Thursday, June 26, 2008

Della L. Vandiver Zieske's long life

Della Vandiver was born in Choestoe, Union County, on February 1, 1886. Her parents were John Floyd Edward Vandiver (1849-1923) and Rhoda Lucinda Souther Vandiver (1853-1947).
The span of Della's years was 102. She put a lot of living into the century and more of her life.

When Della Vandiver was a young girl of nine, in 1895, her parents decided to "go west." This call of western land opportunities was strong in that era, and John Floyd Edward Vandiver, grandson of the famed Adam Poole Vandiver (1787-1876) and son of George Vandiver (1812-?) and Frankie Wheeler Vandiver (1816-?), took the challenge to move westward. As review, you may access my accounts about this family's move westward in previous articles now in The Sentinel Archives online. See, in particular these articles: "From the Memoirs of John Joseph Vandiver” (May 3, 2007); "Continuing the Saga of Vandiver's Life in the West" (May 10, 2007); and "John Joseph Vandiver Settles Down in Washington State" (May 17, 2007).

But this is the fascinating story of John Joseph Vandiver's younger sister, eight years his junior. She was nine years old when her parents loaded the children who were going west with them (two of their children were already married in 1895) into their covered wagon and left the home of John Souther and Mary "Polly" Combs Souther on Choestoe, where Della was born that cold February 1, 1886. In fact, all their married life until this point when they decided to "go west," Rhoda Lucinda and her husband had lived with her parents near New Liberty Baptist Church, Choestoe, Union County. The farm, though containing several acres along Town Creek, was still not large enough to support John Joseph and Rhoda Lucinda Vandiver's growing family.
But this is Della L. Vandiver’s story…and I will move on to highlights in her long life.

Imagine the excitement of a nine year old girl leaving the only home she had known in the shadow of Bald Mountain in Choestoe to set out to unknown places with her parents and siblings. She was sad to leave her friends and relatives, and especially her cousins about her own age with whom she liked to play when they visited at her grandparents' house. But Della had deep anticipation for what she would find as their exciting adventure unfolded.

The family went to Gainesville, Georgia in 1895 where they took a passenger train westward. "Our first major stop was in Asher, Arkansas," Della Vandiver wrote. There her father got work and Della's brother, Jesse Edward Vandiver, was born there on March 17, 1897. This sibling was thirteenth and last of the children born to Della's parents. The Vandiver family remained in Arkansas until 1900. Again the urge to move farther west propelled John Floyd Edward Vandiver to move his family on to Back Creek, Wyoming.

A sad day came for Della and her family on June 17, 1900 when her brother, Thomas Marion Vandiver, died at Back Creek. He had been born, as had Della, in Choestoe, Union County, on March 30, 1884. He died at age 16 on June 17, 1900.

Della L. Vandiver Zieske poses at age 100 showing the large fish
she caught at Port Townsend, Washington.

Della Vandiver celebrated her sixteenth birthday on February 1, 1902 in Wyoming. She and her brother John Joseph, to whom she was especially close, decided they would go to Medicine Bow, Wyoming. They got the family buckboard and the horses and started out early on that cold February morning. They had only traveled 15 miles when one of the sudden snowstorms of that part of the west began. The temperature suddenly dropped to about 15 degrees above zero. (How did they measure temperature in 1902?). The snow was blinding them, and the horses could not travel. Besides, Della and John Joseph were freezing in the buckboard, even wrapped up as they were in woolen blankets. Finally, they found a house along the way and the kindly people took the Vandiver siblings in. When the storm abated, not to be outdone by the weather, Della and John Joseph went on to Medicine Bow and celebrated Della's birthday late. She remembered into her old age that her sixteenth birthday was one of the best.

A few years after Della's birthday celebration, she was able to pursue education for the career she had dreamed about. Her beloved brother was living in Washington State at the time. He invited Della to come and begin her nurse's training. She became a student nurse at Seattle's Wayside Emergency Hospital. It was then located aboard a hospital ship docked in the harbor. She enjoyed her training and graduated in the class of 1908 with her nurse's certification. For the next fifty years of her life, she was a caring and hardworking nurse.

Her nursing career was not confined to Washington state. She was called to assist in Treadwell, Alaska when a gold mine there collapsed, leaving several miners dead and many severely injured. She went there as a nurse relief worker and sought to minister to the men whose lives hung in the balance.

During the Great War, or World War I, Della served as a military nurse. She didn't like to talk about this period of her life. Perhaps what she experienced was too traumatic to tell in accounts of her -nursing career. Mainly, she worked in hospitals and as a private nurse in the Seattle area.

Della Vandiver was married five times. Her first three husbands died, leaving her thrice a widow. Her last two marriages, unfortunately, ended in divorce. Her first marriage was January 1, 1913 to Joseph McDonald. After his death, she married Chaney Canning. After his death, she married a Carl Zieske. Unknown to this writer are the names of her last two husbands, unions that led to divorce. When Della Vandiver visited Union County, GA in April, 1986 to see one more time the place where she was born, she was going by the name of Della Vandiver Zieske. Della had no children of her own, but her nieces and nephews loved her, her stories, her zest for life.

She enjoyed fishing and reading. At age 100 she went out in her aluminum boat to her "bigger" fishing boat in Port Townsend Harbor, Washington. Boarding the larger boat, she steered it to the "saltchuck" where the big salmon ran. One of the largest she caught there was a 28-pound salmon. One weighed in at 17 pounds; still another at 11 pounds, and one was a 35-pound lincod that had an 8-pound silver she had hooked, it had gotten back into the water, the lincod swallowed it, and Della hooked the big fellow with the silver fish in its mouth. And these are no "fish tales." They're true experiences of a seasoned seawoman who plied the waters of Straight Juan de Fuca to find and hook the big fish.

Della Vandiver Zieske's 100th birthday cake had this inscription: "Della - 100 Extraordinary Years." She died in Seattle, Washington at age 102.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 26, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mayme Collins Aydelotte, educator and genealogist

Sisters Goldie and Mayme Collins always seemed to have their names linked together when any news of them came back to Choestoe. They had both gone out from Union County in their adult years and both were noted teachers in their own right in the Atlanta vicinity.

Their parents were Ulysses Thompson Collins (07/16/1879 - 03/15/1964) and Nora Della Jackson Collins (09/15/1883 - 07/17/1911). Both Goldie and Mayme were interested in their ancestral roots which they could trace back to early settlers Thompson and Celia Self Collins on their paternal side and to William Marion Jackson and Rebecca Goforth Jackson on their maternal side. Thanks to Mayme, who became an avid genealogist and compiled and published the family history book entitled Descendants of Thompson and Celia Self Collins (1971), we have much information about our common roots.

Mayme's parents, Ulysses Thompson Collins and Nora Della Jackson were married in Union County, Georgia on January 2, 1903. Uley, as he was known, and Della had three children: Goldie Ada was born July 1, 1904. She never married and became an educator. Mayme Arma was born June 23, 1905 in Colorado where her parents had migrated. The third child, a son, Theodore Ralph, was born July 5, 1907 in Colorado.

The family decided to return to Choestoe and were on the journey back when Nora Della Jackson Collins got sick. She died on July 17, 1911 and was buried in Verden, Oklahoma. It was a sad Uley Collins who came back to his father's house in Choestoe. There under the loving care of his parents, William Dallas Collins (1846-1938) and Sarah Rosannah Souther Collins (1846-1929), the three small motherless children were nurtured and educated in the country schools of Choestoe before going to Young Harris and other colleges.

Mayme and Goldie’s father, Ulysses Thompson, married, second, to Pearl Townsend in 1939. To this union were born three sons, Archie Benjamin Collins (1940), Garnet Eugene Collins (1942) and James Elias Collins (1945). Pearl Townsend was younger than her husband Uly by 22 years. His older daughters, Goldie and Mayme, were already away from home when he married Pearl.

Great sadness entered the Collins family when Theodore Ralph Collins was struck by a hit-and-run driver on a Ponce de Leon Avenue near Georgia School of Technology while he was a junior at that college. He died immediately from severe injuries November 8, 1930. C. Roscoe Collins, a cousin of the young Ralph, wrote in an eulogy to the young electrical engineering student: "I have seen him tried in almost any kind of circumstances. He never failed. He was a staunch bulwark for better manhood. Strong in his efforts to raise the standard of his community and rapidly gaining the goal he had set to reach." At age twenty-three, full of potential and zest for life, the young man was laid to rest in the New Liberty Church Cemetery in sight of his Grandpa Dallas Collins's house.

Mayme Collins Aydelotte (1905-2000)

Mayme tells a delightful story about a time in Colorado when she and her older sister, Goldie, were assigned the task to look after their baby brother Ralph when the family still lived in Colordo. Their mother Della left them in charge of the baby for only a short period while she took water to Uley Thompson and others working on an irrigation ditch in the fields. Baby Ralph went to sleep, and Goldie and Mayme decided they could go exploring to find some flowers in the field. They kept going on, finding more and more flowers to pick. They lost their way.

In the meantime, their mother returned from her errand of mercy of taking fresh drinking water to the fields. She was very surprised that the girls had left the baby. They were nowhere to be found. She returned to the field, this time with Ralph in her arms, to tell Uley that his daughters were missing. Not finding them easily, he engaged the help of field workers and neighbors to help search for the little girls, who were about four and five at the time. At 2:00 a. m. the searchers found the girls curled up together in the sagebrush, sound asleep. They were tired and scared from their flower hunting adventure, but were unharmed, either by animals or wandering people. That adventure taught Goldie and Mayme never to wander away from their home again.

Goldie and Mayme Collins were fortunate in their teaching careers in that their cousin, Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins, became state superintendent of schools. He had contact with systems all over the state and knew about openings for teachers. He was able to assist both sisters in getting good positions as classroom teachers. Mayme later became a principal for many years in Fairburn, Georgia where she and her husband, also an educator, lived until their deaths.

In 1939 she married William Henry Aydelotte who was born and reared in Delmar, Deleware, This couple did not have children, but they spent their lives teaching and encouraging students. In addition to being an educator, her husband also was a research scientist and a certified audiologist.

Mayme Arma Colllins Aydelote died December 30, 2000 in Fairburn, Georgia. Her body was returned to the New Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery, Union County, for burial amidst her forebears who had preceded her in death. We still miss dear Mayme at our large family reunion gatherings. She was the one who kept us straight on who was related to whom and the "cousins, once, twice, thrice (and the like) removed". We miss her wit, her humor, her knowledge of family, and her principled approach to life.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 19, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blairsville, Union’s county seat

In 1926, W. L. Benson, evidently hired by the state of Georgia to do surveys and reports on counties and county seat towns, reported on Blairsville and Union County in the "Combined Agricultural-Industrial Report.

In that report, Mr. Benson stated that Blairsville was named for "Franklin P. Blair who was an ardent supporter of Andrew Jackson."

Mr. Benson gave a wrong first name for the person for whom Blairsville, county seat of Union County, was named. His report should have noted that it was "Francis Preston Blair," namesake of the town of Blairsville, incorporated by an act of the Georgia Legislature on December 26, 1835. Mr. Benson was correct in stating that Mr. Blair was "an ardent supporter of Andrew Jackson," for that he was. Let us look briefly at what we know about this man for whom Blairsville was named.

President Jackson appointed Francis Preston Blair as first editor of The Washington Globe in 1830. The publication was definitely an administration journal, promoting the views and positions of Andrew Jackson, and of his successor as president, Martin Van Buren. When James K. Polk became president, Francis Preston Blair was forced out of his longtime editorship of The Globe, and went back to Kentucky to farm, to support the Free Soil party and to oppose slavery. He joined the Republican Party and went to the Chicago convention and supported the nomination of President Lincoln in 1860.

Francis Preston Blair (1791-1876), Blairsville's namesake

Looking for a representative and idealistic person for whom to name Union's county seat town in 1835, three years after the county was formed, the name of Francis Preston Blair, noted journalist and supporter of Jackson, was suggested and adopted. All that was needed was to add "ville" after his last name, and the town of Blairsville was born. The town's namesake died in 1876 after a long and involved political career.

And now to the court houses in Blairsville, the county seat town. Where the government met prior to the naming of the county seat town in 1835, is, to this writer's knowledge, unrecorded. Common sense imagines that it was in a store building or maybe even in one of the existing post offices near what became Blairsville.

Official pamphlet # 113 about Union County states that the public buildings were laid out in 1835 (not in 1832 when the county was formed). The first was a log courthouse. This served the county until a fire destroyed it in 1859.

The second courthouse was a two story structure, on the architectural style of the plain Federal made with hand-fashioned bricks fired in a kiln. This courthouse stood "on the square" in Blairsville and served the populace well until 1898. Mr. W. L. Benson fails to mention in his report of 1925 how the second courthouse met its end. Perhaps the brick structure burned, too, as had the first log courthouse.

In 1899 the third courthouse was erected. It was more elaborate and boasted a clock tower, as well as two sturdy stories and even attic areas with windows on the third story. This proud edifice was "saved" by the Union County Historical Society and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Its service as the Union County Historical Museum is re-telling the story of the past to interested visitors from far and wide whose genealogical roots rest in the hills and valleys of Union County.

Presently, Union County has a sole commissioner, Mr. Lamar Paris, who, himself, is interested in and works to preserve Union's rich history. But back in 1899 when the "courthouse on the square" was built, the county was governed by a Board of Commissioners and an Ordinary.

Jesse Washington Souther, County Board of Commissioners, 1899

The Board of County Commissioners in 1899 was composed of these elected leaders: Jesse Washington Souther, James A. Butt, Sr., W. W. Ervin, and Ordinary John T. Colwell. As we look at the restored courthouse on the square, it is hard for us in the twenty first century to imagine that the cost of building it in 1899 was $12,000.

With the willing work and cooperation of the Board of Commissioners, the task of building the courthouse in 1899 was not without its problems.

The commissioners agreed that the best way to finance the proposed courthouse was to have the county vote bonds. But when that proposal was brought before the people, it was defeated.

They also wanted to relocate the building slightly to the southwest and purchase a lot for which the owners were asking $800.00. But they could not get that measure passed.

A generous offer was made by a Mr. Stephen Major, citizen of the Fairview section of Union County in the Coosa District. He wanted to donate land for the courthouse and other public buildings and move the location of the county seat to Coosa.

Again, a petition circulated and a referendum was called. But the proposal was defeated because it did not get a 2/3 majority of the voters. (One wonders, if this had happened, would the county seat have been called Coosaville, or maybe just Fairview?)

With these hurdles over, the Commissioners buckled down and made a decision to increase taxes to pay for the new courthouse and to build it on the same site as the first and second edifices. Amazingly, within one year of increased taxes, the $12,000 cost was raised. But it was not an easy task. In 1899, farmers (the major occupation of the populace) did not have much money. When taxes came due, some of them had to sell the family milk cow to get enough money to pay their increased levy.

A young boy named Richard Miller (called "Dick") was an errand boy during the building of the courthouse. His work netted him thirty cents a day. Several of the men of the county gave free labor as carpenters and brick layer helpers.

Throughout its history, the old courthouse has been a favorite gathering place. At first, farmers brought their wares to trade or sell during spring and fall terms of court. And court was nearly always a drawing card for crowds who came to hear arguments about landlines and other disputes, thefts, and, to top the agenda, murders. When court was not in session, the courtroom became an auditorium for Sacred Harp singing conventions; Grand Ole Opry stars appearances and fiddling contests. Even weddings and family reunions have been conducted within the confines of the stately old courthouse.

Today, Union County has a spacious, fairly new, modern building in which to carry on county business, located just off APD Highway 515 on the west side of town. But most of us who grew up in Union still think of "the old courthouse on the square" when we hear a reference to the Union County Courthouse.

Edgar A. Guest wrote in one of his poems: "It takes a lot o' livin' in a house to make it home." We could paraphrase the poet's words and say "The old courthouse in Blairsville has seen a lot o' livin' in its 109- year history."

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 12, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Union County Butt(s) family legacy

The Butt family in Union County, descendants of John Butt, Sr. and his wife Sarah Rider Butt, have influenced many generations in Union County.

As we saw in the two previous columns on the Butt family, the first to arrive in Union County was John Butt, Jr. and his wife, Sarah Gordon Butt. Then came John, Jr.'s father, John Butt, Sr. and his wife, Sarah Rider Butt. From these two "first families" a number of descendants lived and worked in Union County or went out from Blairsville to make a difference in the world.

In researching the family, one can quickly see how many times the female name Sarah appears in descendants of these two first families. Each of the John Butts had a Sarah for a wife. The name Sarah was given to a female child in several of the succeeding generations. A common nickname for a girl named Sarah was "Sallie."

The column for May 22 listed the twelve children of John Butt, Jr. and his wife, Sarah Gordon Butt, and the two children of John Butt, Jr. by his second wife, Rebecca Fleming, bringing John, Jr.'s total number of children to fourteen. Tracing some of these children a bit further to subsequent generations reveals some of the legacy left by the Butt family.

Eugene W. Butt was the sixth child of John, Jr. and Sarah Gordon Butt. He had the reputation of being the wealthiest man in Union County and had extensive land holdings. The story is told that his children often played with gold coins to entertain themselves. His daughter, Cora, married Dr. Juan Wellborn, a well-known medical doctor who practiced from their home on the square in Blairsville. His son Jewel Butt was known for his witty sayings and quick answers to questions, a philosopher of sorts.

James Allen Butt, Sr., fourth son of John, Jr. and Sarah Butt, served in the Confederacy in Smith's Legion and then transferred to the 65th Georgia Calvary.

He received wounds in the war during the battle of Atlanta, and suffered consequences health-wise for the rest of his life. However, he was able to render public service as County Commissioner when the courthouse on the square was erected in 1899.

James Allen Butt, Jr. married Ellen Owenby. He became a merchant and had a popular general mercantile store on the square in Blairsville. This store building later became a drug store, operated by James A. Butt, Jr.'s son, Sylvan Butt, pharmacist. Perhaps many remember, as I, going to the drug store as children and having an ice cream which Dr. Butt kept on dry ice until better means of storing ice cream came with electrical freezers.

Other children of James A. and Ellen Owenby Butt became educators. Their son Hubert Butt was a teacher and administrator at Young Harris Academy. Their daughter, Grapelle Butt Mock was a teacher at Union County High School and at schools in East Tennessee. I was privileged to have Mrs. Mock as a high school teacher, and appreciate the good instruction and positive influence she had on my life. The Grapelle Butt Mock house is now an annex to the Union County Historical Museum (the old court house) and is serving a good purpose as an interpretation center for mountain ways and life of past years.

Mr. Ira Butt was the grandson of John Butt, Jr. His father was Thomas Butt. Ira Butt was the owner and editor of The North Georgia News for about seven decades from the early 1900's to the 1970's. His column "Did You Know?" was a popular feature, giving both historical and contemporary vignettes of happenings. During World War II, Editor Ira Butt was diligent in reporting on military men who had gone out from Union County to serve their country.

Other notable Butt descendants have been public servants. Archibald Blucher Butt, son of Jacob and Ruth Collins Butt, was a justice of the peace in Blairsville. His son, Claude Butt, was Union County Clerk of Court for over three decades. Dr. James A. Butts is a noted medical doctor in Gainesville. These three columns are but sketchy summaries of the contributions made to Union County and beyond by the descendants of John Butt, Sr. (1780-1843), farmer and miner.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 5, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.