Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pierre Chastain "The Immigrant" and His Continuing Influence

Elijah Webb Chastain, the fifth generation from Pierre Chastain, “The Immigrant” was noted as a military man, lawyer, and politician. He was the seventh of ten children born to Benjamin Chastain (1780-1845), who moved his family in 1837 and was an Indian agent in the area that became Fannin County, Georgia. Elijah Webb Chastain’s mother was Rebeckah Denton Chastain (1779-1872). This tenth child was born in Pickens County, SC September 25, 1813 and died in an accident in Murray County, Georgia on April 9, 1874.

His sixty-one years were notable. He married Clarissa Susan Braselton on June 18, 1838 and they had twelve children: Marian Josephine who married Dr. Judson Linton Rucker; Rev. Benton Forsyth Chastain who married Nancy Elizabeth Morris; Benjamin Perry Chastain (1841-1859); Georgia Anne Chastian (1843-186) who married Lewis Crayton Allen; Rev. Oscar Fitzallen Chastain who married Mary Zenobia Addington; Mary Jane Chastain who married John Sullivan Addington; Lewis C. Chastain (b/d February 16, 1848); Eugenia Virginia Chastain (1850-died young); Emma Maria Chastain (1853-1916) married William Dallas Smith; Judson Rucker Chastain (1855 -1920) married Emma Frances Greenwood; Ida Amanda Chastain (1858-1930) married Allen Burton Dickey; and Sidney Johnson Chastain (1860-1882) married Thomas A. Willson. Of the twelve children, nine lived to adulthood, married and eight of the nine had children. Descendants of the famed Elijah Webb Chastain are now found in a broad geographic distribution.

Elijah Webb Chastain was termed “Colonel,” receiving this designation because of his service in the Seminole War in Florida in 1838 and later his service in the Civil War. He studied law, as was the practice then, by “reading” law in the office of established lawyers. He was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1849. He practiced in Gilmer and Union Counties and at the young age of 21 he made a memorable speech on July 4, 1835 in Ellijay, Georgia that was printed in area newspapers at the time. Gifted as an orator and persuasive speaker, this quality would be a complement to his political career. He was elected Georgia senator from Gilmer County and served in that capacity from 1839-1849. He served as a representative to the U. S. Congress from 1851-1855. Some of his speeches in Congress have been preserved: notably on Union and States’ Rights (1852), the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and the annexation of Cuba (1855). He was a member of the Georgia Secession Convention and voted for Georgia to secede from the Union at a hotly-debated contest at the state capital in Milledgeville, Georgia on January 19, 1861. He resumed his military career at age 47 and was commissioned a Lt. Colonel of the First Regiment, Georgia Regulars and later of the Eighth Regiment, Georgia State Troops. He and Civil War Governor Joseph Emerson Brown were good friends. Many of Chastain’s Civil War letters to the governor on behalf of his constituents in North Georgia plead dire circumstances, need for salt, and rampant lawlessness from raiders and renegades. He was appointed by Governor Brown to serve as the state attorney for the Western and Atlantic Railroad in 1857-1861, a railroad very vital to the Confederate forces.

Following the end of the Civil War, Elijah Web Chastain returned to Fannin County where he continued his law practice and managed his large farm. On a legal trip to Dalton, Georgia in April, 1874, he was drowned in Holly Creek April 9, swollen and flooded from spring rains, as he and his friends Col. John B. Dickey and Senator John A. Jervis returned from Dalton, Georgia where they had pled for the Dalton-Morganton Railroad. His body was recovered the next day and burial occurred at the Toccoa Baptist Church Cemetery, Morganton, GA on land Col. Chastain had given to the church only a year prior to his death. The eulogy written by Congressman Hiram Parks Bell has been preserved and gives a lofty account of this man whom Chastain historians as well as Col. Bell and others term “the most prominent Chastain of all time.” His “magnetic personality…soldierly bearing…and aggressive manner drew him into the limelight and his magnetism and easy success kept him there.” So wrote James Garvin Chastain about Col. Elijah Webb Chastain in his “A Brief History of the Huguenots and Three Family Trees” (in The Chestnut Tree, February, 1974).

Next in our line of notable Chastains we come to a son of Elijah Webb Chastain, namely Rev. Oscar Fitzallen Chastain (1844-1906) [sixth generation from Pierre “the Immigrant”] and his notable wife, Zenobia Addington Chastain (1848-1907). We can hardly remember one of these without also recalling the other, for their careers and interests motivated them as a solid team for good. Zenobia Addington established an academy in 1868 in Morganton and was able to get funding for this mountain school from the Peabody Foundation. Oscar Fitzallen Chastain had served in the Civil War, as had his illustrious father. When he and Mary Zenobia, daughter of March and Amy Elizabeth White Addington, were married December 18, 1872 in Union County by the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes, Oscar was a clerk in a store in Morganton, the then county seat town of Fannin County. No doubt, Oscar had been attracted to the outstanding teacher of the school known as Zenobia’s Academy.

Morganton Baptist Association of Churches was organized in 1893. In 1899, the association took a bold step and organized the North Georgia Baptist College in Morganton, to be operated as a boarding school appealing to mountain students. “College” was a broad term, for classes were offered from first grade through all the grades, high school, and about the first two years of college. Zenobia Chastain, one of the best-educated women of the area at the time had graduated from a noted academy in Ellijay, Georgia headed by Professor M. C. Briant. There she had been instructed in history, the classics, mathematics, Latin and Greek. She was asked to come aboard the North Georgia Baptist College as a teacher. Her husband, Rev. Oscar F. Chastain, who had been ordained to the gospel ministry on May 17, 1884, was named business manager of the college. At one time, due to severe financial needs at the struggling college, the Chastains mortgaged their own farm and home to raise funds for operation of the school.

Oscar and Zenobia Chastain had three children, daughters Mariam, Mary and Nettie, all of whom preceded their parents in death. They took relatives and others into their home to board so they could attend the college in Morganton. In 1906 the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention began joint sponsorship with Morganton Association of the North Georgia Baptist College and named it as one of its “Mountain Schools.” Nearby Blairsville operated a similar school called the Blairsville Collegiate Institute from 1904-1930. Oscar Chastain died in 1906 at age 62 and his wife Zenobia died in 1907 at age 60. Their joint tombstone in Morganton Baptist Cemetery has this epitaph: “They loved God and their fellowman.” Many who went through the educational programs at Zenobia’s Academy and later the North Georgia Baptist College became noted teachers, lawyers, doctors, politicians and upright citizens. These two made a distinctive mark as their vision and hard work become reality. Theirs were noble lives, nobly lived.

[Next: Continuing “Learning from the Past, Shaping the Future” we will feature Jason Coward Chastain, another sixth generation descendant of Pierre “the Immigrant” Chastain.]

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 22, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pierre Chastain "The Immigrant" and His Continuing Influence (part 2) Learning From the Past - Shaping the Future

Dr. Pierre Chastain (ca. 1659-1728) , known as “The Immigrant,” made giant ‘footsteps in the sands of time’ in at least three of the four areas pinpointed: improved living conditions, religious life, economy and agriculture.

Let us look briefly at his family for whom he sought to leave a memorable legacy. He and his first wife, Susanne Renaud, had eight children: Jean Adam, Marie Susanne, Pauline Elizabeth, Pierre, Arthuze, Jeanne Francois, Pierre Samuel, and Suzanne. Of these, seven died young, leaving only Jean Adam Chastain of his first children to carry on the Chastain name. Susanne Renaud and four of their children died by 1701 in Manakin Town, Virginia.

By his second wife, Anne Soblet. Pierre Chastain had eight children. Perhaps living conditions were more conducive to rearing children in a healthier atmosphere for six of eight of these lived to adulthood and married. The children of Pierre and Anne were: Judith, Susanna, Pierre (Jr.), Mary, Elizabeth, Rene, Janne and Mary (Marie) Magdalene. Of these, Mary and Janne did not marry, died young. Pierre Chastain married, third, to widow Mary Magdalene Trabue but had no children by her. All of you gathered at the Pierre Chastain Reunion in 2011 have traced your roots back to your inimitable ancestor, Pierre, the Immigrant, over whose name we proudly write the superscription 1.

Not to show partiality, by any means, but by way of illustration, I have selected stories of Chastain descendants from several generations to bear out the truth that many of Pierre’s progeny did, indeed, make a difference in the four areas of society we have named: (1) improved living conditions; (2) religious life; (3) politics and government; and (4) agriculture and the economy. Let us learn from their lofty examples and make a difference now and in the future. Selections include (and there could be many more):

Rev. John “Ten Shillings Bell” Chastain (1743-1805), third generation, son of Pierre Chastain and Mildred Archer Chastain. He was born in Manakin, Goochland County, Virginia. His migrations took him to various places. He died and was buried at Table Rock in Pendleton District, Pickens County, South Carolina. He had a distinctive nickname: “Ten Shillings Bell.”

It has been reported that this minister of the gospel, in association with such well-known evangelicals at the time as the Rev. Shubael Starnes and others of the “Great Awakening” movement on the frontier, was known for his resonating voice, one that carried well to great crowds gathered to hear the gospel. The cost for a well-wrought bell, one that resounded clearly, was ten shillings. Hence the nickname, a compliment to Rev. John Chastain’s ability as an orator and preacher. Before the term “church planter” was known in American parlance, Rev. John Chastain traveled far and wide establishing and strengthening churches of what became the Baptist faith. In Western North Carolina in 1774, an area that became Sullivan County then Carter County, Tennessee, he ministered at the Sinking Spring Baptist Church. Moving about forty miles to Pendleton District in South Carolina (Pickens County) in 1790, he preached there, then became pastor of the Middle Saluda Baptist Church in the Greenville District. He founded the Oolenoy Baptist Church in Greenville District in 1795 and became its first pastor. Prior to leaving Virginia, he signed an oath of allegiance at the beginning of the Revolutionary War to be faithful to the colonies. Anyone tracing their ancestry back to the Rev. John Chastain can claim him as a patriot to qualify for membership in Sons and/or Daughters of the American Revolution. In all four areas of our consideration, the Rev. John “Ten Shillings Bell” Chastain made giant steps in the sands of time. John Chastain and his first wife Mary O’Brien had eleven children: Abner, John, Jr., Martha, Edward Brigand, Mary, Elijah, Elizabeth, Cleo (Chloe), Benjamin, Nancy and Joseph. Following Mary O’Bryan Chastain’s death about 1797, he married, second, a widow, Mrs. Mary Robinson. Their children were Violet, William and Mary Lavinia.

Rev. John Chastain’s son, Benjamin (1780-1845), was selected as an Indian agent and settled in 1837 on the Toccoa River (Union County) in what became Fannin County, Georgia (1854). The story of his work in dealing with the Indians on land sales, and heading up Ft. Chastain, a holding station for the Cherokee prior to the Trail of Tears, was the subject of an earlier Chastain article.

Next in our line of Chastain greats is the Rev. Abner Chastain, (1803-1871), fifth generation from Pierre the Immigrant, and tenth of fifteen children of Edward Brigand Chastain (1769-1834) and Hannah Brown Chastain (1771-ca 1832-1837). Migrations and land holdings show that this Abner Chastain (not to be confused with his uncle by the same name, son of Rev. John “Ten Shilling Bell” Chastain) was born on Christmas Day, 1803 in Pendleton District, South Carolina. His parents took him to North Carolina by 1809. Just where and when Abner Chastain was ordained a Baptist preacher, we have not discovered the record. However, in minutes of Choestoe Baptist Church, Union County, Georgia (organized perhaps by 1832; minutes intact and preserved from 1834 to the present), this Rev. Abner Chastain was pastor. Like his grandfather, Rev. John Chastain, Abner was a church planter, leading Choestoe Church to assist with organizing other churches within the vicinity of the mountain region. According to history, 1869 had been a bad crop year due to draught and depleted lands. Rev. Abner Chastain led in organizing a massive wagon train of 250 people and started the long trek west to Colorado to settle on lands available there. We can only imagine the responsibility of leading enough wagons to accommodate a crowd of 250 men, women and children, and the hardships, illnesses and challenges they faced along the journey. Abner’s first wife, Susan Pemberton O’Kelley, may have died on the way west or shortly after they settled there at the Heurfano River two miles east of St. Mary’s at LaVeta, Colorado. True to form, Rev. Abner Chastain soon started a church in the new settlement. In the fall of 1870 he baptized the first convert there in the Heurfano River. He married, second, Amanda Elzy, Unfortunately, Rev. Abner Chastain died of pneumonia on April 1, 1871, leaving behind a new settlement and a church without the dynamic of his much-needed leadership. But he, too, even in his 67 years of life, added significantly to Chastain “footsteps in the sands of time.”

[Next: Elijah Webb Chastain, political leader; Oscar Fitzallen and Zenobia Chastain, educators; and Jason Coward Chastain, farmer, in the saga, “Learning from the Past - Shaping the Future.”]

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 15,2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pierre Chastain “The Immigrant” and His Continuing Influence

Labor Day weekend has come and gone, with its stormy weather, tornadoes in a corridor area emanating from Tropical Storm Lee, more rain than we’ve had in months, a death in my family, and attendance at the Pierre Chastain Family Association Reunion in Helen to which I was invited to be “on-site historian” and keynote speaker.

Where do I begin this column after that introductory paragraph? If you read this, and are among those who sustained damages from any of the storms attendant upon Lee’s widespread catastrophe, you have my deepest concern. May you find shelter, comfort and redirection. For those who received much-needed rain without flooding and damages, be most grateful as I am. This morning my dry lawn, shrubs and flowers seem to have hope renewed.

As to the death of my nephew, Christopher Fortenberry, age 37, dear son of my sister Linda, we are all diminished and saddened by his death. Linda and Claxton, Chris’s parents, will read this, as will Chris’s brothers, James and David. Be assured that many people love you and are praying for you. You are strong people; you will never forget, and will wonder why Chris died so suddenly. But the God of all comfort will sustain you. Look up and take courage.

And now to the major subject of this article, Pierre Chastain, “The Immigrant” the first-generation Chastain to America and his continuing influence. The gathering in Helen was such a happy occasion (despite my sadness over my nephew Chris’s death). I had done much research to prepare for the speaking engagements with those gathered from various states to hold this annual PCFA (Pierre Chastain Family Association) Reunion. I had spoken at the 1998 Reunion in Hiawassee/Young Harris, GA. James Chastain, host and program planner for this reunion, had read several of my Chastain articles. Those provided the springboard for my invitation back to this notable gathering as keynote speaker. I felt humbled, indeed, for this “repeat” invitation to speak. I was honored, indeed, when, by action of the Association, they “adopted” me into the PCFA toward the end of the meeting and presented me with the official Chastain coat-of-arms. So now I have another loving family, one that has made a significant impact in American life from 1700 to the present. Because many requested that I publish the remarks I made at the reunion, I will attempt to do so. It will take more than one column; please bear with me for the next few weeks as I proceed with

An Address Before the Pierre Chastain Family Association
Helen, Georgia ~ September 3, 2011
From the pen of the inimitable American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, came these words that seem to apply appropriately to the life of Pierre Chastain, “The Immigrant,” and his descendants to the present day:
“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.”
We learn from the past; these lessons shape our future.

Let us remember some of these great men and women of note in the Chastain line who have carved out monumental differences and left footprints in the sands of time. What can we learn from them to shape our present and future in these trying times?

We will consider and give emphasis to four areas these forebears impacted:

(1) How they sought to improve living conditions;
(2) How they led innovations in religious life;
(3) How they impacted politics and government; and
(4) How they improved agriculture and the economy.
Who better than the first generation Chastain in this line, known to us as Pierre “the Immigrant” Chastain (ca 1659-1728) as a representative of all four areas of impact on American life? We will recall briefly highlights from his story:

Conditions in Europe were atrocious at the time of his childhood, youth and young adulthood. Briefly, his ancestors were living in Bourges, Central France, at the time of the terrible massacre on St. Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, 1572. This was almost a century before Pierre’s birth. Look this up in history; you will have an account of the religious persecution that brought death and hardships. The Chastains, along with others, fled to Charost, France, and later crossed the Jura Mountains to Switzerland. These protesters, called Huguenots, seeking religious freedom, were greatly influenced by the preaching of John Calvin (1507-1564). Persecution grew. Dr. Pierre Chastain (for he was a medical doctor by then) and his family left Switzerland and went to Holland for refuge. There they learned of groups sailing to America, the new land of promise. They went to England and he and his family boarded the ship Mary and Ann, one of four ships headed for America. Enduring the hardships and crowded conditions on the ship, they landed in Virginia. In “History of the Huguenot Emigration,” Volume II, this notation was made about Pierre Chastain in August, 1700 to the City Chamberlain of London: “The Bearer, Monsiur Castayne, is going out surgeon to ye French now departing for Virginia. He wants twenty pounds to make up his chest of drugs and instruments.”

Settling in Manakin Town, Virginia, Dr. Pierre Chastain began to make his “footprints in the sands of time” that have extended to the present age.

[Next: Continuing the story of Chastains of various generations in America. Resources: Pierre Chastain and His Descendants, Volume I. PCFA, 1995. Jason Coward Chastain and His Family. Jason Coward Chastain Historical Society and M. A. McGraw, 1976]

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 8, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

[Ethelene Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at e-mail; phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA 31061-2411.]

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kizziah Souther Humphries and Her Family (Part 2)

Last week’s column began the story of Kizziah Souther Humphries and her husband John. This couple came to Union County to settle in the mid- to late-1830’s, and remained here until the 1850’s (exact time of departure unknown to this writer). By 1860 the family was recorded in the Monroe County, TN census, and later in Blount County, TN. In their life story, we observe the strong influence of family upon migration patterns. Kizziah’s brother, Joseph, had preceded her family’s move to Union County. Her brothers John, Jesse and Hix would also make the move from North Carolina to the 16th District of Union County. But it seems that Kizziah and John’s move to Tennessee was not precipitated by other family moves prior to theirs that we can pinpoint.

Kizziah was the mother of thirteen children. Part One of their family saga traced her children through the first four, and their marriages, namely Jesse who married Charlotte Duckworth, Jane who married Wiley Dean, Catherine, nicknamed “Katie”, who married John Hix, and Willis who married Mary Johnson. We saw how Humphries had various spellings in official records, mainly with the “H” (so often a silent initial letter) omitted, so that to find these children of Kizziah and John, I had to search not only the “H” section of copied records, but also the “U” section. We can get an approximate date of Kizziah and John Humphries’ move to Union by the births of their children. The first two, Jesse (b. 1833) and Jane (b. 1835) were born in North Carolina; the third, Catherine, was born in Georgia about 1837, which dates their move to Union prior to that date. The last three were born after their move to Tennessee.

Continuing with Kizziah and John’s children (the fifth through the thirteenth) in this Part 2 of their family saga, we will give highlights and where they scattered geographically.

James Humphries (1840-?) married Sarah Ann Alman. They lived in McMinn County, TN, moved to Cherokee County, NC for a period, where Sarah Ann died, and then James returned to McMinn County. When James’s next-to-youngest brother, Joseph, was interviewed in 1931 by Tennessee genealogist Will Parham of Blount County, TN, he told the historian that the family Bible in which Kizziah and John had recorded births and deaths of family members was in possession of his brother James in McMinn County, TN. It would be interesting to know if the family pages of this Bible have been preserved. James and Sarah Ann had children J.Harve, Jesse, Hugh, Georgia, Lillie and Paralee.

Phillip Humphries (1841-?) married Cordie Parker. He had an interesting life to say the least. A soldier (in the Confederate Army) during the Civil War, it is believed that the traumatic experiences there left him nervous and restless. He became an itinerant preacher and went from Arkaquah District in Union County all the way to Texas, returning on the long trek periodically to warn any who would listen along the way to the “coming catastrophe,” the end-times and the hardships to be endured. He was finally placed in a Soldiers’ Home in North Carolina where he died. Known children of Phillip and Cordie Parker Humphries were Joseph, James, Louise and Maggie, and perhaps others whose names were not known by his brother Joseph in 1931.

John Humphries (1843-1862?) remained single. Joseph stated this brother died in 1862. However, Mrs. Don (Ruth) Carroll, wife of one of Nancy Ann Humphries Carroll’s grandchildren who submitted Chapter 10 in Watson Dyer’s “Souther Family History” (1988) stated that she found a record of a John Humphries with wife Mary, and an eleven-month old son, Robert, in the 1870 Blount County, TN census. The age of this John would have about matched the age of Kizziah and John’s son, named for his father. Joseph Humphries was giving the family information when he was 80, and without benefit of written records. There is, therefore, a question about the John Humphries found in that 1870 census, with Joseph’s remembrance of his brother dying in 1862. Mysteries are rampant in the search for family history.

Noah, eighth child of Kizziah and John, (b. 1845) married first to Jane Wilkins and second to Rebecca Wilhoit. Joseph stated in 1931: “Noah’s two boys are working near the Pendergrass Marble Quarry near Knoxville, TN. He had five girls; one lives near Neubert’s Springs in Knox County.” (p. 289, Souther book). However, the Georgia Southers have a little different story. They say Noah went west to Texas and bought land for a farm there. Later, oil was discovered on Noah’s property, thus making him a rich man. He had at least five daughters, names unknown, by his first wife Jane Wilkins, and two sons, John and Benjamin, born to his second wife, Rebecca Wilhoit.

Sarah, ninth child of Kizziah and John, (b. 1847-?) married James Gooden on February 21 in Blount County, TN. They had known children, John, Thomas and Joseph. In the 1880 Blount County census, the Gooden family lived four houses from her brother, Joseph. In 1931 Joseph stated that Sarah and James Gooden moved later to Walker County, Georgia where they remained the rest of their lives.

Mary, known as “Polly” (b. 1848-?) married Tillman Walker Davis on February 14, 1873 in Sevier County, Tn. They had two known children, Theodore and Thomas. They may have moved to Missouri, because her brother Joseph stated in 1931 that Mary’s children lived in that state.

Nancy Ann Humphries (1851-1882) married William Pinkney Willis Carroll on September 17, 1874 in Sevier County, TN. Willis joined the Union Army during the Civil War. After Nancy’s death Willis married again. Nancy Ann and Willis had two sons, William Joseph and John Houston Carroll.

Joseph F. Humphries (1852-1936) married twice. His first bride was Mary Ann Carroll (1849-1910) whom he married January 6, 1872 in Blount County, Tn. He married, second, Rachel Walker. This is the son of Kizziah and John who gave an account of the family in 1931 to Will Parham, genealogist, and to whom we owe much credit for family tree information. With him, he and his descendants changed the spelling of their surname to the more-commonly used form, Humphrey. Joseph and Mary Ann had these eleven children: George, Sarah, John, Jacob Houston, James, Mary Belle, Samuel Henry, Josiah, Richard, William C., and Brown Melton. Joseph or his descendants did a masterful job listing Joseph’s family. Pages 296 through 304 of Dyer’s “Souther Family History” are replete with a listing of Joseph’s descendants.

David Humphries (1854-?) married but did not have children. In Joseph’s account of the thirteen children of his parents, John and Kizziah Souther Humphries, he did not elaborate on this youngest of their large family.

We can only imagine the uncertainties John and Kizziah Humphries faced in their multiple moves from North Carolina to North Georgia to the Monroe and Blount County, Tennessee area, and the hardships of survival, feeding, caring for and schooling a large family during the trying times of the Civil War and its aftermath. We salute them and their hardiness, a tribute to many like them who paved paths through the wilderness in the nineteenth century.

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 1, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.