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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Monday, February 15, 2010

Souther-Dyer House

“It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home” declared poet Edgar A. Guest. If the roof and walls of the old Souther-Dyer house on Town Creek School Road near New Liberty Church, Choestoe, could speak, quite a story of life and living would unfold.

The house was built in 1850 by John Souther (1803-1889) for his son, John Combs Hayes Souther (1827-1891) who married Nancy Collins (1829-1888) on February 6, 1852, a daughter of Thompson Collins (ca. 1785-1858) and Celia Self Collins (ca. 1787-1880).

Thompson Collins was the first with the Collins last name to settle in the Choestoe District of Union County, coming before the county was formed in 1832. John Souther settled his family there about 1835 or 1836. Both families had migrated from North Carolina in the area of Wilkes and Buncombe Counties, but John Souther had gone to Indiana before finally moving to the North Georgia Mountains where he lived out his life.

John Souther as well as Thompson Collins had large land holdings. John bequeathed 160 acres (land lot # 150) to his son, John Combs Hayes Souther, who went by the name of Jack. It was on some of this land that the log cabin was built with fireplaces and fieldstone chimneys constructed at each end of the house. In the home that Jack and Nancy Collins Souther established, ten children were born, nine of whom reached adulthood.

Their children and spouses were Mary Elizabeth Souther who married Smith Loransey Brown; Celia Souther, named for her grandmother Celia Self Collins, who died at age 16; William Albert Souther who married Elizabeth Caroline “Hon” Dyer; Sarah Evaline Souther who married Bluford Elisha Dyer (a brother to Elizabeth Dyer); Joseph Newton Souther who married Elderada Swain; Nancy Roseanne Souther who married William Hulsey; Catherine Souther who married William Bruce Moore; Martha Souther who married, first, Jasper Todd Hunter, then, upon his death, married his brother, James Hunter; John Padgett Souther who married Martha Clementine Brown; and Ruthie Carolina Souther who married, first, William Sullivan, and, second, James Logan Souther.

JCH “Jack” Souther was a farmer. He had droves of hogs that ranged on the mountains near his home, feeding upon acorns and foraging other food from the wild. The hogs were herded up in the fall and driven to market in Gainesville, Georgia over the Logan Turnpike.

Covered wagons went from Choestoe across Tesnatee Gap into Cleveland, Georgia and on to the markets in Gainesville. John’s wagon, together with those of his neighbors, formed a wagon train. They hauled produce from the farms and woods to barter for items not grown on mountain farms. Chestnuts were plentiful in those days, before the blight killed the trees. These nuts were gathered and used for barter. The trip south took two days, with the first night spent at a wagon train camp near Cleveland. Trading sometimes took two days. Loading wagons with bolts of cloth, store-bought shoes, coffee, sugar and other needed items, the men would begin the trek northward back to Choestoe Valley, again camping near Cleveland.

In the cabin, Nancy Collins Souther carded, spun and wove the wool sheared from the Souther sheep. Cloth for clothes, warm woolen blankets and coverlets came from her loom. She was industrious, and taught her daughters the skills of weaving, knitting, and sewing. They gathered herbs for medicines and dried the fruits and vegetables grown on the farm to preserve them for winter use. Nothing was wasted. The Souther family lived as well as anyone in the valley, due to their industriousness and frugality.

The bottom lands along Town Creek yielded good crops. Life was good in the chinked log cabin where they were cozy in winter when the fierce winds blew and snow covered the landscape.

On February 28, 1875, the fourth child of Jack and Nancy Souther, Sarah Evaline (1857-1959), married Bluford Elisha “Bud” Dyer (1855-1926). At first, Sarah and Bud lived in a cabin near her father and mother, but in 1891, following her father’s death, Bud bought the old Jack Souther homeplace. It was there this couple reared their family, a total of fifteen children in all. Jasper Hayes died at age one, and James Garney died at age 20. The other thirteen grew to adulthood, married and had families. Gatherings at the old house when children, their spouses and the grandchildren returned home for visits were happy (and crowded) occasions.

Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as well as other kin and friends loved visiting Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer who lacked only three months reaching the vintage age of 102. She died March 4, 1959. She always had entertaining stories about her life in the old house. She told about seeing the glow of Atlanta burning when Sherman’s Army moved through and set fire to houses and businesses.

Her father, John Combs Hayes Souther, objected to the war and hid out in caves in the mountains to escape enlistment and excessive pressure exerted by the Home Guard to join the Confederacy.

Sarah could remember Indians still in the mountains when she was a child, and how they came to the Souther house peddling baskets and other crafts. She still had some of the split-oak baskets to show the grandchildren. One was used to gather eggs and another for freshly-laundered clothes that had soaked up the sun from the lines at the side of the yard.

A son of Sarah Souther Dyer, Franklin Hedden Dyer and his family lived in the house and looked after his aging mother until her death in 1959. He moved sometime after her death to Cleveland, GA.

A few years ago Mr. Bill Duckworth purchased the old Souther-Dyer house. He is in the process of restoring it, peeling off layers of construction added through the years and returning it to the original logs used by John and John Combs Hayes Souther to construct the house in 1850.

For more than 150 years the structure has stood as a monument to the hardiness of early settlers who set the tone of life in the Choestoe Valley.

c2003 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published August 7, 2003 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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