Thursday, December 23, 2010

Keeping Christmas All Year Long

To faithful readers everywhere, my wish for you is that the joy of Christmas may follow you throughout 2011.

What may we do to renew the spirit of Christmas daily so that the joy we know at this season may truly follow us the whole year through? Here are some suggestions.

Build memories that last. When I think of Christmases past, I revel in a world of memories that build joy upon joy. Some of my childhood memories of Christmas are a little dim now, but if I try hard I can recall them, and they still fill me with joy unspeakable.

I remember how we went to Grandma Sarah Souther Dyer’s house. It was quite a production, just the going. And once there, we had cousins galore to play with, and a Christmas meal that was tasty and inviting. Here’s how we went: Daddy hitched our two farm mules to our farm wagon and put the seat at the front of the wagon on which he and mother sat. Then back of them in the wagon bed, warmed by black irons heated and wrapped in blankets, and with our warmest coats and woven woolen blankets shielding us from the winter’s cold, we children rode. We journeyed the four miles over a country road to Grandma’s house. Nightfall came after we arrived, and I recall one night that scared us half-out-of our wits. About this story, here, briefly, are the details.

Whether it was Christmastime or not, I do not recall. But perhaps it was, for we had roaring fires in the fireplaces in three areas of the old house at Grandma’s. The house was built first as a cabin in 1850 by Grandma’s father, and then added-to as the family grew and needed more space. There was a fireplace in the “front room,” known also as “Grandma’s room,” where she sat in her little chair by the window that looked out upon the tallest mountain in Georgia—Brasstown Bald. She looked frequently through that window expecting “company” to come along the road and visit her. She lived to be almost 102 years of age and through the years welcomed many visitors. On the particular winter night—Christmas or not, I don’t remember—her fireplace glowed, as did those in Uncle Hedden’s family’s “front” room—and one in the kitchen fireplace in the ell that had been added at the back of the old house. But the fire in Grandma’s front room fireplace was too lively, and the chimney soot caught fire. Talk about fast action! Buckets of water were poured down the chimney from the roof by all the men present. Their quick action enabled them to put out the soot fire and save the house.

Then came the nighttime task of bedding all the children present (Uncle Hedden’s who lived there and visiting cousins from far and near). Quilt pallets were made on the floor, for there were not nearly enough beds to take care of the crowd gathered at Grandma’s house. We cousins talked and told stories, warned frequently by the adults that it was time to be quiet and go to sleep. With such excitement in the air—and especially that of the near-disaster of a chimney fire—how hard it was to relax and sleep.

Christmas is made dear by building memories. Perhaps even now you can think of many memories from you own Christmases that will bring joy to you as you recall them. From childhood to my young adulthood there were many highlights. One was Christmas, 1949, December 23, when my husband and I had a near-Christmas wedding. Then there were our years of ministry together, he as pastor and later director of missions, and I as a teacher. Such Christmases as we enjoyed in the communities where we lived and worked could make a book-length tome of truth stranger than fiction. This year marks our sixty-first anniversary, a life together of many joys and sorrows as well. But nothing has accrued on the side of sorrows that we have not had the grace and strength to bear, even now in his long illness.

And so it is with life. If we keep the joy of Christmas in our hearts all year long, we will anticipate the best. If we remember the best parts, we will have a garden blooming in December, even in the cold and snow. Someone has aptly stated, “God gave us memories so we can have roses in December.”

Add to good memories that cheer the heart the spirit of giving and gratitude for gifts which can be solid fabrics for warming every day of the year. And with these thoughts active and alive, we can have Christmas all year long!

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 23, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reece Caught the Essence of Christmas with Certain Poems

December. We celebrate Christmas. The air is full of Christmas carols coming from every store, television set and radio, from church choirs and ordinary people caught up in the spirit of the season. Some of the carols are sacred, some secular. Every year some new ones make the rounds, but if your preferences are as mine, you still prefer hearing the old ones, like the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” by American pastor and poet, the Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), with music by Lewis H. Redner. Or choose the much older “Silent Night” written by Joseph Mohr (1792-1848) with music first composed by guitarist Franz Gruber (1787-1863) because the church organ was broken. How thrilling is the true story of how World War I was stopped on a Christmas Eve as German and allied soldiers, all caught up in the spirit of the season, stopped their fighting long enough to sing together on the battlefield that inimitable carol, “Silent Night.”

But I want to write about some Christmas poems written by our Union County poet Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958). Some of them have been sung by autoharp artists but I am not sure the music for them has ever been published. If so, I am not aware of where the music or recordings of the Christmas poems-set-to-music might be secured. If anyone knows of the whereabouts of same, please let me know.

For this brief period, to honor “our” poet, let’s imagine we are listening as he sits near the chimney for warmth in his attic room in the small Reece farmhouse nestled along Wolf Creek in Choestoe. Wanting to pay tribute to the meaning of Christmas and the Christ Child whose birthday he and his family celebrated at nearby Salem Methodist Church, he wrote several Christmas poems. The first ones published in his books of poems appeared in his second volume, Bow Down in Jericho released by E. P. Dutton, Publishers, New York, in 1950. In this volume we read “Mary,” (p. 39), “The Shepherds in Search of the Lamb of God,” (p. 40-41), “The Adoration,” (p. 41-42), “Christ Jesus Had Three Gifts from Men,” (p. 43-44) and “The Pilgrim and the Fir Tree,” (p. 44-45) based on an old legend of the fir tree going to Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth.

“Mary,” of course, tells of the annunciation to young Mary of Nazareth that she was to be the mother of the Son of God. “She had no thought to be a bride/Of angel or of man.” Unsuspecting and surprised, Mary took the angel’s announcement to heart and willingly accepted her role as the Mother of Jesus Christ. And until his birth should occur in Bethlehem, “In Nazareth dwelt Mary mild, /She carded and she spun;/On Christmas Day she bore the child/Of God, His Holy Son.”

“The Shepherds in Search of the Lamb of God,” is a dialogue poem, with shepherds asking questions as they pursue their quest (after the angels’ announcement) to find the newborn Babe in Bethlehem. This poem could well be memorized and acted out by a group of men or boys dressed as shepherds, or, with the right music, would make another shepherd song. It ends with finding the baby and awe from the shepherds: “See, the cattle stand and nod/Close by the Lady’s feet.”/“Look, the little Lamb of God/Cradled where oxen eat! “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

“The Adoration” might seem by the title to be a poem about shepherds or wise men, both groups of whom were found adoring the Christ Child at or near the time of His birth. But Reece makes the main character of this poem a present-day little girl who thought about how she might adore the Christ child and bring him gifts. First, she wished to offer him a dress; next a girdle, followed by a little shoe and a shining coin. But finally she thinks it best to offer her heart, which can be a House where He can come to live. With this progression of gifts, Reece hits upon the essence of human giving to Christ, for He desires the heart of persons above all: “If my heart were a house also,/A house also with room to spare/I never would suffer my Lord to go/Homeless, but house Him there, O there,’/Homeless, but house Him there!”

“Christ Jesus Had Three Gifts from Men,” is the poetic story of the Magi from the East who came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In Reece’s lyrical rendering of the gifts he names them gold, an odor sweet, and a rare perfume, and interfused with the three gifts is the gift of grace, which of course is the intended gift Christ came to give. This is foreseen in the poem in the last stanza: “Then, ‘Wise Men, grace abide with thee,’/All in the stable where He lay,/’Redemption shall my one gift be/At Bethlehem on Christmas Day,/On Christmas Day in the Morning.”

When A Song of Joy and Other Poems came out in 1952, two more of Reece’s Christmas poems were published. “When I Think of Christmas Time” is a ten-stanza lyric beginning with Christ’s birth at Bethlehem and recounting major events of His life, including his death and resurrection. In both the first and last stanzas the poet celebrates Christmas, and he can do it joyously because he knows the victory: “Therefore let My Birthday be/A time of joyful jubilee./With the Host hosannas sing;/I am born anew to be thy King/On Christmas day, /On Christmas day, /On Christmas day in the morning.”

The second Christmas poem in this volume, “Since Christ Was a Lamb O,” is in the style of a short lyrical ballad with repetitions that pronounce blessings upon sheep, children, men, and Christ Himself: “Since Christ came to save O,/ To save O,/ To save O, /Since Christ came to save O,/Blessed are we all.”

In his book The Season of Flesh published in 1955, are four poems with a Christmas theme. “As Mary Was a Walking” which the poet terms “A Carol,” has fifteen stanzas in ballad-style quatrains expressing her rapport with fowls, cattle, even trees as she contemplates the mission of the Child she bore. The last chorus asks: “Could any maid soever,/Could maiden lent the grace,/Hearken such sweet palaver/And not a bole embrace?”

“The Gifting” is a four-stanza poem about the Magi’s gifts, and Mary’s gift of her Son. “In Palestine,” asks the question, “What did you see in Palestine?” and proceeds to enumerate the “stable low,” “the palace” of Herod, “kindness,” “cruelty,” and a margin as wide as the distance “’twist heaven and hell.” In “It Fell Upon a Winter’s Morn” is a first-person poem with a most unusual observation in which the poet dreams of Jesus’ blood being mixed with his own. He awoke to find “Bells rang upon the wintry air/And men began to say/And tongues of children to declare/That it was Christmas Day.”

From Reece’s attic room where he wrote these poems, perhaps in the winters of the 1940’s and early 1950’s, he gave them to the world to ponder in the books of poems bearing his name. Maybe you will find his books, now republished by Cherokee Press (if you don’t own them already), and decide to purchase them for Christmas gifts for someone who loves poetry and would appreciate and benefit from his master wordsmith’s artistry and insight. As for myself, I can never get enough of reading his poems. I recommend them highly for your own enjoyment and amazement. You will be awed, as I, by the depth and quality of his lyrics. So ring bells and declare, as the poet urged, “That it is Christmas Day!”

c2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 16, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Country Store—A Landmark Entrepreneurial Entity

Francis Jasper "Bud" Collins (1855-1941)
Owner of Collins Country Store

The country store was a part of my growing up years, for my grandfather, Francis Jasper Collins, better known as “Bud” Collins, owned and operated one. My family went to his store to trade for items such as coffee, sugar, pinto beans, and lard, if our farm supply gave out. Then there was the clothing and merchandise section where some of the simpler necessities of country living could be bought—cloth by the yard, sewing needs, socks, hose and underwear, men’s chambray work shirts, overalls, and even at times, utilitarian shoes, but not dress shoes.

The country store was especially useful at Christmas time. In those depression years when cash was hard to come by and most farm families depended upon what they could produce on the farm to keep their families supplied with the barest necessities, not much was purchased at the country store. But Grandpa, with Mr. Garn Fortenberry as the driver for his truck, would somehow manage to go to Gainesville with a load of live chickens, eggs in crates, and dried animal skins that had been bartered for goods at his store, and take the load to Carter’s Wholesale Company or another of the wholesale distributors to get in trade there what he could to bring back to his Country Store in Choestoe.

Families in the community kept up with which day of the week the Collins Country Store would bring a load from Gainesville to restock the shelves of the little store. Garn and Grandpa would often get back home just at nightfall, so the next day would be the best time to go for a good pick over the new supply of goodies. Near Christmas, there would be sacks of oranges and tangerines, these fruits from the warm clime of Florida, brought to our Choestoe hills to be the delight of children on Christmas morning as they found them in the stockings they had “hung by the chimney with care.” Rare nuts, too, like pecans (not grown in the mountains) and Brazil nuts and pistachios would be in boxes so that a pound or half-pound could be weighed out as families could afford them.

Grandpa had a candy counter on which sat a large four-sided glass case. Near Christmas that case had all sorts of delectable-looking confections displayed in open boxes. Peppermint, licorice and lemon stick candy were among the offerings, as were the ever-appealing chocolate drops. Maybe sometimes there would be a few boxes of chocolate-covered cherries, but these were few, as Grandpa knew not many among his country store constituents could afford a whole box of these delicacies.

He had some toys, but not a wide variety. Bags of marbles, cans of pick-up-sticks, checker-boards, Chinese checkers, a few dolls, and some miniature automobiles were among his offerings. Thinking about it now, these may have been “special orders,” since they were so few, requested by parents in advance for their children who wanted these items from Santa Claus at Christmas. I can remember on Christmas morning wondering if I had not seen something I received at Grandpa’s store earlier—and how did Santa Claus then get it to bring beside our fireplace for me?

The country store also provided school supplies: Blue Horse tablets writing paper and penny pencils. And before school was out at Christmas, we nearly always could find at his store a gift for the one whose name we had drawn at Choestoe School, and thus fulfill our obligation of getting the gift for that person to put under our school tree.

Going to the store was an adventure. Since most of the trade was in barter, we had to catch the chickens we planned to offer as barter and safely pack the eggs used in trade. If Daddy had been successful in catching rabbits in his “rabbit trap,” he might have several dried and stretched skins of rabbits to offer in trade. And we nearly always had sorghum syrup to take for barter, because he was the champion syrup-maker of Choestoe.

Looking back now on this way of life, we didn’t know it if we were poor, for we always seemed to have plenty of the necessities of life: food, homemade clothing, shelter. Our farm produced well, even in the depression years. And enterprising Grandfather, up until his death in December of 1941 (ten days after the infamous Pearl Harbor bombing that started World War II) saw that his country store was maintained. After his death, his daughters and sons discovered that Grandpa had many people “on the books” to whom he had extended credit when they were unable to pay for items they needed from his country store. Likewise, he had loaned money when people were in dire circumstances. And his philosophy was not to take an “I-O-U” for same, for he said if a handshake and a man’s word did not mean they would pay back the loan, a piece of paper was little assurance that a debt would be collected. Over many of them he had written, “debt forgiven.” Some, after his death, came to pay their long-standing debt. His compassion was extended through his country store.

At Grandpa’s Country Store the spirit of Christmas lasted all year long.

c2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 9, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Akins Hotel “on the Square” and the People Who Operated It

Akins Hotel on-the-square, about 1950
Perhaps many remember the days when the Akins Hotel “on the Square” in Blairsville operated in its heyday of receiving guests and feeding crowds of people in its dining hall.

Mr. Marvin Akins who owned and operated it, was ably assisted by his wife, Mollie Coker Akins. Both were hard-working, outgoing entrepreneurs, a step ahead for their time.

Mollie and Marvin Akins

The two-story, rambling wood frame building that graced the side of the square where Blue Ridge Street enters was demolished in the early 1950s. But for many years it hosted tourists, lawyers and judges coming to town for court weeks, and people who just enjoyed spending days in a mountain town with favorable climate, especially in summer months.

In 1912 Marvin Akins purchased land on the corner of the square. On the property was a log cabin. Enterprising Marvin and his wife Mollie decided they could take in guests and allow them to sleep in the cabin’s loft on straw mattresses. The arrangements certainly were not quality accommodations, but better than not having a place at all. Some of their first guests were peddlers who came to sell their wares to the few stores in town.

Interest grew and Marvin saw the need of expansion. Over the years he was able to add to the original log cabin. Soon the hotel was a two-story structure boasting twelve bedrooms, four baths (in those days it was not uncommon for guests to share baths “on the hall”), a commodious dining room and a kitchen where much food was prepared. Some remember that Mr. Akins also purchased the Carrie Butt Boarding House, also on the square, about 1920. Perhaps this accounted for part of the expansion of the Akins Hotel from the original cabin that first took in guests in 1912.

The Akins Hotel was known for its good meals, and people often sought out “Miss Mollie’s” good cooking in her hotel dining room. A faithful worker in the hotel kitchen, and also assisting Mrs. Mollie with laundry for the hotel, care of the Akins children, and cleaning was Eliza Trammel, a black lady who worked for many years for the Akins family. Meals were generous, and by today’s standards, extremely low-cost. At one time they advertised “all you can eat for 25 cents.” I can recall eating in the dining hall and enjoying the quality and taste of the food. In 1944, as an “under classman” at Union County High School, I was selected to be one of the servers at the school’s Junior-Senior banquet held at the Akins Hotel. That gave me as a teenager opportunity to see the facility decked out for a special event for Union County High School students.

But the hotel business was not the only work Marvin Akins was engaged in. He once carried the U. S. mail between area post offices, Blairsville to Hemp and on to Blue Ridge, and other routes were from Blairsville to Caldwell Post Office at Track Rock, to Young Harris and to Hiawassee. Since these were station to station deliveries, his responsibility was getting the mail sacks to their locations, not delivering personal mail to individuals. He used his faithful mule and wagon to carry the mail on these routes.

He opened a barber shop and shoe repair shop in a portion of the old court house. He also operated the first mortuary in Blairsville, using an area behind the hotel for a funeral home. That humble beginning was the birth of the Akins Funeral Homes that his sons continued with and expanded at Blairsville and Blue Ridge. He also served as county coroner for a time. And in keeping with his father’s start in the Akins Hotel, the noted Milton Inn was founded and operated by Marvin’s son, Bonnell.

Their family and friends loved to hear the story of how Joseph Marion Akins and his sweetheart, Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” Coker eloped. It took them two tries to accomplish their goal of “running away” and getting married. The first attempt was foiled, but on the second try, their prearranged plans worked out. Marvin went to Bethel Methodist Church on Track Rock Road one bright Sunday in the fall of 1906, riding in his buggy drawn by a prancing horse. He helped Mollie in, and away they went to the home of a Rev. Jones who married them. That was October 21, 1906, Marvin’s twentieth birthday. Why they felt it necessary to elope has not been told. Maybe they were adventuresome, and certainly romantic—rather than parents being opposed to the match. At any rate, their marriage was solid, and both were hard workers. To them were born nine children, seven sons and two daughters: William Randolph, Benjamin Edd, Erwin Bonnell, Mauney Fred, Patrick Henry, Joseph Marvin, Raymond Douglas, Sarah Elizabeth and Mary Sue.

Joseph Marvin Akins’s great grandfather, John Akins, was in Union County by the time of the 1840 census. John Akins, born about 1795 in South Carolina, died November 27, 1863 in Union County. He and his wife Sarah (maiden name unknown, born 1810 in North Carolina, died 1875) were buried in unmarked graves in the Harmony Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, Union County. Joseph Marvin Akins’ grandfather (from whom he received his first name Joseph) was Joseph G. Akins (05/25/1926 – 07/13/1863) who married Mirah Flowers. Joseph was in the 6th Regiment of the Georgia Calvary Volunteers, Company F, during the Civil War and lost his life in the war. He was buried at the National Cemetery, Cumberland Gap, Claiborne, TN. Marvin’s grandmother, Mirah, continued to live on in Union County and was buried at Harmony Grove Cemetery. Joseph Marvin’s parents were Benjamin Calip Akins (07/21/1858 – 12/31/1933) and Rossie Lindy Fields Akins (10/22/1865 – 05/09/1898). They were interred at the Harmony Grove Baptist Church Cemetery.

Joseph Marvin Akins (10/21/1886 – 05/04/1971) and his wife, Mollie C. Akins (02/15/1888 – 10/22/1967) were laid to rest in the (New) Blairsville Cemetery. They were blessed with long and productive lives.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 2, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Don Byers’ Music Career Leads to Induction into Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame

Don Byers of Blairsville will experience a highlight of his country music career on November 27 when he is inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame. This signal honor, received two days after celebrating Thanksgiving 2010, will be a time of thanks for him and his family and friends as this country music artist is recognized and honored for significant contributions to the corpus of country music.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850). English poet, penned some words that seem appropriate to the occasion of Don Byers’ honor and recognition:

“Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”
In the composition and performance of some of his country music songs, it seems to this writer that Don Byers has touched on the “tenderness…joys and fears” of the human heart, and has been able to capture in his music “Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.” That is one of the characteristics of country music: seeking out the depths of feeling of “the human heart,” and being able to express in both words and music some of the deep-seated emotions of the human condition. Hearty congratulations to this Union County citizen whose talents and productivity in country music are recognized.

Last week’s column saw the beginning of Don Byers’ career even in school years in Union when he was voted “most talented male” in the Class of 1960, Union County High. In his US Army stint, he joined up with others to form “The Strangers,” gaining notable popularity in Japan and in military venues.

Once out of the Army, he returned to Georgia and throughout the mid-sixties he began to play part-time in several Atlanta clubs. By 1970, his Atlanta showings had gone full-time and he joined the music union, appearing in several area nightclubs with the Blue Cockatoo his favorite. He met Tony Romano, a Hollywood stunt-man, actor and singer who assisted Don with recording “It’s Only a Paper World” and “A Few of the Things I Remember.” Both songs were played frequently on radio throughout the southeast.

He met and aligned with a “rockabilly” singer named Buddy Knox. It was Buddy who encouraged Don to take his instrument and introduce his talents to the right people in Music City, USA, Nashville and the famous “Grand Ole Opry.” By 1973 Don Rogers was living on Old Hickory Lake at Nashville in a houseboat, and touring in both the United States and Canada. Some of his musical associates with whom he played were Bobby Bare, Conway Twitty, Larry Gatlin, Del Reeves, Joe Stampley, La Costa and others. It was during this period that he wrote songs and music for Tree Publishing and Roger Miller Music, Next came his association with the Acuff-Rose Publishing Company who put up the necessary investment for studio production with the notable Welden Myrick band.

I asked Don what it was like being in Nashville. He replied, “I was sort of flabbergasted that I made it that far! The music business was run like a country store back then. I could stop on the street and have a chat with my hero Chet Atkins (a very laid-back and humble man), and did so quite often. Several of us hung out at a place called the Burger Boy Drive-In where Waylon Jennings and Tompall Glasser shot the pinball machines…I remember sitting there and jamming for hours with fiddle player Benny Martin. And I was being published by Acuff-Rose, the same folks who published some of my heroes: Hank Williams, Roy Orbison and Mickey Newberry.”

He mentioned, too, the feeling of camaraderie, the air of creativity, of someone sharing a “song gig” in progress, of the fellowship and excitement.

The year 1975 was likewise successful. He was associated with Tom Jennings, brother to the famous Waylon Jennings. They toured in the states and Canada and made their Great Britain debut. Byers says that “It’s Only a Paper World” was received well in Great Britain and had much air play there as well as in the United States. It was while touring Great Britain, Scotland and Ireland that Byers became interested in his family roots and genealogy, seeking out places where his ancestors originated.

By 1980 disco music had become the popular mode. Don Byers returned home, giving time and attention to other interests and especially to family. Although music has always been either a part-time or full-time pursuit, vocationally, Don went to college and studied social work, becoming a social worker for several years. He attributes much of his success to friends Mickey Newbury, songwriter, and Herb White (Georgia Public Broadcasting), both of whom encouraged him in his career. Through their interest, he continued to write songs and music and make recordings. In the 1990’s, he enjoyed sharing the stage with Georgia musicians Larry Jon Wilson and Gove Scrivenor, both with exceptional acoustical talents.

Don Byers playing instrument on lawn of Mock House, Museum Annex
Union County Historical Society, Blairsville, Georgia

When he came to retirement years, he returned with joy to the mountains. He has written Byers and Mauney family histories, served on the Board of the Union County Historical Society, and joined in musical entertainments at the Old Court House and on the lawn of the Mock House Annex. I asked him if he had ever written a song on the theme of our beloved mountains. He has done some on the theme of going home. Among them is the beloved “Blue Ridge Mountain Sunday Morning.”

He and his wife Nami enjoy their home on High View Drive, Blairsville. Their one son, Nick and his wife Jo Helen have two children. Branson, 15, and Olivia, almost 11. Don’s grandchildren attend Woodward Academy in Atlanta. Don expresses justifiable grandfatherly pride in their achievements, both of whom show musical promise. Branson is studying piano and Olivia is studying both piano and violin. Both grandchildren are budding artists. One of Branson’s creations was displayed in the High Museum of Art this year and Olivia, as well, shows great promise in artistic creations. This talent, Don notes, comes from their great grandmother, Japanese artist Mari Ishii.

Our heartiest congratulations are extended to Don Byers upon his reception into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame.

c2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 25, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Country Music Artist Don Byers Tapped for Atlanta Counrty Music Hall of Fame

“Autumn leaves were falling
Down in Adams Park
We sat and watched the river
‘Til it was almost dark
And there were children playing
They never noticed you and me
Down in Adams Park
Where time was always free.”
------cDon Byers (used by permission)

Perhaps you’ve heard “Adams Park” played and sung by country music performers. Maybe you did not know that a Union County born-and-bred artist named Don Byers wrote both the words and the music to the song. Not only “Adams Park,” but many others, among which are “It’s Only a Paper World,” “A Few of the Things I Remember,” “Facing the Music,” “Forgotten Tracks,” “For What It’s Worth,” and “The Troubadour,” to name a few.

Recently Union County’s Don Byers received a letter notifying him of a signal honor coming his way on November 27, 2010. The letter read, in part:

“In recognition of your contributions and achievements in the Music Industry, the Awards Committee and the Executive Board of the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame have selected you to be honored at the 29th Annual Awards Celebration to be held at the Holiday Inn Select-Perimeter, 4386 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Atlanta, GA 30341 on Saturday, November 27, 2010.”
Established in 1982 by John L. (Johnny) Carson (1933-2010) and Phyllis A. Cole, the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame seeks yearly to recognize outstanding persons in the field of country music composition and performance. It is a distinct honor to be tapped for inclusion into the Hall of Fame. Awards have for twenty-nine years been given to many in Georgia who have contributed to this genre and have helped in perpetuation of our country folk ways and culture.

Our hats are off in salute and congratulations to Don Byers who is being recognized for his artistry, talent and dedication to country music. He hails from a long line of Union County people who have contributed much to the upbuilding of our county from early days to the present, and we’re sure, even into the future. He was born in 1943 in Murphy, North Carolina, son of Ralph C. Byers and Alice Mauney Byers. His parents brought Don up in the Ivy Log Community of Union County. Early on, he showed interest in and propensity for playing the guitar. He says of his legacy:

“One of my grandfathers was a fiddler and the other was a banjo player. My neighbor, Billy Burnette, taught me my first guitar chords about 1952 when I was nine. I began writing songs when I was about ten years of age. My country music heroes back then were Hank Williams and Chet Atkins.”
By the time Don Byers was in high school, he was playing for school events and teaming up with classmates to play and sing. He also wrote songs during his school years, but he says the words to most of them have been lost or otherwise not kept for posterity. When he graduated from Union County High School in 1960, he had been named by his peers, “Most Talented Male Student.”

He recalls that he played solo for school events and back-up for various singing groups. He and Patsy Colwell (Davenport Phillips) did duets—Don on guitar and Patsy on piano. His friend, Wendell Patterson and Don, with whom he still plays, were often paired with their stringed instruments arrangements. He remembers that he and Wendell provided musical accompaniment for a vocal group composed of singers Gwen Brown, Anita Collins and Kathleen Garrett. One of the most famous of the high school groups as they entered that momentous year of 1960 was “The Trio” with singers JoNeal Collins, Jackie Lance and Sandra Richards. In 1959, they won first place in the school-wide talent show. Little did those schoolmates/classmates or Don Byers himself realize that the honor would one day be extended to recognize him as a productive and notable member of the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame.

Straight out of High School, Don joined the Army. He soon found his niche in service as an entertainer.

Don Byers, US Army, 1961 in Zama, Japan

"The Strangers" Music Group - Japan, 1961
(l-r) Ray Lambright; Don Byers (kneeling); Tom Zawlock (drums); Tom Montgomery

In 1961 he became a member of the rock-and-roll instrumental group known as “The Strangers.” Don is quick to emphasize that his Army group was not the same as the later “Strangers” which featured the Merle Haggard band. At the tender age of 17, and in his army time, he was soon conducting interviews, playing in stage shows, providing music for dances, and otherwise taking his artistry in country music to wherever he happened to be stationed. He was in Japan for a stretch of time and noted that American country music was very popular there. He remembers that wherever “The Strangers” were booked, he often had to sign autographs for fans. That popularity was somewhat foreign to a shy, country-bred lad on his first major thrust out into the vast world of entertainment and meeting people of different cultures. His work in service was with the US Army Security Agency. He did classified work with the Navy and Air Force.

He states that the members of “The Strangers” —(Rockin’) Ray Lambright (Army), Tom (Monty) Montgomery (Navy), Thomas (Ski) Zawlocki (Navy) and himself, Don Byers (Army), who played for military and civilian clubs in the Tokyo and Yokohama area of Japan, were reunited about five years ago by internet. Ski from Washington state unfortunately died about two years after their internet reunion. Ray and Monty returned to their native state of Texas and both became ordained ministers of the gospel. Monty attended one of Don’s Old Courthouse on the Square concerts in 2008. These Army/Navy buddies like to say “we will always be friends, and will also always be “Strangers.”

[Next: Stay tuned for more on the life and career of Don Byers, Music Hall of Fame Awardee]

c2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 18, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thomas Jefferson Hooper and Some of His Descendants (Great Grandson of Absalom Hooper, Sr, Revolutionary War Soldier – Part 4, Hooper Family)

Just about now I am seeing that to trace all the descendants of Absalom Hooper, Sr. (c 1764-1845), Revolutionary War soldier, and write even the barest sketch of them, would fill a good-sized book. We’ve focused on Absalom, Sr. and two of his sons, Absalom, Jr. and Andrew, who were in Union County, Georgia by the 1840 census. Today’s focus will be on a great grandson of the Revolutionary War soldier who had a distinguished name, Thomas Jefferson Hooper, named for that inimitable and intelligent third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826, president 1801-1809). Descendants of Thomas Jefferson Hooper are still living within the area of Union and Towns counties today, and true to their forebears’ example, they continue to be productive citizens.

Thomas Jefferson Hooper was born November 1, 1845 in Jackson County, North Carolina. He would live until October 8, 1921 and be buried between his two wives in the Old Burch Cemetery in Towns County. He is listed as four years of age in the 1850 census of Union County, Georgia, not having reached his fifth birthday when the census taker visited the home of his parents to enumerate the household. His father was Benjamin Chastain Hooper (1812-1862) and his mother was Elizabeth Cathey Hooper (1815-1888). You might like to refer to the Cathey family articles written previously to see Elizabeth’s connections. Going back another generation, Benjamin Chastain Hooper’s parents were James and Mary Emaline Chastain Hooper, his mother a descendant of the noted Virginia settler, Pierre Chastain, ancestor of many who proudly claim this Chastain connection. James, father of Benjamin Chastain Hooper, was the first son of famed Absalom Hooper, Sr., Revolutionary War soldier.

When Thomas Jefferson Hooper went a-courting as a young man, he gained enough courage to go to the home of the Rev. Elijah Kimsey, a noted early preacher in the mountain area whose wife was Sarah Bryson Kimsey. Thomas Jefferson had caught the eye and favor of their daughter. Thomas Jefferson Hooper wed Araminta Caroline Kimsey (1846-1874) on Christmas Eve, 1865 when the Civil War was still a raw memory in the minds of many.

To Thomas Jefferson and Araminta Kimsey Hooper were born five children: (1) William (1866) who married Emma Stuart Coffey; (2) Violet Virginia (1869-1929) who married Warne Ketron Hedden (son of the Rev. Elisha Hedden and Juanita Caroline Butt Hedden); (3) Georgia Ann (1871-1921) who married Col. Sylvester M. Ledford; (4) Ollie Araminta “Minnie” (1872-1946) who married David Henry Puett; and (5) Mary Caroline known as “Callie” (1874) who married John H. Davis. Araminta died September 6, 1874, possibly from complications from childbirth when Callie was born. Thomas Jefferson Hooper was thus left with five small children.

He found himself another good wife, the second being Sarah Elizabeth Clementine Ellis (1852-1939), daughter of J. C. and Elizabeth Ellis, whom he married August 22, 1876. In addition to helping Thomas Jefferson rear the first five children, Sarah and he had five children, making him ten altogether: (1) James Lafayette (1881-1954) who married Eva Elinora Barrett; (2) Martha Elizabeth (1884-1937) who married Walter E. Warren; (3) Noah Franklin (1887-1942) who married Julia Kelley; (4) Maggie (1890-1961) who married Charles Colwell; and (5) Richard (1895) who married Ezra Willa Mae known as “Billie” Wood.

Thomas Jefferson Hooper moved his family into the town of Hiawassee, Georgia. There he established the Hooper Hotel, a stately and Victorian-designed landmark that received guests and served notable food for several years. In the town he also helped to establish the Bank of Hiawassee and set up and outfitted a mercantile store. He was elected to and served in the Georgia Legislature from Towns County in 1911-1912. Mr. Hooper was also a trustee of the Hiawassee Academy; an outstanding mountain boarding school founded by Dr. George W. Truett and Dr. Fernando Coello McConnell, cousins, and noted Baptist ministers.

Focusing now on the first son of Thomas Jefferson Hooper and Sarah Ellis Hooper, James LaFayette Hooper (Sr.), born March 1, 1881 (died April 8, 1954), he attended Hiawassee Academy, graduating in 1902. He went to the Atlanta College of Pharmacy and became a licensed pharmacist, working first in Cornelia, Georgia, and then opening Hooper’s Drug Store in 1911 in Buford, Georgia. He married the love of his life, Eva Elinora Barrett, daughter of Forrest C. and Mary Holcomb Barrett of Nacoochee Valley, Georgia on May 2, 1909. The couple returned to Hiawassee in 1914 and opened the Hooper’s Drug Store there. It proved to be one of the most continuously-operated businesses in the town, with the founder’s son, James LaFayette Hooper, Jr. (1914-1982) who graduated from the Southern School of Pharmacy in 1937, succeeding his father as owner and pharmacist. Later a grandson, Representative Ralph Twiggs, Jr. owned and operated the store, succeeded by purchaser Charles Nicholson.

James LaFayette Hooper, Sr. and Eva Barrett Hooper had four children: (1) Faye who married Ralph J. Twiggs, Sr.; (2) James LaFayette, Jr. who married Mary Richardson; (3) Gussie who married J. Walter Moore; and (4) Sarah who married Dr. John H. Carswell.

The legacy of serving the community has continued in the Hooper descendants.

We have only to trace the progeny of Absalom Hooper, Sr. through many generations to see that various regions of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and other states have benefited from the genuine hardiness, community spirit, work ethic, public service and church and educational support from those who hark back to the stalwart young man (Absalom, Sr.) who served his country well beginning in 1776 in our War for Independence. As we observe Veterans Day on November 11, we have opportunity to reflect on this heritage and salute those who have stood faithfully in the gap to win and preserve freedom from then until now and into the future.

c2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 11, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Andrew Hooper, Fourth Child of Revolutionary Soldier Absalom Hooper, Sr. (Part 3 – Hooper Family)

Andrew Hooper was the fourth of twelve children born to Absalom, Sr. and Sarah Salers Hooper, and one of the three Hooper brothers who settled in Union County, Georgia by 1840.

Andrew Hooper was born about 1792 and died in 1849. His place of birth is held to be Pendleton District, South Carolina. He grew up in Haywood County, North Carolina where his parents moved when he was young. It was there he met and married Dicie (sometimes spelled Dicey) whose maiden name is unknown.

Like his father before him who had served in the Revolutionary War, Andrew also heard the call of his country during the “unpleasantness” known in the annals of US history as the War of 1812 against Great Britain. His term of service was short, from February 16, 1815 when he volunteered until March 12, 1815 when he was honorably discharged. His army pay for the twenty-six days was $6. 93. However, as will be seen later, he had another recompense coming after his death.

It is not known precisely when Andrew Hooper migrated to Union County, Georgia to settle along Fodder Creek in what became Towns County in 1856. Andrew and his wife Dicey were residents and in the Union Census of 1840, having in their household himself and his wife who were listed as between 40-50 years of age with six children. Ages and genders of the children were two males between 10-15, one male between 20-30, one female between 5-10 and two females between 15-20. It is assumed that Andrew Hooper was a farmer at Fodder Creek. He may have assisted his brother Absalom, Jr. with his grist mill.

The known children of Andrew and Dicey Hooper were:

(1) Jonathan Hooper (1820-1880 ?) who married Lucinda Barrett (believed to be part Cherokee) in Union County on February 9, 1854 with William Burch performing their ceremony. After Towns was formed from Union County, Jonathan and Lucinda moved to the head of Byers Creek in Towns and made a living by sawmilling and farming. Jonathan was a cripple, small of stature. They had Millie Ann, Robert Richard, Jonathan “Pink”, Icey (or Dicea, after her Grandmother Hooper), Green Berry (died as infant), Mary Ollie, Gus, and Ulysses Allen. After Jonathan’s death, Lucinda married a Rizley.
(2) Sarah Hooper (1821-?) married Noah Shook and had children Mary, Jonathan, Permelia and Rebecca by 1850, with additions and/or name changes of Adaline, Dicea and Sarah (listed in 1860 census).
(3) Matilda Caroline Hooper (1824-1911) married William Burton Rogers on November 5, 1843. They lived in the Cynth Creek section of Towns County and at their deaths were interred in the Lower Hightower Cemetery. Children of this couple were Disa Manerva, Jonathan Burton, Melton Augustus, Martin W., Christopher Columbus, Freeman H., Elihu Montgomery, N. Leander, and David.
(4) William J. Hooper (1828-1878) married Jemima Hooper, his first cousin, daughter of his Uncle Absalom Hooper, Jr., in Union County, GA on August 16, 1851 with M. L. Burch, justice of the peace, performing the ceremony. William enlisted in the Confederate Army in May, 1864 with Young’s Battallion, Company 1, Hampton’s Brigade. He was seriously wounded at Lovejoy Station when Sherman was marching through Georgia. Although surviving, his wounds troubled him the rest of his life. By 1870, Jemima Hooper and her widowed sister, Hannah Hooper Gilbert and children, were living in the widowed Jemima’s household.
(5) Andrew Green Hooper (1829-1898) married Martha Talitha Berry. Their children were Dicie Rebecca, John Chapman, William Alonzo; Margaret Haseltine, Louisa Arah, Highley Al, and Andrew Young. Andrew, like his brother William, enlisted in the Confederate Army, Company D, 24th Regiment. He survived the war. His widow Margaret received a Confederate pension after his death.
(6) A female child was listed in the 1840 census without a name, born between 1830-1835. No further information is found on her.
A short time after Andrew Hooper’s first wife Dicey died in 1847, he married Mary Cantrell on July 2, 1847. Mary Cantrell may have been a widow, bringing some of her own children to live in Andrew’s household. The 1850 census has some children not quite identifiable by names of children of Andrew and his first wife Dicea. These were Mary, 29; Nancy, 12, Jane 9; Sarahan 6, Mahala 4, and John 1. It is known, however, that two of these were identified as “minor children” of Andrew Hooper and received a land grant on June 30, 1857 for their father’s service in the War of 1812. It could be that Mary Mahalia (known as “Polly”) may have been a child born to Andrew and Dicey, and that her mother died at childbirth. At any rate, children 7 and 8 of Andrew Hooper were:
(7) Mary Mahalia “Polly” Hooper born in 1846 or 1847. She married David Nicholson.
(8) John Harley Hooper (1849-1912), son of Andrew and Mary Cantrell Hooper married Martha Evaline Brewster. Their seven children were Jane, Martha Ann, Mary Etta, William Luther, John, Georgia and Lula.
Andrew Hooper and his family joined the lure of new lands in the 1830s and became a part of growing Union County sometime between 1834 and 1840. Numerous descendants still reside within the mountain region near where their ancestors took up residence.

c2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 4, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Descendants of Revolutionary War Soldier, Absalom Hooper, Sr. - Absalom Hooper, Jr. (Part 2 - Hooper Family)

Several children, sons and daughters, of the Revolutionary War soldier, Absalom Hooper (Sr.) were residents of Union County, Georgia by the time of the 1840 census. We saw from last week’s story that at least three of his sons settled here: Absalom, Jr., Andrew and Enas (Enos). Likewise, at least two daughters, Kissiah Hooper who married Milton Brown and Mary Hooper who married Henry Brown were also in Union. Then, as time moved on and Towns County was formed from a portion of Union in 1856, some of the Hooper landholdings were taken in as part of the new county of Towns.

Absalom Hooper, Jr. was born about 1800 to Absalom Hooper, Sr. and Sarah Sales Hooper in the Pendleton District of South Carolina, but that region was not to be their permanent home. They settled in Haywood County, North Carolina where Absalom, Jr. married Martha (called “Mattie”) Kelley.

It seems that Absalom, Jr.’s older brother, Andrew, born about 1792, led the migration of the Hooper siblings to the new and burgeoning Union County. The Fodder Creek section in what would become Towns County was the domicile of Absalom, Jr. and his family. In 1840, the census that does not give names except for the head-of-household, gave numbers in that household as one male (10 to 15), 1 male (20-30) and 1 male (40-50), Absalom himself. Females in the house numbered eight: one (under 5), three (5-10), one (10-15), two (15-20), one (40-50), Martha Kelley Hooper herself. They were reported as having one slave. With nine children at home at the time, and Absalom himself being both a farmer and a miller, the family no doubt needed the help their slave provided.

Piecing together what information we can find from the 1850 census (which was the first US census to list names of children as well as head-of-household), together with various family records, we can determine that Absalom, Jr. and Martha Kelley Hooper had eleven known children.

(1) The oldest of their children was named Thomas, possibly the 20-30-year old listed in the 1840 census. I found a marriage record for Thomas Hooper to Cynthia Rogers in the Union County marriage records. They were married February 1, 1849 by the Rev. John Corn (one of the more-noted Baptist ministers of this early period of Union County history). About six years before Towns was formed from Union, a land transaction took place in which Thomas Hooper purchased land on Fodder Creek on March 28, 1850 from William A. Brown. Thomas did not keep the land but eight years, for records show he sold it to Henry Picklesimer on January 29, 1858. I have not proven this, but because some of the female Hoopers married into Brown and Picklesimer families, Thomas’s land transaction may have been to kin. To date, I have not located names of children of Thomas and Cynthia Rogers Hooper.
(2) The second child of Absalom, Jr. and Mattie Kelley Hooper was named Elizabeth, born about 1822 before the family migrated to Union County. She would have been one of the females between 15 and 20 years of age in the 1840 census. Again Rev. John Corn performed a Hooper wedding when Elizabeth married Josiah Wood (known as “Cy”) on September 29, 1847 in Union County. Known children of Elizabeth and “Cy” Wood were a daughter named Perthena born in 1850 and twins, Abner and Absalom L, born May 25, 1856. Note how the name Absalom is carried to multiple generations. Twin Abner may have died young as it is hard to find a record of him beyond his birth.
(3) Mary Hooper was born in 1825. According to Hearthstones of Home (Towns County History book, 1983), Mary married Henry Picklesimer. The Mary Hooper I found in Union County marriage records shows that one Mary Hooper (evidently not this daughter of Absalom, Jr. and Martha Kelley Hooper) married David Nicholson on February 22, 1855. Mary, daughter of Absalom, Jr. and her husband Henry Pickelsimer had these known children: William (b. 1844), Martha Adaline (b. 1846), Margaret (b. 1849), Andrew (b. 1852), Willborn (b. 1854), Alrina A. known as “Sis” (b. 1856) and Jason (known as “Bird,” b. 1859).
(4) The fourth child may have been named Francis. This family of Hoopers was living next door to Absalom, Jr. and Martha in the 1850 census, with his age as 24, born in North Carolina, wife Alvina, 22, also born in North Carolina and their nine-month old daughter, Sarah.
(5) Daughter Nirma Hooper was age 22, born in North Carolina, listed still at home in the 1850 census (born 1828). There is no listing of her marriage that I have found.
(6) Jemima Hooper (spelled Jermima in the Union County marriage records) was born in 1829. She married her first cousin, William J. Hooper, son of her uncle Andrew Hooper. The marriage took place August 16, 1851. They may have had one daughter, Jane. William was badly wounded in the Civil War and returned with health problems that persisted until his death in 1878. Jemima died in 1907. Jemima drew a Civil War widow’s pension.
(7) Sarah was born August 27, 1831 and died December 22, 1919. She married Samuel Nicholson on January 27, 1848 with the Rev. John Corn performing the ceremony. They had children John Thomas (b. 1849), Andrew Absalom (b. 1851), Martha Dorcas (b. 1853), Leander Columbus (b. 1856) and Carnmiller (?) Jane (b. 1868). This family also lived at Fodder Creek in Towns County and were responsible for giving land for the Fodder Creek School and Enotah Baptist Church.
(8) Margaret was born April 5, 1834. She married John W. Gilbert in Union County on December 23, 1852, with Justice of the Peace M. L. Burch performing the ceremony. This same justice of the peace performed Margaret’s sister Jemima’s wedding in 1851. Margaret and John had these children: Martha (b. 1853), Delia Ann (b. 1855), Mary Ellen (b. 1857), Sarah Frances (b. 1859) and John Absalom DeKalb Gilbert (b. 1861). John Gilbert was elected sheriff of Towns County in 1857. When the Civil War came, he enlisted in the Hiawasse Volunteers and was killed in the war. Widow Margaret Hooper Gilbert later married Joseph Brewster and they moved to Tennessee after the war.
(9) Hannah Hooper was born in 1836 in North Carolina. She was listed as 14 in the 1850 Union census. She married William Gilbert on November 4, 1853 with an M. Lance, justice of the peace, performing their ceremony in Union County. William Gilbert was a brother to Hannah’s sister Margaret’s husband, John W. Gilbert. According to a Hooper family Bible Hannah and “William’s four little boys” are listed as Larkin Pinkney (b. 1856), William Bartley (b. 1857), Oliver Perry (b. 1860) and George W. (b. 1862). Hannah’s husband William evidently died in the Civil War. By the time of the 1870 census, Widow Hannah Hooper and her four children were living in the household of her sister Jemima, also a widow, and her children. These sisters who married brothers seemed to have reared the double-first cousins—their children—in the Fodder Creek section of Towns County that once was part of Union County.
(10) Martha Ann (b. 1842 in Georgia) married Javan Brown on February 4, 1864, the son of Milton and Mary Hooper Brown. Martha Ann and Javan were first cousins. Their children were Willard (b. 1856), Carrie (b. 1865), Icey (b. 1868), Thomas (b. 1874) Amanda (b. 1875), Robert (b. 1879) and Columbus “Lum”, (b. date unknown).
(11) John, the last child of Absalom, Jr. and Martha Kelley Hooper was born in 1850, but no further information about him is known at this time.
With a large family of eleven children to rear, we can imagine that life was not easy on their Fodder Creek farm for Absalom, Jr. and Martha. He was a miller, an occupation that was of assistance to his community while bringing in a little extra corn and grain to the mill operator. Martha Hooper died July 19, 1862 and Absalom, Jr. died a little later on October 16, 1862. They were buried on their own property, but their son-in-law, Samuel Nicholson, who bought most of Absalom, Jr.’s land, gave land for the Enotah Baptist Church location, and the Hooper family cemetery was incorporated into the Enotah Baptist Church Cemetery. If you go there to visit, know that the land was once part of our own Union County.

c2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 28, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hooper Early Settlers in Union Descended From Absalom Hooper (Sr.) Revolutionary War Soldier

No Hooper families were listed in the 1834 special census of the new county of Union founded in 1832. However, by the 1840 census, three families of Hoopers with heads-of-households listed as Absalom, Andrew and Enas (Enos) were living in Union. Absalom and his wife were between thirty and forty and had two sons and eight daughters and one slave. Andrew and his wife were also between forty and fifty and had three sons and three daughters. Enas (probably should have been spelled Enos) and his wife were between thirty and forty and had six sons and four daughters. By the 1850 census, the Hooper population had grown with seven households enumerated.

The first three Hooper men to settle in Union were all sons of the Revolutionary War soldier, Absalom Hooper (Sr.). Some of the exploits of this soldier show his bravery, daring and determination. He was born about 1764 in South Carolina in the vicinity of the Green and Main Broad Rivers. His father died when he was a youngster. His mother sided with the Tories (those favoring the British). But Absalom Hooper definitely had sympathies for the colonists and left home to join the U. S. forces in 1776. His pay was to be in bounty of $30.00 and $5.00 per month, plus 640 acres of land at the close of the war. However that payment was not forthcoming according to his signed statement in 1833.

His military service saw him in many places during the war. He was under the command of General Howe at Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. But the British General Sir Henry Clinton conquered the island and Howe and his forces went to Florida and fought against the British forces at the St. Mary’s River. From there they returned to Charleston, to Purrysburg, SC, and finally into Georgia. He was in the attack against the British at Stono Fort on the Edisto River. From thence his regiment went to Beaufort Island. Back to Savannah, he was with the American and French forces, allies, in the siege of Savannah. There Absalom Hooper was wounded in the right arm. From there they returned to Charleston where Absalom received another wound, that time in his left thigh. He was imprisoned and was in the enemy prison hospital until he somewhat recovered. He escaped and went to Georgia to find refuge in his uncle’s frontier home. The Tories captured him, held him five days and brought him to trial, but released him.

He heard of the whereabouts of his group, and joined up again at Augusta in Captain Daniel Gunnals’ regiment. They had skirmishes around the Augusta area, especially with parties of Tories. Then his regiment went to South Carolina and joined forces with General Pickens around the Little River area and Ninety-Six District. The Cherokee during the Revolution sided with the British. Absalom and his regiment were in the Battle of Long Swamp against the Cherokee but were defeated. They returned to Long Swamp, and awaited the end of the war.

Absalom Hooper married Sarah Salers at Pistol Creek in Elbert County, Georgia about 1783. Ten years after they married, they moved from Georgia to Table Rock, South Carolina. Their next move was about 1810 to Haywood County, North Carolina (later that area was named Jackson County). Along the Tuckaseegee River where they settled, some of the highest peaks in North Carolina towered above their land. There they reared their family of twelve children: James (1784), Elizabeth (1786), Andrew (1792), Kissiah (1794), Nancy (1797), Mary (1798), Absalom, Jr. (1880), Eleanor (1800), Margaret (1802), Enos (1805), William (1806), and Isaac (1807).

Three of these children of Absalom and Sarah Salers Hooper moved to the new county of Union sometime in the late 1830s and were counted in the 1840 Union census. Also Hooper sisters moved to the area. Kissiah married Milton Brown. They were living in Union when the 1834 census was taken, with eleven in their household. She and Milton preceded her three brothers, Absalom, Jr., Andrew and Enos in settling in Union. Mary who married Henry Brown lived in the Hightower section of Union that became a part of Towns County when it was formed in 1856. In fact, most of the Hooper households were on land that became Towns, so they automatically became citizens of the new county of Towns. Nancy Hooper and her husband, Benjamin Chastain, were in Union by 1850 and their farm at Hightower was absorbed into Towns.

Next week’s column will present more on the Hooper family that still has many descendants with multiple last names still remaining in the Towns and Union County areas.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 21, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Patterson Families – Early Settlers in Union (Part 2)

As we saw from last week’s initial article on early settler Patterson families in Union, four households were registered in the first census of Union in 1834. The heads of these households were Joseph, Amos, John and George. Further research revealed these as brothers. The John listed is not the patriarch of the family in Union. He was also John Patterson, the father of these four men. John (Sr.) and his wife, Margaret Black Patterson, were also in Union in 1834, probably living in the household of their son Amos—or with one of the other three sons.

Let us focus on George Patterson and some of his descendants. With records available, George is shown as the eighth child of John and Margaret Black Patterson. He was born in 1800 in North Carolina and died before November, 1866 in Georgia. When the Patterson brothers settled in the vicinity of Ivy Log Creek in Union County, George knew how to make hats and became a milliner. This business became a means of added income to their mainstay occupation, farming. George was married first to Rebecca Chastain. She had distinctive ancestry back to the patriarch Pierre Chastain who settled in Virginia. George’s second wife was Sophia Dunnigan.

A son of George and Rebecca Chastain Patterson, William Harden, was born April 10, 1832. Researchers of this family line believe he was the first of these Patterson children to be born in the county that would become Union later in 1832. William (called Bill) grew up on his father’s farm in Ivy Log. Marriage records of Union County show that William Hardin (given as W. H. in the record) married Elizabeth Akins on November 5, 1853. The Patterson families were a part of Bethlehem Baptist Church where they attended. That church has the founding date of 1848.

Then the Civil War came. William Harden Patterson and his younger brother John both joined the Confederate Army. They were mustered into the 6th Regiment of the Georgia Cavalry Volunteers, Company B. Fortunately, they survived the war.

William Hardin and Elizabeth Akins Patterson had twelve children: James Alonzo, Sarah Florence, Martha Elizabeth, Rebecca Emmaline, Mary M., John Lumpkin, Lewis, twins William Elisha and Joseph Elijah, Vienna Caldonia, Lula L, and George Bunyon.

Of the children of Bill and Elizabeth Patterson, the eldest, James Alonzo, became a Baptist preacher. James Alonzo Patterson and Rozellia C. Sparks were married August 8, 1888 by Rev. James Waters. She was a daughter of Harden J. Sparks and Elizabeth Thomas Sparks of the Dooley District. The marked cemetery stones of Rev. J. A. Patterson and his wife in the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery give their birth and death dates: James Alonzo Patterson, born November 30, 1855, died December 5, 1940; Rozellia Patterson, born February 27, 1867, died December 7, 1939. Alonzo’s parents were also buried at the Bethlehem Cemetery. Their gravestones read: W. H. Patterson, born 1832, died 1883; and Elizabeth Patterson, born 1836, died 1914.

Alonzo and Rozellia Patterson had nine children: Semon, Howard, Harden, Ellen, Milton, Maude, John, Howell and Ernest.

This brief view of early Patterson settlers leaves much yet to be researched. From the four brothers, Joseph, John (Jr.), George and Amos, and their father and mother, John and Margaret Black Patterson, who settled in Union, possibly even before the county was formed in 1832, come hundreds of Patterson-related descendants who have spread out through the adjoining mountain areas of Georgia, the state at large and other states. Amos and his family, for example, moved to Texas where many of his descendants can still be traced.

I am grateful to the research of Charles Wesley Patterson, “Wes” (born 1968) who has done extensive work on his Patterson line and shares it on his blogspot. He shows his descendency as follows:

William Patterson, born before 1690, died about 1710-20
Robert R. Patterson, born about 1711 and died in 1775
Thomas Patterson, born about 1740-44, died about 1800-02
John Patterson (who came to Union), born about 1765, died between 1840-1850
George Patterson, born 1800, died about 1860-67
William Harden “Bill” Patterson, 1832-1884
Joseph Elijah “Lige” Patterson (twin), 1871-1957
Clinton Willis “Clint” Patterson, 1904-1995
Francis Oliver “Frank” Patterson, born 1940
Charles Wesley “Wes” Patterson, born 1968
c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 14, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Patterson Families ~ Early Settlers In Union

In seeking surnames of early Union settlers registered in the 1834 census, I was a bit amazed that I had not noted before the four Patterson households side by side. With number of males listed first and number of females second in each of these residences, we find Joseph Patterson (8 m, 4 f), Amos Patterson (5 m, 2 f) John Patterson (4 m, 3, f) and George (4 m, 3 f), making the Patterson population 33 in Union in 1834.

By 1840, Patterson households registered were ten with population with that name 55. These families were William (3 m, 2 f), Amos (3 m, 4 f), George (6 m, 2 f), John (1 m, 1 f), Samuel (3 m, 3 f), Lewis (1 m, 2 f), Joseph (5 m, 4 f), John (2 m, 2 f), John (6 m, 2 f), and Baily (1 m, 2 f). These numbers gave 55 with Patterson surnames. The fact that heads of four households were named John posed a definite challenge to identification.

The 1850 census, the first to give names as well as ages of those within a household, and the states where born, can still be confusing about the Patterson clan in Union. To save space, I will just list heads of the 11 Patterson households, the spouse, if married, and the number of male and female children: William (37) and Elizabeth (32) [NC] and 10 children, 6 m, 3 f and an infant—gender unspecified; John (35) and Sarah (29) [NC] and 5 children, 3 f, 2 m; Samuel, 44 [NC} and Jane, 43 [TN], 9 children, 6 m, 3 f; Joseph, 61 and Agnes, 55 [SC] and 6 children, 1 m, 5 f, with an 84 year old Sary Durham [VA] in the household, as well as Joseph’s sister (?) Ann, age 47 [NC]; Amos, 26 [GA] and Jane, 24, [NC] and 3 children, 1 m, 2 f; John, 28 [NC] and Marian, 24 [SC]; no children; John, 52 [NC] and Sarah, 47 [SC] own 1 slave, the have 5 children, 4 m, 1 f, and living in their household, Margaret Patterson, age 83 [SC], and also Lucinda Hix, 45 [SC]; William, 23 and Margaret, 22 [both born in GA] and 2 children, 1 m, 1 f; George, 50 [NC] (no spouse listed; she had possibly died by 1850), 5 children, 4 m, 1 f; and James, 34 [NC] and Esther, 26 [NC] and 4 children, 2 m, 2 f. A tally of these Patterson residents in 1850 shows that they and those living with them somehow related, no doubt, numbered 76 people, plus the one slave held by John and Sarah.

How did the Patterson name originate? We find that it is a patronymic—named for the father long ago, as is almost any surname with the suffix son. Some who have studied the history of names say it harks back to Peter (spelled in the Latin, Pater); others say it stems from followers of St. Patrick. It is Scots-Irish-English in origin. A William Patterson founded the bank of England in 1694. He was a farmer’s son from Dumfriesshire who did well. It was through him that the “Darien Scheme” in Panama was begun, an economic development that collapsed in 1700.

I owe much to the research and writings of Wesley Patterson (b. 1968) who has done extensive research and posted an online blog about the Pattersons in his line, who go back to the early settlers in Union—and much beyond that. It is from his research that I learned the four Patterson men listed in Union County’s 1834 census were brothers from North Carolina who came into the county when land became available from some of the first Cherokee Removal.

Wesley Patterson believes that the father and mother of the four brothers were also in Union County in 1834, then living in the household of Amos, their youngest child and the first to settle in Union County. The father and mother were John Patterson (born about 1765, died in Union County before 1850) and his wife, Margaret (oftentimes called “Peggy”) Black Patterson (b. about 1767, died between 1850-1860). Wes Patterson believes that the elder John Patterson and his wife Margaret were buried in unmarked graves in the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery, Union County, where some of their children and other descendants were buried.

John and Margaret were married in the Pendleton District of South Carolina about 1788 (no marriage record found). They had at least ten children, maybe eleven.

In his extensive research, Wes Patterson has traced his fifth great grandparents’ children and has them listed as follows:

(1) A son (?) born in Lancaster County, SC before 1789
(2) Joseph Black Patterson (1789, SC – 1860, GA)
(3) Margaret “Peggy” Patterson (b. about 1790, SC)
(4) Isabella Patterson (b. about 1792-95, SC. died in Ga, 1869; married a Price (?)
(5) Amey Jane Patterson (1793-SC – 1889, GA) married William D. Kincaid
(6) Robert Patterson (1796, SC – 1860/70, TX)
(7) John Patterson (1798, NC – 1854, GA)
(8) George Patterson (1800, NC – before Nov. 1866, GA)
(9) Ann Patterson (1802, NC – after 1870, GA) – never married
(10) Amos Patterson (1803/04, NC – 1861/70, TX).
Wesley Patterson believes, after having studied land transactions in the Ivy Log section of Union County for the early days of the county that Amos Patterson, the youngest child, was the first to purchase land in the about-to-be Union County, and then some of his brothers and sisters, along with their parents, moved to Union. It was a rather tightly-knit community where the Pattersons settled—Amos leading the way, with his brothers Joseph, John and George following shortly.

Also in the 1834 census was William D. Kincaid who had married the Patterson brothers’ sister, Amey Jane. Later this couple became citizens of Fannin County when their land lots were absorbed into the new county Fannin in 1854. If, as Wes Patterson believes, Isabella Patterson married a Price, she purchased land as Isabella Price on April 8, 1837, Land Lot 290, District 9, in Lower Young Cane. Her household was listed in the 1840 census as living next door to the elder of the John Pattersons (who was her father?).

Many questions still remain about early settlers with the surname Patterson. But one thing we can say with certainty: Many remained, for that name is still quite prevalent in the mountain counties of North Georgia. And from Wes Patterson I learned that the combined Patterson-Turner Family Reunion is an event of the 3rd Sunday in October each year at Oak Grove Baptist Church on the Loving Road (That will be October 17 this year). The church building is located right on the Union County/Fannin County line in the section where so many of the early Patterson ancestors settled. Descendants of John and Margaret Black Patterson, and of Bailus E. Turner are especially invited to attend. The service begins at 10:30 a. m., with “dinner on the grounds” at noon, and visitation and “reunionizing” in the afternoon.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 7, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Greenwood Families ~ Early Settlers in Union and Fannin

One county was formed from another in early settler days of establishing geographic county lines. It sometimes becomes hard for subsequent generations to distinguish just where their families lived in the years of the 1830’s through the 1860’s until Georgia’s county lines were fairly well established. Such a name was that of Greenwood, early Union settlers, but not the earliest, to this mountain region.

An examination of the 1834 census of Union County reveals no Greenwood family, but by 1840 James Greenwood and his wife and two small children under five were residents of Union County. It is not until 1850 that we find another family of Greenwoods, that of Martin Greenwood , age 34, and his wife Lucinda, age 24, with children John, 7, William 4, Mary 1, and living in the house with them, Margaret Morrison, age 64, (or Morris ?) who we find was the mother of Martin’s first wife, Lucinda Morris. James Greenwood and his family were not listed in the 1850 Union census. Since we find later that they lived in the more remote section called the Noontootla District, James’s family may have been missed by the census taker in 1850. And were James and Martin Greenwood brothers or cousins? That I have not established yet, but I did find by researching family records that Martin Greenwood’s parents were John and Mary Margaret (called “Polly”) Hurst Greenwood.

Before we go into the confusion of which county the Greenwoods lived in—Union or Fannin—let us look at the origin of the Greenwood surname. It is English, and was a place name meaning the “place of the Green Wood.” The first we find on record spelled the last name Greenwode. Wyomarus de Grenwode was a caterer for Maude (or Matilda), Empress, mother of King Henry II of England. King Henry reigned in England from 1154-1189. As chief cook for the king’s mother, Wyomarus de Grenwode was among the titled gentry. A great manor house constructed of hand-hewn stone near Hedbon Bridge in Heptonstall, Yorkshire, England still stands today as a monument to the noble Wyomarus de Grenwode who erected it. It was from this English family that John Greenwood of North Carolina, established as Martin father’s (and maybe James’s, too) was descended.

And now back to the 1840-1860 era here in the mountains, and why the Greenwood families were no longer listed in Union County after 1850. Fannin County was founded in 1854 from portions of what was Union and Gilmer. Martin A. Greenwood (1818-1866) lived near what became Fannin’s first county seat town, Morganton. He had a rather large farm there, and was also a merchant and a leather tanner. He didn’t have to move to be a citizen of first one and then the other county.

James Greenwood and his wife lived farther up in the mountain region. Their farm was in the Noontootla District. They are listed in both the 1860 and 1870 census of the new county, Fannin. They did not move but because of where they lived they also became citizens of Fannin.

In 1850, Martin Greenwood was 34, and he and his wife Lucinda, 24, were listed as having three children, John 7, William 4, and Mary, 1. Lucinda’s mother, Margaret Morrison (thus listed by census-taker) lived with them. Her name may have been Morris, not Morrison. Then by 1860, Martin was listed in the Fannin County census at Morganton, a merchant and farmer, with considerable wealth at that time, property evaluated at $1,000 and available money at $3,900. He was evidently a widower by 1860, with five children: John 18, William 15, Margaret 11, Andrew 7 (named for his father, for Martin’s middle name was Andrew) and Samner, 3 months. Living in the household with them was Benjamin C. Chastain, age 27, who evidently helped Martin A. Greenwood with his mercantile business, as Benjamin was listed as a store keeper. I did not find, by researching cemetery books of both Union and Fannin Counties, a marked gravestone for Lucinda Morris(on?) Greenwood.

There is a marriage record for Martin Greenwood to Sarah Freeman . They were wed on October 4, 1860, with the Rev. J. B. Parham performing the ceremony. Sarah was the widow of Samuel Freeman. Her maiden name was Parks. She and Samuel Freeman had married in Union County on October 28, 1849, with the Rev. T. M. Hughes performing their ceremony. How Sarah’s first husband died is not known to this writer.

Born to Martin and Sarah Greenwood were three more children, Emma Frances, Thomas Martin (1863-1938) and Molly. Martin Greenwood served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He plied his trade of tanning and leather-crafting while in service, making shoes for the soldiers. He was stationed at Carnesville in Franklin County. Whether he became ill while in service, or contracted some disease that left him vulnerable to illness is not known. He died in 1866 not long after the war and returned to his store and farm in Morganton. I searched both the Fannin and Union County cemetery books for his gravesite, but found no marked stone listed. John R. Greenwood, the son of Martin A. and his first wife, Lucinda, studied law and became a prominent lawyer and farmer in Morganton. He was for a time the internal revenue tax collector and also served as a commissioner of the U. S. Circuit Court of the area.

Sarah, widow of Martin Greenwood, had a hard struggle to rear his children and their children without their father. In the 1870 census of Fannin, she was age forty, with five children still at home. Thomas, their son, early became interested in medicine, and began to study it, first by associating with Dr. T. T. Fain of Morganton in his office and going with him on house calls around the countryside. Thomas went to Atlanta Medical College (later named Emory) where he graduated in 1888. He returned to Morganton where he practiced medicine until 1900. He then moved his family to Oklahoma and then on to Texas.

Emma Frances Greenwood, daughter of Martin and Sarah, married Judson Rucker Chastain, a son of the famed Elijah Webb Chastain, a representative and senator who lived in Morganton. Judson Rucker himself entered politics and ran against the famed Benjamin C. Dugger as representative in 1884.

Martin and James Greenwood, early Union County settlers, did not remain listed as Union County citizens because of the formation of the new county of Fannin in 1854. But Greenwood, a name that goes back to the twelfth century in England, is well-known in many parts of the United States. In fact, Greenwood, SC is named for some of the first settlers to that area of our country. Even here in this country, the Greenwoods seemed to enjoy settling in rural areas where their name described the towering trees growing around them in the deep forests.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 30, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Saluting Major James Leon Davenport

When James Leon Davenport, the first child of John Prescott Davenport (better known as Press) and Ethel Lee Souther Davenport was born on December 9, 1926 in Blairsville, it is not known whether his parents then thought of his growing up and becoming a soldier.

Did he play soldier as a little boy, dreaming that some day he would wear the uniform of his country and face the enemy bravely? When he volunteered for the US Army in 1945, he was destined for a career in service, one that would lead him to many places in the world and from which he would retire as one of the most-decorated soldiers from Union County, one who was distinguished for heroism and noble service.

Leon’s friend, Charles Waymon Cook, who grew up in Blairsville and became a teacher and poet, has written a noteworthy tribute to Leon in a poem. With Charles’s permission, I share that poetic tribute to Leon:

A Gallant Soldier
(In tribute to Major James Leon Davenport.
Retired, 24th Infantry Division and 3rd Infantry Division, US Army
by Charles Waymon Cook)

A gallant soldier from the hills
With valor demonstrated;
When Leon’s nation needed him,
He never hesitated.

Twenty-one years in three tough wars
He fought for liberty;
While decorated many times,
He wore humility.

Commissioned on the battlefield
For bravery sublime,
He risked his life for other men
When he was in his prime.

Our country owes its gratitude
For services well done;
He gave the best one man could give
With earthly battles won.

In quietude his pace has slowed
As age and time drift in;
Let’s not forget this gentle giant—
A soldier and a friend.
I am grateful to Charles Waymon Cook, poet, who ably captured the life and spirit of brave soldier Major James Leon Davenport in his poem, “Gallant Soldier.” More of his poems can be read in his recently-published book entitled Beyond the Mountain Haze.

But this salute is to the soldier, Major James Leon Davenport. His military career, spanning twenty-one years, saw him volunteering for the infantry as a private as World War II was coming to a close in 1945. During his career, he served 131 months overseas in various locations. He was in the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Germany, and Vietnam. During the Korean War, he was in the famed 24th Infantry Division about which we can now read in the histories of this war. His was the very first unit to see action in Korea.

From private to major, he worked through the ranks, serving admirably as a rifleman, in a tanker, as a platoon leader, as company commander, and as his battalion’s executive officer. During those years, he practiced fairness and soldierly conduct, admired and emulated by those who needed a role model for their own military service.

On five occasions he was decorated for heroism. Three Silver Stars are among his medals, as are the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Bronze Star with victory medallion, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, Combat Infantry Badge, and others. You do not hear of his decorations from him. Ever humble and grateful that he had opportunity to serve his country, he is the last to talk about or ever boast of how his country recognized his service. But we are beginning to find out, and we gladly salute Major James Leon Davenport.

After his first ten years in the Army, he came back to Blairsville in 1955, but then in 1961 he was recalled to active duty during the Berlin Crisis. He spent eleven more years serving his country until he retired in August of 1972. Toward the end of his service career, he was Inspector General of Fort Knox, Kentucky.

His retirement from active military service did not bring an end to Major Davenport’s career. Recognizing his leadership and administrative skills, the Board chose him to became CEO of the new and struggling Union General Hospital. As administrator there for 21 years, until his retirement from that position in August, 1993, Leon Davenport led the hospital to accreditation and to a stature of notability, with a strong health care team and excellent medical facilities.

Active in his church and community, Leon Davenport is citizen, patriot, family man and friend. He comes from a long line of solid citizens whose ancestors both paternally and maternally go back to the Davenports who settled in the area of Davenport Mountain in the Ivy Log District and the Southers who established Souther Mill in the Choestoe District. Leon’s parents, John Prescott Davenport and Ethel Lee Souther Davenport met “about half-way between” their places of birth—at the Blairsville Collegiate Institute when they were both students there. They were married July 19, 1925. Leon was their first child. He had two siblings: Vivian Evangeline Davenport who married Kenneth Roy Chambers and Douglas Davenport who was born 12/9/1931 and died 6/3/1981.

James Leon Davenport and Barbara Hooper Twiggs were married September 18, 1953. They have just recently celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary. Their children are Cayce Lynn Davenport Friedly (married to David Friedly) and Ralph Douglas Davenport (married to Delila Echemendia).

For his service to country and community, and for his firmly held family and spiritual values that continue to make our country a leader among nations, we salute Major James Leon Davenport!

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 23, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Henson Family Name in Early Union County History

When the special census of 1834 was taken, only one Henson family appeared, that of Joseph Henson, Senior, with Joseph himself and his wife in the household.

Proceeding to the next census in 1840, three households of Hensons were in Union. In the Charles Henson household were two male children, three female children, and Charles and his wife. In the Joseph Henson household were eight male children, four female children and Joseph and his wife. In the Joseph Henson, Sr. household, the same as noted from 1834, the residents had increased to five male children, eight female children, and the mother and father. With such an increase in Joseph, Sr.’s household, we wonder how this accounting could have come about in just six years. Maybe the 1850 census will reveal some answers, or perhaps we can find other clues from family history stories that will add light to these early Henson settlers to the county.

By 1850, the first census with children in households listed by names rather than just an age bracket, we discover Hensons in eight enumerated households, with the number of persons by that name totaling thirty-three, but Daniel Henson, age 19, seems to have been counted twice, first with his own family, and again in the household of M. C. Wilson and his wife, Mary Wilson and their three small children, William, Martha and Eliza Wilson. (Could Daniel and Mary Wilson have been brother and sister and he was visiting them—or working on M. C. Wilson’s farm—when the census-taker called?). A listing, besides that of the Wilsons, in which Hensons were enumerated in 1850 was as follows:

(#65) Allen Henson, 56, and his wife, Elizabeth, 56, with children Edy, 18, Elizabeth, 14, Daniel, 19, and George, 21—all born in North Carolina. Allen Henson’s occupation was listed as cooper—or barrel-maker.

(#466) Archibald Henson, age 74, was born in Virginia. Evidently his wife was not living in 1850. Listed in his household are children Charity, 30 and Ages, 18, both born in North Carolina, and Edmund, age 10 (a young child for a 74-year old man; could he have been a grandchild?), born in Tennessee.

(#471) Charles Henson, age 65, his wife Sally, 64, and one child still at home, Charles. All three were born in South Carolina.

(#475) Eli Henson, age 39, and his wife, Elizabeth, age 29, both born in North Carolina, and their three small children, James 7, Archibald, 5, and Jacob, 1, all born in Georgia. In this household was Jacob Ledford, age 20. (Could he have been a brother to Elizabeth Henson?)

(#548) William Henson, age 26, born in Georgia, his wife, Mary Ann, age 26, born in South Carolina, and a young Joseph Henson, Jr., age 20, born in Georgia. (Could he have been a brother to William, and a son of Joseph Henson, Sr., who was in the 1834 Union census?)

(#549) Joseph Henson, Sr. age 44, born in South Carolina. No wife is listed, but an elderly Rebecca Henson, age 90, no doubt Joseph, Sr.’s mother, also born in SC was in the household, along with children Alsa (a female), 17, Rebecca, 15, John, 12, and Jonathan, 10, all born in Georgia.

(#1047) Henson, James, age 28, his wife, Catherine, age 24, both born in North Carolina, and one child, William, age 1.

For more information about early settlers with Henson surname, we turn to early marriage records and find these who were married in Union County from 1832 to 1850. Some of these relate back to the additional households of Hensons added between the 1840 and 1850 census:
Rebecca Henson married Preston Starrett on 16 February 1839 (by Jesse Reid, JP)

Lovina Henson married Henry Nichols on 24 December 1840 (by Daniel Mathis, JIF)

Henry Henson married Mariah Woods on 25 July 1841 (by David Kenny, JP)

Joseph Henson married Sarah N. Warlex on 12 May 1842 (by Rev. Elisha Hedden, MG)

Mary Henson married Thomas Henson on 22 July 1845 (by John Patterson, JP)

Martha Henson married William Daniel on 10 December 1845 (by Charles Crumley, JP)

James Henson married Catherine Battbey (? sp.) on 13 May 1847 (by W. A. Brown, JP)

T. P. Henson married S. Mahoney on 8 October 1847 (by Benjamin Casteel, JP)

W. C. Henson married Polly Ann Hood on 23 April 1848 (by Charles Crumley, JP)

Loyd Henson married Milly Harkins on 13 March 1850 (by M. L. Burch, JP)

If you are a Henson, or a descendant from a Henson of those listed as settlers in Union up to 1850, or related to those in the nine Henson couples married in Union by 1850, then you can claim your heritage back to these hardy pioneers. A Henson cemetery was established in the Owltown District of Union County. At the time the Union County Cemetery Book was compiled in 1990, eight graves were marked just by field stones with no discernible identification, while twenty-two of the graves had inscribed headstones. The earliest marked grave was that of an infant of J. I. Henson who was born and died October 15, 1875. Probably some of the field stones marked earlier graves prior to that one of 1875. The name gravestone identifying the one born earliest to be buried in the Henson Cemetery is that of James M. Henson (1822-1906). Joseph Henson, Sr., first Henson settler in Union County, must have been buried with only an unmarked field stone at his grave. In my search of all Henson burials listed in the cemetery book, I did not find his name or a date that would identify him.

An early Henson School once operated in Choestoe District. My Uncle Herschel Dyer, and later his son, Otis Dyer, taught at that school.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 16, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reece's Poem "Autumn Mood" Sets Tone for Fall

Union County can be justifiably proud of her native son, Byron Herbert Reece, poet and novelist, born September 14, 1917 to Juan Wellborn Reece and Emma Lance Reece.

On both paternal and maternal sides of his family, his ancestors were early settlers in Union County. His roots went back to his paternal great grandfather, John Reece, who had settled in the Ivy Log section of the county. A sad event happened to his maternal great grandfather, John Lance, a Methodist minister, who was murdered in 1888 and his body left half-beheaded, lying in Wolf Creek as he returned from preaching. The “moon shiners,” mountain whiskey-makers, were after John Lance because they thought he spoke out against their trade which was an underlying cause of much conflict in mountain areas of the nineteenth century.

Byron Herbert Reece was born in the Lance family ancestral home, where his mother herself had been born into the family of LaFayette Lance. The cabin was located about the middle of the present Lake Trahlyta at Vogel State Park. Juan Reece bought acreage about a mile north of the location of Lake Trahlyta and built a house there. He and Emma reared five of their six children in this house. Alwayne, the eldest, died of meningitis at thirteen months. Growing to adulthood were Eva Mae, Nina Kate, T.R J., Byron Herbert (known as Hub) and Jean.

Early on, Hub Reece showed a propensity for literature, especially poetry and ballads. As he heard them read at his mother’s knees, and learned to read at an early age himself, he avidly pursued all that the Reece’s meager store of books and the country schools of his day could provide for him.

From the cadences of well-beloved ballads and the rhythms of seasons and farm life, Reece fell into a pattern of writing about what he heard, saw and experienced. A keen observer of nature and an astute student of the masters of traditional forms, he early began to compose poetry of high quality. His ease with words and forms blended into exquisite lyrics. He was the recipient of numerous literary awards for his four books of poetry and two novels published between 1945 and 1955. He had contracted to write another novel and his fifth book of poetry but his untimely death occurred June 3, 1958 before these were finished.

From time to time I enjoy selecting one of his poems and writing comments about it, much as I would teach it if I were still in the classroom introducing students to the intricacies of Reece’s poetry, its style, depth and meaning. Here, so near what would have been his ninety-third birthday (September 14), and with the fall season so soon upon us, I have chosen his brief “Autumn Mood” for consideration.

Autumn Mood

The leaf flies from the stricken bough,
The aster blows alone;
And in the curve of heaven now
The wild geese tread the dawn.

I would I had no ears to hear
And had no eyes to see
What is so beautiful and dear
Escaping me!
-Byron Herbert Reece
in Ballad of the Bones and Other Poems (NY: Dutton, 1945, p. 73)

From the title “Autumn Mood” to the final exclamation point at the end of line eight, Byron Herbert Reece captured a season and a day in time with inimitable ease, economy of words and astute observation.

The lines paint a picture and capably capture the mood of a day in fall in the beloved mountains where Reece looked out to see the falling leaves, the aster in bloom, observed “the curve of heaven” (not the arch of sky, a less-expressive reference), and saw, too, “The wild geese tread the dawn.” Less-poetic people would have seen geese fly. In his poetic manner, he saw them “tread” as they moved in formation. The first four lines do double duty. They paint a picture and they “show and tell.” The result? We see clearly what he writes about. He tells in telescopic form what we see as we read his word picture.

The first four lines paint an autumn scene. The last four lines build the mood of autumn. Oh! But if the observer had no ears to hear, no eyes to see, he would not be affected by what is so soon passing, so beautiful, so dear—escaping. The falling leaves, the fading aster, the migrating geese—all signs of fall, the waning season of the year. A sadness and finality permeate this season. Reece captures this mood aptly in this poem.

What he does not say in “what is so beautiful and dear” we can fill in with our own nostalgic thoughts at this decline of the year. Here are a few:

The falling leaves take gold, magenta and red from the beloved hills, and deciduous tress stand bare, “stricken.” Fall asters, purple in the sun, will soon be dried-up stalks blowing in the wind. The migration of birds, most specifically the wild geese as they “tread the dawn,” represent fast-passing time. With their going comes the soon-return of winter and the birds’ necessity to seek a warmer climate. Left behind, what ears have heard and eyes have seen will soon be only in figments of memory.

What is the beauty in this poem? Its sadness? Yes. Who does not think of fall as the waning time and the time of non-growth, of closure? Fall’s beauty is so soon replaced by stark limbs and a brown carpet of leaves. Color will soon fade from purple asters and the gray remains of stalks will match the ashen oncoming winter and my mood. No longer will eyes behold a V of flying geese at autumn dawn, going further south for winter.

What Reece does not say in the poem is left to the reader’s imagination, associations and memories. How aptly did he title the poem “Autumn Mood.” He painted a powerful vignette of fall in eight cryptic, well-crafted lines. No hidden symbols, no mysterious metaphors adorn this poem. It is to the point, a monument to a moment in time. He emptied his thoughts about fall in eight amazing lines. He gave opportunity to readers to recall their own experiences of fall (and life), which, like “the treading geese,” move on.

If the reader does not come away from this poem with a memorable experience, he does not appreciate the extraordinary of the ordinary. What you read, hear, see and feel in this poem can be expanded by your own experiences. Indeed, there is identification with the scene he paints and the “Autumn Mood” he feels. If you’re poetically inclined, the poem might even inspire you to write your own poem about fall.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 9, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.