Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dr. Austine Hunter Wallis

We often hear that someone is "a born teacher." If this designation is, indeed, true, it could certainly be said of the late Dr. Austine Hunter Wallis.

As a little girl, she loved to play school, always appointing herself as the teacher. If siblings, cousins and neighbor children were not willing to play school with Austine, she lined up dolls in classroom formation and pounded away at basics of arithmetic and reading.
She also had several role models close to her who were teachers, and watching their performance, she wanted to emulate them. Among these models were her uncle, Charles Roscoe Collins, her mother's brother; and Dora Anne Hunter Allison Spiva, her father's sister. Older cousins were also teachers.

This educator-to-be was born October 12, 1927 to William Jesse and Sadie Collins Hunter. She was born in the historic house built in 1840 by her great grandfather, William Johnson Hunter (1813-1893) and his wife, Margaret Ann (Peggy) England Hunter (1819-1894).

The first child to be born in the house was Martha Hunter, born in 1840. The house is still standing on Liberty Church Road and is used by descendants of the William Johnson Hunter family. The house was well built with a skeleton frame and ceiled with hand-hewn lumber.

Austine had three older brothers, Jackson Creed, James Jasper, and Charles Milford, and two younger siblings, William Jack and Martha Sue.

Austine Hunter Wallis enjoyed genealogy and pursued it avidly. She helped to organize the Hunter Family Reunion that meets annually at Alexander's. With early settlers so tied together by marriage, she assisted with the puzzle of who married whom and how they were related.

Martha J. Hunter (1840- 1920), first child born in the Hunter house, married Ivan Kimsey Collins (1835-1901). Ivan was the youngest of ten children born to Thompson Collins (1785-1858) and Celia Self Collins (1787-1880), first Collins settlers in Union County. Martha and Ivan Collins were parents of ten children. The sixth was James Johnson Collins who married Margaret A. Nix. They were parents of Austine's mother, Sadie Collins Hunter.

On Austine's father's side, the youngest of William Johnson and Peggy England Hunter's children was Jasper Francis "Todd" Hunter (1863- 1897) who married Martha Lucinda Souther (1867-1937), daughter of John Combs Hayes Souther (1827-1891) and Nancy Collins Souther (1829-1888). Nancy Collins was a daughter of Thompson and Celia Self Collins. The Souther-Collins marriage February 6, 1852, linked another early settlers family. To Todd and Martha Souther were born seven children. Austine's father, William Jesse, was the second born. After Todd Hunter's death in 1897, Martha Souther Hunter married her late husband's brother James A. Hunter (1847- 1912), and to them were born three children, Dora Anne, Joseph Daniel and Dan D. Getting the family lines straight and recording genealogy became one of Austine's passions.

A precocious student, Austine Margaret Hunter attended Town Creek Consolidated School and Union County High School, graduating with high honors. Her repertoire of college graduations, each with high honors, included Young Harris College; Georgia State College for Women, (1951, BS in Education, Mathematics and English); George Peabody College, Nashville, TN (1954, M Ed. Secondary Education and Mathematics); Louisiana State University, (which she attended under a National Science Foundation grant in the Mathematics Institute,1962, M. A.); and University of Georgia (1968, D. Ed., Teacher Education and Supervision).

She met Dr. George Washington Wallis, a professor at the University of Georgia. They were married August 16, 1963. To them were born two children, Andrew and Susan. Before her death, Austine Wallis was glad to welcome her first grandchild, Michael Fahey. While the Wallises lived in Athens, Austine worked on the doctor of education degree at the University of Georgia, where, from 1966 through 1968, she was a research assistant and a teacher in the Education Research Project (the education program known as TERP).

Her roster of teaching assignments through fifty-nine years as an educator began when she was a young girl of eighteen, teaching on a Provisional Certificate, and working with her Uncle Roscoe Collins at St. Mary's School in Camden County, Woodbine, Georgia. Returning north, she taught both English and Mathematics at Airline School, Hall County, and then to her alma mater, Union County High School, mathematics teacher, 1949-1955. She taught math and was a counselor at Young Harris College. At Las Cruces High School in New Mexico she taught mathematics. Then for several years she taught in the Athens, Georgia area, at Athens High School, at the University of Georgia, and began her administrative career at Pattie Hilsman Junior High in Clarke County in 1968. She also worked in Oconee County as a principal, taught mathematics for Truett McConnell College, and after retirement, continued to teach until her illness with a brain tumor brought her long and illustrious career to a close with her death July 20, 2006.

My daughter-in-law, Debra Jones, who began as a paraprofessional under Dr. Wallis as principal, states: "Dr. Wallis is the person who inspired me to return to college and complete my degree and become a teacher. She pushed me, and I found my niche as a teacher. She made a tremendous difference in my life."

How do you measure the worth of a "born" teacher? By the honor societies in which she held membership, like Pi Mu Epsilon, Kappa Delta Pi, Delta Kappa Gamma?

By the educational associations in which she took an active part as a member and served as an officer? By the number of degrees after a name? By community service and efforts to promote education ? Dr. Wallis was a founding member of the Byron Herbert Reece Society and of the Dora Hunter Allison Spiva School of Education at Truett McConnell College. All of the above, and more; an extraordinary teacher is measured by the students she touches and inspires to achieve. And the chain goes on and on, one touching the other. They all look back and say, "Austine Margaret Hunter Wallis was my teacher, and she made all the difference in my life."

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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Taylor Cobb, U.S. Revenue agent

Part of our past in the mountain regions of North Georgia has been the contraband manufacture of whiskey, better known in these parts as "moonshine" because the "runoff" from the stills was often completed at night time to avoid the smoke from the still being detected by the revenue agents, commissioned by the federal government to find and ferret out the makers of this liquid corn product.

One of the noted U. S. Revenue agents of another century was Taylor Cobb. He not only had a penchant for interacting with the people, but he told many stories of his adventures as an agent, even writing many of them for subsequent generations to enjoy.

This story from Agent Taylor Cobb's repertoire was given to me by Wilson Cobb of Fannin County, who delights in sharing anything historical that was once printed in his family's newspapers, “The Dooly News” or “The Fannin County Times”.

On a Saturday morning, April 1, in the early 1880's Taylor Cobb set out on his horse named Old Steel. His intended purpose was to find a still and make arrests out in the mountains.

He soon came to what he called a very dilapidated log church away back in the mountains. Since services were often held on Saturday afternoon in those days, a group of people had gathered for services. They asked what he was doing in those parts. He said he was a "naturalist," a mineralogist, and produced some sample stones from his saddlebag to substantiate his story.

The gathered congregation waited awhile longer for the preacher to arrive, and the minister didn't come. Then Taylor Cobb asked them if they would accept the comments of one of the "Hardshell Confession of Faith" to speak to them. The people agreed. Cobb took a New Testament from his saddle bag, and in the old log church he began to speak.

He took his text and began to preach passionately on temperance, stating that he considered drunkenness to be a terrible crime, bringing loss and degradation to the perpetrator, but also desolation to the families touched by the drunkard's evil ways. He did add, however, that a "little wine was good for the stomach's sake," according to the Apostle Paul.

In typical fashion, he laid forth his sermon for an hour and a half, all the while keeping the attention of his hearers. They kept him going by well-placed "Amens". He wrote: "My 'God-blessed tone' melted their hearts, and soon tears, sobs, shouting, handshaking, and rejoicing filled the shack. After the service, a deacon took me to his home to spend the night."

At the evening meal, his host deacon told Cobb, still not recognizing him as a U. S. Revenue Agent, that his son was making moonshine whiskey. This fact saddened the deacon. Cobb said that he had always wondered how the liquor was made. The deacon offered to take him to his son's still, since he was doubling off a run that very night.

When the pair got to the still deep within the mountains, the old deacon took off his old cap-and-ball pistol, laid it on a shelf, and went to work at the still himself. After the deacon got well into the process, Agent Cobb grabbed the man's pistol and arrested his son, the supposed owner of the still.

He put the captured moonshiner on Old Steel behind himself, and started for the nearest jail. Since it was late at night, the two agreed to stop at a cabin along the way to get some rest. At the next house, they awoke the owner and the old man gave the two- agent and captive- the best bed in the house. Exhausted from his hard day's journey, the energy exerted to preach the gospel, and the arrest of the moonshiner whose father had been his host, Cobb soon fell asleep.

When Taylor Cobb awoke the next morning, he found his prisoner gone. He had taken Cobb's pants with $25.00 in his pocket. Cobb told the man of the house that he was a "traveling preacher, and had picked up the man the previous evening along his route, and that he had robbed him. The man gave him a garment of his own, which Cobb described as "fitting him like a bolt of loose cloth." After an excellent breakfast at the cabin, Cobb was soon on his way. He put money in the mail and sent it to the man who had loaned him the suit.

The very next year, President Hayes issued a general pardon for moonshiners. Cobb saw this as a way to get the deacon's son off from arrest and a year in prison. He went to the man and offered to get him "off" if he would repay him his stolen $25 and the cost of the suit he had stolen. The two went to Atlanta, and Cobb pleaded the man's case, getting him off without a jail term.

On their way back to the mountains from Atlanta, Cobb told the deacon's son that he would "get others off" if they would surrender. Twenty-eight moonshine makers came to Cobb, confessing their part in the manufacture of mountain spirits. Cobb summarily pleaded their cases in Atlanta and they were pardoned.

"They thought it was my influence that got them released," wrote Cobb. "I soon became the most popular man in that area. Even the old deacon forgave me and sang my praises from the housetops on every occasion."

Taylor Cobb, this man of the mountains and U. S. Revenue Agent, was born June 14, 1846 and died May 31, 1920. He was interred in New Hope Methodist Cemetery in the Ivy Log District of Union County, Georgia. The oldest grave in the cemetery with a legible name is that of Lydia Keys Cobb who was born in 1773 and died in 1848. The church was founded in 1851 and W. A. Cobb was one of the first trustees. How these relate to the notable revenue agent will take some more research.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How Some Places in Union County Were Named

The Suches area of Union County is "across the mountain" from the county seat of Blairsville, a large mountainous area somewhat isolated until more modern roads were built in the 1930s and 40s. Suches contains three militia districts, Cooper's Creek, Canada and Gaddistown. How did Suches get its name?

Go back a long ways to the time the Cherokee Indians inhabited the area of Union County. Cherokee Chief Suches was the major chief of the area "beyond the mountains."

When the United States government gave orders to move the Cherokee west to Oklahoma, Chief Suches cooperated by giving General Winfield Scott, commander of the U.S. Army commissioned to move the Cherokee on what now is known as the Trail of Tears, a census of the Cherokee population of his domain.

Why Chief Suches would side with the U.S. government to assist General Scott with the exodus has been lost in the mists of time. Did the chieftain realize that the Cherokee homelands would succumb to the white man's rule? Did he see no other hope for his people than to have them vacate their mountain home? Did the white man's greed for land and gold supercede any thoughts of preserving the Cherokee's domain?

Whatever the answers, Chief Suches helped Scott to locate and round up the Cherokee families of his area. As a tribute to this Indian chief, the land in Union County "over the mountain" in the southwest section of the county that adjoins Fannin County on the west and Lumpkin County on the east is known as Suches. When you travel the picturesque route to this area of Union County, you might like to imagine that it was once the domain of Cherokee Chief Suches and his braves.

A placid lake in the region is named Winfield Scott after the General who not only led the Indian removal but who, during the Civil War, served as a commander in the U.S. Army. So popular was he that he received two nominations to run for president of the United States, but he never made it to that high office. Many believed Scott's lack of support for the presidency stemmed from his infamous part in the Indian Removal.

Woody Gap is the gap in the mountains through which Georgia Highway 180 winds southwest to meet Georgia Highway 60 at Suches. Woody Gap, Woody Lake in Suches, and Woody Gap School were all named for Union County's beloved Forest Ranger Arthur Woody and early Woody settlers there. John Woody, Ranger Woody's paternal grandfather, was a founder of North Georgia Agricultural College at Dahlonega. John Woody had also fought with the U.S. Army at the famed battle of Gettysburg, bearing a U.S. flag which has become a treasured legacy of the Woody family.

Known as "the barefoot ranger," Arthur Woody began working for the Forest Service in 1912 as a surveyor. His love for the forest and outdoorsman expertise were recognized and in 1918 he became Georgia's first forest ranger over the newly-established Blue Ridge District of the Chattahoochee National Forest. His work with the Civilian Conservation Corps and his efforts to bring the deer back to the forests and stock the lakes with trout, bass and bream are notable.

Likewise, he wanted better education for the Suches community. Plans began in 1936 to build a school that would consolidate the scattered schools of Mt. Lebanon, Mt. Zion, Cooper's Creek, Sprigg's Chapel and Valley into one complex. Arthur Woody and his son Walter made numerous trips to Atlanta on behalf of establishing the consolidated school. These men bought the land that was formerly owned by the Governor Joseph E. Brown family and gave it for the school site. The building was constructed, using native stone. In 1941 the school opened in January, at mid-term. Through thick and thin, the school has maintained its position in the annals of Georgia education as an "isolated" school, and continues to this day. It was named to honor the Woodys, father and son, who labored long to get the school located in Suches.

Now to the three militia districts in Suches. How did Canada get its name? It is believed that some of the early settlers there thought their new mountain home resembled areas of Canada, and thus the name. Who knows? As for Cooper's Creek and Gaddistown, these names can definitely be traced to early settlers by the same name. On the fast-flowing streams, the pioneers who had known how to build and operate grist mills in North Carolina and Tennessee used their expertise to channel the mountain streams for water power and to establish mills. With mills built, roads had to be cut for settlers to have a path wide enough for their wagons to bring grains to be ground. Civilization was slow coming to this remote mountainous area of Georgia. Now citizens enjoy not only the beauty and majesty of surrounding mountains but the relative quiet and solitude of their mountain homes. Place names pay tribute to those who have gone before.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Burnette and Cobb Families Link

One branch of the Burnette family of Union County, Georgia descends from William Mark Burnette (1848-1939) and Martha Holcombe Burnette who migrated from Buncombe County, North Carolina to the Ivy Log section of Union County, Georgia about 1898. The Burnettes came from England to America in the early 1700s and eventually settled in the mountains of North Carolina.

William Mark Burnette as a young man worked on building the famed Biltmore House near Asheville. As America's most notable mansion became a prime tourist attraction, Mr. Burnette enjoyed telling his children and grandchildren about his work helping to erect the mansion.

William Mark and Martha Burnette had eleven children. Martha died in North Carolina in 1894. When the youngest child, Mark Hampton (born in 1886 in Buncombe County) was twelve years old, his father decided to migrate to Union County, Georgia. They settled in the Ivy Log section of the county.

William Mark Burnette, no doubt saddened by the death of his dear Martha in 1894, was known as a "strict and austere" man. He began making syrup in Ivy Log. His was one of the early sorghum syrup mills in that section of Union. He had a productive farm and his children had to work hard to assist in tilling the land. Mr. Burnette got the mail route, carrying the US mail by mule back between the scattered area post offices.

Strict in discipline and against "the wiles of the devil," Mr. Burnette forbade his children to play cards or to dance.

Music was a part of the Burnette children's upbringing. In their home they had a pump organ, a Jew's harp, and a harmonica. Four of the sons, Monroe, Reid, Ernest and Mark, became good at harmonizing and formed a quartet. They were often invited to sing at area churches, at homecoming services, at all-day singings at the court house and other places, and at dinners-on-the ground. Monroe Burnette composed lyrics and music to songs and had some of his gospel songs published. If any of you readers happen to own a copy of Monroe Burnette's music, count yourself fortunate.

The youngest child, named Mark Hampton (known by his first name Mark) met the lovely Burdetta Cobb and they were married in 1909. She was one of two children born to the Rev. James Wesley Cobb (1837-1922) and Martha Thomas Cobb (known as "Aunt Patty" - 1843-1920).

This union of Mark Burnette and Burdetta Cobb brought together two notable families of Union County.

The early Cobbs in America had migrated from Ireland about 1755. Jasper Edward Cobb had three sons. One of them, John Paul Cobb, joined the Revolutionary War forces under the famed "Swamp Fox," General Francis Marion. John Paul survived the Revolution and moved his family to North Carolina. There his first wife died, leaving him four small children. He married a widow, Lydia Keys Mullen, and moved to Burke County, North Carolina. John Paul and Lydia Cobb had one child whom they named William Alfred Cobb. He married Charlotte Henson. This couple became parents of Burdetta Cobb's father, the Rev. James Wesley Cobb.

James Wesley Cobb was an itinerant Methodist minister traveling to his churches on horseback or by foot. He preached not "for hire," but received gratefully whatever the parishioners gave him in apples, potatoes, chickens, grains and other farm products. He often had these goods strapped across his horse as he returned home. One year, the ladies of one of his churches decided to make Rev. Cobb and his wife, "Aunt Patty," a quilt. They got together and pieced and quilted it and gave it as a Christmas gift.

During the Civil War, James Wesley Cobb joined the Confederate Army and saw action at the Battle of Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga. He received a shot in his jaw, but thankfully had a chew of tobacco in his mouth at the time and the tobacco stopped the bullet.

James Wesley Cobb's wife, Martha Thomas Cobb, was a noted midwife and practical nurse. She attended many women in her community and beyond at the time of childbirth. She also knew practical herbal remedies, and nursed many through a raging typhoid epidemic. Mark Burnette often told children and grandchildren that he owed his life to his wife's mother, dear "Aunt Patty," who nursed him through his serious bout with typhoid. The graves of James Wesley (1837-1922) and Martha Cobb (1843-1920) can be seen in the New Hope Cemetery in Union County.

Mark Hampton Burnette and Burdetta Cobb Burnette moved from Union County, Georgia to Fannin County shortly after their marriage in 1909. Mark was employed by Tennessee Copper Company at a daily wage of $1.00. Because of his affiliation with the Union to secure better working conditions, he was released from his job. He became a house painter and floor finisher.

Burdetta died in 1966 and Mark in 1967. Both were buried in the Crestlawn Cemetery, McCaysville, Ga

Ty Cobb of baseball fame was a cousin of Burdetta Cobb Burnette. Many descendants of the Burnette and Cobb families still reside in the mountain regions of Georgia, North and South Carolina and Tennessee. This is just one of the many stories that could be written about these families.

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

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Ballad of Tom Collins

The search for family roots hits a person like a fever. There is no let-up in the symptoms until a quest is completed and lines of descent are firmly established. For years I have searched for the authentic name of the father of Thompson Collins (ca.1785-ca.1854), who, with his wife Celia Self Collins (ca.1787-1880) were the first Collins settlers in Union County, Georgia back when it was formed in 1832.

Thompson Collins was my maternal great, great grandfather. He owned a broad expanse of land in Choestoe District and acreage in adjoining counties as well. He was an independent sort of person, self sufficient and enterprising. Why has it been so hard to establish the Collins lineage before him, to pinpoint who his father was, and others from whom he descended? The search has been complicated because the trail leads to many with the name Thomas Collins.

Sometimes clues surface in genealogical searches. I was encouraged when I read noted author John A. Parris, Jr., who for years was a columnist for the Asheville Citizen Times (North Carolina) and the author of a long-running column entitled "Roaming the Mountains." Several of his columns became a book by the same title. Mr. Parris died in 1999. My alma mater, Western Carolina University at Cullowhee, now honors Mr. Parris and his wife, artist Dorothy Luxton Parris, with the Parris Appalachian Cultural Studies at the University.

John A. Parris, Jr., in his "roaming" the Smokies, found imbedded in the folklore of the region the inimitable "Ballad of Tom Collins." This folk song, as is typical of ballads, sought to record the story of an unusual character of times long past whose refuge was the mountainous region of the Carolinas.

The ancestors of Tom Collins left Scotland after the Battle of Culloden which occurred April 16, 1746. That is another story for another time. But this battle marked a turning point for the independent highlanders. They were crushed in the battle, and had to promise never to bear arms against the British throne.

Prior to the Battle of Culloden, some of the Collins highlanders had migrated to America. The lure to new lands beyond the seas was popular, and it remained for the ancestors of the noted Tom Collins to gain passage and launch upon an adventure to the new land. One William Collins had already settled in 1691 and made claim to 620 acres on Poulcatte Creek in Caroline County, Virginia. Various Collins gentlemen are in the records with property ownership, jury duty, and even two who served in the American Revolution, George Collins and Joseph Collins.

Then enters a Tom Collins. He was convicted in 1775 for "sedition of speech," defended by lawyer William Boulware. Tired of the Royalist accusations, Tom decided to remove himself and his family from Virginia and go deep into the mountains of North Carolina. There he established a homestead and claimed land, far from the Royalist government and its demands. In this family of Collins settlers were James, Thomas (Sr.), Thomas, Jr., John and Francis.

The Collinses were among the first settlers in the wilderness of North Carolina. Here, among the rising cathedrals of majestic mountains, they could practice their independence without interference. The stories about Tom Collins hold that he was such an expert shot he could knock out a squirrel's eye at fifty paces, fell two birds from a covey with one shot, and reload his trusty gun before the birds hit the ground.

When the Tories began to invade the pristine region that was then Collins territory, the legend goes that Tom Collins, hiding in rhododendron thickets, could snipe off these enemies to his freedom with a single shot.

But one Saturday night, according to the ballad, Tom took a bullet in his own lungs from one of his Tory enemies. He struggled to a neighbor's house, took corn liquor for his pain, lay down on the bed and died. His beloved fiancée, Mary, was sewing her trousseau in the next room. That wedding between Tom and Mary, was never to be.

The plaintive ballad records the pathos suffered by Mary:

Tom Collins came home one Saturday night,
Laid down on his bed and died.
And his true love in the very next room
Sat sewing those silks so fine.
Oh, Mary, Oh Mary, get up from there,
And dry your weeping eyes.
There are other young men a-hangin' around,
A-watching you weep and cry.
Tom Collins, the martyr to the cause of independence, had no immediate descendants. But he had brothers. And my belief is that his fiancée, Mary, wed one of them, maybe Francis, for this name is prevalent even to this day in our Collins family. And the name Thomas was carried on in Thompson, our first definitely known-ancestor.

The fever to find answers is still present. Maybe, someday, in unexpected linkages, I'll find just who was the father of Thompson Collins.

This note to my readers: My beloved husband, the Rev. Grover D. Jones, is now at this address, having entered as a patient on February 22: Chaplinwood Nursing Home, 325 Allenwood Memorial Drive, Room 208 Cedar Hall, Milledgeville, GA 31061. He enjoys receiving cards.

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