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.