Thursday, May 27, 2010

May--An Important Month in U.S. History

The “Merry Month of May” for 2010 is soon to end. We will celebrate its last day and an important national holiday, Memorial Day, on Monday, May 31. It is a time to honor our patriotic dead and to recall the sacrifices they made for our freedoms. “Lest we forget,” let us take time to consider the price paid for liberty.

Such beauty as we enjoy can sometimes take our minds from more serious matters. Spring is here with great profusion of growing, blossoming landscapes. But it was also thought by old timers that May was a difficult month, one that required attention to practices of good health to get through the month. Two sayings characterized the month: For those already ill with some critical disease, the prediction was, “Ah, he (or she) will never get up May-hill.” Another had a brighter aspect: “If he can climb May-hill, he’ll do.” Well, we “climbed May hill” again this year, and I hope we are another year wiser as well as having reached another milestone in years accrued. Let us consider some blessing we too often take for granted.

In a review of American history, we see that a new, struggling America following winning of the Revolutionary War set the second Monday in May as a time to have delegates from the thirteen independent states (no longer colonies under the King of England) meet in Philadelphia in 1787, “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.”

The Convention was convened on May 14, 1787. Rhode Island declined to send delegates. From the other twelve states, seventy had been selected to go to Philadelphia. Only fifty-five of the seventy delegates elected to go ultimately attended, and of those fifty-five, only thirty-nine ended up signing, not the revised Articles of Confederation, but the brand new document, the Constitution of the United States. It took from May 14 until May 25 to get a quorum of the delegates together to revise the Articles of Confederation.

Many of the arguments, proposals, objections, revisions and adoptions are a matter of record, and can be accessed if anyone is an avid student of how our Constitution came about. However, that group of fifty-five delegates from twelve states represented the citizens, and was truly a “think-tank” for America’s document that has stood through the years.

Georgia’s elected delegates to the Convention were Abraham Baldwin, William Few, William Houstoun, and William L. Pierce. Of the four, only two went to Philadelphia and participated in that May conclave in 1787. These two were Abraham Baldwin and William Few who eventually signed the Constitution after it was circulated in Georgia (and other states). It met with general approval, following the addition of the first ten items in the Bill of Rights. It took from May 14, the day of convening of the Convention to revise the Articles of Confederation, until September 17, 1787, four months, for the new Constitution to be passed. One of the primary arguments was that states’ rights be assured, with the federal government not being all-powerful over the states. Considering the means of communication and transportation in 1787, the passage of the document in four months was indeed a spectacular feat.

It was to the wise, elderly Benjamin Franklin, that final success of the Convention is due. He rose, and reading from a prepared speech which has been preserved for later generations to read, he stated: “Mr. President, I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure that I shall never approve them…The older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment and to pay more attention to the judgment of others…I think a general government necessary for us…what may be a blessing to the people if well-administered…On the whole, sir, I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention, who may still have objections to it, would, with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.” Benjamin Franklin then introduced the motion to have the delegates sign the document.

And to that document, thirty-nine men set their signatures, enough to give the newly formed United States of America a document, which, though amended numerous times throughout its more than two-century history, still stands as a beacon to democratic governments world-wide. One of the major responsibilities of the president of the United States is to “uphold the Constitution.” Now, we as citizens must be discerning that whatever person is president will honor and uphold the document that was formed in the month of May so many years ago. As citizens of a wonderful nation, we have to “climb May hill” all over again to assure that those things which are vital to the fabric of our freedom are not ripped out, torn apart, misinterpreted and cast aside. On Memorial Day, may we give these “May summits” and all who worked on, stood for and died for them some very serious thought and thanks.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 27, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cherokee Names and Legends

Elevation 4458 Ft.
Chattahoochee National Forest
In Cherokee mythology the mountain was one
of the homes of the Nunnehi or Immortals,
the “People Who Live Anywhere,” a race of
Spirit People who lived in great townhouses
in the highlands of the old Cherokee Country.
One of these mythical townhouses stood near
Lake Trahlyta. As a friendly people they
often brought lost hunters and wanderers to
their townhouses for rest and care before
Guiding them back to their homes. Before
the coming of white settlers, the Creeks
and Cherokees fought a disastrous and bloody
battle at Slaughter Gap between Slaughter
and Blood Mountain.

The historical marker gives interesting information about early dwellers in our land. The Cherokee who were in Union County long before the white settlers left us many names and legends that, though sometimes sad, enrich our land and lend much food for thought. The historical marker on Blood Mountain gives a taste of both legend and real history, and helps us know why the mountain was named Blood.

First, to the myth about the Nunnehi, immortal people. These were believed to be the immortals who dwelt in these mountains. Their task was to help all who traveled and needed assistance of any sort. We can only imagine how overwhelming was their tasks when the Creeks and Cherokees met in battle at Slaughter Gap near Blood Mountain. It is said the blood ran down so profusely from the dead and wounded that the whole area was covered in blood. Hence the names, Blood Mountain and Slaughter Gap.

Prior to the Revolutionary War, the Cherokee had made contact with English, French and Spanish settlers. They had learned to trade and make bargains with the European colonists. We find many instances of Cherokee leaders negotiating with traders and government officials. Oftentimes, the Cherokee would make raids against the settlers. Living on the frontier in those days was fraught with danger. In the Revolution, the Cherokee sided with the British against the colonists.

In 1791 at what was called the Holston Conference, Cherokee-American negotiations were somewhat stabilized. There followed several treaties in which Cherokee land was ceded to states and the federal government. By 1819, the Cherokee Nation was left with about ten million acres of their former land holdings. Some of the Cherokee began to move to western lands in the early 1800’s. The Overhill Cherokee that had remained in the mountains of Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee were the most adamant against moving west. In 1828, the government of Georgia declared Cherokee law null and void. Governor Gilmer, with the support of President Andrew Jackson, sent troops to push the Cherokees out. The next governor, Wilson Lumpkin, continued to push for Cherokee removal. Many had left before the final exodus and the Trail of Tears that began under the military direction of General Winfield Scott in 1838.

When white settlers began to come into what became Union County in 1832, some Indians remained but most had already moved.

The town of Blairsville was incorporated on December 26, 1835 and became Union’s county seat. Two reports exist about whom the town was named for. In his Georgia Place Names, Kenneth Krakow states that it was named for Francis Preston Blair (1791-1876), a Kentuckian, editor of The Washington Globe newspaper which was established to support Andrew Jackson’s presidency. The fine house in which F. P. Blair lived in Washington was purchased for government property and is now known as the Blair House.

The other person (probably more authentically) for whom the town of Blairsville was named was Captain James Blair. He was an official Cherokee Indian agent, born in Augusta County, Virginia in 1761, and listed as working in Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas as an Indian agent between the years of 1801-1835. The naming of our county seat town for this Blair was declared in “The Blair Family Magazine,” Volume 8, No. 3 in the Fall of 1990 by researcher Margaret Vance Webb. She tells how James Blair worked to settle land claims and to assist with Cherokee removal from Georgia. In Habersham County, Georgia, where Georgia Highways 115 and 105 intersect, a historical marker indicates that spot as where the “Blair Line” crossed. The historical marker reads: “It was a line between the state of Georgia and the Cherokee Nation, surveyed by Captain James Blair in the early 1800’s. The line extended from the forks of the Soque and the Chattahoochee Rivers in a direct northerly line to the Tallulah River. It was the boundary line in 1817 for all the lands east of the Chattahoochee River by the State of Georgia from the Cherokee Nation by the Treaty of 1818.”

This abbreviated sketch merely hits the high places of the stormy era of our history prior to and leading up to Cherokee Removal. Each time you hear a name, like Walisiyi, Trahlytah, Arkaquah, Coosa, Choestoe, and many more, know that the Cherokee left place names where they once lived, names that we now take for granted in our familiarity with our beloved county. Honor the names and the land left to us. They came our way at great sacrifice and with much heartbreak.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 20, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Some Early Settlers Named Gaddis and the Gaddistown District

If we could see the past, then of course it would look different. For there was a time when every man was a part of his mother,. . .and. . . part of his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time, as God sees it, it would look like one single growing thing…rather like a very complicated tree. Every individual would appear connected to every other.” -C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

The famous English theologian and apologist, C. S. Lewis, whom I have quoted here, had the right idea when he stated that humanity is “like a very complicated tree,” and that “every individual…(is) connected to every other.” In our eagerness to find out about the past, we are searching for that giant tree, and our connectedness. I enjoy looking at the names listed in the 1834 Union County census when the county was brand new, just becoming established, two years after its organization. I am fascinated by names of people who made up the early settlers, learned by noting names in that census. And that is how I came to the name Gaddis for a brief look. They left behind a place named for them, Gaddistown, the southwestern-most district in the County, surrounded by Coopers Creek to the north, a portion of Fannin County to the west, Canada District to the east, and Lumpkin County to the south.

In 1834 there were five Gaddis households listed in the census, with a total of twenty-four people bearing that family name—thirteen males and eleven females. Since only heads-of-households and number in the family unit were listed in 1834, we learn that these Gaddis men were early settlers in the county: Linsey Gaddis (3 males, 2 females), Iredell Gaddis (1 male, 2 females), James Gaddis, Sr. (3 males, 2 females), James Gaddis, Jr. (4 males, 2 females), and Lewis Gaddis (2 males, 3 females).

By 1840, the Gaddis households in that year’s census had increased to nine, with household populations giving a total of 30 males and 28 females with the Gaddis last name. Those listed were as follows: John Gaddis (4 m. 3 f.), Iredell Gaddis (2 m. 3 f.), Lewis Gaddis (2 m. 4 f.), James Gaddis (6 m., 1 f.), Drury Gaddis (4 m. 1 f.), another Drury Gaddis (3 m. 5 f.), William Gaddis (1 m. 2 f.), George Gaddis (5 m., 3 f.) and Emry (sic) Gaddis (2 m. 4 f).

By 1850, interestingly, only three Gaddis families were listed (one spelled Gettis). By that census, we have names and ages listed, and the state the head of household migrated from. Susan Gaddis, age 47, lived in household 85, with children Susan, 14, Allen, 12, and Matilda 8. In the household with Susan Gaddis were two with the last name of Black, their given names Iven, age 19 and John, age 23. In the Gettis (sic) household numbered by the census taker 917, were M. M., age 31, and his wife, Lucila, age 25, both born in North Carolina, and an elder lady, Elenor, age 70 (maybe M. M.’s mother?), all born in North Carolina. The third Gaddis, (in household # 969) was Lewis, age 47, born in North Carolina, his wife, Margaret, age 43, born in South Carolina, and these children: Eline, age 20, born in SC, and Elizann, 18, Allen, 14, Elvira, 12, Margaret, 10, Perlina, 8, and Archibald, 5 (the last six born in Georgia). In doing some Gaddis family research elsewhere, I found a bit of information that stated that many of the Gaddis families, living close to Lumpkin County, moved on over to that county and were involved in the later “gold rush” there. This I have not authenticated. Either some Gaddis families were missed in the 1850 census, or they had migrated to another county by that time.

We can assume that Gaddistown District was named for James Gaddis (Sr. or Jr.), Linsey Gaddis, Iredell Gaddis, or Lewis Gaddis, the first families of the Gaddis name that settled Union. The district lies along the Toccoa River that runs north, and has some very productive bottom lands for farming. The Gaddistown post office application was approved June 15, 1848. Interestingly, the request was not made by a Gaddis, but by John D. Cavender, another citizen of Gaddistown, who was the first postmaster from its opening until February 2, 1852. The post office continued for a total of 107 years, closing in 1955.

The name Gaddis (spelled in many ways—Gettis, Geddes, Gadice, Gattis) is a Scots-Irish name, a habitational or place name. In Scotland, the earliest found with this name were those who “lived on a ridge.” It is interesting that as the Gaddis forebears came to America, they migrated to and settled in the hilly sections of North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. They seemed to make their homes along mountainous terrain and learned to make a way and a living in the hill country.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 13, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Continuing the Legacy of Benjamin J. Ledford: Son Benjamin Mercer and Grandson Arthur Paul Ledford

The Civil War brought hard times and “make do” situations even to families in remote Union County, Georgia. As we’ve already seen in the account of Silas L. Ledford, third child of fifteen born to the early settler Benjamin J. Ledford (1800-1882), who joined the Georgia Cavalry and the Local Defense Troops, so another son of Benjamin, his eleventh-born, also had a term in Civil War fighting.

Benjamin Mercer Ledford (11/14/1838-03/24/1919) was Benjamin’s eleventh child. His mother was Grace Ownbey Ledford. On May 10, 1862, he enlisted with the 6th Regiment, Georgia Cavalry Volunteers, Company B. He received the rank of captain. He was wounded in the knee at the Battle of Chickamauga . This brought about his subsequent resignation from active duty. He continued to serve in the Local Defense Troops and evidently received the rank of Colonel in that group, for he was often referred to as “Colonel Ledford.”

An interesting incident occurred while he was in service. He was visiting in a friend’s home in Loudon County, Tennessee. While there, Union troops attacked the house. How he had time, before the soldiers came into the house trying to kill any of the Confederate soldiers they found, is not exactly known. But the story has been passed down about how Benjamin Mercer Ledford escaped death. He donned the garb of a woman, and with a bonnet on, was at the dough board kneading bread when the invasion occurred. His life was spared, and for good cause. He married Sarah Blair (09/28/1838-09/13/1889) on July 29, 1863, daughter of his friend in whose house he had escaped death.

Benjamin Mercer and Sarah Ledford made their way back to Union County, Georgia to set up housekeeping. Since her father was a substantial citizen of Loudon County, and owner of slaves, he gave Sarah slaves to help her with housekeeping and Benjamin Mercer with his farm work on Gum Log in Union County where they settled. This couple gave ten acres to Antioch Baptist Church from the land holdings they had acquired.

Benjamin Mercer Ledford became an ordained Baptist minister, announcing his call on October 18, 1873. He received his license to preach by Ebenezer Baptist Church three years later on July 14, 1876. Not only interested in helping the churches in the district where the Ledfords lived, it is believed that he also preached at churches “over in North Carolina” from his home. He was very much interested in education and was successful in securing a grant for a high school for the Gum Log district from Peabody Funds. This school was established about 1880 and was a boon to that section of the county.

Benjamin and Sarah had six known children: Mary L. (1865), Mamie May (1867), Arthur Paul (1869), William J. (1872), Bettie A. (1874) and Benjamin M. (1877, who died as an infant). When Sarah died in 1889, she was laid to rest in the Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery on land her husband had given to the church. Benjamin Mercer married twice more: to Eliza Plott and to Lena Gray (believed to be a Cherokee Indian). He later moved from his beloved Gum Log and lived in Cherokee County, NC. He was interred at the Friendship Baptist Church Cemetery, Suit, NC.

The third child of Benjamin and Sarah, Arthur Paul (01/12/1869-04/07/1931) became a noted merchant and owned and operated his own store in the Gum Log District. Arthur Paul, known lovingly as “Bud” Ledford, started working in the mercantile business by hiring on at the store of Charley Mauney. In 1924, Bud purchased the store for himself. It was a popular trading place in that section of the county. He bought another store on Gum Log Road in 1925, and operated it until his death in 1931.

Arthur Paul Ledford married Alcy Dona Ensley (04/14/1870-04.01/1943) on December 20, 1888 in Union County. Her parents were Robert and Martha Parris Ensley of Gum Log. To “Bud” and Dona were born six children; Mamie Isabell (1890-1981) married John Calvin Hood; Alma Udora (1893-1969) married Jess C. Bradley; Obed Erick (1894-1977) married Nora Brown; Benjamin Robert (1897-1928) married Ada Wilson; Baxter Wayne (1902-?) married Bert(a) Miller and moved to Ohio; and William Blair (1906-1987) married Violet Lance.

Bud Ledford died April 7, 1931 in Franklin, NC after stomach surgery. His body was returned and buried at Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery, Gum Log. Later, when his beloved wife, Dona passed (April 1, 1943), she was interred alongside her husband’s grave.

The Ledford families played an important role in Union County history from the early years until the present. Those who went out to other places likewise were strong contributing citizens. For example, Amy Vianna Ledford (1830-1892), seventh child of Benjamin J. and Grace Ownbey Ledford, who married William Franklin of Union County about 1851, moved with her family to Coryell County, Texas in 1889. We can only imagine the long journey from Union County to Texas by covered wagon, via Arkansas and other stops along the way. They left Union County in 1883 and arrived in Weatherford Texas in 1889—a long and eventful journey with many stops in between.

There is much more to the Ledford story, but I will leave it to others to write. Suffice it to say that the family of Benjamin J. Ledford played an important role in establishing a solid citizenry wherever they went from their roots in North Carolina and North Georgia.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 6, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.