Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reece Family Afterthoughts (Part 7 in Reece Family Series)

To Bobby Josiah Queen, current citizen of Union County and a person vitally interested in family roots, thank you for the volume of information you sent me on the Reece families in Union County.

This entry, at least temporarily, will wrap up my articles on the Reece family. Enough remains, untouched, from what Bobby sent, that could make a good-sized book. I was not surprised at how, from the earliest Reece settlers to Union County through marriages, many prominent last names show the relationship of this family to subsequent generations.

And so it is, in general. We “live and move and have our being.” Each generation leaves its mark, a circle in time, some work, some monument of service, some contribution to add to the corpus of knowledge or achievement. Or, alas, if we lack motivation and desire to contribute in a worthwhile manner to the good of all, our record can mar as well as help.

We can aspire to do as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote in his great poem, “A Psalm of Life”:

“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.”
I was interested, for example, in seeing how Bobby Josiah Queen himself lay in the line of Reece descendants. He got his second name from his grandfather, Eli Josiah Reece (04.02.1878), son of Quiller Frank and Elizabeth Clarica Adelia Logan Reece. Eli Josiah Reece was the sixth of sixteen children born to Quiller and Eliza. And Quller Frank, as you recall, was a son of William “Billy” Reece and Mary Daniel Reece. Uncle Billy Reece mined gold from the creekbed of Helton Falls Creek and hauled it to the Dahlonega Mint for processing.

Bobby’s mother was Nora Elizabeth Reece (11.08.1907) a daughter of Eli Joseph Reece. To them were born four children, Carl Winford Queen, Durwood Norris Queen, Bobby Josiah Queen, and Frances Louella Queen. I won’t attempt to trace the marriages and descendants of these Reece kin. Bobby Josiah Queen followed in the footsteps of several of his ancestors and gave patriotic service in the U. S. Marines and the Coast Guard. He married Carmela Rinaldi. He chose to return to his beloved Union County after his service years.

And looking through the many names of Reece descendants, I noted with great interest that my high school classmate, Elbert Dennis Wilson, now of Michigan, is also a descendant of Eli Josiah Reece and Sallie Lou Ella Stephens Reece. Elbert’s mother was Mary Eliza Reece (11.20.1901), daughter of Eli Josiah. Mary Eliza married Abraham Lincoln Wilson and Elbert was their fourth of nine children. Isn’t it strange that as high school students we hardly gave a thought to our genealogy? Then we did not know, somehow, that grandparents and great grandparents were important to our history. We failed to sit at their feet, hear their stories, and record them while these noble people were alive and could enlighten us on who begat whom and what they did in the hills and valleys of Union County.

Going back to William “Billy” Reece and his wife Mary Daniel Reece, I note that their daughter, Margaret Louise Reece (08.16.1856 – 06.20.1941) married John Spiva (04.22.1851 – 11.28.1933). To this couple were born Mary Jane, Eliza, Minty Caroline, Henry W., Emma, Frank, Jewell W., Gardner C., Josiah H., and Guy Cook Spiva. This family link opened up another avenue of genealogical lines back to the original Reece settlers in Union County. These, too, would make another book, and my friend, Geraldine Spiva Elmore has done much to preserve the Spiva legacy in her research and writings. Thank you, Geraldine.

This brief overview only partially covers the links and names going back to “Billy” Reece and his children. But last, and not least, I want to pay tribute to the last-born of Quiller Frank and Elizabeth Logan Reece’s children, Alice Elizabeth Louise Reece (01.23.1893), who married Olin Hayes. Her great niece, Esther Minerva Clouse Cunningham (daughter of Nellie Caroline Reece and Zeb Clouse) wrote of her great aunt Alice Hayes:

“I remember Aunt Alice Reece Hayes. She was my grandfather’s youngest sibling. She stayed at home and took care of her parents (Quiller Frank and Elizabeth) until they died. She married late in life and never had any children. I think she felt her responsibility to keep her parents’ family united. When my grandma “Roxie” (Roxie Potts Reece, wife of William Drury Reece, firstborn son of Quiller Frank) was sick and dying, Aunt Alice and her husband, Olin Hayes, came. I brought them to my house to spend the night because my Aunt Kate was caring for her parents.” And so went this testimony of Esther Cunningham, who remembered her Great Aunt Alice as a “keeper of the family history.”

To Bobby Josiah Queen, thank you for these and other great stories of the Reece Family in Union County. I leave this family saga now, not because the story is finished by any means, but because it is too large for inclusion in sketchy columns in a weekly newspaper. For those of you, like Alice Reece Hayes, who want to be “keepers of the family history,” learn your stories and record them. You will be glad you did. Much for posterity hangs in the balance of our finding and recording the stories. “Lives of great men (and women) all remind us” even now to catch a glimpse of the sublime in the lives of others who made a difference.

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

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Two Byron Herbert Reece Poems (Reece Family Series, Part 6)

Last week’s column gave a summary of the family of Juan Wellborn and Emma Lance Reece. Their son, Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958) became the famous poet and novelist we are hearing more about recently as we through the Byron Herbert Reece Society seek to perpetuate his memory and his works.

Let’s take some “time-out” to enjoy a bit of his inimitable poetry. Think of relaxing by your fire or under a warm blanket during these cold days and read with meaning and absorption. I offer first:

In the Far Dark Woods Go Roving

Whenever the heart’s in trouble
Caught in the snare of years,
And the sum of tears is double
The amount of youthful tears,

In the far, dark woods go roving
And find there to match your mood
A kindred spirit moving
Where the wild winds blow in the wood.
This poem was published in Bow Down in Jericho, 1950.

The mind is a remarkable organ of the body. When troubles perplex and answers seem absent, when one is “caught in the snare of years,” there is a quick escape. This poem describes in brief but exceptionally crafted lines how this escape is possible.

Just think of another, more pleasant purview. Since Poet Reece loved the woods, nature and everything about his mountain environment, he would think of the “far, dark woods” where he had walked and meditated. They weren’t really that far away. Just a thought away. And so it is with us. It’s not that we shirk from the troubles we might be facing. Instead, a brief refreshment, even in the mind’s eye, can bring release and restoration. Try replacing the “Far Dark Wood” (which might seem foreboding to you) with your own favorite resting place. You will be surprised how much the recollection will aid your ailing spirit.

Another poem, “The Speechless Kingdom,” also published in his 1950 Bow Down in Jericho collection, seems, to me, to be stating his purposes for writing. When I lead a writers’ workshop or speak to a group on the poetry of Reece, I always read this poem as his statement of purpose for writing. What a calling he had, and how well he fulfilled it in his gift of poetry to us:

The Speechless Kingdom

Unto a speechless kingdom I
Have pledged my tongue, I have given my word
To make the centuries-silent sky
As vocal as a bird.

The stone that aeons-long was held
As mute through me has cried aloud
Against its being bound, has spelled
Its boredom to a crowd

Of trees that leaned down low to hear
One with complaint so like their own
--I being to the trees and ear
And tongue to the mute stone.

And I being pledged to fashion speech
For all the speechless joy to find
The wonderful words that each to each
They utter in my mind.
I cannot add an iota or even a thought to such a proclamation of purpose for the poet. To be the voice, the tongue for “a speechless kingdom,” the “ear to trees,” the “tongue to mute stone.” And, furthermore to be able to “fashion speech” so that the very stones can cry out, the trees can register their voice, the skies stretched in silence above are heard through his poetry! What a gift, and how well he executed his gift, his calling to allow us to see in new and vibrant ways the “Speechless Kingdom” for whom he spoke. I need space to point out metaphor, simile, personification, rhyme, rhythm, other poetic elements he employed with such expertise. But if you are one who likes to pursue poetry on your own, I ask you to go back and reread each of the poems, absorbing all the nuances of excellent poetry you find in these two offerings from Reece.

The Reece family has a long and rich heritage in America, Wales and England as we’ve seen by previous articles. Through the words of one of them, Byron Herbert Reece, mountain farmer, poet and novelist, we are able to look at the things he wrote about in a different and more lucent light. The speechless speak through his words.

We are rich, indeed, because he wrote.

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

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reece Family in Union County, GA (part 5): The Family of Byron Herbert Reece, Poet and Novelist

Juan Wellborn Reece and Hannah Emma Lou Lance Reece Family, about 1925. On Emma's lap is Emma Jean Reece (b. March 29, 1923). Standing, left to right, are Eva Mae Reece (b. August 25, 1911); Byron Herbert Reece (b. September 14, 1917); Thomas James "T. J." Reece (b. July 30, 1915); Nina Kate Reece (b. June 15, 1914.) The youngest child in the Reece family, Alwayne Reece (May 16, 1908-June 15, 1909) died at age 13 months from miningitis.

(Picture, compliments of Pauline Bryan, Cleveland, GA, widow of Jimmy Bryan, first cousin of the poet. Jimmy was a son of Mrs. Emma Lance Reece's sister, Eula Lance Bryan. This and other valuable Reece family pictures were in Mrs. Eula Bryan's collection, and passed on to her son, Jimmy.)

By brief recapitulation from last week’s column, and continuing the saga of the Reece family in Union County, let me review by listing again the seven known generations in America of poet/novelist Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958):

(1) William Reece (wife Mary, maiden name unknown)
(2) Valentine (called “Fella”) Reece (wife Christina Harmon Reece)
(3) Jacob Reece (wife Susannah “Hannah” Silvers Reece)
(4) John Reece (wife Mary Anderson Reece)
(5) Simpson Reece (wife Emmaline Sampson Reece)
(6) Juan Wellborn Reece (wife Hannah Emma Lou Lance Reece)
(7) Byron Herbert Reece (poet and novelist, never married)
Since our place of birth and time of birth are out of our hands, we become a “citizen,” (as Byron Herbert Reece liked to refer in his poetry to persons in residence here upon earth) of wherever we are when our earthly parents welcome us into their household. And this baby was born in a log cabin that had been on his maternal side of the family—the Lances—for a long time. The cabin in 1917 stood about in the middle of where Lake Trahlyta at Vogel State Park, in the shadow of Blood Mountain, is now located. The baby’s great grandfather, John Reece, was an early settler of the county and had been listed in the 1834 Union County census.

Byron Herbert Reece was born September 14, 1917 into the household of Juan Wellborn Reece and Emma Lance Reece. Already born into the Reece household were these siblings of the future poet: Sister Alwayne Reece, born May 16, 1908, died of meningitis June 15, 1909 at age thirteen months. Her gravestone in the Old Salem cemetery in Union County reads “Waynie,” her nickname. She was buried near her maternal great grandparents, the Rev. John H. Lance (1834-1888, killed by moonshiners) and his wife, her maternal great grandmother, Caroline T. Lance (1842-1916). So the poet never met this older sister, “Waynie,” who died eight years before he was born.

Sister Eva Mae Reece, born August 25, 1911, grew up to become a teacher; she never married. She lived at home and taught mainly at local schools near the Reece home. She was present to assist poet Reece later in the care of their parents (and the poet himself), all of whom contracted dread tuberculosis, a disease that seemed to plague this particular family of Reeces.

Sister Nina Kate Reece, born June 15, 1914, married in 1934 and moved away to North Carolina. This writer needs to do more research on Kate’s family and learn the name of her husband and children, for I seem to recall that she did have a family. Kate’s family was not listed in the Reece sources I’m using for this series.

The poet’s brother, Thomas James, known by his initials, T. J., was born July 30, 1915 and died November 11, 1989. He married a neighbor young lady, Lorena Duckworth, in 1939. T. J. joined the Civilian Conservation Corps when that work group was formed by then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After T. J. and Lorena married, they lived in various places in the United States as T. J. followed jobs. But then they came back to Union County and settled on Lorena’s family homeplace and reared their family near her aging parents and his aging parents. T. J. and Lorena had four children, Tommy, (named after his father, T. J.), June, Terry and Connie.

Byron Herbert Reece was next in line of the five Reece siblings. When asked if he was named for the famous English poets, Lord Byron and George Herbert, he laughingly told his inquirer that he was named for Byron Mitchell, a hog-trader from Gainesville, Georgia, who stopped by the Reece farm to dicker about hog sales, and for Herbert Tabor, an insurance salesman, who also was an acquaintance of the Reece family.

The youngest of the Reece siblings, the poet’s sister, Emma Jean Reece, was born March 19, 1923. She grew up to be a beauty, and met a young man in the Civilian Conservation Corps who was stationed at the present Goose Creek location when a CCC Camp operated there. His name was Thomas Daniel Rispoli and his home state was New York. Jean and Thomas Daniel were married in a lovely ceremony in New York. He served our country admirably during World War II and lost his life in that conflict. Jean Reece Rispoli and Thomas Daniel Rispoli had one child, Patricia Katherine Rispoli. After Thomas’s death, Jean and her baby, called “Patti,” returned to Blairsville, where they lived. Existing pictures of Juan and Emma Reece welcoming their little granddaughter “Patti,” and her mother, their daughter Jean, after the soldier’s death, are touching, indeed.

Life proceeded as it did in most every farm home in Choestoe as Byron Herbert Reece was growing up. There were not a lot of this world’s goods to enjoy, but the Reece’s well knew how to “make do,” and live frugally on what the narrow patches of their farm along Wolf Creek yielded. Though poor in property and money, they had a super-abundance of love. The five surviving Reece children were tutored from an early age by their mother Emma, even before they were old enough to walk the four miles to nearby Choestoe school where they were instructed in grades Primer through Seventh Grade before going on to Union County High School at Blairsville, the county seat town some ten miles north of the Reece home. Mrs. Emma and Mr. Juan, well-grounded in the Christian faith, had daily devotionals, reading to their children from the King James Version of the Bible. They didn’t have many books in their household, but those they owned, and the local newspaper and “The Progressive Farmer” magazine were read avidly. It is said that young Byron Herbert, by now called “Hub” for short, could read from the Bible and John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress before he entered Choestoe School in the Primer/First Grade class. It was from this home training that he began to fall in love with the rhythms of the English language that he would later use so effectively in his ballads, in particular, and in his sonnets and lyrical poetry.

I grew up Baptist, going to Choestoe Baptist Church. The Reece family was Methodists, members of Salem Methodist Church in the same community. Each of these churches was what we called “part-time.” That is, we only had preaching two Sundays each month, but Sunday School every Sunday. It was our habit for members of one congregation to go to the other church, for in that way, we could attend “preaching” every Sunday. It was at Salem Church that I heard Byron Herbert Reece, an approved lay preacher in the Methodist Church, teach and preach some Sundays if inclement weather prevented his own pastor from getting to Salem. So I was privileged, too, to hear the poet as preacher at times. And I treasure those memories of him as well.

The space for this account does not allow all the remembrances, as a neighbor to the Reece family, that I could recount of his life and times, and of his beloved family. But in the home of this humble, unassuming, hard-working, God-fearing potential poet were established many of the characteristics Reece portrayed in his life and work. He had a strong work ethic, borne of hard times and emulated by him in what he saw in his parents.

His poems began to be published in the 1930’s. Then his book, Ballad of the Bones and Other Poems was released in 1945 by E. P. Dutton, New York. Reviews and news frequently published in “The Atlanta Constitution” that came daily to my house when I was growing up in the same community with Reece, led us, his neighbors (at least in the Dyer household) to be amazed that our neighbor farmer/teacher had turned poet and was recognized on a national level.

When the poet met death at his own hand June 3, 1958, after much illness from tuberculosis and deep depression, I was devastated when I heard the news. For months I thought that if I had been able just to talk with him before the tragedy, perhaps I could have said something to turn the tide of his intentions to take his own life. His death certainly diminished me. I have been his admirer, a student of his inimitable prose and lofty verse, and a pursuer of “all things Reece” since, when I was 15, my teacher, Mrs. Grapelle Mock, took me to interview Reece for a column I wrote then for the school page in the local paper. I began to really aspire to follow in his footsteps as a writer. I had neither the inherent talent, expertise with language, nor ability to capture thoughts “from airy nothingness” as Reece did. But he was then and is, even to this day, my mentor, my literary hero, and my one-time mountain neighbor and friend. And I am richer, much richer, because of this association with Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958), poet.

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

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reece Family in Union County, GA (part 4): Poet Byron Herbert Reece's Ancestors

The aim of the Byron Herbert Reece Society is to perpetuate and make known the poetry and prose of Union County’s accomplished poet and novelist, Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958). He descended from a long line of Reeces in America, selected ones of whom are the subjects of this series on the Reece Family in Union and surrounding counties.

Byron Herbert Reece and his siblings were of the seventh generation of the known lineage of what we might call “the Reece clan.” Let’s take a look backward to see how the poet fits into this genealogical picture.

The first known ancestor of Poet Reece to come to America was William Reece, born about 1790 in Wales. He lived to the ripe age of ninety-nine, dying about 1898 in Iredell County, North Carolina. His wife was named Mary, maiden name unknown. William Reece of Wales had a brother who was an ordained minister, a preacher in the Presbyterian Church. His name was Rev. David Reece. This Rev. David Reece was pastor of the church at Cardigen, Wales.

A son of this Rev. David Reece, also named David, came to America and eventually settled at Sugar Creek near Charlottesville, North Carolina. This David, nephew of William Reece, poet Byron Herbert Reece’s ancestor, signed the Declaration of Independence when it was presented in Charlottesville for approval by the colonists there. David Reece and five of his sons served in the American Revolution. Surely William Reece must have felt pride in his nephew and the nephew’s sons for their patriotism during America’s War for Independence.

But now back to William Reece and his wife, Mary, first generation of Poet Reece’s direct line in America. William and Mary had a son named Valentine. They may have had other children, but Valentine is the one through whom we trace the poet’s lineage.

Valentine Reece was born in 1750 in North Carolina. Certainly we can remember his unusual name, since February 14 is our famous St. Valentine’s Day. For some reason, Valentine Reece had the nickname “Fella.” Maybe “Fella” was easier to say than Valentine. Records indicate that Christina Harmon and Valentine Reece were married in Pennsylvania in 1769. They settled in Watauga County, North Carolina. There they were members of the Tree Forks Baptist Church, and from that church’s record information was found about Christine and Valentine Reece’s nine children, listed as follows: John (1770), Jacob (1772-1851), Valentine (1774), Hannah (1776), Mary (1778), Elizabeth (1786), Isaac (1788), Anthony (1790), and Daniel (1792). Valentine and Christina moved to Trade, Tennessee at Roan Creek, Carter County. It is said that they had extensive properties there and “an abundance of the luxuries of life.” In Valentine’s will, he appointed sons John and Jacob as executors, and stated that his wife Christine and son Daniel (youngest) were to have fifty acres of land at Cove Creek and one “sugar camp.” The rest of Valentine’s property was to be divided equally among the remainder of his children. Valentine’s generosity to his children gave them a good start with property.

Through Valentine and Christina Harmon Reece’s second child, Jacob (1772-1851), we trace the lineage of poet Byron Herbert Reece. Jacob Reece married Susannah (called Hannah) Silvers about 1791, either in North Carolina or Tennessee. Hannah Silvers was born in 1788 in Carter County, New York. In 1807 this couple lived in Pendleton District, South Carolina. Their six children were Permilla (1809) a daughter; John (1809), Josiah (1815), Quiller Rose (1817), William M. “Billy” (1818-1905) and James Marion, Sr. (1820-1871). Hanna Silvers Reece died in 1825 at age 47. Jacob Reece settled in Gilmer County, Georgia, buying 120 acres of land there in 1836. On February 14, 1849, Jacob Reece sold this same acreage to his daughter, Permilla Reece Sandall. In the 1850 census of Gilmer County, Jacob was 81 and in the household with him were his daughter Permilla Sandall and two grandchildren, William Sandall, age 13, and Martha Sandall, age 12. Jacob Reece died in Gilmer County, Georgia in 1851 at age 79.

Know that in those days, Union County, Georgia and Gilmer County, Georgia were adjacent, before other counties were formed from portions of these two counties. So Jacob and his family did not live far from Union, although listed in the census as dwelling within Gilmer.

Jacob and Hannah’s second child, John Reece, born in 1809, married Mary Anderson, born in 1813. This John Reece was the fourth generation of William Reece’s family in America. John and Mary Anderson Reece had ten children: Jefferson (1831), Martha (1834), Elizabeth (1836), John (1838), Elisha Carroll (1842), Johnson Willborn (1844), James (1845), Burton (1847), Simpson (1815-1914) and Margaret A. (1853).

John and Mary Anderson Reece’s ninth child, Simpson (1815-1914), was in the fifth generation from William Reece. Their ninth child, Simpson, was the grandfather of poet Byron Herbert Reece. Simpson Reece married Emmaline (called Emily) Sampson on March 27, 1879 in Union County, Georgia. Mr. A. B. Queen, Justice of the Peace, performed their marriage ceremony. Emmaline was born in 1852 and died in 1936 at age 84. Emmaline Sampson Reece’s lineage will, of necessity, have to be a pursuit of a later time. Simpson was born in 1850 and died in 1914 at age 64. Both Simpson and his beloved wife were interred at the Duncan Cemetery, Union County, Georgia.

Records show that Simpson and Emmaline Reece had only one child, Juan Reece (first name pronounced Jew-Ann). Juan Reece, who married Emma Lance, was the father of poet Byron Herbert Reece. Here’s the summary of the poet’s ancestry by numbered generations from the first one of his Reece line in America:

(1) William Reece (wife Mary)
(2) Valentine (“Fella”) Reece, wife Christina Harmon Reece
(3) Jacob Reece, wife Susannah (“Hannah”) Silvers Reece
(4) John Reece, wife Mary Anderson Reece
(5) Simpson Reece, wife Emmaline Sampson Reece
(6) Juan Reece, wife Emma Lance Reece
(7) Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1954), poet and novelist, did not marry, no offspring.
Next week, we will look more closely at the home into which poet Reece was born, that of sixth generation Juan Reece and Emma Lance Reece.

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