We will trace today some of the life and times of John Wesley Twiggs, fifth child and first son of Willis and Margaret England Twiggs. He was born January 31, 1846 in the Twiggs’ Choestoe home.
Where the young John Wesley Twiggs received his education is unknown, except for the one-teacher schools in the Choesoe District. But evidently he was a learned man (no doubt much of it self-taught) for his day. According to testimony of his children and grandchildren, they were not allowed to speak incorrect English around him, nor even the “hill country lingo” so prevalent in the community. Some believe he was taught by his mother, Margaret England Twiggs, who came from a well-educated family. Her grandparents had migrated from Maryland into Virginia and had more education and refinement than most of the frontier families in the Rutherford, NC area where she and her husband Willis Twiggs lived before moving to Georgia. By whatever means educated, John Wesley Twiggs made good use of it and contributed well to his own community and beyond.
The date of John Wesley Twiggs’ ordination to the gospel ministry is not known. He did have an active part in churches within Union County, riding to his charges on his farm mule or horse. The Old Salem Church had been organized in the home of his father, Willis, where services were conducted for nine years until the first building was erected on Self Mountain in 1847 when John Wesley was about one. When this fifth child of Willis Twiggs grew up and married, first, Sarah Elizabeth Hughes (1847-1885), the family continued to attend Old Salem Methodist Church. Sarah Elizabeth, called Sallie, was from a Methodist family. She was a daughter of the Rev. Thomas M. and Nancy Bird Hughes. Both her father and grandfather were Methodist ministers (Her grandfather was the Rev. Francis Bird).
To John Wesley and Sarah Elizabeth Hughes Twiggs were born Edwin Paxton (1872-1954) who married Mary Elizabeth Dyer; Nancy Elmira (1874-1953) who married James Monroe Collins; Emma California (1876-1903) who married John L. Gillespie; Mary Frances (1874-1952) who married Milton Newton Nix; Lovick Marvin (1880-1962) who married Estelle Middlebrooks; and Nellie Margaret (1883-1974) who married John Gordon Allison.
Sarah Elizabeth Twiggs died June 2, 1885 and was buried at the Old Choestoe Cemetery. Her six children ranged from age 13 to not quite two years. Her obituary printed in the Wesleyan Christian Advocate on July 22, 1885 noted that she had suffered scarlet fever as a child which had left her lungs weakened. On her deathbed, she called all her family to her, gave them her last charge, kissed each one and bade them farewell. The writer stated: “Her face all aglow with the refulgent rays of the Great Shepherd of her soul, she began to repeat the 23rd Psalm, and with the ending of the Psalm God came and kissed her happy soul away, and left His ineffable smile on the brow.”
The Rev. John Wesley Twiggs married Georgia Elizabeth Wesmoreland on February 4, 1886 in White County, Georgia. To them were born three children: Kitty (b. & d. Jan., 1887); Walter Mondwell (1888-1984) who married Claudia Lenora Thompson; and Erwin Eugene (1890-1977) who married Alice Emily Wofford.
Two of Rev. John Wesley Twiggs’ sons became Methodist ministers: Lovick Marvin and Walter Mondwell.
Farmer, minister, and teacher were the three occupations followed by the Rev. John Wesley Twiggs. He kept up with the latest innovations in farming for his day and shared information of agricultural techniques with his neighbors and church members. He was a teacher at Hood’s Chapel School and at Old Liberty School, and perhaps at others in Union County. His ministerial charges ranged over both Union and White County. Known as a strict disciplinarian as a father and a teacher, he believed strongly in bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He died July 30, 1917 at his Choestoe home and was laid to rest beside his first wife, Sarah Elizabeth, in the Old Choestoe Cemetery. Quoting from a resolution from Salem church published in the Union County paper August 14, 1917: “He was not only a father to the young but a dispenser of doctrines to the old…He always held out the bright side of life to us by his noble example and worthy advice. He ingrafted into our lives a deeper sense of love and a keener sight of right.”
c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published September 20, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.