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.