Friday, December 21, 2007

The Country Store and Christmas

Before I begin today’s topic of the former Country Store and its part in helping people to celebrate Christmas, I have another correction to make. Setting the record straight is important to me. I appreciate so much Mrs. Shirley Summerour Brackett writing and calling me to tell me that she was a member of the Class of 1951, the last one from Union County High School to graduate from the eleventh grade (as was my brother, the late Bluford Marion Dyer). Shirley reminded me that there was not a graduating class in 1952, but in 1953 the first class graduated from the twelfth grade. I’m sorry for my “arithmetic” being off by a year, and my not allowing for the time needed to get that Class of 1953 through the added grade. Thanks, Shirley, sister of my classmate, Kathryn Summerour Bachelor (Kathryn and I were in the Class of 1947, four years before the twelfth grade was instituted).

Now to some thoughts on how the country store of long ago helped neighborhood people have a happy Christmas.

My best remembrance of a country store was one operated by my maternal grandfather, Francis Jasper Collins, better known as “Bud.” My first recollection of his country store was of a large, rambling building right on the road, now named Liberty Church Road. The outside of the store building was gray and weathered.

A set of scales sat on the porch. On these scales, my Grandfather and my maiden aunts, Avery and Ethel, who worked as clerks in the store, weighed the live chickens that country people brought to barter for goods. After weighing the chickens (in coops), and subtracting the weight of the coop, the clerks calculated how much “money” was available for trade. They turned the chickens loose in a pen lined and ceiled with chicken wire at the side of the store. There the chickens would be fed and watered until Grandfather went to Gainesville to trade them for a load of goods for the store.

I’m not sure when this old gray building was torn down and a new smaller store building built closer to the house. Seeing the old storehouse go seemed to me, even as a young child, to be the passing of an era. I loved that old store building with its long counters and all the merchandise that sat on the shelves to be purchased by people who brought chickens and eggs, tanned skins of animals, chestnuts, chinquapins, and sorghum syrup to be traded for “store-bought” goods. The barter helped them to get coffee, sugar, salt, baking powder, spices, shoes, and yard goods from which dresses and shirts were made by industrious housewives of the community. Men’s overalls, work shirts and socks were part of the inventory. And the glassed-in candy counter boasted chocolate drops, sugared orange slices, and peppermint and licorice stick candy in boxes or to be purchased for a penny by the stick! What an enticement this array of candy was to my young eyes! I can remember Grandfather reaching into the counter and getting a chocolate drop to give me, even if I didn’t have the penny to pay for it.

The “new” store had a front porch as well, with the usual scales to the left of the entrance door. The chicken pen was attached to the right side of the store, outside. In my young eyes, the procedures at the “new” store had not changed much. But the building itself was smaller, perhaps handier to the house so my aunts would not have such a hill to climb as they did getting to the old store when the cowbell, hanging outside the door, rang to announce the presence of customers (for the store was not open all the time, but just when someone needed its services).

I remember with fondness the time I was allowed to go to Gainesville in my Grandfather’s truck. Garnie Fortenberry was the driver for Grandfather Bud’s trips. My father, J. Marion Dyer, was going on this trip, and wonder of wonders, at age about six, I was allowed to go along, sitting on my father’s lap all the way across Neal Gap, by Cleveland, and on to Gainesville. The trip could be accomplished in a long day, before sunup until sundown, in the truck. Before the opening of this highway (129) in 1925, the trip by wagon over the Logan Turnpike and Tesnatee Gap had consumed a week’s time. But we were now “modern,” with a narrow paved road and in Grandpa’s faithful truck.

I had never ridden over Neal Gap before, nor had I ever been to the city of Gainesville. I was not prepared for how “car sick” I became that morning as the truck rumbled along the mountainous road. Dad told me to close my eyes and not watch the scenery that seemed to be moving as the truck chugged along, loaded with coops of chickens, cases of eggs and other items to trade in Gainesville as Grandfather bought merchandise to replenish his store. We stopped a couple of times along the way at homes of people my Grandfather knew. At Ravan’s on the south side of Neal Gap, and at another house south of Cleveland.

I shall never forget that day in Gainesville. While Grandfather and Garnie went to Parks Wholesale and other dealerships around Gainesville, my dad “showed” me the town. He took me to see my first-ever moving picture show. It was a western, the title of which I can’t recall. I thought the horses on the screen were going to come right out and run over us as we sat in the theater. Then we went to Woolworth’s “Five and Dime” store on the square. There we ate at the lunch counter, where I got my first taste of Coca Cola (I didn’t like it then!) and a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Dad let me shop, limiting my purchases to $1, from the laden counters of Woolworth’s treasures. From the small amount of my allowance, quite a bit in 1936, I purchased a locked diary and pen for myself and a small toy car for my little brother, Bluford. When he got a little bigger, we could also both play with the set of pick-up-sticks that finished out my purchases.

This trip was near Christmas, and Grandfather had remembered to buy some simple toys like China dolls and Chinese checker sets which the country folk could buy for holiday gifts. He also found a variety of hard candies for his glassed-in candy counter in the new store. There were also bags of oranges and mixed nuts which he would sell for Christmas treats.

It did not seem to matter at all to the children of Choestoe community when they awoke on Christmas morning to find their stockings containing an orange from the Collins country store and nuts like pecans and English walnuts not grown in the woods near their homes. Somehow, Santa had been helped along with his magical bag by stopping at the country store to replenish his gifts.

Overabundance was not a concept we knew in those days. But the necessities of life were somehow available, thanks to the efforts of persons like Grandpa “Bud” Collins who ran a country store. With the gifts received, we felt a deep appreciation and a sense of wonder and surprise. Little was much when love was in it.

May your Christmas be filled with joy transcendent and may 2007 bring you renewed hope.

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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The poor man's friend (A story of Christmas past)

The wind whipped around the side of the boxcar as Cyril Townsend jumped from the open doorway. He hoped none of the railroad workers at the Blue Ridge, Georgia depot would see him as he alighted. He had boarded the northbound train in Atlanta under cover of early morning darkness without benefit of ticket.

In fact, if he had been caught as a stowaway, he might have been immediately returned to state prison where he had spent the last three years of his life. He did not want another prison sentence, especially one not deserved. Because he would not turn state's evidence, he had been blamed for a crime he did not commit. Three years of convict labor was enough to do him for a lifetime. But then again, loyalty to friends was a long suit he wore with pride, even during the burning days of summer and the frigid days of winter as he worked on the chain gang.

The year was 1910. The time was December 24, Christmas Eve. Cyril Townsend had lost track of time, but he learned the date as he read the headline of the paper in the Atlanta depot. He was eager to get back to the mountains of North Georgia. Maybe there he could find refuge and some work that would help him to get readjusted to his freedom.

As he moved nonchalantly through the regular passengers that alighted from the train in Blue Ridge, he could not help but note their apparel, warm and appropriate for the winter weather that even now threatened snow. Most of them had trunks that were unloaded from the baggage cars. Black porters from the local hotels and some servants from the more notable residences in Blue Ridge were there with carriages to meet the travelers.

Others waited to board the train for its journey on to Murphy, NC and into burgeoning towns in Tennessee. "Coming home for Christmas or going away for Christmas," Cyril Townsend said to no one in particular. His main aim was to keep away from public notice and gain a little perspective about his next move.

He was hungry. And cold. What would he do for food? Steal again? He did not relish the recollection of stealing from a clothesline down in Georgia the overalls and shirt he wore or the coat he had found hanging across a seat in the Atlanta depot. He was too near home to risk arrest from stealing, a practice his upbringing had always taught him was wrong. Even the dire circumstances he had been in did not calm his conscience from the thefts he had committed.

He decided to go to the back door of the Blue Ridge Hotel. Maybe there they would have a handout of leftover food for a starved traveler. As he approached the rear of the hotel, he was met by a large black man. Dared he ask him for food? He hoped he would not get the porter into trouble by doing so. Cyril devided he wouldn't lose anything by asking.

"I've come a long way and I don't have any money to buy food," Cyril Townsend said. "Do you have any leftovers in the hotel kitchen that you could give to a poor, starving traveler?"

"We've just had a big banquet," the hotel worker said. "Wait a minute. Sit here on the porch and I'll bring you a plate."

Within minutes the porter returned with a steaming plate of ham and yams, cranberry sauce and beans, bread and hot coffee. Cyril Townsend bowed his head in gratitude and thanked the Lord for such provision. This act o fkindness was restoring his faith in mankind. Maybe life on the outside of prison wouldn't be such a hard road, after all. He thanked the porter for his kindness. After eating, Cyril decided to wander back to the railroad depot.

No sooner had he walked to the rail yard than he saw a farmer with a covered wagon. The farmer was unloading gallons of sorghum syrup onto a boxcar and still had sacks of grain in his wagon to unload. A clerk on the boxcar was keeping a record of the produce.

"Hello," Cyril said to the farmer. "Could you use some help transporting your goods to the boxcar?"

"As a matter of fact, I could," the farmer replied. "Grab these and begin to tote," he said, pointing to the produce remaining on the covered wagon.

The two men worked, soon warming to the job in the cold December wind. When the task was finished and the farmer had settled with the clerk on satisfactory bill of lading, the farmer turned to Cyril Townsend.

"You leavin' on the train?" he asked.

"No. As a matter of fact, I came in on it." The farmer didn't need to know that he, Cyril, was a free-loading passenger, fearing all the way from Atlanta that he might be discovered in his hiding place in a boxcar.

"Where ya headin', then, on Christmas Eve?" the farmer asked.

"I was hoping to go to Blairsville, Georgia," Cyril Townsend said. "I used to live in a community near there several years ago."

"Well, climb on board," the farmer said. "I'm going there as fast as these mules can take us."

Again feeling gratitude well up in himself at his good fortune, Cyril Townsend climbed into the wagon.

"My name's Thomp Collins," the wagoneer said. "And who might you be?"

"I go by the name of Cyril Townsend," the hitchhiker said.

"Pleased to meetcha," Collins said. The two men did not talk much as the mules drew the wagon along the narrow road that ran from Blue Ridge to Morganton, through Hemp Town, and on toward Blairsville. All the while Thomp Collins was trying in vain to remember where he'd heard the name Cyril Townsend. And likewise, Cyril Townsend was trying to recall if he had previously known Thomp Collins.

The rhythm of the wagon over the bumpy road did not deter Cyril Townsend, tired as he was, from falling asleep as they traveled. He awakened after a long nap when he heard Thomp Collins saying "Whoa," to his mules. Cyril took in the form of a substantial barn in the dusk, and a short distance away on a rise a farmhouse with lights at the windows.

"Welcome to my place," Thompson Collins said, his hand extended for a shake.

"But I did not intend to come all the way to your house and make a nuisance of myself to your wife and children," Cyril Townsend protested.

"It's Christmas Eve," Thomp Collins said. "Come and share our Christmas Eve meal with us. Susie, my wife, always has plenty to spare. And besides, I think you and I have something to talk about."

Cyril helped Thomp stable and feed the mules. All the while Cyril felt a bit uneasy. Would this man know about his trial and sentencing? After all, the trial did take place over three years ago in Union County. As he pondered these questions, his tired body seemed somehow to be drawn to the warmth and welcome of the nearby farmhouse. What did he have to lose from sharing a Christmas Eve meal?

At the house, Thompson Collins introduced his wife Susan and his children to the stranger. The children, polite and quiet, were named Roe, Virge, Joe and Bob. "And at Christmastime, we always remember our little ones we lost at an early age, and we've placed a holly wreath on their graves at Old Choestoe Cemetery," said Susan Thompson. "Their names were Avery Cordelia, Charles Luther and Mary Rebecca."

The Thomp Collins family did not seem at all surprised that a wayfarer would share their Christmas Eve meal. Thomp showed Cyril to a side room with a small bed, and asked the older children to bring him a basin of warm water and fresh towels. Thomp himself laid out clean clothes of his own for Cyril to put on after his bath.

Refreshed and clean, Cyril rejoined the Collins family. Soon they were seated at a table laden with good food from the garm. All bowed heads while Thomp asked the blessing. While they ate, the question Cyril feared came.

"Are you returning from prison?" Thomp asked Cyril.

"Yes. Is it that obvious? How did you know?"

"All the way from Blue Ridge to Blairsville, as you slept, I kept thinking that I knew the name, Cyril Townsend. Then I remembered that you had taken the rap for some of your friends and were imprisoned even though you were not guilty of the crime for which you were charged. Your case is similar to mine," Thomp Collins continued.

"Back in 1875 I would not turn state's evidence. I was sent to Federal Prison in New York. Upon my release and return two years later, after a long, hard journey, I told Susie that as long as we had a house and food and clothing to share, we would never again turn anyone in need away from our door. That is why you are welcome tonight in this house and at our table."

"Neighbors call my husband 'The Poor Man's Friend,'" wife Susie Collins said. No matter the need, whether at Christmas or all year long, he is quick to respond when he meets someone whose pain and suffering he can relieve."

That night on the clean bed in Thomp Collins' house, Cyril Townsend resolved that as soon as he was on his feet again, he would adopt the same motto as that of Thomp Collins: "The poor man's friend," and seek to make it his life principle.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 20, 2007 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Miracle of Brasstown Valley: a Book Review

Governor/Senator Zell Miller has done it again. He has written his seventh book, and has managed within its pages to turn history into a page-turner.

I gratefully received a copy early as a Christmas gift from a very dear friend. I want to recommend that you go out to a nearby bookstore in these days remaining before Christmas and either purchase a copy for yourself or get a copy as a gift for someone special. You will be glad you did.

The Miracle of Brasstown Valley is the story of the founding of Young Harris College in 1886 by an itinerant Methodist preacher, the Rev. Artemas Lester. But it is more than history, more than a realized dream of Lester whose life was touched in a unique way, both by his calling and his mission. Through his keen imagination, the Honorable Zell Miller has brought to life people, places and events in the mountains of North Georgia. He gives us a front-row seat to happenings as if we are there. Sharing Miller's love for history, and being mutually tied, as he is, to some of the same places and people who make up the colorful pages of this book, I find it a privilege to recommend his book to your reading.

In his foreword, Mr. Miller states:

While all the people, places and most events are real, in some instances I have filtered their undocumented words spoken long ago through my imagination. So be forewarned: this history is not pure and perfect; it's padded. But, as we say in the mountains, this is 'pert near' how it all happened." (page 4).

Getting it 'pert near' right is good enough for me. Not only does the book give the history of the founding of the college in the mountains, which has stood as a shining light for students educated there since 1886, but within these pages we get lessons on geology and theology, politics and religion. The people of yesteryear, whose names are well documented in family histories, in county records of land holdings, in church and cemetery records, in stories of their deeds passed on from generation to generation are mentioned in the book as Artemas Lester makes his way from Yatesville, Georgia, where he was born, to Brasstown Valley in Towns County, Georgia, learning what he can from residents he meets along the way. He wants to know about the land and the people, the sturdy stock who have taken up residence in the mountains. The literary technique is a travelogue. The impact is that of having been there, experienced that.

In the pages of Miracle we meet people who have a role to play in the background of Young Harris College's founding. The itinerant Union County preacher, the Rev. Milford G. Hamby, was responsible in part for the conversion of Artemis Lester in a revival at far-away Yatesville, Georgia. He heard the young man's dream and set him on his way toward the north Georgia mountains.

We meet William Jasper Miller, better known as "Bud," teacher at Hood's Chapel School in Upper Choestoe. Artemas Lester observed this country school teacher's methods in action and thought them good. He also heard that Bud Miller planned to take unto himself a second wife, Jane Malinda Collins, following the death of his first wife, Florence Edmundson Miller. Jane Malinda's ancestors were the first Choestoe settlers, Thompson and Celia Self Collins, her grandparents. She was a daughter of Francis and Rutha Nix Collins. With this background, Jane would be a good step-mother for Bud Miller's six children, left motherless by his first wife's death.

We see Artemas Lester's first view of Track Rock Gap as he travels from Dahlonega to Brasstown Valley.

We meet Widow Nancy Louise Haynes Stephens Sanderson, whose help in establishing the school in Brasstown Valley ranged from knowing the right people for the Rev. Artemas Lester to see to loaning him her horse and buggy in which to travel, and making available the abandoned store building where the first classes opened in January, 1886.

This book is full of mountain lore and culture. It is a book about a dream and the price one man paid to see it fulfilled. It is about moving on, even before the school Lester worked so hard to establish, was fully functional.

The book expresses appreciation for a solid way of life and for the faith that seeds planted will eventually sprout and bear fruit. Credit is given to many people who figured prominently in the founding of Young Harris College. You will meet them in the pages of this book, and rejoice that they were faithful to fill in the gap in their years of service. To name them all would take away some of the mystery of your meeting them for yourself in the book's pages. Prominent among them, however, besides the Rev. Artemas Lester, were the Rev. Marcus Hale Edwards, the Rev. Joseph Astor Sharp, Young Loften Gerdine Harris for whom the school eventually was named, and many others, presidents, professors, supporters.

Governor/Senator Zell Miller and I trace our roots back to Thompson Collins and other people who, although not well educated themselves because of limited academic offerings in those pioneer days, wanted a better way of life and accelerated opportunities for their children and succeeding generations. It was on this principle that the Rev. Artemas Lester set about to found the school in the mountains that became Young Harris College. Mr. Miller's chronicle will make you proud to be of sturdy mountain stock.

He has Artemas Lester asking Teacher Bud Miller this question:

"Where do they (the students) go when you've taught them all you know?"
Bud stared straight into his friend's eyes. "Ah, that's the question. You tell me."

At Christmas, this book will be rich reading as you discover and rejoice in the answer.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 13, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Country School and Christmas

My first seven years of school were spent at Choestoe School, the two-room "new" building that replaced the old two-story faded gray structure that had stood for many years on the same spot.

My primer-first grade class was the very first to occupy the new school building in 1936-1937. We were proud of the smell of newly placed pine lumber that ceiled the inside of the building. We were fascinated by the removable partitions between the "lower grades" room and the "upper grades" room. And on special occasions, that partition was removed, a moveable stage was put in place, and all we young scholars who studied in grades primer through seventh grade were ready to perform on that stage before our parents and others in the community. Christmas was one of those times.

In my growing-up years, Christmas was a very special time. Compared to the glitter and commercialization of our present age, what we enjoyed and considered special treats would be meager, indeed. But we celebrated in our own way, and within the walls of that two-room, two-teacher country school much joy emanated to the whole community.

Remembering, the first item on the Christmas preparation agenda was "assigning of parts." Our teachers- in this case, Mrs. Mert Shuler Collins who had the lower grades, and Mrs. Florence Jackson Hunter, principal and upper grades instructor, were the teachers in charge.

They drew from their magic cache of Christmas program materials- whether written by themselves or from some "Christmas Celebrations" book- "parts" were assigned to every child in their care. No one could be left out of the glorious Christmas program.

The upper grades had "the play." This was a mini-drama, much rehearsed and prepared with necessary make-do costumes and props. Each child memorized lines until they became a part of his/her repertoire. The play was a little slice of life, teaching character traits of hospitality and generosity and decrying selfishness. It was an honor to be chosen for a part in the school drama and each actor/actress took seriously the part assigned.

The lower grades had the usual acrostic in which each child held letters spelling out messages like C-H-R-I-S-T-MA S C-H-E-E-R or H-A-P-P-Y H-O-L-I-D-A-Y-S.

The two lines of the poem forming the acrostic were all the little ones had to memorize. They were taught how to hold their letter straight, so that the visitors could readily read the message they spoke about. Those who could handle more than a two-line recitation were given longer poems, or a story about Christmas to recite.

All the grades together practiced singing Christmas carols. We didn't have a piano at the school, so the "tune" was formed by listening to a tuning fork held gingerly by one of the teachers and blown upon to give the proper pitch for each carol. We sang with gusto and joy, albeit it not always in tune. It wasn't perfection of performance but melody and message for which we strived.

Then came the drawing of names. This was when each class exchanged names, and the responsibility lay with the student to bring a present to the person whose name was drawn. What about some of the very poor children who might not be able to afford to buy a present?

Looking back, I see now that we all were "poor," monetarily speaking, but we didn't know it for we had food, clothing and shelter. Somehow, my parents, and those of other students, managed to get a meager gift for the "name drawn." I wasn't aware of what went on behind the scenes then, but I've learned since that the teachers always provided "emergency" gifts for any who were not able to get a gift for their "name drawn" person. That way, everyone in the school was assured a gift.

The week before school was out for Christmas, and the day of the big Christmas program, we spent much time and effort making decorations. The older boys went to the nearby woods and cut a well-shaped pine tree for a Christmas tree. In our "art" classes, we had been making colored paper chains to decorate the tree. We also strung popcorn and holly berries. We made snowflakes, cut from paper and fastened them to the tree. Our school tree would not take a prize in beauty in a decorating contest. But in joy of creating something which we thought beautiful, our room decorations rated high marks, indeed. Each window was decorated with a construction-paper candle, snowman, or laughing Santa. Our school house was ready for visitors.

Then came the day of the big performance. We had the two rooms, now opened into one large one, set for our visitors, our parents and others in the community. A sense of nervous anticipation pervaded the students. Could we pull off this program and please our teachers and our parents?

We had no need for concern. Whatever we did was appreciated and applauded.

And when it came time to distribute presents, whatever we received brought smiles and pleasure. A bag with an apple, an orange, some wrapped candy kisses- and pencils, always pencils with our names on them- came from our teachers. The play, the recitations and the caroling all went well. The wood heaters had put out too much heat with the school rooms overcrowded with people. But everyone left happy and elated.

Christmas had come again to Choestoe School. And we had been a part in bringing the happiest of all days of the year to fruition. If snow would only fall on our walk home from the schoolhouse, it would be of all times the merriest, with each snowflake a smile from heaven to earth's brown sod.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 6, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

William Harrison Jackson- from Choestoe to Colorado

This true episode is how a person born near the end of the nineteenth century went out from Union County seeking his fortune. His name was William Harrison Jackson, born September 1, 1889 in Choestoe, Union County, Georgia. His parents were William Miles Jackson (1853- 1910) and Nancy Souther Jackson (1853- 1899).

William Harrison Jackson was the eighth of nine children born to Bill and Nancy Jackson. It is interesting to note that seven of the nine children left Choestoe to find work elsewhere. His sister Camilla (1873-1925) married H. L. Henson and they moved to Copperhill, Tenn., where H. L. worked at the Tennessee Copper Company. His sister Lydia (1875-1956) married Virgil Collins and they moved to Laramie, Colorado. His brother Oscar Jackson (1879-1901) died before reaching his twenty-second birthday and was a teacher in Choestoe. Harrison's brother, Ira Jackson (b. 1881) died as a seven month old baby. Della Nora Jackson (1883-1911) and her husband, Ulysses Thompson Collins, moved to Verden, Oklahoma. After Della's death in 1911, Ulysses returned to Choestoe with their three children, Goldie, Mayme and Ralph. Cora Bessie Jackson (1885-1951) married Thomas L. Hood and they moved to Eaton, Colorado. Florida Kate Jackson (1891-?) married Jasper Shuler and they lived in Greeley, Colorado. Oliver Grady Jackson (1893-?) moved to Greeley, Colorado, where he met and married Anna Jensen who was born in Denmark. With so many of his siblings migrating west, William Harrison Jackson at a young age also got the urge to "go west, young man," but his was not a straight trek there.

From his own memoirs written in January, 1969, we learn how William Harrison Jackson left Choestoe and eventually settled in Colorado. He expressed thoughts about his growing-up years in poetry:

"My mother's name was Nancy,
My father's name was Bill.
We lived in a pleasant valley
Close by the Blue Ridge hills.
Some things to me were a marvelous wonder;
Thoughts to my heart were great to ponder:
God, Creator of all life, the Giver,
Creatures, meadows, rills, rivers.

His elementary school years were at the old Choestoe Church house, with slat benches for seats. The building was heated with pot-bellied stoves. In 1896, his first teacher was Joseph Collins who had been to the Hiawassee Academy. Harrison was happy to follow the career of his first grade teacher, noting that he became a prominent lawyer in Gainesville. The Jackson children, including William Harrison, all did their share of work on the Choestoe farm of his parents.

Harrison's mother died when he was ten years of age in 1899. In 1905, his father married again to Jane West. He tells how he left home by "Shank's Mare" (walking). He carried his clothes and other meager possessions "in a valise" and made his way to Mineral Bluff, Georgia, where his sister, Camilla Henson lived. There, and in nearby Copperhill, Tennessee, he found "odd jobs" to earn money until the spring of 1906.

His brother-in-law, Thomas L. Hood, husband of Harrison's sister, Cora, invited him back to Choestoe to help him work on the farm he had rented from an aunt, Mary Collins. In the fall, Aunt Mary paid Thomas $300 in gold for the crops produced that season. Thomas paid William Harrison $15 for each month he had worked with him on the land. Tom and Cora then moved to Colorado. It was back to Copperhill, TN for William Harrison Jackson. There he worked in the copper mines until March 7, 1907. He had saved enough money for a train ticket to Eaton, Colorado, where he went to work in the potato fields and sorting houses at $30.00 per month and board. This work occupied his time from 1907-1913.

William Harrison Jackson's next move was to Blackfoot, Idaho. There he met and wooed Hazel Edith Thompson. They were married August 11, 1913. Her parents, Tommy Thompson and Hilda Edge Thompson, were born in Norway. At Blackfoot, Harrison and Hazel settled down to farming. Their five children were born in the Rose Precinct about five and one-half miles north of Blackfoot. The children were Barton Grady Jackson ( US Marine and professional dance instructor), June Hilda Jackson (US Navy, and educator), Thelma Edith Jackson (twin to June Hilda, died at age six months), Zelma Nancy Jackson (communications and radio operator during World War II, and administrative assistant) and Dwain Thompson Jackson (music educator and employee of Horace Mann Insurance Agency for teachers). The Jacksons bought a ranch at Cedar Ridge, Colorado. There Hazel died with cancer in 1935.

After his children were grown and left home, Harrison Jackson married his second wife, Nora Miller, in 1937. She was a daughter of Andrew Miller and Carrie Young Miller, early pioneers in Arkansas. In 1957, Harrison and Nora sold out their ranch in Cedar Ridge and moved to Delta, Colorado, where he continued to work, even to age 80 and above. He described himself and his wife, Nora, as "happy, busy, and continuing in the faith of the Disciples of Christ." He always liked to tell stories--of his growing-up years in Choestoe, of moving away to find work, of life on the farm or ranch in the west, and of semiretirement and still active. His poem about his life ends: "Those childhood days are gone forever, But such memories we cannot sever."

[Personal note to my readers: At 7:00 a. m. on Thanksgiving morning, November 22, 2007, I received a call from the nurse at Memory Support Unit, Georgia War Veteran's Home, Milledgeville, that my husband, the Rev. Grover D. Jones, had fallen and was in great pain from the fall. He was taken by ambulance to the emergency room of the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon where he underwent extensive examinations and preoperation treatment. His left hip operation (replacement of the ball and socket joint) was on Sunday, November 25. He came through surgery well, and today (Monday) was up on the "new hip" for a short time. His physical/ mental condition is now classified as "Advanced Alzheimer's". Admittedly, the past several days have been stressful- and extremely tiring for me. Less than three months ago, as my readers will recall, I myself underwent five bypasses heart surgery. We learn to meet emergencies and life's challenges "one day at a time," and there is always miraculous strength to walk through them. These, to me, are results of strong faith and God's presence. Thank you for your concern.]

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 29, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks -- 2007

I have a delightful hour once each month on the third Thursday afternoon.

I refer to the Learning-in-Retirement (its acronym is LIR) class that I, along with about twenty-five other senior citizens, pursue. Sponsored by Georgia College & State University here in Milledgeville, the Creative Writing and other classes in the LIR Division are part of the University's outreach program to retirees to give them something worthwhile to do. Creative writing is not the only class. Art, architecture, history, geography (which includes both domestic and foreign travel in the agenda), and other disciplines can be pursued by the active-minded senior citizens—and for a membership fee of only $40.00 per year. Talk about a bargain, this LIR system is certainly one.

The premise behind the LIR program is that we are never too old to learn! That thought within itself gives pause for gratitude. Through the class, I have met some delightful new friends. Mary Purcell, our current teacher, is one of them. Snatched from the hands of death from a brain disorder, vivacious Mary is now healthy and productively leading our group. If she has to be absent on a class day Thursday, she asks me or another lady in the class to substitute for her.

We have written a book which we have entitled Milledgeville Tapestry. It will contain short stories, memoirs, essays and poems, a hodge-podge of literary graffiti which twenty-five or more "old" people have written for the LIR Creative Writing Class.

We had another title selected: Sweetwater Tapestry, going back to the original settlement name of this fair city, for the name Sweetwater came from the Sweet Spring within the GC&SU Campus where the town's early water supply was located. But a corporation far away from our placid Milledgeville protested, threatening to sue because of the use of "their" name, Sweetwater. Hie on them! Sweetwater town here was founded way back in the late 1700's. But you know how it is with "politically correct" terms. Our teacher Mary and we felt it would be easier, all around, to change our title to Milledgeville Tapestry. After all, this city was the strategic capitol of Georgia prior to and during the Civil War era.

When noted Macon Telegraph columnist, Ed Grisamore, instructed us for a month back in February, 2007, one of his former students, a spry lady in her nineties, labeled an earlier session of the month-long writing Memoirs class with the heart-felt plea: "Don't die with a song still in your heart!" And that's what we want to try to do: To get the songs of our lives on paper before the Grim Reaper comes to say, "No more, no more!"

Now how does this long introduction about the writing class and its purposes have anything to do with "Giving Thanks, 2007"- the title for this column and the thought in our minds as we face "Turkey Day" this week?

In a class, have you heard about an assignment? Even worse, home work? You guessed it. Mary Purcell told us to write about Thanksgiving (the Day) and/or Giving Thanks (the act of praise and thanksgiving). What are you most thankful for in 2007? Have you ever tried to make a list of "the most" anything? It isn't that easy to do. One thing and another keep vying for top billing. My list is not necessarily arranged from the most to the least- but all, to keep the exercise somewhat simple and on task, follows the acrostic pattern of listing. The letters of "Giving Thanks" are the glue that holds the list together.

G- "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1) "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised." (Psalm 48:1).
I- "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."(Proverbs 3:6). Be grateful for insight to know that you need someone to lead you in right paths.
V- "Viva"- Latin for "long live" or for life itself. "For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14). In August, 2007, I learned as never before how valuable is life, and how it is indeed like a vapor that can vanish away in a moment. Be grateful for life and breath, for a heart that works, and for a second chance.
I- Instruction, teaching- be grateful for the ability to learn something new every day. "Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding." (Proverbs 4:1). "Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not." (Proverbs 8:33).
N- Needs supplied: "Give us this day our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11) "I have been young, and now am old: yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." (Psalm 37:25)
G- Government that is stable and allows freedom under law: "Let every one be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God." (Romans 13:1.
T- Today. "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24.) "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (II Peter 3:8-b).
H- Home and all the people who inhabit home. "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." (Robert Frost). Home is such a place of respite and rest that Jesus promised us a house in Heaven with the Father: "And I go to prepare a place for you...I will come again, and receive you unto myself that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2 and 3).
A- Access to blessings: "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8).
N- Nature and all its beauty, riches for us to enjoy and conserve: "For he hath made everything beautiful in His time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
K- Kindnesses shown and kindnesses given: "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee." (Jeremiah 31:3).
S- Sacrifice by the Savior for our salvation. "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever. By him, therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." (Hebrews 13:8, 15).

Have a wonderful time with your "Giving Thanks" list for 2007.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 22, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Praying for Rain

Would it not be a welcome sight this November, with a long dry summer and fall behind us, if we could look up and see rain on the mountains, see the damp mists rising, and then feel the sprinkle of drops on our face as we lift our heads in gratitude in the valley?

We are in the midst of a serious and devastating draught. We hear newsmen say: "We can't live without water; and our supply will last only three months." A draught (also spelled drought) is defined in the "Glossary of Meteorology" as a "period of abnormally dry weather sufficiently prolonged for the lack of water to cause serious hydrologic imbalance in the affected area." Much of Georgia and other states have experienced draught conditions for months.

We know the serious consequences of lack of rainfall for extended periods. Among these we see widespread damage to agricultural crops, forests, any plant growth. When streams and lakes run low on water, even non-agricultural areas panic, for the modern-day water supplies everywhere hark back to enough rainfall to replenish the loss of water. And water is necessary to so many processes: production of electricity, operation of factories- the list could go on.

We come, therefore, in serious times and areas of draught to call upon the Creator of water and rain to favor us with water from the skies. Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia called a public prayer meeting on the steps of the state capital. The meeting, held Tuesday, November 13, was introduced by the governor with these words: "We've come together here simply for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm."

Time was when government leaders could call the people to prayer without fear of recrimination. Not so today in our "politically correct" environment. We can be scorching from warmer temperatures and extremely fearful from low water levels and lack of rain. Yet the cry goes up: "We cannot mix church and state."

Near the prayer vigil on November 13, a group of protesters raised signs and voices against a religious service at the state capitol, crying "nay" to Governor Perdue's gathering to invoke God's mercy to send rain.

I remembered incidents from my own childhood when we were in serious draught conditions- not as critical as now, but raising great concern in our agricultural community of Choestoe, Union County, Georgia.

We met at church on several occasions for the specific purpose of praying for rain. Some with faith as strong as the words uttered in the pleas, brought their umbrellas with them to the prayer meeting, expecting with sincere faith that God would hear and answer their prayers for rain.

For a farm well to go dry was a major calamity. In one of the long dry spells, we had no water coming from our well for our household needs. Some of the streams in our pasture where livestock drank were but a tiny trickle. My father knew that only a miracle could relieve our dry situation. I can remember the incident well, although I was but a young child. He first prayed that we would have water--that the well would be restored or that he could find a spring. Then he took a forked peach tree limb which country people called a "divining rod." Holding it in front of him in both hands, he went to a certain area of our farm and walked back and forth. I was a little child, following him through this strange ceremony. Some might ask, "Was this using black magic to help God answer the prayer for water?" At that time, using a divining rod was just a practice some people with "the gift" (as it was called) used to discover water at a place where a well was to be dug. In my father's case, he was looking for a spring in an area where water might be found.

The peach tree limb began to tremble in his hands. I can remember his excitement and my awe. He dug in the spot which the limb had indicated water might be found. And there, in a short while, a stream of water was bubbling up, its sparkling liquid like a radiant rainbow amidst the dry grass. We called it our "bubbling spring"- and there it was, a place for us to get clear, cold, water- an answer to prayer. My father dug out the spring, lined it with rocks, and built a springhouse a little below the place where the water bubbled up. And from that location we carried water to the house in buckets. At the spring, we had a place cool as a refrigerator, to store our crocks of milk and other food items that needed refrigeration prior to the days of electricity and refrigerators in our community.

Let's "pray up a storm." Well, maybe not hurricanes and tornadoes that wreak havoc in our land and pour inordinate amounts of water that become forces of destruction. But let's pray for gentle rain, days of it, so that streams can flow full again, reservoirs be replenished, and man will again have the gift of water.

Is it too much to ask that we pray for rain?

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 15, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ivan Thomas Collins: Son of Union County Who Went Out to Make His Mark

Ivan Thomas Collins (1891-1978) From Country Boy to Banker
to Comptroller of the Currency.

Many of the children of Union County citizens through the years have left the county to find their place in the world beyond the confines of the mountains that surround our peaceful valleys and meandering streams.

Such was the case for Ivan Thomas Collins, born March 3, 1891 to James Johnson Collins (1868-1967) and Margaret Nix Collins (1871-1927). Tom, as he was known, was the first-born of this couple, whose marriage had brought together two notable families in the county, Collins and Nix. Tom's father was a son of Ivan Kimsey Collins (1835-1901) and Martha J. Hunter Collins (1840-1920). Note that his grandfather Collins's first name, Ivan, was given to this first-born of James and Margaret's children, and Thomas is another way of having the child bear the name of Thompson Collins, James Johnson's great grandfather, who was the first Collins settler in the Choestoe District.

Margaret Nix Collins, the baby Ivan Thomas's mother, was a fourth generation Nix, daughter of Thomas James Nix (1848- 1902) and Martha Jane "Sis" Ballew Nix (1852-1951). Tom Nix joined the Confederate Army and served in Company I, 23 Regiment, of the Georgia Infantry. It is said he was only thirteen years of age when he enlisted. Again, Margaret and James Collins's first born go a family name, Thomas, from her father, Tom Nix.

In 1886, four years before Margaret married James Johnson Collins, her father, Tom Nix, left his wife and children behind in Georgia and went to the Cripple Creek, Colorado gold fields near Rye. It is reported that Tom Nix did find gold, but that his claim was stolen from him. Martha remained several years in Union County, but then moved to Colorado to join her husband. They both died there, Tom Nix in 1902 and Martha lived to the ripe age of 99 when she died in1951. Tom was buried in the Roselawn Cemetery, Pueblo, Colorado, and Martha in the Eaton, Colorado Cemetery.

Colorado held a fascination for the children of James Johnson Collins and Margaret Nix Collins. A great drawing card was because their grandparents Nix had migrated there and lived out their lives in Colorado.

Six children were born to James Johnson Collins and Margaret Nix Collins. First, was the above-mentioned Ivan Thomas Collins; second was Mary Viola Collins who married Francis Thurman "Bob" Collins; third was Fannie Maybelle Collins who married Harvey Allen Souther; fourth was Dessie Dora Collins who married Haralson J. Hood; fifth was Sadie Collins who married William Jesse Hunter; and sixth was Charles Roscoe Collins who married LaVerne Cheshire.

The Collins family valued education for their children and encouraged them to attend the one- and two-teacher schools in the community until they were ready for high school. Some of them went to the Blairsville Collegiate Institute after its founding in 1904. But Ivan Thomas, the elder son, went to Hiawasse, Georgia where he attended the school variously called the Hiawassee Institute and/or the Hiawassee College. It had been founded by the two noted Baptist ministers, cousins, Dr. George W. Truett and Dr. Fernando Coello McConnell on land given by the McConnell family. Several young men from Choestoe attended the Hiawassee Academy. They would rent a cabin, "batch," or do their own cooking and housework, and attend classes. Their being able to attend this school represented a sacrifice on the part of their parents to provide the money for tuition and books, and to rent a place for their children to live, even as low as higher education costs were in those days.

Following his graduation from Hiawassee Academy, Ivan Thomas Collins then went to Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. It seemed a natural choice in his next step in education, for other boys from Choestoe, like Tom's cousin, Mauney Douglas Collins, who later served for twenty-five years as Georgia's State School Superintendent, and his friend and distant cousin, Norman Vester Dyer, who also became a noted educator in Georgia, attended Mercer University.

On October 8, 1916, Ivan Thomas Collins married Martha Estelle Tucker of Centerville, Georgia. Her parents were John T. and Jesse Reynolds Tucker. By the time of their marriage, Tom was in his chosen career of banking. After graduating from Mercer, he took graduate courses in business administration, banking, accounting, and commercial law. He was named to a national post, that of Comptroller of the Currency. His job took him into most of the states of the union where he was what we might commonly call a "bank inspector."

Tom and Estelle Tucker Collins had three children: Ivan Tucker Collins who married Lillian Andrea Price; Doris Ophelia Collins who married Russell Bobbitt; and Kreeble Nix Collins who married, first, Josephine Adeline Marino of Italy, and, second, Helene Vite of France. Ivan became an engineer; Doris married a banking executive; and Kreeble spent his entire career in the Air Force, earning the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

After his stint as Comptroller of Currency, Thomas Ivan Collins became president of a bank in Athens, Tennessee where he spent ten years before his semi-retirement due to heart difficulties in 1952. He returned to the county of his birth, Union, where he and his beloved wife, Estelle, lived until their deaths. Martha Estelle Tucker Collins preceded her husband in death (10/08/1897- 05/29/1968) and Tom died ten years later (03/30/1891- 12/25/1978). They were both interred at the New Choestoe Cemetery.

Ivan Thomas Collins is a good example of a young lad who went out from Union County to make his living, but in retirement returned to the land of his birth to live out his days. Industry, integrity and ingenuity marked his character.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 8, 2007 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Couple leaves Choestoe for New Holland William Bruce Moore and Catherine Souther Moore

Through mountain mists we discern motives as to why people of the late nineteenth century left family and familiar scenes to go to a new location. Sometimes the very survival of families depended on it. Such seemed the case of Catherine Souther Moore (01.16.1869-02.03.1921) and her husband, William Bruce Moore (04.16.1868-08.26.1905).

This couple was married in Union County, Georgia on September 23, 1886. The husband, William Bruce Moore, was from Towns County, Georgia, a son of Andrew and Adeline Greer Moore. Catherine Souther, his bride, was the ninth of ten children born to John Combs Hayes Souther (10.22.1827- 01.04-1891) and Nancy Collins Souther (02.13.1829-07.22.1888).

Catherine had three brothers, William Albert Souther, John Padgett Souther, and Joseph Newton Souther. William Albert married Elizabeth "Hon" Dyer. John Padgett married Martha Clemetine Brown. Joseph Newton married Elderada Swain. Catherine had seven sisters. They and their spouses were Mary Elizabeth Souther who married Smith Loransey Brown; Celia Souther who died at about age 16; Sarah Evaline Souther who married Bluford Elisha Dyer; Nancy Roseanne Souther who married William Hulsey; Martha Souther who married, first, Jasper Todd Hunter, and, second, James Hunter (her husbands were brothers); and Catherine's youngest sister was Ruthie Caroline Souther who married, first, William A. Sullivan and, second, Logan Souther. This youngest sister moved west to Pueblo, Colorado.

Perhaps it was the fact that Catherine's sister, Nancy Roseanne Souther and her husband, William Hulsey, already lived in New Holland that helped Catherine and Bruce Moore decide to move there. Times were hard, and the couple seemed to realize that their chances for a regular income lay, not in tending the land at Choestoe to eke out a living, but to go to New Holland where Bruce could be employed for a regular $1.00 per day salary working in the cotton mill.

In the history of New Holland Cotton Mills, it was indicated that the Pacolet Manufacturing Company of South Carolina established a cotton mill in the village of New Holland, two miles northeast of Gainesville in 1901. There the company built a brick building to house the cotton mill, the weaving looms and other equipment necessary to producing quality cotton cloth. Also on the property secured by Pacolet were mill village houses which could be rented by families who worked in the mill. There was a bold spring, supposedly with health-giving water, that provided drinking water for the houses. Any of the ambitious families who wanted to tend a side-patch next to their rented house could plant a vegetable garden and hope for fresh vegetables in a favorable growing season. The manufacturer also provided a mill village store where families could buy necessary supplies. A school for the children, New Holland Academy, was also established. The whole village seemed a haven for families hard-pressed to make a living in the early twentieth century.

William Bruce Moore and Catherine Souther Moore had seven children as follows: James Andrew Moore (08.05.1888 - 12.29.1909); Nancy Adeline Moore (07.07.1890-?) married L. O. Coker; Mary Ellen Moore (10.25.1891-03.10.1935) married Will Voyles; Emma Mae Moore (04.10.1894 -?) married Arthur Franklin; Katie Evaline Morre (12.23.1896-05.08.1957) married Earl Franklin; Martha Wortie Moore (05.25.1900-05/26.1949) married Bruce Meta; and William Virgil Moore (09.30-1902-05.08.1962) married Thelma Cook.

As already mentioned, in that day the New Holland mill employed men for $1.00 per day. Women worked for fifty cents per day, and children, upon becoming age 12, got jobs for fifty cents per day. In the early years when the Moore family worked there, few health restrictions were intact, and workers breathed the cotton dust from the milling processes. It was an unhealthful environment. William Bruce Moore died August 26, 1905, leaving his wife Catherine to raise their family of seven children on her own. Imagine this mother, tired from a twelve-hour day at the mill, returning home, heavy with grief, and having to prepare a meager meal for her children, do their laundry, and keep the house in order. Another sadness came to Catherine Souther Moore as her eldest son, James Andrew, died December 9, 1909 at age 22. Was his death also caused by exposure to cotton dust in the mill?

On June 1, 1903, a tornado ripped through Gainesville and New Holland. Forty were killed in New Holland. Historical pictures show caskets lined up, side by side, in the New Holland mill, awaiting burial. Some, for which caskets had not yet been secured, were covered in materials that had been woven in the plant. Over three decades later, on April 6, 1936, another devastating tornado ripped through Gainesville, doing much damage to the city and to outlying districts like New Holland. In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt visited the city, surveying the damage, and promising federal help for rebuilding.

My great aunt, Catherine Souther Moore, did not have to worry about cleaning up from the great tornado of 1936. She had quietly laid down her life on February 3, 1921, dying of what was then known as "consumption," a disease of the lungs brought on by years of breathing the cotton dust in the mills. She was buried in the New Holland Cemetery alongside her husband who had preceded her in death on August 26, 1905.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 1, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Corn Shuckings and Pumpkin Gatherings

For those of us who grew up on the farm, fall was the time for gathering in the crops. Pumpkins, an important staple for winter use, had to be gathered in and properly stored so that they could be preserved. Corn, necessary for human consumption as meal for cornbread and for feeding animals during the long winter months, likewise had to be gathered and stored.

I remember corn shuckings, especially at my Grandfather Collins's farm.

He had a corn crib with an open shed in front. The corn was brought by wagonloads from the field and stacked high under the shed. The crib itself had openings between the planks and chicken wire liner in the crib. This arrangement of the crib gave circulation of air so that the corn, gathered when it was not quite cured, could dry without molding.

On a certain day, an event was planned that drew neighbors together. People in the community gathered in the afternoon and the corn shucking began. Young and old, men and women, attended. Some of the women helped with the evening meal that would be ready about sundown, spread out on long tables near the corn crib. Everybody enjoyed the repast. The shared meal was part of the fun and fellowship. Very similar to the dinners-on-the-ground served at church homecomings, the corn-shucking meals received special attention and some of the best dishes from the cooks in charge were spread out to enjoy.

After the evening chores were finished by the hosts of the corn shuckings, everybody gathered around the corn pile and by about midnight, with lanterns giving light, the pile of corn would be shucked and all the ears safely stored in the crib.

Then would come the fun. Any red ears of corn found in the pile had special meaning. The boy or man who happened to find a red ear would be given the privilege of kissing the prettiest girl or woman present, or of leading her out in a square dance when the shucking was done.

Sometimes a prize was given to the one finding the red ear or ears. One young boy won a heifer calf, claimed it, and when it was grown, sold it for $100.00. That was quite a prize for an evening of corn shucking. If the host family had a feeling against dancing, this activity was not held. Some in those days felt dancing was "the devil's playhouse," and it was forbidden by their religious beliefs. Instead of a dance, as they gathered around the corn crib, they told tales of old times and of ancestors' feats.

Before the corn shucking broke up, with another announced to be held at a neighbor's house on a date in the near future, it was much after midnight. Corn shuckings brought community spirit and were a means of neighbor helping neighbor.

The shucks from the corn were saved to feed the livestock. The pumpkins that had been gathered in were stored in the loft of the barn and shucks placed over them to protect them from freezing.

Hard work was broken by community festivals such as corn shuckings. They weren't called "fall festivals" then, but the sense of camaraderie and helpfulness made them welcomed breaks from the monotony of hard labor.

Poet William Cullen Bryant wrote of autumn:
"The melancholy days are come,
The saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds and naked woods,
And meadows brown and sear."

Remembrance of corn shuckings of years past helps us to paraphrase Bryant's poem to read:
"The bright days of fall are here,
With leaves of red and gold;
And together in our work--like play
We bring crops into the fold."

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 25, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Matheson Cove: In the Shadow of the Devil's Post Office Earns Prestigious Award

Through this column more than a year ago, I introduced you to author, Dr. Eva Nell Mull Wike and her book on local and family history entitled The Matheson Cove…in the Shadow of the Devil’s Post Office. With beginnings in Union County, the book moves to nearby Clay County, North Carolina and beyond to trace the family lineage, the struggles and triumphs of a stalwart mountain family, the author's parents, Joseph David Mull and Martha Jane Wimpey Mull and related families.

On Saturday, October 13, 2007, Dr. Eva Nell Mull Wike and her husband, James Wike, artist and illustrator of the book, went to near Asheville, N.C., (at the Carolina Trace Country Club, Sanford, N.C.) where they were awarded the prestigious 2007 "Robert Bruce Cooke Family History Award" for The Matheson Cove.

Awarded by the North Carolina Society of Historians, Inc., the annual award comes after judges examine carefully numerous books of history published the previous year. Several notations from judges are worthy of note about The Matheson Cove:

"We found the book to be very appealing to a wide range of people. It is the genealogy of a family written in 'story' form, which is 100% reader-friendly, and downright entertaining."
James Wike, illustrator, received praise for his part in making the book appealing:
"Adding to a delightful text are some wonderful sketches housing original artwork appropriate to the current story being told. We can actually 'see' the scenes the author wants to relay through these pictures. Also included are some very colorful, clear photographs and family portraits."
The book is a composite of "poetry, ghost stories, letters, … family hardships…successes…emotions." Included as well is the author's frustration that an industrialized society bent on development of mountain areas is "wanting to erase all traces of an area's past so quickly and so willingly."

Since I first recommended The Matheson Cove for your reading pleasure over a year ago, I have had the privilege of meeting Dr. Wike and her husband. I welcomed them to our Dyer-Souther Family Association Annual Reunion at Choestoe in July. In person, both are warm and personable, as I knew they would be. We frequently exchange e-mails on various subjects, and especially pertaining to our common love for writing.

I rejoice with Dr. Wike (Eva Nell to me) that copies of her book have been placed in seven North Carolina High Schools and in the Towns County Middle School, Hiawassee, Ga., for the schools' local history and Appalachian culture studies. We mutually hope that Union County Schools at Blairsville and Fannin County Schools will recognize the book as a valuable resource and add copies for student use.

I shared this poem with Eva Nell and James Wike at the Dyer-Souther Reunion in July. Eva Nell, being the kind and accommodating person she is, wrote a letter to the Clay County Progress and commended the value of family reunions, including my poem.

I congratulate Eva Nell Mull Wike on the deserved honors she has received on her excellent book. She appreciates heritage and ancestors' struggles, as do I. To her, her husband, and to me, indeed:

These Are My People
Ethelene Dyer Jones

These are my people
Whom we honor today.
Born to hard times,
Nurtured by solid stock,
Dislocated from England, Scotland,
Ireland, Germany- seeking freedom
To worship and to work,
Pressing toward far frontiers.

In my veins runs their blood,
The same as they shed
On far-flung battlefields;
No enemy too formidable
To face for freedom's costs,
No shore too distant
To traverse and claim as home.

These are my people.
Their lives are high beacons,
Their deaths strong testimonies
Of the price they gladly paid for liberty.
Look to the mountains of home,
Majestic, like God, our help and shield.
My people, many long gone,
Are one with each other and with God.
Dr. Eva Nell Wike's book honors "our people." We are happy that it is so widely distributed. If you haven't a copy yet, check at the Tennessee Valley Publisher's website, www.tvp1. com, or "The Book Nook" in Blairsville or at Phillips and Lloyd Bookstore on the Square in Hayesville, NC. Or you may order from the author and illustrator at

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 18, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Observing Columbus Day

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived on an island in the Bahamas and named it San Salvador, claiming it for Spain and in honor of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of that country who had outfitted his fleet of ships, the Pinta, the Nina and the Santa Maria.

We observe Columbus Day in recognition of his outstanding navigational feat and the discovery of America. With his belief that the world was round, and that by sailing west he could get to the east and India, Columbus created bold and investigational exploration for his era.

Christopher Columbus was born, according to the best information available, in Genoa, Italy, in 1451. His father was a middle class wool weaver and merchant, Domenico Colombo, and his mother was Susanna Fontanarossa. According to claims by Columbus himself, he went to sea at age 10. Before he married Filipa Moniz, a daughter of the Porto Santo governor, Columbus had made several sea voyages. In 1481, Columbus and Filipa had a son named Diego.

Columbus had a hard time getting heads of state in Europe to believe his theory that if he sailed west he could land at the spice-rich islands of the East Indies. Little did he know that the way had other lands rather than being an uninterrupted sea.

Finally, in 1492, King Ferdinand of Spain agreed to outfit Columbus with three ships. Queen Isabella was less enthusiastic. However, if the adventurer did discover new lands and claim them for Spain, he would be given an annuity of 12,000 Spanish maravedis ($840), and he would receive one-eighth of any commercial venture brought on from new lands. He was also named "Admiral of the Ocean Sea (the Atlantic Ocean)".

It took him from August 3, 1492 to October 12, 1492 to arrive at the Bahamian Island of San Salvador (so named later). He observed in his journal: "I could conquer the whole of them (the natives) with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased." On the first journey, he also landed at Cuba and explored that island. He took several Indians (so named by him because he thought he had arrived in the East Indies) back with him to Spain, but only about seven of them survived the sea journey.

His subsequent voyages and his appointment as governor or chief viceroy of some of the islands met with disappointment. Columbus was physically and mentally exhausted. His body was in much pain from advanced arthritis. Blamed with many atrocities, Columbus was arrested and taken back to Spain. He lingered in jail for over six weeks before King Ferdinand finally released him. He died at about age 55, and following his release from jail had become fairly wealthy on the percentage he received in gold from Hispanolia.

The story of Columbus is fascinating. Having a day to celebrate his contributions to American history is significant.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 11, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Nix connections, Part 6- John Washington Nix

My last column on Nix connections was in the August 23, 2007 "Sentinel." In that article, we saw that six sons of James "Jimmy" Nix and Elizabeth "Betsy" Collins Nix served in the Civil War (Thompson Nix, John Nix, James Bly Nix, Jeffrie Nix, Jasper "Grancer" Nix, and Newton Nix).

Of these six, Thompson, John and Newton died in the War, and possibly Jeffrie, as well, for no further trace of him is found in census records. The father, James Nix, also enlisted and served in the Georgia Militia.

Near the end of the war, Jasper "Grancer" Nix married first to Harriet Carolina "Tina" Duckworth, on April 2, 1865. "Aunt Tina" was a well-known midwife in the mountain area of Choestoe, traveling on horseback in all kinds of weather to assist in birthing and to attend the sick. She often brought very sick or premature babies to her house to tend them. She made them a bed before the fireplace in rocking chairs made by Jasper, and carefully nursed them until they were able to go back to their own mother.

Grancer and "Tina" Nix had twelve children whose names were Mary "Molly", John Washington, Benjamin, James, William "Bill", Martha, Albert, Emma Lena, Alonzo "Lon", Frank, Joseph, and Jerry. Their first son and second child is the subject of this column.

John Washington Nix was born to Jasper "Grancer" and "Tina" Nix on July 19, 1867. He was married three times and had children by his first two wives.

It is an interesting story how John Washington Nix met his first wife, Mary Dover. He was in White County, and suffered an accidental gunshot wound to his shoulder in the late 1880's. He stumbled into the Dover house, suffering greatly from his wound and thinking he would die.

Mary Dover and her mother devised a way to clean the gunshot wound by hanging a water bucket over him as he lay on the bed. They punched a hole in the bucket, and the cool spring water dripped onto the wound, partially numbing the pain. He recovered, and the good Samaritan Mary Dover became the wife of John Washington Nix on August 30, 1887. He moved her to his farm on Choestoe. There were born their three children: William Arzie Nix on July 10, 1888; James Lester Nix on February 13, 1891; and Wilburn, who died young. The cause of Mary Dover Nix's death is not known; it may have been in childbirth when her third child, Wilburn, was born.

John Washington Nix married second to Catherine Clarenda Dyer on December 29, 1895. She was a daughter of Henderson Andrew Dyer and Adeline M. Sullivan Dyer. Her paternal grandparents were Micajah Clark Dyer (inventor of "An Apparatus for Navigating the Air", 1874) and Morena Owenby Dyer. It is reported that Henderson Andrew Dyer, Catherine's father, was the "richest man" in Choestoe, loaning money to many people who migrated west in the late 1800's and early 1900's, as well as helping young couples to get established on a farm or in business. When they married, he gave each of his children acreage for their own farm.

John Washington and Catherine Dyer Nix had eleven children: Harvey (1897-1916) never married; Dora Lou (1899- 1966) married Franklin Hedden Dyer; Magnola "Nola" (1900- 1987) married John Jarrett Turner; Mary Elizabeth (twin, 1902-1904); Martha L. (twin, 1902-1904); Joseph Spencer (1905-1982) married Doris E. Nix and Cathryn Clark Birgel; Roy Walter (1906-1971) married Idell Nelson; Maver Clarenda (1908-1990) married General Pat Harkins and Edward Collins; Howard Benson (1911-1979), married Ellen Erwin; Florida "Flo" Lee (1911-2007) married Carlos Turner; and Cleo Inez Colorado (1917-2003) married Rouse King.

When her youngest child, Cleo, was only ten years old, Catherine Clarinda Dyer Nix died September 7, 1927 and was interred in Old Liberty Cemetery. John Washington Nix married the third time to Maggie Rice on December 25, 1928.

John Washington Nix was known as an excellent blacksmith. He was also quite a musician. He owned a genuine Stradivarious violin, a valued heirloom owned by one of his great grandsons today. To the delight of neighbors, friends and family, the strains of "fiddle" tunes and lilting mountain arias often came from his Stradivarious which he played from his front porch. The old gunshot wound tended by Mary Dover and her mother had left his right arm and hand with limitations, but since it was his "bow" hand, he could still produce excellent music. After a long and eventful life, he died July 14, 1942, and was buried beside his second wife, Catherine, at Old Liberty Baptist Church.

John Washington Nix was noted as an excellent marksman with the gun. A grandson, Eric England, often went with him on hunting trips and learned from his grandfather how to be a sure shot. This knowledge Eric employed as a member of the United States Marine Corps as a scout-sniper and has earned the title of "the greatest marksman in world history."

Resources for this article are "The Nix Family Tree" by Wanda West Gregory, 1980, and Dr. Joseph Blair Turner who answered questions about his great grandfather by e-mail.

(Ethelene Dyer Jones is a native of Union County. She is recovering well from five bypasses heart surgery performed August 30.)

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones. Published October 4, 2007 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Literary Festival: Event in Blue Ridge to Memorialize Byron Herbert Reece

Poet Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958) working on his writing at his home on Wolf Creek, Union County, GA. (about 1947)

Had he lived, Union County poet and author Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958) would have turned ninety years of age on September 17 this year. His brief life and his notable works will be the theme of the Georgia Center for the Book annual Georgia Literary Festival to be held at Blue Ridge this coming weekend, September 28-30.

Citizens of this mountain area will rarely have the privilege this close at hand to participate in such an extravaganza of celebration for writers and the written word. I hope I can convey to you some of the excitement and enthusiasm generated by a chockfull program and the privilege to meet some of Georgia's best-known present day writers as well as paying tribute to Union County's own Byron Herbert Reece, poet extraordinary.

First, let me give a little history of the Georgia Literary Festival. The current event is the ninth consecutive year the festival has been held. An event such as this often gains momentum as it proceeds year by year. The first was more local in nature, held in Eatonton, Georgia in 1999. Dr. Glenn T. Eskew, professor in the history department of Georgia State University who lived in nearby Madison, GA, conceived and put together the first festival, inviting notable writers from around Georgia. It was so enjoyable and successful that Eatonton again hosted the 2000 and the 2001 festivals. In 2002, another middle Georgia town, Sparta, was the site. Then to Madison, Dr. Eskew's hometown, for 2003. By 2004, the Georgia Center for the Book voted to be one of the main promoters, and with Dr. Eskew as consultant, the Center has continued until this ninth venue to lead in scheduling and advising local towns on conducting the festival. In 2004, Columbus hosted the event, in 2005 it went to Elberton, and in 2006 to Macon.

Blue Ridge had an active committee vying for the 2007 venue, and their proposals and tentative program were accepted. Bill Starr, director of the Georgia Center for the Book, has this to say about the 2007 Blue Ridge Festival: "Blue Ridge is a beautiful town that draws many visitors throughout the year, and we know that the festival is going to be very, very popular, with so many outstanding writers taking part and so much going on. And almost everything is free." (In Sept. Georgia Public Library Newsletter, page 1.)

As another accolade to Reece and his life, a brand new book entitled "Faithfully Yours," compiled and edited by Dr. Raymond Cook and Dr. Alan Jackson, will be presented at the festival and available for sale. Reece was known for his copious correspondence, and this book collects his letters- to friends, his publisher, to literary associates- and gives insight into the mind and character of Reece previously unavailable to the public.

Recently, Rev. Keith Jones (who is my son and the local chairman of this year's Georgia Literary Festival) has professionally recorded on CDs the poems of Reece through the auspices of National Recording Company of Rome, Georgia. A limited number of the tapes will be available for sale at the festival, and information for ordering will be at the Byron Herbert Reece Society Booth.

All the Literary Festival events are free to the public. An auxiliary event, such as a Mark Twain impersonation by actor Kurt Sutton at the Blue Ridge Community Theater, has a ticket price ($15 - 7:30 Friday). The Blue Ridge Scenic Train Ride is also an auxiliary event with a cost. The Reece Society has prepared a "Reece Ramble" brochure that takes the sightseer on a guided tour of places dear to Reece. This "ramble" can be made after the festival is over.

I must admit that I've been looking forward to this literary festival for over a year now. I've heard about meetings to plan it. I've been privy to how the money to sponsor it was received gratefully. I know most of the people who have worked extremely hard to put together a weekend highlight of major proportions. Then came my unexpected heart surgery on August 30. I had a strong incentive to recuperate. Would the doctors even think of allowing me to go to Blue Ridge? Imagine my joy when Dr. Wanna told me: "With these limitations, you may go!" I agreed to his directions gladly. I look forward to as much of the festival as I can "take in" without getting unduly tired. I even plan to fulfill my segments on the program at 7:30 Friday night, at 11:20 Saturday, and at 2:00 p. m. Saturday. I hope to see many of you there!

Keynote speaker Cathy Cox, President of Young Harris College, will address the festival attendees in the Old Courthouse, now home of the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association. Her topic will be "Byron Herbert Reece's Intellectual Home, Young Harris College.” Several noted authors will lecture on appropriate topics of Appalachian life and culture.

The program is too long to list completely. But think of how you can honor one of Union County's most noble literary figures by just attending. An opportunity like this comes but once in a lifetime to most of us.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 27, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Welcome Back

The phrase "time-out" according to Webster's Dictionary was coined in 1926 and is a noun meaning a brief suspension of activity; a break; and especially a suspension of play in an athletic game.

Time Outs, according to the definition, are usually planned periods in which, in a football game or other sport, for example, a team reconsiders maneuvers and talks about alternate plans that might thwart the opponent's play.

When my children were young and being disciplined for some infraction of the rules of good behavior, they didn't like "time out." It kept them from interesting activities they wanted to continue. But the time out proved worthy as a means of teaching discipline and thinking before overtly acting.

There is another kind of "time out"- unplanned and unexpected--that occurs without warning or preparation. I've come trough several weeks of time out because of the necessity for five coronary bypasses heart surgery on August 30. I was given little notice to prepare for the time out or to make arrangements. These major "time-outs," or interruptions to the usual life schedule, can be a catastrophe or a challenge, depending largely on the patient's attitude.

In the many cards from friends and relatives was one recurring theme, "You shocked us! We didn't know you had heart difficulties!" Imagine how the "shock" hit me when the cardiologist made arrangements for me to enter the hospital on August 28 and I was not released until after the whole process was over (except the recuperation) on September 6.

Members of my family were away on vacation. I have my wonderful granddaughter Crystal Berenguer Diaz to thank for taking charge like a responsible adult (which she is) and doing what had to be done to get me to the hospital, get papers signed, and keeping vigil until some of the other family members returned from far-flung places.

To her I am most grateful. I don't remember a lot of what happened for several days. I know I had great faith and I was unafraid. I knew, like the Apostle Paul, whether I lived or died, it would be gain.

The timing was good, even though some family members were not present for the big surgery. My husband, Grover, was in good hands at the Georgia War Veterans' Home Memory Support Unit in Milledgeville, and I knew he was being well cared for while I was in the hospital and incapacitated. Even a small challenge with his health a few days after I returned home from the hospital when I was still not able to visit him was handled with finesse. He had some sort of attack which the doctor and nurse thought might be a stroke, so he was taken by ambulance to Oconee Medical Center's Emergency Room for extensive tests. But no stroke or major malady other than his usual Alzheimer's progression was found. He was given two days of bed rest back at the Memory Support Unit, and was then eating, laughing and talking as is his fashion.

The hardest thing during my own recuperation period was not being able to be by his side or help him. "Time out" covers many aspects of life and caregiving and we must be willing to go with the punches.

One of the things I've missed during this almost four weeks "time out" has been writing my weekly column. Several have begged me to give this up completely, saying "think about yourself and your health." But actually, I enjoy doing this column. It is a bright spot in my week, a means of therapy, of challenge. Please excuse this feeble attempt to talk about taking unexpected time out from regular routines. But there's something to be said of resiliency, of looking forward to what one likes to do, of being restored to health. And that's the journey I'm on. I'm making remarkable progress. So said Dr. Wanna in my postoperative examination on September 18!

Know that I appreciate deeply all your expressions of concern, your sincere prayers on my behalf, and your statements of "missing the Jones column." My illness has not been a time out from words; just a time to recover enough to be able to sit before a computer screen and let thoughts flow. Thank you. And whatever is a challenge to you, don't be afraid of a time out. Sometimes your body demands it…and needs it!

(Thank you for allowing me to indulge in this personal account that has been so much a part of my life for four weeks now.)

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 20, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

'Through Mountain Mists' on hold

Due to a recent health issue, the weekly column by Ethelene Dyer-Jones will not appear in the Union Sentinel until further notice.

We at the Union Sentinel wish Ethelene all the best and a speedy recovery.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 30, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Some Nix connections (part 5 Serving in the War Between the States

Before I launch on this week's topic of Nix men (and boys) who served in the War Between the States, I want to clarify items from last week's article on Aunt Jane Nix Wilson Hood.

Betty Jane Shuler called my attention to the caption under the picture. Thanks to her keen observations, the caption should have identified the picture as taken in 1905 (the year Jane's husband Isaac Thornton Wilson died). The baby Sophronia Jane Nix Wilson holds on her lap is Estelle, last born of her children, not Garnie, who lived only about two years and died in 1900.

Seven children of Jane Nix Wilson and Isaac Thornton Wilson are shown in the picture. The second girl from the left, standing, is a neighbor and friend who was visiting in the Wilson home and wanted to "get in" on the picture (Callie Clark?).

To properly identify the Wilson children in the 1905 photograph, they are Tom (1902), Estelle (1904) in Jane's lap, Benjamin (1894), Granny Evaline Duckworth Nix, James Isaac "Jim" (1896); second row: Verdie (1887), friend (Callie Clark ?), Hattie (1889) and Gertrude (1892). Who would know better how to identify these than history buff Betty Jane Shuler? Sophronia Jane Nix Wilson Hood was her grandmother, and the one for whom she was given her middle name, Jane.

Another item to clarify is the statement about Jane Wilson not joining Union Church when it was constituted in October, 1897, although she gave the land on which the church building was erected. She wished to remain a member of the New Liberty Baptist Church where she was a member from her youth. This was not uncommon in those days, to keep one's membership with relatives and friends in the church where one had grown up.

With those items clarified, we move to today's topic in the Nix saga. We trace briefly six sons of James "Jimmy" Nix and Elizabeth "Betsy" Collins Nix who served in the War Between the States. Five of them enlisted in the 23rd Georgia Regiment, Infantry, enlisting at Camp McDonald. The sixth, Jasper, enlisted in Ben Ledford's Regiment. Their father, James, himself enlisted on December 14, 1863 in the Georgia State Militia, Company 2. Betsy Nix therefore had six sons and a husband to be concerned about as they actively upheld the Confederate cause. What happened to these Nix men?

Jimmy Nix may not have left Union County for his service, as the Georgia Militia was charged with protection of home territory. Not much that I can find was written about his service other than his date of enlistment, December 14, 1863.

The sons, in order of age, served as follows: Thompson Nix was born in 1838 and named for his grandfather, Thompson Collins. He married Mary C. Hix in 1860 and they had one son, James Bly Nix, born June 1, 1861. This son was given the same name as Thompson Nix's brother. Thompson was a private in Company K of the 23rd Regiment, Georgia Infantry, enrolling on November 9, 1861. He became ill with a fever and was hospitalized in the "New Hospital" in Yorktown, Virginia, where he died March 4, 1862. It is reported that his body was returned home to Choestoe by W. L. Howard. I found no gravestone for him listed in the Cemeteries of Union County book.

John Nix, the fourth child of Jimmy and Betsy Collins Nix was born in 1840. He, too, was in the 23rd Georgia Regiment, enlisting August 31, 1861 at Camp McDonald. He was killed in battle at Sharpsburg, Maryland in September, 1862. His father filed for death benefits, but it is not known whether his applications were rewarded.

James Bly Nix was the fifth son and seventh child of Jimmy and Betsy Collins. Born June 2, 1844, he was a twin to Isabella, who may have died as an infant. At the age of 17, James Bly Nix joined Company K, 23 Georgia Regiment on August 31, 1861 at Camp McDonald. He was in the Battle of Frericksburg, VA, where he was wounded. He was treated at the Jackson Hospital in Richmond for a wound in his right leg on October 1, 1864. He saw much action during the war and was captured by the enemy and exchanged for a Union prisoner. James Bly returned from the war and married Millie J. "Polly" Henson on November 5, 1865. He was a farmer in the Owltown District. He also had gold mining rights on Coosa Creek and pursued mining with a passion. He and Mollie had nine children.

Jeffie Nix was born in 1846. It has been hard to trace his history, but it is believed that he also enlisted in Company K when his brothers did. Since he is not shown in subsequent census records after 1860, he may have died in the Civil War.

Jasper "Grancer" Nix, ninth child of Jimmy and Betsy Collins Nix, was born in 1847, a twin to Newton. He departed the tradition his older brothers had set and joined Colonel Ben Ledford's Regiment, John Souther's Company, from September, 1864 through May, 1865. His enlistment and discharge papers are not in the National or Atlanta Archives, but a soldier's pension application was found in the Atlanta Archives. He married Harriet Carolina "Tina" Duckworth and they had twelve children. After "Tina's" death, Jasper married Margaret Ballew.

Newton Nix, twin to Jasper, and tenth child of Jimmy and Betsy Collins Nix, joined Company K, 23rd Georgia Regiment at Camp McDonald on August 31, 1861. At the age of fifteen, he died of erysipelas and fever in Richmond, Virginia.

From the military records of these six sons of Jimmy and Betsy Collins Nix, we can imagine the impact of enlistment practices to get young men to join the Confederacy.

Of the six, we know that Thompson, John, and Newton died in the War. It may be that Jeffrie also lost his life during the war, for no further record has been found of him. Six sons fighting, and four lost is a heavy price to pay for war. What grief that mother bore.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones. Published August 23, 2007 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nix connections (part 4 Aunt Jane Nix Wilson Hood)

Sophronia Jane Nix Wilson
This 1905 picture shows Sophronia Jane Nix Wilson with seven of ther children and Granny Evaline Duckworth Nix.
First row: Tom (1902), Estelle (1904) in jane's lap, benjamin (1894), Granny Nix, James Isaac "Jim" (1896)
Second row: Verdie (1887), friend of family (Callie Clark?), Hattie (1889) and Gertrude (1892)

The determination and bravery of some women could be the subject of a book of virtues. The life of Jane Nix Wilson Hood would fall into this category.

Sophronia Jane Nix was born October 20, 1867 in Union County, Georgia to James "Jimmy" Nix and his second wife, Carolina Elizabeth Duckworth Nix. From past articles in this series, you will remember that Jimmy Nix was a son of William and Susannah Stonecypher Nix. Jimmy married first Elizabeth "Betsy" Collins. They had fifteen children. Betsy died in November of 1859. When the Civil War was raging, Jimmy married Carolina Elizabeth Duckworth, who became a loving stepmother to his children. Jimmy enlisted on December 14, 1863 in Company 2 of the Georgia State Militia. To Carolina and Jimmy, four children were born: Mary Eveline, Nancy, Buddy and Sophronia Jane. She would be the youngest to live of Jimmy's twenty children. Her mother died before 1870 when Sophronia Jane was a little over two years old. Jimmy Nix, Jane's father, married the third time to her aunt, her mother's younger sister, Rebecca Evaline Duckworth, in 1872. Jimmy and Evaline's one child was stillborn.

Now we come to the story of Sophronia Jane Nix, and how she came to incorporate the attributes of a sturdy, determined mountain woman.

The Nix homestead, on which James Nix had settled on the 160 acres of land he had secured in the land lottery when Union County was new, was in the area of Choestoe where the present-day Richard Russell Scenic Highway intersects with Fisher Field Road. Here the Nix children grew up, going to the local one-room school at Hood's Chapel for their education. Being the youngest of nineteen children, Jane would have had as much fellowship growing up with her nieces and nephews, being about their same age, as with her own siblings. That's how life was back in the mountains of that era.

At age 18, three months before she reached her 19th birthday, Sophronia Jane married Isaac Thornton Wilson on July 27, 1886. Isaac and Jane had the following children: Verdie (1887), Hattie (1889), Gertrude (1892), Benjamin (1894), James Isaac (1896), Thomas (1902), Estelle (1904) and Garnie (1898). Garnie died in 1900 at age two. Seven of their children grew to adulthood.

Times were hard and work scarce. Isaac Thornton Wilson sought employment in the Copper Mines of Copperhill and Ducktown, Tennessee. He found a place to board there, and would return to his wife and children on weekends. He was a miner, going deep within the rich veins bearing copper and other ores around Isabella, Ducktown and Copperhill. But as was common, Isaac developed a serious lung condition from his work in the mines. He died of what was commonly called consumption on June 3, 1905. His birthdate was February 22, 1858. He was interred in what is now called the "Upper" Cemetery of Union Baptist Church.

While Isaac Wilson was away working in the mines, his wife, Sophronia Jane, managed their farm. She continued this work after the death of her husband. She added acreage by buying land from some of her brothers who decided to go west.

She had learned much about farming from her father, Jimmy Nix. She had apple trees and the bottom lands along the river yielded good crops. The family survived and managed due to Jane's industriousness. Not only was she a good farmer, she was skilled in the mountain household crafts of spinning, weaving, making quilts and "making do" with whatever was available. She worked with a will.

A family portrait which has survived shows Jane Nix Wilson, seated, with her eight children about her, and "Granny" Rebecca Evaline Duckworth Nix (Jane's aunt and her step-mother), in her bonnet seated on the front with Jane. On her lap Jane holds little Garnie, her last baby, who died very young. Having Granny Nix in her household was a big help to Jane as she adjusted to widowhood and had Granny's help in rearing her children.

Union Baptist Church was constituted on "the fourth Saturday in October, 1897" as stated in the church's constitution. Why Jane Sophronia Nix Wilson was not listed as a charter member is not known, for she gave the land on which the church building was erected. Granny Rebecca Evaline Duckworth Nix was one of the founding members. In the community and in the church, Evaline and Jane were stalwart leaders. The women hosted "quilting bees" in their home, and the ladies of the community would "quilt out" a new quilt for a needy family or a new bride in one day of work, sharing a country mid-day meal, and catching up on news. Though work, the quilting bees were also a common form of entertainment and relief from harder work.

Jane Nix Wilson was determined that her children have the best education she could possibly provide for them. In the wintertime, she would actually move the family to Young Harris, rent a place for them to live there, and put the children in school at the academy or in the college. At crop-planting time, the family moved back to their farm near Union Church in Choestoe and began the work required for the year's crops.

Jane's determination yielded from her children a dedicated homemaker, a nurse, a farmer who moved to Colorado to purchase land and become successful, a mechanic and three teachers. One of her daughters, Gertrude (1892-1980), who married Benjamin Franklin Shuler, better known as Frank (188-1978), was an excellent teacher at Union County High School. In my high school years, I was fortunate to have instruction from this gentle, compassionate lady whose mother, Sophronia Jane Nix Wilson, had worked so hard to see that her children were well-educated. Gertrude's husband, Frank, served as Union County School Superintendent for twenty years during a period of change and challenge in the system's schools.

After several years of widowhood, and after her children were grown, Sophronia Jane Nix Wilson married Enoch Chapman Hood, a widower and a neighbor. The marriage was short-lived, not because of any problems between the two, but due to his death. His tombstone in Union Baptist Church Cemetery shows his birth as September 1, 1855 and his death as April 10, 1932. Jane Nix Wilson Hood died August 15, 1956, and was laid to rest in the Union "Upper" Cemetery beside her first husband, Isaac Thornton Wilson. Dying two months shy of her 89th birthday, this noble mountain lady could well be called a heroine of her time.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones. Published August 16, 2007 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. All rights reserved. Used by permission.