Thursday, December 14, 2006

Two Corrections and a Word About Caroling

By way of corrections on two recent columns: When I wrote the review of The Mountains of Yesteryear, the book by Ruby Lee Sargent Miles about her grandparents, Jefferson Beauregard Dyer and Rhoda Jane Souther Dyer, edited by her son, Ronald Eugene Miles, I erroneously credited words from the back cover of the book to poet John G. Neihardt. A quatrain from the poet was, indeed, printed as the last of the “Afterword,” but the cover message itself was written by Ronald Eugene Miles himself. I especially liked the portion I quoted because it mentions “Mountain Mists.” The long-time, over-riding title of this column by yours truly, is “Through Mountain Mists.” Therefore, what Ron Miles wrote struck a responsive chord with me.

I quote again, and this time, correctly credit the words to Mr. Miles: “This story will not turn back the hands (digits?) of time, but it does advocate lessons the earth still has to teach us. And when mists lift off the mountains, is there a more fulfilling refreshment than a long draught of pure, cool spring water bubbling from the Giving Earth?” Thanks, Ron Miles, for these thought-provoking words.

And now to the second error: In my column in last week’s Union Sentinel, my tribute to my beloved departed brother Bluford Marion Dyer, I had him correctly graduating with the Class of 1951 from Union County High School. But I incorrectly wrote that this class was the first to graduate from the newly-added twelfth grade. Readers would think I would know that it was 1952 when the first twelfth grade class graduated! Thanks, readers, for setting me straight on this point. Now I can remember Bluford saying, “By one year, I missed the twelfth grade!” What I didn’t say about Bluford in that column was that mathematics was always his love among subjects (as well as reading). At Truett McConnell College, where he was manager of the college farm, he also was assigned as a tutor for those deficient in math. He helped several fellow students get through that required subject of college algebra.

Now with “corrections” made, let us move on to the second subject of this column, Christmas caroling.

I don’t know how widespread the custom of Christmas caroling in shopping malls and outside homes is today in our culture. A war rages against any mention of “Christmas” that might offend the general populace. I, for one, will welcome any carolers that appear at our door with their jubilant songs of Christmas. This is even more important to us now that my husband is a shut-in. I remember many Christmases past when he was a pastor and I personally led our church children and youth in carol sings about our communities to homes of the elderly and shut-ins. The carolers were blessed and so were the people to whom we sang. This act of love was an important part of the Christmas celebration.

Just what is a carol and when did the custom of carol singing originate? Simply defined, a carol is “a song of praise, especially in honor of the Nativity” (Webster). Seeking the carol’s origins is more difficult. The word carol carries the significance of “a round dance” or a “ring dance.” But in historical perspective, more emphasis was placed on the words the dancers sang than on the exuberant, joyful, lilt of the dancers. Did this happen inside sedate cathedrals? Hardly. With a folk-song quality, these songs went on outside the churches, with wandering minstrels and groups of musicians celebrating the Christmas season (and other religious days) with carols, noels, lullabies and hymns.

St. Francis of Assissi who was priest at the little church at Grecchio in central Italy in 1223 wanted a more vivid way than usual to portray the Christmas story. We have read of St. Francis’s love of nature, his reverence for every animal, bird, beast, flower. At that long-ago Christmas, he arranged to have a manger scene in a cave near his church. With borrowed farm animals keeping watch, and with a statue of the Christ Child in the manger bed, St. Francis started the tradition of the Nativity scene at Christmas. It was immensely popular with his congregation and with the whole village.

This tradition soon spread, and soon throughout Italy and France Nativity scenes became a recognized and popular part of the Christmas celebration.

How we thrill to the words of the carol, “Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella!/Bring a torch to the cradle run!” With lighted candles, people joined the village processions to the manger scene, singing the lilting words of this carol which had its origin in France.

St. Francis loved the simple religious songs of the people. Instead of being stilted and formal, he asked his congregation to mix singing with his preaching. He is attributed as saying: “For what are the servants of God if not his minstrels, who ought to stir and incite the hearts of men to spiritual joy?” (William J. Reynolds, Christ and the Carols, Broadman, 1967, p. 17).

Christmas is about the birth of Christ, and spreading spiritual joy through “songs and hymns and spiritual songs.” It is about helping our fellow men, extending the hand of giving to anyone we meet. “In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas.” Let us absorb the spirit, join in the carols, spread as much cheer as we can. We often say, “Christmas comes but once a year!” But actually, every day of the year can bear the spirit of Christmas. What better New Year’s resolution could we make than to produce our own carols and the feeling of good will they bear—all year long? Carols have no evidence of pretense, no pseudo-sophistication, no upper-class snobbery. Neither should we, in our daily walk. A merry Christmas to all!

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 14, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

A Tribute to Bluford Marion Dyer

Bluford Marion Dyer at his home, December 2002,
at a family gathering and Christmas celebration.

For 17 years I have written newspaper columns. During that time I have written tributes to many people. Today, I write about my younger brother, Bluford Marion Dyer (11/26/1933-12/01/2006). I will guard against a maudlin, over-sentimental tribute, even though we were very close in relationship and in focus. He was a brother to be proud of, an humble, unassuming, "salt of the earth" farmer who knew hard work and troubles, triumphs and achievements, joys and sorrows. He embodied the words of Shakespeare: "His life was gentle, and the elements\So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up\And say to all the world, 'This was a man!'" (from Julius Caesar, V, 5).

My younger brother Bluford turned 73 on November 26, 2006. He was very sick that day. I longed to go visit him in the hospital, but circumstances prevented the trip. I thought about my first memory of him. I was three and one-half years his senior. I had been taken to my Grandfather Collins's home to stay until after the baby was born. My Aunt Ethel took me walking along that wagon road that led across the mountain at Choestoe from Grandpa's house to our house. I remember well having to keep up with Aunt Ethel and how cold the day was. I was well bundled up against the cold. When we got to my house, I got my first look at my little brother Bluford. He had a head full of dark hair and his cherubic face peeped out at me from the receiving blanket in which he was wrapped. It was "love at first sight" on my part, and from that day onward I cherished him. I was told to "be careful and treat him gently." I tried to do just that. We played for hours together as we were little children.

In 1939 when he was in first grade and I in fourth grade at Choestoe School, then a two-teacher country school, a snow blew in from the north and soon was piling up deeply. Why the two teachers did not dismiss school right away, I don't know. Since all students walked to school anyway, maybe an accumulation was not a threat because there were no buses that might get stuck in the snow. Suddenly, our father, J. Marion Dyer, was at the schoolhouse door. He was a Trustee of the school, so he had a responsibility in the management and safety of students and teachers. He told the teachers they should let the children go as the blizzard was getting worse. He had not heard this on any weather report; he just had a sixth sense about the weather. He had brought a shovel in case he needed it to clear the way on the mile to our house. Daddy put Bluford on his shoulder and told me to follow in the pathway he made. That cold winter day has been a poignant memory for me since, and a demonstration of how Dad loved us and had our welfare uppermost in his mind.

Fast forward six years to February, 1945. Our mother died on Valentine's Day. I was fourteen and Bluford was eleven. Our older brother Eugene lay in an Army Hospital somewhere in Italy. He had been severely wounded in World War II where he served as a bombardier in the famed Flying Fortress with the Liberation Group of the 15th Army Air Force. Our older sister Louise was already married to Ray Dyer and they had two young children, Sylvan and Faye at that time (in August, Shirley was born). Ray who was in service was soon deployed to serve in the Pacific War Theater. It was a dark time in history and in the Dyer home at Choestoe. As we sat on that cold February day and heard the eulogy for our mother, a depiction of Proverbs 31:10-31, I knew that I entered adulthood at age fourteen, and that Bluford grew up from his little boy stage of eleven. I still continued my care for him, somewhat like sister/mother. That fall marked the time when our father taught Bluford, age 11, to attend the boiler and make sorghum syrup. Bluford was to follow that tradition of his father and grandfathers before him until he made his last crop of cane into syrup in the fall of 2004-fifty-nine years of premium-quality sorghum syrup making.

Fortunately, Eugene returned from service, and although beset by wounds received, he overcame them and became a businessman. Ethelene went to Truett McConnell College, graduated, and married in 1949 to Rev. Grover Jones whom she had met there. Ray returned from World War II and he and Louise and family moved to Cornelia, GA.

Bluford's father married his second wife, Winnie Mae Manley Shelton, on March 8, 1950. To them were born twin daughters, Brenda and Linda, son Troy, and daughters Gail and Janice. Loyd Shelton was Winnie's son by her first marriage. The family was growing, and Bluford adapted, working on the farm and continuing his education.

Bluford graduated from Union County High School with the Class of 1951, the last class to graduate before the twelfth grade was added. In the fall of 1951 he entered Truett McConnell College, Cleveland. To earn his tuition and board, the college assigned him the work responsibility of managing the college farm. His upbringing and hard work during his teenage years had prepared him well for the job. He was responsible for the others on farm work scholarship and for taking care of the animals and hay, vegetable and corn crops. The produce from that farm was used in part to provide for the college cafeteria.

At Truett McConnell, he met his future bride, Annie Jo Shook of Young Harris. They were married June 2, 1956. They soon were set up in their own house and Bluford continued his love for the land and farming. His step-mother Winnie Mae died 11/16/1956. Bluford and Annie Jo began caring for Gail, who was a two years three months old at the time of her mother's death. They reared her as their own daughter. Their daughter, Jounida, was born April 10, 1958. Through the years, more were added to the family. Wayne Hedden married Gail and Keith Porter married Jounida, and grandchildren Luke and Leslie Hedden and Blaze and Sky Porter. Bluford loved his family and get-togethers at special occasions. He served for many years as a trustee of the Dyer- Souther Heritage Association.

Bob Gibby who gave the eulogy at Bluford's memorial service on December 3 based his remarks on three characteristics Bluford possessed in abundance: (1) An unwavering work ethic; (2) Unselfish community service; and (3) Love and support of family.

Bluford received an award for his thirty three continuous years of service on the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service Board. He was known for his firm stand on issues affecting farmers and served ably on ASCS, representing Union, Towns and Fannin Counties. He was likewise active in community and church. His life was a reflection of his beliefs.

A long-time friend of the family, Mr. Kent Christopher, attended the funeral and interment at Choestoe Church in a wheel chair, bent and feeble. I spoke to Mr. Christopher following the service and told him I was glad he could come to Bluford's memorial. With tears in his eyes he said, "Bluford was my friend and helper in all things." And with those words and those tears, Kent summarized the life of one who gave unselfishly of his time, energy, means and person to help others.

The following free-verse poem was my tribute to him, read by Bluford's nephew and my son, the Rev. Keith Jones, officiating minister, at the memorial service. The poem is my attempt to summarize the life of a brother who was dearer than life itself to me. Many asked me for a copy of the poem. Here it is, with love:

One with the Land
(In tribute to my brother, Bluford Marion Dyer, November 26, 1933 - December 1, 2006 - Farmer Extraordinary)
The land was his livelihood, On hills and bottoms, row on row, Crops stretched upward, growing, Yielding to his knowing touch. He, one with the land, each season held For him some special work--- Winter and dormancy saw plans For spring plowing, planting, hope For summer's verdant growth And yield from early crops, The garden's bounty preserved to last A year for table abundantly laid. Fall was the sweetest time: The golden leaves on trees Matched the gold of sorghum syrup Cooking succulently in the copper pan. Crops were gathered before the cold Brought blasts of winter to the land--- All safely stored, the animals sheltered---
Days to rest, to read, a slower rhythm. His affinity with the land Came by inheritance and choice, Following the plow, growing food For family and others, his appointment, his calling. As earth meets sky at horizon's rim, So his soul touched land, and it yielded for him."He that tills the land shall be satisfied with bread."* His honest toil helped many to be fed. (*Proverbs 12:11a) -Ethelene Dyer Jones, December 2, 2006

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 7, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The mountains of yesteryear - Jefferson Beauregard Dyer and Rhoda Jane Souther Dyer

The Mountains of Yesteryear is the title of a delightful little book that came to my desk recently. A gift from Ronald Eugene Miles of Minnesota, it was written by his mother Ruby Lee Sergeant Miles.

Thanks to Jane Berry Thompson of the Union County Historical Society and Museum, Ron Miles, a kinsman of the far-flung Dyer-Souther Heritage Association whom I had not met before, got in touch with me. We have enjoyed making connections and sharing genealogical information.

The book his mother wrote was edited and published by Ron Miles in 1999 prior to his mother's death in 2000. In novella form, Ruby Lee Sergeant Miles wrote of the life and times of Jefferson Beauregard Dyer (1861-1944) and Rhoda Jane Souther Dyer (1863-1942), her grandparents.

The "Foreword," by the author's son and editor of the book, is a lofty and eloquently written tribute to the way of life and the people whose story is revealed in the book. Ronald Miles writes: "Ultimately, this family trail would wind from the foot of Yonah Mountain in the newly-formed Habersham County, across the spectacularly wild Tesnatee Gap route, to arrive at Choestoe in the early 1830's. In a rickety wagon, on horseback, and afoot over this ancient Indian trail, the Dyers brought with them all the accoutrements of mountain living to settle by a bountiful and crystalline spring on Cane Creek. As of this turning to the twenty-first century, the Dyer name remains on a mailbox there. The oaken latch from the crumbled springhouse is a precious relic in my Minnesota cabin home, a hand-touch across years and miles." (pp. i-ii)

Ruby Lee Sergeant Miles (6-22-1916 - 2-22-2000) was a daughter of Laura Canzady Dyer, the sixth of twelve children of Jefferson Beauregard and Rhoda Jane Souther Dyer. Her mother was better known by her nickname, Cannie Dyer. Ruby Lee's father was Lonnie Sargent. It is amazing that Ruby Lee, who had to quit school at age twelve because of her mother Cannie's failing health, could write a book with, as her son Ron's introduction states, "such importance, integrity and transcendent beauty." (p. iv) The author was, indeed, gifted with ability with words and with insight and imagination.

The book was illustrated by a friend of Ron Miles, artist Gregory R. Wimmer of Rochester, Minnesota. A replica of the cabin built for Rhoda Jane Souther by her fiancé, Jefferson Beauregard Dyer on land given to his ninth child by James Marion Dyer (1823- 1904), looks amazingly like the log cabins so carefully constructed after the Civil War.

Jefferson and Rhoda Jane were married December 14, 1879. The story is an imagined romantic account of how Jeff met Jane and how their courtship proceeded, with the genuine approval of Jeff's parents, and the cooperation of Rhoda Jane's father, Jesse Washington Souther (1836- 1926).

Rhoda Jane's mother was Sarah E. Collins (1840-1872), daughter of Frank and Rutha Nix Collins. Sarah died when Rhoda Jane was only nine years of age, and being the second child of seven and the oldest girl, it fell her lot to help take care of her siblings who ranged in age from eleven years to six months when her mother died. On March 12, 1876, Rhoda Jane's father, Wash Souther, married the second time to Nancy Sullivan. From this union came eight children, half-siblings of Rhoda Jane Souther. She helped her step-mother care for the two new step-siblings born before she and Jefferson Beauregard Dyer married December 14, 1879.

Ruby Lee Sergeant Miles imagines that Jefferson Beauregard and his bride-to-be took picnic lunches and visited the land he received from his father, James Marion Dyer. I am not sure that young people of that day would have been permitted that much unsupervised time away from elders. But in the granddaughter's account of their courtship, she allows for time for the young couple to dream of their future life together:

"On Sundays, Jeff would take Jane up for the day, to picnic and plan a life in their new home. These times were very thrilling for them. They could almost see the morning glory vines growing over the end of the long porch." (p. 23).

With much hard work, Jeff finished the cabin before Christmas, 1879. The couple had their marriage ceremony at the Souther home. And on Christmas Day that year, Jane and Jeff invited their parents to their cabin and served a typical mountain feast to celebrate their marriage and to show their home.

Ruby Lee Sergeant Miles follows the year-by-year life of the Jefferson Beauregard Dyer family--filled with hard work and births of their twelve children, four sons and eight daughters.

The family moved from Choestoe to Cleveland, Georgia in White County in 1892 and lived there thirteen years. From there they moved to New Holland in Hall County, Georgia where Jefferson got a job working in the cotton mill.

The older children were also employed in the mill. Jefferson built four houses there, three of which he rented. Although life was filled with hard work, the family had genuine love for each other and a sense of togetherness. Ruby Lee says of the family: "Jeff continued to try new and prosperous things to better the life for Jane. His family always had about as good as the best of families." (p. 31).

The last half of Mrs. Miles's book has vignettes about "Yesteryear in the Mountains," including myths, early homes, producing and preserving food, animals, people caring for one another, and plants and herbs. She included recipes for some of the dishes prepared at the fireplace in an iron pot or in an iron Dutch oven covered with coals.

Thanks to Ronald Eugene Miles, retired from his career with Minnesota State Parks, for editing and publishing his mother's book. It is an excellent addition to our written mountain history. The Book Nook in Blairsville has some copies or one may be ordered from Grassroots Concepts, 9980 Ponderosa Lane Southwest, Lake Shore, MN 56468-2005 for $15 which includes cost and shipping and handling.

On the back cover is an "Afterword" written by poet and essayist John G. Neihardt. He states: "This story will not turn back the hands (digits?) of time, but it does advocate lessons the earth still has to teach us. And when mists lift off the mountains, is there a more fulfilling, refreshment than a long draught of pure, cool spring water bubbling from the Giving Earth?"

For those of you who enjoy reading about mountain ways and families of yesteryear, this insightful book will be an excellent addition to your library.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 30, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Past Overflow to the Present

America was torn asunder with the Civil War raging. On October 20, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the "Thanksgiving Day Proclamation 1864."

The Proclamation was lengthy and gave praise to "our Heavenly Father...[who has] largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while he has opened to us new sources of wealth, and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards...and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions."

For the list of reasons the president gave for thanksgiving, he did "thereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may be then, as a day of praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe."

He asked that citizens pray for "peace, harmony and unity throughout the land."

Many observed the day declared as Thanksgiving by President Lincoln. It was not the first Thanksgiving. We all recall reading about the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock in 1621 with 90 friendly Indians gathered with them to render thanks for protection during the rugged winter. The Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia in 1782 proclaimed a General Day of Thanksgiving set for November 28 for that year. President George Washington called for a time of Thanksgiving in 1789 and declared it a national holiday. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Congressional sanction in 1941 making the next to last Thursday in November the official Thanksgiving Day.

Settling on a particular Thursday and sticking with it has been a practice in the United States since the time of World War II. Thanksgiving Day is laced with the famous Macy's Parade which many watch on Television. Gathering with family and enjoying a feast of turkey, dressing and all the trimmings is a memorable part of Thanksgiving Day.

And, we would hope, giving thanks is still a vital part of Thanksgiving. When I was still the hostess for our family Thanksgiving gathering a few years ago, we had the long-standing practice of recalling and telling the gathered family one particular thing that had happened in the past year for which we were especially grateful. We gave some prior thought to what we would report, and going around the large circle of family members as they held hands and thanked God for blessings was a spiritual highlight of our year. I am grateful that my children, now the hostesses, continue this practice.

And so it has been with Thanksgiving among families on this significantly American holiday.

A story my father told me has remained with me for a long time. When he was a boy, his father and others in the Choestoe Valley raised turkeys for market. They would choose a time in late October or early November to have a "turkey drive" on the Logan Turnpike and take the turkeys to Gainesville for sale. I wish I had asked more questions about how they managed to keep the turkeys on the trail and herded them on the two or three day journey to market. I can imagine the turkeys roosting in the trees at night as the entourage camped along the way and rose early to get the turkeys ready for the march to market. In their covered wagons they would have bags of chestnuts gathered from trees in the woods before the terrible chestnut blight hit; sorghum syrup made at the Dyer mill; corn, pumpkins and dried peas and beans to trade, as well as the flock of turkeys. That week's journey to and from market and the goods traded were a way of life for my ancestors, and an item for gratitude when Thanksgiving Day came.

When I was a child, my father decided he would raise turkeys for market. It was far beyond the time of the turkey drives to market over the Logan Turnpike. We got the turkey poults in the springtime. Amazingly, trays of them were delivered by the rural mail carrier. We had a "turkey house" where we fed and nourished the little turkey poults and watched them grow. But as they grew, they were turned out "on the range" to gather their food from the hayfield.

Turkeys could often become a nuisance. Imagine being awakened early every morning, not by the usual rooster's crowing but by the "gobble, gobble, gobble" of the turkeys. The turkeys were much more aggressive than chickens. If we wore a red sweater or coat, we could expect to be chased by a turkey attracted to the bright color.

But then came the day when the truck would come for the turkeys to take them over Neal Gap (Highway 129) to market. We had to arise early to catch the turkeys and put them in large coops for transport to market. Those turkeys became the repast for city-dwellers' Thanksgiving meals. We always kept a few, one of which would make its way to our oven and our table for the Dyer Thanksgiving meal.

This Thanksgiving, may you remember and be grateful for blessings you enjoy.

We should never take them for granted. As Abraham Lincoln stated in his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation: "No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."

Our 16th president's words ring true for Thanksgiving 2006. Have a wonderful day!

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 23, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

White House on the 'Threatened' List

You, as I, probably read the recent threat made by the terrorists to "destroy the White House," which they termed the bastion of evil and lies.

In such a light, one of the important buildings of American government is seen in the eyes of our enemies. Security measures have been greatly increased. Since September 11, 2001, Homeland Security no longer takes such threats lightly. Let us pray that plots to the safety of an American landmark can be found and defused. Many stand to lose if this threat is, indeed, carried out. A grand edifice could be destroyed. The safety of the family who lives within its walls and a multitude of visitors to its halls would be at great risk.

November 17 is a significant anniversary for the White House and for Washington as the seat of US government. On that date in 1800, Congress convened in Washington, District of Columbia, for the first time. President and Mrs. John Adams moved into the White House, the official residence of the president. Many details of the White House were unfinished at that time, including absence of bathrooms and running water.

Let us review how Washington, District of Columbia, became the nation's capital, and how the White House was built.

President George Washington signed an Act of Congress in December 1790. Within the act was this designation: that the U. S. government would be conducted in a district "not exceeding ten miles square...on the River Potomac."

The Frenchman, Pierre L'Enfant, city planner, worked with President Washington to choose the site and lay it out for the various government buildings. The house for the president would be built at what has become a familiar address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

As the new federal city began to take form, a competition for plans and building of the White House was announced. Nine different architects submitted their proposals. The plans of Irish-born James Hoban were accepted and he won a gold medal, as well as the go-ahead, for his design. Built into it were both practicality and stately appearance.

The cornerstone was laid in October 1792. President Washington himself oversaw much of the construction of the house. Although he would never live in it, he had a deep-seated interest that it would be a worthy residence for the leader of the United States.

Although the house was not completed when President John Adams and his wife Abigail moved in on November 17, 1800, and builders continued their labor, the dream of first president George Washington was finally a reality.

The White House has survived several catastrophes. During what history terms the War of 1812, the British set fire to the residence in 1814 when James Madison was president. A fire broke out in the West Wing in 1929 when Herbert Hoover was president. Following World War II, when President Truman was in office, a major renovation and overhaul of the house was done. The Trumans lived during this period in the Blair House across Pennsylvania Avenue. Despite the fires and renovations, the same exterior stone walls that were put in place from 1790 through 1800 remain in the house.

The majestic residence has had several names. Known first as the "President's Palace," next as the "President's House," third as the "Executive Mansion," and finally, in 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt gave its current name, the "White House."

Today, although security is tighter than prior to 9/11/2001, visitors can still tour the White House. Not all of its rooms are open for tours. We might wonder just how many rooms it contains. The White House has 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms. These are on six levels, with three elevators and eight staircases to help access the various floors.

On this 206th anniversary of the White House, we as citizens should take pride in its stately elegance. We can visit it to get a feel of the edifice that was conceived in the mind of our first president who rejected being made a king and wanted only representative government "of, by, and for the people."

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 16, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

America, the Home of the Brave

Voting is a privilege of citizens, not easily won, especially the issue of women's suffrage. It is our way of having a voice in government, and of upholding the Constitution of the United States which has been a vehicle for our freedoms for well over two hundred years.

The second event of note in this week is Veterans' Day November 11. For a long time we called it Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I in 1918. In our more modern version, it is a day set aside to honor the bravery and sacrifice of those willing to take up arms in defense of our country and other countries where the benefits of freedom may be unknown. On Veterans' Day, we should find and thank a military person who was willing to make the sacrifice to uphold American liberty. When I hear the strains of our "Star Spangled Banner," and see Old Glory flying aloft, my patriotism is lifted to a high level. I exult that America is still "the home of the brave."

A most majestic place I have visited several times is Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington, DC at Arlington, Virginia. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (now called the Tomb of the Unknowns) holds prominence at the front of the stately Arlington Memorial Amphitheater where people gather to watch the changing of the guard and for memorial services.

Tomb of the Unknowns

On the tomb is inscribed these words: "Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God."

The interment in the tomb of the first selected Unknown Soldier occurred November 11, 1921. Killed in World War I, he was selected by US Army Sergeant Edward F. Younger from four American soldiers fatally wounded in combat, none of which were identified. At the city hall of Chalons-sur-Marne, France on October 24, 1921, Sgt. Younger placed white roses on the third casket from the left, and in that manner designated the Unknown Soldier of World War I. Any of the four could have been selected for all were worthy. The other three were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery in France.

Tomb of the Unknowns

The World War I selected Unknown Soldier was returned to America aboard the USS Olympia. His flag-draped casket lay in the Capitol Rotunda from his arrival in the United States until Armistice Day, November 11, 1921. His remains were then transferred to Arlington National Cemetery. President Warren G. Harding presided at the impressive ceremony honoring America's Unknown Soldier.

Later, unknown soldiers from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War were interred in crypts west of the World War I Unknown Soldier. The dates of these burials, and the president leading the memorial services were, respectively: May 30, 1958 for both World War II and the Korean War with President Dwight Eisenhower; and May 28, 1984 for the Vietnam War Unknown, with President Ronald Reagan. However, due to DNA tests, the Vietnam Unknown was identified as 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie of the US Air Force. His family had his remains disinterred and buried him near their home in St. Louis, Missouri. Since his remains were moved May 14, 1998, the Vietnam Unknown crypt has remained empty.

The sentinels who guard the Tomb 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (366 in Leap Year) are from the Third United States Infantry Regiment, sometimes called "The Old Guard." They subscribe to a strict code of conduct and take their posts proudly and with reverence. Each pledges: "My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted... I will not falter...I will walk my tour in humble reverence... Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance."

"America, the Home of the Brave!" Let us never take for granted the privileges we enjoy as citizens, and may we hold in reverence the honor due our military, past and present, who salute Old Glory and hold fast to the ideals of defending freedom. May we think thoughts of gratitude on Armistice Day, Veterans' Day.

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 9, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

The Blood Mountain Story

To the right of US Highway 129/19 going south, rising above Lake Trahlyta and Vogel State Park, is majestic Blood Mountain with an altitude of 4,458 feet.

I have seen Blood Mountain shrouded in mists and fogs so dense that the mountain seemed to have disappeared completely from sight. When fall's splendor of color climbs the hills, Blood Mountain stands as a mural of Nature, like a carpet of gold, red and russet, spread as a feast of beauty for the eyes. In winter, I've seen it with snow and ice on its summit. With sunlight reflected on its frozen crest, it becomes a giant protruding diamond of glistening glory.

As tourists come to visit the mountains in the fall, surely many have taken time to read the historical and official sign that marks Blood Mountain and to wonder about the myths that surround it and the history that gave it its name.

I quote directly from the sign:

"Blood Mountain - Elevation 4458 ft. - Chattahoochee National Forest
"In Cherokee mythology the mountain was one of the homes of the Nunnehi or Immortals, the "People Who Live Anywhere," a race of Spirit People who lived in great townhouses in the highlands of Old Cherokee County. One of these mythical townhouses stood near Lake Trahlyta. As a friendly people, they often brought lost hunters and wanderers to their townhouses for rest and care before guiding them back to their homes. Before the coming of white settlers, the Creeks and Cherokees fought a disastrous and bloody battle in Slaughter Gap between Slaughter and Blood Mountain." (Georgia Historical Commission)

First, the myth of the Nunnehi was common to other places, not just to Blood Mountain. From Mooney's "Myths of the Cherokee," we learn that the spirit people often assisted those in trouble on their hunts and travels. They were caregivers for those in distress and provided places of rest and recuperation.

Who are we to find fault with the myths of the Nunnehi? Most of us believe in guardian angels who protect and minister. Maybe we express our stories in a different way from the Cherokee-held beliefs of the "People Who Live Anywhere." But basic to most cultures is the faith of ministering spirits that come when needed to bind up wounds and provide sustenance.

Blood Mountain’s name came in a more caustic and confronting manner. Not even the Nunnehi could prevent the confrontation between the Creeks and the Cherokees that occurred many years ago. When the Cherokee came south, they discovered the Creek Nation already entrenched in the mountains. Desiring the land for their habitation, the Cherokee waged a great battle against the Creeks at Slaughter Gap. It is said that the streams ran red with blood from those killed as these two Native American tribes fought for dominance of the land. Thence came the name for the highest peak where this battle occurred, and Blood Mountain stands as a sentinel to this historic fray.

The Cherokee built villages throughout Union County. One was in the shadow of Blood Mountain.

Then the white men began to come to the mountains to settle. At first the whites and Cherokees lived in peace. Known as one of the five "civilized" tribes (the others were Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Seminoles), the Cherokee taught the white man how to till the rugged mountain land and what herbs and plants were beneficial for eating and for medicinal purposes.

History teaches us of the treaties signed and the efforts made to separate the Cherokee from their lands. Some of them are cited here. The Treaty of 1819 ceded Cherokee lands to the whites in other southeastern states except in north Georgia and eastern Tennessee. With the discovery of gold in 1828, prospectors became land-hungry and excessively greedy. It was that year that Georgia passed legislation extending Georgia ownership to North Georgia Cherokee lands.

Despite pleas to the contrary, in 1830 the Indian Removal Bill passed the U. S. Congress. That was the beginning of the end of Cherokee occupation of North Georgia. Before 1832, when Union County was formed from the large Cherokee County which covered much of North Georgia, numerous white settlers had secured land through land lot grants and gold lot grants.

President Andrew Jackson wanted Indians removed to lands west of the mighty Mississippi River where land had been set aside as Reservations. Both Governors Gilmer and Lumpkin of Georgia wanted the Indians sent west. Despite Chief John Ross and the Cherokee Council's pleas in Washington in 1835, about five hundred Indians had signed for removal, going against their Chief who was trying to keep the mountain land for the Cherokees.

We know the sad story of The Trail of Tears and the forced removal of 1838.

Mainly those Cherokee who hid out in caves to escape the soldiers or those married to white settlers remained in their mountain home.

Cherokee names were left on mountains and in the valleys, on hamlets and rivers. Mrs. Belle Abbott wrote on October 27, 1889 in her "The Cherokee Indians of Georgia" (University, Alabama, Confederate Publishing Co., reprinted 1980, p. 7): "Visiting among the mountains of North Georgia, I have often been possessed with the feeling that an impalpable presence moves about the hills and wanders through the sweet, green valleys. There is a whisper in the corn, and a sighing in the leaves, a pathos in the moonlight, and a ghostly grouping in the clouds. What is it? Do the spirits of the departed Cherokees linger yet about their beloved hunting grounds? And do they whisper to the sympathetic heart of today, 'O pale faces, write of us; give us a little page in history of the land that denied us a home.'"

I've felt that 'impalpable presence" on the top of Blood Mountain and other places bearing names given by those long-departed inhabitants.

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 2, 2006 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The privilege of owning old Gillespie-made rifles

Billy Harkins of Union County holds two Gillespie-made rifles. The long rifle was made for W. W. Carland of Henderson County, NC by Harvey Gillespie. The shorter "hog" rifle belonged to Billy's great grandfather, Bill Bowers. Indications are that it was made by Harvey Gillespie.

Perhaps James Butts and Billy Harkins are not the only two current citizens of Union County, Georgia who own original Gillespie-made rifles. But these two men have been generous in sharing information and pictures with me which they gave permission to publish through this column.

These two are proud owners of tried and true firearms made by descendants of the Gillespie gunmakers of East Fork, North Carolina, and of grandsons of the original John Gillespie, Sr.--John and James A. who migrated to Union County and Harvey who remained in Henderson County, NC. Each (and other Gillespie descendants) plied their gunsmith trade well.

Last week's column told of how James Butts became the privileged owner of a rifle which had been made for his grandfather, Sydney Harshaw. It was made by John Gillespie who migrated to Union County in 1849.

Billy Harkins of V Harkins Road, Blairsville, a carpenter by trade and a gunsmith by avocation and hobby, is the privileged owner of a Gillespie-made "hog" rifle owned by his great, great grandfather, Bill Bowers, who married Sarah ("Sally") Gillespie, daughter of Moses Gillespie.

Billy Harkins also owns a Gillespie-made rifle which was fashioned specifically for a W. W. Carland who lived in the area of Henderson County, NC. Billy Harkins found a date on that long rifle showing it was crafted in 1873. Neither of these rifles is signed, but through extensive research and stories passed down, the current owner has found earmarks to identify Harvey Gillespie as the gunmaker for both rifles.

It sounds easy to say, "Harvey Gillespie made these rifles," even though his signature, other than some characteristic "code" markings, does not appear on either of the rifles now owned by Billy Harkins. You see, there were several named Harvey Gillespie who made guns. One was John Harvey Gillespie (1810-1891), son of William, grandson of John, Sr. and Jane Harvey Gillespie (Jane's maiden name "Harvey" was passed along for generations, as was the custom then).

The Harvey Gillespie whom Billy Harkins believes made the guns he owns was a brother to John R. Gillespie and James A. Gillespie who migrated to Union County in 1849. But their brother, Harvey, remained in North Carolina.

Harvey Gillespie (June 18, 1820-August 19, 1877) was the son of Mathew Gillespie and his wife, Elizabeth Sitton Gillespie, their seventh of twelve children, five sons and seven daughters.

Elizabeth Sitton's father, Phillip Sitton, owned an ironworks located on the South Mills River near present-day Mills River, NC. Nearby on Queen's Creek, Mathew Gillespie set up his gunsmith shop, and all five of his sons, John R., Phillip, Harvey, James A. and Wilson learned the gunsmith trade while working with their father. The son named Harvey (as were the other eleven children of Mathew and Elizabeth Gillespie) was born in Henderson County, NC. Harvey was buried in Henderson County, as was his wife, Sarah Hooper Gillespie.

Billy Harkins is grateful to Vesta Waldroop Byrd who found the old Gillespie-made hog rifle stored in a building at their home. Knowing that the old rifle belonged to Billy Harkins' great grandfather, Bill Bowers,Vesta gave the rifle to Billy. Stories Billy heard in his childhood make the rifle very personal and treasured. One he especially enjoyed hearing was how his grandfather went out into the woods near Owltown Gap where he lived looking for wild turkeys. Bill Bowers found a flock, and giving good aim, shot and killed two turkeys with the same shot. Whether that happened near Thanksgiving or not, we don't know. At any rate, the Bowers family enjoyed a feast of wild turkey with all the fixings.

Billy is amazed at the true aim of both old rifles he owns. As he makes replicas of them, he is careful to get the best materials with which to make his copies and to craft them with precision as did the Gillespie gunmakers of long ago.

"Why did you decide to start making replicas of the rifles?" I asked Billy.

"I appreciate the tedious and precise work the Gillespie and other gunmakers did in crafting their guns. It took skill, patience and perseverance to make them. I am interested in helping to preserve old fire arms and other antiques from the folk art point of view. I enjoy attending gun shows and recently attended the annual show in Lexington, Kentucky. I have been invited to the Museum of Appalachia near Knoxville, Tennessee to show my guns."

Billy Harkins is a carpenter and especially enjoys custom carpentry such as making rails of laurel wood and custom-ordered furniture. Mantels are another of his specialties. "I've crafted and hung several mantels," he said. Toward the end of our conversation, he invited me to call him and come by to see his gunshop, his antique guns, and the replicas he makes. I asked if he would be willing to accommodate other interested persons and he gave me permission to list his telephone number. Just call him in advance at 706-745-9405 for an appointment. He also owns a very old powder horn and hunting bag, as well as the attachment to measure the amount of powder needed for the guns.

On October 19, he took Dennis Glazener of Midlothian, Virginia, author of the book, "The Gillespie Gun Makers of East Fork, NC" (2006), another descendant of the gunmakers of fame, to meet Mr. Odell Plott of Young Harris. Mr. Plott, up in years now, is still alert and active, and related to the Gillespies through marriage. He took Glazener and Billy Harkins to the spot just off Georgia Highway 76 near the Towns/Union line, almost directly in front of Zion Methodist Church, where John and James Gillespie first worked together in their joint gunsmith shop. After the accident with a barrel being loaded on the forge with gunpowder still in it, the brothers went their separate ways. John Gillespie moved closer to Young Harris, to a location on the now Plott Town Road. The house John Gillespie lived in is still standing. A flat spot near the house appears to be the location where his gunshop stood.

I've traced the Gillespies and their descendants through four lengthy columns. My deep gratitude goes to Dennis Glazener, James Butts and Billy Harkins for taking the time through published book, emails, pictures and telephone calls to give rich information about the family who, through several generations, crafted a product of necessity and recreation. These men generously shared their knowledge of the guns and their makers with me I feel almost as if I have walked in the footsteps of the John Gillespies, James, Harvey and others. Dennis Glazener and Billy Harkins have learned to build replicas of the famous guns. All, including James Butts, appreciate the guns that have lasted far longer than a century. They save the real implements. I like to think I save a portion of this rich heritage through words.

James Butts is pictured with his children, Logan and Morgan, holding a long rifle made by John Gillespie for Sydney Harshaw, James' great, great grandfather.

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 26, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

James Butts – Proud owner of a Gillespie Rifle

James Butts is pictured with his children, Logan and Morgan, holding a long rifle made by John Gillespie for Sydney Harshaw, James' great, great grandfather.

Sidney Harshaw (1815-1875) was born in Burke County, NC. He was living in Union County at the time of the 1850 census. He owned thirteen slaves in 1850.

He met Salinda Plott (1835-1907) of the Plotttown section of Union/Towns counties. She was born in North Carolina. Whether she and Sidney met before they moved to Union County is not known. They were married August 31, 1854, two years before Towns was formed from a portion of Union. Her parents were George and Rebecca Land Plott.

Sidney Harshaw's estate covered the land that is now a part of Meeks Park west of Blairsville. He operated a grist mill. Sidney Harshaw's great, great grandson, James Butts, states that part of the grist mill can still be seen at Meeks Park after a century and a half.

Sidney and Salinda Plott Harshaw had seven daughters: Barbara Ann Harshaw (1855-1932) married Jacob Luther (Uncle "Boney") Colwell; Harriet Elizabeth Harshaw (1857-1917) married Hiram Theodore ("Red") Colwell; Sarah Cleopatra ("Clee") Harshaw (1859-1923) married Archibald Blucher Butt; Ellen Harshaw (1862-?) married Cicero Y. Rogers; Mary Harshaw (1863-?); Emma Lou Harshaw (1865-1943); and Julia Harshaw (1870-1939).

James B. Butts who now owns his great, great grandfather Harshaw's Gillespie rifle is the fifth generation of Harshaws. His descendancy comes through Sarah Cleopatra ("Clee") Harshaw Butt and Archibald Blucher Butt along this line: Their fifth child, Robert Bryan Butt (1897-1948) and Zora Gibson Butt (1907-1980) had a son, James Robert Butt (b. 1932), who married Betty Ann Davidson. James B. Butts and Jeff Butts (the fifth generation from Sidney Harshaw) were their sons. And now the sixth generation, Logan and Morgan Butts (Shelly Burks Butts is Logan's mother and Lisa Lovell Butts is Morgan's mother), can proudly display the Gillespie rifle of their great, great, great grandfather, Sidney Harshaw.

But the signed John Gillespie-made rifle did not always have a safe place with Sidney Harshaw's descendants. This is the story James Butts tells of how he came to receive the treasured firearm.

Emma Lou Harshaw died in 1943. Sidney Harshaw’s youngest daughter, Julia Harshaw, died in 1939. An estate sale was held following the deaths of these daughters. James Robert Butt, James Butt's father, remembers going to the estate sale with his father, Robert Bryan Butt. The Gillespie rifle was an item up for bids. Local blacksmith, Marion Jackson received the rifle at the highest bid of fifty cents! He took it to his blacksmith shop just off highway 129 north out of Blairsville, and put it on display.

Union County Historian Ed Mauney saw the gun and immediately recognized it for what it was--a treasured, signed John Gillespie-made long rifle. He offered Mr. Jackson $5.00 for it, and the blacksmith accepted his offer. Mr. Mauney did much research on the Gillespie rifles made at East Fork in North Carolina.

The gun changed owners again. Claude LaFayette Butt (1879-1960), a grandson of Sidney Harshaw (son of Archibald Blucher and Sarah Cleopatra Harshaw Butt), bought the gun from Ed Mauney for $15.00. Many will remember Mr. Claude Butt as the long-time Union County Clerk of Court. A state patrolman offered to pay Claude Butt $35.00 for the gun, but he refused, knowing that it was a family heirloom. The rifle passed from Claude Butt to James Robert Butt, great grandson of Sidney Harshaw and James B. Butts's father.

Ed Mauney (1897-1977) in his research found that the particular gun owned by the Butts family was indeed made in Union County after John Gillespie moved here. Its stock is of lovely curly maple and the gun, well crafted and lovingly preserved, bears the proud initials of its maker, "J. G." When Ed Mauney bought the gun, he also received a framed portrait of the gun's maker. That picture was used in Dennis Gillespie's book, The Gillespie Gun Makers of East Fork, NC.

[Note: Many thanks to James B. Butts of Blairsville for much of the information in this column, and to him and Jerry Taylor, Towns County Historian, for the descendancy chart of Sidney Harshaw's family. For questions or to contact me, I may be reached at e-mail edj0513@alltel. net, telephone 478-453- 8751, or mail: Ethelene Dyer Jones, 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA 31061-2411. Best wishes to all, and may we ever be aware of our rich mountain area history!]

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 19, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Brothers Philip and Wilson Gillespie--Casualties of the Civil War

In last week’s column we were introduced to the Gillespie gunmakers of East Fork, NC. Two sons of Mathew and Elizabeth Sitton Gillespie, John R. and James A., moved to Union County, Georgia about 1849 and set up gun making establishments.

Two of their brothers, Philip and Wilson, and their brother-in-law, George Washington Underwood, were casualties of the Civil War.

Mathew and Elizabeth Gillespie had a large family of twelve children. Two of their sons, Philip and Wilson, and two of their sons-in-law, Robert O. Blythe, husband of their daughter, Jane, and George Washington Underwood, husband of their youngest child, daughter Isabel, left Mills River, NC together on their way to Tennessee to join the Union Army. It is reported that they walked from Mills River to Asheville where they caught a train to Tennessee. After arriving in Tennessee, they worked for several days in the fall harvest of wheat and corn, and then enlisted on September 25, 1863 at Greenville.

Prior to joining the Union Army, Philip Gillespie (2/11/1815 – 1/15/1864) was a noted gunmaker, having learned in his father’s shop. At Mills River, Philip plied his trade, with his brothers John, James and Wilson, and his brothers-in-law Robert O. Blythe, George W. Underwood, and John Harvey Gillespie, his first cousin but also his brother-in-law, married to his sister Sarah, worked at the shop owned and managed by Philip. In addition to turning out many guns with the initials “P. G.” to identify them, Philip owned a large farm he had bought from his grandfather, Philip Sitton, Sr. (for whom he was named). He ran a legal whiskey distillery. He also operated the Sitton Iron Forge.

Up in Tennessee, the two brothers and two brothers-in-law were assigned on October 1, 1863 to Company F, 2nd Regiment, North Carolina Mounted Infantry, Army of the United States, at Knoxville.

How much action Philip Gillespie engaged in is unclear. He became quite ill and was taken from camp into the home of Richard Wade near Maynardsville, Tennessee. He died of chronic diarrhea on January 15, 1864, and was buried there the next day.

Philip Gillespie never married. Reportedly, before he left Mills River to enlist in the war, he hid a bag of gold coins and a cask of brandy somewhere on Forge Mountain near his home. But the treasures were never found. Several fine Gillespie rifles with his initials were his legacy left to posterity. He was perhaps the most productive and best known of the third generation Gillespie gunmakers.

Wilson Gillespie (02/15/1825 – 01/15/1825) was the eleventh child of Mathew and Elizabeth Sitton Gillespie. Wilson was first married to Rachel N. Taylor. She died shortly after the birth of their son, William Harvey Gillespie (1851-1920). Wilson married, second, Malinda B. Underwood., a sister to George Washington Underwood who married Wilson’s sister, Isabel. Wilson and Malinda had five children: Rachel, Mary Elizabeth, Martha E., Margaret J., and Thomas W. Martha died the day she was born (March 1, 1858) and Thomas died at age fourteen months in 1864. When Wilson left home to join the U. S. Army, Malinda had the responsibility of rearing their children, Rachel, Mary Elizabeth and Margaret. William Harvey Gillespie, her stepson, was living with his maternal grandfather, Jeremiah Taylor.

It is interesting that Wilson Gillespie and his brother, Philip, died the same day, January 15, 1864. Wilson became sick on November 24, 1863, shortly after his enlistment, and was taken to the army hospital at Tazewell, TN. The cause of his death was listed as typhoid fever. He was buried in Tazewell. It is reported that Wilson Gillespie had received no pay during his months in the army.

Malinda Gillespie, widow, made application for a pension, applying first on September 11, 1865, with the last appeal dated March 30, 1869. She was finally granted a small pension. She lived until May 21, 1921 and was buried far from her fallen husband in the Shaws Creek Campground Cemetery near Horse Shoe, NC.

George Washington Underwood, husband of Isabel Gillespie, died April 8, 1864. Details and place of his death are unknown to this writer. The only one alive of the four men who went with high hopes to defend the Union was Robert O. Blythe, husband of Jane Gillespie. However, since his death occurred on January 21, 1866, he may have returned home with an injury or illness from the war. He was 54 when he died and was buried at Beulah Baptist Church Cemetery in Henderson County, NC.

In Union County, Georgia, John R. and James A. Gillespie would have heard with great sadness about the deaths of their brothers Philip and Wilson and their brothers-in- law. George W. Underwood and Robert O. Blythe.

[Note: My thanks to Dennis Glazener and his book, “The Gillespie Gun Makers of East Fork, NC” (2004) for information for this article. He granted permission for the use of pictures to accompany this article. On the very day this article will appear in “The Sentinel,” he is in Union County, GA from Midlothian, VA. Local resident, Billy Harkins, also a Gillespie descendant, is showing Dennis Glazener where John and James Gillespie had their gunshop in Union County.]

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 12, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

The Gillespie rifle-a trusted firearm

I wonder how many reading this column have heard of the Gillespie gunmakers or have a treasured firearm made by the Gillespie family of East Fork, N.C., (and elsewhere) passed down through many generations and kept as an heirloom?

I have recently been in touch with T. Dennis Glazener of Midlothian, VA. He is a great, great, great grandson of John Gillespie, Sr. of East Fork, NC, one of the earliest-known Gillespie gunmakers in America. John Gillespie, Sr. lived from about 1753 through April 7, 1822. Gillespie descendant, Dennis Glazener, since his retirement from Lucent Technologies in 1997 as Project Manager, has spent much of his time tracing the family history of the Gillespie gunmakers and even making replicas of some of the rifles in his own gunshop. His book, The Gillespie Gun Makers Of East Fork, N.C., published in March 2004, gives an interesting account of what Glazener has found thus far in his research.

It has been written that "many a mountain man who gambled his life on his rifle trigger swore by his Gillespie rifle." (The Ashville Times). Most Gillespie rifles made before 1830 were flintlocks. These were fired by rubbing metal to create a spark to ignite the powder. Even though other rifle manufacturers began to use other types of firing mechanisms, the Gillespies continued to make flintlocks even after the Civil War period.

The flintlock was a favorite of mountain men. Maybe they liked to smell powder burning and enjoyed the simplicity of the flintlock.

Another interesting fact about the Gillespie firearms is that no two guns were exactly alike. The gunmakers used creativity in the wood for the stock and the metals for butt plates, tangs, trigger and trigger guard, muzzle, and other appendages. Some are of silver and even gold was used on occasion, as well as pewter and iron. Not all Gillespie-made rifles were signed by the gunmaker, but those that were are, indeed, treasured highly. At times, since guns were designed and made for specific clients, the owner's initials and name were carved into the metal plate or elsewhere on the gun.

John Gillespie, Sr. of East Fork, N.C., taught three of his sons the gunsmith trade.

These were William Gillespie (12/28/1785-9/23/1851), Mathew Gillespie (7/23/1788-5/16/1871) and Robert Harvey Gillespie (2/1/1791- 5/29/1881). Two of Mathew Gillespie's sons, John R. Gillespie (12/6/1811- 1/15/1864) and James A. Gillespie (1/5/1822-3/17/1897) moved from North Carolina to Union County, Georgia and set up a gun-making shop.

John R. Gillespie (12/6/1811-1894) was the first-born son of Mathew and Elizabeth Gillespie, and a grandson of John Gillespie, Sr. His move to Union County, GA., was soon after March 24, 1849 when the Mills River Baptist Church records show he received "a letter of dismission" to move to Georgia. In those days, the church to which the migrant moved did not write for a letter; rather, the member took the letter with him as he moved to the new area.

The Union County, GA., census shows both John R. Gillespie and his younger brother, James A. Gillespie (1/5/1822-3/17/1897) living in Union County, GA., and their occupation gunsmiths. Records indicate that John and James worked together until after James married Elizabeth Daniel on Christmas Day, 1851, and they moved into Towns County. However, local legend has another story about why John and James split into separate locations for their gun making. James had placed a gun on which they were working on the furnace to heat so that some changes could be made in the barrel. As the story goes, unknown to James, the gun was loaded. It exploded, and John was injured. After this incident, the brothers went their separate ways, thinking for their own safety it would be better for them to work alone. Whether true or not, the legend seems very probable.

John R. Gillespie signed his rifles with his initials J.G. James A. Gillespie signed his guns with JA G. Some have surmised that the J. G. signed rifles are by the grandfather, John Gillespie, Sr. However, those guns found with the J G signature seem of later vintage than could have been made by John, Sr. who died in 1822. The elder Gillespie may not have placed his initials on any guns he made. Dr. John Burrison has a collection of James Gillespie tools and a rifle on display at the Atlanta History Museum Folk Life Center.

John R. Gillespie was married first to Kizzie Cook. They had no children. In 1880 he married Lizzie Justice. They had one daughter, Johnce. When John Gillespie died in 1894, he was buried in the Old Union Baptist Church Cemetery, Young Harris.

James A. Gillespie and Elizabeth Daniel had three sons: George Washington (1858-1941), Alexander Lafayette (1865-1941) and William Mathew (1868-1926). After James's death in 1897, his wife Elizabeth moved to Hall County, Georgia where she evidently lived with their second son who had moved there.

Union and Towns counties in Georgia can feel pride that two of the Gillespie gunmakers plied their trade here in the nineteenth century.

(Note: This story will continue next week. I have been in touch with two families in Union County who have Gillespie-signed rifles. Thanks is due Dennis Glazener for allowing me to use his book as a reference source for information in this column. If you wish to contact me, my e-mail is and my telephone number is 478-453- 8751. -EDJ)

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 5, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Senior Adult Years: Are They the Best?

America's adult population is growing year by year. We once considered those above age 65 as being "seniors." But now, with retirement coming earlier, those 55 and even younger are numbered among retirees and the senior adult population.

Robert Browning, English poet, in "Rabbi Ben Ezra," wrote these often-quoted lines:

"Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be;
The last of life
For which the first was made."

Can we really consider retirement years "the best" of life? Much of it can depend on attitude. After working that magical "30+ years" or even more at a career, unless one prepares for the changes retirement brings, he/she may find a sense of vacancy and purposelessness entering life. Retirement years, for some, are considered a time when life's work is finished and the person is no longer useful to himself or those around him.

Right attitude can mean that the retiree embraces the years remaining in life. Retirement years can be a challenge, a time to pursue new interests, to travel, engage in hobbies, do neglected work around the house, make new friends, volunteer at jobs that will benefit people and the community. Even these retirement activities can become overwhelming if "personal time" is not woven into the fabric of retirement lifestyle.

The possibilities are limited only by one's perspective. The senior citizen can determine to make the last of life the best, as Poet Browning declares, or he can shrivel away in some self-inflicted "pity party." A choice is involved, and the option to be productive and active is being taken by many senior citizens today.

Because of advances in geriatric medical care, retirement income, and opportunities for continued learning, senior adults can be fairly healthy, economically independent and mentally productive. Awhile back my husband and I were at Duke's Creek Falls seeing the fall scenery there. We met a friendly couple outfitted with a nice recreational vehicle which had been home to them for six months on their extended trip. They lived in Florida and were on their way back to Florida for the winter. Their trek in the past months had taken them all the way to the west coast and up to Washington state, and from there diagonally back across mid-America until they came to Duke's Creek Falls in White County, Georgia. Their friendly manner and outgoing personalities made them a delight to meet. We exchanged home addresses. They told us they hoped to make many more trips, learning about America first-hand by visiting each state. As they met people along the way, or picked up brochures at Chambers of Commerce, they found interesting and historic sites to explore. Their interest in life, though senior citizens, was still keen, geared to learning about and seeing America first-hand. Before retirement, their demanding jobs and rearing their family had not allowed them time to pursue this goal of their later years. I personally hope they've found many more cascading waterfalls and breathtaking sights along their journey.

Hobbies are another benefit of retirement years. I talked to a woman recently who was excited about her church's senior citizen group of ladies who meet weekly to piece quilt tops and quilt them, using patterns passed down for generations. The "quilting bee" is reminiscent of early pioneer days when women enjoyed the occasions to help each other "quilt out" a covering they would give to a new bride or use to add to the store of handmade quilts to keep a family warm in harsh winters. At senior citizen centers now and in some church groups, the "quilting bee" is becoming popular, providing opportunities for camaraderie, friendship and productive work.

For those unable to do their own driving to sites they would like to see and activities they would like to engage in, there is help for them. "Golden Clubs" offer many opportunities for guided tours and access to dramas or other entertainment.

For those who like to read or write, community organizations of reading clubs and writing groups are fun and invigorating. These help to keep the mind alert and looking forward to the next meeting.

Poet W. B. Yeats had some advice for seniors: "When you are old and gray and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book." Each day should find the mind stretched and the imagination unfurled through reading. Reading keeps the mind alert. It also can provide a subject for intelligent conversation with friends.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of retirement can be strengthening of family ties. If one is fortunate enough to have family, children and grandchildren (and even great grandchildren!), special times with them can be a wonderful blessing and create memories for all involved.

Some may say I've looked at only the "best scenarios" of retirement in this article. What about illness? Debilitating diseases? Pain, discomfort, seemingly endless trips to the doctor, the hospital-all a part of retirement years? I am not so naive as to disregard these. I know from personal experience that we deal with all of these challenges in retirement years. But again, attitude and how we face these challenges of illness and eventual separation from a beloved mate enter into how we manage. There is a supernatural strength for every day. The attuned senior knows that God's help and strength are just a prayer away.

All the years of a senior citizen's life accrue to an apex: "the last of life for which the first was made!" With right choices and proper attitude, the best can, indeed, yet be.

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 28, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mountain folk – the way we are

Those of us born and reared in the Appalachian Mountains have certain distinctive characteristics. (Note: education tells us to call our up-bringing "reared"; the mountain vernacular is "born and raised," and some astute persons might say, "‘raised’ several times in the woodshed if we disobeyed parents or were disrespectful of elders.” )

Characteristics of mountain people are noticeable in personality, work ethic, lifestyle and language. Although we have changed somewhat through education, exposure to a world beyond the mountains, and those "levelers" of cultures, the availability of television, radio and other forms of media, the solid characteristics of our forebears are still evidenced in many mountain natives into the twenty-first century.

The mountains are now populated with persons from many places. But to find a native mountaineer is almost a guarantee of encountering persons who bear noble and notable characteristics.

In personality, mountain folk are slow to accept change. Cogitative in nature, the native of the mountains weighs issues, considers alternatives, and acts on conclusions. He holds dear the methods of his forebears, and seeks to follow them.

He may reason, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" Good enough may be a standard for quality, and "making-do" is often a way of life.

Another maxim to which the mountaineer holds is, "If it was good enough for Pa, it's good enough for me." With antipathy toward change ingrained in the mountain mind, natives are extremely dubious of imposed and legislated changes. Evidences of this mindset were seen in the days of school consolidation when each community wanted to hold onto its local school, even though advantages were to be had through bus transportation to a more modern and better staffed and equipped school. Many argued and put up strong opposition to selling land for rights-of-way for building new highways or developments. The land is a part of the native mountaineers' ways, dear to them.

There are not as many farmers now, but in the era when my father was a farmer in Union County, he often resented being told how many acres he could cultivate in certain crops. After all, did the land not belong to the farmer, to plant as he desired? Cooperatives and agricultural agendas finally broke through some of the personality barriers of the mountain farmer. But that's not to say he always liked the new ways.

Another facet of the mountain native's nature is perseverance. His word is his bond. Honesty and integrity are earmarks of his character. Regardless of how hard the task or how remote the goal, a dogged persistence marks the true mountain man's temperament. This characteristic, no doubt, was ingrained from the pioneer forebears who overcame great odds to find their way into the mountains through virgin forests and unmapped lands. Their tenacity in conquering the wilderness, clearing farmland and building homes left a heritage of resolution and endurance. Independence was a feature of their persevering spirit. Passing the traits on to subsequent generations of mountain folk, the early settlers left us with a stick-to-it-ive-ness that is deeply ingrained.

The mountain work ethic is another noteworthy transfer from hardy ancestors. Hard toil was necessary to bring the mountain land from wilderness status to productive farms and family businesses. The early years of settlement in the mountains saw many entrepreneurs forming a self-sufficient enterprise along mountain streams. Water wheels turned turbines that ran mills to grind corn and wheat. Sawmills shaped tall timbers into lumber for houses and industries.

Barter made yield of farm, forest and mountain a means of trading goods not produced in the hills.

Industrious housewives knew how to card, spin, weave and sew. Scarcity became the impetus for making-do. But whatever the enterprise, hard work was required. A day's labor was given for a day's labor in return as neighbor helped neighbor.

Consequently, this work ethic confirmed the idea that the laborer, indeed, is worthy of his hire. Shoddy work reflects indelibly on one's character. "He or she is a good worker," was a compliment desired and well-earned.

Many in other areas of the country consider the mountaineer's lifestyle as slow and unhampered, even today in this fast-paced age. It is true that the mountaineer desires and usually makes time to be friendly with neighbors, to pass the time of day with those we meet, to take time "to smell the roses," to inhale the pure air and appreciate it, watch glorious sunrises and sunsets over the mountains.

Tied with our mountain characteristics is the ability to meet eventualities head-on.

We are not always as leisurely and slow-paced as our personalities indicate. We have learned to rush with the rest of the world. A main difference lies in the way we set our pace. By knowing that certain jobs need to be done and forming a timetable for doing them, the mountaineer moves purposefully, deliberately and efficiently. "By this time next week," the mountain farmer says, "this field will be harvested." And he sets the pace required to do it.

We don't waste much time on regrets or non-achievements. Some things are meant to be, the mountaineer reasons, and why opine that it be otherwise? From this mindset comes a certain assurance and satisfaction reflected in a lifestyle of peace and oneness with self, with nature, with people and with God.

Then there is the mountain language. I, personally, regret that it is fading away. But we hear echoes of it even now, "I reckon," or that inevitable dropping of the "ing" to just "in." Takes a fur less time t' talk that away!

If you have doubts that these distinctive characteristics are true of mountain folk, just talk to a native who has reached fourscore and ten years. Or, better still, if you are a mountaineer yourself, reflect on your heritage, your "raisin'." You may reach the same conclusion about the way we are.

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 21, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Recounting High Humor of the Hills

Some of the stories were written down in a century-old ledger book that belonged to James Harry Turner's grandfather, James Lon Turner (2-21-1875 - 5-5-1972). On the unused pages of the old ledger book, Harry began to record humorous stories, many of which had been told and passed down by generations of his mountain ancestors.

Harry Turner (1928-2005) added to these as long as he was able, collecting choice anecdotes that dated back to Revolutionary War times and reached down to the present. He always intended to publish them, but feared that he might somehow offend someone still living who might recognize familiar stories as being part and parcel of their family folklore. And so it was, after Dr. James Harry Turner's death in 2005, his son, Dr. Joseph Blair Turner, assumed the cloak of storyteller, compiling his father's tales and adding some of his own to form a delightful compendium with the signal title of High Humor of the Hills. It has both Drs. Turner as joint authors and was published by Nathan House Books, Oakwood, Georgia, 2006.

The book is a valuable addition to our mountain literature and lore on several levels.

The first level is given in the title. It is a book of "High Humor," coming from our mountain folk for many generations, kept alive by repetition, and serving to add a bit of levity to what was often a "hard road in a rough land."

Dr. Joe Turner has done an exceptional job editing the stories and arranging them by eras. If you want a tale from the Revolutionary period, "How Skinflint Won the Race" will pit the frontiersman against a "Virginia Dandy" in a bare-foot race (only the story says they were "bar-foot").

The Civil War era brought forth such tales as old Ben Nix and "The Mule Shoe Dentist" when a blacksmith doubled as the community's tooth-puller. Through various decades, the true tales of humor represent a people, humble and unpretentious, who found entertainment by listening and telling events, often with themselves as the subjects. Neighbors had time to exchange stories, share laughs, lift each other's burdens.

Altogether, the book contains 200 stories and 139 pages of delightful vignettes. The reader will enjoy the volume as a straight read-through, but will return again and again to reread and learn the variable shades of humor certain favorite tales convey.

So on the level of historical reference book, this volume has merit.

Another level of the book's value is in the language. A five-page "Appalachian Glossary," alphabetized and with meanings of now almost obsolete mountain words and phrases is a reference not only for the vernacular of the stories but for a language that is rapidly passing away. It has been said that the Appalachian people, especially those of previous generations before the media rendered a "standard English" language for us all, was one of the truest Scots-Irish and Elizabethan English tongues still practiced. Dr. Joseph Blair Turner writes in his foreword: "I have attempted to capture the more folksy expressions. If it seems different, remember that socio-linguistically there are no right or wrong accents or dialects, only some people who do not appreciate the beauty of folk-tendered expression, preserved by the folk themselves. This culture is vanishing. I am thankful I was there, warmed by its fading rays" (page xv).

High Humor of the Hills will bring laughs. But, further, it will bring understanding. The storytellers who people its pages are real, proud of their heritage, unafraid of hard toil and life's knocks, able to pick up and move forward, always keenly compassionate and ready to lend a helping hand. As both Harry Turner and Joe Turner state: "These are my people. I am one of them." And those of us born and reared in the Appalachian region-or Union County, Georgia, in particular- can relate to the tales, to the thread of hope that lies beyond the pranks, to the people seeking some respite from grueling work and sometimes drab life. As Dr. Harry Turner states in "The Prologue":

"You wouldn't dare call them 'hillbilly.' They aren't. Just real honest- to-goodness folk, getting more of life's blessings than you might be, dear reader." They care not for aberration nor embellishment, but life as it comes." (page xii).

Many of the stories show strong faith held by Appalachian people. Even though these stories deal with faith laced with humor, that faith is, nevertheless, an unswerving dependence on God. Harry Turner expressed this faith of the people well: "Neither are they complacent in their fear of God—their Divine Master. They are His stewards of the soil. They toil and grow strong on it. They laugh deep and long there in the valleys, next to Heaven's crests, heeding the only call that counts to them: God's." (page xiii).

The author who first started recording the stories, Harry, son of a dirt farmer, and the author himself a longtime agricultural agent in the mountain counties of Georgia, knew first-hand of the strong affinity between the land and the people. High Humor of the Hills will provide amusement while teaching the reader many valuable lessons he will remember.

For purchasing information, see the website at I think you (as am I) will be glad to have your own copy for $12.95 (price includes shipping). If you do not have internet, you may order from Nathan House Publishers, P. O. Box 1696, Oakwood, GA 30566.

I personally congratulate Dr. Joseph Blair Turner for completing this book. He invites readers to contribute their own stories of true mountain humor. In the future there very likely will be a Volume II of High Humor of the Hills. But first, I highly recommend that you get Volume I of this brand new publication for yourself or for a gift. And if you hear of a book signing at a book store near you, I recommend that you go to meet compiler Dr. Joseph Blair Turner who felt it his mission to complete the work his father had begun.

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 14, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Georgia’s highest peak – Brasstown Bald

Both Union and Towns counties claim portions of Georgia's highest mountain, Brasstown Bald. Before Towns County was formed from Union in 1856, the mountain lay within the boundaries of Union. After Union was divided out to form Towns, the highest part of Brasstown Bald Mountain--also known as Enotah Bald--lay in Towns.

The name of the mountain was called Enotah by the Cherokee Indians who once inhabited the area. After the gold rush of 1828 when white settlers rushed pell-mell into the area seeking yellow riches around Nacoochee Valley and Dahlonega, and even into Union County later at the Coosa Gold Mines, they confused two names the Indians called the highest peak: it-se-ye meant "fresh green"; unt-sai-yi meant "brass".

The latter, for brass, was attached to this highest mountain in the Wolfpen Range. It rises through the mists, fogs and clouds to 4,784 feet. A peak to the southwest is Blood Mountain which reaches a height of 4,458 feet. Legend holds that the Cherokee considered Blood in greater reverence than Enotah Bald, unusual for the Indians who normally named sacred the highest peak in their area.

Perhaps their reverence for Blood goes back to the battle between the Cherokee and the Creek nations for sovereignty of the mountain region when it is said that Wolf Creek, originating high on Blood Mountain, ran red with the blood of brave warriors.

The Indians also had a story for what happened on Enotah Bald. A great flood once covered the earth. It killed all except those in a great canoe which landed on top of Enotah. The land was cleared on top of this high mountain by the Cherokee to make crops for sustenance. The "fresh green" –it-se-ye--for them meant renewed life after the trauma of the flood. It-se-ye could also have referred to "cloud forest" on Brasstown Bald. Even to this day an area of Georgia's tallest peak has a portion on the northeast section watered by moisture-laden clouds. There in this "mountain rain forest" lichen-covered birch trees, wild flowers such as laurel and rhododendron, various herbs, giant wood fern, allium (the common ramp of "ramp tramp" fame), ash, oak, willow, beach and even an occasional sugar maple (somehow imported from northeastern sugar maple stands) grow and thrive in this “cloud forest.” If anyone tries to walk in this area he may be hampered by lichen-covered damp rocks on which footing can be very insecure.

The tower at Brasstown Bald.

The first tower on Brasstown Bald (Enotah) Mountain was built in the early 1920's by the Pfister-Vogel Logging Company. It was constructed of chestnut and locust wood, and rose on the peak so that watchers could see smoke from any forest fires within the areas where the lumber company was conducting logging operations.

Brasstown Bald now stands in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Between 1911 and 1930, the government bought approximately 743,000 acres of forest land and set it aside as a preserve. The present facilities of Brasstown Bald are open from May through October, with weekends open in November.

Much credit is due Ranger Arthur Woody for measures that led to preservation of forests in the north Georgia area. He wanted to see the forests that had been riddled from the thirst for virgin timber restored to refuges for wildlife and tall trees, deer in the forests, fish in the streams. He worked diligently to encourage the government to buy lands for forest preserves.

The second tower at Bald Mountain, built in 1935 by the "CCC boys" (Civilian Conservation Corps) was the dream of Ranger Woody. He sat at his kitchen table and drew plans for the stone and wood tower that replaced the old wooden tower constructed in the early 1920s. After World War II, the Woody Stone Tower was replaced by a steel tower in 1947. The present structures, visitor's center, and educational facilities with the thought-provoking "Man and the Mountain" program, recount the history of the area through various eras.

October is normally a time of "bright blue weather." If you have not visited Bald Mountain recently, perhaps you would like to choose a clear day in October to take your family up this highest peak in Georgia. You can ride a shuttle all the way from the parking area to the top. Or, if you are physically agile and want the challenge, you can climb the one-half mile trail to the top. Those who know about such statistics say that it rises 500 feet in elevation in the one-half mile, and is equivalent to walking 1,000 miles north. From the 360-degree observation deck on a clear day, you can view some of the most spectacular vistas in Georgia, and even into other states. Every time I have visited Brasstown Bald (several times in my lifetime) I have always been awed by the majesty and beauty of the Wolfpen Ridges reaching out in all directions, our beautiful Southern Appalachians.

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 7, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

No Coincidence: To Learn of the Late Emma Lena Nix Dyer (1889-1955)

Webster defines “coincidence” as “the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.”

Notice that coincidence is “by accident,” but that the events can also “seem to have some connection.”

Writer Haddon Chambers in the early twentieth century in his drama, “Captain Swift,” spoke of “The long arm of coincidence.” The English poet Lord Byron wrote, “’A strange coincidence’ to use a phrase/ By which such things are settled now-a-days.” Thomas Hardy, writing on the destruction of “The Titanic,” likened the glacier and the giant liner being “on paths coincident—twin halves of one august event/’Till the Spinner of the Years/Said ‘Now!’.”

So far, nothing as cataclysmic as the wreck of the Titanic has occurred, and we would hope that it would not. But indeed, it was “the long arm of coincidence,” and, we believe, intervention by the “Spinner of Years” that Bruce Dyer of Dalton and I came to have a telephone conversation a few weeks ago, and it was from him I began to learn of his beloved grandmother, the late Emma Lena Nix Dyer, about whom he wanted to know more information.

It happened like this, in a string of “brought together” coincidences (or, as Bruce and I now believe, it was no ‘accident’). Someone in Dalton where Bruce Dyer owns and operates several carpet-tufting mills took him a copy of “The Union Sentinel.” It was the issue when we were pleading with Dyers and Southers everywhere to attend the July 15 Dyer-Souther Reunion, and especially to attend the 3:00 p.m. ceremony that day that would review the contributions of inventor Micajah Clark Dyer (1822-1891) as a portion of Georgia Highway 180 was named in his honor.

“This has something about the Dyers,” the donor of the paper said to Bruce Dyer. “I thought you would like to read it.”

And with that coincidental giving of the paper, Bruce Dyer was furnished with my telephone number. This was after the reunion happening on July 15, but he called me and we talked a long time. He didn’t know much about his connections to the Dyers, except that his grandmother, Emma Lena Nix had married David Marcus Dyer. Beyond that, he had no inkling of whether or not he was in the direct line of Micajah Clark Dyer. I told him I had a few resources I could check, and I would be back with him in a few weeks. With that one telephone conversation, we struck a rapport, and I wanted, if possible, to help Bruce Dyer, businessman, connect with his ancestors.

To make a long story short, I had great success in tracing Bruce Dyer’s roots back to his great, great grandfather, Micajah Clark Dyer, and even beyond the inventor to the first known Dyers in the line. Furthermore, I was able to trace the roots of his grandmother, Emma Lena Nix, back to the earliest known Nixes in America. I had help, of course, from online sources, from genealogy buffs like myself, Linda Trader Jordan of Gainesville, Dr. Joe Turner of Gainesville, and the five books of genealogy my cousin Watson Benjamin Dyer published from 1967 through 1988, and a helpful tome, “The Nix Family Tree,” published by Wanda West Gregory in 1980.

I could hardly pull the wonderful information together fast enough and send to Bruce Dyer. On August 28 I had the second telephone call from him, thanking me profusely for my efforts and assuring me that he and his two sons, Mark and Jeff, who are in the carpet business with him in Dalton, were delighted with the results of my findings and were trying to absorb the various family connections I had unraveled for them.

Since the subject of this column set out to be about Emma Lena Nix Dyer (1889-1955), I will continue with that subject, and a lofty subject she turned out to be, indeed.

Emma Lena Nix was born November 22, 1889 in Union County, Georgia, the fifth of eight children of John Wesley Nix (1-5-1863 – 10-13-1896) and Minty Lavada Reece Nix (2-12-1863 – 8-6-1933). Emma Lena married David Marcus Dyer (1885-?) on January 6, 1907 in Union County. The couple lived in the Owltown District of Union County. David (“Dave”) was a son of Robert F. Dyer (1856 - ?) and Elizabeth Fortenberry Dyer (1856-?). And Robert F.’s parents were Micajah Clark Dyer (1822-1891) and Morena Owenby Dyer (1819-1892). Indeed, I had easily traced Bruce Dyer’s lineage on the Dyer side back to the nineteenth century inventor of the “Apparatus for Navigating the Air.” And on the Nix side, back through John Wesley, Archibald Carr, James, William “Grancer”, and John Nix.

Bruce knew some information about his grandmother whom he loved dearly. He told me when they held her funeral in Whitfield County, Georgia following her death on July 12, 1955, that “crowds of people came out of the mountains (around Owltown, Union County) to pay their respects. She and David Marcus Dyer had lived in Owltown until they moved to Dalton about 1946. She had been a noted mid-wife in the era before doctors were readily available to attend births around the countryside in Owltown. Those who came to her funeral were some of the grown-up children she had delivered, and their elderly parents who appreciated what this good woman had done for their families.

Emma Lena Nix Dyer was a devoutly religious woman. She and her family attended the Church of God in the Owltown Community. One summer, a Rev. Woody was leading a revival, and Mrs. Dyer got “in the Spirit,” and in her state of spiritual ecstasy, she walked around inside the church building with her hands raised, praising the Lord. Rev. Woody fell in behind her, and so did most of the congregation. When Mrs. Dyer sat down, the preacher went back to the pulpit and resumed his preaching and the congregation seated themselves and sat listening.

She did most of her trading with traveling peddlers who came by the Dyer house in Owltown. She saved up eggs, and caught fryer chickens to barter for goods from the peddler’s wagon (or, in later years, his truck). She also was noted for the produce she canned from her garden and orchard, and often traded pickles, jams, jellies and vegetables for the peddler’s wares. When the peddler got back to town, people rushed to his wagon to see what Mrs. Emma Lena Dyer had traded. They wanted first choice of her goods, knowing that they were “put up” with care and attention to detail.

After World War II, the Dyer family moved from Owltown District to Dalton, Whitfield County. David Marcus Dyer was a carpenter by trade. He worked for awhile in Atlanta, building houses, until they moved to Dalton. There both of Bruce Dyer’s grandparents died and were buried. The lineages on “both sides” of this family, Nix and Dyer, show a line of stalwart pioneers, salt-of-the-earth people who lived by high moral and religious standards, treated their fellowmen with respect, and left a legacy of hard work and stability.

c 2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 31, 2006 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.