Thursday, February 26, 2009

Was it That Long Ago? by: Keith Jones

My mother, Ethelene Dyer Jones, who usually writes the column “Through Mountain Mists,” is in the hospital with pneumonia and other ailments, so I told her I would attempt to write a substitute column for her readers this week.

A couple of years ago, I learned a fun name for folks like me—people whose parents grew up in the hills and hollers of North Georgia, East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and points north along the Appalachians. We're cosmic possums! A poet coined the term, but I learned it in the writings of Sharon McCrumb.

A cosmic possum grew up in some form of American suburbia or urban life, but went 'back home' with his or her parents, and so had at least a little experience of the old way of life in these hills. Hartwell, Hiawassee, and Epworth, Georgia may not qualify as 'suburbia' in many folks' minds, but living in a brick veneer house in the 1950's and 60's did, if you also had a television and grew up on the Mickey Mouse Club and Popeye cartoons. (Remember WSB's Officer Don and 'ooey-gooey'? Or maybe you got the Chattanooga station and watched cowboy Bob Brandy.)

I remember a lot about going to my Granddad Dyer's farm. Widowed when my Mom was a young teenager, he'd remarried about the time my parents were married, so I had uncles and aunts who were my age and younger. Unfortunately my step-grandmother also died while her children were young, so my Mom tried to visit often to help Granddad with raising six children.

Granddad was a good cook. He had an unusual woodstove that also had two electric eyes. The children cooked on the electric part, but Granddad always fired up the woodstove. He was a master syrup maker, so every meal finished up with a gob of homemade butter in the middle of your tin plate. Over this, you poured sorghum, then beat the mixture together and sopped it with a hot biscuit. To wash it down, icy cold milk from Granddad's Jersey. Even after skimming off the cream to make butter, that milk was still richer than anything you buy in a store today!
Of course, to heat the stove (and the house, for that matter) you had to have wood. Granddad's farm had both fields and woods. He'd always cut some oaks and hickories and drag them with his tractor to the woodlot. When we were teenagers, my uncle Troy and I used to have the job of helping cut wood. Granddad had a huge electric motor that we could hook up with a belt to a circular saw. The saw had a tilting cradle that would push the logs against the saw. OSHA inspectors would faint today if they saw this contraption, but somehow Troy and I still have all our fingers.

Some of the wood was split into quarters for the fireplace and large wood heaters. The kitchen needed smaller kindling and some pine 'fat lighter.' And we also cut some of the limbs from the trees into long pieces that were used to fire up Granddad's syrup cooking pan.

Many people have seen pictures of a cane mill powered by a mule ambling around in a circle. By the time I was helping with syrup-making (or getting in the way!) Granddad used a different method. He jacked up one rear wheel of his old Chevy pickup, somehow attached the same wide belt that was used with the big circular saw, and ran that belt to the wheel at the top of the crusher mill. The idling truck turned the raised wheel at just the right speed to run the mill.

From the crusher mill, the juice ran first into a concrete settling box. I think this was a re-purposed septic tank or concrete grave vault, but it was where a lot of the pulp from the sorghum cane settled out of the juice. Then the juice ran to the pan and began its transformation into the best syrup known to man—sweet sorghum.

Granddad not only made his own sorghum, he also cooked up a lot of other folks' crops, too. The juice entered the pan at the lower end, over the firebox door. Underneath the pan was a long firebox heated with all those long limbs we'd cut a few weeks before. On one side, there was a step so that workers could keep an eye on the syrup and skim off the scum (skimmings) that developed as the syrup cooked. A roof kept off the rain, but also kept the billows of steam confined near the workers. Often it would 'rain' under the roof as steam condensed and dripped back down. A large chimney at the upper end gave a good 'draft' for the fire and kept it roaring.

The syrup wound its way back and forth through a series of baffles, gradually boiling uphill until it was cooked completely. At the right moment, Granddad or my uncle Bluford would remove the stopper and let the syrup strain through many layers of cheesecloth into a large barrel. Yellow Jackets were always trying to get at the syrup, attracted by the sweet smell. Maybe they account for the sharp tang that's part of the flavor of good sorghum!

The last job was filling the pints and quarts and attaching labels. Granddad started as a syrupmaker at a time when he would have to put syrup in earthenware jugs and peddle it from farm to farm. He lived to see the day that people would drive from Atlanta or even further away to buy his syrup. Sadly, no one in our immediate family has made syrup in the last couple of years.

Hog killin' time was also busy. It was hard, dirty work for the most part, but the reward that evening was cracklin' bread, tenderloin, and for Granddad, a plate of scrambled eggs and brains. Somehow I never wanted to share that particular delicacy!

For many years, Granddad's household got their water from a well on their back porch. At first it was completely kid-powered, with a bucket and windlass. Later, an electric pump was added. But either way, in the dry part of the summer, that well usually went dry. That meant that any kids or grandkids who were handy when water was needed were sent across the road, over the side of the ridge to the spring, to bring home two five-gallon buckets each. Having to carry water a half mile or so helps you appreciate being able to turn on a tap anytime.

I could talk about long walks to visit our great-aunts, of watching a long plume of dust on the distant road as we anticipated the visit of the bookmobile, of playing on the barn roof and the haystack, of 'skating' in winter on the frozen water that collected on the 'cane chews,' and so much more…but there's no room, and a deadline looms.

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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More descendants of early settlers

Continuing the saga of the Cathey settlers in early Union County, today's article will feature a son of theirs, James Cathey, a grandson Julius Young Cathey, and a great grandson, John Lucius Cathey. These did not remain in Union County, partly because the section where James's parents lived became a part of Towns County in 1856, and then because of outward migration of some to find better economic conditions elsewhere.

James Cathey (March 11, 1812 - February 3, 1887) was born to William Cathey (April 15, 1782 - abt. 1860) and Elizabeth Bryson Cathey (April 3, 1787 - abt. 1872). His birth occurred in North Carolina prior to his parents' move to Union County, Georgia in the 1830s. As listed in a previous article, the Cathey children of this first generation to live in Union (later Towns) County were Andrew Dever, James, William H., Samuel B. and Rebecca. Of these children, the last, Rebecca, was the only one born in Georgia (Nov. 17, 1820 - Feb. 21, 1871).

James married Emmeline (known as Emily) Brown in Union County, Georgia on May 28, 1846. Their children numbered six, and were Julius Young (1847- 1929) who married Rebecca Louvenia Wood; Jane Elizabeth (1850 - ?); Lucious (1854 - ?); William C. (1859 - ?) who married Josephine Crow; Nancy Marinda (called "Rendy," 1863- 1919) who married Noah Ellis; John A. (1866- ? ) and Andrew Dever. Noting the names, one easily sees that children in the third generation in Towns/Union were given some of the same names as those of children of William and Elizabeth Bryson Cathey, first settlers here.

Firstborn of James and Emmeline Brown Cathey, Julius Young Cathey (Sept. 17, 1847 - March 22, 1929) lived in the Woods Grove section of Towns County. He married Rebecca Louvenia Wood in April of 1870. Her parents were John, Jr. and Nancy McClure Wood. This Wood family, early settlers in what became Towns County, gave the community of Woods Grove its name. James and Emily were buried in the Brasstown Baptist Church Cemetery, Towns County.

Julius Young and Rebecca Louvenia Woods Cathey (Jan. 12, 1846 - Dec. 28, 1928) reared their family of either nine or seven children in the Woods Grove Community. It is interesting to note that the Towns County census of 1900 lists nine children in their household. However, only seven can be traced with any degree of authentication. Perhaps two died young. Known children and their spouses were: James Melvin (b. 1871) married Georgia Ann Martin and Roxie Ann Elliott. Mary Elizabeth (1873-1953) married William H. Dotson. John Lucious (1876-1960) married Hattie Ann Dyer. Elmira M. (1878-?) never married. Andrew Judson (1881 - ?) married Bessie (maiden name unknown). Sarah (known as Sally, 1883 - ?) married Charles Crawford. Nancy (1885 - ?) married Lon Gribble.

Julius Young and Rebecca Louvenia Wood Cathey's third child, John Lucius Cathey (Jan. 15, 1876- April 4, 1960) married Hattie Ann Dyer (April 9, 1876 - July 31, 1959) of Union County, Georgia on January 13, 1898. Her parents were Bluford Elisha Dyer (Feb. 13, 1855 - Nov. 21, 1926) and Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer (May 17, 1857 - March 4, 1959). Hattie Ann was the firstborn of fifteen children born to "Bud" and Sarah Souther Dyer.

When she and John Lucius Cathey married January 15, 1898, they lived near her parents in the Choestoe District of Union County. He was a farmer. Then, about 1920, they moved their family to White County, Georgia, and eventually on to Habersham County near Cornelia, Georgia. At their deaths, they were interred in the Level Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, Habersham County, GA.

John and Hattie Dyer Cathey had four children, three of whom lived to adulthood. Their firstborn, a daughter, Avie Cathey (born April 17, 1900 in Union County, GA, died May 4, 1962, and was buried at Level Grove Cemetery, Cornelia, GA). Avie was a teacher. She married Etna Beck (1904-1961). Their children were Johnny Lawrence Beck and Jimmy Nathaniel Beck.

The second child born to John and Hattie Dyer Cathey was a daughter named Beulah, born October 12, 1906. She died as an infant and was buried in New Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery, Choestoe, Union County.

Their third child, a son, was named Conley Lucian Cathey, born October 18, 1908. He married Louise Wiggins on March 22, 1935 in Habersham County, Georgia. Four children were born to Conley and Louise: Dorothy Gail, Conley Lucian, Jr., William Norman and James Michael. Conley worked for Southern Bell Telephone Company in Macon, Columbus and Cornelia. He had to take early retirement due to poor health. Sadly, his date and place of death are unknown because, under great duress, he left a hospital where he was a patient in the cold wintertime and (to this writer's knowledge) was never located again.

The fourth child of John and Hattie Dyer Cathey was Norman Dester Cathey, born Sept. 26, 1914, died September 3, 1964. He married Mary Faye Wiggins on June 20, 1942 in Phoenix City, AL. She was a daughter of J. A. Wiggins of Cornelia, GA. Dester and Mary Faye had six children: Susan Elaine, Steven Norman, David Neil, Sharon Elizabeth, Donna Faye, and Richard Alan. Norman Dester Cathey had a career in the U. S. Army, joining young and remaining in service until his retirement. He and Mary Faye made Jacksonville, Florida their home. He was buried there, and his widow remains there near their children.

At best, these articles about the Cathey families of early Union (and Towns) Counties are sketchy. For those interested in the Scots-Irish roots, the migration of some west, the "Cathey Settlement" in North Carolina, and the Woods Grove section of Towns County that became a sort of "Cathey Settlement" in Georgia, there is much information online on this pioneer family. I have pleasant memories of visiting Uncle John and Aunt Hattie Cathey near Cornelia, Georgia when I was a child and of their coming from Cornelia to family reunions and to visit "Grandma Sarah" Dyer.

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

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Aunt Dora reaches 104

Dora Anne Hunter Allison Spiva

Her name is Dora Anne Hunter Allison Spiva. Today, February 10, 2009, she reaches the milestone of 104 years of age. If we could string together a multitude of adjectives of a positive nature to describe this centenarian-plus, we could not come close to telling of her broad influence as a teacher, church woman, community worker, advisor and friend.

Saturday, February 7 from 2:00 to 4:00 p. m., relatives and friends gathered at Choestoe Baptist Church to celebrate the milestone of her 104th birthday. All the crowd who attended came bearing love and praise for this influential woman who has been blessed with beauty, compassion, wisdom and long life.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Dora! Whether you are aunt-kin to us or not, you hold this honorable title, gifted to you because God has granted you long life and a gracious spirit. We came from far and near on February 7 to say "thank you" and "you were a great influence on my life."

Just who is Dora Anne Hunter Allison Spiva?

First, let's look at her family roots. She was born on February 10, 1905 to James A. Hunter (1847-1912) and Martha Souther Hunter (1867-1937). She was the first-born of James A., but Martha had been married previously to James's brother, Jasper F. Hunter (1863-1897), also known as "Todd." To them had been born seven children: John Esther, William Jesse, Nancy, James Hayes, Francis Homer, Hattie and Jasper Grady. These first children of Martha ranged in age from 13 to a baby when Todd died in 1897.

Stepping up later like an Old Testament patriarch, James A. Hunter married his brother's widow and began to help his dear wife with his nieces and nephews who became his own children. To Martha and James were born Dora Anne (1905), Joseph D. (1906) and Daniel (1907), bringing the number of Hunter children to ten. James Hunter's parents were William Johnson Hunter (1813-1893) and Martha England Hunter (1819-1897). Martha's parents were John Combs Hayes Souther (1827-1891) and Nancy Collins Souther (1829-1888). Family ties on "all sides" stem back to early settlers in the Choestoe District with names written in the annals of that area's history: John and Elizabeth Hunter, John and Mary Combs Souther, Thompson and Celia Self Collins, and Daniel and Margaret Gwynn England, to name a few of Aunt Dora's early-settler ancestors.

James A. Hunter died in 1912 when Dora Anne was seven, Joe was not quite six, and Dan was not quite five. Her mother Martha somehow managed, with the older children helping on the farm, and the younger children, likewise, sharing their load of work as they grew up to the responsibilities of farm and family life.

Dora Hunter Allison was educated in the country schools, Old Liberty and Choestoe, whose excellent teachers managed to produce students that stood on their own wherever they went for subsequent education. She went on to Young Harris and became a teacher in the Blairsville Collegiate Institute in 1927 when she was twenty two. Her 40-year career as a mathematics teacher, principal and counselor was mainly in the Union County Schools where she distinguished herself as an apt and caring teacher and one well-beloved by all her students. She continued her own education, earning degrees from Young Harris, Piedmont and the University of Georgia.

In Choestoe Baptist Church where she has been and still is an active member, she was one of the founders of Woman's Missionary Union, served as a teacher in Sunday School, known for her knowledge of the Bible, and as Superintendent of the Sunday School even in the days before women took active roles in the major leadership of the church. She has been active in Georgia's Woman's Missionary Union, serving in past years on the Board as Divisional Vice-President. When telling her niece, Doris Hunter Souther, what her main wish for her birthday is, she said, "I would wish, before I go, that the indebtedness on Choestoe's Family Life Center can be paid." And so, on Saturday, people honored her by making a donation to that cause which is dear to her heart.

To honor this stately lady, Truett McConnell College in nearby Cleveland, Georgia, which she worked actively to establish in 1946 when her pastor at that time, the Rev. Claud Boynton, served on the first Board of Trustees, the college has named a division the Dora Hunter Allison Spiva School of Education. The first four year graduates in education are now serving in schools, a continuing tribute to this notable teacher who has touched so many lives. Donations can be made in her honor to further equip and endow this School of Education which will be touching lives and training teachers for many years to come.

And the beat goes on. A great life is like a widening ripple. It touches deeply where the impact is first made, but it circles outward to reach far beyond the initial target in an ever-widening circle.

Mrs. Dora Hunter Allison Spiva, you have had great impact on so many touched by your caring nature and your dynamic personality, your ability to teach and your dedication to leadership. Saturday's party was beautiful, with her friends from the Blairsville Garden Club (which she helped to found years ago) making attractive decorations for every table and even the "throne-like" place where she sat. The food prepared by her fellow church members was exquisite and tasty, and the huge birthday cake fashioned by Judy Hood Rogers was a lovely centerpiece enjoyed by all. But Dora herself was definitely the center of attention and attraction--amazing, delightful Dora!

Thank you is too small a word to wish you a wonderful 104th birthday! But we do thank you. You did make more difference in our lives than you will ever know.

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

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dispersion from 'Cathey Settlement'

From past columns, we have seen that the first Cathey (of Scots-Irish descent) to be registered in Union County, Georgia in 1840 was the family of William Cathey (1782-about 1860) and his wife, Elizabeth Bryson Cathey (1787-about 1872). They lived in the vicinity of Young Harris, a portion of Union County incorporated into Towns when that county was lined out and organized in 1856. This family was the first Cathey family to disperse from North Carolina to our section of North Georgia.

This William Cathey was the son of Andrew D. Cathey who died in North Carolina in 1808. Andrew was a common name, passed down through many generations in the Cathey family. Up in North Carolina, about ten miles west of Salisbury, fourteen families made up what was known in the late 1700's as the "Cathey Settlement." There the patriarch of the Cathey settlement, James, operated a mill and had a land grant of 3,752 acres. It is hard for us to imagine the oversight of such a broad span of land. An interesting story comes out of this settlement of how the westward pull hit the Cathey Settlement. Not only had one of them named William migrated to North Georgia, but one named Andrew "went west" in his young manhood.

One of the Cathey men, descendant of James Cathey, not to be confused with a son of William and Elizabeth Cathey by the very same name, decided to go west. Andrew Dever Cathey, this one born in 1804 in Buncombe County, NC, died in California (date unknown to this writer). When the California Gold Rush occurred in 1849, this Andrew Cathey, his son Daniel and son-in-law, Benjamin Wills left Fort Smith Arkansas, where the family had moved earlier from North Carolina, and made an exploratory trip. They went by river boat from Ft. Smith, Arkansas to New Orleans. They got ship's passage to Panama, and boarded another ship there to go to San Francisco. Once on the west coast, they took a stage to Indian Gulch in Mariposa County, California. Andrew mined for gold for two years in California. He must have been rather successful, for he returned to Ft. Smith, Arkansas in 1851 to load up his family on a wagon train bound for California overland.

It took about two years for the wagon train of twenty families to make the long trek from Arkansas to California. A diary of the journey tells of the route they took, the hardships they faced, and the challenges to find food and especially water through much desert terrain. They took along a large number of cattle, which they kept intact by riding herd on them with horses. The cows provided milk for families in the wagon train. They also sold milk to others they met along the way and thus earned some "traveling" money. The entourage arrived at their destination on October 27, 1852.

They named the place they settled in Mariposa County, California "Cathey's Valley" after the leader of the wagon train that had brought them safely from Fort Smith, Arkansas, their hero, Andrew D. Cathey.

In that California valley, Andrew purchased a ranch for $1,500 from a Mr. Evans. Andrew and his wife, Mary, helped to establish a church, a school and a cemetery on land they donated for those purposes. Their sons, too, purchased land and settled their families in that vicinity. In Cathey's Valley, even in this era, a celebration is held at Christmas time in the restored little one-room schoolhouse. At other times during the year, the pioneer settlers of Cathey's Valley are honored for their hard work, civic responsibility, and entrepreneurship.

A large stone monument in the little town records the history of the Andrew D. Cathey family and their settlement there in 1852. Some of the trees and vineyards set out by Andrew Cathey long ago are still intact. The little schoolhouse has been restored by the Cathey's Valley Historical Society.

Whether this Andrew Dever Cathey who went to California is a brother to the William Cathey who settled near Blairsville prior to 1840 is unknown by this writer. However, since William and Elizabeth named one of their sons William Dever Cathy (1809-1882), we can believe the westward-moving Andrew Dever Cathey was indeed related to William Cathey of Union County.

The California Catheys have a monument to the family's civic contributions in a valley named for them in Mariposa County. On Island Colonsay, Scotland, the Standing Stone marks the place where the clan leader of MacFie (anglicized to Cathey) was killed in a battle in 1623. There certainly are not monuments on historical spots in every place the Cathey Clan members dispersed. But the more accounts we hear about them, the more we can see that they were solid, hard-working citizens wherever they settled.

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