Thursday, December 25, 2008

Everywhere, Everywhere Christmas Tonight!

What a rare privilege to be writing a column for Christmas Day, 2008, one to be published on that very day. Thank you, Mr. Frank Bradley, for allowing me the delight of writing for The Union Sentinel since July, 2003. To all my faithful readers and the staff at The Union Sentinel—a joyous Christmas and bright hope for the New Year.

Here are words of a poem, turned into a Christmas carol, by the Rev. Phillips Brooks:

Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!
Christmas in lands of the fir-tree and pine,
Christmas in lands of the palm tree and vine,
Christmas where snow peaks stand solemn and white,
Christmas where cornfields stand sunny and bright;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.
Christmas where children are hopeful and gay,
Christmas where old men are patient and gray,
Christmas where peace, like a dove in his flight,
Broods o'er brave men in the thick of the fight;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.
For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all,
No place too great and no cottage too small;
The Angels who welcome Him sing from the height,
"In the city of David, a King in His might."
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.
Then let every heart keep its Christmas within:
Christ's pity for sorrow, Christ's hatred for sin.
Christ's care for the weakest, Christ's courage for right,
Christ's dread of the darkness, Christ's love for the light.
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.
So the stars of the midnight which compass us round
Shall see a strange glory, and hear a sweet sound,
And cry, "Look! the earth is aflame with delight,
O sons of the morning, rejoice at the sight!"
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!

Dr. Brooks also wrote a better known Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem." We sing it every year in our churches and in community concerts. He wrote the words of that carol in 1867 after spending a sabbatical visiting the Holy Land. He rode horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and assisted with the midnight Christmas Eve service in the Church of the Nativity in 1865. Dr. Brooks wrote of that experience:

"I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again, it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the wonderful night of the Savior's birth."

And so was born, two years later, in recollection of his experiences in the Holy Land, the words of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" which Lewis Henry Redner set to music. Redner was organist at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Philadelphia where Dr. Phillips Brooks was pastor.

The same musician, Lewis Henry Redner, set to music Dr. Brooks' words entitled "Everywhere, Everywhere, Christmas Tonight." This Christmas carol has not had the widespread appeal of "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but the poignancy of its words encompass the whole world with the author's desire that everyone, everywhere celebrate Christ's birth. This poem has a buoyancy and excitement that bespeaks the Christmas spirit.

It is notable that Bishop Phillips Brooks (born December 13, 1835 in Boston, Massachusetts, died January 23, 1893 in Boston) has been termed the "greatest American preacher of the 19th Century." During the Civil War, he was pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Philadelphia. His loyalties were with the Union and he supported President Abraham Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation. Dr. Brooks delivered one of the funeral sermons at the death of Lincoln. In 1869 he became rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston where he remained until he was made Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts in 1891 until his death.

Were that the words of his poem/song could be true on this Christmas, 2008: "Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!" But Christmas is everywhere that loving hearts remember the meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate. It may be in the midst of war or in a poverty-laden household, as Brooks wrote in part of a stanza sometimes omitted from "O Little Town of Bethlehem": "Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door, The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more!"

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 25, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reid chairs bring Christmas memories

Sarah Souther Dyer is shown at age 100. Her favorite chair (not this one in which she sat for her 100th birthday picture in 1957) was a Jason Reid-made straight chair which she sat in by the window of her living room and looked out toward New Liberty Baptist Church. From the Reid-made straight chair, she also entertained children, grandchildren and great grandchildren with stories of "the old times" which she remembered so well.

The old Reid-made chairs were utilitarian pieces, bought from Jason Reid or his sons who were the chair makers of "Upper" Choestoe region of North Georgia.

My grandmother, Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer (1857-1959) had her favorite chair. It was always beside the fireplace, positioned so that she could be warmed by the fire and at the same time look out the small window to the right of her fireplace in the 1850 house built by her father and occupied by Sarah herself and her husband, Bluford Elisha Dyer (1855-1926), the house where they reared their fifteen children—that is, those thirteen who made it to adulthood.

But back to the Reid-made chairs and how people came to own them and how the chairs bring back Christmas memories.

Jason Reid (20 Sept. 1851 - 27 April 1934) knew the chair-making trade from the inside out. He had a workshop at his farm in the vicinity of Union Baptist Church in the Choestoe District of Union County. He would select the best of the wood from the forest from which to make the chairs, have it sawed and let it cure. He fashioned the posts and framework of the chairs by hand, deftly making the parts in his workshop.

He made the seats of the chairs by weaving them from white oak strips soaked in tubs of water to make them pliable. He taught his sons how to make chairs. Later, the boys had the advantage of a lathe and other more modern tools as they continued the work of chair-making. Helping Jason by taking care of the house and children was his loving wife, Martha J. Reid (24 March 1857 - 14 March 1919).

The Reid family made chairs long before their products were considered craft items. Sales of the chairs did not bring in lucrative money to the Reid business. The straight chairs, and maybe sometimes rocking chairs, made to order, were produced in the Reid wood-working shop. People came to the Reid house from nearby homesteads to buy chairs as they had the money to do so. Later on, the word about Reid-made chairs spread beyond Choestoe. The products were hauled by covered wagon over the Logan Turnpike to the market in Gainesville to be sold and distributed from there.

My Grandmother Sarah Souther Dyer had her favorite chair. We all knew it as "Grandma's Chair." My grandmother would have been 75 from my earliest memory of her, and from then on until her death at 101+ years, she held court from her Reid-made chair in her special corner as my family and her many other family members and friends visited her. She had been a Choestoe mid-wife and a woman who kept up with national and world affairs by reading the newspaper. Her impaired hearing prevented her from listening to radio broadcasts (after she got his modern convenience in her home), although I can remember her straining to hear President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his "fireside chats" during World War II. Reading, trying to listen to radio, or entertaining family and friends were all done by Grandma as she sat in her straight-back Reid-made chair.

She was definitely the matriarch of the family. When she spoke, we listened. I can't remember that she made much "to-do" over the Christmas holidays, for I never remember seeing a Christmas tree in her little room, nor any holiday decorations on her plain wooden mantel. It's not that she didn't believe in Christmas. She definitely did. But always practical, she never sought frills and excesses in anything she did. From her, seated as I remember her in that straightbacked chair, we learned many stories of "how things used to be," and we listened with wide-eyed awe.

In addition to the woven seat of her Reid-made chair, Grandma had some wooden baskets that fascinated me as a child. The structure of the baskets looked much like that of the seat of Grandma's chair, woven from white oak strips. "These baskets my mother Nancy Collins Souther (1829- 1888) and my father, John Combs Hayes Souther (1827- 1891) bought from the Indians that peddled them by our house. Those Indians had hidden out in the caves in the mountains to avoid being taken on the Trail of Tears." We would touch gingerly the egg basket and the larger basket used for laundry that Grandma told us about.

"And this chair I'm sitting in," she would continue with her story of old-fashioned items in her house, "was made by Jason Reid who lives up on the river and has his chair-making shop there. If you buy a Reid chair, you'll have one that sits well, and one that will last" Grandma affirmed. I wondered if somehow chair-maker Jason Reid had learned to weave his white oak strips into chair seats from some of those Indians or their descendants. I'm sorry now I didn't ask her about that.

I don't know who got Grandma Dyer's chair in the distribution of her property following her death. But in my mind's eye, I still see our family matriarch enjoying her "throne chair," the simple though elegant product of one Jason Reid who took pride in his products and taught his sons how to carry on the trade of chair-making.

Fortunately, although I don't have Grandma's chair, I am the happy owner of two later Reid-made chairs. One is a rocking chair which my parents used to rock me when I was a baby. I was able, in recent years, to have the seat replaced by an authentic craftsman who knows how to weave nearly the same pattern the Reid brothers wove long ago into the seat of the chair. I also have one of the Reid straight chairs, with the seat restored.

Neither of these chairs would rate very high as luxury items or fine furniture. But the memories they evoke are priceless. Sitting and rocking at family gatherings bring many recollections of humble families and how we "made-do" during the Great Depression. We were taught the values of family solidarity, responsible citizenship, and Puritan work ethic. Sitting in these chairs, our parents taught us by both word and example at simple Christmas celebrations and all year long.

I will take a little time during Christmas season, 2008, to sit in the old family rocking chair and read the Christmas story from Luke 2. That action will connect me to the Reid chair makers of Union County and to parents and grandparents who made all the difference in who I am today.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published December 18, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas at Valley Forge 1777

Many of us have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. Whether they were with General Washington at Valley Forge or at Cowpens or King's Mountain or any of the other notable battlegrounds of our War for Independence, they were there to lay down their very lives as the price for freedom.

Let us take a little time to recall Christmas, 1777, during that war… Christmas in wartime is especially difficult, and so it was at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1777.

"These are the times that try men's souls," wrote Thomas Paine in his well-circulated pamphlet entitled "The American Crisis." His opening line became the pivotal description of the Continental Army that fought against great odds to win freedom.

Indeed, Valley Forge stands as a monument in time attesting to the trying times General George Washington and the Continental Army faced.

Was there any hope for the struggling nation against the British? Was the dream of freedom to be lost amidst the cold, illness, death and deprivation of harsh winter? The Continental Congress had been forced to flee Philadelphia under British occupation. Little hope remained for support or supplies to feed the starving troops.

There they were, twelve thousand tattered troops with their General, George Washington, encamped at Valley Forge. Despite the bitter cold and the seemingly insurmountable odds of disease, starvation and lack of provisions, from this lowest point of the Revolution, the troops were trained and drilled into fighting form. A miracle was taking place as men shuddered in the fields of Valley Forge.

Dr. Albigence Waldo was one of the doctors ministering to the troops at Valley Forge. His diary gives us insight into both the pathos and glimmers of hope of that Christmas, 1777: "Universal thanksgiving! A roasted pig last night! God be thanked for my health, which I have pretty well recovered. How much better should I feel, were I assured my family were in health. But the same good Being who preserves me is able to preserve them and bring me to the ardently wish'd for enjoyment of them again." (*Dec. 18th, p.88)

On December 25 Dr. Waldo wrote: "We are still in tents."

Of General Washington, Dr. Waldo stated: "He has always acted wisely…His conduct when closely scrutinized is uncensurable. Were his inferior generals as skillfull as himself—we should have the grandest choir of officers ever God made." (*p. 89)

General Washington from his cold tent began a letter to the President of the Continental Congress, tendering his resignation, citing "abandonment to starvation and neglect."

In the midst of his writing, General Washington heard sounds coming from the field. Was it a mutiny, as one of his officers had predicted? He braved the falling snow and bitter wind, going from platoon to platoon where fires glowed, embers sputtering and hissing against the snow. Pots on the fires at each location gave off strange odors of whatever provender the soldiers had found of wild game to flavor their gruel.

At each location he was met with shouts of "Long live the United States! Hail to our Chief! May Liberty prevail!"

At one stop General Washington asked, "Have you not suffered enough?"

The lieutenant in charge responded, "Having come this far, we can but go the rest of the distance. With you to lead us, we can't lose!"

Washington and his aide made their way back to the General's tent. When they arrived, they found garlands of holly and cedar twined around the marquee that identified the headquarters tent, and draped above the tent-flap door. General Washington took the letter he had started to Congress. He burned it at the fire his aides had built outside his tent. "May God relieve your sufferings, if the Congress will not. And a good Christmas to you!" he said.

I am not sure of the timing, but I like to think that it was at this point that General Washington fell to his knees and prayed at Valley Forge.

He spent the remainder of that winter encouraging and training his troops. By June, 1778, they were ready for an advance against the British.

Christmas, 1777, bleak, comfortless and cold as it was, became a time for building hope.

*[Source material found in Colbert, David, ed., Eyewitness to America . (New York: Pantheon, 1977). "Winter at Valley Forge" by Dr. Albigence Waldo, p. 87-90.]

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published December 11, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day: A Beloved Christmas Carol

Christmas is upon us and we’ve barely recovered from the wonderful feasting and family gatherings of Thanksgiving.

With the short days and early darkness of this particular season, it is well that we have special holidays to boost our spirits. Already we hear familiar carols played in many places—over music systems in stores and from our own cassette disk players, radio and television.

Can you recall when you first heard and sang American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"?

I thought back to our two-teacher school at Choestoe where I attended as a child. Our teachers always prepared us for a big event, "The Christmas Program," to which our parents and the community were invited. It was sometime during my early elementary school days that I was first introduced to and memorized the words of Longfellow's poem that was set to music composed by John Baptiste Calkin.

Of course I didn't learn many facts about either the poet or the composer back in those early elementary school days. I just memorized the words and learned to sing them to the tune. But from those early years, this particular Christmas carol has remained a favorite of mine, and still is to this day.

The spark for poetry and music was ignited away back in those years at that county school, and fed and nourished as well at the country church by the same name.

Since then, I have learned the story behind the carol, and it, too, is both sad and inspiring.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a northerner, born February 27, 1807 in Portland, Maine. He showed great promise as a student, and by the time he was six, it is said that he already knew Latin grammar, could spell, read and multiply. His father wanted him to become a lawyer, but the lad, who entered Bowdoin College at age fourteen, had a bent for writing and for languages. Bowdoin hired him as a professor of Modern Languages and sent him on a trip to Europe to learn more about the languages he would teach. Between the years of 1829 through 1835, he was a beloved young professor at Bowdoin, writing his own textbooks because none were available for the modern languages courses he taught.

He then became a professor of Modern Languages at Harvard, and continued in that position from 1836-1854. It was while there that he began in earnest his writing career. He knew much sadness during these years. His first wife, Mary Storer Porter, whom he wed in 1831 died following the loss of their first child in 1835.

He met Frances Appleton in Europe. She was the daughter of Nathan Appleton, a prominent Boston merchant. Their marriage was exceedingly happy. Their home became a meeting place for noted poets and writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Julia Ward Howe, Charles Sumner and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Longfellow became known as "The Fireside Poet."

Tragedy visited again. His wife Frances died in a house fire on July 9, 1861. He never quite recovered from the grief of her passing. He filled his days with writing and traveling, preferring on several occasions to take his motherless children on extended tours of Europe. He wrote over twenty books and numerous poems. He died March 24, 1882 and was laid to rest in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Two years later, his bust was placed in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey in London, the first American poet to receive that honor.

There is some confusion as to whether Longfellow wrote the seven-stanza poem, "Christmas Bells," on Christmas Day 1863 or 1864. In 1862, the aging poet received word that his son, Lt. Charles Appleton Longfellow, had received a severe wound to his spine. Some have said that the poem on which the carol is based was as much "anti-war" as "pro-Christmas."

In 1872, after the terrible conflict while the nation was still recovering from war, a composer, John Baptiste Calkin set five of Wadsworth's seven stanzas (with only slight changes) to his tune, "Waltham." In later years, other melodies have been used as settings for Longfellow's Christmas poem, but the most popular is the one composed by Calkin.

If you are a fan of the "Casting Crowns" contemporary musical group, you might hear the 2008 version by Mark Hall, lead vocalist, as he sings "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" in the Christmas album, "Peace on Earth."

Read again Longfellow's inimitable Christmas poem. It will inspire you today as it did people who heard it in 1872 when it was first set to music. Two stanzas are repeated here, the 3rd and 4th of the carol. The 3rd refers to the despair brought on by war; the 4th forsees the end of war and restoration of peace:

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men!"

Longfellow's words still have a strong message of optimism and hope for us today in the midst of an economic decline and, as our ancestors would say, "perilous" times. Listen to the Christmas Bells. They still ring out, 'loud and deep'!

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 4, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in perspective

Thursday, November 27 is the day in 2008 designated Thanksgiving Day. We gather with family and friends to give thanks for the blessings of the year and to feast on turkey and all the trimmings that make for a royal dinner.

"A truly American holiday," we think. With visions of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts coming together in 1621 to celebrate one year of survival in the New World, their Wampanoag Indian neighbors gathering with them, with a three-day feast and festival, we consider that event to be the first American Thanksgiving.

But was it? More investigation into history will show us that the Plymouth Colony celebration was not the first Thanksgiving, even in America.

The celebration predates 1621 by thousands of years in other parts of the world. Many cultures had days of thanksgiving at harvest time, to celebrate victories in battles, to recognize the hand of God in the affairs of men. We have but to read ancient psalms to see that giving thanks lay at the heart of worship and recognition of Diety. But in America, was there a time before 1621 and the Plymouth Colony gathering that could be termed America's "First Thanksgiving"?

Florida explorer Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in America in 1513. He claimed the land he had found for Spain. He led his entourage to solemnly give thanks for safe passage and for the land they would explore for the King of Spain. He was followed by other conquistadores who did likewise in succeeding years. Some of these days of Thanksgiving were led by Hernando de Soto in 1529, by Father Louis Cancer de Barbastro in 1549, and by Tristan de Luna in 1599. These periods of Thanksgiving were along the coasts of Florida, that land of waving palms and tropical sunshine.

Add to the Florida celebrations another early Thanksgiving Feast by Spanish explorers, this one held in Texas as Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and about 1500 of his men held a day of Thanksgiving in May, 1541. In fact, so positive was the Texas Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) that this was the "first" Thanksgiving in America that the organization erected a plaque at the Palo Duro Canyon in Texas in 1959 marking it as the location of "the First Thanksgiving."

France got into the battle for exploration of the New World. In 1564, a group of French Huguenots landed along the St. Johns River in Florida and began a settlement there. Like others who had braved the ocean voyage and had arrived intact in the new land, a Thanksgiving Day marked their feat in 1564.

In September, 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, an experienced admiral from Spain, settled St. Augustine, Florida and called the people together for a mass of thanksgiving. Joining the settlers were the nearby Seloy Indians. The feast for that occasion was garbanzo beans, garlic-flavored pork, hardtack biscuits and red wine.

This festival, coming at the first permanent settlement in America, is considered by many historians to be the first and most continuing Thanksgiving on American soil by foreign settlers. In fact, there has been a quarrel between those who hold to the St. Augustine theory and the Plymouth Colony theory of "first Thanksgiving" site.

Then came the claim of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, and the 1610 date for its Thanksgiving celebration. Why did this one not hold as the first of the English colony Thanksgivings in America? Settled in 1607, Jamestown had a hard time existing. Disease and starvation were rampant. When Lord De La Warr came in 1610 with supplies, the remaining colonists took heart. The Jamestown Colony did not list the word "Thanksgiving" as the intent of the celebration led by the Rev. Richard Buck and Ensign Anthony Scott as this colony took on new life. But Thanksgiving was implied in the gathering and determination to make Jamestown a permanent settlement.

A painting commemorates another English colony Thanksgiving held in 1619 at Berkeley Plantation in Virginia, about thirty miles north of Jamestown. Captain John Woodleefe had this written declaration which began the first Thanksgiving there: "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetualy kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty god." It is believed that Thanksgiving Day was held in November when the ship arrived from England. The painting, "The First Thanksgiving," by Sydney King, shows the ship in the James River and the thirty-five men kneeling on shore.

It is interesting that regardless of the country from which the early settlers came, whether from Spain, France or England, they recognized the providence of Almighty God in guiding them through treacherous seas to a land, not necessarily "flowing with milk and honey," but with challenges, hardships, disease and enemies to be overcome.

Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, lobbied for and wrote numerous articles and pamphlets calling for a national day of Thanksgiving from 1846 until 1863. President Lincoln, during the Civil War, decreed that a day of Thanksgiving be held on the second Thursday in November. The day was changed a bit but finally came to rest on the fourth Thursday of each November by decree of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, signed into law in 1941. It is held on a Thursday from the English tradition of Calvinistic "lecture-days" and harvest festival days. For over six decades now we have held Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 27, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Look at Owltown

Travel Highway 129/19 south from the old courthouse square in Blairsville and you will come to the Owltown District of Union County lying around the vicinity of the Experiment Station. It was the last of the fourteen districts of the county.

This district numbered 1409 was signed into law on April 4, 1887. Court appointed commissioners John M. Rich, Milton G. Hamby, and Quiller F. Reece had been assigned the task of laying out the lines of the proposed new militia district. Daniel Mathis, Thomas Fields and other citizens had petitioned for the new district and signed a request for it with the Court of Ordinary in Union County. Portions of already-existing districts of Arkaqua, Choestoe and Coosa were surveyed and made a part of the new Owltown District. Mr. William Colwell, County Ordinary, signed the completed papers and the new district was summarily formed.

One is reminded of the words of naturalist John Muir, who in 1867, passed through beautiful Union County, Georgia on his walk from Louisville, Kentucky to Cedar Keys, Florida, a journey of over one thousand miles. He wrote of this mountainous region: "Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God."

Whether Muir passed through what became Owltown twenty years after his visit, we know not. But he could well have been describing that section of Union County nestled along the Nottely River and its tributaries. County Historian Edward S. Mauney, in his description of Owlton in 1950, said of it: "Being no less mountainous than the county's entire terrain, with its dark recesses called coves, the natural habitat of that wise old bird, the owl, suggests what is believed to be the origin of the name." (p. 72, Sketches of Union County History III, 1987).

Hoot Owl Town and Hoot Owl Hollow were eventually shortened to Owltown. Others have thought that in addition to being "the natural habitat of the owl," Owltown may have received its name from a settlement of Cherokee Indians with Chief Owl as its leader.

Some of the early-settler families that chose Owlton as their place of residence were Hamby, England, Fortenberry, Rich, Davis, Stephens, Reece, Spiva, Akins, Curtis, Majors, Fields, Mathis, Colwell, Bowers, Rider, May, Crump and others. Even today, these family names remain in residents in the coves and hollows of District 1409 and elsewhere in Union.

If John Muir did, indeed, traverse land in what became the Owltown District twenty years after his sojourn here; he would have seen cleared patches in the bottom lands where the farmer settlers grew corn, potatoes, cabbage, onions, beans, wheat, rye, oats and flax. In garden patches were tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins and peppers and in yard patches, herbs like sage and rosemary for seasoning. Growing out from their mountain cabins were the beginnings of mountain orchards of apples, pears and peaches. Owltown has been noted as a place of production of good-tasting, juicy apples.

On the mountains were chestnut trees, the annual fall crop of which provided food for ranging hogs and cattle, and enough to pick up and haul to market in Gainesville over the Logan Turnpike. This extra crop from the forest helped to provide coffee, tea, sugar, cloth for making clothes and even shoes for members of the mountain families.

Another distinctive early industry of Owlton was the gold mine at Owltown Gap. The yield of this mine is not currently known, but it, along with the Coosa Mines, caused enough excitement to produce a mini-gold rush to Union County in the heyday of gold mining here.

Fort Mountain is within the area of Owltown District. The ancient fort, some of the remains of which can still be seen, is a great mystery. Legend prevails that it was built by a contingent of Spanish conquistadores who came through the region in the sixteenth century under the leadership of one Juan Pardo and built a fortress on the mountain. Lost in mountain mists and lack of records, we may never know the origin of the fort on this mountain.

Out of Owltown have come many distinguished citizens. To name a few, the following come to mind. Rev. Milford G. Hamby was a noted minister in the North Georgia Methodist Conference. Mr. Newton Curtis was termed a "good teacher" and an able debater. Solomon Hill Rich and Nancy Conner Rich had a son named Charles Edward Rich who was a noted Baptist preacher and educator. The Rev. Luther Colwell, another long-time Baptist minister in Union County, was a son of John Theodore and Amy Elizabeth Bowling Colwell. John Theodore Colwell was county ordinary when "the old courthouse" on the square was built in 1899.

"A thousand windows," to quote from John Muir, open throughout Owltown. One has but to drive its roadways to be surprised by beauty and a quality of "divine light" that emanate from a lofty past and point toward an optimistic future.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 20, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A day to honor those who served

In the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the Armistice was signed ending World War I. The shouting and celebration would come later, commemorating this auspicious event in world history.

On November 11 each year we observe Veterans Day to honor all military men and women of the United States who have served in the past and who currently serve.

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed an observance of Armistice Day on November 12, 1919. Wanting to commemorate the actual day of the signing of the treaty to end World War I, Congress requested in 1926 that the day of tribute and remembrance be set for November 11. Signed into law (specifically Act 52, Statute 351, 5 U. S. Code, Section 87a) the act was approved on May 13, 1938. Since then November 11 (or for a period of time, a day near November 11) of each year has been set aside as a legal holiday in which Americans recognize the value of freedom and those who won and maintain it.

In 1953, a veteran named Al King of Emporia, Illinois, promoted Armistice Day as a day to honor all veterans, not just those who had fought in World War I. A bill was introduced to Congress, passed and signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (himself a decorated general and a veteran) on May 26, 1954. The word "Armistice" was changed to "Veterans" on November 8, 1954. Since September 20, 1975, when President Gerald R. Ford signed a law declaring that the observance would be held on the actual day—November 11—of the signing of the Armistice, Veterans Day has not moved about to gain the convenience of a "long weekend" off from work. America has kept November 11 as a time to thank veterans for their unselfish service and to remember outstanding events in the battle for freedom.

For almost two years now I have had almost daily contact with veterans. Most of you know that my beloved husband, the Rev. Grover D. Jones, who served admirably in the U. S. Navy during World War II, has been a resident of the Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville. Now in a skilled nursing unit of the Vinson Building, his daily needs are met by a staff who see their job as a calling. I am grateful that the facility is available to Georgia veterans who need the care.

Others and I have been greatly concerned that 81 of the mobile (still able to walk and care somewhat for themselves) veterans in the Wheeler Building domiciliary unit were given notice to find another place to live by November 30, 2008. Today's local paper stated that most of them have found new places to live before the deadline set for their evacuation.

The sad commentary on this situation, to me, has been that "no funds were available in Georgia's tight budget" to care for these 81 veterans. In talking with several of them, I learned that their small monthly stipend would not allow for rent and other living expenses, and many of them did not have relatives with whom they could live. Would these veterans be put out on the street, homeless and forgotten, with little thought of their care during their declining years?

My cry on Veterans Day is that Georgia and America should find ways to care for those who were willing to give the supreme sacrifice for our country. Those who returned from war are often crippled in mind or body. The cruel streets and bridge shelters of America are no place for them to have to lay their heads. Indeed, it is time we reconsider our priorities on this Veterans Day, 2008. I offer the following original poem in tribute:

Autumn for the Veterans
It is autumn for the veterans.
Like falling leaves their lives
Ebb out into the great beyond.
No fight is left.
Their battles behind them now
They may have nightmares about Anzio,
Storm Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands,
Bivouac at Guadalcanal or Peleliu.
They may relive the trauma of Normandy beachhead
To set a day in history: D-Day, June 6, 1944,
Operation Overload.
Many were at the Battle of the Bulge,
Tens of thousands of young soldiers
Barely out of boot camp
Facing the enemy head-on.
In this autumn of their lives fears return,
Play on the dark wall of memory
Where courage again meets the enemy,
Fellow soldiers fall on foreign soil,
Where cities built from civilization's cradle
Crumble in the ruins of war
And innocents are set adrift or meet untimely deaths.
In the Pacific Enola Gay bore "Little Boy"
And Hiroshima was laid to waste.
Three days later, as if more destruction ordained the victory,
Nagasaki fell, scattered and scorched by splitting atoms.
"What did we do?" the veterans ask.
The question comes in midnight watches,
In noonday's red and purple fire,
In twilight's clouds like huge mushrooms
Hovering and smothering.
It is Autumn for the veterans.
Spring and Summer with their red-hot battles are past.
Purple hearts and silver stars lie in quiet displays,
Mix with golden falling leaves of Autumn.
Winter is very near—
Closer than we know.
-Ethelene Dyer Jones

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 13, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dr. Norman Vester Dyer, Educator and Philosopher

Dr. Norman Vester Dyer, Georgia Educator, b. March 10, 1885, Choestoe, Union County, Ga., d. December 28, 1968, Villa Rica, Ga.

The forty-six year career as an educator ended for Dr. Norman Vester Dyer in Villa Rica, Georgia, after eleven years as principal at the high school there (1944- 1955).

He retired in 1955 from active work as a teacher, but not from work he loved.

One of his main aims after retirement was to write his memoirs. This he did in a book entitled Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse published in 1961 by Thomasson Printing Company, Carrollton, GA. The foreword was by long-time friend and fellow Choestoean, Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins, another educator who had risen from humble beginnings to become, for twenty-five years, Georgia State Superintendent of Schools.

Together, these two men had been involved in Georgia schools as the educational systems progressed from one-teacher institutions to schools with multiple teachers well-qualified for the curriculum they taught and accredited by high standards.

Home-spun with advice and philosophy, Dr. Dyer often quoted his "xyz" formula for success in the classroom: x - work; y - play; z - ability to keep your mouth shut about matters that should be kept within the school.

His philosophy, both of life and for educational practice, included a ten-step ladder for success: 1. Loyalty; 2. Conscientious fulfillment of duty (solid work ethic); 3. No griping about salary, work hours, or duties; 4. No discrimination— democratic attitude about students; 5. Beginning with the child where he/she is and developing his/her potential; 6. Good discipline; 7. Friendliness; 8. Sense of humor; 9. Doing a good job in the teacher's own way; 10. Cooperation. (listed on pages 143-144 in "Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse").

One of Dr. Dyer's favorite poems was "If" by Rudyard Kipling. He frequently quoted it in addresses to senior classes at graduations, to the seniors in his inimitable "guidance" classes as he sought to help them come to grips with purposes and goals for life; and at civic clubs at which he was often guest speaker. Some key phrases in the poem he practiced in his life: "Keep your head"; "Trust yourself"; "Wait"; "Dream"; "Think"; "Lose…Start again"; "Keep your virtue"; "Fill each minute… with 60 seconds of distance run."

After his retirement, he wrote a regular short, pithy column in "The Villa Rican" newspaper under the pseudonym of "Hill Billy Joe". In those columns, he gave thought-provoking, brief views of life, and ways of making one's time upon this earth more productive and memorable. To end this four-part tribute to the man who chose to sell his farm mule to apply the money to his education in the early 1900's, and became a legend in Georgia education, I close with two of his "Hill Billy Joe" columns: " 'To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die.' “

It is disturbing to us when we meet people who do not seem to care whether they live or die, or how they die. But it gives us a wonderful feeling when we meet people who have not thus lost their balance. These people have a warm place in their hearts for us, and a good wish for our well-being. We feel that they are living for something, and somebody, anyone they meet.

We like to read the life history of that kind of person. We feel that he has left something behind that will help those who follow. The good things of life are brought about by these kinds of people. The good works they do are not 'shuffled off' when they pass on." -Hill Billy Joe”

“'Root hog or die poor.'”

“This was an expression that was quite often used by one Old Timer in our community. He was an independent man who believed a person should work for what he gets, and not depend on some other fellow to keep him up.

By this philosophy of life he worked hard, 'From sun to sun' to provide his family with the necessities of life. He never did let them go hungry. Every member of the large family had to work in like manner. He would tell them, 'If you put your feet under my table, you have to work.' They understood his language and abided by it. That was in the days when 'children were to be seen and not heard.' A hard philosophy of life, you say. Yes. But it developed a fine bunch of independent and industrious children into sturdy men and women who were self-supporting." - Hill Billy Joe

At this turbulent election time, 2008, the work, words and philosophy of educator Norman Vester Dyer bear heeding.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 6, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More on the career of Dr. N.V. Dyer

The farm mule that Norman Vester Dyer chose to have his father sell and give him the $150.00 to continue his education proved a good investment. This man, noted wherever he went as an industrious, wise and solid "school man," touched teachers and students in various parts of Georgia.

He started out teaching in Choestoe, his home community, as an assistant in the country school where he began his own first grade work. Professor Theodore Swanson, who had been the teacher for the seven-month term, wanted to leave early, and suggested to Vester Dyer's father, Bluford Elisha Dyer, known as "Bud" Dyer, a trustee of the school, that the young lad who was just finishing seventh grade, was capable of taking over the school and completing the term. Challenged and somewhat frightened by the task, Vester buckled down and was able to complete his seventh grade school year as a teacher. This was the beginning of his 46-year career as an educator.

Places, besides Choestoe, that knew the influence of this educator, all in Georgia, were Hiawassee, Jones County (Green School), Dooly County (Lily), Milner, Luthersville, Fairburn, Blairsville (Collegiate Institute), Cornelia, Eastanollee (Stephens County), Dawsonville (Dawson County), Summerville and Villa Rica. In the period of his service, the major administrator of a school within a city system was called superintendent (now called a principal). Even though he was head of the school, he also enjoyed teaching so much that he had a class he taught seniors at each school called vocational guidance, citizenship or group counseling. His class was popular with seniors and helpful to them as they explored areas of job opportunity, set goals for their future, and struggled with ideas about living lives of service to mankind.

In his memoirs entitled A Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse, Dr. Dyer said he often encountered three major disturbing elements in school administrator's work: selfishness, politics and ignorance (Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse, p. 65). He gave numerous examples of these three often-times negative hindrances to educational progress.

Selfishness reared its head in those who would downgrade the school and its work because of petty jealousies or desire that jobs of teaching and school management be awarded through nepotism—or making family members or special friends recipients of any jobs available in the schools. In such situations, qualifications of the teachers and administrator, or even their success in operating a school took a back seat to favoritism.

Those who suffered most from such unprofessional practices were the students themselves.

Politics often played a role in who would be elected administrator or who would keep the job. After eleven years as a successful superintendent (principal) of Cornelia city schools, Mr. Dyer was ousted because of the "political machine" operable within the city. The same was true after four years of hard work in the Eastanollee School in Stephens County.

Sometimes called "The Court House Gang," the politicians wanted to get rid of Mr. Dyer as superintendent. Stephens County citizens, who had seen the school improve greatly under his leadership, circulated a petition with over 2,000 signatures asking that he be kept on as superintendent. They even had a Professor N. V. Dyer Day, complete with a hired band, invited speakers and dinner on the grounds on March 30, 1935 in an effort to break the School Board's deadlock on his reelection. Asked to speak before the Board of Education on his own behalf, Mr. Dyer surprised all the large crowd present at the court house by arising, quoting the speech of Brutus from William Shakespeare's play, "Julius Caesar," and likening the political maneuverings to those described in the play in that ancient Roman regime.

He saw ignorance as a daunting deterrent to progress in education. He did not mean by this illiteracy, or backwardness sometimes found in a community due to a lack of educational opportunities. He saw prejudice and resistance to change for the better as enemies of education. In many of the systems where he served as administrator, he offered classes for adults that would help them to a better quality of life. He set up Home Economics classes in some communities and invited mothers to learn to care better for the nutritional and nurturing needs of their children. If men could not manage to get jobs, he offered night classes in literacy or in trades that would help them in vocational pursuits. And ever, he urged students in school to set their sights on higher education, helping them to find ways to get enrolled in college or vocational school beyond high school. Truancy was a problem in his early years of teaching. He helped to write the truancy law that was eventually enacted by the State of Georgia.

Change in administering discipline to students was one of Mr. Dyer's strong points. He initiated the idea of keeping records, turned into the office, of student's offenses. These were recorded on individual cards for each student. If a student had "demerits" equal to five hours from teachers, he/she would be assigned work around the school to clear the demerit points. In that way, many improvements to the buildings and grounds were made by students who had caused disturbance of any kind. Prior to the work to erase the offense, Mr. Dyer would have a counseling session with the student and talk about responsibility, citizenship and payment for offenses. He talked to them about taking pride in their work, and making the school grounds and buildings better than when they had entered the school. This method of discipline, he affirmed, worked much better than the old-fashioned "paddling."

In whatever town the Dyer family lived, they became a vital part of the community as well as the school. Always active in church, he, his wife Jane, and their three daughters, Sarah Ruth, Betty and Helen, were involved. He was a deacon and lay preacher. Jane was a teacher and women's worker. The girls were part of the youth program, and when they became adults, were also leaders in their churches. In Dawsonville, Mr. Dyer led in the effort to erect a new building for First Baptist Church. In most of the towns where he served as superintendent, new school buildings were erected. Active in Lions Club, he served as a local officer as well as a leader in the district and state organization.

Reba W. Roberds who was a teacher under his supervision during his eleven years as head of the Villa Rica Schools said of him at his retirement banquet in May, 1955: "I knew him as a man devoted to high ideals of service, a man of vision and perseverance, a Christian gentleman, and a true friend."

Dr. Norman Vester Dyer, born on a Choestoe farm March 10. 1885, died December 28, 1968 in Villa Rica, Georgia. Of his 83 years spent on earth, 46 of them were as an educator.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 30, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Choestoe man was outstanding educator The Career of Norman Vester Dyer

Telling his father that he did not want to farm, but rather to teach, and that the mule he was given by his father would be sold and used for education proved to be a good move for the enterprising Norman Vester Dyer (March 10, 1885 - December 28, 1968).

This seventh of fifteen children born to Bluford Elisha Dyer (1855-1926) and Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer (1857-1959) found ways, besides the sale of his mule for $150.00, to earn his education.

After he graduated from Hiawassee Academy, he took the state teacher's licensing test and earned a first grade certificate. He got a position for a year teaching in the Green School eight miles from Gray, Georgia. Following that year of an eight-month school year, with his earnings $50 per month, he went to Mercer University in Macon to continue his own education. He, with his father's signature, borrowed $250 from Mr. Pat Haralson, lawyer, in Blairsville to go to Mercer his first year. Alternately teaching and going to school, he earned his bachelor's degree from Mercer and repaid all the money he had borrowed for college. Later, mainly by attending summer sessions (seven summers in all, he states in his memoirs), he earned the Master of Education degree from the University of Georgia. It was from Mt. Vernon University in Virginia that he received the doctorate degree. Mercer University, his alma mater, awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Back in the days when an educator was both a classroom teacher and a principal, Vester Dyer found himself serving in several Georgia towns. Among these towns were Lily (near Vienna), Milner, Luthersville, Fairburn, Blairsville, Eastanollee, Dawsonville and Summerville. He was principal of Cornelia High School and county school superintendent in Habersham County at Cornelia for eleven years. His retirement came after eleven years as principal of Villa Rica High School. Altogether, he served forty six years as a teacher, principal or superintendent of schools.

Other than teaching in country schools in Union County, his stint as an administrator in Blairsville was as president of the Blairsville Collegiate Institute. A school begun by the Notla River Baptist Association and supported in part also by the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, the school was the only high school then in Union County. N. V. Dyer's term as president was in the 1920's, prior to the schools being taken over as a public high school by the Union County Board of Education. In his memoirs, Mr. Dyer says of his work as president of Blairsville Collegiate Institute: "Since it was a church school, I was expected to visit the churches of the county, make religious talks, and fill the place of a missionary as well as carry on the work of the school. I found the students exceptionally interested in the school work, and had very few disciplinary problems." (p. 47, "Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse.").

Following his term at the Blairsville Collegiate Institute, Mr. Dyer moved on to Cornelia as superintendent (or principal) of the public school there.

On June 17, 1915, Norman Vester Dyer married Ruthie Jane Self. She was a teacher at Young Harris, in the elementary and/or academy division of the college. It was there that Dr. J. A. Sharp, president of the college, performed the marriage ceremony for the couple in the college parlor. She was a daughter of Cicero Self and Sarah Lance Self.

Three daughters would be born to this couple, Sarah Ruth on March 14, 1919 in Luthersville, Georgia, and identical twin daughters, Betty Jean and Mary Helen in Cornelia, Georgia on May 26, 1926.

Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins (1885 - 1957) was born the same year as Dr. Norman Vester Dyer. Both Choestoe lads, their careers in education would parallel. Dr. Collins served as state superintendent of Georgia schools from 1933-1957, a total of twenty-five years, during times of great change. These two were friends and associates from their boyhood together at Choestoe throughout their long careers as educators. Dr. Collins wrote the foreword to Dyer's book of memoirs, "Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse": "He (Dyer) has touched for good the lives of hundreds of young Georgians, and encouraged them to get the education that would make them more valuable citizens of their native state."

Is that not the aim of education— touching lives, producing valuable citizens?

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 23, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

NOTE: this article was originally Oct. 16, 2008 but was deferred by the newspaper.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A mule, a dream and a long career as an educator

The gift of a mule was a kick start to an education and a 46-year career as a teacher and school administrator for Norman Vester Dyer (1885-1968).

Norman Vester Dyer was a student at the Hiawassee Baptist Academy. He had gone to school there periodically, going a semester or two, as he could afford the tuition and board, and then getting a job back in his home community teaching in the country schools of Choestoe or Old Liberty. He longed to finish his senior year at the academy, but his money had run completely out.

Vester Dyer told his roommate that he planned to walk across the mountain from Hiawassee to Choestoe and have a talk with his father. It was in March, 1906 that he went back home and told his father, Bluford Elisha "Bud" Dyer that he was ready for the gift of his mule. Mr. Dyer had formed the custom of giving each of his nine sons a mule when they reached the age of 21. Vester turned 21 on March 10, 1906, and he felt the time was right for this gift from his father.

"Father, I want my mule," Vester stated at an opportune time when he arrived home.

"What do you plan to do with it?" his father asked.

"Sell it and get money to finish my senior year," the son told his father.

"And what will you plow with?" the father inquired.

"I don't plan to plow," was the young man's response. "I plan to teach."

Without further discussion on the matter, Mr. Dyer told Vester to go to bed and rest. The next morning, his father took the three-year old mule he had been keeping for Vester and was gone from home for about three hours. When he returned, he handed Vester $150.00, the price he had been paid for the fine mule.

With money in his pocket and a dream in his heart, Vester returned to Hiawassee Academy and enrolled for his senior year. The long trek by foot from Choestoe back to Hiawassee seemed much shorter than the outward journey, for he had in his possession the money that would provide for tuition, books and board for his senior year.

During the summer of 1906, Vester Dyer did not return to his father's farm in Choestoe to work the crops. Instead, he was invited by Mr. Van Burns, with whom he was boarding, to teach in summer school. Vester was assigned to teach Greek and world history, two subjects in which the young man had excelled at the academy. The contract with Mr. Burns was that he would have his board and room from his teaching, "and, according to what I am paid for the summer session, a percentage of the tuition." At the end of that notable summer, with experience in teaching the classic language and world history to avid students, Mr. Burns paid the young teacher a shiny silver dollar. This seems like paltry pay for a summer's worth of teaching, but in those days, a dollar would go a long ways toward needs.

Norman Vester Dyer had already been teaching in country schools near his home in Choestoe. He tells in his memoirs of going to the court house in Blairsville to take the teacher certification tests for licensing. The courtroom would be full, he said, of men and women aspiring to get basic certification or to upgrade their license to teach. The County Commissioner of Schools was authorized by the state of Georgia to issue three types of certificates, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade. Pay was based on the grade of the certificate. The first certificate Mr. Dyer received was a 3rd grade. This was several years before he finished his senior year at Hiawassee Academy. His earnings were $22.50 per month. He had 50 pupils in seven grades. He said of that experience, "I felt that I had been highly honored by being placed in a position to teach many of my fellow students, cousins, brothers and sisters." (p. 37 in "Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse." Thomasson Publishing, Carrollton, GA, 1961.)

From his humble beginnings of attending a one-teacher school in Choestoe, to going back later to teach in that same school, to becoming a noted teacher and administrator in Georgia schools, this man who sold his mule to help pay for his education was on a roll. For a career that lasted 46 years, many students benefited from his wisdom and ability to teach.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 9, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Focusing on the Chattahoochee- Oconee National Forests

Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I'll protect it now.

These lines from poet George Pope Morris [1802- 1864] might well have been written in protest to the widespread devastation of virgin forests that existed in the nineteenth century as trees were felled for lumber to supply the demand for building better houses. People wanted nicer dwellings than the log cabins that characterized the early-settlement period of our mountain lands.

As we saw the life and times of Jim Berry, last of the "true mountaineers" in the last two columns here, we learned that he was an employee of the Vogel-Pfister Land Company that dealt mainly in harvesting trees for timber in the Southern Appalachians.

Following the Civil War, a proliferation of timber harvesting occurred in this mountain region. The work of cutting trees and getting them to sawmills set up on streams provided much-needed employment. Very little attention was given to environmental practices and preserving the land or its forests. Large land companies, with an eye for the timber market, bought up lands the early settlers had received in either gold lots or land lots. The lands were cut over and many chestnut, oak, and hemlock trees yielded bark for tanning businesses and lumber for houses. It was a perilous time for mountain forests. The mountain landowners, many owing taxes on their acreage, sold land for as little as $1.00 per acre. Capitalists took advantage of a poverty-level situation and amassed land once rich with virgin timber. The plea of Morris's poem, "Touch not a single bough!" went unheeded. Former farmers sought refuge in the "lumber camps" that sprang up. There they found shelter and subsistence wages.

Erosion set in. Wildfires were prevalent. With forest deadenings widespread, floods came, with nothing to prevent the water from taking the topsoil in formerly productive farmlands. It was a sad and ruinous time. A voice was heard among all the destruction. His name was Gifford Pinchot, one of the first environmentalists. He urged that government and citizens do something about the "burned, slashed, and over-grazed forest." President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in, and in 1901 he ordered that "the preservation of the mountain forests should no longer be left to the caprice of private capital."

The famous Weeks Act was passed in the US Congress on March 1, 1911. In this Act, the U. S. Department of Agriculture was authorized to purchase lands that had been cut over and denuded. Gifford Pinchot's pleas had been heard. The slow process of restoration was set in motion. It did not happen quickly, for growing trees takes time. Restoring natural resources is a slow process.

Out of the Weeks Act grew the National Forest Service Reservation Commission. In 1911, large tracts of mountain land, about 31,000 acres in all, in Union, Fannin, Lumpkin and Gilmer Counties were purchased for $7.00 per acre. The seller was the Gennett Land and Lumber Company of Atlanta, Georgia. The purchase became official on August 29, 1912. A small portion of the lands acquired by the National Forest Service still had stands of virgin timber, but most of the land had been cut-over, cleared, or desecrated through careless industrial cutting and logging.

Another aspect of this era of mountain history shows a decline in population. For example, Union County statistics reveal that population dropped over ten percent from 1900 through 1910. Due to the ecological changes brought about by environmental excesses, people had to leave to find work elsewhere. The poor mountain farms could not support the population. The "westward" movement to Colorado and other western states and influx to manufacturing towns like Gainesville, Dalton and Atlanta accounted for the population decrease.

The Gennett Purchase began the stewardship of forest lands that would eventually lead to formation of the Chattahoochee National Forest in 1936. At first, these lands were incorporated into the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests in Tennessee and North Carolina. Gifford Pinchot's pleas were being heeded. Goals were set for reforestation, planting of new trees. Management of soil, water and wildlife were incorporated into the plan.

Two important names emerge in this early period of National Forest management. Ranger Roscoe Nicholson was the first Forest Ranger in the North Georgia Region. His area was the Tallulah Ranger District. Ranger Arthur Woody of Union County also made a name for himself as he was employed by the Forest Service. They patrolled with an iron will. They used trained bloodhounds to trace down forest arsonists. The first fire towers were built by them and the men they employed—Union County's at Brasstown Bald. Ranger Woody used his own money to stock streams with trout and the forests with deer when these were not forthcoming from Forest Service funds. Ranger Nick and Ranger Woody were brave pioneers who set the pace for later practices that were expanded and enforced.

Credit is due President Franklin Roosevelt's programs to help the nation recover from the Great Depression that began in earnest in October of 1929. During his presidency, beginning in 1932, his "Alphabet Projects" tackled the job market and supplied workers for needed efforts to bring America back into competitive production. The Civilian Conservation Corps was organized in 1933. Camp Woody near Suches and the CCC Camp at Goose Creek on Highway 129 had the boys working to plant trees, check tree blights and insect infestations, build firetowers, fight forest fires, build roads and Vogel State Park. A new day dawned for the mountain forests of North Georgia.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 2, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

James "Jim" Berry, the Last of the True Mountaineers (Part 2)

Last week we saw Jim Berry as an employee of the Pfister- Vogel Land Company that had purchased large tracts of mountain land. Jim Berry was hired as a security guard for the land company and had moved into the old Brewster house on Jack's Gap Road.

About this same time a rather crude telephone line was installed in the Choestoe-Town Creek community. A switch at Mr. Hayes Hunter's house near New Liberty Church could connect the community line to the forest service line. Jim Berry's telephone that kept him in touch with the Bald Mountain line could also, through the switch, be connected to the line to the Jesse Washington Souther house, also just off the Jack's Gap Road. In that house lived Varina (called "Tib") Souther. A romance began between Tib and Jim.

She was a daughter of Jesse Washington Souther (04/23/1836 - 09/12/1926) and Nancy Sullivan Souther (03/22/1858 08/12/1936), her father's second wife. Varina was the thirteenth of fifteen children of "Wash" Souther and the sixth of eight born to her mother, Nancy Sullivan Souther. This "second" family of Jesse Washington Souther had these children: Thomas Souther (1877-1937) who married Mary Lou Kay; Albert Galloway Souther (1879-?) who married Mae Pinkston; Lydia Souther (1881-?) who married Charlie Jones; Lina Souther (1883-1915); Benjamin Souther (1885) died in infancy; Varina Souther (1887- 1963) who married James Berry (1896- 1982) on August 13, 1913; Harvey Allen Souther (1889-1984) who married Fannie Collins (1895-1972); and Hardy Souther (1892, died in infancy).

Thanks to the "on line" switch that connected the Souther home telephone to the one the forest service maintained for Jim Berry, this couple could "court" by telephone.

With her full siblings and her half-siblings scattered, Varina Souther Berry took the responsibility of caring for her aging parents. She and her husband Jim Berry lived with them in the old Wash Souther house. One son, Glenn, was born to Varina and Jim, and they adopted a second son, J. T. Berry. Her father died in 1926 and her mother in 1936.

Varina "Tib" Souther Berry was nine years older than her husband, Jim. She died October 15, 1963, leaving Jim a widower. He continued to live on in the old Wash Souther house, with few conveniences. He graduated from a fireplace to a wood heater to heat his house and had a Roman Eagle wood cook stove in his kitchen. After his wife Varina died, he lived alone for almost nineteen more years in the old house.

Jim Berry was steeped in the knowledge of local geography and folklore. He could recount the names of all the mountains surrounding Georgia's highest peak, Brasstown Bald (also known as Enotah). He knew the names of valleys between the peaks, the creeks and rivers. A good marksman with a gun, he got his quota of deer each hunting season well into his seventh decade of life. In his later years, people beat a path to his door to hear his stories and listen to his wit and wisdom.

He learned to play the fiddle from his father. He tells about watching his father play, and then taking up the fiddle himself, finding that he, too, could make music from its strings. He and his brother began to play for and call square dances throughout the mountain region. He once told a visitor that if he had his father's old fiddle, he wouldn't take a thousand dollars for it.

In a finely woven basket hanging from Jim Berry's ceiling, he once kept the medicines he swore by. In individual paper bags were the herbs he gathered from the mountains to give him robust health into his eighties. Dried ginseng root he chewed during the winters with the firm belief that it "cured most anything." Then he had a bag of golden seal. This treasure from the wild cured anything ginseng didn't touch, Mr. Berry believed.

On a spring day, June 26, 1982, Jim Berry, true mountaineer, lay down his head and died. At 85 years, 10 months of age, he had packed a lot of living into his life. He was about the last of the true mountaineers who had a close affinity with the land and its topography, the forests and its inhabitants, and people who came seeking his stories.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 25, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

James "Jim" Berry, the Last of the True Mountaineers

Visit New Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery in Choestoe, stretched in front of a beautiful white country church house, with Enotah (Brasstown Bald) Mountain lifting its towering peak in the distance, and you find graves of many early settlers to that section of Union County. Today, we will focus on two graves bearing names, not of early settlers but the descendents of some of them.

These graves are of a husband and wife, James "Jim" Berry and Varina "Tib" Souther Berry. The dates tell us Jim lived from August 14, 1896 through June 26, 1982, and Tib lived from May 12, 1887 through October 15, 1963. Many who knew Jim Berry, and who wrote about him, like Charles Roscoe Collins and the roving reporter for The Atlanta Journal, Charles Salter, called him one of the last of the "true mountaineers."

Living in the old log house, somewhat updated from the time his wife Tib's grandfather built it in the mid-1800's, James was a widower from 1963 when his wife died until 1982, when he passed on at age 86. A philosopher of sorts, Jim Berry enjoyed company and was a great talker. His simple lifestyle was often an amazement to the many visitors who dropped by his house just off the Jack's Gap Road to hear him talk and to get his viewpoints on the issues of the day.

Jim Berry was not a Union County native. His wife, Varina, claimed that honor, but not Jim. His grandparents came from Old Gilmer County (a portion that later became Fannin) and from the mining town of Copperhill, Tennessee. Like settlers to that section, his forebears left North Carolina in a general migration and found land on which to carve out a new life in the mountains of North Georgia. The Berry Family moved from their Gilmer County home and got land along Fodder Creek in what became Towns County in 1856. There Jim Berry was born in 1896 to William Berry and Becky Shook Berry. Jim Berry had siblings William Berry, John Berry, Tina Berry McFall, and Martha Berry Chastain.

James Berry spent his childhood and early youth working on the family farm at Fodder Creek. He had little formal schooling because his father was an invalid. It was necessary for Jim Berry to work hard to try to make a living on the hardscrabble farm for his father, mother and siblings. They had cattle and hogs that ranged the mountains and, when rounded up and driven to market in Gainesville, provided a little extra income for the family.

When America got involved in World War I, James Berry served in the US Army. After basic training at Fort Gordon, he was selected to be in the unit that guarded German prisoners of war at Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. He remembered those two years of his life as hard. Guarding the prisoners took great vigilance and discipline. When the Armistice was signed in November, 1918, Jim Berry was one of the guards chosen to accompany the 550 German prisoners by train to Charleston, SC, where the captives were loaded on boats and returned to Germany.

Upon his honorable discharge from the army following World War I, James Berry returned to Fodder Creek in Towns County. He purchased 80 acres of mountain land, and there continued the same life of small patch farming in the bottoms along creeks as he had done growing up.

Then another opportunity came for this World War I veteran. The Pfister-Vogel Land Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin had purchased thousands of acres of mountain land in Towns, Union, Lumpkin and White Counties. They needed workers. Jim Berry signed on, and because of his previous experience as a guard in World War II, he was assigned to the security detail of the company's work force.

Part of the land purchased by the Pfister-Vogel Land Company included the old Brewster holdings along the Jack's Gap Road leading toward Bald Mountain. An aside in the Jim Berry story lets us know that this tract of land had a history. It was sold to the land company by John Brewster. On that land, during the Civil War, Washington Brewster was killed near Jack's Gap by a roving band of Home Guard. The Brewster Place also had other families living there through time. Some were Jesse Spiva, Ben Spiva, Cornelius Spiva (who was killed in Germany during World War I, the first casualty of that war from Union County), Jim Harkins, Van Duckworth, and, finally, James Berry himself. Near the house was an old cemetery where Brookshires, Brewsters and Spivas were buried back in the era when family cemeteries were started near the old homeplace. The Land Company allowed James Berry, one of their important security guards, to live in the old Brewster house.

And that move, from Towns County to Union County, set the stage for the rest of citizen Jim Berry's life and times. Not only did he have work in the outdoors and woodlands he loved, but romance was on the horizon for James Berry. In the sequel to this story, we will learn about the life and times of Varina "Tib" Souther and James Berry. Stay tuned for the remainder of this delightful story.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 18, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Awful Anniversary: Remembering 9/11

"Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001?" No doubt you have been asked that question many times since that awful and terrible day when America and the world were shattered by deliberate and targeted crashes of four hijacked commercial jet airliners.

In the seven years intervening, we have recalled with both alarm and disbelief that date of attack which brought terrible reality, not just threats to our safe and secure lifestyle.

We know the events happened. We saw television news coverage of the billowing smoke from crashes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. We saw the Towers topple, heard confused cries, saw the devastation, observed with disbelief that such could happen in America, the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

We heard reports that a third hijacked airliner crashed into a portion of the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Our worst fears surfaced. Had this center of America's military operations been rendered completely ineffective?

With the brave action of some passengers on the fourth hijacked airliner, its direction was thwarted from its intended target in Washington, DC and the crash occurred in a field in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania near Shanksville.

There were no known survivors of the four jetliners. The 19 hijack- ers went to their deaths with a sense of accomplishment that they had done the deeds with martyrs' bravery and allegiance to their god. The passengers, no doubt, had boarded planes with confidence, with no thought that manipulations already in place would result in their untimely deaths that fateful day. Victims within the Twin Towers and others who died as a result of the travesties numbered over 3,000. Countless hours of rescue and recovery work resulted in airborne and contaminant afflictions that would follow victims the rest of their lives.

Nine/Eleven is an awful anniversary. Since that date in 2001, neither America nor the world has been the same as it was before.

We had rather not be reminded, but it is indelibly written in our history as a Day of Darkness and Doom.

To fight such an enemy as perpetrated these attacks on America on September 11, 2001 is a hard battle. Was Al-Qaeda behind it all—that dreaded terrorist regime that hides out in caves in the desert and plies its poison throughout the world? Were the enemies an army that could be confronted on a given battlefield and engaged in warfare which would eventually declare that the best side won?

Hardly so. But the battles began. And we are still in the midst of the war seven years later.

Immediately after 9/11, a surge of zeal and patriotism swept the United States. A turning again to the God of our nation was evident in songs, in messages, in websites, in patriotic gatherings, in churches, in town square meetings. America had rallied in the past to similar threats to her freedom. We could do so again. War was declared against the Taliban with forces deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Saddam Hussein was hunted and deposed, brought to trial and found guilty. The efforts to find and bring to justice the world-wide leader of terrorism continued. Osama bin Laden became the most wanted, the king of the terrorists, the person to find and depose at any cost.

America passed the USA Patriot Act, which was drafted by Representative Frank James Sensenbrenner on October 23, 2001, passed in the House on October 24, in the Senate on October 25, and signed into law by President Bush on October 21, 2001. The name of the act is an acronym standing for its major aims: "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act).

Erection of memorials is under way in many places. Many, still in the building process, are geared to solemnly remind Americans of the fatal 9/11 invasion. The Freedom Tower in Manhattan, now being built, is to be one monument to the toll the day had on our sense of safety and freedom. At "Ground Zero" in New York City, pictures and memorials tell the story of the heartache that came on a bright sunny morning in September, 2001.

I'm sure you, as I, have read survivors' reports, accounts from persons who narrowly escaped with their lives, and lived to tell the story of fear and an about-face in their own lives. One such story is by Kyle Crager, who descended from the 71st floor of the World Trade Center and lived to tell the story. He described himself as having "a cushy office high over the streets of Manhattan, a view of the Statue of Liberty, a fast-track career." But all of that changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

Speaking at churches, schools, colleges and community events, Kyle Crager now quotes lines from the 17th century English poet, George Herbert: "Thou hast given me so much… Give me one thing more, a grateful heart." And one of his rallying cries uses words from C. S. Lewis, English apologist, minister and writer:

"God whispers to us in our pleasures,
Speaks to us in our conscience,
But shouts in our pain:
It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Anniversaries dredge up fearful memories at times, as is the case with 9/11. But the event can, as it did with Kyle Crager and others sharing survival, give one more thing: "a grateful heart."

c2 008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 11, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

More on the Berry Kin

Last week’s column centered on Dr. Thomas Newton Berry (1870-1927), country doctor, something of his practice in Union County, of his black Stetson hat that became a symbol of “passing the torch” from the elder Doctor Berry to his grandson, Claude Hempill III, who received the hat as a gift when the younger man entered medical school.

I wish I, like popular radio journalist, Paul Harvey, knew “the rest of the story.” There’s much yet to uncover, I’m sure, about Dr. Berry and subsequent generations.

In fact, one of the Berry descendants, William Robert Berry, better known as W.R., who is the great nephew of Dr. Thomas Newton Berry, called me to thank me for the article, and to fill me in on some of the other aspects of the Berry family, a staunch and hard-working early settlers family who lived almost astraddle of the district line in Choestoe and Owltown. W.E. reminded me that Dr. Thomas Newton Berry was one of those Choestoe people who, from humble beginnings, did well and served people. Doc Berry’s house in town, long a landmark on Mauney Street, has recently been removed.

Dr. Berry had a brother four years younger than he, William Jefferson Berry (9/27/1874-12/19/1936). This Berry ancestor was W.R. Berry’s grandfather.

Recall that Thomas Newton and William Jefferson Berry were sons of John Johnson Berry (1848-1921) and Caroline Swim (Swaim, Swain) Berry (1848-1923). And, to keep the family line in perspective, John Johnson Berry’s parents were Elias Berry (1812-1885) and Sarah Johnson Berry (1814-1901). This couple was in the 1840 census of Union County. Family tradition holds that they moved to Union County after the 1834 census was taken in Union, but before 1837. The couple obtained land in the Choestoe and Owltown Districts. Berry Springs on the land is named in tribute to them.

Elias was a notable farmer, but also plied his trades of blacksmith for the community, and was a cobbler, making shoes not only for his own family, but for others round about. Methodists by denominational persuasion, the Berry family were important in the early years of the Shady Grove Methodist Church, and when death came to members of this early Berry family, they were interred in the Shady Grove Cemetery.

William Jefferson Berry, Dr. Thomas Newton Berry’s brother, married Ila Jane Frady. I find a discrepancy in the date of marriage. The article about Jeff and Jane Berry in The Heritage of Union County lists this couple’s marriage date as November 14, 1894. The Union County marriage record gives the wedding date as April 14, 1895. Descendants might have a family Bible listing that could authenticate the marriage date. Their ceremony was performed by I.T. Wilson, Justice of the Peach. Ila Jane’s parents were John W. Frady and Sarah Lance Frady. But to fully appreciate Ila Jane’s mother, the reader needs to see her full name: Sarah Harriet Nancy Artillery Saphronia Martha Ann Lance Frady. It was almost as if she received seven names in order to honor a string of female ancestors, or else to make a statement about the little girl who would become the mother of Ila Jane Frady Berry.

Jeff and Jane Berry had thirteen children in all, and supported and educated them by farming and doing other self-sufficient tasks that persons in that era did to make ends meet and provide a living for a large family. The couple believed strongly in education and were determined that their children would get the best education they could provide them. It is interesting that Jeff and Jane often moved from their Choestoe home to Young Harris in the wintertime in order for their children to have better educational opportunities. The trip would be made by wagon before the era of family automobiles (or trucks—as it would have taken a roomy vehicle to move a large family).

With a family of thirteen children, their births were over a period of twenty-six years, from 1895 through 1921. Space and knowledge of the family precludes my going into details about each of the thirteen. Here are birth dates and spouses, if known:

(1) Forrest Carter Berry was born in 1895 and married Vernie Brown and Irene Hackney.
(2) William Cautus Berry was born in 1897 and married Lorena Crawford.
(3) Sarah LuVina Berry was born in 1899 and married Cap Kerby.
(4) Floyd McRae Berry was born in 1901 and married Louise McDonald.
(5) Ulma Mae Berry, born in 1903, died in 1923, never married.
(6) Dollie Madison Berry was born in 1905 and married Lester Davis.
(7) Theodore Roosevelt Berry was born in 1907 and married Los Murray.
(8) Charity Belle was born and died in 1909.
(9) Jessie Pelle was born in 1910 and married O.H. Fields.
(10) Blanche was born in 1913 and married John Mullis and Roy Osborne.
(11) Bessie was born in 1916 and died in 1918.
(12) Mary was born in 1918 and married B.B. Tucker.
(13) John Jefferson born in 1921 married Elizabeth ? and ?

The Berry gatherings were large as children, grandchildren and great grandchildren returned to the old Berry homeplace at Choestoe/Owltown. Descendants of Elias and Sarah Johnson Berry have grown up and made a difference in our world as homemakers, teachers, politicians, bankers, farmers, merchants, foresters, doctors. . . almost any occupation you want to name. They stood tall in these tall hills and beyond.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 4, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dr. Thomas Newton Berry, Mountain Doctor

"If the hat fits, wear it!" might well have been the advice to young medical student Claude Hemphill III from his grandmother, Mrs. Stella Berry Hemphill, as she gave her grandson the black Stetson hat that belonged to his great grandfather, Dr. Thomas Newton Berry, when the younger man entered Emory University School of Medicine in 1986.

It is unlikely that Dr. Claude Hemphill III ever wore the old black Stetson, but it became a beloved symbol to him of the legacy left to him from his ancestor, Dr. Thomas Newton Berry. The younger doctor wrote about the old hat, and told about how it reminded him of his grandfather's service and compassion as a country doctor in Union County following the turn of the twentieth century. The essay by Hemphill won second place in the Emory University School of Medicine's 1990 Class. A copy came into my hands, and I began some avid research to seek to find out more about this doctor of the mountains and how he inspired a grandson to follow in his footsteps in medical studies and practice.

Who was Dr. Berry, and what was his life like as a country doctor?

Thomas Newton Berry (01/31/1870 - 12/11/1927) was the oldest of six children born to John Johnson Berry (1846- 10/12/1921) and Caroline Swim (Swaim, Swain) Berry (1848- 03/08/1923). This family lived in the Shady Grove section of Union County. Thomas Newton's father, John Johnson, was a son of early Union County settlers Elias Berry (1812-1885) and Sarah Johnson Berry (1814-1901). Thomas Newton's mother, Caroline, was a daughter of Enoch and Cynthia Griffis Swim (Swaim, Swain).

Besides Thomas Newton, their firstborn, John Johnson and Caroline Swain Berry had five other children: William Jefferson Berry who married Ila Jane Frady; Martha Lee Berry who married Festus Nelson; James Franklin Berry who married Nora Rich; Mary J. Berry who married Herschell Fields; and Sarah Alice Berry who married Sherman Brown.

Thomas Newton Berry may have been named for relatives, so far as this writer knows. But his father may also have read about the famed English archaeologist, Thomas Newton (1816-1864), who played an important part in discovering one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the mausoleum of Halicarnassus. At any rate, Thomas Newton Berry early-on demonstrated an alert mind and a love for knowledge, much like the English scientist for whom he could have been named.

Thomas Newton Berry married Ora L. Reece, a granddaughter of Solomon Rich, Sr. by his daughter, Elizabeth Rich Reece (her husband's name currently unresearched).

To Thomas Newton and Ora were born five children: Bessie W. Berry (1894) who married Carl Rector; Fernando A. (called "Ferd", 1890) who married Myrtle Coker; Eula M. (1900) who married a McCall; Stella (1907) who married Claude Hemphill; and Christina (1904-1905).

Thomas Newton Berry enrolled in the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons (this later grew into Emory University School of Medicine). He graduated in 1902. He returned to Blairsville to set up his general practice in medicine and served citizens from 1902 through 1927 when he contracted a form of cancer and could no longer continue his practice.

Dr. Berry looked smart in his black Stetson hat, his trademark, to distinguish him from other citizens who wore maybe coonskin caps or "rusher" (straw) hats. Dr. Berry rode astride a stately jet-black horse throughout the mountains to visit his patients. He was there for delivery of babies at $10 per birth. He treated all manner of disease, farm accidents, diphtheria, other contagious diseases, pneumonia. If the farmers had no money to pay the doctor, they would give him corn and grain to feed his horse, live chickens to bear back to Mrs. Ora, potatoes, apples, chestnuts in lieu of money. If they had none of these with which to pay, their bill was conveniently forgotten.

In 1917 when the plague of influenza was rampant, he made house calls with his medical bag, saddle bag and pockets full of medicines he had secured from a pharmacy in Atlanta. Even his most valiant efforts in combating the spread of the disease saw many people, young and old alike, succumb to the disease.

Not only did he make house calls, but patients came from outlying communities to see the doctor in his office in town. Oftentimes, Dr. Berry and his kindly wife, Ora, would give the patient a bed and board for the night at no extra charge, where they could more fully nurse them back to health.

Dr. Thomas Newton Berry died December 11, 1927 and was buried in the New Blairsville Cemetery. His beloved wife, Ora Reece Berry, died four months later on April 16, 1928. The Berry legacy is rich in good deeds and rich memories

Stella Berry Hemphill told her grandson, Claude Hemphill III, in 1986 when she gave him his grandfather's hat (according to the prize-winning essay): " I hope you appreciate it (the hat) and keep it in a special place."

Young Dr. Hemphill wrote of this legacy, and his own "calling"—like that of his grandfather to be a doctor—"I hope (as I start my medical education) to be able to use technological and scientific understanding to improve the treatment of many medical problems. I hope that I can make contributions in research, both basic science and clinical. Yet, I feel that all these things must be tempered with honesty and compassion in the treatment of patients. My great grandfather's hat doesn't fit too well now. As I go along, I plan to break it in and hope it will fit a little better as each year goes by."

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published August 28, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.