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