (or Townsend) meaning living at the edge of town. Since his wife, Elizabeth, inherited the estate at Raynham, Townshend himself was also the owner. Hence the beginning of a long line of English Viscounts and Marquesses descending from Lodovic and Elizabeth Townshend.

Townsend is an English place name and literally means living at the edge of the town. In England, those bearing the name Townsend lived at Raynham in Norfolkshire, were landowners there, and because of their service to various royal heads of England, were knighted for their service. In 1483 the landowner at Townsend became a Baron and was named by King Richard III as a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas. Likewise, King Henry VII reappointed Baron Townsend to the same post, a position the Baron held until 1498.

Townsends were numbered among sailors. Under the banner of Queen Elizabeth I, Roger Townsend of the Raynham Estates brought his ships into her service and helped to quell the Spanish Armada. Roger Townsend received knighthood for his service to the Queen. John, a younger brother of Roger, went in the British Expedition to Cadiz, Spain in 1599 and was likewise knighted for his bravery there.

Under the Cromwell rule in England, Richard Townsend held the rank of Colonel and fought with Cromwell in Ireland, winning a sizeable estate for his service in the County Cork where descendants of Roger Townsend reside to the present day. After the death of Cromwell, Sir Horatio Townsend, then proprietor of Raynham Hall, helped to secure the restoration of Charles II to the British throne. As a result, in 1617, Horatio Townsend was named a baronet, in 1661 with the title of Baron Townshend of Lynn Regis. In 1682 he earned the title Viscount Townshend of Raynham. Then came the addition of the “h” to the name, perhaps to indicate its higher significance.

The roots of the Union County Townsends can be traced to one Repentance Townsend who was born about 1725 and died after 1790. The unlikely name of “Repentance” as a given name makes him stand out as unusual. It would be interesting to know the circumstances behind his given name. Repentance and his wife Mary Townsend lived in Augusta County, Virginia as early as 1746. There he was witness to a land deed. They moved out of Virginia sometime prior to 1755, as they were listed in November of that year as delinquent on paying taxes and having “removed” from the county.

They moved to old Anson County, North Carolina where several land deeds are recorded in the name of Temperance Townsend and his wife Mary as early as 1756. His land there bordered on both North and South Carolina while state lines were still in dispute. On the main fork of Fishing Creek in Camden District of South Carolina, later York County, Temperance Townsend owned 300 acres.

The North Georgia Townsends desended through the son of Repentance named Thomas (1753-1836), grandson Edward (1789-1860) and great grandson Eli ( ca. 1810-ca. 1849). The four older sons of Repentance Townsend; Thomas, Samuel, Andrew and John— all served in the Revolutionary War.

The motto on the Townsend coat of arms is translated “Fidelity earned these honors for our race.” Through the mists of time from the Norman Conquest of England to the American Revolution and many wars for freedom since, Townsends have shown fidelity, faithfulness in the line of duty to their country.

(I gleaned information for this article from “Some Townsends of North Georgia” by E. E. Townsend, Cleveland, TN, undated.)

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 18, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.