Thursday, May 29, 2008

John Butt Sr. and his family

Last week's column introduced John Butt, Jr., who, according to the 1834 census (initial tally for the new Union County) was the first of the Butt settlers here. He and his first wife, Sarah Gordon Butt, were the only two in their household when William Gilliland, census taker, completed the survey (March 24, 1834). John Butt, Jr. and Sarah's first child Thomas was born April 13, 1834, and was that close to being included in the 1834 census.

By 1840, two more Butt families had joined John, Jr. and Sarah Butt to take up residence in Union County. One family was that of John, Jr.'s brother, Alfred Butt, who married Caroline Boyd on October 10, 1839 in Union County, with the Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr. performing the ceremony. Elisha Hedden was Alfred's brother-in-law, having married John, Jr. and Alfred's sister, Juanita Caroline Butt (1821-1896) on July 19, 1838. The second Butt family listed in the 1840 census was that of John Butt, Sr. and his wife, Sarah Rider Butt. It will be the Senior John Butt family that we will trace in this column.

John Butt II (later designated Sr.) was born in Pendleton District, SC in 1780 to John Butt I. All of these John Butt names can be confusing, indeed. The family researcher needs to look at birth dates, and designations to keep them straight.

John Butt, Sr. (remember his son, John, first Butt to settle in Union, was designated Jr.) and his wife and children had first moved from the Pendleton District of South Carolina to Habersham County. It was during the "Gold Rush" days along Duke's Creek in what later became White County. John Butt II (or Sr.) staked a claim and began searching for gold. This writer has no record of whether he struck it rich with gold mining, but his acquisition of land seems to indicate that his findings were not minor. Sometime before 1840, John Butt, Sr. and his wife and children still at home moved across the mountain from Duke's Creek to a section of Choestoe near where Booger Hollow Road is now located, on the Virge Waldroop place. He farmed there, and later moved northward as gold was found in the Coosa Mines. On the Butt homeplace on the Nottely River, an old mindshaft was later found near the graves of John, Sr. and Sarah Butt, an indication that he had set up a mine on his farm there.

John Butt, Sr. and Sarah Rider Butt were parents of eleven children, five sons and four daughters. They are listed here, not in order of birth; if known, their spouses are listed:

(1) John Butt, Jr. (12/06/1806-01/23/1884) married Sarah Gordon and Rebecca Fleming. (See last week's column for his life story and names of his fourteen children.)
(2) Jacob Butt (1808) married Ruth Collins (1820), a daughter of Thompson and Celia Self Collins. They had a farm in the Butternut Creek section of Union County and reared a family of eight children.
(3) Matilda Butt was born about 1811 and married a Lyons.
(4) Alfred Butt, born in 1813 in Pendleton District, SC, married Caroline Boyd in Union County Oct. 10, 1839 and settled along Butternut Creek to farm.
(5) Elizabeth Butt married John Fain. They lived awhile in Union County then moved to Cherokee County, NC.
(6) James Allen Butt was killed in the Seminole War and buried in Tallahassee, Florida.
(7) Judah Butt (daughter) married Elisha Carroll.
(8) Sarah Butt (b. 1816) married Jacob Loudermilk.
(9) Juanita Caroline Butt (09-21-1821 - 01/21/1896) married the Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr. on July 19, 1938. They had eleven children and lived in Union and Towns counties. He was a noted early Baptist preacher in the mountain region.
(10) Susannah Butt married a Black; and then George Gaddis (on 10/07/1834).
(11) William G. Butt was born in Habersham County in 1823. He married Sarah Adaline England in Union County on 01/08/1845.
John Butt established the Polk post office in the Choestoe District on February 20, 1844. We can believe the oversight of the post office was given to John Butt II (or Sr.) rather than John Butt, Jr. because of its location in the Choestoe Militia District. He kept the appointment until November 5, 1845, when Francis (Frank) Collins (son of Thompson and Celia Self Collins) became postmaster. John Butt (Sr.) again assumed the postmaster's job at Polk on September 13, 1847, and kept it until Joseph England succeeded him September 25, 1851, when the name of the post office was changed from Polk to Choestoe.

Several of the Butt families, including John Butt, Sr. were slave owners. In the 1840 census, John Butt, Sr. had two slaves; his son, Alfred, had one slave; and his son John Butt, Jr. had four slaves. By 1850, John Butt, Sr. had passed away, but his widow, Sarah Butt, owned five slaves, Alfred owned 2, and John Butt, Jr. owned eight slaves.

It has been recorded that upon his death, John Butt, Sr. owned over 2,000 acres of land which was passed on to his children.

The Butt Family Cemetery has two graves with headstones so weathered that inscriptions are now illegible. The late Union County historian, Edward S. Mauney, recorded the inscriptions for posterity before their information faded:

Sarah Butt - 1784 - April 29, 1855
John Butt, Sr. - 1780 - May 16, 1843
This cemetery may be visited by driving west from the old courthouse on the square in Blairsville on Highway 76 for one mile. Turn left (south) onto an access road and travel one-fourth mile to the old Butt Homeplace nestled along the Nottely River. On the old homeplace site you may also be able to see remains of an old mine shaft where John Butt, Sr. and his sons once mined for gold in Union County.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 29, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Butt families – early settlers in Union

Union County was two years old when the first county-wide census was ordered in 1834. A good pastime for those interested in first families and historical research of family names is to study the first census of an area and see who the early settlers were.

William B. Gilliland was the first census taker. He registered the population in 1834 as 903. John Butt, Jr. and his wife were the only Butts registered in that census.

By 1840, the second Union County census, John Butt, Jr. and his wife were still in the county. Their household had grown to two males under 5 years of age, one male 5 to 10 years of age, John Butt, Jr., himself, between the ages of 30-40, 1 female under five, and his wife, between 20 and 30. John Butt, Jr. was the census taker. The population in 1840 numbered 3, 152 for Union County. The county was geographically large at that time, and still within its boundaries were portions of land that would be designated to Fannin County in 1854 and to Towns County in 1856.

Two other Butt families were in Union County by 1840. John Butt, Sr, whose age was between 50 and 60, a male between 15 and 20, a male between 30 and 40, Mrs. Butt, between 50 and 60, and one female between 20 and 30. This family was the parents of John Butt, Jr. and his brothers and sister still at home in 1840. The other Butt family was that of Alfred, between the ages of 20 and 30, and his wife, between the ages of 15 and 20. We find from other sources that Alfred was also a son of John Butt, Sr.

First, a word about the Butt surname. Some researchers have traced the first Butt settlers in America to Dutch origin, with the name spelled Butz. However, in a reliable source entitled Names through the Ages (NY: Berkeley, 1999), the name is seen as English, derived from Butler, meaning "keeper of the bottles." In time, the final syllable, er, was dropped and another t added, making it Butt; then, in more recent years, probably going back to the Dutch sound of Butz, the surname has a common spelling of Butts.

Since John Butt, Jr. and his wife were the first Butt family to settle in Union County, this column will seek to trace their family history. It is interesting to note that he owned four slaves in 1840, and by 1850 he owned 8 slaves. Since farming was his main occupation, these assisted him on the farm, and they helped Mrs. Butt with caring for the children and doing housework.

John Butt, Jr. was born in South Carolina December 6, 1806. His parents were John Butt, Sr. (1780-1843) and Sarah Rider Butt (1784-1855).

John Butt, Jr. was married twice. His first wife was Sarah Gordon Butt (April 17, 1816- February 13, 1864). John, Jr. and Sarah Gordon Butt had twelve children:

(1) Thomas J. Butt (April 13, 1834-March 6, 1895) married Ella McCraney. He was active in establishing early schools in Union County. Their son, Virge, became a medical doctor in North Carolina.
(2) William Butt (1836-?). He evidently left Union County, for he was not in the 1870 census.
(3) Clarissa (Feb. 17, 1838-June 17, 1906) married John England. They had five children: Gus, Lush, Dollie, Alice and Sally.
(4) James Allen Butt, Sr. (April 6, 1840-Dec. 10, 1905) married Carrie Goodrum Bagwell. James, Sr. fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War and was wounded twice, first in Virginia and then in the Battle of Atlanta. Their children were James Allen, Jr., Ed, Lelah, Nina and Fleeta.
(5) John Butt, Jr. and Sarah's fifth child, born in 1842, was John Gordon Butt (his middle name was his mother Sarah's maiden name). He married Sallie Weaver. They evidently left the county; their children are not traced.
(6) Eugene W. Butt (May 1, 1844-Feb. 12, 1921) married on February 12, 1872 to a lady listed in the Union marriage records as F. G. Reid. She died in childbirth with their first child, a daughter. Eugene took care of the child by making her a bed he could swing onto his plow as he tended his crops. His second marriage was to a Miss Erwin. They had four children, Cora, Garnett, Jewell and Grovie. Eugene Butt was once termed the wealthiest man in Union County due to his large land holdings. He reportedly gave each of his children $10,000 upon their leaving home.
(7) Georgia Ann Butt (1846) married Edwin W. Watkins on Jan. 25, 1866. They evidently moved from Union County.
(8) Andrew J. Butt (1848) married Matilda C. Gaddis on Sept. 29, 1872, with the Rev. Alfred Corn performing the ceremony. This couple moved to Colorado.
(9) Sarah E. Butt (called "Sallie, 1851-June 23, 1875) married John L. Logan on Aug. 6, 1868. By 1870, they had one child, a girl named Sallie. Sarah died at age 24 and was buried in the new Blairsville Cemetery.
(10) Samuel F. Butt (b. 1853) married Rosa Pless on Jan. 2, 1879. Their children were Forrest, John, Arnold, Alice and Bertha.
(11) Virgil R. Butt (b. 1855) was at home with his parents in the 1870 census. No further information is available about him.
(12) Alice E. Butt (b. about 1857, according to census age) evidently did not marry. A grave in the new Blairsville Cemetery lists Alice as born in 1853 and died in 1886. She is possibly the Alice whose parents were John, Jr. and Sarah Gordon Butt.
Sarah Butt died February 13, 1864, during the Civil War. She was buried in the new Blairsville Cemetery. John Butt, Jr. married the second time to Rebecca Fleming on Nov. 30, 1869. John and Rebecca had two children, Paul and Orrin, bringing the number of children of John Butt, Jr. to fourteen.

John Butt, Jr. made a living for his large family by farming bottom lands along the Nottley River. He was one of the first representatives to the Georgia Legislature from the new county, along with John Thomas. The naming of the county Union, "because there are none but Union men there" was attributed to John Thomas. But both John Butt, Jr. and John Thomas agreed to this name.

Many descendants of John Butt, Jr. have contributed to growth and development of Union County and have gone to other places to make their mark there.

(Resources: Early census records of Union County: 1834, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870. Marriage Records of Union County, 1833-1897, compiled by Viola H. Jones, 1992. Cemetery Records of Union County, GA, Union County Historical Society, 1990.

The Heritage of Union County, GA, 1832-1994, UCHS, 1994.)

c2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 22, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, May 15, 2008

From the mules and wagon to the Space Shuttle

The title of Charles H. Souther's brand new book, hot off the press, is From the Mules and Wagon to the Space Shuttle. This Union County native has been working on this book diligently and now the book is available for the general public to see almost eight decades of life unfold in his delightfully told narrative.

He progresses from his life growing up on a mountain farm in the Gum Log section of Union County during the Great Depression to his work on the Solid Rocket Booster and other systems for America's Space Program. To read of the progress of one country lad, Charles Souther, through the various stages of his life to engineering and technical feats for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama is like seeing the unbelievable unfold. But he was there, accepting the challenges along each step of his life of service and achievement.

In talking to Charles Souther on May 12 when I received my autographed copy of his book in the mail, I congratulated him for the achievement of putting his memoirs into print. I anticipate that it will be read with pleasure by many of his contemporaries. He said, in our conversation, that at nearly age 80, he hoped, like Moses, to take up a new career. And that I think he has done as a first-time author. His writing is clear and concise. At the same time he reveals the behind-the- scenes work necessary to accomplishing the space mission.

"Although his work helped him to rub shoulders with some of the great names in space age science, he gives credit to his humble beginnings, his parents, extended family, teachers and associates who taught him a solid work ethic and dogged determination to get the job done. This book is about how he lived, worked, and accepted responsibility." (from the blurb, back cover of his book.)

Charles H. Souther author of
From the Mules and Wagon to the Space Shuttle

The first part of the book is about his growing-up years in Union County, Georgia. He was the first-born son of Paul W. Souther and Mabel Mauney Souther of Gum Log. Born February 12, 1929, he was reared during the worst part of the Great Depression years. His twin brothers, Suell and Buell, were born six years after him. His memories of growing up on the farm and how the family "made do" comprise a good account of the 1930s and 1940s. His father had many tales to tell his boys about his own years in the West when his parents went to Colorado between the years of 1912-1918 from their farm in Choestoe to try to make a better living. Some of these stories are included in the narrative, with the author's comment, "I grew up on tales from the west."

Charles Souther's education in Union County consisted of being taught by his mother, a country school teacher, and other teachers, mainly at Ebenezer Elementary School. He graduated from Union County High School with the class of 1947. Following high school came his stint in the US Army from September, 1948 through September, 1951. He recounts experiences in Ranger Creek Camp at Mt. Rainier, Washington and in Alaska, with temperatures at times unbelievably cold.

After his discharge from the Army Rangers, he remained at home in Gum Log for a short period and then sought employment at the Navy Yard in South Carolina. It was there he began studies in the Electronics Apprentice School at the Charleston Naval Shipyard from 1952-1956. He met Mary Christina Hill of Berkeley County, SC, and they were married September 7, 1952. To this union were born two daughters, Nancy Gail and Shirley Jane.

Mr. Souther tells how he read an article written by the noted German scientist Werhner von Braun in which he proposed the development of a space station that would orbit the earth and of sending men to the moon. "The von Braun article along with other meager information I had on space travel at the time captured my imagination." (p. 121)

Souther made application for a job at the Redstone Arsenal at Huntsville, Alabama in 1956. He was hired in the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in late 1956 where General John B. Medaris was Commander and Wernher von Braun was Director of Technical Operations. In the Electrical Equipment Section of the Guidance and Control Laboratory this "mountain lad" began his space age career. And as the saying goes, "The rest is history…"

Souther tells his story with humility and sometimes with awe. To have been a part of the engineering crew that designed and implemented cable design networks for the Saturn Rockets, the Lunar Modules, Apollo, Skylab and other space projects was a dream come true. In 1965 he was transferred to the Logistics and Support Section, Electrical Division. There his responsibilities included design and testing of even more complicated subsystems. This section of his book, and his part in implementing these systems, is a very important account of space history and accomplishment. He received numerous awards in recognition of his service.

I was honored that author Charles H. Souther entrusted me with the responsibility of reading his manuscript, making suggestions, assisting with format and writing the introduction for his book published by Morris Publishing Company, Kearney, Nebraska in 2008. Watch for book signings as soon as these can be arranged. Charles is also open for talking to civic and other groups about his work in the space program.

The book sells for $17.50, with $3.50 shipping and handling. and may be procured at Souther Book Order, 194 Travis Road, NW, Huntsville, AL 35806-1562. Phone 256-830- 2654.

I end my introduction to his book with these words: "Charles H. Souther has written a book that in places is hilarious, but mostly it is serious, a time of one man's life and contributions to our great American dream. From a dirt farm to the laboratories of rocket boosters and space shuttle construction, with significant encounters in between, the author was there, observing, working, thinking, revising, reworking. This book is a true account of a person who, despite humble beginnings, set goals and worked to achieve them. In America, this is every person's privilege and prerogative."

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 15, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Rev. George Erwin, Missionary to Russia

The Rev. George Erwin was a brother to Dr. Frank Erwin, subject of last week’s article. How Rev. George Erwin came to serve with distinction as a Methodist Minister and a missionary to Russia in the early part of the twentieth century is a story that needs to be told.

Following is “A Letter from the Most Distant Methodist Church,” written by the Rev. George Erwin, and published in “The Missionary Voice” of the Methodist Church in the January issue, 1930. Rev. Erwin wrote: “In Manchuli City, Manchuria, a town on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, is the most distant congregation of our church. It was my privilege to conduct the first revival meeting there in February, 1927. The temperature was about forty below zero, but in spite of the extreme cold, the people would gather in front of our chapel thirty minutes before the doors were opened to be sure to get into the service. I have never preached to people who were so anxious to hear the Gospel as were these Russians.”

First appointed as a missionaries to Russia in the late 19-teens, Frank and his wife, Vada, were assigned to Vladivostock, Russia in Siberia by the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Adjustment to the climate, much different from Union County where he was born, and South Georgia where he had worked as a minister in the South Georgia Conference, the young couple had an upsetting experience about six months into their work in Russia.

The Bolshevik Revolution occurred, and the town where they lived and worked was taken over by Bolshevik rulers. However, the new government did not prevent work by the missionaries. They were able to continue with their evangelical work and church starting until in the early 1920s.

Then the Mission Board of the Methodist Church gave them a new assignment to go to Manchuria, China to work among the Russian refugees who had settled there to get away from the political upheaval in Russia. It was from there he wrote the letter quoted above about the Manchurian Russians being so eager to attend church and to listen to the gospel. They remained in Manchuria until the late 1920s when they had to be recalled by the Conference because there was not enough money available (due to the Great Depression) to keep the Erwins on the mission field. By that time, they had been able to establish some churches and chapels, and the work proceeded, even though the missionaries could not stay.

He returned to the South Georgia Conference where he continued to pastor charges, and, after asking for a transfer to the North Georgia Conference, was assigned to churches nearer to his beloved mountains.

Let’s trace the life of this outstanding Union Countian that led him to be a missionary in a most difficult area of the world.

He was born in a cabin facing Brasstown Bald Mountain in Union County. He attended the Zion Elementary School. He was a nephew of the Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes, a stalwart and noted Union County Methodist Minister. The boy was dedicated to the Lord by his parents with his uncle officiating when he was a baby, and at age twelve he was confirmed in the faith and baptized by Rev. Hughes.

His father bought a farm on the Notla River and moved his family from the log cabin into a more adequate farmhouse. George Erwin helped with the farm work and attended school at Blairsville until he was eighteen.

At sixteen, he began to feel the call to the gospel ministry. He surrendered in the field as he hoed in his father’s corn. Again, his uncle, the Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes, wielded a great influence on the young lad’s study of the scriptures and his determination to gain an education.

He enrolled in Young Harris College with only $1.85 to help him pay his tuition and board. He washed dishes, waited tables, did laundry, and sold books to pay the $150 he owed the college when he graduated in 1914 with an overall average of 93. It was at Young Harris that he met the love of his life, Vada Kenyon of Weston, Georgia. They were married and he continued his theological studies at Vanderbilt University and Emory University. He was assigned to the South Georgia Conference in 1916, and given the oversight to minister to six churches. From this position, he was appointed as a missionary to Russia (and later China), spending over a decade working in a difficult area of the world. He does not tell how they learned the difficult language so that they could communicate with the people or how they adjusted to the cold climate and the strange culture. But these aspects of mission work are somehow handled with determination. They were beloved by the people to whom they ministered.

In retirement, he and his wife Vada moved to Towns County, Georgia. In reflecting over his life as a minister and missionary, he recalled that he had received over 3,000 into membership, had helped to mentor 25 young men who became pastors from his churches, and aided over 150 young people to attend college. He and Vada had three children who he termed “capable and wonderful…a joy to me!”

From a log cabin in the shadow of Bald Mountain to “the most distant congregation of the United Methodist Church” is a long stretch—both in miles and culture. But Rev. George Erwin and his beloved wife Vada met the challenge.

[References for the above article: New World Outlook: “The Missionary Voice”, Missions Magazine of the United Methodist Church.

Taylor, Jerry A., “Rev. George and Vada Erwin,” in Hearthstones of Home, Foundations of Towns County, Georgia, Volume I (1983), Pp. 90-91.]

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 8, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dr. Frank J. Erwin, country doctor and entrepreneur

Dr. Frank J. Erwin was a country doctor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in Union County, Georgia.

It has been somewhat difficult to trace his history, but several facts are known about him and the contributions he made to Union County as a doctor, homeowner, solid citizen and entrepreneur.

The 1880 census of Union County shows Frank Erwin in the family of Calvin and Rosetta (Hughes) Erwin on their farm in Arkaquah District. Frank was the oldest of nine children: Frank, Laura, George, Henry, Lena, Nancy, John, Robert and Emma. The children ranged in age in that census from Frank, 22, down to little Emma who was 2.

Dr. J. M. Nicholson, writing of Dr. Erwin in his column "Yesterday and Today," which was published in the 1960's, states that Dr. Erwin had "several brothers and sisters, or perhaps half-brothers and sisters." Noting the date of marriage of James C. (Calvin) Erwin to Rosetta Hughes, recorded in Union County Marriages as occurring August 19, 1861, we can surmise that Frank J. Erwin, born September 15, 1857, was a child by James Calvin Erwin's first marriage. He would then have been reared by his father and step-mother, Rosetta Hughes Erwin.

The Erwin family evidently wanted the best for their children, as was typical of concerned parents. The eldest, Frank, made a doctor, and two of the sons made ministers.

Rosetta Hughes Erwin was a sister of the Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes. This stalwart Methodist minister had a strong influence on Rosetta and James Calvin Erwin's children.

Two of their sons, George and John, became Methodist Ministers with significant charges in the North Georgia Conference.

Frank Erwin married Alice England on October 16, 1884, with the Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes, Rosetta's brother, officiating. It seems that later, after his marriage to Alice, Frank Erwin decided to become a doctor. He entered the Atlanta Medical College in the late 1880's or early 1890's. This college was a precursor to the present Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. Frank Erwin came back to Union County to practice medicine, and was known throughout the county as an astute and caring doctor.

As an entrepreneur, he established a drug store in Blairsville. He hired his sister-in-law, Bonnie England Jones, to manage the store. His doctor's office was in the rear of the store, and there, around the pot-bellied stove that gave heat in the cold winter months, he saw patients. We are told that it was also a favorite gathering place for men of the town who often just dropped in to have a chat with the friendly doctor and talk about the state of affairs in the county, state, nation and world. Parts of their discussions, no doubt, were on the gathering war clouds that preceded World War I.

He was a "house call" doctor and rode his buggy or faithful horse into the country to see patients. His means of diagnosis was listening carefully to symptoms his patients told him. No x-rays or scans pinpointed problems in his days of doctoring. If records were available of babies born while he was the attending physician, we might be surprised at the number.

It is said that through prudent management, Dr. Erwin acquired much property in Union County. He built a lovely house in Blairsville for his family which was later bought by Pharmacist Hubert Butt and Mrs. Louise Butt, noted teacher.

The graves of Dr. Frank J. Erwin and his wife, Alice M. England Erwin, may be seen in the new Blairsville cemetery. Birth and death dates for him read September 15, 1857 - March 13, 1924, and for her, November 14, 1865 - November 27, 1920. The Erwins had two daughters and one son. Bessie Erwin (1893- 1955) married C. W. Beacham. They lived in Blairsville and each is buried in the new Blairsville Cemetery.

The other daughter married Sidney Chandler and they lived in Athens, GA. and also in a lovely house they built on their farm along the Nottely River going west toward Blue Ridge. The son, Frank, Jr., moved to California where he was a businessman.

The last name Erwin is spelled in various ways: Erwin, as most Union County Erwins spell it; Ervin, and Irvin or Irving. It is Scottish or English in origin, and means "sea friend," one who lived near the sea, or "green river," from Irvine, the name of the "green river" in England.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 1, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.