Thursday, April 29, 2010

Continuing the Ledford Legacy: Benjamin's Son Silas and Grandson Mercer

Last week we looked at the life and times of early Union County settler, Benjamin J. Ledford (1800-1892) who settled on land along Ivy Log Creek. He had a large family of fifteen known children. His third child, Silas L. Ledford (1822 – 1891), and one of Silas’s sons, Mercer Lafayette Ledford, will be the focus of this article.

Silas L. Ledford had an older sister, Hannah (b. 1819) and an older brother, Josiah (b. 1820) when his mother, Grace Ownbey Ledford (07/30/1799 – 06/12/1864) gave birth to him in Buncombe County, North Carolina on October 22, 1822. He would have other siblings: Sallie, Martha, Porter, Amy Vianna, John C., Carolina L, Patterson and Mercer, all born in North Carolina before the family came to Union and settled in Ivy Log. The youngest of his siblings, Pinkney, was born after the family arrived in Georgia. Later, after his mother died, his father, Benjamin J. Ledford, married Sarah Salena Chapman Miller and Silas L. had three half-siblings, Solomon S., Mary and William, who were younger than Silas’s children.

As we saw in last week’s account of Benjamin J. Ledford, Silas’s father, he was a large land owner. He gave his son Silas some acreage and on it he build a log cabin which became the first house for him and his wife, Dolly Elmira Bowling Ledford (b. ca. 1821) whom he married in Union County on December 19, 1841. She was a daughter of Thomas and Mary McDonald Bowling. This marriage blended two early settler families, for Dolly’s father had helped to cut timbers to build Union County’s first court house in the early 1830’s, and he also was elected an early sheriff of Union County.

To Silas and Dolly Bowling Ledford were born five children: Thomas (1845), Benjamin A. (1846), Gracie Caroline (1848), Louisa (1849), and Ellantha M. (1851). The exact date of Dolly’s death is unknown, but it occurred between 1851 and 1856. Silas married his second wife, Eliza Arminda Bowling (1837-1897), who may have been a sister of his first wife, Dolly. To Eliza and Silas were born nine children: Andrew, Jane, John S., Alice V., Mercer Lafayette, Ida, Virgil C., Sallie Isabelle and Frank H.

When the Civil War came, Silas L. Ledford served in Captain Young’s Company, the Georgia Cavalry, Local Defense Troops. Whether he saw action in battle or just defended the home front is not known. His main occupation was farmer. No record was found of the burial of Silas, Dolly and Eliza Ledford in the Union County cemeteries book. It is believed that he and his second wife, Eliza, were both buried in unmarked graves in the Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery. Silas left a will, probated in 1888. In it, he made no mention of children Thomas, Louisa, Ellantha or Frank. They may have preceded their father in death.

Some interesting facts are known about Mercer Lafayette Ledford, tenth child of Silas Ledford, whose mother was Eliza Bowling Ledford. He was born September 24, 1865. Mercer attended the Ivy Log High School. At age seventeen, he took the Georgia certification test and became a teacher. He taught first at Ebenezer School, a country school located on land his grandfather and then his father had owned.

On June 16, 1897, Mercer Lafayette Ledford married Florence Iowa Christopher. She was a daughter of John A. and Sarah Martin Christopher. Well educated for a woman of her era, Florence had attended school in Blairsville and also graduated from the Hiawassee Baptist Academy. She taught school for several years before her marriage. To Florence and Mercer were born four children: Sarah, Ina, Curtis and Louisa.

Mercer and Florence moved to Gwinnett County where he continued to teach. He became interested in law, and began to “read” law in the firm of Juhan and McDonald. He passed the state bar in 1892 and began the practice of law in Lawrenceville.

Union County drew this couple back to their roots. They moved back to Union County where he set up a law practice. It is said that his first trial in Union County was held at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. What precipitated this place for the trial is unknown to this writer. In Union County, Mercer Lafayette Ledford distinguished himself as a lawyer and community servant. He was on the County School Board and served for a time as County School Commissioner (Superintendent). In 1902 he was elected to the state senate to represent the district and served for three terms, authoring bills and serving on committees.

The Mercer Ledford family moved to Cairo, Georgia (Grady County) about 1905. There he practiced law, became county attorney, served on the school board and was active on the Democratic executive committee from that district. He held membership in various civic organizations and had leadership positions in Woodmen of the World and Cairo Lodge F & AM. He and Florence were active members of the Baptist Church in Cairo. Mercer Lafayette Ledford is an example of a grandson of an early settler who went out from the environs of Union County and did well in his chosen profession.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published April 29, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Early Union Settler Benjamin J. Ledford (1800-1892)

In the years since I’ve been writing about people, places and events in these “Through Mountain Mists” columns, there are many surnames familiar to Union County’s residents, past and present, which I have not yet mentioned. To use mountain vernacular, It is hard to “get a round to it” for all of them.

I like to examine the 1834 and 1840 census records of Union County to pinpoint names and see if I can trace some of the descendants of those listed. I found no Ledford families in the first (1834) census, but by 1840 there were four families of Ledfords, that of Benjamin with nine members at that time, that of Thomas with eight in his household, William, with ten, and George with eight. The total population of Ledfords in Union in 1840 numbered thirty-five. Whether Benjamin, Thomas, William and George were related, maybe brothers or cousins, I did not uncover. Maybe readers and descendants of some of the first four Ledford families can add some light on this puzzle. Because I did easily find information on Benjamin J. Ledford and some of his descendants, he will be the present focus.

Ledford is an interesting surname. English, deriving from the Anglo-Saxon, it is what we call a habitation name, or a name derived from the place where the first lived bearing this name. The prefix, spelled variously “Hlude” “Lud,” “Lyd,” and later “Led” (and add to that earlier “Latch”) come from the Anglo-Saxon and means “loud, fast-flowing river.” Suffix of “Forde” meaning a shallow place for crossing the river, the name, then, described the people from the shallow place beside the loud-flowing river. They were identified by where they lived. Later, rivers themselves got names, so those who dwelt by them might receive the name of the river itself with the addition of the suffix ford, to indicate they lived near the river crossing.

What we know as Ledford originated around Somerset and Devonshire in England. In Anglo-Saxon records as early as 997, families named Lydford lived in Devonshire. Ludesfords were listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. A John Lodeford applied in London in 1450 for a marriage license. William Ludford married Vertue Rocker at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent in 1669. Further anglicized, the prefix became “Led” with the addition of the suffix “ford.”

The ancestors of Union County’s Benjamin J. Ledford (02/03/1800 – 03/24/1892) have been traced to a John Ledford who settled in North Carolina prior to the Revolutionary War. His son, John, Jr., the father of Benjamin, fought in the Revolution, thus giving this family ties back to that important event in American history.

John Ledford, Jr. had rather extensive land holdings in Buncombe County, North Carolina on Hominy Creek. Therein is seen that tendency still, probably ingrained since Anglo-Saxon times, of Ledfords settling and clearing land near a “loud flowing stream”—creek or river. John, Jr. (wife’s name unknown) had six children, four sons and two daughters, listed in the 1800 census in Burke County, NC, but names of these six, except for Benjamin, are unknown to this writer. Who knows? Maybe the four Ledfords in Union County, Georgia in 1840 were brothers. We can only wonder until this is uncovered and proved.

Benjamin Ledford married first Grace Ownbey (07/30/1799 – 06/12/1864), a daughter of Porter and Martha Morgan Ownbey. A land deed for 123 purchased acres along Hominy Creek in Buncombe County, North Carolina was registered to Benjamin Ledford in 1829. In 1832, he added another 100 acres to his holdings. The town of Candler, NC was founded on land held by Benjamin.

But, like many of their neighbors, Benjamin and Grace Ownbey decided to migrate to the mountains of North Georgia when Cherokee lands opened up for white settlers. He sold his land in North Carolina in 1839 and moved to Union County, Georgia to acreage he secured on Ivy Log Creek. There he erected a log cabin and cleared the land for farming. There this couple reared their large family of twelve children: Hannah (1819), Josiah (1820), Silas L. (1822), Sarah Mareilla (called Sallie, 1824), Martha M. (named for Grace’s mother, 1826), Porter L. (named for Grace’s father, 1827), Amy Vianna (1830), John C. (named for Benjamin’s father, 1832), Carolina L. (1834), Patterson (1835), Benjamin Mercer (first name for his father, 1838), and Pinckney (1840).

Grace Ownbey Ledford died in 1864, during the Civil War, and was buried at the Ebenezer Baptist Church Cemetery, Gum Log District of Union County. Grace lived to see all of her children reach adulthood except for the youngest, Pinckney, born in 1840, who was fourteen when his mother passed. Benjamin, widowed, married the second time in Union County to Sarah Salena Chapman Miller, widow of Civil War soldier Henry Miller. Their marriage took place September 18, 1868. Salena was much younger than Benjamin (04/18/1837 – 06/24/1920). Salena’s parents were Solomon and Adeline Odom Chapman. Three children were born to Benjamin and Salena: Solomon S. (1870), Mary (1873) and William (1875). The birth of these three later in Benjamin’s life brought his total number of known children to fifteen.

Benjamin J. Ledford died March 24, 1892, having reached the advanced age of ninety-two. He was laid to rest beside his first wife, Grace, in the Ebenezer Baptist Church Cemetery, Gum Log. Salena lived until June 24, 1920. She, too, was buried in the Ebenezer Cemetery.

Lives and exploits of some of the fifteen of Benjamin Ledford’s children will be explored in subsequent articles. This pioneer and his descendants, whose surname meant from ancient times “dweller beside the loud, roaring river,” made a difference in the early life of Union and other counties where they migrated.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published April 22, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring in Appalachia –The Service (Sarvis, Sorbus) Tree Blooms

In spring in Appalachia we look through eyes of winter’s lingering to see signs of renewal. Stretching up our mountainsides are trees with snow-white blooms, looking more like angel-clouds descended and brightening our still cool days.

It is our sarvis tree (also known as service tree, an Anglicization of the Latin sorbus torminalis, or wild service tree). Its white blossoms are as welcome as the spring sunshine, as heartening as the balmy breezes that blow from the south to awaken all of nature and bring hope and beauty to a gray landscape.

Our north Georgia poet, Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958) wrote about the service tree in his second book of poems, Bow Down in Jericho (E. P. Dutton, 1950). The poem is so beautiful, so to-the-point. It gives such a clear word-picture of the scene that no explication should be forthcoming. Just enjoy his words, his insight, his flawless presentation in:

We Could Wish Them a Longer Stay

Plum, peach, apple and pear
And the service tree on the hill
Unfold blossom and leaf.
From them comes scented air
As the brotherly petals spill.
Their tenure is bright and brief.

We could wish them a longer stay,
We could wish them a charmed bough
On a hill untouched by the flow
Of consuming time; but they

Are lovelier, dearer now
Because they are soon to go,
Plum, peach, apple and pear
And the service blooms whiter than snow.

-Byron Herbert Reece (in Bow Down in Jericho, 1950)
Reece in his poem pairs the “service tree on the hill” with more domesticated trees common to Appalachian orchards: “plum, peach, apple and pear.” There on the mountainside, the service tree bears its blossoms, fragrant in the early-spring.

It gives me a sense of connectedness to know that my grandmother looked out and saw the service (sarvis) tree blooming and declared, “Spring is here!” And it was also with a sense of continuation back to her mother and grandmother before her who had likewise looked for this harbinger of spring on the mountainsides, lighting up the grayness before all the trees had budded forth.

A commonly held belief about why this tree was called the “sarvis” or service tree is likewise a part of our Appalachian culture. It bloomed out in time to be gathered and taken to church services (sarvis) in the early spring. It could also be used at spring funerals, some of which had to be delayed until the ground was thawed enough to dig the grave and bury the dead. I can’t remember this happening, but I am told it was true, back when our winters were much more severe than now. Much farther north than our North Georgia mountains, I did once visit in the Adirondak mountain region and saw a “holding place” where the corpse was kept until the thawing ground removed the resistance and allowed the shovels to enter to dig the grave.

And why did Reece, in his poem, relate the service tree blossoms to our better known “plum, peach, apple and pear”? I think it was because they bloomed close to the same time in spring. He could have included it because the service tree had fruits of its own coming in the fall season as a result of spring blooming. The service tree bears a small edible fruit which is similar to a date. This fruit is stringy and astringent.

My grandmother, Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer (an herbalist “doctor”) would have known that it was good for colic when boiled and made into medicine. Even the second part of the Latin name, “sorbus torminalis,” means “good for colic.” Also, when the fruit was left until the over-ripe or “bletted” stage, it became less-astringent and good for use as food as well as for home-brewed medicines.

Go back now and re-read Reece’s beautiful poem. Let its lines help you to see “the service tree on the hill.” These “blooms whiter than snow” provide a lovely sight to winter-weary eyes. “We could wish them a longer stay,” but alas, time moves on (and times, too, for that matter). And so do our mountain ways, our connections to a past life slower in pace, our ways of “making-do” and appreciating what we have. Even a show of spring and blossoms ready for “services”—whether church celebration or funeral wake —can remind us of those good times. We can only prolong these white blossoms of our rich mountain life through passing on our lore, our stories, our memories. They, like “the service blossoms whiter than snow” are “lovelier, dearer now/Because they are soon to go.” Let us do what we can to help these rich stories remain among us.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published April 15, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

She Has Worn Many Hats: Saluting Loujine Young Shuler on Her Birthday April 10

Loujine Young Shuler (left) is shown with two of her Class of 1947, Union County High School, classmates at their golden anniversary class reunion June 14, 1997 at Blairsville. Loujine traveled from Walden, CO to be present for the event; Elbert Dennis Wilson from Wales, Michigan, and Ethelene Dyer Jones from Epworth, GA (where she lived at that time). Friends in high school--friends in the "golden" years!

Something as simple as telephone calls can renew an avalanche of memories and launch a simple project that will eventually result in much happiness.

I speak of recent telephone calls, one from a mother and one from her son. Neither knew the other was calling me. Both calls precipitated this column about my Union County Classmate, then Loujine Young, now Loujine Young Shuler, who went out from Union County and did well as wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and professional woman.

Let me quickly note that neither Loujine nor her son Carl remotely suggested I write about Loujine. They are too humble and unpretentious to seek publicity at all. To write about her is my own idea, my choice. But let me get on with the subject at hand, that of noting some of Loujine Young Shuler’s accomplishments and why Union County can be proud of this just-about-to-turn octogenarian.

And if you are a friend to Loujine, know her now or knew her in the past when she lived and grew up in Union County, will you please take the time to send her a birthday card. Loujine’s son Carl Shuler and her daughter Gwendolyn Shuler Hanson are both hoping a virtual “shower of cards” of good wishes will be sent to their beloved mother on or before her 80th birthday on April 10. Right now, Loujine is temporarily in Arizona with her granddaughter Jodie and may be addressed at Mrs. Loujine Y. Shuler, 21875 West Casey Lane, Buckeye, AZ 85326. Loujine will be returning soon to her home in northern Colorado where she spends the “warm” months of the year and may be addressed there at P. O. Box 296, Walden, CO 80480-0296.

Loujine Young was born April 10, 1930 to Joseph Benjamin Ezekiel Young (Dec. 18, 1891-May 3, 1931) and Birdie Maybelle Ingram Young (Sep. 25, 1896-Jul. 15, 1997). She was the youngest of five children. Her siblings were Ray Alan Young (1920-1941) who married Juanita Thomas; Clara Pauline Young (1922 - 1999) who married Howard McCarter; Joseph Benjamin (J. B.) Young (1924-1994) who married Dortha Pauline Henderson; and Floyd James Young (1927-1984) who married Alice Kathleen Freeman.

Loujine’s father, Zeke Young, died when Loujine was just a year old. Her mother worked hard to keep house and home together and rear the children to be solid, productive citizens during the hard times of the Depression, World War II, and the children’s “growing up” years.

I met Loujine first when we both became students of Union County High School, Blairsville, in our “Fabulous Class of 1947”. I was a country girl who had gone to Choestoe Elementary School. Loujine was a “town girl,” having grown up in Blairsville, attending Blairsville Elementary. We enjoyed having classes together and developing a lasting friendship. Loujine stated in memoirs for the Class of 1947’s 50th Reunion Book distributed when we had a grand reunion in 1997 that she liked mathematics best of all her subjects, as “it helped her much in her later work.” We both have the late Mrs. Dora Hunter Allison Spiva to thank for our love for and whatever proficiency in math we have. Loujine was also athletic in nature, and played on the Union County girls’ basketball team.

In those years from 1943 through 1947 when we were in school, any basketball we played was on an outside court, for our school did not then have a gymnasium for our practice, games or athletic gatherings. In recalling those days of playing basketball, Loujine wrote, “When we went to schools with hardwood gym floors, our ball did some strange things. It was a challenge, but we still won games.”

Loujine and Vester Eugene “Gene” Shuler, son of Murphy Jane Fortenberry Shuler and Marion Shuler, were married July 17, 1948. The young couple settled down in northern Colorado in a town called Walden. Eugene worked as a maintenance supervisor and Loujine began her career as a postmaster at Walden in 1959, continuing that job for 33 years until her retirement on October 4, 1992.

Loujine and Eugene had two children, son Carl who married Patty Hines (a teacher) and Gwendolyn Shuler who married Kirk Hanson. Loujine delights in her grandchildren, Matthew Allen, Joie, and Adam Shuler and Jodie and Deanna Hanson. I haven’t a current count or names or number of great grandchildren (sorry, Loujine!).

Eugene, Loujine’s companion of more than sixty years, died October 30, 2007. Eugene was known for his hunting trips, they both liked to travel, and Eugene played his fiddle for many a gathering, especially the famed “Georgia Picnic” in Eaton, Colorado the last Sunday of August each year.

As postmaster at Walden, Colorado for 33 years, Loujine was well respected in the community and earned many rewards for her service as both postmaster and citizen. In 1990, the great Christmas Tree that was taken to Washington, D. C. to be placed on the White House lawn was gathered from near Walden. Loujine assisted with fundraising to get the tree transported and was able to go to Washington for its placement and lighting.

She also was active in preserving local history in Walden and received recognition for the special stamps, dyes and other items she promoted to help Walden be known throughout Colorado and even in the United States. This lady, well-reared by her beloved mother Birdie Ingram Young, and well-grounded in principles of faith, family and work ethic, went out from Union County and lighted up another place, a town called Walden. She and Eugene were active in Walden Baptist Church, and reared their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In talking to Carl, their son, I find that he and his wife Patty enjoy providing music at worship services, Carl on guitar (having perhaps inherited his father’s love for producing instrumental music) and his wife Patty playing piano. So the talent goes on from Gene (and maybe Loujine, too) to the next generation.

In giving advice to the Class of 1947, Loujine said: “Enjoy life to the fullest each day you live. The golden years will be so full of fond memories you won’t have time for sadness.” My life has been enriched since 1943 by knowing Loujine Young Shuler. I am glad to call her friend, and happy for the fellowship we have enjoyed at class reunions and through other means in our “golden years.” Congratulations, Loujine, on reaching the milestone of 80 years. Best wishes for good health and continued happiness for you and yours. (And, as a reminder, remember to send Loujine a birthday card; we want to “shower” her with cards on her 80th!)

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Apr. 8, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Memories of Easters Past

The early morning chill made shivers run through my body. I was but a child, maybe seven or eight at the oldest. I stood with other church members from Choestoe Baptist Church on the crest of the hill on the Holt property. From that vantage point, we had an excellent view of the eastern sky. Already it was tinged with streaks of gold and sparkling magenta. At the very first peek of the sun on the horizon, the Easter Sunrise Service began.

This, to my knowledge at least, was the first sunrise service I had ever attended. Our pastor, the Rev. Claud Boynton, who had come to our church when I was age six, was what we call a bi-vocational pastor. For his “real” living, he worked under that inimitable forest ranger, Mr. Arthur Woody, to patrol the forests of our section of north Georgia, to build fire breaks, to build roads, and whatever else was assigned to the forestry workers. And, as an additional—and I might add—called—job, he served as pastor at Choestoe Baptist Church and at Zion and maybe Mt. Lebanon, too, over in Suches community. Later, he would go to full-time status as pastor, with Choestoe and Blairsville First as his charges, and eventually only Blairsville First. But the Easter sunrise service of note was rather early in his career as an outstanding pastor in the hills of North Georgia.

Pastor Boynton had many innovative ideas that we at Choestoe had not experienced before. One of them was to hold an Easter sunrise service. And so we were gathered there, on the crest of the Holt property hill, awaiting the sunrise that early Easter morning.

As I mentioned above, I was cold. Mornings in Choestoe in March or early April (I did not look back to see which month Easter might have fallen, for I really don’t know exactly what year that long-ago sunrise service was held.) Even wrapped in my warmest coat, the early morning cold penetrated, and I wondered if I had been wise to attend the service. Everything about it was new and unusual to my child mind.

But the impression it made has held for my lifetime since then. I became aware at a very early age of how special Easter is. Where there was death and a tomb, there came, instead, resurrection from the dead and an empty grave. Where there was sadness and mourning, there came joy and hope. From that point onward in my life, any time I stood at the grave of one beloved, I did not consider the doom associated with death but the victory in resurrection.

You might say the cold I felt on that long-ago Easter morning when I attended my first sunrise service turned to a warmth in my heart that sees beyond death to life everlasting.

I can see in my mind’s eye the brilliance of the sunrise on that long ago Easter. I return again and again to the words my pastor, the Rev. Claud Boynton read from Matthew 28:1-10 (or maybe he read from Mark 16:1-11, or Luke 24:1-12, or John 20:1-18, all accounts of the resurrection). The experience of that first sunrise service made a deep and lasting impression on me. It changed my perspective on death and dying and gave me hope for life and eternity. How much would I need that hope, and how it grew into fruition a few years later when my beloved aunt, grandfather and my own mother died (I was only fourteen at her death).

So Easter is a time of hope.

It was many years later, 1978, as a matter of fact. It was not even Easter in early spring but July, and heat from the sun in the Holy Land let us (my husband Grover, his sister Estelle and I) know that we were in a strange land. But in a sense, it was not a strange land, for most of my life I had read and heard about the places Jesus frequented when He was in the flesh upon this earth.

My husband and I, in that summer of 1978, were having the privilege of visiting his sister Estelle who was a missionary to the Holy Land. We went together to many of the sites described in the Bible and where Jesus traveled, performed His miracles, taught His disciples. And finally, the sites where He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, was tried by the Jewish Sanhedrin and in the Roman Praetorium, traveled on the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrows), went to the cross on Golgotha, was placed in the tomb offered by Joseph of Arimathea, and then on that glorious First Easter, the tomb was empty.

We experienced seeing the empty tomb and hearing a service of celebration beside it. I thought of times in my husband’s ministry when he had led Easter sunrise services at various churches he pastored. All of those early morning vigils were filled with hope and joy. The visit to Jerusalem and the Garden Tomb was indeed a highlight of my Christian life and journey. But as impressive as the visit to the empty Garden Tomb was in our Holy Land trip, it was no more impressive than that first Easter sunrise service in my memory when the sun burst forth from behind the mountains as the assembly of faithful believers gathered on Holt’s Hill in Choestoe. Resurrection took on a most significant meaning then.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Apr. 1, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.