Thursday, January 27, 2005

Some Descendants of the Famed Adam Poole Vandiver

Several have commented that they particularly enjoyed my column of January 13, 2005 entitled “Adam Vandiver—Truth or Legend?” In it we traced facets of the stories Adam Poole Vandiver (1788-1877) told to a Mr. Lanman and collected in his book entitled “Letters from the Alleghany Mountains.” The legendary “Hunter of Tallulah” was, indeed, a living, breathing mountain man whose exploits are still kept alive through family history.

Mr. Theodore Thomas who moved in 1996 to Union County following his retirement, and who is involved with historical research and preservation, called to tell me that Adam Poole Vandiver was his great, great grandfather. Ted Thomas, as he is better known, was delighted to read an account of his ancestor’s notable exploits. Readers of “The Sentinel” will recall an article on May 6, 2004 about the restored turbine from the old Souther Mill of Choestoe having been donated to the Union County Historical Society in memory of Ted’s mother, Frances Rosanna Vandiver Thomas. His grandmother was Rhoda Lucinda Souther (1853-1947) who married John Floyd Edward Vandiver (1849-1923). Rhoda Lucinda was the daughter of John Souther (1803-1889) and Mary “Polly” Combs Souther (1807-1894). It was John Souther’s brother, Jesse William Souther, who built Souther Mill on Cane Creek, Choestoe, in 1848. The mill operated for almost 100 years.

John Floyd Edward Vandiver, Rhoda Lucinda Souther’s husband, was a son of George Vandyman Vandiver (1812-1910) and Frances Wheeler Vandiver (1816-1915). George was the second child of the famed Adam Poole Vandiver (1788-1877) and his first wife, Martha Whiting Vandiver (1794-1840).

John Paul Souther of Gainesville, Georgia, whose grandfather, Jesse William Souther founded the mill, and whose father, Jeptha, continued the milling tradition, and Ted Thomas are combining their historical interests and expertise to plan a marker placement at the location of the Souther Mill. The historical program is set for Saturday, April 30, 2005. Please watch for further announcements about this observation.

Rhoda Lucinda Souther was the twelfth and youngest child of John and Mary “Polly” Combs Souther. Her parents had purchased and settled about 1836 on four lots where the New Liberty Baptist Church is located today. In fact, Rhoda’s father gave land at the intersection of the four lots to build the church and cemetery. Both her parents were born in Wilkes County, NC, but had migrated to Rush County, Indiana before deciding to move to the Choestoe District of Union County, Georgia.

Just how Rhoda and John Floyd Edward Vandiver met is not known to this writer. But it was not that far from the section of White County, Georgia where Vandiver’s mother and father, George and Frances Wheeler Vandiver lived across the mountain to Choestoe. Rhoda and John very likely met at New Liberty Church and their courtship blossomed. They were married in Union County, Georgia January 9, 1872.

They lived at the old John Souther homeplace, she being the youngest of the twelve Souther children. Rhoda and John Vandiver had thirteen children, twelve of whom were born at the John Souther homeplace. The youngest was born in Asher, Arkansas, after the Vandivers moved west in 1895. From Arkansas the family moved to Wyoming and from Wyoming to Washington state.

Here is a listing of their children and birthdates: Mary A. Vandiver (1873) married Frank L. Smith; William Joshua Vandiver (1874) married Ida Hilderbrand; Cordelia Jane Vandiver (1876) married Andrew Jackson Townsend and Carl Sieverts; John Joseph Vandiver (1878) married Lula Mae Estee; James Harley Vandiver (1880) married Mae Larsen; Frances Rosanna Vandiver (1882) married John W. Thomas; Marion Thomas Vandiver (1884-1900); Della Lucinda Vandiver (1886) married Joseph McDonald, Chaney Canning and Carl Zieske; Sarah Evelyn Vandiver (1887) married John Durham; Nellie May Vandiver (1890) married Frank Whitley; Hartwell Franklin Vandiver (1891) married Ella Hazel Blackwell; Callie Buenaulsta Vandiver (1893) married Barr Patton, ? Peabody, and Hans Peter Walloe; and the last child, Jesse Edward Vandiver (1897) was born in Arkansas and married Ella Frances Bielby.

The sense of adventure continued to succeeding generations from Adam Poole Vandiver as evidenced by the challenges and changes his descendants experienced.

[Sources for this article and the January 13 column on Adam Vandiver are the book “Souther Family History” by Watson Benjamin Dyer, 1988, pages 241-268 and a monograph by Cornelia Vandiviere Barton of Sorrento, LA on the Vandiver family: “Pedigree Chart” and “Adam Poole Vandiver Descendancy Chart.” -EDJ.]

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 27, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Considering Some Black History in Union County on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

I am writing this article on Monday, January 17, 2005, a national day to honor black civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. His life was brief. Born January 15, 1929, he met death by an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968. On January 20, 1986, the first nation-wide observance of a day in his memory was held in America. Thinking of this man who was named the Nobel Peace Prize winner on December 10, 1964 aroused my curiosity about black history in Union County, Georgia.

At best, history of blacks in Union County is sketchy. In the 1850 census of the county, twenty-four landowners were listed as slaveholders with a total of about 91 slaves. Some of the slaveowners’ names were illegible in the listing, and likewise the number of slaves held. By 1860, just prior to the Civil War, blacks in the county numbered 116 and all of them were slaves.

Since the farms were relatively small, and most of them were settled by independent Scots-Irish who migrated from North Carolina, few of the landowners had been accustomed to slavery and did not bring slaves with them to the lands they claimed, received mainly from the land lottery, along the creek and river valleys of Union County.

A look at names of slaveholders in 1850 reveals that citizens with these last names owned slaves: Butt, Hughes, Barclay, Reid, Haralson, England, Watkins, Addington, Erwin, Turner, Collins, Flowers, Hunter, Thompson, Hudgins, and at least four more whose names cannot be determined from the census taker’s handwriting.

The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. After this major document that changed the lives of blacks throughout the United States, most of those living in Union County remained as farm workers for their former owners, the women did housekeeping and laundry, some found work in the few hotels in town, and those with trades like carpentry or blacksmithing found work in those lines. Blacks also worked in the mines during the heyday of gold mining in Union County.

Two communities of black settlements were located in the Blairsville militia district. One was near the foot of Welborn Mountain. The other was about a mile east of Blairsville off Highway 76. This settlement was said to have houses located in the hollow there, with the black school and church on a rise above the dwellings.

Cemeteries reveal clues to the history of a people. From the old courthouse square in Blairsville, the Black Cemetery is located 1.5 miles east on Highway 76, with a turn south on Shaw Road for one-fourth mile, then southwest to the top of the ridge and westward for about one-fourth mile. Although there are more than 100 graves in this old cemetery, only seven have names still decipherable. The first person buried there with a name on the stone was Samuel Morris, born in 1839 and died March 26, 1901. Others and dates were: Lester Butt, June 10, 1900-March 13, 1904; Whalen Butt, April 27, 1875 – May 13, 1905; Ollie Butt, July 15, 1881-February 16, 1906; Mary Addington, 1812-June 12, 1919 (note her long life of 100 years); John T. Trammel, October 15, 1857-September 3, 1928; and Eliza Trammel, December 24, 1868 – November 17, 1945.

Records show that Eugene Butt gave land for the black church, school and cemetery following the Civil War. Church and school were held in the same building. Rev. Tom Coke Hughes, a noted white Methodist preacher of the nineteenth century held services at the black church on occasion. It is said that he had an agreement with Glenn Butt that if the congregation got “caught up in the Spirit,” he would escort Rev. Hughes safely from the church amidst the shouting and charismatic celebration.

The black school was still in operation in 1924, although M. L. Duggan, Rural School Agent who did a survey of Union County Schools in 1916 did not list the black school as one of the public schools. By 1938 the church had only the families of Glenn Butt and Eliza Trammell attending. Most of the black families had moved elsewhere to find employment.

When I was a child, my parents showed me graves in the Old Choestoe Cemetery that had fieldstone markings. I was told they were graves of former slaves of Collins, Hunter and England slaveowners in the community. Many of the blacks took the last name of their former owners after the Emancipation Proclamation. The 100-year old Mary Addington in the black cemetery near Blairsville no doubt bears the last name of March Addington who owned five slaves in 1850. Mary could have been one of them, or have married one of his male slaves.

I have been inspired again by reading several of the speeches and writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Among his famous words are the “I Have a Dream” address delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on August 18, 1963. In it he stated: “I have the dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” And in that same speech: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

His advocacy of non-violent social change has brought about many actions that have helped his dreams to be realized. I can imagine that from the 1830’s through about the mid-1940’s before the remaining black population left Union County, they held similar dreams. The blacks were here for awhile, having come through no choice of their own. They lived and worked and then went elsewhere, along with their dreams and their history, like the mists that lift from the mountains. We see vestiges of their habitation here and wonder how life must have been for them.

[I am indebted to these publications for information for this article: “Sketches of Union County History,” (1987), edited by Teddy J. Oliver, pp. 38-41; “Cemetery Records of Union County, (1990), pp. 296-297)].

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

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Adam Vandiver - Truth or Legend?

In stories that have been passed down through the generations, it is sometimes difficult to separate truth and legend. Such is the account of one Adam Vandiver, supposedly the progenitor of many of the Vandivers in Union County and other counties of the North Georgia mountains.

About the time gold fever struck the mountain region of North Georgia (1828) a traveler whose last name was Lanman wrote an account of what he saw in the mountains and of interesting people he met. His book entitled “Letters from the Alleghany Mountains” told of his meeting Adam Vandiver whom he called “the great hunter of Tallulah.”

Adam Vandiver was small of stature but his exploits measured to giant proportions. He was sixty years old when Lanman met him. Vandiver was described as having “a weasley face, a long white beard, and small gray eyes.” Born in South Carolina, he had spent his early manhood in the wilds of Kentucky, but had been for thirty years in the wilderness of the Georgia Mountains.

Vandiver told Lanman how he had been a soldier in the Creek War, killing more Indians than any other white man in the army. Thrice married, he was living with his third wife. He had fathered thirty children, but at the time of Lanman’s visit, only five of his offspring were under the Vandiver roof, the others having died young or were “scattered to the winds.”

Vandiver had one mule and some goats, and faithful hunting dogs. His main occupation was hunting the mountains of North Georgia. At the onset of hunting season in November, he provisioned himself with steel traps, food for himself and the mule, his gun and such ammunition as was available to him at the time. He set out to undertake his “fire hunting” and “still hunting.”

He named his mule after a well-known tale “The Devil and Tom Walker.” He preferred deer for their hides, but saved the fur of almost any four-legged creature he could trap or kill. The largest number of deer skins he took home at one time was 600. He estimated he had killed over 4,000 deer in his lifetime.

He practiced ingenuity and cunning in pursuit of his wild prey. One day he spotted a fine gray wolf and aimed his gun at its head. The wolf escaped into a cave. Vandiver waited, but hearing nothing he went in, thinking the wolf had died. In the back of the small cave, the wounded wolf and Vandiver engaged in a life-or-death encounter, with the wolf receiving Vandiver’s knife to its heart. On dragging out the wolf, he discovered that his initial shot had broken the animal’s jawbone and because of that the hunter’s life was spared.

One day when Vandiver was completely out of ammunition, a large black bear assaulted one of his favorite hunting dogs and was about to squeeze it to death. Vandiver took on the bear and again landed his trusty hunting knife in the big bear’s heart. The victory was not without its price, for Vandiver lost two of his fingers to his own sharp knife. The bear weighed 350 pounds, a formidable enemy for the small man to wrestle.

Another battle was with a buck which Vandiver shot at the top of a 30-foot high precipice. Thinking the deer dead, he approached it, but was assaulted by the deer which pushed Vandiver over the cliff into a pond of water below. The deer got away, and Vandiver suffered no broken bones, thanks to the pool that somewhat softened his fall. About a month later, the mighty hunter killed a buck with a bad neck wound. He felt sure he had finally killed the deer that had pushed him over the precipice.

In Union County, on one of the loftiest mountains, Vandiver heard the howl of a wolf at twilight. He climbed upon an outcropped boulder to try to determine the direction of the wolf’s howl. While on the rock, it loosened and began its rapid descent into the ravine a half-mile below. As good fortune would have it, an oak tree grew beside the rock with a strong limb drooped over the rock. In desperation, Vandiver grabbed the limb and held on for dear life. The thunderous thud of the rock as it struck the ground in the ravine below was a vivid reminder of his narrow escape. He dropped from the limb to the very spot the boulder had vacated. He told Mr. Lanman that he did not care one whit for pursuing the finest game in the wilderness for one whole day after that incident.

Was this legendary “Hunter of Tallulah” a real person? Yes. Male children in the Vandiver family to this very day are given the name Adam to honor this progenitor.

In cemetery records of Habersham County, Georgia, I found listed in a very old unnamed cemetery in the Shirley Grove Community the name of Adam Poole Vandiver, born August 21, 1788 and died February 19, 1876. Whether this is the grave of “the hunter of Tallulah” who wandered over Union, Towns, Rabun, White, Lumpkin and Habersham Counties in pursuit of game, I know not for sure.* But the dates would certainly match those of the hero of the hunting escapades recorded by one Mr. Lanman in the nineteenth century.

[*Note: Later, I learned the grave is, indeed, that of Adam Poole Vandiver, the “Hunter of Tallulah.”]

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

Thursday, January 6, 2005

Beginning A New Year

Our usual greeting when a new year dawns is “Have a happy New Year!” Our wish is sincere, borne with goodwill to those we know and love and truly hope will prosper in the 365 days that stretch ahead as a new beginning.

We may rue the old year’s too soon passing. Whoever gave the year just ending the emblem of an old man was no doubt trying to depict the rapidness of time’s passing.

Although we can expect a regular progression of growth for a human through stages of infancy, childhood, adolescence, teens and the rolling adult decades until death, the year itself is pictured as maturing at a rapid pace—and is old and dying with little regard for any stages in between birth and death.

On the other hand, picturing a new year as an infant with infinite possibilities is also a clever idea. With a baby we have great hopes and expectations. So it is with the New Year. Not knowing what it holds, we can anticipate the best from its days, turning one by one as the pages of an unwritten book. So here is my sincere wish for all of you readers: A happy New Year to you! May 2005 hold blessings unexpected and may the challenges be met with faith and confidence.

As I look at the headlines at the beginning of this New Year, I am chagrined by the suffering and need brought about by the Indian Ocean earthquake on December 26, 2004 and the subsequent tsunamis that rendered the death toll in excess of 150,000 and the misplaced and homeless at an astonishing figure. Relief efforts have bogged down because of crowded airports in the affected areas and the inability of volunteers to get supplies to those who need them most. Suffering is on many levels. Sudden deaths of family members, swept away by giant waves. Thousands were buried in mass graves. Survivors wonder whether others dear to them are dead or lost. Contaminated water, food and living space are conditions that will bring disease and plague.

We can hardly imagine the hardships and heartaches the affected people are enduring. Our humanitarian decency wants to help, to reach out, to comfort. I think when I read of the areas hardest-hit that friends of ours once served or now serve as missionaries in these locations. I wonder if those still there are safe. I pray they are.

As I write this on January 4, 2005, I read headlines that President Bush has appointed his father, former president George H. W. Bush, and former president Bill Clinton to head private fund-raising efforts to supplement the $350 million pledged in relief to tsunami sufferers by the U. S. Government. The president was criticized for waiting three days to respond to the disaster, and then for his pledges from the U. S. first at $15 million, upped to $35 million, and then to $350 million. The effort to raise private funds is a challenge. Much is needed for health concerns, caring for the survivors who are refugees, clean-up and economic recovery. Imagine not even having clean water to drink when thirsty or nourishing food to eat when you are hungry, or clothing to replace the tatters that half-way cover your body. These conditions, and worse, face five million displaced people. The numbers are almost beyond our comprehension.

My intention is not to be morose but to remind us in this New Year that there is a world of need out there. We who are blessed need to share our blessings. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:

All sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.
May we find a viable avenue of help and contribute from our bounty to aid in alleviating pain and suffering in this sphere of earth where we live and move and have our being. Then, then maybe we can have a “Happy New Year.”

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