Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Is... A Trail of Miracles through Unbelievable Circumstances (or the Malac-Bartak Story)

Since this is my last column for 2011 in this paper, I want to thank my faithful readers for staying with me yet another year. I have written about many “first settlers” to our county, going back to study the 1834, 1840 and 1850 census records to trace several of the brave people who hazarded the unknown to settle in the new and burgeoning county of Union. If you missed any of these stories and have any interest in them, you may go online to GaGenWebProject, click on Union County, and when the general index emerges, click on “Through Mountain Mists.” There you will find a complete listing by title of my columns since I began writing for “The Union Sentinel” in July, 2003. Can it be it has been over eight years I have followed this challenging and satisfying pursuit of telling the stories of our brave ancestors and true stories of this section of our beautiful world?

But today’s column will take a different turn. It is a true story, coming at a pivotal time in the year here at Christmastime. I recently received a most wonderful Christmas gift, a copy of Barry Forrest Malac’s book of remembrances entitled “Through the Mountains, Valleys and Gloom…But Never Alone.” Barry and Marian Bartak Malac are fairly recent newcomers as residents of Union County, coming in 1986 to begin their Union County home, and moving here to live in 1989 after Barry’s retirement. Mainly his story, but interspersed with how he met Marian in his native Czechoslovakia, and how their lives became intertwined as husband and wife, reads like a novel. The reviewer, writer Arlene M. Gray of “An Ordinary Life…” rightly states of Barry’s book: “The reader has no choice but not to put the book down until the end is reached.” And with her evaluation I heartily agree; with many Christmas preparation jobs calling for my time, I could not leave Barry’s book alone until I had finished the last chapter. His is a marvelous story of faith and adventure, trust and persistence, following God’s leadership and acting on opportunities, many through grave dangers and escaping Communism That is why I entitle this review of Barry Malac’s book, “Christmas Is…A Trail of Miracles through Unbelievable Circumstances.” I recommend to my readers that you find a copy of his book and read it. It will inspire you, uplift you and make you know that miracles still occur in the lives of people who sincerely seek to follow the Lord who came to earth at Christmastime.

Born in Vienna, Austria on December 12, 1923, the third child of the Rev. Gustav Josef Malac and Antonie Malacova Malac, the new baby lived in the home of his Methodist Episcopal minister father and mother. Later his father would minister in Czechoslovakia where he became pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church South in Bratislava, Slovakia on January 1, 1929, and then on to the area of Prague. Grave days lay ahead, as they would live through the perils of World War II, with Barry (his Americanized name) working at Stalag Erding in Bavaria to assist with keeping German warplanes repaired and in the air. Barry’s story of close encounters of the dangerous kind, his bout in the military, and his college years are one string of miracles after another. Then he saw a picture of the daughter of an American United Methodist minister sent to his country as Superintendent of Methodist Missions. Barry told his mother, when she tried to match him up with a young lady of her choosing, that he planned to marry the girl from America whose picture he saw on the Methodist brochure. And things came about that he was able to do just that.

But even after their wedding, held on Easter Saturday, April 16, 1949, circumstances were not easy for the young couple—she an American citizen in that Czech country with her parents, approved missionaries, and the young Czech who had ambitions of becoming a forester.

He first took steps to escape the strict confines of the communist regime and border patrols. His story is full of suspense, intrigue and danger. She was to follow and they were to meet in Munich, Germany. Timing and getting through tough check-points allow the reader to see aspects of escape and holding securely to dreams. The way Barry Malac gives God credit for opening up the way for both of them and getting them safely to America is a story worthy of any Christmas miracles we can imagine.

Even in America, life was not easy as Marian’s aunt in Texas took them in for a while. Then they decided to move east to Duke University in North Carolina for Barry to get his Master’s degree in Forestry. Then came his first permanent job in Savannah, Georgia as Barry was employed in management with the Union Bag and Paper Corporation. Giving just the barest facts, as I am doing here, of a lifetime of dreams and their fulfillment may not sound very exciting. But believe me, Barry’s narrative style, his ability to remember significant events and how these were turned to good (which he terms miracles) make their true story fascinating reading. His frontispiece uses this quotation from the noted Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live one’s life: one is to live as if everything is a miracle, and the other one is as if nothing is a miracle.” And what have Barry and Marian done throughout their lives together: They see and acknowledge the miracles that have occurred. They know to Whom to give credit, and the Spirit of Christmas is evident throughout their long and eventful lives. Thank you, Barry Malac, for telling your story for us to marvel at and admire.

And since I want to end this column with a Christmas wish for all of you faithful readers, I offer you my 2011 Christmas poem. I hope its lines inspire deep thought about the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas Is…

Christmas is God with us,

Immanuel His name.

In the fullness of time

The Lord Jesus came,

Fulfillment of prophecy

From God’s plan for mankind,

To restore broken kinship

And bring peace of mind

To all who draw near

With faith deep in the heart.

This is the message

That Christmas imparts.

Christmas is Love Incarnate,

The Word made flesh;

A break through the darkness

From the sin that enmeshed

Mankind in bondage

For multitudinous years.

Angels declared the message:

“Rejoice! Have no fears,

For behold we bring you

This message of peace:

Christ is born in Bethlehem,

Now your bondage will cease!”

Think how our gratitude

Should swell up in praise:

Let us serve Christ the Lord

Throughout all of our days!

“Christmas is the day

That holds all time together.”*

Christmas is God-with-us!

No power that bond can sever!

-Ethelene Dyer Jones

Christmas, 2011

(*”Christmas is the day that holds all time together” is a quotation by Alexander Smith.)

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmastime and World War II Recollections

December 7, 1941 was, as then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated in addressing the nation, “a day of infamy.” Those still living who remember that day when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, resulting in the United States declaring war on December 8, indeed remember the times. Our nation was plunged into the war that had already been raging in Europe since 1939. The years from 1941 through 1945 changed our rather peaceful, taken-for-granted way of life in the mountainous region of North Georgia. Even Christmastimes during these years became different.

Upon President Roosevelt’s declaration of war on December 8, 1941, eligible young men began to volunteer and/or were drafted. This meant that the farm workers were cut drastically while at the same time maximum production was needed for the war effort. My brother, Eugene, volunteered for the Army Air Force, as well as did my cousins William Clyde Collins, Sr., and Robert Neal Collins, and many other able-bodied young men we knew. At Choestoe Church, we had an “Honor Roll” of those in service from our congregation, and we earnestly prayed for their safety each time we met to worship.

In the meantime, those of us—much younger though we were—had to grow up and become responsible in assisting with farm labor, like hoeing (which we were taught anyway from a very early age), learning to walk behind a corn planter and guide the mule along the rows, or operate a “cultivator” plow to plow between the rows to keep the weeds down. Maximum crop production was needed for the “war effort,” and it took all hands-aboard, young though we were.

Only ten days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my Grandpa Collins died on December 17, 1941. He had been a stay in the community, out ahead in more modern methods of farming. He had the first “threshing machine” in the area, going from farm to farm to thresh the harvests of grain. He had the first electricity on his farm, from his own Delco system, long before Tennessee Valley Authority got permission to run their power lines into the community. He also had owned the first tractor and tractor-drawn farm implements. Grandpa Francis Jasper “Bud” Collins had a Delco Plant that produced electricity for his house and some of his farm buildings. Because of the passing of this staid citizen of Choestoe so shortly after Pearl Harbor, those of us who loved and respected him so highly thought we had lost our foremost citizen. I, for one, grieved during that time near to Christmas. Never again was his country store as fascinating to me as it had been before his death, even though his son and two of his daughters continued to operate it, and his large farm.

To complicate matters in the Dyer household, my brother Eugene joined the US Army Air Force and as soon as his training was finished shipped out to the European theater of war where he served admirably as a bombardier on many missions over enemy territory. My brother-in-law, Ray Dyer, husband to my older sister Louise Dyer, also entered service. He was sent to the Pacific theater of war. We had two members of our family far away in war. We had two less adult workers for all the farm work. We eagerly awaited any word from them in daily mail, but letters were sometimes infrequent. And then my mother became quite ill with heart complications in the days before miracle drugs and surgery could promise relief from her suffering. She died on Valentine’s Day, December 14, 1945. At the time of her death, my brother Eugene was severely wounded and lying in an Army Field Hospital somewhere in Italy. At age fourteen I transitioned from teenager to adult because I became the main housekeeper, cook, and manager of our household. It was a sad time for the Dyer family, but somehow we kept going, because of our strong spirit of patriotism and derring-do.

What were Christmases like during these years from 1941 through 1945? Recall that rationing became necessary to the war effort. We could only have a “rationed” amount of sugar, other scarce items of “store-bought” supplies, and gasoline and tires were hard to come by. Say that we adjusted. Maybe these scarcities and restrictions were not as hard on farm families as they were on those living in the cities of our country. We still mainly farmed through “mule” power and human effort and had not yet become mechanized on our farm. Our first tractor came after World War II was over. It was amazing the tasty sweets we made using our own home-created product, sorghum syrup. My father, J. Marion Dyer, made hundreds of gallons of sorghum syrup each fall, from his own and other farmers’ crops of cane. We sweetened cookies and gingerbread, dried fruit stack cakes and peanut brittle candy with our country-produced sorghum. These made good sweets for Christmas during the war years.

At school we had all sorts of drives for the war effort: selling savings stamps and bonds; collecting scrap metal for the war effort; rolling bandages in home economics classes. We knew our nation was in a crisis situation and we as patriotic teenagers did what we could to support our troops and to hasten victory. We kept abreast of progress on all fronts. It is a wonder we did not become traumatized for life, having the realities of war and its effects on our families thrust upon us at such an impressionable age. But at least no battles were fought on US home soil. We were spared those atrocities and first-hand observations and fears of war. But we did, on occasions, attend solemn memorials for a few of our young military men who met their deaths in service. Four Christmases came and went. We became older and wiser, more thoughtful and less presumptive because of how the war touched our individual lives and communities.

At the churches in our communities, we had our Christmas programs much as we had done before the war. There were still manger tableaus with shepherds and wise men gathered around. We sang the beloved Christmas carols, trying to sound notes of hope and majesty despite our concerns for the war and beloved from our churches who had gone as servicemen.

Maybe the little paper bags with our goodies—an orange, an apple, some peppermint stick candy and chocolate drops—had less of the goodies than in pre-war years. But those treats were there…and ever, hope was paramount.

And so we weathered the war years, 1941 through 1945. Maybe it is good for us to remember, to think of the sacrifices and triumphs, the determination to make-do. Have we lost some of our spirit of persistence and pride, of patriotism and faith? Christmas is a good time to reflect and recollect…and to set new directions that will lead to victory. We had this spirit in World War II years. Oh, that we could recapture the wonder, the marvel of working together for common purposes! In retrospect, I’m grateful that I “grew up” to adulthood at a young age because of circumstances.

The words of poet John Greenleaf Whittier express well the intention of having the Christmas spirit all the year through:

“Somehow, not only for Christmas

But all the year through,

The joy that you give to others

Is the joy that comes back to you;

And the more you spend in blessing

The poor and lonely and sad,

The more of your heart’s possessing

Returns to make you glad.”

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

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Patterson Families--Early Settlers in Union (part 2)

Last week’s column introduced early settler families in Union County with the last name Patterson. In 1834, four families with Patterson surname numbered 34 persons; in 1840, that number had climbed to ten Patterson households with 55 total; and by 1850, there were eleven Patterson households with a total of 73 persons and one slave.

Continuing with Patterson families, we will look a bit more closely at some of them. We noted that John Patterson was here in 1834. Family information holds that he and his wife Margaret Black came to the area that became Union as early as 1829. Their son, George, also settled along Ivy Log Creek in Union about the same time his father came. In the 1834 census, John’s household had four males and three females, and George’s family also had four males and three females. Both of these had farms along Ivy Log Creek, but George Patterson was also a milliner by trade, making hats from sheep’s wool. George was married twice. His first wife was Rebecca Chastain. After her death, he married Sophia Dunnigan.

One of the sons of George and Rebecca Chastain Patterson was named William Harden Patterson (b. April 10, 1832, d. 1883). He married Elizabeth Akins on November 5, 1853 with Hampton Jones, Justice of the Peace, performing their ceremony. When the Civil War came William Harden Patterson and his younger brother, John, both enlisted in the Confederate Army. They were mustered into Company B, 6th Regiment, of Georgia Volunteers. Both lived through the war.

William Harden Patterson and Elizabeth Akins Patterson had a large family of twelve children: James Alonzo, Sarah Florence, Martha Elizabeth (nicknamed “Jeff” because her father, William Hardin, known as “Bill” was such a staunch supporter of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy), Rebecca Emmaline, Mary M, John Lumpkin, Lewis, twins William Elisha and Joseph Elijah, Vienna Caledonia, Lula L, and George Bunyan.

Bill and Elizabeth’s oldest son, James Alonzo Patterson (Nov. 30, 1855 – 1953), was ordained a Baptist minister. He married Rozella Sparks. Their children were Semon, Howard, Harden, Ellen, Milton, Maude, John, Howell and Elizabeth. Bethlehem Baptist Church in Lower Young Cane District was formed in 1848. Some of the Patterson families attended and were active in that church, and William Harden, Elizabeth, Rev. Alonzo and Rozella and other of the Pattersons were buried in the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery.

Twins of William H. and Elizabeth Patterson, William Elisha and Joseph Elijah, were born September 12, 1871. Elisha Patterson (1871- ?) married Julia Brackett (1875-1933) on July 24, 1895 with Rev. D. A. Sullivan performing their ceremony. I did not find a list of their children. The other twin, William Elisha Patterson, married Nancy Jane Ammons in 1901. They lived in Fannin County near her parents until Nancy’s untimely death with tuberculosis. Elisha farmed and sold fresh produce. They had six children: The first infant died at birth, The other five were Clinton, Nellie, Grace, Earl and Kathryn. On a cold day, December 31, 1917, Elisha Patterson loaded his five small children into a covered wagon and moved them and their household goods from the foot of Aska Mountain in Fannin County back to Young Cane in Union County. Later they moved to Ivy Log and then to Upper Young Cane. Back in Union, some of his relatives helped him with the children while he worked to make a living for them. Elisha Patterson, almost blind in his old age, was killed when he walked into an oncoming automobile in November, 1957. He was interred at Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery.

The Patterson surname is still numerous in Union and other North Georgia counties. The name Patterson derives from the Scottish and Northern English patronymic form, Patrick, shortened sometimes to Pate, hence son of Patrick, son of Pate, and then Patterson. By the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in England, Scotland and Ireland, the name Patterson was common. William Patrison was listed as a “gentleman” in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1446. James Patterson was noted as a Sheriff Deputy in Inverness, Scotland, in 1530. John Patersoune was a Burgess in Northberwyck in 1562. George Patersoune was a monk in the monastery of Culross in 1569. Whether related to the Pattersons who migrated to Union County in 1829, I do not know, but Rev. Hampton William Patterson was born June 18, 1806 in North Carolina and died in Henderson County there February 28, 1880. He was ordained to the ministry by Mountain Creek Baptist Church in Rutherford County, NC in 1834, and was appointed superintendent of public schools there in 1841. Pattersons have been contributing citizens in various aspects of culture, education, politics and ministry.

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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Patterson Families--Early Settlers in Union

With our annual Thanksgiving celebration immediately past we have fond memories of our own family get-togethers, traditional turkey and dressing and other excellent food, and the good times such family events provide for us. We are grateful for such a highlight in our year and mark each as worthwhile and a time to draw together as family.

We don’t know to what extent the early settlers to Union County observed Thanksgiving. Maybe they, too, gathered family members and had a special time of gratitude for blessings and sharing food. I took time to examine the 1834 Union census, and discovered that the surname recorded with the most families with the name living in the county then was Patterson. Four families made up the Patterson population with heads of households listed as Joseph (8 males, 4 females), Amos (5 males, 2 females), John (4 males, 3 females) and George (4 males, 3 females). That count brought the Pattersons living in Union at the time of the first census to 33 persons. Some of the Patterson families settled in the Ivy Log District of Union County along Ivy Log Creek.

The marriages recorded in Union records before the 1840 census were as follows:

Lewis Patterson to Jerushia Denton on December 6, 1836 by J. B. Chastain, Justice of the Peace;

Margaret Patterson to Gravit R. Foster on November 9, 1837 by William Patterson;

Sarah Patterson to William Carroll on December 31, 1838 by A. Chastain, Justice of the Peace;

John Patterson to Sarah Beasley on March 13, 1839 by John B. Chastain, Justice of the Peace.

By the 1840 census, which gives only names of heads-of-households and the number of males and females and their ages by categories of under 5, 5-10, 10-15, 15-20, 20-30, etc. to over 100, we find ten Patterson families listed. The four families resident in Union had remained, Joseph, Amos, John and George, and six more Patterson families with heads of households named William, John, Samuel, Lewis, John (the elder—he and his wife were between 70 and 80), and Bailey. Those in Patterson households numbered a total of 55 for the 1840 population.

Those searching their genealogy are always grateful to come to the 1850 census, for therein they find names of husband, wife, children and any others living in the household when the enumerator visited. There were eleven households of Pattersons in Union in 1850. I list them here as I found them enumerated:

Household #45: William Patterson, 37, born in NC, wife Elizabeth, 32, born in GA, and ten children, all born in Georgia; Mary, 13, Joseph, 12, John, 11, William, 9, Samuel, 7, James, 5, Nancy, 4, Alfred, 3, Manerva, 1, and an infant, gender and name not given, 4 months.

Household # 184: John Patterson, 35, born in NC, Sarah, 29, born in NC and children all born in Georgia: Lidey, 9, Nancy 6, Elizabeth, 4, Andrew, 2, and Nathan, 6 months. These, I think, are the John Patterson and Sarah Beasley married on March 13, 1839

Household # 187: Samuel Patterson, 44, born in NC; Jane, 3 (?) born in TN, Carroll, 17, born in NC, Decator, 15, born in NC, and the remaining children born in Georgia: Amanda, 13, Julius, 11, Mercilla, 9, Nathan, 6, Sarah, 4, Julian, 2, and Samuel, 6 months.

Household # 333: Joseph Patterson, 61, born in SC, wife Agnes, 55, born in SC, children still at home all born in Georgia: Solomon, 24, Mary, 20, Elizabeth, 18, and Melissa, 16. Listed in Joseph’s household is Margaret Patterson, age 83, his mother (?), born in SC, and Ann Patterson, 47, his sister (?) and Sary Durham, 84, born in VA, his mother-in-law (?).

Household # 335: Amos Patterson, 26, born in Georgia, Jane, 24, born in NC, and children Mary, 4, born in GA, James 3, born in NC, and Nancy, 1, born in GA.

Household # 373: John Patterson, 28, born in NC and Mary, 24, born in SC.

Household # 454: John Patterson, 52, born in NC, owns one slave; Sarah, 47, born in SC, and children all born in Georgia: Andrew, 18, Humphrey, 15, John, 11, George, 8, Sarah, 3; and Margaret Patterson, age 83, listed again here in her son John’s household (she was also enumerated in her son Joseph’s household), and Lucinda Hix, 45, born in SC, who probably was a sister of Sarah Patterson, John’s wife.

Household # 455: Joseph Patterson, 25; Mary, 22, both born in Georgia, and children all born in Georgia: George, 5, Sarah, 3, and John, 2 months. A marriage is listed for Joseph Patterson and Polly Hawkins on October 24, 1844 by William Poteet, Justice of the Peace. “Polly” was a common nickname for Mary.

Household # 456: William Patterson, 23, Margaret Patterson, 22, Lucinda 5 and James, 2, all born in Georgia. I do not find a marriage listing for this couple in Union’s records unless the one for W. H. Patterson and Elizabeth Akins on November 5, 1853 by Hampton Jones, Justice of the Peace is the entry, maybe using Margaret’s other name.

Household # 608: George Patterson, age 50, born in North Carolina; no wife listed; children all born in Georgia: William, 19, Elizer, 17, John, 13, Elijah, 11, and Margaret, 6.

Household # 902: James Patterson, 34, born in NC; Easter, 26, born in NC, and children all born in Georgia: Martha, 6, Adaline, 4, Jonathan, 2, and Nathan, 11 months. James Patterson and Easter Nicholson were married in Union on Christmas Day, 1843 by Rev. Abner Chastain.

These 11 households of Pattersons in the 1850 Union census numbered 73 in population, plus one slave, with 38 males, 34 females, and one infant with gender not specified nor name given at age four months.

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