In recent articles we’ve explored the first Thompson Collins, holder of vast acreages, progenitor of many who were born and grew up in Choestoe District and went out from there to make their mark in the world. A son, Thompson Collins, Jr. was a long-time Justice of the Peace. A grandson, Thompson Smith Collins, was known as “the poor man’s friend.” In the first year of my writing “Through Mountain Mists,” I traced the remarkable career of Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins, for twenty-five years Georgia’s state school superintendent and a great grandson of the first Thompson Collins. Chief Justice of Georgia Supreme Court, William Henry Duckworth and his brother, J. Lon Duckworth, corporation lawyer, were descendants of Thompson Collins. The branches go on and on…
This article pays tribute to Nancy Collins (February 13, 1829 – July 22, 1888), eighth of the ten children born to Thompson and Celia Self Collins. Nancy and her sister just older than she, Celia (1827-?) who married James West, were born after their parents migrated from North Carolina to Habersham County, Georgia. Her sister Olive (1831-1853) who married Robert McCoy and died in childbirth, and her brother Ivan Kimsey Collins (1835-1898), who was deaf due to a childhood fever and married Martha Hunter, were also born in Georgia.
Nancy Collins married John Combs Hayes Souther (Oct. 22, 1827 – Jan. 4, 1891), born in North Carolina, the second of twelve children of John Souther (1803-1889) and Mary “Polly” Combs Souther (1807-1894). The Souther family had settled in 1836 on land in the locality of present-day New Liberty Baptist Church. In fact, settler John Souther gave the land for that church and cemetery. The marriage of John Combs Hayes Souther and Nancy Collins on February 6, 1852 brought together two prominent early-settler families.
John, better known as “Jack” Souther, took his bride Nancy to live in the log house he and his father had built for Jack about 1850 on land lot # 150. The house still stands today within sight of New Liberty Baptist Church. The old adage, “It takes a lot of living in a house to make it home” could well qualify that house, for three generations of the Jack and Nancy Souther family lived there over a period of more than a century and a half.
Nancy Collins married one week before her twenty-second birthday in 1852. She no doubt felt pride in the fact that her husband Jack had taught the first school in the Choestoe District. Later he would become ordinary of Union County. He was always an advocate of education and good government. On their farm in Choestoe he practiced good farming techniques for that era and was able to support the family. He made many trips over the Logan Turnpike to take produce to market in Gainesville. Having Thompson Collins as a father-in-law and his own father, John Souther, as advisors, John Combs Hayes Souther was in a good position to make his own contributions to his life and times.
When the Union County courthouse was built on the square in 1899, Jack Souther was an advocate for building it. Timber from his land went into a portion of its construction.
Since Nancy’s father, Thompson Collins, had slaves at the time of her marriage, I wonder if one of them was loaned to Nancy and Jack Souther as their children were born to help Nancy with their care and with her housework. There is no record to verify this assumption, but it could reasonably have happened.
The Civil War came when the couple was ten years into their marriage. Jack Souther was a conscientious objector. In order to evade the Confederate draft, he hid out in caves in nearby Bald Mountain. At night he came out of hiding and tilled the crops. It was not an easy time.
The children born to John Combs Hayes and Nancy Collins Souther were:
(1) Mary Elizabeth Souther (1853-1929) married Smith Loransey Brown (1850-1932)
(2) Celia Souther (1854) died when about sixteen years of age.
(3) William Albert Souther (1856-1945) married Elizabeth “Hon” Dyer (1859-1902)
(4) Sarah Evaline Souther (1857-1959) married Bluford Elisha “Bud” Dyer (1855-1926)
(5) John Padgett Souther (1858-1959) married Martha Clementine Brown (1861-1933)
(6) Joseph Newton Souther (1861-1922) married Elderada Swain (1867-1948)
(7) Ruthie Caroline Souther (1863-1928) married (1) William Sullivan and (2) James Logan Souther (1847-1914)
(8) Nancy Roseanna Souther (1865-1938) married William Hulsey (1862-1946)
(9) Martha Souther (1867-1937) married (1) Jasper Todd Hunter (1863-1897) and (2) James Hunter (1847-1912) [Jasper and James were brothers.]
(10) Catherine Souther (1869-1921) married William Bruce Moore (1868- 1905)
Of the nine children who lived to adulthood and married, the descendants of John Combs Hayes and Nancy Collins Souther became legion. Each family has its own story. In fact, geneology lines sometimes are surprising. Their child number four, Sarah Evaline Souther who married Bluford Elisha Dyer is my grandmother. Sarah and Bluford’s tenth child, Jewel Marion Dyer (1890-1974) married Azie Collins (1895-1945), daughter of Francis Jasper Collins. Nancy Collins Souther was my mother’s great aunt. She is my own great grandmother, as well as my great, great aunt.
When I tell my children and grandchildren about these family ties at Christmas and other family gatherings, they sometimes shake their heads in disbelief. Somewhat like the royal families of England and other countries, our forebears, too, made alliances by marriage that have affected subsequent generations.
Have a wonderful Christmas with your family and remember the true meaning of the season.
c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published December 16, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.