Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lard Pail Lunches and Shared Knowledge (or Life in a Country School ~ Part 1)

Choestoe School in Union County, Georgia, 1936 through 1943 has a special place in my memory, in things I love, and in who I became in life. It also figures in my first year of a thirty-year teaching career, for it was there, where I started school, that I returned to teach my very first year as a young, inexperienced, fresh-out-of-junior-college state provisionally certified teacher.

Choestoe schoolhouse has been moved from its former location and now stands on land that was once my Daddy’s, then my brother’s, my own, my son’s, and now the county’s. The old Choestoe school house is being restored and will eventually be used as a voting precinct building and perhaps a community clubhouse.

But what took place there in the building’s heyday as a schoolhouse? Come with me to learn about “Lard Pail Lunches and Shared Knowledge.”

I received my early education in a two-teacher country school from 1936 through 1943. I never felt deprived educationally from this inauspicious start. In high school, college and graduate school, I regarded my elementary school education as excellent and special indeed.

Not only did I begin my education in a two-teacher country school, but my first year of teaching was in that same school in 1949-1950. “You can’t go home again,” as proposed by author Thomas Wolfe in his novel, Look Homeward, Angel, did not apply to me. I returned home to teach with anticipation and joy, and gratitude that the Union County School Board would consider a product of that school to be worthy to teach there.

By 1949, due to declining pupil population, Choestoe had become a one-teacher school. Having attended that school myself the very first year the “new” two-room building opened, and then returning thirteen years later to teach my first year there at the same school, were both rich and rewarding experiences for me.

Let us look at life in Choestoe School from 1936 through 1943, the years I was a student in its hallowed halls. From Primer through Seventh Grade I was educated at that school. Choestoe had been an early school, although the building in which I attended was brand new in 1936. Previous schools had preceded the one I knew so well. Early settlers began the school, some of my ancestors with surnames like Dyer, Souther, Collins, Hunter, Nix, Self and England, to name a few. Many of these forebears were in the county when it was founded in 1832. And straightaway they began a school at various locations, not necessarily on the same spot as the new building of 1936. Earlier, a log building used for both school and church had been replaced by a two-room, two-story frame school building. On the upper floor of the old building, the Choestoe Masonic Lodge met. I can vaguely remember attending events in that building when my older brother Eugene and my sister Louise went to school there. Even as a young child, the steps to the second floor fascinated me and I wondered what lay beyond the confines of what I could see.

The brand new building in which I began my educational adventures in 1936 had two rooms, both on the ground level. A covered open vestibule-type entrance was at the front. Two front doors led in from the vestibule to the classrooms. The “lower grades” (primer through third) classroom was on the left and the “upper grades” (fourth through seventh) was on the right. Each classroom had a cloak/storage room across the front where we had pegs to hang our coats and shelves to set our “lard bucket” lunch pails. If we wore galoshes over our shoes in rainy or snowy weather, we removed them and left them in the cloak room while we were in class. Also in that room were bookcase shelves in one end of the room on which the extra textbooks were aligned, grade-wise.

The classrooms were separated by a removable partition, ceiled with wood on both sides. I can remember my father and other men in the community taking down those partitions to provide a large space. A raised stage was put in place and the classrooms could then accommodate our school programs.

Each classroom was heated by a wood heater, an iron stove (not the usual “pot” bellied) a low, oblong heater with a door on the front into which to feed the wood. Parents (or patrons of the school) were required to haul their fair share of the wood consumed throughout the months heat was needed. Long tin stovepipes connected the heater to the common chimney that was outside the building about where the middle partition was located that separated the classrooms.

That first nervous day—in July, 1936—we students waited outside, anticipating what school might be like until “the principal,”—the upper-grades teacher, rang the school bell—our signal that “books” (or classes) were to begin. Miss Opal Sullivan was the upper grades teacher, a trim, beautiful young lady who seemed to me then all-too-young to be a teacher. She stood in the school entrance on the right side, awaiting her fourth through seventh grade pupils to line up in an orderly row. Mrs. Mert Shuler Collins was the primary grades teacher. She stood at the school entrance on the left side. She patiently showed the new pupils like me how to line up. When everyone was quiet and in order, we were given the signal to proceed.

Once we were inside that primary side of the magnificent new school building, it was not hard for us to tell which desks were for the primer and first grade students. The very smallest individual wooden desks were in a row nearest the line of tall, glowing windows. I quickly found one in a location I liked, and soon it seemed to me that I had found a new home. And, indeed, I had, because from that first day of school in 1936 until the present, I have found my home-away-from home in classrooms, wherever they have opened welcoming doors to me.

[To be continued: Part 2 of “Lard Pail Lunches and Shared Knowledge”. Note: This story, in modified form, written by Ethelene Dyer Jones, appeared first in Moonshine and Blind Mules edited by Bob Lasley and Sallie Holt. Hickory, NC: Hometown Memories Publishing Co., 2006, pp. 88-91. Used by permission.]

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 27, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Unicoi Turnpike as a “Trail through Time” (Part 2)

Last week’s column presented the Georgia Historical Marker wording on the Unicoi Turnpike and gave a brief account of some of the importance of this road to the history of the area. It looked forward to November 12, 2011 when the Unicoi Turnpike Day will be held by the Towns County Historical Society, with an opportunity to hike along a portion of the old trail from the Unicoi Gap parking lot north of Helen and South of Hiawassee.

This important “Trail Through Time” has figured prominently in the history of the mountainous regions of North Georgia, western North Carolina, and eastern Tennessee. Let’s pursue some more highlights of this significant history.

In 1999, the section of the Unicoi Turnpike that stretches between Vonore, Tennessee and Murphy, North Carolina was designated as one of sixteen National Millennium Flagship Trails by the United States government. Reading the speech made by Mr. Brett Riggs, archaeologist, for the September 9, 2000 dedication service at the Sequoyah Museum Pow Wow, I found a rich store of information about the Unicoi Turnpike and its significance to history. I merely highlight here some of the dates and events of this Trail through Time.

Mr. Riggs told that the first Europeans to travel the Indian trail from Charleston, South Carolina to the Cherokee Overhill towns of Tellico, Chota and Tenasi in Tennessee—going through mountainous regions of what later became portions of four states, South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee—were English traders with the names of Alexander Long, Cornelius Dogherty, Robert Bunning, and James Douglas. This history dates to 1690 when these men used pack animals to traverse the “Great Warpath” Trail and trade with the Indians.

Ten years later, by 1700, French traders had joined to ply their trade, coming from the New Orleans area, getting on this northern mountainous route, and finding the profitable business in furs and other items of trade from the Overhill Indians.

By 1730, Alexander Cumming, an English Trader was dealing with the Indians. In a well-researched book by William Steele, he tells of Cumming having designated the Cherokee Chieftain, Moytoy of the Tellico, TN area as “Emperor of the Cherokee.” Cumming took seven warriors back to England with him , among whom was the famous warrior Attaculla, or “Little Carpenter.” This “Empire” designated by the trader Cumming lasted until another trader in 1736, named Christian Gottlieb Priber, still designating Chief Moytoy as leader, made himself Secretary-of-State. Priber’s empire, however, was only five years in duration. He was arrested as a “French spy” and died in prison on the coast of Georgia at Ft. Frederica.

The French and Indian War (1755-1781) was the next large historic event that affected action on the Unicoi Trail. The British built Fort Loudon during this period. An amazing transport of twelve cannon were hauled over the Unicoi Trail, with the loss of only one of the horses that pulled the 300-pound cannon. After the British surrendered Ft. Loudon, the cannon were taken back over the trail to South Carolina.

The next major highlight in Unicoi Trail history was the American Revolution. We will recall from history that the Cherokee sided with the British against the American settlers. Along the Trail, John Sevier invaded Overhill Cherokee villages, coming as far east as Murphy and Andrews in North Carolina. Sevier’s army was surrounded at one time by about 500 Cherokee warriors at Tellico, but amazingly the U. S. troops escaped massacre. A fuller story of this encounter is given in J. G. M. Ramsey’s book, Annals of Tennessee.

Benjamin Hawkins, a US Indian Agent to the Cherokee and Creek tribes, made a journey in 1799 the whole length of the Unicoi Turnpike. His writings and journal have been preserved in what is entitled Letters of Benjamin Hawkins. This valuable account is in collections of the Georgia Historical Society (Volume IX, pages 110-113). His naming important landmarks along the trail and giving the time it took him to walk from point to point which he indicated has proved valuable in understanding the geography and lay-of-land of this ancient route.

We learned from last week’s account that a group of Whites and Cherokees joined to form the Unicoi (or Unaka) Turnpike Road (1813 and following). Improvements on the old trail enabled better travel conditions. The turnpike became a boon to agricultural production and marketing, trading, and even transport of settlers as they moved into mountainous regions to claim land and begin a new and brave way of life.

Then came the Gold Rush. Gold was discovered on Coker Creek in Tennessee in 1827 and at Duke’s Creek in upper Georgia in 1828. When the Cherokee were forced to give up all claims to their traditional homeland by the Treaty of New Echota in 1836, the plans for evacuation of the Indians began in earnest. We all know too well the Trail of Tears and the loss of many Indians along this route of exposure, illness and death. Unfortunately, many of the Cherokee were forcefully moved over portions of the Unicoi Trail from temporary stockades where they had been gathered. We have stories of how they mournfully waved farewell to their mountain homes.

The Civil War, too, 1862-1865, provided all-too-bloody tales along this “Trail in Time.” The hollows and mountainous hiding areas provided cover for guerilla bands and outlaws who marauded, stole and killed. Following the war, the Trail was still the scene of intrigue and high adventure. Many stories abound of how history has occurred along the trail.

Now an effort is under way to continue marking more portions of the trail as a “National Millennium Flagship Trail” along the whole mileage from the Tugalo River in Georgia to Bristol, Tn. This “Great Warpath Trail” has many miles and many stories still to be told.

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 20, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Unicoi Turnpike

The Unicoi Turnpike was an old road that played prominently in the early days of settlement of Union and Towns Counties, and, indeed, as a trade route in parts of Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia prior to the settling of the mountain region by whites. The historical marker that designates the road is at GPS reading N 34° 41.209` W 083° 42.616` in White County, Georgia. The message on the marker states:
The Unicoi Turnpike

This road is the Old Unicoi Turnpike, first vehicular route to link East Tennessee, Western North Carolina and North Georgia with the head of navigation on the Savannah River system. Beginning on the Tugalo River, to the east of Toccoa, the road led this way, thence through Unicoi Gap and via Murphy, N. C. to Nine Mile Creek near Maryville, Tenn.

Permission to open the way as a toll road was given by the Cherokees in 1813 to a Company of Indians and white men. Tennessee and Georgia granted charters to the concern. Georgia Historical Marker

Marker @ GHM 154-1R Date: 2003

In recent correspondence with Mr. Carey Waldrip, a history buff (as am I) and member of the Towns County Historical Society, he announced that Saturday, November 12, 2011 has been designated as Unicoi Turnpike Day in Towns County. Plans are to meet at any time between 9:00 and 12:00 noon on that date at the Unicoi Gap Parking Lot (GA Hwy 17/75). Hiking directions will be given for those who wish to walk the remnant of the old Unicoi Turnpike, a rough, sunken road from the Gap that leads for two miles northward into Towns County. Mr. Waldrip warns that people should come prepared for a rugged hike, with good walking shoes, and bright hat and jacket, “because it is hunting season.” Another feature of the Unicoi Turnpike Day will be a lecture beginning at 9:00 a. m. by Dr. Paul Arnold of Young Harris College who will speak on the subject of “Geocaching.” Those who have a hand-held GPS instrument should bring it for the lecture session.

Now to more history on the Unicoi Turnpike: In the September-October, 2008 issue of the Sautee-Nacoochee Community Association Newsletter, some of the history of the Unicoi Turnpike was given. Dr. Tom Lumsden, a resident of the Nacoochee Valley and one who strongly works to preserve history, stated that the Unicoi Turnpike Trail was originated by “engineers with four feet.” Even prior to the Indians’ use of the trail as a footpath, large mammals went from eastern Tennessee to the piedmont and coastal plains of North and South Carolina as they migrated for the winter months and returned along the same route in the spring. Since the trail was already there, cut through the forest by migrating animals, the Indians began to use it as a trade and migratory route as well. The route was seen as useful for trade, and from 1813 through 1817 a company headed by a Mr. Russell Wiley began at Mullin’s Ford on the Tugalo River and began to improve the trail across the top of North Georgia, into western North Carolina proceeding to Murphy, and then northwestward to Vonore, Tennessee on the Little Tennessee River.

With improvements on the turnpike, it was turned into a toll road for freight wagons. From Augusta in Georgia to Knoxville in Tennessee the toll road continued to operate until after the Civil War. Drovers went over the road with hogs, cattle, turkeys and other livestock along the trail. I have heard my grandfather, Francis Jasper Collins, tell of taking a “drove of turkeys” along the Turnpike from Choestoe near Blairsville all the way to Augusta. I could not envision how the drovers managed to keep the turkeys on trail and on task, and often wish I had been old enough when I heard him tell his stories of the turkey drives (and sometimes live cattle and sheep) to ask about particulars. I do remember his saying that the turkeys roosted in trees at night as the horses and men camped beneath them. Then early in the morning the turkeys would be fed from corn in the wagons and started on the next trek of the long journey. Also, at places along the Unicoi Turnpike were inns and rest stops, places where the men could get cooked meals and spend the night. These were sometimes at about fifteen-mile intervals. But not all the trail from Tennessee through North Carolina and Georgia had the convenience of inns for rest stops.

The Unicoi Turnpike Trail was more than just a path. It became the thoroughfare over which our ancestors moved from South or North Carolina into North Georgia, many arriving before the Cherokee were ousted from the mountain lands. People, events, and places along the ancient trail are a part of our history.

If you should plan to attend the Unicoi Turnpike Day on November 12, 2011, and walk a portion of the still discernible trail, you will be treading on ground almost sacred to the memory of a hardy people seeking a better way of life. Next week we will examine some more history of the Unicoi Turnpike—a “trail through time.”

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 13, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Repeated Given Names Often Confuse Genealogy Searchers ~ Or: Which Person Do You Mean?

This week I’ve spent time back-tracking to an article I wrote for this column on June 2, 2005 about John Little Ingram’s family. He was my great, great grandfather who was born in 1788 in South Carolina, died in 1866 in Union County, Georgia, married three times, and had a total of twenty-one children, nine by his first wife Mary “Polly” Cagle, ten by his second wife, Cynthia Kittle, and two by his third wife, Catherine Cameron.

A question and additional research came about the tenth child by John Little Ingram’s second wife, Cynthia Kittle. This child was named Martin Ingram, born in 1844 and, according to Watson B. Dyer in his family history book, died in Jackson, Mississippi in 1863 during the Civil War.

A very fine genealogy researcher, Dr. Charles Ingram, read my article online at the GaGenWebProject and saw the name Martin Ingram. He immediately thought that the birth and death dates were wrong, because his ancestor by the same name, Martin Ingram, he had documented well. He knew that his particular Martin was born December 26, 1816 and died November 13, 1891 and was buried at the Four Mile Cemetery, Pickens County, Georgia—not in far away Mississippi during the Civil War.

One of the difficulties seemed to revolve around the name of the wife listed for each of the Martin Ingrams. Both were listed as marrying a Rebecca Bozeman, and to further confuse, Rebecca had a nickname, Beedee or Becky. Now is that coincidence, or an error in listing? Dr. Charles Ingram has a family Bible showing his 1816 Martin Ingram married Rebecca (Beede/Becky) Bozeman on November 24, 1842 in Cherokee County, Georgia. He also has authentication from Cherokee County marriage Book A, page 46, a listing for the marriage of Martin Ingram and Beedy Bozeman.

The only record I’ve found for the 1844 Martin Ingram’s marriage to Rebecca Bozeman is a listing on page 408 of Watson B. Dyer’s “Dyer Family History, 1600’s to 1980.” He did not give a source for the marriage record. Maybe the younger Martin Ingram married a cousin by the same name of the wife of his first cousin, 1816 Martin Ingram. I looked in the Union County marriage records and did not find the younger Martin’s marriage listed there. Could this be an error? Perhaps Watson Dyer found a listing for the 1816 Martin Ingram’s marriage, and assumed that the younger Martin married a Bozeman, too. Since the 1844 Martin died young, at age 19, he evidently married young, too, if, indeed, he wed before he went to the Civil War and was killed. I did find a listing of Martin R. Ingram in the 52nd Regiment of the Georgia Infantry Volunteers, Army of Tennessee, Company G. They called themselves “The Alleghany Rangers,” from Union County. They enlisted for six months and their commanding officers were Lewis B. Beard and Julius H. Barclay [Reference: “Sketches of Union County History, Volume 2, 1978, p. 41]

John Little Ingram’s son, Martin, lived only nineteen years, and whether he married before he went away to war (to a Rebecca Bozeman or not?), we do not have a record that he had children.

On the other hand, the Martin Ingram (1816-1891) who is definitely known to have married a Rebecca Bozeman, was the son of Tillman Ingram (1794-?) and Elizabeth “Betsy” Dalrymple Ingram (1799-?). Tillman and John Little Ingram were brothers, so the two Martin Ingrams were first cousins. The 1816 Martin Ingram became a Baptist minister and preached in churches in Cherokee and Pickens Counties, Georgia for more than thirty years. They had eleven children, nine for whom we have names: Isaac N., John H., Samuel T., Nancy E., Hester A., James P., Thomas K., Mary, and Loan. Rev. and Mrs. Martin Ingram were buried at the Four Mile Cemetery, Pickens County, Georgia.

Given names in any family are important. Maybe the babies are named for someone in the family, a grandparent, parent, aunt or uncle, or even going farther back to another ancestor. The fact that brothers give their sons and daughters family names causes confusion at times, because there are multiple people with the same name. That’s how we got confused over the name Martin Ingram. We could say the same of John, Little, Isaac, Tilman and other given names, carried through several generations.

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 6, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pierre Chastain, the Immigrant, and His Continuing Influence Part 4 Learning from the Past – Shaping the Future

Jason Coward Chastain (March 10, 1818 – June 12, 1900) was of the sixth generation from Pierre “The Immigrant” Chastain, a son of John C. Chastain (1791-1880) and Nancy Coward Chastain (1800-1867). John C. Chastain was a son of Edward Brigand Chastain (1769-1834) and Hannah Brown Chastain (1771-ca 1832-37). He was descended from John “Ten Shilling Bell” Chastain, Pierre Chastain, Jr. and Pierre “The Immigrant” Chastain.

Jason Coward Chastain was born in Jackson County near Sylva, North Carolina. He went to the area along the Toccoa River in Upper Dial Community of then Union County (in 1854 this area became part of Fannin) and bought land and built his first cabin there. He returned to North Carolina where he married Mary “Polly” Rogers on Christmas Eve in 1840. They moved by covered wagon, bringing boxwoods with them to transplant at their new home. Her father gave Mary Rogers Chastain a slave named Isom to assist with the farm work. Jason and Mary had eight children, seven daughters and one son. As they prospered, Jason added to his holdings and buildings. He later built a fine ten-room plantation-type home which is still intact today.

Noting that Isom seemed depressed, his master found that it was because he had to leave his beloved named Leah behind in North Carolina. Jason went back, purchased Leah, the slave, and presented her to Isom for his wife. Jason and Mary provided well for them and treated them kindly. A story has been passed down about Mary baking fresh yeast bread and giving Leah’s children bread spread with butter and honey as they sat on her back porch steps. When the emancipation proclamation came, they wanted to remain at the Chastain farm because they had been so kindly treated. The black families did all eventually leave the Chastains and returned to North Carolina, but in 1896 some of Isom and Leah’s children visited Mary once again before her death.

One day a lamb was missing from Jason’s flock. A son-in-law felt he could find out where the lamb had gone. Suspecting Isom and Leah of stealing and killing the lamb for their dinner, Taylor Stephens slipped to their cabin and looked in at their window, expecting to see roast lamb on the table. Instead, he saw Leah, Isom and their children bowed in prayer and heard Isom praying for “Old Mastuh Jason and Ole Missey Mary, and bless Mr. Taylor and pretty Miss Mary, too.” No lamb was on the table, only the simplest fare. But in the hearts of the couple was gratitude for their blessings and prayers for their owner’s family. About three days later the lamb wandered back onto the farm.

Jason Chastain had a large farm, kept a store, had sheep and cattle, and was involved in church and community activities. A family cemetery on the hill back of his house has his monument bearing this epitaph: “I have been a soldier for the right.” In addition, these words are inscribed on his stone:

“Dear friends and neighbors,
Come one, come all and see
Where the old man lies.
Then, dear children,
When you die
Be placed here by me
On this hill
Which God has formed.
So, on the Resurrection morn
We may rise in unison
And join that blood-washed throng
And abide throughout the cycles of eternity
In that clime of eternal bliss.
So mote it be. Amen.
Indeed, in remembering several in the Chastain generations, we agree with Longfellow:

“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.”
Yes, the face of these mountains of Appalachia from Virginia where Pierre “The Immigrant” Chastain and his family settled, to these hills of North Georgia, he and his people have left giant footprints in the sands of time. As Union County poet Byron Herbert Reece wrote in his poem, “Choestoe”:

Yes, sprung from the hard earth,
Nurtured by hard labor,
We know the names that built the fallen dwellings
Going to ruin in old dooryard orchards.

There is peace here, quiet and unhurried living,
Something to wonder at in aged faces.
These are not all I mean, but symbols for it,
A thing, if one but has the spirit for it,
Better, I say, than many rabbits dancing.
(published in “The Prairie Schooner, Spring, 1944)
We have become cosmopolitan in the mountains. With our increasing population and changing culture, we should come to appreciate even more our legacy from hardy pioneers who carved out farms and built homes in a mountain wilderness. We laud their efforts to endow us with a sound work ethic and keen sense of responsibility for our environment, our family values, our religious ideals. With economic instability and political unrest, we need especially to learn from the past as we face the future. We need time to consider whence we have come and where we are going. I invite you, as does our mountain poet, Byron Herbert Reece, to take time apart and, as he says in this poem:

In the Far Dark Woods Go Roving

Whenever the heart’s in trouble
Caught in the snare of the years,
And the sum of the tears is double
The amount of youthful tears,

In the far dark woods go roving
And find there to match your mood
A kindred spirit moving
Where the wild winds blow in the wood.
-Byron Herbert Reece
from Bow Down in Jericho, 1950
c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 29, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.