Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memorial Day and Thoughts on Freedom

We have a valuable gift, one not wrapped and tied with ribbons. It is intrinsic to America and our constitutional way of life. The gift is costly. The gift is freedom and it has been bought with blood and tears, life and limbs, sacrifice and abnegation.

Memorial Day is a time of reflection on aspects of freedom, its cost in lives and in sacrifice, not only in those who bore arms and met death in service, but the families who suffer through terrible losses.

When some casualties of military service were returned to Choestoe for memorial rites, I was young. But the impression made on me of how young men laid down their lives was deeply imbedded within. I remember the funeral service for James Jasper Hunter (August 16, 1923-December 5, 1945). He was a cousin who died not in battle but as a result of a transfer truck accident. Multiple family members and community people gathered to mourn on that cold, dark winter day when his casket lay ready to be lowered into the grave. Our pastor, the Rev. Claud Boynton, gave accolades of Jasper's service, of his dying young but heroically. Then later, another member of the same family, William Jack Hunter (Sept. 2, 1932 - August 5, 1954) died at sea. Both Jasper and Jack were sons of William Jesse Hunter (1886- 1982) and Sadie Collins Hunter (1900-1979).

Brothers James Jasper Hunter and William Jack Hunter were in military service when they died. They were willing to lay down their lives for their country, but were not killed in battle.

Later, even after the major conflicts of World War II had ended or were drawing to a close, another of our Choestoe boys, James Ford Lance (March 14, 1927 - January 12, 1946) was returned for burial. We gathered at Chostoe's Salem Methodist Church to mourn with his family and bid farewell to yet another young man who met death while in the service of his country. He was laid to rest in Union Memory Gardens at Blairsville.

There were others in what we now call "The Greatest Generation" who were among Union County's war dead from World War II. Having been present for some of the funerals, my young mind was trying to sort out the meaning of freedom and the price paid for it. War is no respecter of persons. The young take up arms. Some die. The parents of those laid to rest grieve and wonder at the high cost of liberty.

Union County has a stately and impressive War Memorial dedicated in 1995. On the monument is a quotation from William Shakespeare (from his Henry V): "But we…shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."

The monument lists names of those who lost their lives In the Indian Wars, the Mexican War, the War Between the States including both Federal and Confederate soldiers (a list not complete yet, but longer than the lists for all other wars combined); World War I., World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. I am not sure, but plans for the War Memorial no doubt include listings from the current Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Since much emphasis is now placed on "The Greatest Generation," those who fought in and lost their lives in World War II, 1941- 1946, I list below those whose names appear on that memorial marker. Union County lost twenty two sons in that conflict. We pause to salute their memory and to offer thanks for the sacrifice of their lives for freedom.

Akins, Herbert J.

Dyer, Tommy A.

Hooper, W. C.

Rogers, Thomas J.

Anderson, Beecher L.

Everett, Frank J.

Lance, James F.

Sullivan, John C.

Barnes, Clyde N.

Gregory, Arlie

Marr, Charles L.

Summerour, Robert L.

Burnette, Monroe, Jr.

Grizzle, Garnie L.

Owenby, H. J.

Wilson, Wroodrow L.

Davenport, James U.

Grizzle, Garnie L.

Plott, J. B.

Dover, John G.

Harkins, Waymond

Rogers, Dale C.

The honorable William Gladstone, Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1868-1894 wrote: "Show me the manner in which a nation or community cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies for its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals."

Resource: I am grateful to David Friedly of Blairsville for information from the Union County War Memorial and for the picture with this article.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 28, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Poet Reece Painted Word Pictures of Spring

One of poet Byron Herbert Reece's strongest advocates while he lived, wrote and published his poems and novels was the late Ralph McGill, former editor of The Atlanta Constitution. He wrote this accolade of Reece and his work which appears on the back cover of Bow Down in Jericho, published first in 1950 by E. P. Dutton and Company of New York and republished in 1985 by Cherokee Publishing Company, Atlanta:
"The mountains were in his poetry and ballads. They, and the Bible,… colored all his poems. The skies, the clouds, the cold lakes, the tumbling rivers, the forests, the cold, keen nights when stars looked green as ice, the winds of summer and winter, the wild flowers, the corn and cattle—all these were in his poems as were the prophets and peoples of the Old and New Testaments."
It has been fifty-one years since Poet Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958), beloved son of Juan and Emma Lance Reece, ended his life on the campus of Young Harris College in the same room where his beloved professor, Dr. Lufkin Dance, met his demise years before in a similar manner. Reece's emaciated, pain-racked body could not hold on to life. On June 3, 1958, he reached a point of no return.

The literary legacy he left us is contained in four published volumes of poetry and two novels. These, first released by E. P. Dutton between 1945 and 1955, were all republished by Cherokee Publishing Company in 1985, and are now available again to those wishing to purchase them.

In the past six years, the Byron Herbert Reece Society, under the capable leadership of Dr. John Kay of Young Harris, other officers, a Board of Directors, an Advisory Board and a growing membership have sought to make Reece and his literary works known. Call their efforts resurrecting Reece, for the members of the Society, like his ballad based on Ezekiel's Valley of the Dry Bones, are breathing new life into the life and works of Union County's premiere literary genius.

May 30, 2009 will be the annual meeting of the Society to convene at the Goolsby Center, Young Harris College. Within the day's program will be the viewing of the introductory video produced by Karen Deem. With interviews from several who knew Reece, the film will be used as visitors to the Reece Farm on Wolf Creek begin their tour when the facility opens to the public as a cultural center. Members of the Society have worked hard to ready the farm as a memorial to the farmer-poet.

In spring, especially, those who love and appreciate Reece and his works turn to his published pages for inspiration. Through his well-crafted lines, the reader can see in the mind's eye the scene he paints, feel the emotions his words convey. His words speak for themselves. Explication would be redundant. Read any of his poems about Spring (or any other season) aloud. Allow the beauty and rhythm of the lines to speak their poignant message. You will come away from the reading with a greater appreciation of his poetry and its ability to move the reader and engrave a memorable image in the mind.

Now that the year's advanced to spring
And leaves grow large and long
Forget each sorry and rueful thing
Hearing the wild bird's song.
The leaf will fall, the bird will fly
And winter close the year,
But O, put all such knowledge by
Now that the spring is here!
Plum, peach, apple and pear
And the service tree on the hill
Unfold blossom and leaf.
From them comes scented air
As the brotherly petals spill.
Their tenure is bright and brief.
We could wish them a longer stay,
We could wish them a charmed bough
On a hill untouched by the flow
Of consuming time; but they
Are lovelier, dearer now
Because they are soon to go,
Plum, peach, apple and pear
And the service blooms whiter than snow.
Both the above poems by Byron Herbert Reece appear in his book Bow Down in Jericho published by Dutton in 1950 and republished by Cherokee in 1985. We invite readers to consider attending the annual meeting of the Society on May 30, 2009.

c 2098 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 21, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

William Sullivan Family, Camp Meetings near Confidence Church

To get crops "laid by" (that is, finish cultivation—plowing and hoeing) and attend the grand old "Camp Meetings" were highlights of summer days in the late nineteenth and into the early twentieth centuries in north Georgia.

Good old William Sullivan, who was a citizen of Union County as early as the 1840 census, was a staid and true Methodist and participant in the early camp meetings in the vicinity of Confidence Methodist Church in Young Cane District.

An account of one such Camp Meeting in August of 1885 has been preserved in an article written by George A. Smith in 1901. In the paper Smith tells about the William Sullivan family and how a family reunion was incorporated into proceedings of the Camp Meeting in the summer of 1885.

Rebecca Mashburn Sullivan (1811-1895) was present at the Camp Meeting. Her beloved husband, William Sullivan (1805-1881), had died four years previously. No doubt, she remembered many times they had attended camp meeting together. Elisha Sullivan, a son of the late William and Rebecca Mashburn Sullivan, had a large tent set up at the meeting grounds. It was Elisha's desire to honor his dear mother and to incorporate the family reunion into that Sunday of the grand camp meeting. After morning services, a solemn and meaningful gathering took place in Elisha's tent.

Mr. George Smith described the occasion thus in his article published in The Wesleyan Advocate:

"Elisha who tented gave a special dinner for his mother and the children present—a sort of family reunion. The surrounding circumstances and the occasion itself were calculated to solemnize the scene, and this solemnity was deepened as they were being seated at the table. The 'Old Mother of Israel' (Rebecca Mashburn Sullivan) was seated first.
And then next to her the oldest child, and then the next oldest and so on until all seven of the nine present were seated."
All of her children but two daughters were present at the meeting, and many of her host of grandchildren. Nine of the Sullivan-Mashburn descendants had tents set up.

Four of Mrs. Sulllivan's sons were preachers, Elisha, in whose tent the reunion occurred, was a prominent minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Three other sons, William, Asbury and James, were ordained practicing ministers in the Methodist Episcopal Church (North). All were participating in the camp meeting, and the presiding elder, the Rev. A. C. Thomas, "showed equal respect to those who belonged to the M. E. Church and those who belonged to the M. E. Church South. They all preached, prayed and exhorted in that commendable spirit which…characterizes all true and earnest worshipers."

The gathered Sullivan family then turned their thoughts to their father, William Sullivan, and honored his memory by quoting the comforting scripture, "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." (John 11:25). They anticipated the time in the future when all believers will be reunited on high "around the table of the Lord." And, they were assured, "unlike at this camp meeting, in glory there will be no vacant seats."

The eldest son of William and Rebecca Mashburn Sullivan was James Sullivan, licensed to preach in the year 1856. He was ordained by the beloved Rev. D. D. Cox. It took Rev. Sullivan four weeks on horseback to get around to his small churches in his charge before the Civil War curtailed much of his travel. After the war, his assignment was in the Ellijay Circuit which extended as far as Jasper, Waleska and Spring Place. He also had pastored churches in Fannin County, Polk County Tennessee, Clay County, North Carolina, and Towns and Lumpkin Counties in Georgia. It is on record that he attended the Fightingtown Camp Meetings at Epworth, Georgia in Fannin County and preached there.

The paper by Adam Smith did not give details on the other ministers of beloved Mrs. Rebecca Mashburn, but present and celebrating with her on that August Sunday in 1885 were Rev. Elisha Leander Sullivan (1830-1897), who was hosting the dinner in his tent, Rev. James Sullivan, the eldest of the boys mentioned in the above paragraph, Rev. Asbury Sullivan (what a strong Methodist name he had been given by his parents) and Rev. William (named for his father).

Confidence Methodist Church was significant in the life of this family. William and Rebecca Mashburn had held the organizational meeting in their home "between 1835 and 1845" as the history of the church states. How long the congregants met in homes is not known, but the first church building was erected in 1845. The church grew rapidly and at one time had the largest Methodist congregation in Union County.

Accounts of reunions such as that of the Sullivan family held in 1885 give insight into the contributions of hardworking, salt-of-the earth people such as William and Rebecca Mashburn Sullivan.

The 1850 Union census, the first to list names of those in the family, records William and his wife Rebecca and children as follows: James, 21; Mary, 17; William, 15; Sarah 13; Daniel (Asbury), 11; Elizabeth, 8; Miriam, 6: Sofrona, 4; and John 11 months. Elisha Sullivan (age 19) and his wife Mary (age 18) were already set up in their own household at the time of the 1850 Union census. About 1888, the Rev. William Harvey Sullivan (1835-1902) and his wife, Mary Angeline Early Sullivan went as appointed missionaries to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. They were instrumental in founding the Talequah Methodist Church there.

[Reference: Sketches of Union County History, Volume 2 (1978), pages 72-77.]

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 14, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Rev. Edward Leander Shuler—mountain lad

Rev. Edward Leander Shuler (March 15, 1886-October 21, 1959)
Pictured at Mercer University, 1914

In the Mercer University, Macon, Georgia college yearbook of 1914, underneath the picture of Edward Leander Shuler who received his AB degree from that institution that year was this quotation which he had chosen as representative of his life to that point:

"A man that fortune's buffets and rewards
Has ta'en with equal thanks."
One of fourteen children born to William Jackson Shuler (1830-1936) and Elizabeth Townsend Shuler (1861-1947) of Ponder, Georgia, a section of Upper Choestoe along the Logan Turnpike, Edward Shuler knew it was through "buffets and rewards" of fortune and the grace of God that he had succeeded in completing his college degree. He would go on to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky for a master's degree, and then return to Georgia and Florida where he completed his career as a minister and teacher. Born March 15, 1886 in Choestoe, Edward Leander Shuler died October 21, 1959 in Jacksonville, Florida.

I have just reread Edward L. Shuler's book, Blood Mountain, his memoirs, published in 1953 by the Convention Press of Jacksonville, Florida. The subtitle of his book is "An Historical Story about Choestoe and Choestoeans." He says in his foreword: "This is a rambling tale, combining the deeds and sayings of Choestoeans who lived in a small rural district in the Georgia mountains, which was called Choestoe." (iii)

Written in a folksy manner, with avid use of the mountain vernacular language in the dialogue, Edward Shuler recalls a time past when frugal and hard-working parents, even though limited themselves in formal education, held a strong ambition for their children to go to school and make a difference in the world of their day. The wisdom he quotes from his Uncle Enoch Shuler, his father, Jack Shuler, and his mother, Elizabeth, is well-embedded in the book's story line and shows how the author benefited from their sage advice.

Edward Leander Shuler received his education at Hood's Chapel School in his community with inimitable teachers Bud Miller, John Twiggs, Silas Chambers and others. With this foundation in his one-teacher country school, Edward went to "boarding and batching" school at Hiawassee Academy, the school founded by cousins and great men who went out from the mountains to make a difference. These founders of the mountain school were the Rev. Dr. Fernando Coello McConnell and Rev. Dr. George W. Truett. Edward remembers how he went with his mother and father to the home of Henderson Dyer to borrow money for Edward to pay his fees and set up his "batching" room in Hiawassee. At Hiawassee Academy, Edward was introduced to Latin and Greek and the classics of literature. He was also on the Truett Society debating team and learned to become a good public speaker through that experience. His years of learning at Hiawassee Academy, a Mission School in the mountains, were basic to all he did in his succeeding years.

While studying at Hiawassee Academy, Edward Shuler and Laura Collins began their courtship. She was a daughter of Archibald Benjamin Collins (1863-1897) and Mary Louise Jackson Collins (1862-1934). Her brother, Mauney Douglas Collins (1885-1967), was a good friend of Edward Shuler. Mauney Collins would become Georgia's state superintendent of schools and served in that capacity from 1933-1957. Laura Collins and Edward Shuler married August 18, 1906.

The next step in Edward Shuler's education was at Young Harris College. In his memoirs, Rev. Shuler describes Young Harris as "in that pasture was the tree of knowledge, and it had only good fruit on it, and it was ripe…That nearly every one who attended the little college did eat of the good fruit was shown by the life each one lived later on. In half a century, the college sent forth a hundred and forty young men as gospel preachers." (p. 95, Blood Mountain). At Edward's graduation from Young Harris, he heard the famed preacher, the Rev. Sam Jones, deliver the graduation sermon.

The next step in education for Edward Shuler was Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. He and his wife Laura and their little girl, Ruby Jane Shuler (born March 7, 1908) went across the Logan Turnpike to Gainesville, caught a train to Atlanta, spent a day or two seeing the capitol and other sights there, and then on by train to Macon. Her brother, Mauney Douglas Collins, who was already a student at Mercer, accompanied the Shulers on this trip. Thanks to the president of Mercer, Dr. Jameson, who managed to find money from endowment scholarships, the Shuler family was able to live frugally with enough to eat in one of the Mercer cottages specifically set aside to house married Mercer ministerial students. Edward's account of how he studied hard for his first sermon at a church of any size outside those at which he had preached in the mountains before going to Mercer, the Wrightsville First Baptist, recalled both the anticipation and the nervousness of the encounter on Mother's Day. As it happened, all turned out well and the people welcomed the "preacher man" who had grown up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Edward's seminary degree was earned at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.

Edward and Laura Shuler had two other children besides Ruby Jane: a son, Paul Edward Shuler, was born November 12, 1909 and Mary Elizabeth Shuler was born November 23, 1915.

Edward Leander Shuler was ordained to the gospel ministry at Oakwood Baptist Church in Hall County, Georgia in 1910. Laura continued her education and graduated from Florida Southern College. In addition to rearing their children, she also became a teacher with a thirty-year career. She loved poetry, both reading and writing it, and some of her poems are included in Edward's book of memoirs.

Even though much of their work was in the Jacksonville, Florida area, Edward and Laura Shuler never lost the desire to return to the mountains. The serene valleys and hills and the mountain people remained dear to their hearts. Edward, as well as Laura, wrote poetry. In his "The Old Nottely" he lauds the tumbling river that cascades through Union County. The river became for this couple, moved away, a symbol of how life itself flows and cascades, touched by and touching a multitude of people.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 7, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.