Thursday, August 26, 2010

Continuing the Saga of the Davis Siblings, Early Union Settlers

At the outset I want to correct and clarify an error from last week’s column entitled “Old Letters from Davis Kin Give Insights to Life in Early Union County.” In it I wrote: “The Marida Davis who wrote this letter, I think, was the Mary Davis listed in the household of Meredith Davis in the 1850 census.” Well, I admit that I “thought wrong.” I have since learned, thanks to a kinsman of these early Union County Davis families, that Merida was a way Meredith Davis sometimes signed his name. His signature was also sometimes rendered “Meriday”, so the “Merida” of the letter was not his sister Mary at all, but the head-of-household, Meredith Davis, writing to his sister back in North Carolina, Jane Davis England. Thanks, David Davis, for setting me straight on who Merida Davis really was back in the 1860’s and 1870’s correspondence to family.

And now we go to an old deed, the source of our learning the kinship and connection of the Union County Davis settlers from the 1850 census and that of Sarah Davis Souther, also a sibling, wife of miller and farmer, Joseph Souther.

Also from David Davis, Vale, NC, I received a copy of an old document from Burke County, NC dated 18 December, 1797 and numbered “Grant No. 2222.” It was for “100 Acres” of land located “on a branch of England’s Mill Creek.” Five days before the record was entered in “Book 94, page No. 206” of the Burke County land transactions, William Davis had “paid into this office the sum of fifty shillings” on Dec. 13th 1797, “it being in full of the purchase money for 100 acres of Land by him entered in the county of Burke.” The document was duly signed by Wm. Davis and John Haywood, Treasurer. The second page of the 1797 document gives the marks that denote the land boundary, “lying on a branch of England’s Mill Creek, joining said England’s land on the east beginning from a post oak England’s Corner and runs west nineteen (?) poles to two Chesnuts in the head of a hollow. Then South one hundred and seven by eight (nots [knots?]) to a Maple and Chestnut, then exactly East ninety nots (?) to a stake. Then No. (north) to the beginning. Surveyed October 10, 1797. Signed and attested to by William England, Thomas Davis and Robert Logan.”

What happened to this hundred acres bought for fifty shillings in a land grant transaction in December, 1797? William Davis and his wife, Sarah Oxford Davis, lived on it and farmed the land and reared a large family there. Their youngest son, David Davis, was born in 1809. In early 1810, William Davis was named on a road crew working in Old Burke County, NC. But sometime later in 1810, this William Davis, holder of the 100 acres of land on England’s Mill Creek, died. His wife, Sarah Oxford Davis, survived him and was in some documents referred to as “Widow Davis.” She died in 1844.

Then in a deed drawn up in 1845 but not probated until 1855 in McDowell County (which was formed from Old Burke County) states: “This Indenture made the twenty fifth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty five between John Davis (Sr. ?) and Thos. Davis, Salatheal Davis, Jehial Davis, Merryda Davis, David Davis, Mary Davis, David Dalton and his wife Ruth Dalton, Joseph Souther and Sarah Souther his wife, John England and Jane England his wife of the State of North Carolina and County of McDowell of the one part and Patrick Davis of the State and County aforesaid, of the other part, witnesseth that for and in consideration of the sum of seventy dollars to them in hand paid by the said Patrick Davis the receipt whereof the said John Davis, Thos. Davis, Salatheal Davis, Johiel Davis, Merryda Davis, David Davis, Mary Davis, David Dalton and Ruth Dalton, Joseph Souther and Sarah Souther, John England and Jane doth fully acknowledged, have bargained, granted, sold, enforced, conveyed and confirmed unto (and here follows again a listing of all those children of William and Sarah Davis who would get their equal portion of the $70 for which the 100 acres was sold to Patrick Davis.

We know from the Union County, Georgia 1850 census that Meredith Davis, Salalthiel Davis, Johile Davis, Mary Davis and Sarah Davis Souther were already settled and living in Union. At the end of the old McDowell County indenture were affixed the signatures (and or marks with names) of the twelve children who were to receive their part of the $70 from the land transaction paid for by Patrick Davis. When we divide out this inheritance, we find that each of the twelve children listed received about $5.83 in cash for the land on which they had grown up at England’s Mill Creek in Old Burke turned McDowell County.

As for Joseph Souther and Sarah Davis Souther, they moved from Choestoe to Arkansas in late 1853 as their daughter Lydia Louise and her husband, Richard H. Wimpey moved there about then. Sarah evidently died there before 1859. Joseph Souther married twice more following Sarah’s death, to Malinda (maiden name unknown) Chumely, widow of John Chumely of Claiborne County, Tennessee. She, too, died before 1865, for on December 28, 1865 Joseph Souther married the third time to Matilda J. Houston in Polk County, Missouri.

Some of the other Davis siblings who settled in Union evidently did not remain here very long. Johiel Davis and his wife and family moved before 1860 to Pickens County, Georgia and later on to Cherokee County, Georgia. If others of the Davis siblings remained in Union until their deaths, they do not have monuments in any of the cemeteries of Union County corresponding to their names and dates of birth. The oldest graves of Davises buried in a Union County cemetery were found in the Mt. Pleasant No. 2 Cemetery in Gaddistown. These were Charles Davis (1811 – 1883) and Rebecca A. Davis (1811 – 1893).

We’ve examined letters to family members preserved in an old dove-tailed wooden box, thanks to contributor and descendant David Davis. We have read that Rita Elaine Davis, who has worked as a librarian for the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, DC, has collected “many Davis letters and information.” We are seeking to find this descendant of Joseph and Sarah Davis Souther to see if she can share with us other important family history tidbits of these early Davis settlers to Union County.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published August 26, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Old Letters From Davis Kin Give Insights to Life in Early Union County

Communication now is so much more advanced from the days of dated letters from 1861 and 1871.

Here is the background of this story. David Davis of Vale, North Carolina read some of my articles in “Through Mountain Mists” and noted especially those about England, Souther, Davis and other names with which he was familiar in his genealogical lineage. He got in touch with me both through e-mail and by telephone. He gave me a delightful account of how he had come into possession of some old documents held by a Mr. Wilburn Davis in McDowell County. The elderly Mr. Wilburn Davis had an old wooden box containing family papers, copies of deeds, tax receipts, some church records and the like. David Davis said of the box and its contents: “It was a treasure trove.” He made copies, and in a package from David, I received copies of two letters from Union County Davis kin addressed to relatives back in McDowell County.

David Davis of Vale, North Carolina, would like to correspond with anyone who is a descendant of the Davis brothers and sisters who settled in Union County as early as 1846 or before. He thinks they just might possibly have stored somewhere in a trunk or box, as the elderly Mr. Wilburn Davis of McDowell County did, letters received from the relatives back home in North Carolina, as these to the family members there were kept for all those years and passed down in a dove-tailed wooden box. He would like to hear from you if you can help him in his search. His address is David Davis, 6401 Bill Ledford Road, Vale, NC 28168, telephone 704-276-1302, e-mail:

Now to get on to the connections, and to some of the news in the preserved letters from the nineteenth century.

In the 1850 census of Union County were these settlers who came from Old Burke (Now McDowell) County, NC to settle in Union. Thanks to David Davis of Vale, NC for making me aware of their names. These were listed in the 1850 Union County Census: I list them by household number (the number given by census taker J. J. Logan as he recorded between September 2 and November 16, 1850):

(718) Davis, Meredith age 43, born in North Carolina; (no wife listed; evidently she had died prior to the 1850 census); Children: Anderson, 18; Logan, 16; John, 14; Caroline, 12; Mary, 10; Sarah, 8 (all six of these were born in North Carolina prior to the move to Union County); James, 6; and Thomas, 4, both born in Georgia. A Mary Davis, age 60, born in North Carolina, was listed in Meredith’s household. She, no doubt, was the sister who came with her brothers (and her sister, Sarah Davis Souther who probably was already settled in Union) when they moved from North Carolina to Union County, Georgia.

(714) Davis, Jehial (census-taker’s spelling; it probably should have been Johile—and I have found it in another genealogy listing as John Hoyle, shortened to Johile, born November 1, 1852 in McDowell County, NC, died September 10, 1926). “Jehial” was listed as age 48 by the census-taker, born in North Carolina. In his household were wife Abigail, 34, born in NC, and children Jesse, 15; Sophia, 13: Nancy 11; and Martha, 6, all born in North Carolina; and born in Georgia, Mary, 4; and Hester, 2.

(806) Davis, Salathial, 52, born in North Carolina; his wife, Elizabeth, 45, also born in North Carolina; and children still at home, Reuben, 18, and Martha, 7, both born in North Carolina.

And a sister to Meredith, Mary, Johile and Salathial Davis was Sarah Davis Souther, who, with her family was listed in the 1850 Union County census:

(681) Souther, Joseph, age 48, born in North Carolina; his wife, Sarah, age 50, born in North Carolina; their children, still at home in 1850, were listed as Stephen, 21; Mary, 17; Jesse, 15—all born in North Carolina. And, born in Georgia, were these children: Elizabeth, age 11, Josiah, age 8. And living in the household of Joseph and Sarah Souther in 1850 was Joseph Frady, age 15, whose relationship to the family is not given.

In other genealogical records we find that a daughter of Joseph and Sarah, Lydia Louise Souther, married Richard H. Wimpy on February 14, 1850 in Union County, Georgia, with William Prewitt, minister of the gospel, performing the ceremony.

And now to the letters David Davis found from members of these Davis families in Union County to their relatives back in McDowell County, North Carolina:

One from Marida Davis in Union County, Georgia to her sister Jane England in McDowell County, NC dated November 10, 1871: After the general opening of being in “common good health” and the usual wishes about the recipient’s health, Marida writes this interesting news: “I have not much general news to write, only there is a great prospect of a rail road a-coming to Blairsville and I think that the road will come. The name of the road is North Georgia and North Carolina rail road. Hit (sic) will intersect with the Suite railroad at Calhoun, GA and Walhallie, South Carolina. The people of this community is a subscribing to the road a great deal and I think we will have the road in about two years.” The Marida Davis who wrote the letter, I think, was the Mary Davis listed in the household of Meredith Davis in the 1850 census.

Unfortunately, the railroad Merida Davis wrote so enthusiastically about did not ever come to Blairsville, but instead was routed to Blue Ridge, Culberson, NC and Murphy, NC., probably due to lack of funds to build it over more mountainous terrain to Blairsville. The railroad reached Blue Ridge in 1886.

A letter in which Mary Davis signs her name as Mary (not Merida) Davis to her brother David Davis and family back in North Carolina was dated October 18, 1861 (?, year date a bit obscured). It reflects hard times coming on because of the Civil War. Health was “common” except for “the Rumatis” that plagued the writer. She wrote, “Johiel left this country and moved down in (illegible) County about 100 miles. I ain’t seen him since he left here.” In both these letters is a message of homesickness to see others of the family and to hear from them. Family ties were not severed by distance.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published August 19, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sixty Fifth Anniversary of Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki

August 6 and August 9, 2010, marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, respectively, earth-shaking events that led to Japan’s surrender and cessation of World War II. These are facts of history, regardless of our perspectives since then on the decisions to drop the bombs. At least to the present, those two nuclear weapons were the only ones, before or since, that have been detonated for war purposes.

Previous to the decision to drop the bombs, President Harry S. Truman of the United States and other allied leaders had met at Potsdam and presented on July 26, 1945 what has been called the Potsdam Ultimatum. Delivered to Japan, it asked for surrender or the allies would attack Japan. Within the document was this warning: “the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.” No mention was made of atomic bombings. The Japanese government, with Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki as spokesman for Emperor Hirohito announced that the Potsdam Ultimatum was no more binding than the earlier Cairo Declaration. Japanese newspapers on July 28 stated that the declaration had been rejected by Japan.

President Truman, in his position as President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s military, had seriously considered the situation on his way to the Potsdam Conference. In the end, it was he who made the final decision to use bombs from the atomic arsenal to bring Japan to surrender. His reasoning was that to do so would induce a quick end to the war by such devastation and fear of further destruction as would cause Japan to surrender.

On August 6, 1945 the B-29 plane, named “Enola Gay” piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, left North Field airbase on Tinian in the West Pacific. It took about six hours for the “Enola Gay” and two other B-29 planes in the formation, “The Great Artiste” and “Necessary Evil” to make the flight to Hiroshima. At 8:15 a. m. (Hiroshima time) the “Enola Gay” released the bomb known as “Little Boy.” Captain William S. Parsons released the bomb. Although with an innocent-sounding name, the weapon carried 60 kilograms (130 pounds) of uranium-235, with a blast equal to 13 kilotons of TNT. The “Enola Gay” was 11.5 miles away from the bomb site when shock waves were felt. The bomb had detonated about 1,900 feet above the city of Hiroshima, directly over the Shima Surgical Clinic, missing the Aioi Bridge target by 800 feet. The devastation was over a 4.7 square-mile area. About 30% of the population of the city met death immediately (estimated at 80,000) and another 70,000 were injured, many dying later.

With such devastation upon Hiroshima, a surrender was expected, but it did not occur, and a second bomb was released, this one on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. It was one of the largest seaports in southern Japan, a city of great importance to the Japanese military. Actually, Kokura was intended as the target, but due to a cloud cover and poor visibility, Major Charles W. Sweeney flew the B-29 Superfortress named “Bockscar” on to Nagasaki, the alternate target. At 11:01 a. m. on August 9, 1945, bombardier Captain Kermit Beahan released the “Fat Man” atomic weapon carrying 6.4 kilograms (14.1 pounds) of plutonium-239. equal to 21 kilotons of TNT.

The Urakami Valley containing the Japanese torpedo works was within the targeted area. Mountains on either side of the valley formed a shield that gave some protection to surrounding areas. Casualties immediately were estimated between 40,000 and 75,000, with wounded who died later bringing the total to 80,000. Survivors of the blasts at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were called “hibakusha,” meaning “explosion-affected people.” It is said many walked around, unattended, “looking like ghosts,” with their skin sagging from searing and atomic burns. Many of the “hibakusha” suffered extensive burns, for the bombs generated temperatures up to 3,900 degrees Celsius or 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Later, many survivors died of complications from cancer and leukemia.

On August 14, 1945 the Japanese Emperor announced to his people that he was surrendering, and officially on August 15, 1945 the declaration was made to the world. Thus ended the long and devastating World War II. Then came the period of military occupation forces in lands that had been the enemy and efforts to bring a World Peace Agreement.

After the surrender, the US Navy ship on which Grover Duffie Jones was a radioman, was ordered to dock in Nagasaki Harbor. The command the crew had was to restore communications to Nagasaki, that devastated spot that had been hit by the second atomic bomb. In recalling that assignment, Jones (who later became my husband) described the land “as though a mighty hand had smashed everything for miles.” That Navy crew was able to fulfill their assignment. But evidently little thought had been given as to the later effects on the health of that crew from atomic radiation and fallout.

Anniversaries like August 6 and August 9, the dropping of bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are dark parts of history. Sixty-five years later, we are still seriously debating the pros and cons of the action, and always is the dread of some nation breaking atomic bans causing devastation in this and future eras.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published August 12, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Militia Districts in Union County

The state of Georgia is divided into 159 counties. Within each county are further subdivisions called Militia Districts. Union County is divided into fourteen districts, but only five voting districts. Beginning along the northern border at the North Carolina line and proceeding southward, these militia districts are Dooly, Ivy Log, Gum Log, Lower Young Cane, Blairsville, Upper Young Cane, Coosa, Arkaquah, Owltown, Choestoe, Coopers Creek, Canada and Gaddistown. These names are more for location than for political divisions, as changes have occurred over time to warrant a look at how present election districts have evolved.

Even though there were fourteen districts in 1849 listed for the then seventeen-year old county of Union, those districts were changed through the years due to part of Union being taken into Fannin (formed in 1854) and Towns (formed in 1856). The tax lists of 1849 had the fourteen districts in Union named thus: Hiawassee, Choestoe, Ivy Log, Noontootla, Blairsville, Hemptown, Brasstown, Stevenson, Gaddistown, Arkaquah, Young Cane, Gum Log, Cut Cane and Skinah (Skeenah). You can easily recognize from this listing that only eight of these fourteen remain in Union today, with names the same. As changes in geographical divisions occurred through the county’s history, the districts were realigned accordingly.

Historical records show that a fifteenth district was added in 1851, before the counties of Fannin and Towns were measured off from portions of Union. That new district did not receive a name until 1855, when it was named Young’s District. Later, the Young’s District was split into two and received the names Lower Young Cane and Upper Young Cane. An interesting sideline about districts not only in Union but throughout Georgia is that they were sometimes named for a person prominent in the area, or for families who settled there, especially when several by the same name resided within a given geographical area. Examples of this naming in Union are Young Cane (upper and lower), Coopers Creek and Gaddistown, and although I do not find any named Dooly in the county until the 1850 census, this district name, too, might have been from a family or a remembered family name from a previous place residents lived. The Dooly District was officially added to the tax lists of Union in 1857. Other names were adopted from names the Cherokee had given the place before their exodus on the Trail of Tears. Some of these names are Arkaquah, Choestoe and Coosa.

By 1870, Coosa and Coopers Creek had been added to the tax list districts. And then in 1887 Owltown was formed, taking portions of Choestoe, Arkaquah and Coosa to form the legal entity numbered 1409. In order to get the Owltown District, a petition was presented, with some of the leaders being citizens Thomas Fields, Daniel Mathis and others. The parameters of Owltown were surveyed and recommended by a court-appointed team made up of Quiller F. Reece, John M. Rich, and Milford G. Hamby. The act to form Owltown District took effect on April 4, 1887 when Ordinary William Colwell signed the official document.

Stability remained in the district names for about a hundred years. But even during that time, district lines changed somewhat due to petitions of citizens and surveys that led to resetting some of the district lines by small margins. In 1981, Georgia Code, Chapter 34-7 and 34-701, amended, gave impetus to resetting “election districts” to cut costs in holding elections (not one for each of the fourteen districts), but according to locations, with some of the districts realigned and combined for precincts. Brasstown and Blairsville were combined into Election District 1. Others were combined as follows for precincts: District 2 covered Upper and Lower Young Cane and Coosa. District 3 encompassed Choestoe, Arkaquah and Owltown. District 4 contained Dooly, Ivy Log and Gum Log. And “across the mountain” District 5 combined Coopers Creek, Gaddistown and Canada.

Then in 1983, Representative Carlton Colwell introduced a bill in the state legislature to make the Union County School Districts correspond to the voting districts. Members of the Union County School Board—instead of being from the fourteen districts—would be elected from within the five voting districts. And it was so ordered.

Nowadays, the 14 Militia Districts of the County are remembered from past history and for sentimental reasons. However, we still like to hail from whatever district we or our parents might have claimed. Simplification in government alignment sometimes leads to loss of pride in place. But we still look at the old district lines on a map of Union County and remember “how it used to be.” I look at old marriage records of the county and see names of those important district officers, Justice of the Peace (JP) and Notary Public (NP). They served notably in the capacity they had as legal representatives in their districts. These names appeared frequently on legal documents in the first decades of our county’s history: Jesse Reid, JP; Thompson Collins, JP; Hampton Jones, JP; J Duckworth, JIC (Justice of the Inferior Court); T. M. Hughes, JP; James Bird, JP; M. M. Roberts, JP; John B. Chastian, JP; Enes M. Henry, JP; Posey D. Guthrie, JP; and Bennet Smith, NP, to name a few.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 5, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.