Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Office of Justice of the Peace and Notary Public Focusing on Robert Lee Nelson, JP

The offices of justice of the peace and notary public were perhaps more important in the earlier days of our county that today. Before convenience in travel made it possible to get into the county seat town and seek legal advice, to have legal transaction done or to have a legal paper documented, these public servants played an important role in the life of a community. One has only to examine recorded marriage lists or other legal records to see how frequently these men (and in the olden days it was nearly always men) performed legal services.

It was interesting to note the duties assigned to a justice of the peace. The officer could perform marriage ceremonies. Sometimes, depending on the jurisdiction, a price for the ceremony beyond which the justice was not to go was suggested, but most of the time the one with justice-of-the peace rights would set his own price. He would require a marriage license, and would then have to turn a signed document into the county jurisdiction so the marriage could be entered in public records.

Other duties of a justice of the peace included the right to witness oaths and signatures. He could also issue subpoenas and warrants to those who had infringed upon the law and needed to appear either in a local justice court or a higher court. The justice of the peace could also make arrests when anyone within his jurisdiction infringed upon the law, caused a fight, or otherwise had conduct that was a danger to public safety or the peace of the community. Arrests for misdemeanors also fell under his power. Local land-line disputes and timber rights settlements were sometimes within the justice’s parameters of practice.

The justice of the peace could sit as judge in small claims court. He could hear evidence from both sides, and if necessary call for witnesses to seek to learn more of the claims presented. He could provide mediation services in disagreements and arguments. Furthermore, he had the right to conduct inquests.

In Georgia, a justice of the peace could also serve as a notary public according to the Constitution of 1868. These officers, in addition to the above-listed duties, were also sometimes assigned to superintend the conditions of public roads in their jurisdiction and report to the county authorities in charge of roads any damages to roadways that would pose a danger to safety in travel, any repairs needed on bridges, or if a ferry operated in his jurisdiction to report on its condition. Other duties included reporting “lunatics” who might be a danger to the public or not watched properly. School conditions also sometimes fell under the inspection of justices of the peace until more stable county school officers were appointed to look after this aspect of the public good.

An interesting article was written by student James Reece for Sketches of Union County History III compiled by Teddy Oliver and published in 1987. In it, some facts were given about a Justice of the Peace named Robert Lee Nelson, who served for over forty years in the Brasstown Militia District.

Robert Lee Nelson married Alice Bridges in 1920. They made their home at Track Rock Gap. There he had a farm and operated a country store. He was first elected a justice of the peace the first year he was married. He was then thirty-eight years of age. He must have had a reputation for good character in that district.

James Reece, in writing about Mr. Nelson, stated: “He presided over his court with the dignity of a mountain jurist.” He was called the “Judge Bean” of Union County, who definitely thought the law was his to enforce.

In fact, Justice Robert Lee Nelson was so conscientious about the cases he tried, probably using his grocery store as the courtroom, that it is said the governors of the state of Georgia during Mr. Nelson’s long term of judging locally sometimes had to intervene and remind Mr. Nelson that he was over-stepping his bounds as a local justice of the peace.

With characteristic mountain out-spokenness, Mr. Nelson sent word back to the governor: “You look out for your side of the mountain, and I’ll look after mine.”

And “look after his side of the mountain” Mr. Robert Lee Nelson did, indeed. That he was serious about “holding court” at Track Rock is evidenced by some of Union County’s famous lawyers appearing in his court to represent the accused who had been brought before this “Judge Bean” of Track Rock. Among the lawyers were the honorable Pat Haralson, Thomas Slaughter Candler, and William E. Candler. Maybe they were getting early law practice in the little court at Track Rock held by the inimitable Justice of the Peace Robert Lee Nelson.

Mr. Robert Lee Nelson (April 15, 1882 – March 29, 1973) and his wife, Alice Bridges Nelson (February 1, 1891-April 22, 1970) were both interred in the Track Rock Baptist Church Cemetery not too far from where he operated his country store and held his justice-of-the-peace court.

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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Honoring an Ancestor--Bluford Elisha Dyer, Jr.

The designation “Jr.” was not attached to Bluford Elisha Dyer’s name when he came into Union County, Georgia to settle in the early 1830’s. We who are descendants of his added the “Jr.” to show that his father before him had the same name. To our knowledge, Bluford Elisha Dyer and his wife, together with the children still living at home at the time, were the first Dyer settlers along Cane Creek, Choestoe, in Union County. In the especially-ordered 1834 census, the first of the county, his household was made up of five males and four females. Those, in 1834, to the best knowledge we have, would have been Elisha, Jr. and Elizabeth and sons Elisha, James Marion, Bluford Lumpkin, and grandson Micajah Clark and daughters Lucinda, Malinda and Matilda.

We’ve finally located a place we are fairly certain Bluford Elisha Dyer, Jr. was buried. Thanks to Harold Dyer who explored the land and remembered what his father and grandfather told him, the knoll on which we firmly believe Bluford Elisha Dyer, Jr. was buried has been identified. The land has a long record of being “passed down” through the generations. Harold received it from his father, William Edward. Before him James C. Dyer, Harold’s grandfather, owned it. It came to him from James Marion Dyer, who was one of the sons living at home away back in 1834, when the household of Elisha (Jr.) was listed in Union County.

We’re erecting a monument to mark the “spot near where” the burial took place. We will remember this ancestor and his beginnings in Union County in our annual Dyer-Souther Heritage Association Reunion on July 17, 2010.

The lineage of Choestoe Dyers is a bit hard to trace. But some facts are rather well established. John Dyer (Sr. ca. 1710 – 1773) was first in Virginia, having come from the Somersetshire vicinity of England. There is evidence that he was married twice, first to Elizabeth Bluford (or Bleufort) [ca. 1712-ca. 1750] and second to a Dinah, last name unknown. It is important to note the last name of John Dyer’s first wife, anglicized to Bluford, for this name was passed down in the family through many generations.

John Dyer moved from Caroline County, Virginia to Halifax County Virginia where he died in 1773. His known children were James Dyer, John Dyer, Jr., Joshua Dyer, Nancy Dyer and Elisha Dyer, Sr. (ca. 1745-1816) who married Amey (or Amy) Laws (ca 1748-1812).

Elisha, Sr. was our ancestor. He migrated from Caroline County, Virginia to Wilkes County, North Carolina, next moving to Pendleton District, SC, and then finally to Warren County, Kentucky, where he died in 1816.

We wonder why Elisha Dyer, Sr. moved so much. He and his wife, Amey Laws Dyer, were patriots in the American Revolution. We do not have a record of his serving as a soldier, but this couple is recognized as rendering “material aid” during the war. This may mean that they provided horses or mules for soldiers, provisions of food, clothing and “provender” for animals, or other significant aid to further the effort to win America’s independence. At any rate, they were not Tories (faithful to the British), and they probably were strongly involved in the Over Mountain Men movement that helped to win the battle at King’s Mountain and other significant victories that saw the eventual defeat of British General Cornwallis. Elisha, Sr. and Amey’s moves may have been due to his being rewarded with grants of land for his Revolutionary War service. A more thorough examination of land deeds is needed for authentication of this theory. Or maybe a new location and the spirit of adventure called the Dyers to locate in new and untrammeled areas.

Elisha Dyer, Sr. and Amey Laws Dyer had ten known children, a daughter (name unknown who married a Barber), Josiah who married Sarah Whittingdon, Rosannah who married Benjamin Hubbard, Anna who married William Johnson, Abner who married Nancy Jane Moore, Manoah who married Rebecca Tremble, Caleb who married Rebecca Howard, Elizabeth who married Bollin Clark, Bluford Elisha, Jr. who married Elizabeth Clark and John who married Sophia Young. We will concentrate on Bluford Elisha, Jr., our ancestor, who moved with his father from Wilkes County, NC to Pendleton District, SC. Elisha, Jr.’s next move was to Habersham County, Georgia and on into what became Union County, GA in 1832.

Bluford Elisha Dyer, Jr. was born about 1785 in Wilkes County, NC. After he had moved to Pendleton District, SC with his mother and father and siblings, he met a young lady there whom he married in 1802. Her name was Elizabeth Clark (ca. 1787 - June 1861). She was a daughter of Micajah Clark and wife, Lurinna Johnson Clark. The Micajah Clark name was passed down to generations of Dyer descendants.

To Elisha and Elizabeth were born these children: Mary Elizabeth (called Sallie) Dyer (1803 – ca. 1860) who married Eli Townsend; two or three girls, first names unknown; Lucinda Dyer (1811-1870) [note this name may have been Lurrina, not Lucinda, as Watson B. Dyer listed it in his Dyer Family history book] married William Crow; Joseph Dyer (1814-1874) married Narcissa Crow; Elisha Dyer (1816-1870) married Mary Jane Younce; Micajah Clark Dyer (1817-1889) married Harriet Logan Hall; Elijah Dyer (1819-1870) married Mary “Polly” Kettle; James Marion Dyer (12 Oct. 1823-27 Apr. 1904) married Eliza Ingraham (5 Mar. 1827 – 7 Mar. 1907); Lucinda Dyer (1826-1902) [note possible error—it is not likely they named two daughters Lucinda] married James Monroe Crow; Malinda Dyer (ca. 1827-?) married William B. Harkins; Matilda Dyer (ca. 1830 - ?) married Francis M. Swain; and Bluford Lumpkin Dyer (1832-1907) married Ruthie Turner.

Note that eldest daughter Sallie had a son, also named Micajah Clark Dyer (13 July, 1822 – 26 Jan. 1891) who married Morena Elizabeth Owenby (24 Dec. 1819-25 Sept. 1892). Elisha, Jr. and Elizabeth reared Sallie’s son, their grandson, as their own. He grew up in the household with his uncle, five years younger than he, having the same name. We believe the son was called Micajah (or Cajer) and the grandson Clark. The grandson became the inventor of “The Apparatus for Navigating the Air.”

After living in Habersham County for awhile, Bluford Elisha, Jr. and his family moved across the mountain and took up residence at a homestead along Cane Creek in the Choestoe District of Union County and carved out a good life there, entering into the development of the community. Since they were in Union before the major exodus of Cherokee in 1838, they probably still had Cherokee Indian neighbors and perhaps traded with them and learned secrets of growing maize and other crops along the cleared bottom lands. The first of Elisha, Jr. and Elizabeth’s children to marry in Union County was son Micajah Clark whose wedding to Harriet Logan Hall took place on June 25, 1832. Daughter Lucinda (or Lurinna?) married James Crow when the family still lived in Habersham County.

It is good, finally, to identify a spot where Bluford Elisha Dyer, Jr. was buried. It is believed his wife, Elizabeth, was interred in the Old Choestoe Cemetery, but that gravesite, too, has been lost to the ravages of time, even though it may once have been marked by a field stone. A brief tribute program and dedication of the new stones followed by a tour of the gravesite will occur at the reunion on July 17, 2010.

c2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 15, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Naduhli in the Cherokee Language--Nottely or Notla in English

Naduhli is a Cherokee Indian word meaning “daring horseman.” This name, given to the major river in Union County, Georgia and to the lake formed by damming up the waters of the river, is now called Nottely, also sometimes spelled Notla.

The Nottely River’s headwaters rise high in the mountains of southeastern Union County near the Union-Lumpkin County line. This largest river in Union County begins in the secluded regions of the mountains and makes its way northwestward over falling terrain to form rapids and eddies. It is not a large river at any point on its journey northwestward. It picks up beauty as it flows on its northerly course through the county. Nottely Falls are on the stream near Vogel State Park. At times some of the water gathers in placid pools. More regularly its course has small rapids rather than the type tourists seek for their whitewater rafting. The river’s waters were dammed up in 1941-1942 to form Nottely Lake.

As the overspill flows out from the Nottely Dam, the waters of the river flow some twenty more miles through north Georgia and into North Carolina to become a tributary of the Hiawassee River. Again, the river into which the Nottely flows, and the Tennessee Valley Authority dam and lake called Hiawassee, is a Cherokee derivative from the Cherokee word ayuhwasi meaning savannah or meadow. The Hiawassee River Dam was completed six years before the Nottely Dam. Begun in 1935, the Hiawassee Dam boasts the tallest overspill dam in the world at 307 feet tall and 1,376 feet wide.

Both the Nottley and Hiwassee Dams are part of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s hydroelectric generating power system. They also have as aims floodwater control and recreation. Add to this system Lake Chatuge in Towns County and extending into North Carolina, with 128 miles of shoreline. These lakes make our section of the mountains a much-sought out area for boating, water skiing and other water recreation sports.

Returning to Union County’s Nottely River and Nottely Dam, we note that prior to the project’s launch in 1941, a total of 7,984 acres of land were purchased. Already two private companies, Southern States Power and Union Power owned land but had not developed it into an area for the lake or power production. Tennessee Valley Authority bought those holdings as well as private lands. A total of 91 families had to be relocated from their property, houses moved, or, in some cases, demolished. Roads had to be relocated to go by the properties on which the houses were moved. It was a topsy-turvy time when all the changes occurred.

Construction began on July 17, 1941, with engineering already done to determine the best location for the 184-feet high dam that runs for about 2,300 feet across the Nottely River. In a little over six months, an unprecedented time for such a massive construction project, the opening date for the dam was January 24, 1942, with fanfare, speeches and a celebration. The rush to complete the dam was so that the giant reservoir covering some 4,180 acres could fill during the rainy season of that winter.

World War II brought added demands for hydroelectric power to operate aluminum and other manufacturing sites for the war effort. It was fortunate that the series of dams were available, not only for flood control but for generating electricity. A plethora of jobs were also created by the origination of the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933, helping to bring the area out of the Great Depression.

Now as we sit beside the banks of the Nottely River or go north of Blairsville to find the shores of Lake Nottely, we think back to the time when the Cherokee Indian Village of Nadhuli thrived prior to 1838 along the river near what became the Georgia/North Carolina border. White men had been settling on Indian lands prior to 1832 when Union County was formed.

One of my favorite poems of Union poet Byron Herbert Reece is entitled “I Know a Valley Green with Corn” (in A Song of Joy, 1952). In that poem he writes longingly of his being away and wishing to be back in Choestoe where corn grows green along the Nottely River. He could just as well have been writing of the dislocated Cherokee who grew maize in cleared patches alongside the Nadhuli. The first two stanzas read:

I know a valley green with corn
Where Nottely’s waters roil and run
From the deep hills where first at morn
It takes the color of the sun

And bears it burning through the shade
Of birch and willow till its tide
Pours like a pulse, and never stayed,
Dark where the Gulf’s edge reaches wide.
Beloved Nottely in the hills of home. Flow on, sparkling mountain waters!

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

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Heritage of Patriotism

Our nation’s birthday is July 4. This year, 2010, marks the 234th year since our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence and continued the struggle to gain freedom from England. Since that time more than two centuries ago, our nation has seen multiple threats to the freedoms we hold dear. We have a heritage of patriotism. We are wrapped in colors of red, white and blue, but the symbolism and the price of these colors is almost beyond imagination. We hear it over and over: “Freedom is never free.”

As we see “Old Glory” wave on the 4th of July and raise our voices in strains of “The Star Spangled Banner,” may the colors of red, white and blue bring to remembrance the sacrifices of many for the cost of freedom. Long ago a wise man named Thomas Campbell wrote: “The Patriots’ blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree.”

Several of those who had relatives that later came to Union County to settle engaged the enemy at the Battle of King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War. This decisive fray occurred on October 7, 1780. The battle was a definite turning point for the American Continental Army. After defeats to the British and Tories (Americans loyal to the British Crown) at the fall of Charleston, the Battle of Waxhaws, and Camden, all occurring in South Carolina in the summer of 1780, the Overmountain Men entered the picture. Mountain militia men made up of settlers west of the mountains in Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina rallied a group that marched “over the mountains” (hence the name “Overmountain Men”) to Major Patrick Ferguson’s stronghold at King’s Mountain. Ferguson, a Tory leader, directed by British General Charles, Earl of Cornwallis, had made the threat that they would “lay waste the countryside (of the frontier settlers) with fire and sword.”

The Overmountain Men would not give in to such a threat from Ferguson and Cornwallis. Instead of that prediction coming true, the wiry mountain men made plans to thwart the enemy. The patriots made a U-shaped entrenchment around the mountain where the Tory and British forces were ensconced. About 3 p. m. on October 7, 1780, William Campbell told his mountain men to attack. Other flanks were led by John Sevier, Isaac Shelby, Benjamin Cleveland and other notable patriots under whom our ancestors served nobly.

At the end of the Battle of King’s Mountain, 28 of the Patriots had been killed and 62 wounded. The battle’s toll on the Tory and British side numbered 157 killed, 163 severely wounded and left on the field to die, and 698 captured. The King’s Mountain Battle was a prelude to the final victory at Yorktown a year later on October 17, 1781.

Revolutionary War soldier, John Nicholson, whose grave is in the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Union County, fought at one of the battles before King’s Mountain. He was at the Battle of Camden where General Gates of the British Army was defeated. His second major battle was at Guilford Court House. Later he was with Colonel Sevier, and may have been at King’s Mountain, although his record does not so indicate.

Revolutionary War soldier Michael Tanner, whose grave is in the Old Choestoe Cemetery, Union County, had the signal honor of being at Yorktown when General George Washington engineered the surrender of British General Cornwallis. To have stood among the American allied forces there, composed of 8,000 Continental Army troops, 3,000 militiamen (of which Michael Tanner was one) and augmented by the 15,000 French sailors who blocked Cornwallis’s escape in the harbor, victory after long years of struggle became a reality.

Another ancestor to many of us, John Henry Stonecypher, Jr., whose grave is at the Stonecypher Family Cemetery, Eastanollee, Georgia, was a soldier at the famous battle of King’s Mountain. He also fought at the Battle of Okimish at Beattie’s Ford on the Catawba River, at the Battle of Camden under General Gates, and at Guilford Court House. His three years of Revolutionary War service were fraught with dangers, near-death, and bravery that we can hardly imagine.

We could multiply stories such as these for any war for freedom in which America has engaged since that day of declaring America’s independence in 1776. Today our battles are more subtle and insidious. Just yesterday I read a speech of a Dutch patriot who warned present-day Americans and Europeans of the creeping “take-over” by powerful forces that work in underhanded ways to malign freedom. Edward R. Murrow, that famed American newscaster of the twentieth century stated, “We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”

The adage often attributed to George Washington, but stated also, in slightly different words by Thomas Paine, John Philpot Curran, Plato and others holds very true: “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”

In this season of our nation’s birthday, I plan to think deeply and gratefully about the freedoms I enjoy as an American. I will not take freedom for granted. My brother, Eugene Dyer, did not take it for granted when he served as a gunner over Europe during World War II and earned the purple heart and other distinguished service awards.

We are often more prone to criticize America than to stand firm for its principles of freedom and harmony. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche made a notable observation when he stated “Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves.”

When we salute our flag may we know that the red represents the blood, war, love, power, intensity, energy, passion and strength it has taken to make and keep America free. The blue represents peace, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, order, loyalty and security of a strong nation. The white stands for reverence, purity, humility and innocence America had at the birth of our nation 234 years ago. May we recognize, too, that it will take far more than the idea to keep winning and maintaining freedom. Freedom must become a way of life for all of us, responsible, wise and in-depth freedom not couched in selfishness but in harmony and giving, in vigilance and gratitude.

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