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.