In my second column for this paper dated August 7, 2003, I wrote about the old house that had been a family heirloom since 1852 (maybe even since 1850) of the Souther and Dyer families.
The house was built by early settler John Souther for his second child and first son, John Combs Hayes Souther who planned to marry Nancy Collins, daughter of Thompson and Celia Self Collins, a family that settled in the area prior to Union County’s forming in 1832. The young couple married February 6, 1852, and it was ready for John Combs Hayes Souther better known as “Jack” to take his wife after their marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev. William Pruitt, minister of the gospel.
My sister, Louise Dyer who lives in Commerce, and I went together to the open house sponsored by Bill and Carolyn Duckworth at their “antique” new home. Cars in abundance were parked along Town Creek School Road and in the yard at the old/new house, now named the Souther-Dyer-Duckworth Cabin. The crowd inside and outside the house was typical of the large gatherings my sister and I had experienced there for many years prior to our Grandmother Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer’s death in March 1959. She was the fourth of ten children born in the house to John Combs Hayes and Nancy Collins Souther. Her birthdate was May 17, 1857. After her mother Nancy died July 22, 1888, she and her husband, Bluford Elisha Dyer (known as “Bud”) moved into the house with her father Jack Souther to look after him until his death on January 4, 1891. Records show that they bought the house and 160 acres of land from the other heirs after her father’s death. Sarah and Bud Dyer had a large family of 15 children whom they reared in the John Combs Hayes Souther house. One, Jasper Hayes Dyer, died at age 1. Another, James Garney Dyer, died at age 20 from blood poisoning. The other 13 grew to adulthood, married and had families of their own. Children, spouses and grandchildren counted it great joy to return to “the old homeplace” to visit with Grandma Sarah, hear her views on world affairs, and enjoy her birthday celebrations.
As I walked into the “parlor” (Grandma’s room) with the fireplace and window beside it facing toward Enotah Bald Mountain, I could still see in my imagination my dear little Grandmother as she held court from her straightbacked cane-bottom chair at the window and beside the fireplace. She always seemed to have a “sixth” sense about who would visit her that day. She looked through the little window to note their approach down the road (now Town Creek School Road) from New Liberty Baptist Church. She often told us that the land for that church and cemetery had been given by her grandparents, John and Mary Combs Souther, designated to be used perpetually as a cemetery.
Host Bill Duckworth proudly showed us original logs which now form the interior walls of the “old” part of the house. Many of the original boards for the beamed ceilings are still a part of the “old/new” house. Then he led us up the steps I remember so well to the attic. How dark and foreboding that area of the house seemed as I was a child. Now they have formed two delightful bedrooms and a bath in the old attic room, with plenty of illumination from overhead skylights. Antique beds lined the north wall of the first room—dormitory style—“for our grandchildren and their friends,” Bill explained.
The old chimneys have been preserved at each end of the old log cabin. Now the room that was once my Uncle Hedden Dyer’s “family room” is the Duckworth kitchen, with an abundance of antique furniture that helps to preserve the period look of that room.
The old kitchen which was an ell-addition on the side of the spring house was the first part of the old house to crumble. It fell in and deteriorated several years ago. Where the kitchen and dining room once stood—places where so many meals for extended family were cooked and served over many years—is now the new two-story addition containing a comfortable great room and stairs leading to a bedroom suite above.
When I saw the fireplaces and viewed the fieldstone rocks so carefully placed to make the rebuilt chimneys look old, I remembered the great “chimney fires” that scared the children so badly winter nights long ago when we went to visit at Grandma’s house. Due to the roaring fire the soot would catch fire in the chimney. I remember the bucket brigades from the springhouse to get enough water to douse the chimney fires. These occurrences often left this overly-imaginative child almost afraid to fall asleep for fear the house would burn down around us.
Over the years the virgin timber from the Souther lands has been harvested and great logs are no longer readily available such as John Souther and his son John Combs Hayes “snaked” out from the forests, hewed and used to build the old house. The sawmill operated by John’s brother Jesse William Jr. at the Souther Mill that sawed logs into lumber to form flooring and ceiling has long since closed down. But Bill Duckworth has saved enough of it to show the good workmanship and the durable materials used in 1850-51 to build the old house.
The old Tower Post Office was in a room to the left of the front entrance. In that small room Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer was postmistress from 1907 through 1909 when Tower was discontinued. On the other end of the front porch Bill Duckworth has added a sunroom which makes a delightful family dining room and gathering place. The porch on the back is still L-shaped, but half is now open and the rebuilt portion enclosed. Looking down to the old spring at the foot of Cook Mountain, I recalled playing there with cousins in childhood days and fetching pitchers of cold milk from the springhouse where it was stored to keep cool.
Personally, I greatly appreciate the house being saved. Thanks to Bill and Carolyn Duckworth who graciously opened their “antique new house” for kin of the first owners and the public in general to enjoy.
It is almost as if the house has gone “full circle.” The present owner, William Henry Duckworth Jr., “Bill” is a son of former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, the Honorable William Henry Duckworth Sr. Judge Duckworth was the third child of John Francis “Jack” Duckworth and Laura Jane Noblet Duckworth who lived near Old Liberty Church not far from the Souther and Dyer family at New Liberty Church. John Francis “Jack” Duckworth was a son of General Jackson Duckworth and Celia Emiline Collins Duckworth.
Note that Collins tie. Celia Emiline, wife of General Jackson Duckworth, was a daughter of Archibald and Mary Nix Collins and a granddaughter of Thompson and Celia Self Collins. Remember the wife of John Combs Hayes “Jack” Souther, first resident of the “old” house? She was Nancy Collins, daughter of Thompson and Celia Self Collins, and a brother to Archibald Collins, Celia Emiline Collins Duckworth’s father.
I think Nancy Collins Souther would smile to know that portions of her old house are preserved for her great, great, great nephew and his family to enjoy and to share with other relatives to keep alive wonderful memories of family connections.
Congratulations and many thanks for your “antique new home,” Bill and Carolyn Duckworth, and for all the recollections it conveys.
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 4, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.