Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dr. S. Vanus Hunter, dentist

Dr. S. Vanus Hunter and his wife, Lannie R. Miller Hunter

From Union County have gone out some outstanding citizens to make a difference in places they chose to live and work outside these mountains and valleys. Such a person was Dr. S. Vanus Hunter, Dentist, who spent twenty-seven years of his years of practice in Commerce, Georgia.

S. Vanus Hunter was born September 14, 1890 in Union County, Choestoe District. His parents were William "Bill" Hunter (1871-1894) and Martha Ann "Mat" Jackson Hunter (1866-1916). Both his parents were descendants of early settlers.

Bill Hunter's parents were John A. Hunter (1844-1913) and Elizabeth Collins Hunter (1844-1924). Through her lineage, Vanus' grandmother Elizabeth was a daughter of Francis Collins, known as Frank (1816- 1864) and Rutha Nix Collins (1822-1893), and his great grandparents were Thompson Collins (1785-1858) and Celia Self Collins (1787-1880), first Collins settlers in Union County.

S. Vanus Hunter's mother, Martha Ann "Mat" Jackson was the fifth of eight children born to William Marion Jackson (1829-1912) and Rebecca Jane Goforth Jackson (1833- 1901) who lived in the Old Liberty section of Choestoe District, Union County. During the Civil War, Vanus's Grandfather Jackson served in the Union Army from December, 1863 through July, 1865. His service was in Tennessee and North Carolina.

When S. Vanus Hunter's father died in 1894, Vanus was only four years old. He lived most of his growing up years with his grandfather, William Marion Jackson. Vanus's mother married again to John Pruitt Collins following her first husband's death. From his Grandfather Jackson he learned a strong work ethic and a love for education. He was educated in the local one-room schools of Choestoe and New Liberty, and probably (though not proven) received his high school diploma either at Blairsville Collegiate Institute or Hiawassee Academy. While going to school, he worked on his grandfather's farm and did odd jobs to earn money.

On September 27, 1914, Vanus married beautiful Lannie R. Miller (1894-?), daughter of Jane Malinda Collins (1861-1931) and William J. "Bud" Miller (1849-1919).

Lannie Miller was a sister to Stephen Grady Miller (1891-1932), father of the Honorable Zell Miller, Governor of Georgia and US Senator. Lannie and Vanus were related through their Collins lineage. Her mother, Jane Malinda Collins Miller, was a daughter of Francis "Frank" Collins and Rutha Nix Collins.

After their marriage, the couple moved to Atlanta. Vanus got work first on the railroad and then in the post office. While still a clerk at the post office, he enrolled in Southern Dental College in Atlanta and graduated in 1917.

He opened his dental office and practice for awhile before the couple decided to move to Commerce, Georgia. Maybe the lure of that northeast Georgia town was the railroad track which cuts through the middle of Commerce. His dental office where he practiced for twenty-seven years was near the railroad track.

Vanus and Lannie Miller Hunter did not have children of their own. Each had a compassionate heart. Vanus was active in First Baptist Church, Commerce, where he served as the Men's Bible Teacher for years. He served in civic organizations, helped to organize the Commerce Kiwanis Club, was active in the Georgia Dental Association and was a member of the Commerce Board of Education and the Commerce Building and Loan Association.

Dr. Vanus Hunter died August 26, 1970 and was interred in the Gray Hill Cemetery, Commerce. When his wife Lannie died several years later, she was buried beside her husband.

From a rocky childhood on a hard-scrabble farm, Vanus Hunter went out from Union County to make a difference in Jackson County, Georgia.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Observing Valentine's Day

When you read this, Valentine's Day will be in the past for 2007. If you are among the "pack rats" who keep mementos of special occasions, perhaps you have stored away among your archival materials some Valentines of years past that had a special meaning, were from a person you truly loved, or carried a sentiment you wanted to treasure. Maybe the card saved was a red heart edged in lace. All such mementos help us remember highlights in our journey of life.

Just how did Valentine's Day start? The origin seems to lie in the old Roman celebration of Lupercalia observed every February 15. When Galasius I sat as the Holy Roman Empire Pope, he declared the pagan festival a Christian feast day in 496, and declared February 14 to be the day for the observation.

Which St. Valentine Pope Galasius I honored by naming the day for him has been lost in the mists of time. There were at least three St. Valentines, and all three, according to information about them, lost their lives on February 14.

Most scholars, however, think the St. Valentine whose day we honor was a priest who came into disfavor with Emperor Claudius II about 270. According to this legend, Emperor Claudius had written a mandamus prohibiting young men to marry, believing they made better soldiers if they did not have to leave a wife behind to go into battle. Valentine performed marriages in secret when the soldiers and their brides-to-be came to him seeking to be wed. This Valentine was apprehended and put to death for defying the Emperor's orders.

Another of the priests named Valentine was imprisoned by Emperor Claudius. While in jail, this priest, who was sworn to celibacy, fell in love with the jailer's lovely daughter. Facing death, this priest wrote a letter to the jailer's daughter declaring his love and signing it "from your Valentine."

The third priest Valentine, and probably the one for whom the February 14 day was named, was one who met his death because he refused to renounce his Christian religion, thus providing the highest form of love, allegiance to his Lord, or "agape" love.

Thus from 270 AD and 496 AD, there are evidences that Valentine's Day was observed in much of our world. Although the day has continued with many people observing it as a day to declare love for a special person, the Catholic Church, in 1969 disengaged from the questionable historical origins of the various Valentines once claimed to be saints. The church in its liturgical calendar no longer has St. Valentine's feast day.

The English poet Geoffrey Chaucer added his bit to the observance of Valentine's Day. It was he who linked the day with romantic love. In 1381 he composed a poem entitled "The Parliament of Fowls." With its unusual title, it still praised the engagement of England's King Richard II to the beautiful Anne of Bohemia. With his poem, he had linked the traditional day of the birds seeking to find their mate with the king's betrothal to the Bohemian lady.

By the eighteenth century, gift-giving and card exchanges were common in England. Some of the early colonists brought the tradition with them to America. In 1850, Esther A. Howland started a business of mass-producing cards for Valentine's Day. She was a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and her artistic and poetic talents helped her to make cards that were popular and meaningful. Today, more Valentine cards are exchanged than for any other special day.

I have some special memories of Valentine's Day. Grover Jones, who became my husband in December, 1949, gave me a Valentine gift first on February 14, 1948, after we had been dating for about five weeks. He had learned that I like chocolate, so he gave me a box of Whitman's chocolates. With the box of candy was a beautiful Valentine's card, a "saver" to go into my keepsake box, and a bud vase with three American Beauty red roses. Roses, chocolates and a beautiful card became his Valentine gifts to me until he became afflicted with Alzheimer's and could no longer remember the day or the gifts. One or the other of my children continues his gift to me on Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day holds great sadness for me, too. It was on February 14, 1945 that my mother died. I was 14 at the time. It was a gray, cold, rainy cloudy day. I thought then the sun would never shine again. But when I considered that my saintly mother had exchanged the illness and cares of earth for an eternal Valentine's Day in heaven, the sadness eventually lifted.
Valentine's Day is a time to remember, and to be thankful.

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

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Dr. William Thomas Meeks Sr. Town and country doctor

Continuing the stories of outstanding doctors who practiced medicine in Union County in the past (Dr. Edge and Dr. Rogers), we turn our attention this week to Dr. William Thomas Meeks, Sr. He might be labeled both a "town and country" doctor, having an office in his home just west of town toward Blue Ridge, and also making house calls throughout the county.

William Thomas Meeks was born August 26, 1874. He was twelve years of age when his father, John Wellborn Meeks, moved to Union County in 1886. The family farmed. The elder Mr. Meeks wanted as good an education as possible for his sons, Jesse and William, so after finishing the local school, they went to the Hiawassee Academy founded by the noted Baptist preacher cousins, Dr. George W. Truett and Dr. Fernando Coello McConnell. There the brothers would have "batched,"- that is, found a place to board and provide their own meals as they attended classes.

When William Thomas Meeks was in his early twenties, he went out to Arizona to find a job so that he could earn enough money to pay off the mortgage on the family farm. It is assumed that he reached this goal, for he returned to Blairsville and worked for awhile as a carpenter, helping to build the "old" court house on the square.

William Meeks and Dollie Adeline Colwell (1885-1987) began their courtship which culminated in their marriage in 1908. Meeks had long harbored a dream to become a doctor. In 1912, with his wife and young son, John Jacob (who was born prematurely October 23, 1908 weighing 2 pounds, 8 ounces, and was kept "incubated" in a shoe box, watched carefully and warmed by a wood stove), the family moved to Atlanta and he began studies at the old Atlanta School of Physicians and Surgeons.

Life was hard as they lived on Highland Avenue in Atlanta. Mrs. Meeks kept a cow and sold milk to neighbors. The cow also provided milk for the Meeks family, which had increased by another son, William Thomas, Jr., born October 1, 1914.

While not in classes at the medical college (which became Emory University School of Medicine the year Dr. Meeks graduated in 1915), he cut trees for the Coca Cola Company, and the couple sold Bibles for a publishing company.

Dr. Meeks had a desire to serve among his own people in Union County, so they returned to set up his practice. He made house calls, riding a black horse in all sorts of weather to see his patients over a wide area of the county. The story is told that at times the weather was so cold Mrs. Meeks had to use hot water or a hammer to melt or break up the ice formed on the stirrups so that Dr. Meeks could dismount from his horse upon his return from calls.

The third Meeks son was born in Blairsville March 23, 1918 and named Jack Littleton.

A major flu epidemic struck in 1918. It was just prior to this period that the Meeks family moved from Union County to Hall County and set up his practice in the mill village of New Holland. Several people from Union County had already moved there seeking employment in the cotton mills. He delivered babies and tended the sick. On his house calls, especially during the flu epidemic, he went from house to house up and down the streets trying to help the desperately ill people. It was reported that he delivered more babies than any doctor in Hall County, Georgia between the years of 1918 and 1935 when he practiced there.

As she did while they were in Atlanta, Dollie Meeks made sure her family had what they needed to eat. She had a chicken lot and kept fryers and hens that provided meat and eggs for her family.

The fourth Meeks son, Charles Edward, was born October 2, 1921 while the family lived in Hall County.

In 1935, Dr. Meeks moved his family back to Union County. He maintained an office in his home where he saw patients. He continued house calls, using a Model A Ford for transportation on the poor roads. Only one paved road went through the county at that time, what is now Highway 129 from Neel Gap to the North Carolina line (opened in 1925). Other roads were dirt, and often impassable in winter weather. Many a time, Dr. Meeks had to get a farmer with his team to pull his Model A through the mud. He often parked it and walked a distance to the house where he went to deliver a baby or to attend the sick.

The good doctor suffered a stroke in 1944. He did not recover, and died July 10, 1944. He was interred at the new Blairsville Cemetery. Mrs. Dollie Adeline Colwell Meeks lived until January 23, 1987.

The sons had distinguished careers but none of them followed their father into medical practice. John lived in Charleston, SC where he owned a furniture and moving business. He died in 1988. William T. Meeks, Jr., better known as Bill, graduated from the University of Georgia and returned to Union County where he became a farmer, merchant and legislator. Jack Littleton graduated from Georgia School of Technology with a chemical engineering degree. After a stint with the US Navy in which he reached the rank of Commander, he got a job with the Clorox Company and worked as chemist, plant manager, and regional manager. Charles Edward graduated from Georgia Tech in chemical engineering and held positions with various chemical manufacturing companies, the latest being in Lock Haven, PA with Quantum Chemicals until his retirement in 1988.

Today, Meeks Park in Union County stands as a monument to this family who were honorable and productive citizens.

[The major resource for this article was the "Dr. William Thomas Meeks, Sr." story in The Heritage of Union County, 1994, page 236.]

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

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Edward Sylvanus Mauney (1897-1977) – Union County Historian

People in Union County held Edward Sylvanus Mauney in great respect. He was born in the Ivy Log District of Union County on May 12, 1897 in a log cabin. His parents were Charles Stanhope Mauney (1868-1950) and Theodocia Carroll Mauney (1878-1973). Edward Sylvanus was one of eleven children born to his parents. Other children in the Mauney family were Clyde Charters Mauney; Luther Rush Mauney; Charles Pershing Mauney; Mazie Mozelle Mauney; Mary Willard Mauney Jordan; William Roy Mauney; Minnie Mauney Teague; Bess Mauney Conley; and Johnnie Mauney Gladson. Edward Sylvanus Mauney, like most of the youth in Union County who grew up in the early twentieth century, had his share of "making do" with what the family had. His father, Charles Stanhope Mauney, was a farmer, a teacher, Union County School Commissioner (Superintendent) and a rural mail carrier.

Early on, Ed Mauney learned to "carry his weight" in farm work. Noted for his mathematical skills and his bookkeeping abilities, Ed Mauney began to prepare himself to be a teacher. No doubt influenced by his father who had been a teacher in one-room country schools, that the elder Mr.Mauney spent from 1900 through 1912 at the helm of Union County Schools and for many years was chairman of the Union County Board of Education, Ed Mauney began to prepare to be a teacher.

His teaching itinerary took him to at least five country schools. Whether he spent more than one year at each school is not known. In the days when Ed Sylvanus Mauney taught, schools and churches often met in the same building. He is known to have taught at Gobble Hill Baptist Church house at Gum Log; Mount Zion Baptist in Dooly; Providence Methodist in Young Cane; and Ebenezer Baptist, also at Gum Log.

When he was 18 years of age, he left home for the first time to take a job at the bank in Blairsville. He served as a cashier under the bank owner's scrutiny. Mr. Chester Beacham was owner of the bank and the young teller's supervisor.

In 1918, he was inducted into the U. S. Army. He was 21 at the time. After rigorous training at Camp Gordon, he was deployed to England on November 8, 1918. Fortunately for the young soldier, World War I ended on November 11, 1918, so he did not see fighting. He was sent to France for some of the postwar occupation. In May, 1919, Ed Mauney returned to the United States. He was soon discharged honorably from the U. S. Army.

He entered Draughn's Business College in Atlanta and remained in that city until 1921 when he returned to his native Union County and his parents' home in Ivy Log. He walked from the train station in Culberson, NC, nine miles to his home upon his return from college.

In 1927 he took the Civil Service Examination, passed it, and became a rural mail carrier. Then in 1930, even though the Great Depression was in its infancy after the failure of banks and the stock market in October, 1929, the Georgia Legislature appointed Edward Sylvanus Mauney as official historian of Union County, Georgia. The appointment of historians was an effort throughout the state to get valuable historical information recorded before it was lost. Two examples of his historical writings are in the "Sketches of Union County History,” Teddy Oliver, Editor, published in 1987. On pages 85-87 is reprinted the article he wrote about his home district, "Ivy Log," in 1948 and on page 74 his account of "Gum Log." Ivy Log, his own home district, shows the flair this historian had for writing:

"The pioneer of Ivy Log cleared the virgin forest, built the log cabin, and tilled the soil with crude implements made by his own hands. He was tanner, shoemaker and his own wheelwright. He sheared the sheep that browsed on the hillsides covered with blossoming dogwood. The family carded, spun and wove the wool into warm clothing and household necessities. And at the close of the long weary day of labor that extended far into the night, there went up from hallowed hearthstones many fervent prayers from true and noble hearts." (p. 87).
One of Edward Sylvanus Mauney's deep interests was collecting Indian artifacts and making visits to the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina where he became good friends to Chief Carl Standing Deer. The rumor went about the county that Ed Mauney was also interested in "a beautiful Indian princess" at Cherokee. Was she the daughter of Chief Standing Deer? Whether this was fact or rumor remains to be discovered.

It is known that many of Ed Mauney's trips "up North Carolina way" were to see Blanche Elizabeth Henson (1909-1993) who lived at the Martin’s Creek Community of Cherokee, NC. Perhaps she was the "Indian Princess" he went to see. Her parents were Edgar W. and Bertha Jane Hatchett Henson. Her father, like Ed's, was a rural mail carrier and was postmaster at Culberson, NC, where the post office was a part of his general merchandise store there. The beautiful Blanche Elizabeth could weave, make crafts, and was a noted gardener. She attended the Bachman School and the Lees McRae School in Banner Elk, NC. The couple married October 18, 1941, and he brought her home to Blairsville to live.

With her "green thumb," Blanche Henson Mauney had a yard and garden about their house that was second to none. She grew prize-winning Iris, among other noted flowers. Blanche Mauney operated a crafts store in Blairsville where she sold quilts she had pieced and quilted and linen placemats she had woven. Her store was also a consignment shop for other mountain crafts persons to display their wares and sell them.

Perhaps many of you remember Ed Mauney's pet bear, Bozo, who he got as a little cub from Charlie Turner "below the mountain" at Charlie's Corner (intersection of Highways 19/129). Ed would go on his rounds with his pet bear chained in the back seat of his convertible automobile.

Petting that bear was, for children, like going to the zoo to see a captured animal, except that Bozo was more people-friendly. His fiancée, Blanche Henson, did not share Ed's love for his pet bear. They postponed their marriage until after Bozo's death.

Both Ed and Blanche had an interest in antiques. Ed collected vintage guns, such as the Gillespie rifle. He had a collection of Stradivarius violins, and could, himself, play "a right mean fiddle." In Blanche's craft shop and in their home were excellent examples of antique furniture and glassware.

Highly intelligent, personable, and talented, this twentieth century citizen of Union County left his mark on historical documentation and the lives of people to whom his infections personality left great memories.

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