Thursday, December 24, 2009

Home for Christmas

“Home is where the heart is,” we hear often, and especially at Christmastime. In mind if not in journeying we turn toward home, the place where we knew love, security and peace in our lives. Indeed, “all hearts go home at Christmas” if we were fortunate enough to experience a home of solidarity and nurturing.

This Christmas, may we each remember home, and some of the foundational attributes learned there that have made you and I who and what we are today.

I learned the important lesson of sharing with others at home at Christmastime. My early childhood was spent in the throes of the Great Depression. My farm family was hit by this 1930’s blight on the American economy, but I do not remember that we suffered immensely from its impact. We had shelter, food, clothing and the basic needs that made us comfortable enough. But through that time, I learned that one toy from Santa on Christmas morning might be the extent of my gifts, and whatever that was, whether homemade doll with clothing to change her, a checkerboard and marbles, or a homemade “fox and geese” board, these were to be shared unselfishly with siblings and cousins as we played together. Indeed, many happy hours were spent around a winter fire enjoying simple games and story times.

This concept of sharing learned as a child grew with me into later life. At Christmas we are made very aware of places to share and people to assist. We hear the ring of the Salvation Army kettle keepers, smiling in their cold posts beside stores in the mall. Their “Merry Christmas” is a reminder to help many less fortunate than we. Maybe our donation is too small in comparison to the great needs. But with gifts from many, the extent of help can be multiplied. This could be said of helping in soup kitchens and with holiday meals for the unfortunate. Taking a name from the “Angel Tree” to fulfill Christmas wishes from those depending on social services and many who assist can make someone less fortunate happy on Christmas Day.

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” We can light a candle, figuratively, in the homes and in the lives of people and help them go home happier this Christmas by sharing through a generous heart.

Then Christmas reminds us of our reasons for giving. It was at Christmas that God “split time apart” (literally, into BC—Before Christ, and AD, Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord) and visited mankind with the greatest gift ever known, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). Because God gave, we too can give with generous hearts to help others.

America is a composite of many cultures, many practices observed at Christmas. But even with the “political correctness” that would tear down our tried and true observances of this most holy season, I find it encouraging that people are finding a way to assert their allegiance to Christmas and its true meaning. From the many who came to our shores in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—yes, and even to the present day—we have the sense of “going home at Christmas.”

In our Southern colonies, settled by people from England, Ireland, Scotland and many other European countries, we have the traditions of making our homes festive and beautiful at the Christmas season. Evergreens are a silent symbol of everlasting life and giving is an active motivation from hearts of gratitude and love.

With the Moravian settlers, most from Germany, came the tradition of agape, the love feast, a time of traditional food, music, candles and gatherings to celebrate the Christ Child’s birth. These centered around going to church to celebrate the flame of love from white candles with red ribbon bands, representing purity, the Light of the World and the blood of Christ. After the candlelight service they go home or to the homes of friends to joyously partake of a bountiful meal.

And we can’t neglect the gift of music. From caroling groups moving from house to house to great massed choirs in cathedrals and churches to spontaneous singing wherever Christians are gathered, music is a gift to the world at Christmas. Stories behind the carols make the words even more meaningful as they fall gently on our ears at Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, I will be at church for the Candlelight Lord’s Supper, and as we light our candles, as many of my family members as can gather on one pew, surrounded by our friends and neighbors worshipping with us, we will be reminded that we have the light of our lives to share in a dark world. Wherever and however you celebrate Christmas this year, may you rejoice that the spirit of this holy season has found a home in your heart, lifted you to new heights and to genuine joy.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 24, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas, Family Solidarity, and Meeting a Challenge

We didn’t have firecrackers and fireworks popping off that Christmas. In fact, I doubt if we had ever had the spectacular fireworks that some people see and marvel at on certain holidays like the Fourth of July and Christmas.

But we did have fireworks of a frightening sort that year, and they did not come from detonation of firecrackers or sparklers.

This is how the true story goes as I remember it and as it was told to me.

My father had loaded up his family in our farm wagon, with our two trusty mules pulling our rig. We had feed for the animals for overnight, and, because the weather was very cold, we children were well-clad in warm wool clothing with blankets wrapped about us to ward off the cold. Old black flat irons had been warmed, wrapped in towels and placed at our feet in the wagon to add warmth as we journeyed four miles over the country road to Grandma’s house to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Mother and Daddy sat “up front” in the wagon on the bench especially made to be placed in the wagon for the driver and one passenger. We children rode behind them, in the bed of the wagon, softened by the hay for the mules, our blankets to keep us warm, and the meager presents we were able to take to Grandmother and others who would be at her house. The time of this trip was about 1936 and the Great Depression was still bringing economic hardships to everyone. We country people were fortunate. We had plenty to eat we had grown on the farm, and we had shelter and clothing, although the clothing was much-worn and hand-me-downs.

A sense of excitement swept over us, for, although we went to see Grandma fairly often, going at Christmastime was special. Some of my cousins my same age would be there from Atlanta and other away places. We would have a delightful time playing together. And, we’d been promised that if we had been good, Santa Claus would find us at Grandma’s house as well as at our own. So we had our special stockings to “hang by the chimney with care.”

Grandma’s house was built in 1850 by her father, so it was an old structure. It started out as a log cabin. The original cabin was somewhere beneath the added rooms and lumber that had seen the cabin grow from its former one-room and lean-to kitchen to three large rooms across the front, an ell added-on dining room and kitchen, two large porches, front and back, and an attic that held all sorts of mysteries and delights for curious children who played hide-and-seek there and found plenty of treasures to entertain us in old storage trunks. There were three fireplaces and chimneys in the house, one in Grandma’s front room, one in Uncle Hedden’s front room, and one in the kitchen. All fireplaces were burning large logs on that particularly cold Christmas Eve.

Arriving at Grandma’s house well before dark, we played outside some even in the cold before supper (that’s what we called the evening meal then.) Then Aunt Dora, my Uncle Hedden’s wife who, because Grandma was so elderly at this time, was the “lady of the house,” called us in to wash up and eat the steaming meat stew she had prepared for her large family and all the guests present for that Christmas Eve feast. With dark coming early, there was no more playing outside after supper. How we managed to settle down enough to go to bed that night, I’ll never quite know. Exhaustion probably had overtaken us. Because there were not enough beds, several of us children had the delight of sleeping on “pallets” made with our warm blankets on the floor in front of the fire. The sandman finally took over and we drifted off to sleep.

Then, sometime after falling asleep, we were roused with the excited shouts of “Fire! Fire! Get up! Get outside as quickly as possible!”

We instantaneously changed from sleeping to leaping, heading for the closest door to the outside, somehow remembering to take our blankets with us to guard us from the cold. The adults urged us children across the road and into the barn, where we watched from the barn hall with wide-eyed fright.

The adults formed a bucket brigade from the spring near the house and began a frantic movement of water to fight the fire. With a tall ladder propped against the roof, the water was lifted by climbers and poured on the blaze shooting from one chimney.

From our safety in the barn, we children could see that the fire was leaping from the chimney on the north side of the house, the one from the fireplace in “Grandma’s room.” The men and women worked swiftly, and soon the blaze was under control. Grandma’s house had been saved and everyone in it.

“What happened?” we children wanted to know as we left the barn and went back to the house that had seemed to be in such great danger but was saved from destruction. “The soot caught fire in the chimney,” someone explained to us. “We built up the fires too large and we had not properly cleaned out the chimneys,” someone else said.

Despite the midnight fire and the excitement, we finally got settled back into beds and on pallets. “Can Santa get down the sooty chimney?” some of us children asked. We were assured that yes; Santa might even be able to help brush out the congested chimney as he lowered himself through it to bring our gifts.

Whether it was in my sleep and dreams or whether I actually saw Santa descend, fill our stockings with candy, an apple, an orange, some nuts and one hand-made toy for each child, I learned a few great principles about the season. Love of parents and family is better than a warm blanket anytime. When an emergency arises, it takes level-headedness and doing what has to be done to meet the challenge. And, indeed, if a child is good, obeys his parents, and does his best, Santa will come on Christmas Eve despite the frightening fireworks in the chimney and the failed economic times.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 17, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"The Magic of Christmas" at Central State Hospital

The Powell Building named for third administrator of Central State Hospital, Dr. Thophilus O. Powell, commands a central position in the hospital complex. Here the stately columned building is decorated for Christmas.

Some of the mayors present on a special day in Middle Georgia may have driven through mountain mists to arrive at Central State Hospital by mid-day when the parade began forming for an annual event enjoyed not only by the clients and employees but by local citizens and visitors as well. This was my sixth year to be inspired by the event.

Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia held its annual “Mayor’s Christmas Parade” and an unbelievable musical presentation called “The Magic of Christmas” on December 1, 2009.

Called “Mayor’s Christmas Parade” because the mayors of towns and cities throughout Georgia are invited to attend and bring gifts their constituents have collected to be distributed to the patients at Christmas time. The annual event begun by First Lady of Georgia, Betty Vandiver, wife of Governor Ernest Vandiver, in 1958 has continued. Weeks in advance, social workers, music therapists, and staff gifted with preparing a program work with the patients to aid those able to participate in the musical production.

The auditorium is always well appointed with beautiful Christmas decorations. Although the day was cold for Middle Georgia and standing to see the parade was chilly, inside the large auditorium a warmth lifted the spirits and the chilled bodies.

Chief Executive Officer Marvin Bailey gave opening remarks summarizing the history of the institution. Approved in 1837 by the Georgia Legislature when the capital was Milledgeville, it took from then until 1842 for the four-story dormitory building to be open for clients. Then called the Georgia Lunatic Asylum, it at first admitted paupers with mental disabilities, but services were soon expanded to include any citizens who needed institutional care. Tomlinson Fort and William A. White were the legislators who introduced the bill to begin the institution. The first allocation was $20,000 for the four-story building which contained clients’ rooms, treatment rooms and a small area for office space. The hospital facilities grew on the 1,700 acres set aside for the institution. At one time in the 1960s, almost 13,000 clients occupied the various buildings of the massive complex. At that time, it was the largest mental hospital in the United States, and maybe even in the world. The first administrators were Dr. David M. Cooper (serving 1843-1846), followed by Dr. Thomas F. Green (1847-1879), and then Dr. Thophilus O. Powell (1879-1907), with the central building still standing that was named in his memory.

Mr. Bailey told us that current client population is slightly above 600. One reason for this low number, compared to the thousands that once occupied the dormitories, is new psychotropic and other treatment medications that can assist patients with mental disabilities. Then about two decades ago, it was deemed better to place those capable, with supervision, in group homes to live more like ordinary citizens. The group homes are not on the Central Georgia Complex. Also, the regional hospitals care for those with mental or other disabilities, thus decreasing Central State’s population.

First, we heard “Somewhere” from the movie “West Side Story” performed as a solo by Robb Weiss with Lisa Vaughn accompanying on piano.

Then the curtains opened to “The Magic of Christmas” setting, appropriate choreography and lighting to enhance the performances. Milledgeville ballet studios provided dancers, especially the children, who performed “Little St. Nick” and “Frosty the Snowman” interspersed with the musical and dance numbers by Central State clients and staff members. The costumes fitted each musical number and the backdrops were artistic, eye-catching and bright. “The Magic of Christmas” truly came to Central State December 1. Several numbers from “The Nutcracker” ballet were spectacular. In the middle of the program was a tribute to current service men and veterans with ties to any of the hospital staff. My daughter had not told me in advance, so I was surprised when a picture of her father, my husband, Rev. Grover Jones, appeared in his World War II navy uniform. There was a picture, too, of Cynthia’s husband, S/Sgt. Carlos Berenguer, retired from the Air National Guard, along with many others in the power-point and patriotic music interlude.

Tears always come to my eyes when the march of the wheel chair patients, each decked out in Christmas finery, followed by aides who roll the wheelchairs, come down the aisles and perform a wheel-chair dance in front of the stage. Even though the music was cheerful and peppy, “Mister Santa,” many in the audience smiled while wiping tears. This group appeared again in the finale when together with all the others made one great crowd of performers. We were inspired by the final number, “O Holy Night” performed by soloist Angela Ingram, a staff member with a magnificent voice.

A standing ovation and much applause filled the large auditorium. Then came brief remarks by selected mayors and Mrs. Nita Cagle, wife of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. And what the clients will enjoy at Christmas, the gifts from towns throughout Georgia were presented, stacked in abundance before the large stage. The staff will give them to the clients and make them happy again by their gifts received on Christmas Eve.

We sometimes think of “lunatic” asylums (we don’t call them that any more) or mental hospitals being dismal places with no prospects of enjoyable times. This Christmas extravaganza is a wonderful event that brings “The Magic of Christmas” to many people—cheer enough to last the New Year through.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 10, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Traditions Reflect Our Heritage--The Christmas Tree

Here in the mountains of North Georgia our ancestors hail from many countries. Since we become a part of what we have known from previous generations, our Christmas traditions are a rich fabric of many customs practiced first in the Mother countries from whence our ancestors came and then established as rituals and observances throughout the years and in our present-day practices.

The Christmas tree is a beloved entity of our Yuletide decorations. Just how did we arrive at the tradition of having a tree in a prominent place in our home, adorned with decorations, glittering with lights, and underneath wrapped gifts galore for members of the household and others?

We can thank, first, our German ancestors for the Christmas tree custom. Then we will have to give our English forbears credit, too, for they borrowed the tradition from the Germans and added to it. These early immigrants to America celebrated Christmas with a tree as in the old country.

But we find that some of the meanings behind the Christmas tree are older, even, than our German and English practices. The ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Hebrews—long before the advent of Christmas—used the evergreen as a symbol of eternal life. Pagans in Europe, even in Germanic and Anglo-Saxon settlements, practiced tree worship. They used the branches of evergreen trees placed in strategic places in their barns and houses to ward off evil spirits. After their conversion to Christianity, they used their pagan customs of evergreen placement as part of their Christian observances.

The first date attached to a Christmas tree is 1510 in Riga, Latvia, which is now northern Germany. Several men wearing black hats set up a large evergreen tree in the square at Yule time, the winter solstice, the shortest day in the year. Although it was to commemorate the birth of the Lord Christ, it also was a tribute to their sun god, Mithras, whom they had worshipped before learning about Christ and His birth. They decorated the giant tree with artificial flowers. After observing Yule, or Christmas, they then set the tree on fire, and the burning signified that from Yule Day, the days would gradually grow longer.

Martin Luther (1483-1546), the leader of the Reformation, was out walking one night near Christmas. He saw some fir trees with the starlight reflected through their branches. It was a beautiful sight and reminded him of Christ and eternal life. He wanted to teach his children what he had experienced at seeing the tree, but words failed him. He went back to the trees, cut one and took it into his house. He placed candles on the branches. He taught lessons about Christ’s birth and His offer of eternal life through salvation, represented by the evergreen of the branches. Candles represented Christ as the Light of the World, and taught that Christians should go forth as shining lights in a dark world. Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora, a former nun, on June 13, 1525. Six children were born to them, four of whom lived to become adults. Perhaps the Christmas tree in Luther’s house was in the mid to late 1530s. Luther died in 1546 of a massive heart attack.

Another legend of the Christmas tree predates the one in Riga, Latvia and the Martin Luther family tree. Winifred of England, who was later called St. Boniface (c672-754), went as a missionary to the Druids of Germany in the eighth century. About the year 723, he came upon a group of Druids preparing to sacrifice their young Prince Asulf to the god Thor under an oak tree. He stopped them. When he began to cut down the “bloody tree,” to the Druids a sacred oak, a strong wind came and blew down the tree. In its place a green fir tree sprang up. Because Boniface was not killed in the act of intentionally cutting their sacred tree, the Druids listened to him and embraced Christianity. Boniface taught the Druids that the fir was a tree of peace and its green represented eternal life. From then forward the fir trees had a special designation as the tree of Christ the Lord.

Queen Victoria of England and her husband, German Prince Albert, were pictured standing around their decorated Christmas tree in 1846 with their children. With a popular queen embracing the custom of having a Christmas tree, many Englishers followed suit and began the annual practice of decorating a tree in their own homes.

In America, the Pennsylvania German settlements had community Christmas trees and celebrations as early as 1747. Decorations were of the “home made” variety. White homemade wafers were baked to represent the bread of the sacrament. Berries, flowers and homemade garlands added to the decorations. Before electric lights, candles were placed in fireproof holders to prevent conflagration. Seeing the tree as a beautiful part of Christmas, many settlers, regardless of the country of their origin, placed Christmas trees in their homes and in churches as our nation expanded. Now, beautiful Chrismon trees with decorations representative of biblical truths are often seen in churches.

As you decorate and enjoy your tree this Christmas, know that you join in a long tradition of customs that seek to bring meaning and joy to the season. And I hope you will call it Christmas tree—not holiday tree.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 3, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Correction, A Thanksgiving Wish, and Another Brown Family

First, a correction from last week’s column. Thanks to Wanda Brown Gibson of Blairsville who knows much more about the many Brown family lines in Union and Towns Counties than I could ever hope to uncover, I have this glaring error to correct from last week’s column (November 19), last paragraph.

I wrote that Smith and Mary Brown’s eighth child, Henry Franklin Brown, became a Baptist minister. Actually, this Henry Brown, son of Smith and Mary, became a deacon at New Liberty Baptist Church—not a minister. The Rev. Henry Brown was a descendent of Ezekiel Brown through Walter Brown. Ezekiel Brown had large holdings along the Hiawassee River in Towns County and before the Emancipation Proclamation, owned a number of slaves. This line of Browns made bricks from clay and Ezekiel Brown built an imposing brick house for his family. Rev. Henry Jud Brown was born February 28, 1880 and died March 20, 1968 at age 88. At age 21, he was the first pastor of West Union Baptist Church in Towns County when it was organized in 1901. Other known pastorates were Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina, and in Georgia Old Brasstown, Old Union, Liberty, Zebulon, Harmony Grove, Ebenezer, Antioch, Blairsville and Choestoe. I’m sorry for any confusion my error caused researchers.

Now for a Thanksgiving wish. Our American holiday which we call Thanksgiving dates back to November 21, 1621 when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and their neighbors, the Wampanoag Indians with Chief Massasoit as their leader, gathered for a feast of Thanksgiving. The Mayflower Compact governed the Plymouth Colony in those early years. The friendly Indians lent help to the brave band of Pilgrims as they planted their first crops and survived the rigors of their first year in a strange land.

The stories of how they built their government, settled into village life, and made friends with the Indians has inspired generations since 1620. As we gather with families on this Thanksgiving, may we consider the principles upon which America was founded. The Pilgrims made a solemn covenant to treat one another with brotherly love, to seek to supply one another’s needs, to live together in peace and harmony, to share each other’s joys and sorrows, and to work for the greater good of their community. My wish for you is a solemn and grateful Thanksgiving and a return to principles that served our forebears well in the early years of this nation.

Today’s focus on another Brown family will be that of Martha Clementine Brown (05/02/1861-09/05/1933), the eleventh child of twelve born to Harmon and Sarah Brown. On February 12, 1878, Martha Clementine, called “Tina” and John Padgett Souther (09/12/1858 -3/04/1959) spoke their wedding vows. Tina’s husband was the fifth child of ten born to his parents, John Combs Hayes Souther (10/22/1827-01/04/1891) and Nancy Collins Souther (02/13/1829-07/22/1888). Recall, please, from last week’s article that Mary Elizabeth Souther (04/07/1853-01/11/1929), John Padgett’s Souther’s oldest sister, married the Rev. Smith Loransey Brown (01/20;1850-05/16/1932), the sixth child of Harmon and Sarah Brown. The children of these couples, being double-first cousins, would have much in common, living rather close together on farms in the Choestoe District. Rev. Smith Brown and Mary Elizabeth Brown had nine children (see last week’s article for that list). John Padgett Souther and Martha Clementine “Tina” Brown Souther had sixteen children:

1. Jasper Gilliam Souther (11/29/1878-07/24/1943) married first, Nancy Collins (1876-1907) and second, Estella Mae Cole (1888-1978). Gilliam was an ordained Baptist minister. He died in the pulpit while conducting revival meeting at New Liberty Baptist Church. He had expressed a desire to die while preaching, and his wish was fulfilled. He was buried in Clermont, Georgia.

2. Sarah J. Souther (10/18/1880-02/15/1881)
3. Homer H. Souther (12/24/1881-1946) married Lizzie Plott.
4. Oria C. Souther (12/23/1883-12/29/1965) married Edward Collins.
5. Infant (b/d 03/14/1884).
6. Nora E. Souther (10/12/1887-10/17/1919) married LaFayette Jackson.
7. Maria Souther (08/02/1886-05/30/1950).
8. William H. Souther (07/17/1889-?), married twice; spouses’ names unknown.
9. Joseph Thompson Souther (02/22/1893-05/14/1983) married Bertha Pruitt.
10. Martha D. Souther (02/11/1891-07/03/1893)
11. Grady G. Souther (01/05/1895-09/25/1970) married Mary Johnson
12. Mary Souther (08/02/1897-05/30/1950).
13. Lydia Souther (09/22/1899 - ?).
14. Emily Rose Souther (10/26/1901 - ?) married John Rice.
15. Johnnie P. Souther (01/15/1905-01/06/1929).
16. Cora Souther (07/27/1903-11/09/1903).

We can imagine the heartache Martha Clementine “Tina” Brown Souther endured with four of her sixteen children dying as infants and one young son, Johnnie, at age 24. Tina died ten years before her preacher son, Jasper Gilliam, died at New Liberty Church in 1943, but his father, John Padgett Souther, who lived to be 99, was still living when his son, Rev. Gilliam Souther, died at age sixty-seven.

c2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 26, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rev. John Monroe Brown and Rev. Smith Loransey Brown, Sons of Harmon Brown (part 4 of Series)

In last week’s column we looked at the life of Harmon and Sarah Clonginger Brown who were in Union County until where they lived became Towns County in 1856. They had a large family of twelve, eleven of whom grew to adulthood and married. Two of his sons became ordained Baptist ministers. These two, John Monroe and Smith Loransey, will be the focus of today’s Brown story.

Firstborn of Harmon and Sarah Brown, John Monroe Brown, was born July 31, 1838 and lived until March 8, 1932. On December 23, 1856 he married Emmaline Garrett (01-27-1840 – 03-27-1927). Her parents were H. Posie and Louisa Hogan Garrett.

The six children born to John Monroe Brown and Emmaline Garrett Brown were:

Sarah (07-29-1858) married Julius Tipton;
Haseltine (10-19-1860) never married;
Lucinda (02-16-1863) married Washington Pierce;
George Sherman (1866) married Sarah Alice Berry;
Zoa (02-27-1869) married Fidell Davis;
Julia (07-13-1872) married Levi Reed; and
Martha Elizabeth (07-25-1875).
Just when John Monroe Brown was ordained to the gospel ministry is not known to this writer, nor the churches he served. But when the Civil War came, John Monroe enlisted in 1862 as a private. While in Kentucky he developed a serious case of rheumatism and spent time in Chango Hospital. He was sent back to Georgia and at Tunnel Hill, Georgia got typhoid fever. He was in a hospital there until he was sent home on January 3, 1863 to recover further. He had a relapse of the fever in 1863 and was hospitalized at Catoosa Springs. When able, he was sent home again in March of 1863. After the spring and summer at home, he reenlisted with the North Carolina 6th Infantry Regiment in November, 1863. He was captured in battle and sent to prison at Fort Delaware. Following the end of the war, he was released from prison in May of 1865. He returned to his home, farmed, and preached, probably without much pay for his ministerial services unless it was a small amount of offerings taken, a little for weddings performed, and payment in grain or other farm products.

Smith Loransey Brown (01-20-1850 – 05-16-1923), the sixth child of Harmon and Sarah Clonginger Brown, was also an ordained Baptist minister. That two of their children, the first-born and the sixth-born, became ministers, speaks well of the home and religious training Harmon and Sarah provided for their children. The date of Smith’s ordination to the gospel ministry is not known by this writer. He married Mary Elizabeth Souther (07-07-1853 – 01-11-1929) in 1870. He most likely met Mary Elizabeth as he went to preach at the country church she attended near her home.

Mary Elizabeth Souther was the oldest child of John Combs Hayes Souther and Nancy Collins Souther. Her marriage to the Rev. Smith Loransey Brown brought together two stalwart pioneer families.

Maybe the young preacher was attracted to Mary Elizabeth by her clear, strong voice as a singer. In the days before hymn books were available to all in the congregation, the song leader would “line out” the words and the congregation would sing. It is said that Mary’s strong voice stood out above the others in a harmonizing alto. Mary Elizabeth was supportive of her husband’s ministry and would ride with him to his church charges for Saturday and Sunday meetings, every Sunday for them, but only once a month to the churches as they made their rounds to his charges. Their home was near her parents on the north side of Town Creek in Choestoe District. There they farmed and went out to his churches on weekends.

The Rev. Smith Loransey Brown and Mary Elizabeth Souther Brown had nine children: John Brown (09-28-1871) married Lillie Woodring; Sarah Brown (02-18-1875) married Benson Hudson; James A. Brown (08-29-1877) died young; Joseph L. Brown (07-27-1879) married Ida Logan; Daniel Brown (07-02-1881) married Fannie Turner; Arvil Brown (04-03-1884) married Mary Nix; Ellen Brown (07-08-1886) married Joseph Johnson; Henry Brown (04-20-1891) married Myrtle Collesta Thomaston; and Mary Evelyn Brown (12-21-1895) married Avery Woodring.

At their deaths, the Rev. Smith Loransey Brown and his beloved wife, Mary Elizabeth Souther Brown, were interred at the New Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery, Choestoe. Rev. Brown had been pastor of that church. Mary’s grandfather, John Souther, had given land for the church and cemetery. Smith and Mary Brown’s eighth child, Henry Brown, became a Baptist minister, and served many churches in Union and Towns Counties, including First Baptist Church, Blairsville.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 19, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Focusing on the Harmon Brown Family of Union/Towns Counties (part 3 of Series)

As Part 1 and Part 2 of this Brown Family Series indicates, the Browns were a major part of the population of early Union County, and, because of the location where some of them lived when Towns County was formed from Union in 1856, several of the Brown families became residents of the new Towns County without moving from their home. This fact can be confusing when tracing genealogy.

Today we focus on the family of Harmon Brown (July 2, 1816 – 1904), born in South Carolina to Henry and Rachel Harmon Brown. Harmon, who was given his mother’s maiden name, was the first-born of this couple in 1816. His known siblings were Romulus A. Brown who married Elizabeth Corn; Mariah Jane who married Henry H. Burch; Martha who married Joseph Stephens; and Elliott who married Alex Caldwell.

The Brown family moved from South Carolina to Buncombe County, North Carolina. When Harmon was a young man, he set out on his own to become independent. He went to Tennessee, to the area since called the Great Copper Basin. There, between two fledgling towns, Ducktown and Isabella, where copper (first mistaken for gold) had been found in 1843. Harmon Brown bought land in that vicinity, but evidently did not mine for copper. After marrying about 1837 a young lady he met there, Sarah Clonginger (b. 9/1/1820-?), whose parents were Jack Rhine Clonginger and Elizabeth Hancock Clemmer, Harmon sold his land in Tennessee and headed for Union County, Georgia. Later, he heard about the copper available on his Tennessee farm and went back to investigate, but the sale of land had been finalized and he could not buy it back.

They bought property in Union that then became Towns County in 1856, in what was known as the “Fodder Creek” area. The Harmon Brown family was recorded in the Union County census in both 1840 and 1850, with his family growing from five in number in 1840 to nine in 1850. By 1860, the family was listed in the Towns County census. Living in the same neighborhood that his brother Harmon lived was Romulus A. Brown, his wife Elizabeth, and their growing family.

In Towns County, Harmon Brown became a prominent citizen. His land holdings in 1860 were evaluated at $3,000, several hundred acres. The Browns were Baptists by religious persuasion, and several of the Brown offspring from various Brown families became ordained Baptist ministers. In fact, Harmon and Sarah’s first-born, John Monroe Brown (b. July 31, 1838 in Union County, GA, died March 8, 1932) who married Emmaline Garrett in Union County on Dec. 23, 1856, was ordained to the gospel ministry. The Brown family was also gifted in music and enjoyed playing and singing the “shaped note” Fa-Sol-La method. They had a place dedicated to worship in the cove where they lived, and the place is still sometimes known as “Meetin’ House Cove.”

Old Union Baptist Church in Towns County was founded August 5, 1843. Rachel Harmon Brown, Harmon’s mother, was living in his household and she became member number 23 at Old Union. His sister, Martha, also was among the first members, as was his sister-in-law, the wife of the Rev. John Monroe Brown, Emmaline, who joined in 1892.

Harmon and Sarah Clonginger Brown had a large family of twelve children. They are as follows:

(1) John Monroe Brown (1838-1932) married Emmaline Garrett.
(2) Alfred E. Brown (1840-?) married Mary Malinda Allen.
(3) Jacob Washington Brown (1843-1865) lost his life in the Civil War.
(4) George Elisha Brown (1845-1929) married Mary Ann Woodring.
(5) Jeremiah Jackson Brown (1847-1915) married Sarah G. Kendall.
(6) Smith Loransey Brown (1850-1915) married Mary Elizabeth Souther.
(7) William Clayton Brown (1852-1930) married Rebecca Roberson.
(8) Rachel Elizabeth Brown (1854-1946) married Enos Plott.
(9) James LaFayette Brown (1856-1945) married Margaret Elizabeth Kirby.
(10) Samuel Young Brown (1859-?) married Narcissa Nichols.
(11) Martha Clementine Brown (1860-1933) married John Padgett Souther.
(12) Joseph H. Brown (1863-1865).
With a large family of twelve children, eleven of whom grew to adulthood, and ten of these having married, Harmon and Sarah Clonginger Brown’s family increased to a sizeable descendancy.

Before the days of public education, Harmon Brown, wishing to have his children learn the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic, helped to fund and establish a subscription school at Macedonia in Towns County taught by a Miss Pitchford.

Sarah Brown’s Bible passed on to one of her many grandchildren, reveals her precise Victorian script as she carefully penned in the names of her twelve children.

Harmon Brown and his beloved wife Sarah Clonginger Brown were laid to rest at the Mt. Ivey Cemetery on Sunnyside in Towns County. At last account, their graves were unmarked. Maybe some of their descendants will investigate finding the graves and erecting a marked stone to their memory.

[Resources: The Harmon Brown story in The Heritage of Union County (1994), p. 84; in Hearthstones of Home (Towns County History, 1983), p. 23; and GED Brown Family Genealogy website.]

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 12, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tracing Some Marriages in Early Brown Families in Union County (part 2 in Series)

Brown families in early Union County grew from two in 1834 to eleven in 1840 to twenty-one in 1850. The population within these Brown households numbered sixteen in 1834, sixty-three in 1840 and eighty-five in 1850. See last week’s column to learn the names of these heads of households and, in 1850, the names of their children still at home.

Brown as a surname is descriptive, denoting color—either of skin, hair, garments or place of residence. It derives from the Middle English, broun, the Old English and Old French, brun, and the old Gaelic word donn meaning brown. Today, Brown as a surname is the fifth most popular in the United States, with the first being Smith, the second Johnson, the third Williams, and the fourth Jones.

In England, Brown is the fifth most popular surname, but the spelling there and in Ireland and Scotland as well is apt to be Browne.

Brown is the second most popular surname among African-Americans in the United States today. This stems from many freed slaves adopting Brown as their surname following the Civil War, rather than keeping the surname of their former masters. Many also adopted the name Brown to honor the famed abolitionist John Brown (1800-1895).

Last week’s column promised a look in this article at Brown marriages in Union County by 1850. The Browns who grew from two households in 1834 to eleven in 1840 to twenty-one in 1850 had a number of children who married citizens of the county, thereby connecting Browns to other early settlers. Maybe readers can find within this listing a relative of theirs joined in holy matrimony when the county was young.

The first Brown marriage recorded in Union County occurred on August 22, 1834, performed by Thomas Cearley, Justice of the Peace. It joined William Brown to Elizabeth Ensley.

Next came another William Brown who married Elizabeth Penson on August 6, 1837, with William Jones, Justice of the Peace, officiating.

Three couples went to the altar in 1839. These were Mariah Jane Brown who married H. Burch on March 12, 1839, with R. Byers, Justice of the Peace performing their ceremony. Next came Margaret Brown who married John Webster on May 10, 1839, joined by Justice of the Peace A. Chastain. On July 18, 1839, Milton Brown married Mary Conner with Robert Byers, Justice of the Peace, joining them.

Minervy Brown married Noah Raper on January 24, 1840, with David Thompson, Justice of the Peace, joining the couple.

Charles Brown married Ann Twiggs on April 24, 1842. John Martin, Minister of the Gospel, performed the ceremony.

Three couples were wed in 1843. Clarinda Brown married Alfred Shook on April 8, 1843, with Rev. Abner Chastain as officiant. John Solomon Brown married Sary (Sarah) Twiggs on September 3, 1843, with Lindsey Gaddis, JP, performing the ceremony. Elizabeth Brown married B. D. Beaver on October 5, 1843, with William Poteat, JP, the officiant.

James Brown and Lisa Roper chose May 19, 1844 as their wedding day, with David Thompson, JP, performing their ceremony.

Malinda Brown married John C. Patton on January 4, 1845. The Rev. D. D. Roach performed their ceremony.

Two Brown marriages occurred in 1846. Martha Brown and Joseph Stevens chose Valentine’s Day, February 14 as their wedding day, with the Rev. John Corn officiating. Emily Brown and James Cathey were married May 25 with the Rev. John Corn also marrying this couple.

Peggie Brown married Henry A. Lyons on September 17, 1847 with the Rev. John Corn as officiant.

April 2, 1848 was the date chosen by Rebecca Jane Brown and John Daniel for their wedding day. They secured Charles Crumley, Justice of the Peace, for their ceremony.

Three Brown marriages were recorded in 1849. On January 13 Mary A. Brown married John Thomas with H. J. Sparks, JP, officiating. On April 4, Sabry Adaline Brown married Hugh Seay with the Rev. Elisha Hunt officiating. On July 22, Robert Brown and Elizabeth Ann Carter were married by the Rev. Elisha Hunt.

Before 1850, nineteen young Browns were joined in holy matrimony in Union County. Space precludes my listing the 40 other Brown marriages that occurred between 1850 and 1897. My resource for this information came from the book, Union County Marriage Records, 1833-1897 (c1992) compiled and published by Viola H. Jones, extracted from Union County marriage records at the Georgia State Archives.

Look forward next week to accounts of some individual Brown families and their contributions to Union County’s growth and development.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 5, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brown Families Among Union County's First Settlers

Of the 147 heads of households recorded in Union County’s first census in 1834, two were Brown families, David Brown with three males and two females and Milton Brown with five males and six females. Of the 903 population recorded at that time, sixteen had the surname Brown.

Both David and Milton Brown continued to live in Union, for they were recorded in the 1840 census as well. Some of Milton’s children had already left home to go out on their own, for his household had only 3 males and two females in 1840. David Brown’s family, on the other hand, had increased, for registered in his household in 1840 were four males and four females. It was interesting to note that by 1840, the Brown households had increased from the two in 1834 to eleven, and total Brown population from sixteen to sixty-three. Besides David and Milton’s households, other heads-of-households in Union in 1840 were Harmon (5), Romulus A. (6), John (6), William A. (5), Macky (12), Joel R. (6), William C. (2), John (4), and William (4). According to the scattering of the census, these eleven Brown families were located in several districts of Union.

Then came a surprise. An examination of the 1850 census revealed that the Brown population had taken a decided growth spurt in the decade. The number of households with a Brown listed had increased to twenty-seven but only twenty-one of these were Brown households, for six of the Browns enumerated were living in the household of persons not bearing the Brown surname. These were Elliott Brown, age 23, in the home of Joseph (age 25, b. SC) and Martha Stephens (age 17, b. SC). Franklin Brown (age 23, b. NC) in the home of J. E. Purkins (age 38, b. NC) and Elizabeth Purkins (age 25, b. NC). Mr. Purkins owned 18 slaves. Caroline Brown (age 19, b. NC) lived in the home of Benjamin and Racy Ledford. Mary Brown (age 16, b. NC) lived in the home of Lewis and Sally Queen. She was helping Sally Queen take care of her six little children ranging from age twelve to six months. James Brown (age 19, born TN) was in the home of Hugh and Adaline Lee (ages 25 and 23, both born in NC). Terrell Brown (age 8, b. SC) was in the home of Mourning Brookshire (age 67, b. NC), with David Brookshire (16, SC) and Milly Brookshire (13, SC). Supposition is that Terrell, David and Milly may have been grandchildren of Mourning Brookshire.

Browns noted as heads of households in the 1850 census were Harmon Brown (35, b. SC), his wife, Sarah (later listed by her nickname Sally—age 31, NC) and six children, ages 10 to 9 months: John, Alfred, George, Elisha, Jackson and Smith Loransey.

Susan Brown (age 64, NC) was evidently a widow with two children still at home, John (age 21, b. KY) and Elizabeth (age 18, b. KY).

Jacob Brown (age 52, b. NC) headed a household with his wife Elizabeth (age 44, b. VA) and children Francis (age 25, b. NC), Jane (age 20), Thomas (age 13) and Lazarus (age 12)—with the last three children born in SC.

G. W. Brown (age 40, b. NC) had a wife named Nancy (age 36, b. TN) and eight children at home: Elizabeth (16, b. NC) Thomas (14, b. TN), the next four were born in NC: Patton (12), Peliner (10), Amanda (8), Frances (7); and the last two, Matilda (4) and Martha (3 months) had been born in Georgia.

Mary Brown (age 45, b. NC) headed a household with four children still at home, all born in NC: Smith (18), John (16), Josephus (12) and Sarah (10).

John Brown (68, b. NC) and his wife, Sally (60, b. NC) had in the house with them a person listed as Betsy Miller (22, b. NC).

James Brown (34, b. NC) and his wife Anner (35, b. NC) had four children who had been born in NC, namely Mary Ann (11), Henry (8), Martha (7), and Jesse (5); and little Sarah Jane (3) and John (1) had been born since they arrived in Georgia.

Continuing with listings of 1850 Brown households in Union we find John, Jr. (age 24, born in NC) with his wife Sary (age 27, b. NC) and two small children both born in Georgia: Susannah, 6 and Burton, 2).

Next door is John Brown, Sr. (53, b. NC), his wife, Tempey (57, b. NC) and children James (19, NC) and Margaret (17, NC).

Another household has John M. (40, NC) as its head, making this four in 1840 with John as the head of household. His wife was named Sarah (39, b. NC) and children James (17), William (16), Andrew (14), Willson (12) and Jane (9), all born in NC, and John (2) born since the family arrived in Georgia.

Nathaniel Brown headed a small household. He was 26, born in NC, with his wife, Mary Ann (18, b. NC) and their 11-month old child William. Living in their household was James Gallion (17, b. NC). Could he have been a brother to Mary Ann?

By 1850, Milton Brown was 54, we learn that he was born in NC, as was his wife, Kissiah, age 52, and their very large family of children numbering nine still at home were all listed as having been born in NC. However, this may be a mistake on the part of the census taker, for Milton Brown had been in Union both for the 1834 and the 1840 censuses. Their children listed were John (30), Mary (20), Sally (19), Enos (18), Betsey (14), Adington (13), William (11), Ephraim (8) and Martha (5).

The last of the Brown households noted in 1850 was headed by R. A. (Romulus A. of the 1840 census, age 37, b. SC) and his wife Elizabeth (38, b. NC) with the elder two of their children born in NC: Leander 17 and Catharine, 15. The other five children had been born since the family moved to Georgia: Caroline (12), Hazeltine (10), Lovina (8), Jane (5) and Avaline (3).

Readers who have Brown family ties may be able to link back to some of these early households of Union settlers. Next week we will look at some Brown marriages before 1850 and how the name Brown was linked through wedlock to other early settlers.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 29, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Hope Cemetery Inquiry and Cobb Family History

A telephone call led me on a research dig, first about the New Hope Methodist Church Cemetery in Union County, Georgia and then to the Cobb family who buried at least twelve family members there in marked graves. Maybe there were other Cobb family members buried there, for some fifty plus graves have no identity indicators other than unmarked fieldstones.

Strangely enough, the inquiry was not about the Cobb family, but rather about the King family. A granddaughter of Mr. Henry King called me. Mr. King was buried in one of the unmarked graves at old New Hope Cemetery. His son had a stone made, but died before he could erect it, and now the granddaughter and grandson want to fulfill their father’s desire to mark his father’s grave. Finding my name attached to a “Through Mountain Mists” column, she called to ask me if I could give her directions to the cemetery.

Thanks to Mr. Dale Elliott and the late Mr. Charlie Wimpey who compiled and edited Cemetery Records of Union County, Georgia in 1990, I quickly found New Hope Cemetery listed. I read to her from the book, page 300: “From the old courthouse square in Blairsville, it is 8.4 miles north on U. S. 129, then ¼ mile on Cobb Mountain Road.” She said that she and her brother knew the location of the unmarked grave, and would soon be erecting the tombstone at Mr. Henry King’s grave.

From the cemetery book, I learned that the New Hope Methodist Church was founded about 1851 as evidenced by a recorded deed of land in Union County Courthouse. Mr. Moses Anderson transferred property on which the church was located to five men who were trustees of the church, namely W. A. Cobb, U. C. Wilson, B. F. Stiles, Joseph C. Neece and W. W. Odom. I found it interesting that not a single one of these men had named markers in the New Hope Cemetery. Maybe some of them were interred there for the cemetery book states there are more than 50 unmarked graves. I found Joseph C. Neece listed as buried in the Ivy Log Cemetery. New Hope Church either was incorporated with another Methodist church in the community or was disbanded. The building was torn down in the 1940’s and now only the cemetery with its 33 marked graves and 50+ unmarked graves remains to show that an early church met there.

Since a dozen of the marked graves at New Hope have the Cobb last name, my curiosity sent me searching for these early settlers. The earliest marked grave was that of Lydia Keys Cobb with the dates 1773-1848. In fact, this lady’s rather elaborate tombstone is pictured in the cemetery book on the New Hope pages as the first person interred there. Evidently the Cobbs were in Union before 1848 to have a family member buried at New Hope, perhaps as the very first person buried there.

And then I discovered a mystery. Reading the Cobb family histories submitted for The Heritage of Union County (pages 99-100), checking the Union County census records of 1834, 1840 and 1850, and again reading the tombstone of Lydia Keys Cobb from Cemetery Records of Union County showing the tombstone with death date of 1848, I immediately thought: “Something’s wrong in the records.”

I found that Lydia Cobb was listed in the 1850 Census, age 77, as living in the home of her son, William Cobb. According to her tombstone, she died in 1848. William’s wife Charlotte (she was also buried at New Hope Cemetery) and William and Charlotte’s nine children all born in North Carolina, were listed in the 1850 census. Either the census taker was wrong about Mrs. Lydia Cobb still being alive in 1850 or the date on her tombstone is wrong.

Tracing more about William and Charlotte Cobb, I found this information. There were no Cobb families in Union County census records until the 1850 census listing. Then William was 40, his wife Charlotte was 45, and their nine children were Reuben, 19, John 18, Rebecca, 16, Joseph, 14, Louisa, 13, James, 11, Rufus, 8, Elbert, 6, and Harrison, 3. And there, at the end of this family listing is Lydia Cobb, age 77. All had been born in North Carolina What gives? Her tombstone has her death date as 1848, and from her birth date, 1773, according to her tombstone she died at age 75. I think it is not likely there were two women in the same household named Lydia Cobb, and since the one buried at New Hope has the maiden name Keys, I found that she was definitely the mother of William Alfred Cobb.

William Alfred Cobb (8/10/1809-8/5/1886) was the only child of Lydia Keys Mullen Cobb, second wife of William’s father, John Paul Cobb, a Revolutionary War soldier who moved from Charlotte to Newburn, NC. There William Alfred Cobb married, first, Charlotte Henson whose father Daniel was a Revolutionary War soldier. They lived in Haywood County, NC where William was sheriff and an ordained Methodist minister. William Alfred Cobb was a unionist, and did not like states seceding prior to the Civil War. He decided to move his family to Union County, Georgia in 1848 so he could be among more who supported the union.

Since he was one of the Trustees of the New Hope Methodist Church in Ivy Log District when Moses Anderson granted land on which the church and cemetery were located, my supposition is that the Rev. William Alfred Cobb may have been the organizing minister of the church when it was formed. Regardless of the confusing date from the 1850 census which still shows Lydia (Keys) Cobb alive at age 77, and the gravestone death date that shows her death as 1848, William Alfred’s mother was definitely the first burial at the New Hope Cemetery. His wife, Charlotte Henson Cobb, was the second burial there. Her death date was May 22, 1861.

William Alfred Cobb married his second wife, Lavinia Roberts, on February 2, 1862 in Union County, Georgia with the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes, noted Methodist minister, performing the ceremony. After the Civil War, in 1872, William and Lavinia moved to Beaver Dam in Cherokee County, NC. There they lived out their lives and he was buried at his death in 1886 in the Unaka Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 22, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Judge Thomas Slaughter Candler Wields Wide Influence

Judge Thomas Slaughter Candler at the dedication service of the Brasstown Bald Recreation Area, June, 1971, the last public function he attended prior to his death.

Thomas Slaughter Candler was born December 15, 1890 in Blairsville, Union County, Georgia, the seventh and last child of William Ezekiel Candler and Elizabeth Mary Haralson Candler. His father was a local lawyer. Did W. E. Candler have dreams that his new son would grow up to follow in his footsteps as a lawyer, and go even farther to become a Georgia Supreme Court Justice?

When Thomas Slaughter Candler was born December 15, 1890, Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president of the United States was in office. Called “the little president” because of his short stature of five feet six inches in height, he dealt with labor strikes in manufacturing areas, and saw passage of the McKinley Tariff Act that put a high tax on goods shipped to America from abroad. It was also the year the Sherman Antitrust Act passed, intended to deal a blow against monopolies. On the very day of little Thomas Slaughter Candler’s birth in Blairsville, the famed Sitting Bull, Sioux Indian Chief, and eleven other Sioux, were killed at Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota by U. S. soldiers called Indian Police assigned to keep order there. To say the least, the Candler baby was born in a time of unrest. Who knows? Maybe the situation called for growing up a lawyer and judge who could make a difference in the future.

Our Blairsville Thomas Slaughter Candler was well-connected descendancy-wise to other famous Georgians with the Candler surname. Let’s look at Thomas’s ancestors. Thomas’s great, great grandfather William Candler was born in Ireland in 1738. William was brought as a child to Virginia where he grew up and married Elizabeth Anthony in 1761. Eventually, the Candlers migrated to North Carolina and then southward before the Civil War to Columbia County, Georgia. Daniel Candler, born in 1779 in Columbia County, was Thomas’s great grandfather. In 1779 Daniel married Sarah Slaughter, the forebear whose surname was used as the middle name of several of the Candler descendants. Daniel and Sarah Slaughter Candler had several children, among whom were these named ones: Milton Anthony Candler, 1837; Ezekiel Slaughter Candler, 1838; Noble Daniel Candler, 1840; Florence Julia Candler, 1842; Sarah Justiana Candler, 1845; William Beall Candler, 1847; Elizabeth Frances Candler, 1849; Asa Griggs Candler, Sr., 1851; Samuel Charles Candler, 1855.

Of the above-listed children of Daniel and Sarah Candler, all “turned out well,” as we say in the mountains. Some made a name for themselves in business, politics and religion.

Milton Anthony Candler was a Georgia congressman. Asa Griggs Candler bought out Dr. John Pemberton’s recipe for Coca-Cola for $2300 and made a fortune manufacturing that popular soda. He used his wealth to found Emory University and for many other philanthropic causes, including the Candler Missionary College in Cuba. Samuel Charles Candler held public offices in Cherokee and Carroll counties. Warren Akin Candler became a bishop in the Methodist Church in Georgia and left a legacy of good in institutions of that denomination.

Daniel and Sarah’s son, Ezekiel Slaughter Candler (1838-1869) married Jane Williams. They lived in Milledgeville, Georgia when their youngest child, William Ezekiel Candler was born. The Civil War came when W. E. (as he was known) was only eight. His parents sent him from Central Georgia to live with his older sister who resided in Blairsville, hoping that the child could escape death as Sherman’s army marched through Georgia. While young W. E. was still in Union County, his father Ezekiel died in 1869. He remained on in Union at the home of his sister and got his education in one-teacher schools, later reading law and passing the bar examination. According to Union County marriage records, W. E. Candler married Elizabeth Mary Haralson on June 11, 1879, with then-noted Methodist minister, the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes performing their ceremony. Elizabeth Mary’s parents were Thomas J. and Mary Haralson. This marriage joined two families interested in law as a career.

Thomas Slaughter Candler had six siblings. His sister June, the oldest, married Clabis Lloyd. His sister called “Pick” married Pierce Matthews. These two older girls moved to Gainesville and Smyrna respectively. Nellie (1880-1893) and Ruth (1897-1928) died and were buried in the Blairsville Cemetery. Alwayne married Garnett Butt and remained in Union.

William Ezekiel, Jr. married and lived in Blairsville. The last-born child of W. E. and Elizabeth Candler was Thomas Slaughter Candler. On April 16, 1916, he married Augusta Beulah Cook, daughter of Joe and Sarah Cook.

To Thomas and Beulah were born four children: Sarah (died 1992) married Jason B. Gilliland; William Ezekiel (called “Buck” died of diphtheria in 1921); Nell married Walter McNeil; and Thomas Slaughter Candler, Jr. married Blanche Patton.

Thomas Slaughter Candler was educated in small schools in the Blairsville area and graduated as valedictorian of his 1913 class from Young Harris College. He went to the University of Georgia where he graduated summa cum laude in 1915 with an LLB degree. He passed the Georgia bar and worked with his father, William Ezekiel Candler, in his law office until his father died in 1927. Thomas served as a local lawyer, on the School Board, and mayor of Blairsville.

In 1939, Governor Ed Rivers appointed him as Georgia Superior Court Judge for the Northeastern District. He became a Justice of the Georgia State Supreme Court in 1945, appointed by Governor Ellis Arnall, and subsequently elected three more times, holding that office through 1966.

His other achievements included assisting in rewriting the Georgia Constitution.

He gave generous portions of his land for Vogel State Park and for the area around the spring at Bald Mountain State Park. He was instrumental in getting electricity to Union County through Tennessee Valley Authority and in gaining grants for highway construction in the area.

A Christian gentleman, lover of the Constitution—both Georgia and US—supporter of people’s rights, honest, fair and intellectually gifted, this man from Union County stood tall wherever he served. He died June 15, 1971 and his beloved wife Beulah died in 1983. They were interred in the Union Memory Gardens. The Candler surname means “one who lights candles or one who makes candles.” Certainly, Judge Tom Candler lived up to his name and was a shining light in the mountains.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 15, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Some More 'First Families' in Union by 1834--the Self Family

From time to time I have been examining the 1834 special census of Union County to see ancestors of those families who may still be living within the area of Union, or those who still come back to visit graves of those who have gone before.

This focus will be upon the Self family. Three households with the last name Self lived in Union County in 1834.

The Job Self household had six males and six females. The Francis Self household must have been a young or old one, for there was just one male and one female registered, no children. The Thomas Self household had one male and one female, and I can more readily account for them, for the first Self marriage recorded in Union was that of Thomas Self to Nancy Cook on July 11, 1833 by John Thomas, Justice of the Inferior Court. This marriage occurred about seven months after Union was created on December 3, 1832. Nancy may have been a daughter of William Cook, the only Cook family in Union in 1834 with 7 males and 9 females. Thomas, the groom, was probably a son of Job Self. Unfortunately, no family article about the Selfs appeared in The Heritage of Union County 1932-1994 to assist with this family puzzle.

By the second census in 1840 four Self families were living in Union. These were Job, William, Thomas R. and Robert B. The household of Francis Self was not listed in 1840. Perhaps he and his wife had died. No marked grave with Francis Self was found in cemetery records. Another Self wedding had taken place since 1834. That was of Robert B. Self to Martha Cook on January 25, 1838, performed by Jarrett Turner, Justice of the Peace. We wonder if Martha Cook Self and Nancy Cook Self were sisters. It is interesting to note the number in each of the families in 1840, as that census lists only the number by gender categories. Job Self’s household had 4 males and 7 females. In William’s home were 3 males and 2 females. Thomas R. Self (Thomas and Nancy who married in 1833) had 3 males and 4 females, or five children. Robert B. Self (who married Martha Cook in 1838) had one male and 2 females, or one child already.

Gratefully, by the 1850 census, not only were names of heads of households listed, but the wife’s name was given, the place, if not Georgia, where persons were born, and the names and ages of husband, wife and children. In 1850 we find four households of Selfs and another household with a child having the last name of Self. William, Thomas and Robert had remained for the decade since 1840. The fourth household, not listed in 1840, was that of Francis Self, age 32, born in NC, his wife Hester, 31, born in NC, and their five children all born in Georgia: Job 12, John 10, Thomas 8, John 4 (this may have been a mistake in transcription, for they already had a son John, age 10), and Joseph, 1. This Francis could have been missed in the 1840 census, for their oldest child, Job, would have been born about 1838.

Tracing the other Selfs in the 1850 census, we find William, age 37 and his wife, Elizabeth, both born in North Carolina. Their first four children were also born in North Carolina: David, 17, Berryman, 14, John 12, and Sarah 10. Mary, 8, Franklin, 6, and Barbary 4 were born in Georgia.

Robert Self and his wife Martha Cook Self were both born in North Carolina. He was 30 in 1850 and she was 29. They had married in Union County in 1838. Their children were James, 13, Susan 8, Elisha 7, Jane 4, and Job 2.

Thomas Self and his wife Nancy Cook Self (married in Union in 1833) and both born in North Carolina had a large family by 1850. Names of their children listed in the 1850 census were William, 16; Sally, 15; Caroline, 13; John, 12; Elizabeth, 10; Francis, 9; Jehu, 7; Monroe, 6: Newton, 5; Thomas, 3; and an infant male with no name yet given when the census taker visited their house in 1850.

The other Self listed in 1850 was a child, Selia (Celia) Self, who lived in the household of a young couple, William Crumley, age 31, born in NC and Jane Crumley, age 28 who listed her birthplace as Alabama. Selia was age 6 and had been born in Georgia. Noting the marriage records, I found that Jane Self and William Crumley were married February 25, 1849 by Charles Crumley, Justice of the Peace. Celia evidently was Jane’s child born before her marriage to William Crumley. Could Jane have named her after her aunt, Celia Self Collins, wife of Thompson Collins?

In consulting the helpful resource book entitled Union County Marriage Records 1833-1897 compiled by Viola Holden Jones of Louisville, TN in 1992, I found a total of fifty Self marriages recorded between 1833 and 1897. Space precludes my listing them here, but it is interesting to see the children’s names of the 1850 households listed among those marriages.

Consulting another valuable resource, Cemetery Records of Union County, Georgia (c1990), I decided to seek marked graves of any Selfs born before 1850. I was disappointed to find only three: Ezekiel Self (1845-1890) buried in Antioch Cemetery; John J. Self (Dec. 6, 1835- Oct. 22, 1921) and Margaret Self (May 28, 1939-Sept. 18, 1928) both buried in Shady Grove Cemetery. Referring again to the marriage records, I found that Ezekiel R. Self married Rosa A. Hix on March 10, 1867 with Jebiah Jackson, Justice of the Peace performing the ceremony. John Self married Margaret Daniel on February 10, 1856 with Charles Crumley, Justice of the Peace, the officiating officer.

At best, this account of first families Selfs is incomplete. I am greatly interested in Self genealogy because I descend from Celia Self Collins, wife of Thompson Collins. They were among the first settlers in Choestoe District of Union County and were here when the first census was taken in 1834. What research I have been able to do reveals that Celia was a daughter of Francis Self and that she had siblings named Job, Sarah, and Jesse. I believe the Job Self in the 1834 Union Census was my great, great uncle, and the Francis Self listed then may well have been my great, great, great grandfather (Celia Self Collins’s father). This research leaves me wishing I knew for sure.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 8, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Silas Chambers, Country School Teacher Extraordinary

Seated: Teacher Silas Chambers holding their first child and his wife, Laura Hood Chambers, about 1899.

Standing, Laura's younger sister, Jessie Mae Hood (1886-1902), who died at age 16 with a fever.

We read this account about early country schools in Edward Leander Shuler’s book, Blood Mountain (Convention Press, Jacksonville, FL, 1953, p. 48):

“ ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child,’ had long been the rule both parents and teachers had followed in Choestoe. The rule was used, they said, by the Cherokees in bringing up their children throughout the Georgia mountains before the white people went to Choestoe to live. But a new age of learning was destined to change the people of Choestoe. It would change their thinking first and then their ways.”
That ‘new age of learning’ came when young Silas Chambers from “the other end” of Union County went to Hood’s Chapel School to be the teacher. Edward Leander Shuler’s father, William Jackson Shuler, had a voice in hiring the young, aspiring teacher. So did Mr. Theodore Saxon, another prominent man in the community. The Reverend John Twiggs, who had been the teacher at Hood’s Chapel, had moved on to White County across the mountain to preach and teach, leaving the local school on the Logan Turnpike without a teacher. Maybe Silas Chambers had heard the news that the community was without a teacher. He went, seeking the job as the schoolmaster.

Silas Chambers was minus a right hand and a portion of that arm. In inquiry, he told Mr. Shuler that he had lost his arm in an accident while he worked on the railroad in North Carolina. In damage settlement from the railroad, the young man had received money with which he went to Bellevue Academy to learn to be a teacher. He came well-qualified, with credentials in science, mathematics, the classics of literature and language, history and philosophy. He also enjoyed sports and proposed to teach the pupils how to play baseball, wrestling, “town” ball, and swimming.

The parents of Hood’s Chapel Community welcomed the young teacher who got a place to board in the community and began the summer school term as soon as crops were “laid” by. He was a brilliant conversationalist, and even before school began, the people knew that he had worked not only on the railroad, but that he had experience in the mines at Copperhill, Tennessee and on the log trains that loaded at the Culberson, NC railroad depot. Even though he had lost an arm, he compensated with strength and power in his body, and the dexterous use of his left hand and arm.

In baseball and town ball, he taught the students coordination and good sportsmanship. After school hours, he took the boys hunting on the mountains. He taught many to swim in the mill pond or in the deep hole of the Nottley River. School was an exciting place, for learning was active and interest was high. He made available more books than the students had known before, and he taught research methods and through experiments.

Then Silas Chambers met a young lady, already out of school, but who would pass by the school building going to her care-giving job at Tom Alexander’s house, where she helped LeEtta Alexander with her new baby and the other children. This young lady’s name was Laura Hood, daughter of Mary Reid Hood and Richard Jarrett Hood. She lived up near the Helton Falls along a mountain trail from Hood’s Chapel School.

The young couple began to see each other at church meetings. Later, as no surprise and to the delight of the Hood’s Chapel people, the couple announced a date for their wedding. Then, on a Sunday in the early springtime, while dogwood trees were in full bloom, Silas Chambers and Laura Hood were married in a beautiful ceremony at the home of her mother, Mary Reid Hood, with the Rev. John Twiggs performing the ceremony. This was in 1896. The festivity was complete with a reception with good food for all guests and a serenade to the new couple. It was a typical mountain wedding celebration in the late nineteenth century.

How long Silas Chambers continued to teach at Hood’s Chapel School is unknown to this writer, but sometime later, the young couple decided to go west for better job opportunities for the excellent teacher who had opened up the vistas of learning for many in the Choestoe section around Hood’s Chapel School. Many who themselves became teachers, ministers, doctors and lawyers as well as farmers and housewives testified to the lofty influence this teacher had on their early learning experiences at the little country school.

The couple settled near Denver, Colorado in a township called Brighton. Silas Chambers was born in 1867 and died in 1938. His parents were Juan Roswell Chambers and Mary A. Shields Chambers. Silas’s brother, J. W. Chambers, married Laura Hood’s older sister, Ida Hood. J. W. and Ida Chambers remained in Union County when Silas and Laura went west. Occasionally the younger couple would return to visit relatives in Union County.

Laura Hood Chambers died March 23, 1938 at the Presbyterian Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Her death certificate lists causes of death as pneumonia and cardiac hypertrophy. She was 58 at the time of her death. Her husband died the same year as she. He was 71. Their triple tombstone at Brighton, Colorado has the names Silas Chambers (1867-1938), Laura L. Hood Chambers (1880-1938), and son Ferd Chambers (1905-1920). Other known children of this couple were Mercer, Peter, Emma, Grace and Florence.

Edward Leander Shuler writes of this teacher extraordinary, “Silas Chambers was the chief actor in the drama of life that unfolded at Hood school house” (p. 57).

[Resources: Edward Leander Shuler, Blood Mountain. Jacksonville, FL: Convention Press, 1953. Pp.48-57. Carol Thomas Alexander, Mary Reid Hood and Richard Jarrett Hood Families. Compiled 2001.]

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 1, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why Reverend Claud Cole Boynton Remained in the Mountains

Last week’s column gave a brief review of the history book produced by First Baptist Church, Blairsville, Georgia. I highly commend it to your reading.

I want to add some more information to the biographical sketch on pages 74 and 75 that tells of Rev. Claud Cole Boynton’s ten-year tenure as pastor of First Baptist Church, Blairsville (1944-1954). He was well-beloved by many, and served not only First Baptist of Blairsville, but Choestoe Baptist (my home church), Zion and Mt. Lebanon in Suches, and others.

He and his bride, the former Annis Grace Ozmer, came to the mountains to Lake Winfield Scott for a vacation before they planned to move on to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Ranger Arthur Woody met the young preacher, a graduate of Mercer University. The Ranger found out that he was a good speaker and that his exegesis of the Scripture was sound. In addition, the young preacher had a marvelous singing voice and had been on an evangelistic team not only as a preacher but as a baritone soloist as well.

The report goes that Ranger Woody talked to Rev. Boynton, telling him of the dearth of good Bible-teaching preachers at that time in the mountains (about the mid-1930s). Ranger Woody made arrangements for him to preach in revivals at some of the mountain churches in the Suches area. Crowds came to hear the young, enthusiastic preacher. A harvest of souls and baptisms were encouraging.

Ranger Woody prevailed up Rev. Boynton to remain in the mountains. He supposedly said to him, “You can get enough training right here in these mountains where we need a good preacher so badly. You don’t have to go away to seminary.” Furthermore, Ranger Woody promised the young preacher a job working as a supervisor in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a job which provided a meager living for the young couple. That was arranged, and Rev. Boynton worked with “the boys” of the C. C. C., as a chaplain and also a supervisor as the young men built roads and fire towers, put out forest fires and planted trees. Rev. Boynton preached on Sundays and Wednesday nights at part-time churches.

Without availability at this writing of the Notla River Baptist Association minutes to verify just when Rev. Boynton assumed leadership of Choestoe Baptist Church, I will say it was about 1936 or 1937. He was also pastor at the same time at Zion in Suches, preaching on alternate Sundays at the churches. He therefore became my pastor when I was young, and remained with us until Blairsville First Baptist became “full-time,” at which time he resigned Choestoe and became Blairsville’s full-time minister (August, 1953).

He often liked to state of his work in the mountains: “I came here on a vacation and spent the rest of my life serving God in these mountains.”

He was an apt teacher of the Word of God, and often led what we then called “study courses” for members of his congregation, with the studies focused on particular books of the Bible. He was a lover of young people, and ever encouraged them to get education beyond high school. He was good at knowing how to assist them to apply for and receive scholarships for college studies. He introduced Vacation Bible Schools as part of the summer programs of every church he pastored in the mountains. The Georgia Baptist Sunday School Department had provision for leadership help, a lady they sent to live among the people and assist with Vacation Bible Schools until the churches developed their own leaders under the encouragement of Rev. Boynton.

He was very active in community affairs. He served as Union County’s representative to the Georgia Legislature for several terms. He was an able speaker and was often invited not only to civic clubs in Union County but elsewhere as guest lecturer.

When the movement began in the mid-1940s to establish Truett McConnell College, it was Rev. Boynton who sent out letters and called a meeting of interested persons at First Baptist Church, Blairsville. At first, the charter was drawn for the college to be located in Blairsville, but Cleveland, Georgia had the largest donation of lands and money, and the college went there. Change of location did not preclude Rev. Boynton’s hard work for the fledgling college. He served on its first Board of Trustees, and went far and wide over the state of Georgia speaking on behalf of the college to raise funds.

He was my pastor at Choestoe from about 1936 until following my husband’s ordination to the gospel ministry. He was my counselor and spiritual advisor when I became a Christian at age nine. He baptized me. When my mother died in 1945, he comforted my family and conducted her funeral. When my brother returned, wounded, from World War II, he was there to encourage. He helped me to get a work-study scholarship to attend Truett McConnell College. He counseled Grover and me prior to our marriage in 1949, and officiated at our wedding ceremony. Later, when Grover announced his call to the gospel ministry, Rev. Boynton was the first one we told. He arranged for and presided over the ordination presbytery when Rev. Grover Jones was ordained on August 19, 1951.

Rev. Boynton died at a young age, 61, following a heart attack. His call to pastoral work in the mountains came in an unusual way—from a visitor on vacation here to a person who became one with the churches, people and needs of the mountains. His tombstone and those of his wife and their beloved daughter are in the Choestoe Baptist Church Cemetery. When you see the tombstones, I challenge you to think of the dash between the dates, representative of all the good work the Boynton family expended in the mountains of North Georgia, and the broad-reaching influence he wielded through his faithful calling:

Rev. Claud Cole Boynton, June 26, 1893 – November 13, 1954
Annis Grace Ozmer Boynton, October 26, 1893 – August 7, 1981
Mary Boynton Wehunt, August 4, 1914 – December 17, 1946

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 24, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

About "How Firm a Foundation" -- First Baptist Church History Book

Recently off the press is the beautiful book recounting the history of First Baptist Church, Blairsville.

Serving on the committee to research, write, design and publish the book were Ed and Doris Durban, Eva Decker, Mary Sue Moon, James Hooper, Tina Hourihan, Carol Rabun and Alan Morgan. They readily acknowledge that many more contributed to the book, making it a compendium of local and area history as well as the story of a faithful group of people who have lived and exercised faith in this place since at least 1875 or earlier.

It is an unusual book. Seldom do you see a church history book that is bound in what I like to call a “coffee table” format, one so comely and physically appealing in a book that you will want to place it in a prominent place in your home. Cover and contents, color and design—all invite the reader to enjoy.

The committee could not find an exact beginning date for First Baptist Church, Blairsville. They learned it was already founded and functioning as early as August 12, 1875, the earliest written records about the church. On that date, three messengers from the church—Isaac Petty, E. Boling and A. Carpenter—were representing Blairsville Baptist Church at the annual meeting of the Notla River Baptist Association and were so recorded in that body’s written minutes.

How long before 1875, or just when or by whom the church was founded has been lost in the mists of time and the absence of recorded information. The committee is to be commended for the sources they consulted to bring as much information as possible to readers about the church’s existence, growth, work and influence in the community and to the ends of the earth.

Old land deeds of August 29, 1883 reveal that a gift of two acres of land on Lot 303 was made to Blairsville Baptist Church Trustees by Jacob Luther Colwell. The Trustees receiving the land on behalf of the church were John A. Christopher, J. W. Meeks and Jessie Y. Walker. Later, in another gift of land from the same Land Lot 303, Mr. Jacob Luther Colwell gave another acre of land on January 8, 1890. On this land a house of worship was erected.

Early pastors, from a list made from memory by J. L. “Uncle Boney” Colwell in 1944, provided insight to first leaders in the absence of recorded minutes of the church’s first decades. Thumbnail biographies of these pastors are given, together with pictures when available.

The title of the book, How Firm a Foundation: A History of the First Baptist Church, Blairsville, Georgia, lends a hint of one of the unique features of the book. “How Firm a Foundation” is the title of a beloved church hymn appearing first in 1787 in London in John Rippon’s “Selection of Hymns.” It was beloved, too, by the first settlers who practiced the “faith first delivered to the saints.” They sang the songs they had learned in the mother country when they gathered to worship. In the seven chapters of the book, the committee used a hymn contemporary to and beloved in that particular historic period. This feature, combined with the history of the period and extensive pictures, many in color, provide a readable, interesting and composite picture of Baptist Church life and the context of events in which the church worked and ministered.

The dust jacket cover has these words about the book: “This is not your average church history book. This is a book about people—Christian men and women who, through dedication and commitment to God and each other, built the First Baptist Church of Blairsville. It is a story, not of a building, but of individual lives bound together within a community of God.” – The Book Committee; Ed Durbin and Doris Durbin, Editors and Writers.

As a researcher and writer, I will return to this book time and again as I seek information about people whose brief biographies and remembrances are included in the book. The excellent index makes the book an easy-to-use reference source. For inspiration, I will read testimonies and remembrances included in the book by various people I have known. In this way I can reconnect with people who made a difference in my own life.

Thanks are certainly in order to the church body itself for calling for and voting to publish what Honorable Zell Miller calls “a golden treasure-trove.” Thanks, a thousand-times over, for the persistence, digging, and hard work of the committee that brought the book to fruition. We think of crowns being a reward of our faithful service and coming after our transition to glory. But with this earthly work, the compilation and publication of How Firm a Foundation, your crown, faithful committee, is in our hands, ready to use, a glowing tribute to your efforts. All who read and appreciate the book will be basking in the glow of your shining crown.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 17, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ebenezer Witzel Family in Union County by 1834

The Ebenezer Witzel family was in the 1834 census of Union County, Georgia, a special listing of citizens called for by Act of the Georgia Legislature in 1833 and completed on March 24, 1834. Of the population of 903 in the county in 1834, the Witzel household numbered five.

Ebenezer Witzel was the only male in his household, with his wife (whose name we do not learn until 1860 as Minerva) and three female children. They were still in Union in 1840, and had grown to five children, all females under the ages of fifteen.

We do not know what happened to the Ebenezer Witzel family in 1850. Maybe the census taker missed going by that family’s dwelling. But by 1860 and thereafter, the Ebenezer Witzel family was recorded in the new Fannin County (formed in 1854 from parts of Union and Gilmer).

Maybe I should call these early settlers whose names are listed in the 1834 census of Union County as “First Families.” In a sense, they were the first families to take up residence and carve out a living amidst the hills, valleys and ridges of Union.

Witzel is an unusual last name, one that catches the eye in a list like a county census. It is listed Witzel, Wetzel, Whitzell and other similar spellings. German in origin, it means a descendant from “Wizo”, a sort of slang name for “Wild Forest.” Could it mean, then, that the original Witzel immigrants to America came from the Black Forest of Germany? It is known that Johannes Geog Wetzel settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s and his descendants migrated from there to various states.

According to the 1860 census of Fannin County (where we find the Union County Ebenezer Witzel of the 1834 Union census) he was a farmer, owned his own land evaluated at $2, 500 and his monetary assets were $1,000.

He had been born, according to the 1860 census, in North Carolina, and his wife, Minerva, had been born in South Carolina. He was 53 years of age and she was 41. They had two children remaining at home in 1860—John, age 14, and Hulda (Oregon?), age 10.

Did the Witzel family move from Union County to Fannin County? Probably not. It is possible that they lived on the same land they owned in Union in the 1834 and 1840 census listings. Why they were not “found” in the 1850 census is a matter of speculation. In 1860 they were in Fannin, possibly on the farm they had occupied in Union.

Ebenezer and Minerva Witzel, one of the “first families” of Union lived in a section of the new Fannin County called Sugar Creek. There Ebenezer had established the first iron forge to operate in the new Fannin County. This writer does not know the date of the iron forge’s opening, but it is very likely that it was in operation first in Union County before Fannin was founded in 1854. The iron mill was a large trip-hammer forge weighing several hundred pounds. It was operated by water power from a dam Ebenezer had built on Sugar Creek.

There this enterprising man also established a sawmill, likewise operated by water power. The sawmill was of the old type called a sash saw and worked in a vertical up-and-down motion.

To show how the Civil War adversely affected private business, the 1870 census shows that Ebenezer Witzel’s property evaluation had gone down to $1,000 and his monetary assets to $800. The reduction was probably from several factors like the actual cessation of iron manufacture (his forge did not operate during the Civil War) and his saw mill, from the poor economy after the war, and from Witzel’s deeding portions of his farm to his children as they married and established their own homes.

By 1870, Margaret Witzel, Ebenezer’s mother, had come to live with Ebenezer and Minerva. It is interesting to note that this 83-year old lady, born in North Carolina, had her occupation listed as “knitting socks.” Making socks from wool in 1870 was an important element of in-home production.

Ebenezer Witzel, born in North Carolina in 1807, died in Fannin County in 1871. His body was laid to rest on his own land. His was the first burial in what is known today as the Curtis Family Cemetery just off Curtis Road in Fannin County. There his wife, Minerva, was also laid to rest when she died October 4, 1904. It is believed that an unmarked grave in the old Curtis Cemetery may be that of Ebenezer’s mother, Margaret Witzel. The Witzel property was bought by Richard Ivy Byrd Curtis and became known in later years as the Curtis homeplace and Curtis Cemetery.

I did not find any Witzel marriages listed in early Union County marriage records. Next door in Fannin County, however, some thirteen Witzel and Wetzel marriages are listed between the years of 1854 and 1901. These marriages are of descendants, children and grandchildren, of the early settlers Ebenezer and Minerva Witzel who made their way to Union before 1834.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 10, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Mountain Way: 'Putting Up' Grape Juice and Jelly

Last week we recalled the mountain ways of preserving foodstuffs for winter use, with a general look at the processes of drying, pickling, barreling, canning and mounding-up to preserve foods for winter and early spring use.

Today I invite you to “go purple” with me and come along on a trip back in time to the old grape arbor, to the creek bank to gather fox grapes, and to that work of making grape juice and jelly for winter use. Purple has always been the color for royalty, and as we looked at our cans of purple grape juice and the small glasses of jelly, we could anticipate a feast fit for royalty supplemented and abetted by these two tasty preserved items.

My Grandpa “Bud” Collins had a grape arbor. He grew Concord grapes. The vines were staked “to a fare-you-well,” which in mountain vernacular meant the lush vines were well-trained along a sturdy grape arbor. It was a happy day for me—like play, not work—when I was allowed to accompany my Aunts Ethel and Avery to the grape arbor to gather the harvest. I can remember still looking up to see the luscious clusters of ripe grapes hanging like purple gold from the vines with broad leaves that ran along the whole length and breadth of the scaffold.

As a small child, I was allowed my own small bucket and a step stool on which I stood to gather grapes. I was warned in advance, “Be careful; don’t wiggle or you’ll fall off the stool!” My aunts gave me instructions on how to reach to the end of the cluster and gently pull off the whole bunch of grapes. I would soon have my small bucket filled and feel quite an accomplishment at my help with this valuable harvest.

Then came another work-play task I enjoyed. I was shown how to wash the grapes in pans of clear water. We didn’t have running water at that time, so we drew cool buckets from the deep well, using the “well bucket,” rope and windlass. We always washed the grapes twice to insure they were clean, and always “looked” them to remove any insects that might be hiding somewhere on the grapes.

The next step was pulling the grapes from the cluster, making sure no stems remained on them. In the pot, the grapes were covered with water and put on the Home Comfort wood stove to simmer. It was customary to use a wire potato masher to crush the grapes as they boiled so that the juice could be readily released from the hulls. After a proper length of time of cooking, the grapes were set aside to cool some, and then they were strained through clean cheesecloth to save just the royal purple juice. This was placed in one-half gallon Mason fruit jars, sealed with a “rubber ring and can top,” the kind of sealer we had for the jars in those days, and the whole cans were submerged into a hot water bath until processed—just a few minutes, maybe ten, for juice. If the juice was too tart, some sugar was added to the juice in each jar and stirred to dissolve, before processing.

When the sealed jars cooled, they were taken to the cellar and stored on the shelves there awaiting winter use. What a treat it was to get a half-gallon of grape juice and taste its tangy goodness in the dead of winter. How pretty the jars looked, sitting in their assigned place in the well-ordered cellar. This royal-purple drink took its honored place beside the other many jars of preserved food from summer’s bounty.

Some of the grapes were turned into jelly or jam. When the juice was made, it was matched, cup-for-cup with white sugar and boiled until it “jelled.” Sure-Jell, which has been a marvelous find for jelly-making in the latter half of the twentieth century, was never heard of when I was young and helping with the jelly-making. We simply boiled the sugar-juice combination until a drop of it into water in a cup would indicate to the practiced eye that the jelly was ready to put into sterilized small jars and sealed over with melted wax to await those future treats with jelly and butter on a hot biscuit. Yum, yum. Can’t you just imagine how that tasted on a snowy morning in December or January?

Fox Grape harvest came in the fall. It was harder to gather these grapes, for they were wild and grew on vines that had climbed trees in our forest, especially along branch or creek banks. My younger brother Bluford became an expert fox grape gatherer, for he could “skinny up” a tree, with a bucket strapped about his waist by a belt, ready to pluck those grapes from their tall hiding places. We would take two or three buckets on our treks to find and gather fox grapes. Once home again with our treasure from the forest, the same processes as with Grandpa’s Concord grapes was followed to make juice and jelly from these wild grapes. They had a tartness that distinguished them from the tame Concord grapes, and the color was not quite as royal purple as those from the arbor.

I was age fourteen when my mother passed away. I found myself of necessity having to be “chief cook and bottle washer”—as well as canner and preserver—around the Dyer household. Looking back now, I often wonder how I was able to do adult work and still go to school. It wasn’t easy, but I had been taught well: “Whatever thy hands find to do, do it with thy might” and “Work is honorable; do it to the best of your ability and without complaining.”

Every time I purchase grape juice in today’s modern super market or get a jar of Smucker’s grape jelly or jam from the grocer’s shelf, I think back to those days of yore when I thought nothing of gathering grapes, processing them, and enjoying the products of my labors, that mountain way of “putting up” against the hunger and cold of winter months.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 2, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.