Thursday, July 27, 2006

Vogel State Park's 75th Anniversary

Through seventy-five years of providing a get-away for tourists seeking rejuvenation from nature and a time apart to enjoy relaxation and mountain living for a day, a week or more, Vogel State Park, second oldest of Georgia's state parks, is one of the most popular of the sixty-three now in operation.

In 1931 two state parks, Indian Springs and Vogel, were joined to create the Georgia State Parks System. This year, 2006, marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of Georgia's State Parks. Union County is proud to be numbered among those in Georgia with the next-to-oldest park.

Exploring the history of Vogel and seeing how things worked together, even when America was in the throes of the Great Depression, is nothing less than amazing.

First, Vogel got its name from the donors of a gift of sixteen acres on May 1, 1927 from Fred Vogel, Jr. and Augustus H. Vogel, owners of the Pfister-Vogel Leather Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Vogels owned 65,000 acres of land in the mountainous region around what is now Vogel State Park. Timber from this vast acreage had been harvested for tanbark and tanwood needed in the leather-processing business and shipped to Milwaukee. Imagine the manpower needed to get the timber from the mountain forests, take it to Gainesville to the nearest railroad, and ship it by rail to faraway Wisconsin.

Then, during World War I, a synthetic tannin acid was perfected, and the tedious process of getting the acid needed from Georgia's forests saved the company much money. Furthermore, it preserved the forests from destruction. What would the Vogels do with the vast landholdings in Georgia and elsewhere?

To the initial sixteen acres donated by the Vogels, another gift of 248 acres was given to the state of Georgia specified for Vogel State Forest Park. Somewhere along the line, the term "Forest" was dropped and the name of this second-oldest park in Georgia became Vogel, after the initial donors. The Vogels had built a meeting place which they called the "Tea Room" at the top of Neel Gap. This was incorporated into the Walisi-yi Inn, built of native stones, and used now as a supply store and stop along the Appalachian Trail. It once was a popular restaurant at the top of the mountain, with a magnificent panoramic view of the mountains to the south.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began the Civilian Conservation Corps in an effort to provide jobs to young men without work. A CCC Camp was built at Goose Creek just north of Vogel State Park. The young men of the CCC's built the dirt dam on Wolf Creek to form the twenty acre Lake Tralyta, centerpiece of Vogel State Park, named for a Cherokee Indian Princess whose grave is located at Stonepile Gap. They also carved from the forest places for cabins and picnic areas and built the initial camping sites at Vogel.

To honor these men of the Civilian Conservation Crops, Vogel State Park is the scene of the CCC Reunion, where those still surviving who appreciated their $30 per-month salary, $25 of which was sent home to help their families during the Depression, meet to talk about those "good old days." One of them, John Pierce Head, is quoted as saying: "It gets me that we didn't know what we were building. We didn't know it would impress people as it has." At the park, a museum cataloging the work of the CCC in forestry preservation, building of the park and its first cottages and the dam, and other duties of the CCC documents this important era in recovering the American economy.

To celebrate seventy-five years of Georgia's State Parks, Georgia Public Broadcasting is airing a documentary entitled "Sites to Behold: The History of Georgia's State Parks." The premier showing is Wednesday, July 26 at 8 p. m. (past when you read this). However, encore showings will be aired on Friday, July 28 at 7:00 p. m, and Sunday, July 30 at 6 p. m. It will be worth your viewing time to tune in and enjoy this walk through history. Billy Townsend, retired Chief Historian of Georgia State Parks, in his inimitable way, opens with fascinating stories about how over three million people visited the various parks during his tenure as Parks historian.

Mists rise over Blood Mountain that towers over Vogel State Park. Legends are told about the blood of Cherokees and Creeks that mingled in an Indian war on the mountain to turn the waters of Wolf Creek blood-red as it flowed downward.

Mountain trails are nearby for avid hikers: The Appalachian Trail can be accessed at Walisi-yi on top of Neel Gap; the Byron Herbert Reece Trail honors North Georgia's extraordinary poet; Duncan Ridge and Coosa Backcountry Trails challenge the most strenuous; Slaughter Creek and Sosebee Cove Trails are not quite as challenging. All beckon Vogel visitors to explore nature and appreciate the flora and fauna.

When the sun rises or sets above Lake Tralyta, rainbows of beauty are reflected in its still waters. Programs throughout the year offered at this next-to-oldest and most popular park reflect the cultural and natural history of the area. Right here within Union County we have one of the most cherished of Georgia's resources. Let us celebrate seventy-five years of its continued service to help rejuvenate people. Within its acres of beauty is our own "fountain of youth."

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 27, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Post reunion reflections

Last week's column looked forward to the Dyer-Souther Heritage Association annual reunion held on Saturday, July 15, 2006. We anticipate it each year with great joy, knowing that we will meet more kin that hear about it and make their way to the gathering. Like children looking for Christmas, we think it will never come. Then the big day arrives, we enjoy it tremendously and it is too soon gone.

I don't want to belabor the point, but this year's reunion may have been one of our best. Registration showed 214 in attendance for the morning, noon and early afternoon gathering. Many more came for the program at 3:00 p. m. commemorating the invention of Micajah Clark Dyer's "Apparatus for Navigating the Air," and the naming of a portion of Georgia Highway 180 the Micajah Clark Dyer Parkway. The new arrivals lifted the attendance count to 300 or more.

That program itself, carefully planned by Clark Dyer's great, great granddaughter, Sylvia Dyer Turnage, was well worth the effort people made to come from great distances, such as California, Oregon, Ohio and Texas to attend the dedication service. Sylvia and her family worked on wonderful displays that told the story of the inventor and his patent for the "Apparatus..." secured in 1874. The displays were given to the Union County Heritage Association Museum where visitors may read and see the story of Micajah Clark Dyer.

Earlier, in the regular reunion part of the program, a spinning wheel was donated to the Union County Historical Society Museum. Made by John Combs Hayes Souther in 1875 when his daughter, Sarah Evaline married Bluford Elisha Dyer, the heritage piece had been lovingly cared for and preserved by Ann and her husband, the late Bill Rich, and had come to them by Bill's mother, the late Nancy Louisa Dyer Rich, a daughter of Sarah Evaline and Bluford Elisha Dyer.

Many attended for the first time this year. Among them were Ralph Collins of Granbury, Texas, who is a great, great grandson of Willliam Dallas Collins (1846-1938) and Sarah Rosannah Souther Collins (1849-1929). Several months ago Ralph Colllins (who has the nickname "Bits" because he was called "Little Bit" as a child) called and introduced himself to me. He had visited my cousin William Clyde Collins of Choestoe and Clyde gave "Bits" my telephone number, telling him I was historian of the Dyer-Souther Heritage Association.

Already, Ralph Collins had learned that his great, great grandfather, Dallas Collins, was the third child and first son of Francis ("Frank") Collins (1816-1864) and Rutha Nix Collins (1822-1893), and Francis was the fourth child of first Collins settlers to Choestoe, Thompson Collins (1785-1858) and Celia Self Collins (1787-1880).

Ralph Collins' great grandfather was the firstborn of Dallas and Rosannah Souther Collins, James Elias ("Eli") Collins and Frankie Jane Jackson Collins (1870-1962). His grandfather was Vance Porter Collins (1897) who was born in Georgia before his father, James Elias, moved to Granbury, Texas. In Texas, Vance Porter Collins married Jessie Linthicum, and their second child, Doyle Collins, became Ralph "Bits" Collins's father.

Ralph and I have been exchanging e-mails and family history information. He and I agree that once one becomes interested in genealogy, it is hard to let go until the missing pieces of the puzzle of family connections are fitted together.

Have you ever met anyone whom you felt, at first contact, that you have known all your life? This was the case when Bits Collins and I first met in person on Sunday, July 15 at the reunion. Cousins whose common ties reach for generations back are inextricably tied together by common family bonds and hardy pioneer stock. His great grandfather "went west" looking for a better way of life, leaving behind the graves of two babies who died as infants, Rannel Collins (1891) and Floyd Collins (1897), buried in the Old Choestoe Cemetery. Without access to any James Elias Collins family journals, we can assume that he and his wife Frankie Jane Jackson Collins moved to Granbury (or Weatherford), Texas about 1902 with their children Leona, Arthur, Vance Porter, Ernest Fulton, and Marion Dallas (born in Georgia in 1901). The last four children of James Elias and Frankie Jane Collins were born in Texas: Tressie (1903), Joseph Taylor (1905), Gusta Roseanne (1909) and Vester Eugene (1912).

I was a child when my great Uncle Dallas Collins died October 18, 1938. His funeral made a lasting impression on me. My mother and father took me to Uncle Dallas' home near New Liberty Baptist Church where they helped with funeral preparations. My father, Jewel Marion Dyer, was handy with tools and he helped to make the casket for Uncle Dallas from seasoned timbers stored in the barn for that purpose. Great Aunt Sarah Rosannah Souther Colllins (1846-1929) had preceded her husband, Great Uncle Dallas, in death. She was my father's great aunt (a daughter of Jesse John and Mary "Polly" Combs Hayes Souther). Her husband, Dallas Collins, was my mother's uncle. This double-relationship was somewhat hard to figure out. We just knew we were "kin" on both sides of the family. I can remember the ladies preparing the body for burial. They also lined the casket with cotton and attached a satiny cloth to its interior before the body was gingerly laid in the homemade coffin. That was in the days before country folks used funeral homes. Mother and other kin also helped her cousin Martha Aria Collins with the cooking for the large crowd that gathered for the funeral. Aria and her husband, Moody Watson Collins, lived with and looked after Uncle Dallas prior to his death. The funeral was held at the house the next day, with a large crowd present.

I told Ralph "Bits" Collins this remembrance from my childhood of his great, great grandfather's funeral. Sadly, Ralph's great grandfather, James Elias (Eli) Collins did not attend the funeral. This firstborn son of William Dallas Collins preceded his father in death, dying in Granbury, Texas on January 8, 1938.

Back in Milledgeville, Georgia, which is now my dwelling place, I am still reveling in the memories of a marvelous day in the hills of Union County, where the morning mists covered the mountains with an effervescent glow as the sun rose to drive the fog away and provide a marvelous day of beauty. The fellowship, as well, was bright and shining. Selah.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 20, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Relatives honor a genius By: Joan Crothers

(Note: I am delighted that Joan Crothers, reporter for The Sentinel, gave her permission to reprint this news article she wrote about the Dyer-Souther Reunion at which we named a portion of GA Highway 180 in memory of Micajah Clark Dyer, inventor of “An Apparatus for Navigating the Air.” -Ethelene Dyer Jones)

Standing under the roadsign to be installed this week, are Billy and Sylvia Turnage, and Rep. Charles Jenkins, who was presented with the framed proclamation and the large framed patent and drawings of Dyers flying machine.

A small model of Dyer's flying machine shows the framework and covering, making it look more like a dirigible than what we know as an airplane.

Emcee for the event, Ethelene Dyer Jones, discusses the agenda with Rep. Jenkins.

Great, great, great grandson Kenneth Akins told the large group about his participation in trying to locate information on his relative by talking to many neighbors back in the 80s.

Micajah Clark Dyer was finally getting the due he deserved as relatives and friends gathered at the Choestoe Baptist Church on Saturday, July 15. The beautiful Fellowship Hall was filled to capacity with an estimated 300 people, most of them related to some part of the Dyer family.

Clark Dyer, as the family refers to him, is credited with creating and setting to flight a "flying machine" off of Rattlesnake Mountain in Choestoe, Union County, sometime in the 1870s. His patent has also been found and one person, Johnny Wimpy, now deceased, was 8 years old when "he saw it fly." He had also also helped Dyer build a large rock wall that is still standing. Dyer is also credited with creating a system of logs to pipe running water to his house from a spring. Neighbors saw him work on other inventions, but most ridiculed him for wasting his time on a flying machine, so he kept it quite secret.

However, when he did get a patent for his invention in 1874, he put an article in the St. Louis Globe of July 1975 and the Gainesville Eagle, some now thinking he was trying to get funds to build his flying machine. After he died in 1891 at 69, his wife sold his plans and machine to brothers named Redwine and they reportedly sold them to the Wright brothers.

Silvia Dyer Turnage was the organizer of this recognition of her great, great grandfather and thanked her family for all their support and help. She said she first read about the flying machine in a family history book, but it was 25 years later when the 1874 patent for the flying machine was found through the internet.

Turnage turned a poem she had written about this unusual man into a song, which she sang accompanied by Sam Ensley on the guitar.

The highlight of the event was the unveiling of a road sign, one of three, dedicating part of 180 to Micajah Clark Dyer. This came about through efforts of Representative Charles Jenkins in having the Georgia Legislation approve a proclamation honoring Dyer.

c2006 by Joan Crothers; published July 20, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Reunion, anyone?

Summer seems to be family reunion time. The choice of time probably goes back to when most of the work on the farm was done by plowing a team of mules, cultivating the crops and hoeing and weeding whatever was planted in the fields until it was "laid by" and left to grow and mature until harvest time came in the fall. Families thought about gathering and catching up on news, rejoicing over babies born since the previous year's reunion, and remembering beloved family members that had passed away within the year. It was called reunion. The union had never been broken, just delayed by hard work and lack of communication (unless, of course, some like the Martins and the Coys of legend who continually had a feud going).

Annual reunion was just a time to be united again, as the term implies. Reunion, anyone?

Call me a reunion person! Whether the event is a family reunion, a high school class reunion, a college class reunion, a church homecoming, or a birthday gathering, I enjoy planning for, implementing and being in the midst of the activity.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 will be a big day in the year for Dyer-Souther and related families as they gather for the annual reunion that brings many from Georgia, surrounding states, and far-flung places.

One year, we had a young man all the way from France. He practiced his English on those attending, and if anyone had an inkling of the French language, they embarrassed themselves by trying to speak French to him. He was kind, however, and did not laugh at our attempts to be bilingual. And yes, he was our kin, too. One of our male cousins had gone to France and married there. The child of that union was visiting relatives in north Georgia just at the time of the annual reunion. What better way to be "broken in" to the culture of his American kin than the annual family reunion?

We're changing our pattern this year. Instead of the third Sunday in July, we're meeting the third Saturday in July, the 15th.

Since 1999, the Dyer-Souther Heritage Association has used the beautiful Conference Center facilities at North Georgia Technical College, Blairsville Campus. This year we're changing location to Choestoe Baptist Church's new Family Life Center building. Choestoe is the locale where our ancestors settled in the 1830's.

At last year's reunion, Theodore "Ted" Thomas, great, great, great grandson of William Jesse Souther Jr. holds the old double yoke for oxen used when his ancestor moved from Old Fort, N.C., to Choestoe, Ga., prior to 1848 and built the Souther Mill on Choestoe. The yoke was restored by Mr. Thomas and given by a grandson of the miller, Mr. John Paul Souther of Gainesville. The yoke was a special presentation to the Union County Historical Museum
by Mr. Souther.

We welcome kin as well as interested visitors to the reunion. Registration starts at 11:00 a.m. and the buffet meal will be served at 12:00. Reunions always mean good food. People tend to bring their "best" dishes to spread on tables well laden with delectable food. The French writer Moliere in the seventeenth century penned these words: "One should eat to live, and not live to eat." Had he known about our Southern family reunions, he would have known that once a year we "live to eat" Roma Sue's chicken dumplings, chocolate pies that our late Aunt Northa taught some of us to make, or caramel pies like our late Aunt Pauline taught her granddaughter to make. Reunion, anyone? The food invites. And there's something about eating with your kin. Sharing food seems to strengthen family ties.

We've had the request that there be "less programmed" time and more time for visitation and sharing family genealogy. We will have a program in which we recognize first-time attendees, the family that traveled farthest, the youngest, the oldest, and everyone over the age of 90. We will, in solemn remembrance, have a memorial service for those who have passed on since our last reunion. We will take care of necessary business recommended by the Board of Trustees. But mainly, we will visit, be happy, enjoy being together. Reunion, anyone?

A special program at 3:00 p.m. at this year's reunion will be to honor Micajah Clark Dyer (1822-1891), inventor who received a registered patent in 1874 for his "Apparatus for Navigating the Air." Those gathered for the reunion and others who will come for the special event will observe the unveiling of the historic sign to name a portion of Georgia Highway 180 the Micajah Clark Dyer Parkway.

Georgia Highway 180 winds from Highway 129 up toward Bald Mountain, the highest peak in Georgia. The road overlooks the area of Rattlesnake Mountain where Clark Dyer worked on and launched his flying apparatus. He was a young lad when his grandfather, Elisha Dyer Jr. settled the land in the early 1830s. The family was in Union County when it was formed in 1832.

Reunions are for looking back and appreciating the legacy our forebears left to us.

For many years members of the DyerSouther clan heard the legend of "Clark Dyer and his flying machine." It was passed down, generation to generation. When the official patent was found, along with detailed engineering instructions on the building and operation of the "Apparatus for Navigating the Air," we of this generation marveled that this was not a legend but it actually did happen. As the legend holds, Clark Dyer looked at the birds and wondered, "Why can't I fly?" And he set to work to make an airship for that very purpose.

Reunion, anyone? We invite you to come on Saturday, July 15, and help us celebrate a legend made reality. Maybe you will gain inspiration to delve into your own family's treasured stories and find that they are more than legend.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 13, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Standing tall like the hills, a tribute to Cecil Woodrow Collins

"God, give me hills to climb,
And strength for climbing!"

These words ending Arthur Guiterman's poem, Hills could well describe the life and work of the late Cecil Woodrow Collins who went out from the hills of Union County and became a productive and useful citizen. But with him, throughout his life was a love for the hills of home and the symbolism they represented in challenge and achievement.

Cecil Woodrow Collins died April 22, 2006 in Northeast Georgia Medical Center at age 92. In between his birth on September 26, 1913 in Union County, GA., and his death, he had packed a lot of living and climbed hills not a few.

He was the first-born of six children, three sons and three daughters, of Francis Thurman Collins (known as Bob T.) and Mary Viola (Collins) Collins. With both his father and mother born into the Collins lineage, Cecil's family roots go back to the first Collins settler in the county, Thompson Collins and his wife Celia Self Collins, and their children.

In Cecil's paternal line were his grand parents, Thompson ("Thomp") Smith Collins and Susan ("Susie") Jane Cook Collins; his great grand parents, Francis ("Frank") and Rutha Nix Collins: and his great, great grand parents, early settlers Thompson Collins and Celia Self Collins.
In Cecil's maternal line were his grandparents James ("Jim") Johnson Collins and Margaret A. Nix Collins; his great grand parents, Ivan Kimsey Collins and Martha J. Hunter Collins; and his great, great grandparents, Thompson and Celia Self Collins.

Back when Bob T. Collins courted and married Mary Viola Collins, tracing of family roots was not as popular as it became later in the twentieth century. Cecil's parents had the same last name. Sure, they both went back to the earliest settler, Thompson Collins. Of "good mountain stock," these "distant" cousins reared six children of excellent character, intelligence and integrity: Cecil, Hazel, Jim, Neal, Mary Catherine and Betty Jane. Of his siblings, one, Jim, preceded Cecil in death.

Cecil was educated at the one and/or two-teacher school at Choestoe, and graduated from Blairsville High School in 1931. He then attended Young Harris College during some of the worst years of the Great Depression, graduating in 1933. After college, he secured a job with the newly-organized Civilian Conservation Corps as clerk. The CCC was a boon for country boys seeking employment, and was founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to help alleviate the job situation in depressed times.

Then came World War II. Cecil Woodrow Collins enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard where he served as a "90-Day Wonder" Lieutenant JG officer. His two brothers also served in World War II: James Thompson Collins in the U. S. Navy and Robert Neal Collins in the Army Air Force. Cecil was on active duty in the Coast Guard through the end of the war in 1945, and continued as a reserve officer until his discharge in 1955.

In 1946 Cecil Collins began a 45-year career with the Social Security Administration (SSA), serving first as a field representative in the claims department. It was while he was working in Meridian. Mississippi that he met Miss Mamie Lorena Camp. They married December 9, 1951. Two sons were born to the couple, Glenn Camp Collins in 1953 and Andy Thomas Collins in 1956. The boys were born when the couple lived at Athens, GA.

Cecil Collins proved that he was ready to "climb mountains" in his work in the Social Security Administration. He served for more than 20 years as branch manager in the office at Gainesville.

In Gainesville Cecil could look northward toward the mountains that called him home frequently. He took Glenn and Andy hunting, fishing and hiking in the hills of Choestoe. In the family's location in the burgeoning city of Gainesville, they had the best of two worlds-city life and its opportunity and proximity to the mountains and the great out-of-doors.

Active in First Baptist Church, Gainesville, and a deacon and teacher, Cecil's quiet leadership and commonsense wisdom lent much to the work and growth of the church. In community affairs, he was a member of the Lions Club and executive director of the Community Chest which later was named United Way. Lorena likewise was active in church and community and was a long-time volunteer at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

His funeral was conducted at the church he loved, First Baptist, Gainesville, on April 24, 2006, with his pastor, Dr. Bill Coates, and retired pastor, Dr. John Lee Taylor, and Bruce Fields remembering characteristics of this mountain main who, as Guiterman expressed in his poem, found "hills to climb" throughout his life and went all the way to the top of them. His body was taken back to the "hills of home," and interred at Choestoe Baptist Church Cemetery.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 6, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved