Thursday, January 26, 2006

Born in Union County, a noted teacher in Fannin County

When I first began researching area history and heard the name Zenobia Addington Chastain, I was fascinated by it. When I learned further that she was a noted teacher in the latter half of the 19th century and a few years into the 20th century, I knew I had to find out more about this outstanding mountain lady and what motivated her noble work.

It is interesting that I would call her work “noble,” for indeed it was. Her nickname was “Nobie,” short for Zenobia. Her parents were March and Amy Elizabeth White Addington. By his first wife, Sarah Moore Addington, 11 children were born into the March Addington family. Two daughters, Emily Elizabeth and Mary Zenobia, were born to March’s second wife. Mary Zenobia’s birthday was May 10, 1848.

Zenobia was not a common name to give a girl in 1848. It can be assumed that her father March was a history buff, naming his baby daughter for Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, an ancient province in present-day Syria. Perhaps March Addington had read about the well-educated queen, who after her husband, King Odenathus died, led his armies in a successful revolt against the Roman occupation army of Palmyra. Later when she was captured by Roman Emperor Aurelius, Queen Zenobia was led captive through the streets of Rome with a gold chain in respect to her position and bravery.

March Addington was a slave owner. When secession came, he was 60 years of age. He enlisted in the Confederate Army, Georgia Cavalry Volunteers, in the Sixth Regiment in 1862. His enlistment was for three years. Life was not easy for March’s wife Amy Elizabeth, who was looking after her two children, Emily and Zenobia, and the younger ones of March’s first wife, Sarah.

The story is told of how March Addington bought his first land in Union County. He was riding his horse one day and found two men digging and searching along Coosa Creek. When they saw him, they fled. March saw that the land had gold, so he sold his beloved horse and bought the land for $40. It has been reported that the gold extracted from the Coosa mines was the yellowest gold of any from several mines in Union County. March Addington (b. 1802) died in 1885, 20 years after he returned from the Civil War. He was buried beside his first wife, Sarah Moore Addington (b. 1804) who had died November 25, 1844. Sarah’s marker bears the oldest date in the Old Blairsville Cemetery located north of the Blairsville Middle School.

Zenobia Addington, like her namesake Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, loved learning. Early on, she showed intellectual acumen, and read as many books as she could get at the place and age where she lived. She had the good fortune to study under one of the outstanding teachers of the area, Professor M. C. Briant. She learned Latin and Greek as well as the classics. In Ward’s History of Gilmer County, Briant was praised as a teacher of distinction and Zenobia Addington was noted as one of his outstanding students. It is assumed that she boarded and attended the Academy where Briant taught at Ellijay, GA.

Zenobia Addington began a school in Fannin County at Morganton in 1868. Called “Zenobia’s Academy,” the school drew students from a wide area. They found places to live with citizens of the town, then the county seat of Fannin County, formed in 1854 from parts of Union and Gilmer counties. Records show that Zenobia employed three or four teachers, besides herself, depending on the enrollment. She was enterprising, applied for a grant from the Peabody Foundation, and received money for the school at Morganton. In the summers, students could attend free, but in regular sessions, the cost was $1.00 per student for tuition, with the parents making arrangements for room and board.

Then romance came along for school administrator, Zenobia Chastain. At the time of their courtship, Oscar Fitzallen Chastain was working in a store in the city of Morganton. They were joined in holy matrimony on December 18, 1872 in Union County by the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes. No doubt he had been attracted to the industrious school teacher who had a good reputation as a fine educator. Oscar Fitzallen Chastain had been old enough to serve in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. His father, Colonel Elijah Webb Chastain, also served with the South. The elder Chastain had been a representative to the state legislature at the capitol in Milledgeville when Georgia seceded from the Union on January, 19, 1861. Mary Zenobia Addington’s and Oscar Fitzallen Chastain’s marriage joined two outstanding families, one of Union and the other of Fannin.

On May 17, 1884, Oscar Fitzallen Chastain was ordained as a minister at Morganton Baptist Church. Teacher and minister were to join forces to extend the educational outreach even beyond Zenobia’s Academy at Morganton. (To be continued)

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 26, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rev. James J. Hood: minister, musician, woodcrafter

I was perhaps 5 years old when I first remember seeing the Rev. James J. Hood at Choestoe Baptist Church. He sat at the old pump-style church organ and made the most glorious sounds emanate from it. Then he turned on the organ stool and faced the congregation, inviting those present on that Sunday to join him as he led in Brethren We Have Met to Worship, Amazing Grace, and How Firm a Foundation.

Not announcing the next number, he played an introduction and began to sing a solo in his resounding baritone voice, I Am a Poor, Wayfaring Stranger. Every time I hear that old hymn I remember how Rev. Jim Hood sang it.

After he played the organ and led the singing, he then went to the pulpit to preach. I don’t remember what he preached about. In those early years my mind was not focused for long on any one topic, but found many trains of thought to pursue as the minister preached. I can remember, however, being impressed with the Rev. Jim Hood, whom everyone knew, because he lived “up on the River” at a community in upper Choestoe called “Hood’s Chapel.” The Hoods had settled there when the county was young, and the first church and school in that community had been named Hood’s Chapel, a name that carried even after the church changed its name to Union.

Later as I grew and came to know more about this mountain preacher who lived up near the headwaters of the Notla (also spelled Nottely) River from my Dyer family did I come to appreciate his many talents and abilities. Not only was he a well-read, able preacher, self-taught in many respects, but he was a musician who could hold “singing schools” using shaped notes; he composed music and wrote words for his own songs; he was a woodcrafter, a carpenter, a cabinet-maker; he farmed, was a blacksmith, a sawmiller, a teacher, and an inventor.

Born March 10, 1889, James J. Hood was the son of Enoch Chapman Hood (1855-1932) and Amanda Townsend Hood (1857-1916). He grew up in a large family of 13 children. His name was soon shortened to Jim. His paternal grandparents were William Jackson Hood (1823-?) and Celia M. Turner Hood (ca. 1830-ca. 1891). His grandmother was a daughter of Jarrett Turner and Sarah Collins Turner. William Jackson Hood’s parents were Enoch Hood and Mildred (?) Hood who migrated from North Carolina (Burke County) to Pendleton District, S.C., and from there to Union County, Ga., between 1834 and 1840.

James J. Hood married Ollie Saxon on January 8, 1911. To them were born 11 children: sons, Homer, Byron, Eugene, George, Eron and Charles; and daughters, Bessie, Bertha, Clara Jane, Pauline, and Margie. Charles and Margie died as children.

Rev. Hood’s woodworking shop was well-equipped with lathes, saws, routers and other tools. Many of the pieces of equipment he used he fashioned himself in his blacksmith shop. He operated the machinery with water power that he had ingeniously channeled to his shop. It has been said that more than 6,000 handmade chairs, benches, pulpit lecterns and other hand-crafted items were made in his shop. He taught woodworking in the vocational division at Union County High School when the subject was added to the curriculum.

Among his several inventions was a burglar alarm. Like an earlier inventor in the Choestoe District, Micajah Clark Dyer who invented the flying machine before the Wright Brothers, some of Mr. Hood’s inventions were firsts as well. However, he did not have the money to pursue patents for his inventions and so was not officially credited with them. He was one of the first persons in the area to weld steel to iron while he was still a lad working in the blacksmith shop.

He taught himself to play the organ and piano without benefit of instruction books or teacher. He determined the relationship of the printed notes on the treble and bass clefs of written hymns and where the corresponding notes were located on the keyboard. No doubt he possessed an ear for music, for his pitch was true. Once he had learned music through teaching himself, he then could teach others with great enthusiasm and skill. Some of his own compositions were gospel songs, I Know There Is a Rest Beyond, and The Pearly Gates Open Wide for Me.

His seminary training was by his own oil lamp late into the nights after working hard in the daytime. He ordered Hebrew and Greek textbooks and proceeded to teach himself enough of the languages of the Old and New Testaments to satisfy his curiosity about what seemed to him to be discrepancies in translations. His ministry as a preacher was wide-spread throughout the mountain area, not only to most all of the Baptist churches in Union County but to Young Harris, Cleveland and Robertstown.

Personable, dignified, intellectual, hard-working, kind, talented and devout, the Rev. James J. Hood touched many lives for good. He and his beloved wife Ollie were married for fifty-four years. He died November 3, 1964. Both were buried in the Union Baptist Church Cemetery, Upper Choestoe.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 19, 2006 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Union County Poor House or Almshouse

Once an entity of Union County government, the County Farm or Almshouse, also called the Pauper’s House or the Poor House, operated for approximately 30 years from the 1920s to the early1950s.

I have the following to thank for information on the County Farm. Mr. Leon Davenport submitted an article to The Heritage of Union County, 1832-1994 entitled “The County Home,” (p. 40-41) and in Sketches of Union County History, Volume 2 by Jan H. Devereaux and Bryan Webb (pages 150-152), the 1934 report of W. L. Benson from the Georgia Department of Agriculture and R. B. England was given on “The County Poor Farm.”

A certain stigma was attached to those who had no recourse but to take up residence at the county poor farm. They either had no relatives who would take them in and care for them, or else they were rejected by family and consigned to work on the Poor Farm because they had to be supervised. Some evidently were lacking in mental or physical capacities and could not manage on their own as adults.

Union County acquired land for the Poor Farm from the estate of Captain John W. Meeks. In the Benson-England report of January 1934, the deeds of the property were not up-to-date, and a strip of pastureland and bottomland had been exchanged for a section of woodland so that firewood could be provided for the living quarters. Therefore, the adjoining landowners had to give permission before a survey of the County Farm properties could be made. Coosa Creek ran through the property, and a road edged the eastern section of the land, evidently not intended in 1934 as a public road, but used by the public, nonetheless.

The “inmates” as they were called by the Benson-England report had no apparent afflictions, chronic diseases, or communicable diseases. The worst infirmity was “age,” with three being over seventy in 1934. In the report published in the county history book, a schedule of expenditures from the years 1929-1936 stated that there were eight to ten residents at any one time, and that expenditures were for salaries of the superintendents, pauper burials, clothing, provisions, medical or dental attention, transportation for the Civilian Conservation Corps “boys” who evidently were assigned to work on the farm and/or buildings (in 1935), allowance to paupers, medical aide, lunacy transportation and board, and one small item of $7.96 in 1934 for “miscellaneous.”

Known superintendents serving at the County Farm were Cicero Wilson, Henley Potts and Vic King. During the term of each superintendent, living on the farm and managing the buildings, care and work was a requirement. Their annual salaries, given for only three years in the statistical table, were $259.25 (1934), $496.00 (1935), and $971.50 (1936). Bear in mind that these were years of the Great Depression, and even though the superintendents’ salaries seem low by modern standards, the County Farm provided them rent and board as part of their annual “package.”

Noting “Paupers’ Burials,” the lowest was in 1932 for $1.00. The highest year in those covered was 1934 when burial expenses were $118.21, and the second highest in 1933 of $107.53. The average for the eight years of statistics for burials was $62.89. No particulars were given, but the burial expenses probably covered a home-made casket, the clothes for the corpse to be buried in, transportation to a designated cemetery, and perhaps a small stipend for the minister or eulogist who presided at the funeral.

The Benson-England report posed a series of questions about the County Poor Farm to call attention to challenges that needed attention. First was to survey the land and establish authentic land lines. Neither electricity nor telephone lines were available to the farm in 1934. The main agricultural product raised on the farm was corn, used as a “money crop.” A vegetable garden near the residence gave food for the table and some to sell as truck crops. Some rye and winter wheat were grown on portions of the farm.

The land received no improvement to fertility. The examiners recommended rotation of crops and fertilization to make the land more productive. Fencing the farm was highly recommended. Raising cattle and hogs for the residents’ meat supply would be to a good use of farm facilities and labor. A small industry (not named) was recommended.

The buildings were old and in very poor repair except for a corn crib built in 1932, which was not sufficient in size to take care of the corn crop, because half of the building was used for the wagon shed.

The dwelling house was in a T-shape, with four rooms, one the kitchen. It was in poor condition, needing new shingles and a new floor, and a means of heating the individual rooms. The proposal was made for the addition of six rooms “in the near future,” with the CWA (Civil Works Administration?) assisting with the building.

The water supply was from a bold spring that had a flow of 1/2 gallon per minute. The spring house was used for refrigeration of milk and other perishables.

However, a grave threat to the spring was nearby. An outside privy was the only sewage disposal unit, only fifty feet away from the spring. The report stated: “This constitutes a health menace since the volume of water and the fall is not sufficient to preclude the possibility of flow-back to the spring that is used for drinking (water).” (Sketches of Union County History, p. 152 )

An interesting item in the Schedule from the Probate Judge’s office for the years 1929 through 1936 showed expenditures for “Lunacy Transport(ation) and Board.” The average annual expenditure over the eight-year period for this item was $79.80, with the largest amount spent in 1930 ($156.60).

The County Poor Farm existed and met a need for poor and indigent citizens before the day of federal programs such as Medicaid and the resources of the Department of Family and Children’s Services. I noted that the amount listed for clothing for the residents was only $31.00 for an eight-year period. Probably the people housed at The Almshouse wore hand-me-down clothing gathered from citizens.

We can imagine the plight of these less-fortunate citizens, while at the same time we must applaud county government for making efforts to provide for them. I am an avid “quotations” person. Many quotations I found were appropriate to the Union County Poor House and its mission. Jesus had this to say about the poor: “You always have the poor with you” (Matthew 26:11). Moses said: “The poor will never cease out of the land” (Deuteronomy 15:11). The American writer, Will Carleton (1845-1912) wrote: “Over the hill to the poorhouse I’m trudgin’ my weary way.” In his annual message to Congress on January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson stated: “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty.” And that war, declared by our 36th U. S. president, continues today and into the future. For, surely, the poor are still with us.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 12, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

John Muir Visited Union County in 1867

Union County was once visited by one of America’s best-known naturalists, John Muir. Long before the terms conservation and environment were heard on a regular basis, Muir was leading efforts to study the environment. As a naturalist, explorer, writer, engineer and geologist, he left a major legacy in nature conservancy.

The year John Muir traveled through Union County, Georgia was 1867. The nation was recovering from ravages of the Civil War, and life in the nation was going through major transitions. Who was this man, John Muir, and why was he interested in making a thousand mile walk to the Gulf, recording what he learned about nature and the environment?

He was born April 21, 1838 at Dunbar in East Lothian, Scotland. His father was Daniel Muir and his mother was Ann Gilrye Muir. John Muir had two brothers and five sisters.

When John Muir was eleven years of age, his parents migrated to the United States, settling in Wisconsin where his father purchased land and farmed. John was an astute student, especially in the area of earth sciences. He attended the University of Wisconsin, but decided, rather than graduate from what he called “a man-made school,” he wanted to enroll in “the university of the wilderness.” To get money for the journey he wanted to make, he worked for parts of 1866 and 1867 as an industrial engineer in a factory in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was there an accident almost cost him his eyesight but fortunately he recovered so that he could see the beauties of nature he so much admired. In 1867 he set out from Indiana on his way to the Gulf Coast of Florida, a thousand mile trip by foot.

We can imagine the angular John Muir, at age twenty-nine, already with a beard (how would he take time to shave on this 1,000 mile trek to the sea?) for which he was still noted in his later life. In his knapsack he had a press where he preserved foliages of various specimens that interested him. He wrote friends and relatives that he would travel through Murphy, NC, Blairsville, GA and Gainesville, GA, and advised them to address letters to him at Gainesville, for he was “terribly letter-hungry.” Muir averaged traveling twenty-five miles per day on this journey, a good speed, considering the mountains through which much of his trek lay.

Along his route, he talked to strangers and many befriended him, taking him into their homes for meals and lodging. On September 19, 1867, a “mountaineer” near Murphy, NC, along the Hiawassee River, told him about the gap south of Blairsville and the strange tracks on the rocks there. Going by what Muir called “Track Gap,” he saw the indentations in the rocks, and as his mountaineer host had explained, there were “bird tracks, bar tracks, hoss tracks, men tracks, in solid rock, as if it had been mud.”

He continued his journey, admiring the Blue Ridges that stretched before him in grandeur. He stopped at a home near Yonah Mountain near Cleveland, GA in the evening of September 22, 1867. He wrote in his journal that he “had a long conversation with an old Methodist (former) slaveholder and mine owner.” He enjoyed homemade cider with his host.

As Muir met people on his travels throughout the Blue Ridge mountains, he must have felt a kinship with them. For many of the settlers in the coves and valleys of the land he traversed had been immigrants from Scotland as had he and his family.

He wrote much on this trip to the Gulf. I have selected two significant quotations for they seem to give us the heart of John Muir’s philosophy about nature:

“There is not a ‘fragment’ in all nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself.”

He must have encountered death on the journey—death of wildlife, death of people, death of trees, shrubs, plants. He wrote introspectively of death:

“On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless, indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights. All is divine harmony.”
[Both quotations are in A THOUSAND MILE WALK TO THE GULF published posthumously in 1916.]

When Muir arrived at the Gulf in Florida, he had hoped to go on to South America from there and take another thousand-mile journey on that continent, studying botany and the landscape as he had from Indianapolis to Florida. But he took malaria, and the illness prevented his going further. He got passage on a ship and arrived at San Francisco, California in March, 1868.

He was captivated by the Yosemite Valley, and spent most of the remainder of his life until his death December 24, 1914, working with President Theodore Roosevelt and others in getting a bill passed in Congress to set up Yosemite and other National Parks, saving the giant Sequoia trees, and trying to prevent a dam on the Tuolumne River and using the Hetch Hetchy Valley as a water reservoir for San Francisco. He organized the Sierra Club and was its first president. He wrote books and articles on conservation and preservation.

John Muir and Louisa Wanda Strentzel were married in 1880. They reared two daughters, Wanda and Helen. President Woodrow Wilson succeeded President Theodore Roosevelt and signed the bill into law on December 19, 1913 to create the Hetch Hetchy Valley dam. When Muir died a year later, one of his admirers and fellow conservationists said he “died of a broken heart” from the destruction of the valley by the water reservoir.

John Muir did not live to see the National Forest Preserves in many of the states he traversed in his trek from Indianapolis to the Florida Gulf in 1867. As we in Union County enjoy the Chattahoochee National Forest and the wilderness areas of North Georgia, we can be grateful that the early naturalist walked through our mountains and saw them as “a full harmonious unit.”

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published January 5, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Highlights of 2005

Two columns that are perhaps the hardest for a journalist to write are the last one of the year just ending and the first one of a year just beginning. And added to the difficulty lies the undeniable fact, for weekly columnists, that the two come only a week apart in time. The writer must guard against being maudlin, weak, and effusively sentimental on the one hand, and too prosaic and reportorial on the other hand. But a year is ending. Soon 2005 will be history. What highlights will mark it as a notable year?

Recall that on December 26, 2004 the giant tsunami struck areas around the Indian Ocean set off by the earth’s most powerful earthquake in forty years. Thousands were made homeless and more thousands lost their lives in Indonesia, Sri Lanka,Thailand and other coastal provinces.

The destruction was unbelievable. The world looked at television reports and saw the wall of water toppling everything and everyone in its path.

Relief efforts for the tsunami victims and the lands touched by the disaster filled much of 2005, with President Bush appointing former presidents Clinton and Bush to head efforts for tsunami relief. Later the same two special appointees continued to make appeals for hurricane relief funds and volunteers to aid in clean-up.

It would not be a misnomer to call the year 2005 the Year of Disasters. Hurricanes were on the rampage. From A through Z and even through part of the Greek alphabet, the tropical storms started with Arlene that came ashore on the Florida panhandle. Katrina was the worst of these natural weather phenomena, one that played havoc with the Gulf Coast and especially with New Orleans, striking there August 29. Hard on Katrina’s heels came Hurricane Rita hitting the Texas Coast and adding more torrential rains in already devastated New Orleans. Relief efforts met with many complications, and Americans watched the wretchedness from live TV news coverage.

Add to the hurricanes and tropical storms the mudslides in California and raging fires in the western states and disasters in 2005 reached unprecedented magnitudes.

In Georgia we were mesmerized by reports of Judge Barnes, a court reporter and a sheriff’s deputy who were shot and killed at the Fulton County Courthouse as inmate Brian Nichols escaped and went on a shooting rampage. He shot another man in his getaway. A day later came the breaking story of Nichols’ holding Ashley Smith in her apartment, her escape and Nichols’ arrest a day later. The book “Unlikely Angel” tells of Smith’s ordeal at the hands of the killer.

Several deaths occurred in 2005. Pope John Paul II died April 2, 2005. The world watched and listened to his funeral. Crowds gathered at the Vatican and around the world to pay tribute to this long-time spiritual leader.

In Florida Terri Schiavo died on March 18, 2005. Court battles had preceded her death about removing feeding tubes from the badly brain-damaged young woman.

Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Honorable William H. Rehnquist, died after a long battle with thyroid cancer. Long-time ABC nightly news anchor Peter Jennings died with lung cancer. Cancer was declared the nation’s number one killer of those age 85 and younger in the United States, replacing the record held previously by heart disease. American playwright Arthur Miller who wrote “Death of a Salesman” (and other dramas) died February 11. Monaco’s Prince Rainier died April 6 and his son Prince Albert II succeeded his father as the leader of Monaco.

Gasoline and natural gas prices sky-rocketed, as well as diesel fuel and other oils. The bankruptcy of United Airlines and Delta Airlines was much in the news. The American economy continued to be unstable throughout the year.

The war in Iraq continued with American military and other deaths rising from insurgent attacks and suicide bombers. General public opinion regarding withdrawal of American troops and the escalating cost of the war were hot topics of the year. The largest number of American troops killed in the Iraqi War at one time occurred August 3, 2005 when a Marine Reserve Unit from Ohio suffered fourteen dead.

Reading this abbreviated list of happenings in 2005 leaves us with a dismal outlook. “Was there anything good about 2005?” we ask. We have all been touched in one way or another by the news of 2005. In many cases, troubles have come close to our own homes, our families. As we walk through the year, adding many more items to the above notations, we should remember that our own attitude determines to a great extent how we take trials as they come. “To balance the list,” wrote Ellen Goodman in a column in The Boston Globe, “we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives, not looking for flaws, but for potential.” Many good and helpful deeds occurred during 2005. When occasions arose for help, Americans proved they were capable of offering aid generously and with compassion. And that made a tremendous difference.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 5, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.