Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Hunter-England House

Drive along Highway 129/19 south from Blairsville about eight miles. On the left, in a narrow field between the road and Nottely River, you can see a very old house, now neglected and leaning as if to give up even the ghosts that may sometimes inhabit its rafters. This house was built by John Hunter on Land Lot # 81 about 1832.

What remains of the old Hunter-England house is a reminder of the sturdy ways of the early settlers. The house may very well be the oldest dwelling still remaining from the 1830s in all of Union County. It was built of poplar logs and once had a roof of riven boards. Over the years, weather-boarding was added over the logs and a corrugted tin roof replaced the roof shingles. But the old chimney still remains, a statement of the workmanship with creek and fieldstone rocks that has stood the test of time.

John Hunter (born about 1775), father of William Johnson Hunter (and other children), migrated to Union County from Buncombe County, NC. He came about 1830. He was one of the citizens living in the county when Union was formed out of the Cherokee lands in 1832. He cut trees, hewed logs and built the first Hunter cabin on the site. Stories passed down in the family hold that the Hunter family had to ward off Indian attacks as best they could while they cut, hewed and erected logs for the cabin.

The Hunter cabin was typical of those built when white settlers first came into the mountains. Over the window openings then were wooden shutters, not windowpanes. Glass windows were added later. The house was built of poplar logs. A root cellar was dug beneath the floor, with a trap-door access from within the cabin. The Hunter family stored root crops such as potatoes and turnips for winter use. Cabbage, too, could be kept in the root cellar, as could apples. The side room, a sort of lean-to, was added later and used as a kitchen.

Two of John Hunter’s sons, Andrew and Jason, were in the Georgia Militia in 1836. They probably participated in the Trail of Tears to move the Cherokees west. Andrew M. went farther abroad with his military service and was killed in the Mexican-American War in February, 1848, at Perote, Mexico.

By 1848, the only child at home with elder John Hunter was his 37-year old single daughter, Martha. John deeded the house and lot to Martha, glad to turn it to someone who would appreciate her ancestral roots and take care of the house. John Hunter died in August, 1848. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Old Salem Cemetery, up the mountain and west about one-fourth mile from the cabin. John had given an acre of land to establish Old Salem Methodist Church. On that acre the church building was erected and a cemetery was started.

John’s daughter, Harriet Hunter, married Daniel England, a brother to Margaret “Peggy” England who had married Harriet’s brother, William Johnson Hunter. Harriet and Daniel had moved back to North Carolina from Choestoe where they lived until 1849. Then they moved back to Choestoe to live with Harriet’s sister, Martha, who was alone in the cabin after her father’s death. This is how the cabin got the name Hunter-England cabin.

Daniel and Harriet England either purchased the cabin and land from Martha, or they inherited it. Four of this couple’s children, John, Martha, Mary and Harriet, were born in North Carolina. The remaining six children were born in Georgia in the Hunter-England cabin. These were Andrew England (1853) who married Nellie Hunter; Thomas England (1855) who married Nancy Jane Townsend; Exton England (1856) who married Eliza Akins; Margaret England (1859) who married Noah Stephens; Polk England (1862) who married Mary Akins; and Emma England (1866?) who married LaFayette Ballew.

As you drive by and see the old house on the east side of Georgia Highway 129, know that a lot of living took place there. The late Charles Roscoe Collins, writing about the house in 1987, said of it: “The old house is truly an ancestral treasure. For more than one hundred and fifty years it has been the focus of the lives and fortunes of many families.”

If its sagging walls and overarching roof could speak, we could hear accounts of many people who made it their home.

c2003 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 11, 2003 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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