Thursday, February 23, 2012

Appalachian Values and Some People Who Exemplify Them

Senior scholar, Loyal Jones, a native of nearby Cherokee County, North Carolina, and for many years director of Appalachian Studies at Berea College, Kentucky, wrote an essay on “Appalachian Values” first published in Twigs in 1973. His intention when he first wrote the essay was to dispel the misconceptions often held about people of the Appalachian mountain region. Betty Payne James ofDisputanta, Kentucky, suggested to Mr. Jones that his essay be made into a book with pertinent photographs. The word artistry and depth of thinking from “Appalachian Values” of Loyal Jones were combined with excellent black-and-white photographs by prize-winning photographer Warren Brunner of Berea, Kentucky to make a book published by the Jesse Stuart Foundation of Ashland, Kentucky in 1994. If you have not yet read this provocative book, I recommend that you find a copy at your library—or better still—purchase your own copy, because you will want to refer to it again and again.

It occurred to me, while thinking about a worthy subject on which to write for his column, that it would be appropriate to name the values Loyal Jones calls to our attention and think of persons within Union County, Georgia, past and present, who exemplify the values worthy of emulation. I thank Loyal Jones for such a thought-provoking book. I give him deserved credit for calling to our attention the characteristics and values held dear and lived out by our ancestors. And Warren Brenner’s excellent photographs brought to my own mind persons and places with whom I am acquainted that fit so well the values Loyal Jones enumerates. I only wish I had photographs to illustrate this article that carry the same sense and depth that those in Appalachian Values convey. I ask my readers, therefore, to think of persons you know, and make a “mountain pictorial” of them as you read about these values, still alive and well in the coves, valleys and hillsides of our beloved Appalachian region.

Loyal Jones sets the stage for Appalachian Values by devoting a chapter to the early settlers to the region and their origins. Many Scots-Irish, German, English and Welsh people came to America and eventually found their way to our Appalachian wilderness and mountains, an ideal place with plenty of wild game, land for clearing and farming, and isolation that afforded them the seclusion they desired, “away from ‘powers and principalities’” (p. 24) that would rob them of their desire for freedom. “They came for many reasons, but always for new opportunity and freedom—freedom from religious, political, and economic restraints, and freedom to do much as they pleased. The pattern of their settlement shows that they were seeking land and solitude.” (p. 29)

Here we have but to do a roll-call of people who were listed on the 1834 (first) Union County census. Which from that list of 147 heads-of-households enumerated in 1834 are your ancestors? They fall into Loyal Jones’s category of people with European ancestry that came seeking freedom and independence. We salute them all.

Religon is one of the values cited by Loyal Jones. “Mountain people are religious…we are religious in the sense that most of our values and the meaning we find in life spring from the Bible. To understand mountaineers, one must understand our religion” (p. 39). I thought of the Rev. Milford G. Hamby (1833-1911), who became a Methodist Circuit Rider in 1852. As a minister in the North Georgia Conference, he often filled as many as twenty-nine appointments for preaching per month. He married Eleanor Hughes on May 9, 1850. She was the daughter of the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes. Her father was also a faithful minister in Union and nearby counties in the early settlement days. Eleanor’s grandfather, the Rev. Francis Bird, was likewise a minister. A brother-in-law to Rev. Hamby was the Rev. John Wesley Twiggs (1846-1917) who married Eleanor Hughes Hamby’s sister, Sarah Elizabeth Hughes. Rev. Twiggs was a noted minister, school teacher and farmer. These early ministers in the county did much to set a pattern of religious practice. Rev. G. W. Duval, writing in his eulogy of Rev. Milford Hamby in the 1911 Conference Journal of the North Georgia Conference Methodist Episcopal Church South (pp. 80-81) said of him: “He conferred not with flesh and blood but was obedient to the heavenly vision…He made the Bible the man of his counsel, the guide of his young life. His library was not extensive. He made his sermons from the revelation of God’s love to man.” Here I have briefly cited only three of the early ministers in the county; there were many more, both then and since. Oftentimes laboring under great hardships and certainly without much monetary remuneration for their labors, they planted the gospel in hard-to-reach places as itinerant preachers and religious and educational leaders.

Mr. Loyal Jones combines three of our Appalachian Values in chapter three, perhaps because the three are so inter-related and so vital a part of the fabric of our mountain people’s lives. These are independence, self-reliance and pride.

He quotes John C. Campbell (for whom Campbell Folk School is named) by saying in the mountains “independence is raised to the fourth power” (p. 52)—meaning we have an exceeding strong spirit of independence. I think of John Thomas, chosen to be the first representative from Union County in 1832 to the state legislature. When a name for the new county was being considered, he said, “Name it Union, for none but union-like men resides in it” (The Heritage of Union County, 1944, p. 1). Although our ancestors were patriotic and supporting of our nation, their geographic isolation and dependability on local resources bred independence. Several of the early-settler men had seen service in the American Revolution and desired independence from tyranny and outside rule. The lay of the land to be tamed and a living to be made from the wilderness inspired an independent spirit.

Closely tied to that spirit of independence is self-reliance. I think of my own ancestors, the Collins, Dyer, Souther, Hunter, Nix, Ingram, England and other settlers who began productive farms, established churches, set up mills, began schools, were elected to government positions—all showed the spirit of self-reliance. True, our ancestors sometimes over-did the self-reliant bent and depleted the land and its resources, like cutting timber and not allowing it to be replenished, before they learned to be conservators. Not all qualities of self-reliance are applaudable.

Then pride is a part of our values; not the puffed-up, vain, egotistical, arrogant, “better-than-thou” kind, but a sense of self-esteem and self-respect for a job well done. I think of my Aunts Avery and Ethel Collins who fashioned many quilts, woven coverlets, and other handcrafted items, entering them into the Southeastern Fair in Atlanta, Georgia and consistently winning blue ribbons. Dr. John Burrison and his crew of historical preservation people from Georgia State University filmed my Aunt Ethel before her death as she showed many of the items that had won acclaim. Never did she seek accolades for her work, but it was worthy of notice and was recorded in a documentary entitled “The Unclouded Day.” She and Aunt Avery had pride in their work, and rightly so. As Loyal Jones notes: “The value of independence and self-reliance, and our pride, is often stronger than desire or need” (p. 68).

In my next column, I will explore more of Loyal Jones’s listing of Appalachian Values. Dr. Stephenson asks this question in the introduction: “Who really knows Appalachia?” (p. 9, 11). This is a probative question. Even though I was born and reared in that area of America, and have experienced all the values named by Mr. Jones, I realize that we only begin to scratch the surface of the complexity and depth of a people whose characteristics, as he writes, represent “the core elements of regional culture, the bones upon which the flesh of a people is layered” (p. 10).

[Resource: Jones, Loyal. Appalachian Values.Photography by Warren E. Brunner, with an Introduction by John B. Stephenson. Ashland, Ky: Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1994.]

c2012 by Ethelene Dyer Jones.Published February 23, 2012 online by permission of the author at the GaGenWebProject. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Singing in the Cotton Mills or Mountain Music from the Sweat Factories

In these parts, Union, Towns, Fannin and surrounding counties in North Georgia and also in nearby Tennessee and North Carolina, we like what we call “country music.” During the Great Depression era and even prior to that economic downfall in America, many people had to leave their farms and seek employment elsewhere. Many went to towns where cotton mills operated, offering jobs for men, women and children at very low wages. The employment provided enough to keep food on the table, if they could find food to buy, a shelter of sorts over their heads, and clothing on their backs. Out of this sad time came much “country music,” for those with the abilities to play guitar, banjo, fiddle, “French” harp and autoharp and sing their plaintive, sad folk songs brought about what has been called “Singing in the Cotton Mills.”

Recently I came across and read a delightful book about how our mountain folk music was preserved by those with a will to be happy despite circumstances. Patrick Huber has written/compiled a book chronicling the history of country music. It tells of those who got their start as music artisans as they worked in cotton mills of the Piedmont South. The title is Linthead Stomp: The Creation of Country Music in the South.

Huber devotes a chapter to Fiddlin’ John Carson (1868-1949) who, some biographers say, was born in Fannin County, Georgia. Carson described himself on one of his Okeh recordings in 1929: “I’m the best fiddler that ever jerked the hairs of a horse’s tail across the belly of a cat.”

Life was not easy for cotton mill workers in the era covered by the “Linthead Stomp” book, 1923-1942. Many left farms that had been their way of life for a long time and sought work in the cotton mills. Many with musical inclinations took with them their ability to play the fiddle, a guitar or a banjo, and their plaintive voices that sang the ballad-type songs they had heard all their lives.

Others, with a talent for writing rhyme, composed new ballads about the life they had left for hard work in the cotton mills. In John Carson’s case, he wrote a song about a newsworthy event, the murder of a young girl in Atlanta in April, 1913.

John Carson wrote “Little Mary Phagan” about the murder trial of Mary Phagan, a thirteen-year old pencil factory worker who was murdered and her body buried in the basement of the factory. Leo Frank, manager and part-owner of the factory, was accused of the murder and a notorious trial ensued. While he was in prison serving a life sentence, a group calling themselves “Knights of Mary Phagan” stole Frank out of prison and hanged him.

Fiddlin’ John Carson wrote his song about Mary Phagan in 1915 and sang it from the steps of the Georgia State Capitol to a crowd gathered to hear. In 1925, his daughter, Rosa Lee Carson, who was his guitar player and did duets with her father, sang the Phagan song and it was recorded. Those interested may access U-Tube clips of many of the John Carson songs as well as this ballad sung by his daughter.

John Carson and a fellow musician, Ed Kincaid, another Fannin County native, who was a member of Carson’s Virginia Reelers Band, often did concerts together. Both appeared at the annual Georgia “Old Time Fiddler’s Convention” at which entrants were judged for their playing ability. In 1913, John Carson entered the competition for the first time and was named to fourth place that year. However, with more practice and much determination, Fiddlin’ John Carson was named first place winner seven times from the years 1914-1922. Both Carson and Kincaid worked at the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills in Atlanta. Their work at the mills and association through their music and recordings gave them the distinction of being included in the Huber compilation, Linthead Stomp.

For the country music lover, especially of the more vintage (old-fashioned) type, Huber has included valuable information in appendices in his book. Appendix A is a directory of southern textile workers who made hillbilly recordings between 1923-1942. And Appendix B lists the discography of recordings of these artists during the same time period.

Many of the old records have been re-recorded and are now available on disk. Johnny Carter of Rome, Georgia, who has Union County roots (his grandfather was Frank Dyer of Choestoe, who was a noted “shaped note” music teacher of the twentieth century, and inducted a few years ago into the Union County Gospel Music Hall of Fame) has the National Recording Studio in Rome. We commend Johnny Carter for this mission. You can read about him and his recording studio by going online to National Recording Corporation (NaReCo). He is not included in Linthead Stomp because he is after that era; but he is saving some of the recordings of the era Huber writes about.

In looking through Huber’s appendix on recording artists, not only did I read about John Carson and his daughter, Rosa Lee, nicknamed “Moonshine Kate,” and Ed Kincaid, all of whom were partners in recording on the Okeh records, with Carson’s first being made in 1923, but I also found the listing of Hazel Cole who was born in Fannin County. She left Fannin County to go to Rome, Georgia to work in a textile mill there. She met her future husband at the mill, Henry W. Grady Cole from LaFayette, Georgia. Since both liked to sing and play, they formed the “Grady and Hazel Cole Duo.” During 1939 and 1940, Hazel and Grady recorded twelve sides on RCA and Victor recording labels. Huber gives a total of twenty-five natives of areas of North Georgia who contributed significantly to this particular era of country music. I don’t know if any he lists were from Union County, as he did not know or did not give their birth counties, except for a few of them. Noted in his listings are three with the last name of Chumbler who have North Georgia ties: George Elmo (1907-1956), Irene (1913-?) and William Archer (1902-1937) who often recorded as the Chumbler Family and also with “Jim King and His Brown Mules” as well as with “Hoke Rice and His Southern String Band.”

With the Great Depression and its financial woes, a very real challenge to cotton mill workers (as well as almost everyone) during a major portion of the period covered by Huber’s history of country music in Linthead Stomp, there’s a heartening note to think that they might have been singing in the cotton mills as they operated the looms or made garments and worked hard to make their production quotas. The tone of much of the music they produced matched the depressed times, sad and plaintive, longing for better times, and remembering why they had to leave their farm homes in the first place.

Carson’s “The Little Old Log Cabin inthe Lane” touched on that very nostalgic theme. But then, on their time off, the fiddlers could play at barn dances and community gatherings, providing music for weekend parties and get-togethers where they might share food they’d bring for the best meal their means could provide. They sang their blues away by singing sad songs and dancing. They were grateful for work, whatever it was, and singing in the cotton mills was better far than crying, even though their songs were often melancholy. Their music and their expressed pathos make up part of the fabric of America and the hard times they lived through.

c2012 by Ethelene Dyer Jones. Published February 16, 2012 online by permission of the author at GaGenWebProject. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tracing the Souther Genertions ~ Those Who Remained Behind in North Carolina: Jesse Souther’s Will and His Children

I ended last week’s article by promising a look at the will of Jesse Souther (1784-1858), whose children Joseph, John Jesse, Kizziah Souther Humphries, Jesse and Hix moved to Union County, Georgia in the mid-1830’s. What about their father and other children who remained in North Carolina? His will reads:

Fall Term 1858
State of North Carolina

This the twenty-second day of December, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty-Seven

McDowell County

I, Jesse Souther, of the county and state aforesaid, Being of sound mind and Memory, Thanks to God for His mercy, do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament in manner and form as follows:

First of all, I will my soul to God who first gave it to me. Then I will that my just debts be punctually paid with all burial expenses first.

Then I will to my son James Souther to have all the notes I hold against him together with all the notes and judgements where I am security for him.

I do will to my three daughters to wit: Nancy and Lucinda and Rosa J. Hogan all my perishable property, only Rosa J. Hogan to pay Nancy and Lucinda thirty dollars out of her part of the property.

Further, I will that Lydia Jane Justice have one cow and calf, one bed and furniture. I further will that Hix Souther’s three children, to wit: Catherine Saphronia, Jesse William, and John Jefferson have thirty dollars each when they arrive at the age of twenty-one, to be paid out of my perishable property.

I also will to Jesse Souther and Nancy and Noah and Lucinda Souther and Rosa J. Hogan all my lands to be equally divided between the five above-named.

Further, that my daughter Mary Elliott is to have one hundred dollars out of my estate.

Also, my daughter Kizziah Humphrey to have thirty dollars to be paid out of my estate.

All the above property to be paid over to my Executor and also applied my two sons Jesse Souther and Noah Souther Executors to this my last will and testament.

I set my hand and seal in the presence of:
Jesse (X) Souther, Seal
John Ross, Juratt
John P. Fortune, Juratt Court of pleas, Quarter Session, Fall Term, 1858.

The foregoing Will and Testament was presented
To open court for probation in due execution.
These were proven in solemn form by the oath of
John P. Fortune and John Ross, Executors.

Subscribing openly these and ordered to be recorded and registered together with the certificate. J. M. Finley, Clerk

Some observations about the will of Jesse Souther will be made while listing his known fourteen children:

1. Joseph Souther (1802-died in Stone County, Missouri, married Sarah Davis.
2. John Jesse Souther (1803-1889) married Mary Combs. He died in Union County, Georgia. He is not mentioned in his father’s will; could he have given John his inheritance before he moved to
3. Mary Souther (1805-?) married an Elliott; she was mentioned in her father’s wil to receive $100. Had he given her property already at the time of her marriage? Or perhaps at that time that amount of money was equal to several acres of land.
4. Elizabeth Souther (1805), is believed to have died young; she is not listed in her father’s will.
5. James Souther (1809-?) married a Logan. According to the will, James owed his father money, and therefore his inheritance was the money he had not repaid. Two of James’s sons, James Logan and John “Rink” Souther moved to Union County, Georgia, married there, then moved to St. Charles Mesa, Pueblo, Colorado.
6. Kizziah Souther (1811-?) married John Humphries. They moved to Union County, Georgia between 1840 and 1850. They had thirteen children and lived awhile in Blount County, TN. Kizziah died in Cherokee County, NC. See their story in a separate “Through Mountain Mists” article.
7. Jesse Souther (1830-1869) moved to Union County, Georgia and established the Souther Mill in Choestoe. He married Malinda Nix (1829-1894), daughter of William Nix and Susannah Stonecypher Nix. They had eight children. Their stories are traced in previous “Through Mountain Mists” articles. Note that Jesse Souther (the elder) appointed son Jesse and son Noah to be Executors of his will. His second son (my great, great grandfather) was named John Jesse. It was not unusual in those days for two children to have one of the names of their father or their mother.
8. Hix Souther (1815-1840?) married Caroline Burgess. They, too, settled in Union County, Georgia. Hix died, leaving a wife and three children. Notice that Jesse Souther was thinking of his three minor grandchildren, Hix’s children, and gave them $30 each. Later, Caroline married Roland (or Rollin) Wimpey. Their story is in a previous “Through Mountain Mists” article.
9. Martha Souther (1817-?),
10. Nancy Souther (1818-?) and
11. Sarah Souther (1820) never married and continued to live in the old Souther homeplace in North Carolina. Nancy was the only one of these three mentioned in Jesse’s will. Martha and Sarah had perhaps died before 1858, the date of the will.
12. Noah Souther (1821-1883) married Sarah Gilliam, a daughter of Maynard Gilliam. In the will, he was to receive land, which was to be equally divided between Noah, Jesse, Nancy, Lucinda and Rosa J. Souther Hogan. He also was named one of the executors.
13. Lucinda Souther (1824-1875) never married. She, too, continued to live in McDowell County. She received equal parts of Jesse’s lands with sisters Nancy and Rosa and brothers Jesse and Noah.
14. Rose Jane Souther (1828-?) married William C. Hogan. I have no record of her family. She received a five-way division of Jesse’s land with two sisters and two brothers.
Who was Lydia Jane Justice mentioned in the will as receiving a cow and calf, a bed and furniture? Was she a married granddaughter, or was she someone who lived with and took care of Jesse Souther after his wife Jane Combs died? Were the heirs of Jesse Souther pleased with his distribution of property or were some offended and complained? Family records available do not show this aspect of his descendants’ reactions.

[Resource: Dyer, Watson Benjamin. Souther Family History. Self-published. 1988. Pp. 52-53.]

cFebruary 9, 2012 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published online by permission of author at GaGenWebProject All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tracing the Souther Generations ~ Some Who Stayed Behind in NC

I have written much in these pages about five siblings who came to Georgia in the 1830s and settled in Union County, Georgia, at least for awhile until two of them (Joseph and Kizziah) moved on elsewhere. These were sons and a daughter of Jesse Souther (1784-1858) and Jane Combs Souther (1782-d. before 1858), namely Joseph Souther (wife Sarah Davis), John Jesse Souther (wife Mary Combs), Kizziah Souther (husband John Humphries), Jesse Souther (wife Malinda Nix), and Hix Souther (wife Malinda Burgess). If you desire to review information on any of these five siblings, please refer to their stories in past articles in this “Through Mountain Mists” series. We now begin with a series on those in this Souther family who remained behind in North Carolina or who moved elsewhere other than Union County, Georgia. It is this writer’s hope that you will find this further information about the Jesse Souther family of interest.

Jesse Souther was born on June 6, 1784, only eight years after America declared its independence from England. He was a son of Stephen Souther (1742-ca 1780) and Mary Bussey Souther (ca. 1745-after 1790). Family legend holds strongly to the story that Stephen Souther enlisted with the soldiers from Wilkes County, North Carolina who were launching an attack against the British and Tories at the famous Battle of King’s Mountain. However, either due to a wound or from some other calamity, Stephen Souther developed a severe nosebleed (he was believed to be a hemophiliac) on the way to or in the battle and bled to death. Descendants of Stephen Souther (of whom I am one) have done much research to try to certify his Revolutionary War service, but we have not been able to go beyond the story passed down in our family concerning his joining the Wilkes County soldiers. No trace of his service has been clearly documented. However, Mary Bussey Souther was living on a 200-acre land grant which seems to have been given to Stephen Souther and recorded first in 1778, and again in 1782 (after Stephen’s death). Could this have been a grant for his Revolutionary War service? The description of the land in each entry (# 234, July 4, 1778 and # 482, October 23, 1782, Wilkes County records) were the same, reading: “Grant Stephen Souther 200 acres both sides Hunting Creek above William Carnes improvement…between Souther and Osborne Keeling.” With no proof of ancestor Stephen Souther’s enlistment in the Revolutionary Army, we who would like to claim him as a patriot have not been able to prove his service registration.

Mary Bussey Souther seemed to be a good wife and mother. Stories come to us of her having driven an ox cart herself, after her husband Stephen’s death, “to the west” (probably to settlements in Kentucky or Tennessee on the frontier) to visit her relatives, and the report was that “she was gone a long time.” She and Stephen had these known children: Michael (1760) who married Elinor (maiden name unknown) who lived in Buncombe County, NC; Elizabeth (1765) who married Alexander Gilreath; Jesse Souther (1774) who married Jane Combs [her name is also given as Joan in some records] and reared their family in Wilkes County, NC near Old Fort, with five of them migrating to Union County, Georgia and the others remaining in NC; Joshua Souther (1777 ?) who married Libby Profitt; he served in the War of 1812; Joel Souther (17?) married Patsy Brown; and Sarah Souther (17?) married Elijah Hampton. In the 1782 tax list of Wilkes County, Mary (Bussey) Souther was listed as head-of-household. In the 1790 census, she was again listed as head-of-household with two males under sixteen, two males over 16, and 3 females. It is not known if some of these were Mary’s married children and grandchildren. Stephen Souther may have died intestate, since no will is listed signed by him in Wilkes Court records.

Stephen’s son, Jesse Souther, is the ancestor whom we want to trace. Since we know that his children Joseph, John, Kizziah, Jesse, and Hix migrated to Union County, Georgia, and since these “Mountain Mists” articles have traced those stories, we will concentrate on those who remained behind in North Carolina. Jesse Souther’s will probated in 1858 gives insights into how he distributed his property.

Our next entry will examine his will and some of his children who remained in North Carolina.

[Resource: Dyer, Watson Benjamin. Souther Family History, Self-published, 1988. Pp. 45-60]

cFebruary 1, 2012 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published online by permission of author at
GaGenWebProject All rights reserved.