Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ivy Log as a bustling settlement

"It is evident and conceded that the center of activity of early Ivy Log was near the mouth of Ivy Log Creek. Here creaked the Casteel Mill. Here rang the iron foundry operated by R. W. Roberts and last by David Thompson prior to the Civil War. Here was Hunt and Cooley's store. Here Lovell made chairs. Here George Patterson fashioned hats from lambs' wool. Here was a school on the east side of the creek. Here is the Casteel Cemetery, numbering twenty-four graves, not far distant from the pioneer cabin site. Here on the west side is unmistakable evidence of a church--a cemetery where forty or more are sleeping that last, long sleep. Today in this vicinity all is quiet and still, save the murmur of waters, the sighing of the wind in the pines and the night bird's croon--a requiem for the slumbering pioneers awaiting the resurrection."

The above is from the pen of Union County Historian, Mr. Edward S. Mauney, written in 1948, and reproduced in the compendium entitled "Sketches of Union County History III" edited by Teddy J. Oliver and published in 1987. Mr. Mauney's history of Ivy Log is on pages 85-87 of the book. If you have a copy available to you, please read his flowing language and listing of people who made up the early census records of that north central district of Union County numbered Militia District 843.

"Here creaked the Casteel Mill," Mr. Mauney wrote. Barney Casteel not only established a mill for the convenience of settlers in Ivy Log District, but he also served as a minister of the gospel and as a "practical doctor." This designation probably indicates that he knew the value of herbs as medicinal plants and could prescribe certain treatments for common diseases. This first Casteel family migrated from East Tennessee. Mr. Mauney writes that they lived in their covered wagon under a large tree "for a season until a cabin could be hewn from the primitive forest."

Barney Casteel was listed as 63 years of age in the 1850 Union County census, and his wife, Mary, was 60 that year. His native state was Tennessee and hers was Virginia. Among their known children were James who married Minta Ellege. Robert married Nancy Simpson. Hastings married Sarah Lance. William married Emily Rabun. John G. Casteel married Rachel Byers. This couple had three children who became doctors- Dr. Lewis Casteel, Dr. William J. Casteel, and Dr. Van D. Casteel. John Casteel became a judge. The other four were Lafayette, Robert, Mary and Adelaide.

In the Ivy Log District are two Casteel Cemeteries. The one known as Casteel Cemetery No. 1 has one marked tomb with the name Ann Casteel, 1833-1861. She may be a daughter of the first settlers, Barney and Mary Casteel. Also buried in the Casteel 1 cemetery, according to Historian Mauney, are George Patterson and his wife, without marked stones, the "hatter" or milliner of Ivy Log District. Mauney states that this family lived at "the Ned Chastain place," and were the forebears of most of the Pattersons in Union County. Casteel 1 cemetery has at least fifteen unmarked graves.

An interesting story is told of the Casteel 2 Cemetery which is located south of Casteel 1 and across Ivy Log Creek from the first burying ground. None of the graves in this cemetery have stones with names. But buried apart from the graves which were of the early Casteel family and their descendants is a known grave, though unmarked. It is that of Gentry Taylor who met his death in 1876. He was killed at a moonshine still because he resisted arrest. The community, due to the circumstances of his business and his death, would not allow him to be buried in the Antioch Church Cemetery. His final resting place was at the Casteel 2 Cemetery, but distant 50 feet east of the other graves in the cemetery.

Mr. Mauney touches on moonshining as a business in his history of Ivy Log: "From many a sheltered nook on the tiny streams rose wisps of smoke that gave evidence of the pioneers brewing their own spirits without fear of God or man, in the days when it was not considered a sin. But they were rigid in their belief of honesty. One patriarch [was] "churched" for taking whiskey from his own "stillhouse" that belonged to someone else" (p. 87).

Space precludes telling of other early settlers, but family names passed to the present generations show that many hardy settlers had children in subsequent generations that made this mountain district and other parts of Union County their permanent home.

For example, there was Robert B. Conley and his wife Susan Kincaid Conley who migrated from Clear Creek in Buncombe County, NC to the Chester District of South Carolina and then to Ivy Log. But tragedy came to them on the move from South Carolina. Their young son, John Lawrence Conley, age two, died at the Tugaloo River at the South Carolina line. They brought the little corpse on into Georgia and buried him at the first cemetery they found on their route within Union County, Old Choestoe. This family lost another son, Elisha, in the Battle of Chickamauga during the Civil War.

Solomon Chapman and his wife, Adeline Odom Chapman were early Ivy Log settlers from Wilkes County, NC. Reece Creek in Ivy Log was named for early settler John Reece. And the list goes on.

Mauney ends his Ivy Log history with these pensive words: "Today the crude wheels and the distaffs are still. The hands that turned them are mouldered to clay. Today there is a new generation - their descendants - living in a bustling world of modernization." He wrote that in 1948. What would he say today? Housing developments extend even to tops of high hills and roads are busy with traffic all hours of the day and night. Small farms have virtually disappeared but some corporate farms are master producers of the products they specialize in. And, dotted here and there throughout the district are spires of churches with modern buildings, begun as log cabin places of worship by the early settlers. The one-room school houses are no more, long since consolidated into the modern graded school complexes at the county seat of Blairsville. Someone aptly wrote: "The only thing certain is change."

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 28, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sheriff Charles Leonedas Hill

The Civil War had been over a little more than a year when young Charles Leonedas Hill decided to run for sheriff of Union County, Georgia. He and his family lived in Ivy Log, a district in the county bordering on the North Carolina line.

The Hill family had moved from Cherokee County, North Carolina in the 1860's during the war years. Charles's parents were Felix Walker Hill (08-07-1806 - 08-24-1883) and Elizabeth Cooper Hill (10-29-1811 - 11-15-1896). Three of Charles's brothers served with distinction in the Civil War. They were Napoleon Bonaparte Hill, Abel Hill and Noah Hill. They had all enlisted in Company A, 29th Regiment of the North Carolina Infantry, Confederate States of America. Napoleon became a Second Lieutenant, and later, when the unit reorganized as Company H, he advanced to Major.

But this story is not about the war, or Charles Hill's brothers. Their stories can wait for another time. Felix W. Hill and his wife Elizabeth and their family had established a farm along Reece Creek in Ivy Log, Union County, Georgia. In addition to being a farmer, Felix Hill had been a traveling peddler where the family had lived in South and North Carolina before moving to Georgia. Whether the elder Hill continued this trade route in Union County is unknown.

Charles Hill ran on the Democratic ticket and was elected sheriff of Union County in November of 1866. Evidently the first few months of his term in service passed with the ordinary duties of keeping the law.

Six months into his service, in May, 1867, an incident requiring attention came about. A certain William Campbell, who lived in a mountain cabin just over the Towns County line committed a crime in Union County. Reportedly, he robbed a poor widow of all that she had.

Since the robbery took place in Union County, and Sheriff Hill was pledged to protecting and bringing justice for Union citizens, he endeavored to find Campbell and arrest him.

Taking his deputies with him, Sheriff Hill made his way through Gum Log and to the cabin on Crane Creek in western Towns County, close by the Union County line.

The story goes that he asked his deputies to remain on the mountain, in close proximity, as the sheriff himself, unarmed and walking, approached the cabin where Campbell was living.

Evidently the sheriff intended to persuade Campbell to surrender and stand trial for the crime of theft. Reportedly, the man was accused of other thefts in the area, not just the one when he had robbed the poor widow.

But surrender was not in the mind of Will Campbell. Two stories have been told of the incident. One version is that Sheriff Hill tried to talk Campbell into surrendering, but when he did not come out of hiding, Hill took an axe from a woodpile in the yard and began to cut the door open. That is when Campbell aimed at Hill and shot him.

Another version is that Campbell himself opened the door a crack, just enough to put the barrel of his pistol in the opening and aim at the advancing sheriff.

The deputies waiting on the mountainside heard the shot and went immediately to the scene. They found Sheriff Hill with a gunshot wound to the stomach, losing blood and in great pain. They borrowed a wagon in which to haul the wounded sheriff back to his parents' home in Ivy Log. It was a torturous trip, at best, over a road not much better than a forest trail, bumpy and rough. Reports are that Sheriff Hill went in and out of consciousness. He was nursed by his parents and others, but his life ebbed out, with the bullet still in his stomach. His date of death was May 17, 1867. Born August 21, 1839, this brave young man's span of life on earth was twenty-seven years and eight months.

On his tombstone at the Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery is this inscription, declaring his faith and his hope in the resurrection from the dead: "God my redeemer lives, and ever from the skies, Looks down and watches my dust till He shall bid it rise."

William Campbell fled from the deputies after he shot the sheriff and reportedly "went west." He was never heard from again. The indictment against Campbell in Towns County stated that he "feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought" shot Sheriff Charles Hill with "a certain pistol of the value of $10.00" and put "a leaden ball into the belly of" Charles L. Hill, "near the navel." The mortal wound was described as "the breadth of one inch and of the depth ten inches." From this wound, he "languished and lingering and did afterwards" die. (Quoted from "The Murder of Sheriff Charles Hill" by Roxanne Powell in "A North Georgia Journal of History, Volume II" compiled by Olin Jackson, Legacy Communications, 1991, pages 296-297).

Young, brave and daring, Sheriff Charles Leonedas Hill paid the highest price for public service: he gave his life. Later, two of his brothers would seek and win the office of high sheriff of their counties. Abel Hill was sheriff in adjoining county, Cherokee, in North Carolina from 1872-1876, and Napoleon Bonaparte Hill was sheriff in Union County, Georgia in 1876.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 21, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserve

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ivy Log and some of its early residents

On Saturday, June 9, I attended the fourth annual meeting of the Byron Herbert Reece Society in Young Harris. As attendees were visiting in the lobby of the Goolsby Center after registration and prior to beginning of the meeting in the Wilson Lecture Hall, a fine citizen of Union County commented on this weekly column and assured me he was a regular reader. I thanked him and told him I was glad to hear I do have readers. He gave me a little reprimand that I have dwelt so long on my home district of Choestoe without branching out to other sections of Union County. "Why not write about Ivy Log?" he asked. And to that dear gentleman, I appreciate his question, and will try in future to hop about the county to find worthy historical subjects for this column.

Look at a map of Union County and you will find the militia district of Ivy Log bordering North Carolina on the north, with Gum Log District on the east, Dooly district on the west, and Lower Young Cane on the south. I turned to my excellent ready resource, The Heritage of Union County, 1832-1994 (p. 28) to find if and when Ivy Log had post offices. These federal stations tell us much about some of the activity and people in a district from its early days.

Rock Hill post office in the Ivy Log Militia District received its grant for operation with the appointment of Joseph Patterson as first postmaster on May 21, 1838.

The first census of Union County in 1834 listed Joseph Patterson as having eight males and four females in his household. Other Patterson families, which seem to have been living adjacent to each other in 1834, were Amos Patterson (five males, two females), John Patterson (four males, three females), and George Patterson (four males, three females). According to the Patterson family articles in the county history book, John Patterson, his wife Margaret Black Patterson, and some of heir children migrated to what became Union County in 1829. Although not specifically indicated, Joseph may have been one of their sons, or maybe even a brother to John. The twins, Joseph Elijah and William Elisha Patterson, sons of William Harden Patterson and Rebecca Chastain Patterson, were born in 1871 and were too young for one to be the Joseph Patterson who founded Rock Hill post office at Ivy Log.

Rock Hill post office operated under that name and with Joseph Patterson as postmaster until October 4, 1842 when Richard W. Roberts got the contract as postmaster. He changed the name to Ivy Log and the post office went by that name until it was discontinued September 15, 1910. As Rock Hill and Ivy Log, the community gathering place, probably in a store run by its postmasters, had an operational life of 70 years, quite a long tenure for mail depositories of that era. For two years, the post office charter was not renewed, as seen in the following listing of postmasters.

William R. Utter succeeded Richard W. Roberts on May 4, 1847. He remained until the post office was discontinued at the end of his term June 27, 1866. His was the longest tenure of any of the officers.

There must have been an appeal to reestablish the office, for on June 9, 1868, William A. Cobb became postmaster. William Alfred Cobb married Charlotte Henson on May 22, 1861. This couple had nine children: Reuben Francis; John Franklin.; Rebecca Leona; Joseph Jasper; Louise Jane; James Wesley; Rufus Alexander; Elbert Lorenzo; and Harrison Taylor.

Both William A. Cobb and his wife, Charlotte Henson Cobb, were children of Revolutionary War patriots. His father was John Paul Cobb who fought with the famed "Swamp Fox," Francis Marion, at the Battle of King's Mountain, York County, NC. Charlotte's father was Daniel Henson who served in the Revolution and fought the Tories.

Before moving to Georgia about 1848, William Alfred Cobb was sheriff of Haywood County, N.C. He was also a Methodist minister. Charlotte Henson Cobb died May 23, 1861 in Union County and was buried in the New Hope Cemetery, Ivy Log. William Alfred married his second wife, Lavinia Roberts, on February 2, 1862. His second wife probably assisted Rev. Cobb with duties at the post office. When he gave up duties as Ivy Log's postmaster, he and Lavinia moved to Beaver Dam, Cherokee County, N.C., where he died August 5, 1886. He was interred at the Unaka Cemetery there.

William A. Cobb was succeeded at the Ivy Log post office by Pleasant Short, appointed postmaster April 21, 1873. The remaining postmasters and their dates of appointment were William W. Chapman, June 7, 1883; Jasper L. Owenby, March 29, 1887; Frank E. Conley, August 9, 1887; Ulysses Sidney Cobb, May 18, 1897; and Elizabeth C. Cobb, March 15, 1899. Ms. Cobb kept the office open until Ivy Log was permanently closed on September 15, 1910.

Space in this article precludes tracing family connections of these last six postmasters at Ivy Log. However, Ulysses Cobb was a grandson of William Alfred Cobb, son of Harrison Taylor Cobb. The last postmaster at Ivy Log, Elizabeth C. Cobb, was Harrison Taylor Cobb's wife, Elizabeth Caroline Neece Cobb (09-27-1845 - 10- 07-1933). She and Harrison Taylor Cobb (06-14-1846 - 05- 31-1920) were buried at the New Hope Methodist Cemetery in the Ivy Log Militia District. An interesting aside is that the oldest marked grave at the New Hope Cemetery is that of Lydia Keys Cobb (1773-1848). She was the second wife of Revolutionary War soldier John Paul Cobb and the mother of William Alfred Cobb (1809- 1886). W. A. Cobb was fourth postmaster at Ivy Log.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 14, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Choestoe Baptist Church Homecoming Sunday, June 10

The second Sunday in June has long been "Homecoming" Day at Choestoe Baptist Church. People who still live in the community and are now active members of the church as well as those who live in far-flung places mark the day on their calendar.

As this Homecoming Day draws near, people think of going back to the place of their spiritual roots. It is a good day in June, an uplifting day. There is something special about "going home."

This year, 2007, marks at least the 173rd anniversary of the church. Why do I say "at least"? The exact founding date of the church has been lost through the mists of time. The earliest extant minutes of a business session of the church were dated September 5, 1834, but these were not the founding minutes.

In August, 1833, Choestoah (as it was spelled then) Baptist Church had ten members and was affiliated with the Mountain Baptist Association. Other churches participating in that 1833 meeting of the association were Wahoo Baptist Church of North Hall County and Tesnatee Baptist Church of White County. Although the written record has been lost, it is reasonable to believe that the church was formed as early as 1832, the year of Union County's formation, or even before that date as the first settlers came into Choestoe Valley.

It is commendable that the early members of Choestoe Baptist Church desired to join in fellowship with churches of like faith and order in an associational meeting. Even though messengers had to travel over rugged terrain and mountain trails on horseback to get to these meetings, it was a reflection of the desire for fellowship members had known before they moved from more populous regions like the Pendleton District of South Carolina or from Wilkes County, North Carolina.

In those areas from which early settlers to the Choestoe Valley had migrated, they had tasted the sweet fellowship of associational work. Famed Baptist leader, Luther Rice, had traveled as a representative of the Triennial Baptist Convention, organized in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1814. As Rice journeyed, seeking support for Adoniram and Ann Judson, missionaries to Burma and other foreign lands, he helped to organize Baptist churches wherever he went. He also sought to have the churches cooperate in the cause of missions and urged them to form an association for fellowship of churches within a geographic area. The chief aims of a local association of churches was fellowship, promotion of mission causes in the United States and in foreign countries, support of benevolent work, starting Christian schools, and examining churches for orthodoxy of beliefs and practices. It was in this tradition of Baptist purposes that Choestoah Baptist Church functioned from its beginning in the early 1830s.

There is a certain degree of pride and thanksgiving as we read the minutes of Choestoe (modern spelling) Church so astutely recorded and maintained since 1834 by faithful church clerks. The minutes are a part of historical records both at the Georgia Archives of History in Atlanta and at the Mercer University, Macon, Library, which houses Baptist Archives of Georgia.

The second church clerk was my ancestor (great, great grandfather) John Souther who kept the minutes from 1834 through 1847, and again from 1850 through March, 1853. It was in 1853 that he decided to join a new church forming "at Brasstown," a few miles further up on Choestoe. New Liberty became the name of this church and was founded and built on an acre of land Mr. Souther gave for the church and cemetery.

In 1853, before the term "church planter" was ever a part of missions vocabulary, John Souther founded a new church in the shadow of the highest peak in Georgia, Enotah Bald Mountain. His departure from Choestoe Church may have been precipitated from a falling out with another church member who purportedly cut timber on Souther's property and did not make either restitution or apology. Such disputes show the carnal nature of church members. At the same time, disagreements within the membership have proven to be the seeds of a new church. God often brings good from unpleasant situations.

The first recorded pastor of Choestoe Baptist Church was the Rev. John Chastain from 1835-1837. There were many John Chastains who were Baptist preachers, all descending from the French Huguenot immigrant, Pierre Chastain, a medical doctor who settled in 1700 at Manakin Township, Virginia, on the James River. One of immigrant Pierre Chastain's sons was the famous Rev. John "Ten Shilling Bell" Chastain, a visionary and associate of the fiery Baptist preacher, the Rev. Shubael Starnes. Both Chastain and Starnes were active in forming churches and associations in Virginia, North and South Carolina. The Rev. John Chastain who was pastor at Choestoe was in the line of descent from Dr. Pierre Chastain and the Rev. John "Ten Shilling Bell" Chastain.

Rev. Abner Chastain was Choestoe's pastor twice, 1837- 1838 and again in 1841. In Rev. Abner's first tenure at Choestoe, the membership hosted the association for the first time. It is not clear in the minutes whether the association was the Mountain Baptist or the Chestatee Baptist Association in which Choestoe then held membership. Rev. Abner Chastain was the grandson of the famous Rev. John "Ten Shilling Bell" Chastain. Abner Chastain and Susan O'Kelley married May 14, 1826 in Habersham County, Georgia. Four of the couple's thirteen children were born in Union County. He was a circuit riding preacher whose ministry ranged over north Georgia and into North Carolina.

After the Civil War, Rev. Abner Chastain, his family and about 250 others from Union County migrated west in a large wagon train. Many of this group settled on the Huerfano River in Colorado at St. Mary's. Rev. Chastain organized a Baptist church there, and in the fall of 1870 baptized his first convert in the Huerfano River. Sadly, his wife had died on the journey west. In Colorado, he married Amanda Elzey. Rev. Chastain died of pneumonia in April, 1871. In a measure, Choestoe Church of Union County had an influence on the organization of the Huerfano Baptist Church in Colorado, as one of the former pastors led settlers there to form a church much like the one they had known in the mountains of Georgia.

Another outstanding early pastor was the Rev. Elisha Hedden who served in 1840. A circuit-riding preacher, he was noted for his church starting and his evangelistic zeal. He was much in demand as a preacher in summer camp meetings. He had the distinction of leading to Christ two men who later became outstanding ministers, educators and denominational leaders: The Rev. Dr. George W. Truett and the Rev. Dr. Fernando Coello McConnell.

A Union Countian, the Rev. Charles Edward Rich, was pastor twice, in 1898-1899 and again from 1903-1915. Known as Preacher Charlie Rich, he had the distinct privilege of being educated at the Hiawassee Baptist Academy founded by Dr. George Truett and Dr. Fernando McConnell. He was greatly influenced by these two outstanding leaders who instilled in the young preacher a love for missions, evangelism and education.

The length of this article precludes a thorough listing of many other outstanding leaders, both pastoral and laypersons, who have rendered noble service at Choestoe Church. One was Dr. Harry V. Smith who, at the time he pastored Choestoe, was also president of the Blairsville Collegiate Institute. Dr. Smith went on to be an administrator at Mercer University in Macon.

From 1937 until 1953, the Rev. Claud C. Boynton pastored the church. Other pastors (not necessarily in order of service) were the Reverends Jim Hood, Aaron Souther, Luther Colwell, Sim Martin, Richard Hardy, Tom Smith, Marlow Stroup, J. Lake Gibson, Jim Geer, and Charles Richard (Dick) Stillwell. Rev. Troy Acree served as interim pastor on several occasions. The Rev. Ken Zollinger, current pastor, and members are expecting a crowd June 10 in the new Multi- Purpose Building completed in recent years.

Going home to the church of our youth will be a rich experience on June 9. Its 173+ year history proves that God has been with that congregation through more than seventeen decades. They welcome all to help them celebrate.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 7, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.