Many have gone out from the hills and valleys of Union County and made distinctive contributions in many professions. The Rev. John Wesley Twiggs of Choestoe had two sons who, like himself, became Methodist ministers. Last week we got an insight into the early life of Walter Mondwell as he went with his father at age seven across the Logan Turnpike to the market in Gainesville in 1885. Walter was the younger of the two preacher sons. Lovick Marvin, eight years older than Walter, became an ordained Methodist minister, outstanding in Georgia. Both Choestoeans contributed greatly through long lives of service. This week we will continue with the life and work of the Rev. Walter Mondwell Twiggs. Next week we will look at contributions made by the Rev. Lovick Marvin Twiggs.
When Walter Mondwell Twiggs was born March 27, 1888 in Choestoe, Georgia to the Rev. John Wesley Twiggs and his second wife, Georgia Elizabeth Westmoreland Twiggs, he had six half-siblings to welcome him. Their mother, Sarah Elizabeth Hughes, had died June 2, 1885. Rev. John Wesley Twiggs married Georgia Elizabeth Westmoreland of White County on February 4, 1886. She was a good step-mother to the “first set” of John Wesley Twiggs’ children: Edwin Paxton, Nancy Elmira, Emma California (Callie), Mary Frances, Lovick Marvin and Nellie Margaret.
Georgia Elizabeth and John Wesley Twiggs had three children: Kitty who was born and died in January, 1887; Walter Mondwell (1888) and Erwin Eugene (May 13, 1890). In his memoirs, Rev. Walter Mondwell Twiggs pays great tribute to the closeness between him and his half-sister, Nellie Margaret, whom he says was “like a little mother to me,” and to his brother Lovick Marvin who was an inspiration to him. The distinction of half- brothers and sisters went unnoticed. Mrs. Twiggs loved all the children. Walter, writing of her, noted: “At night mother would sit around the open wood fireplace, never idle, but patching garments, sewing on buttons, darning socks and otherwise providing for the large family.”
Walter Mondwell Twiggs graduated from Young Harris College. While there at the age of 17, he was strongly impressed with a call to the gospel ministry. But he says he resisted the call for several years, teaching school and then studying law. In 1913 at age 24, he was licensed to preach by the Rev. Bascomb Anthony, then presiding elder of the Dublin, Georgia District, where Walter had gone to teach school. He taught at Powelton, Georgia, an early consolidated schools. He was principal of the Stillmore High School in Emanuel County. It was there he met his future bride who was a member of the faculty.
He and Claudia Lenora Thompson were married June 8, 1916 in Lyons, Georgia. They had three children, two daughters and one son. Phronia Webb Twiggs was born September 9, 1917 in Monticello, Ga. Sara Elizabeth Twiggs was born August 7, 1919 in Atlanta, Georgia; and John Wesley Twiggs (named after Walter’s father) was born and died January 7, 1925 in Atlanta, Georgia. The places of the children’s births show some of the locations of churches where the Rev. Walter Twiggs was pastor.
Shortly after his licensing to the Methodist ministry, he entered Vanderbilt University in Tennessee where he studied theology during 1913 and 1914. He was able to pay his way by a scholarship and through working as a janitor and operating the dormitory telephones. While there, he gained experience as assistant pastor at a Methodist church in Nashville’s west end.
In 1915 he enrolled in the Candler School of Theology of Emory University. While there, he was assistant pastor of the Asbury Methodist Church, 1914-1915. After graduation from Candler, he was assigned to the Monticello Methodist Circuit in 1915 and served there until 1920. He was ordained an elder by Bishop Warren A. Candler. His subsequent charges read like a roll-call of Georgia towns. Some of the places he served and the dates were: Lithonia, 1920-24; Patillo Memorial, Decatur, 1924-29; Hapeville, 1929-1933; Trinity-on-the-Hill, Augusta, 1933-35; Presiding Elder, Griffin District, 1935-39; West Point, 1940-43; District Superintendent, Lagrange District, 1943-49; Cartersville, Sam Jones Memorial, 1949-1953; Bethany, Atlanta, 1953-56. He retired in 1956, lived in LaGrange, Georgia and worked for a time with the Manget Foundation.
It was always a joy to the people of Choestoe District and Salem Methodist when their native son, Rev. Walter Twiggs, returned to speak at homecoming or hold a revival.
Rev. and Mrs. Walter Twiggs became the first residents of the Wesley Woods Towers in Atlanta, a senior citizen retirement home which the Rev. Twiggs had worked diligently to establish. They lived there from April, 1965 through September, 1972 when they went to their daughter Phronia Smith’s home in Griffin. There Mrs. Twiggs died July 27, 1973. Rev. Twiggs spent his last years in Griffin writing his memoirs and speaking or teaching occasionally at churches.
Rev. Walter M. Twiggs was a gifted speaker, an evangelist and a fundraiser, with an unusual talent for raising money for benevolent and church causes. He served on committees in the North Georgia Conference which brought about innovations in ministerial pensions, establishment of Wesley Woods Towers, and erection of church structures. He was a trustee both of the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church and of LaGrange College.
He died quietly in the Brightmoor Nursing Home, Griffin, Georgia, on October 13, 1984 at age 96. He was laid to rest beside his beloved wife at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Newnan, Georgia.
The tall man from Choestoe, measuring well over six feet in height, cast a long shadow and touched many lives through his work and ministry. In one of his last “Memoirs” letters written to his niece Barbara Allison Crawford (his sister Nellie’s child) he noted a quotation that had helped him at an early age to shape his philosophy of life:
“To each is given a bag of tools –
A shapeless mass, a book of rules.
And each must make ‘ere life is flown
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.
Rev. Walter Mondwell Twiggs who went out from Union County made of his “bag of tools” many stepping stones to help others along the way of life.
c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 14, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.