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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Monday, April 26, 2010

Born in Union County, a noted teacher in Fannin County

When I first began researching area history and heard the name Zenobia Addington Chastain, I was fascinated by it. When I learned further that she was a noted teacher in the latter half of the 19th century and a few years into the 20th century, I knew I had to find out more about this outstanding mountain lady and what motivated her noble work.

It is interesting that I would call her work “noble,” for indeed it was. Her nickname was “Nobie,” short for Zenobia. Her parents were March and Amy Elizabeth White Addington. By his first wife, Sarah Moore Addington, 11 children were born into the March Addington family. Two daughters, Emily Elizabeth and Mary Zenobia, were born to March’s second wife. Mary Zenobia’s birthday was May 10, 1848.

Zenobia was not a common name to give a girl in 1848. It can be assumed that her father March was a history buff, naming his baby daughter for Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, an ancient province in present-day Syria. Perhaps March Addington had read about the well-educated queen, who after her husband, King Odenathus died, led his armies in a successful revolt against the Roman occupation army of Palmyra. Later when she was captured by Roman Emperor Aurelius, Queen Zenobia was led captive through the streets of Rome with a gold chain in respect to her position and bravery.

March Addington was a slave owner. When secession came, he was 60 years of age. He enlisted in the Confederate Army, Georgia Cavalry Volunteers, in the Sixth Regiment in 1862. His enlistment was for three years. Life was not easy for March’s wife Amy Elizabeth, who was looking after her two children, Emily and Zenobia, and the younger ones of March’s first wife, Sarah.

The story is told of how March Addington bought his first land in Union County. He was riding his horse one day and found two men digging and searching along Coosa Creek. When they saw him, they fled. March saw that the land had gold, so he sold his beloved horse and bought the land for $40. It has been reported that the gold extracted from the Coosa mines was the yellowest gold of any from several mines in Union County. March Addington (b. 1802) died in 1885, 20 years after he returned from the Civil War. He was buried beside his first wife, Sarah Moore Addington (b. 1804) who had died November 25, 1844. Sarah’s marker bears the oldest date in the Old Blairsville Cemetery located north of the Blairsville Middle School.

Zenobia Addington, like her namesake Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, loved learning. Early on, she showed intellectual acumen, and read as many books as she could get at the place and age where she lived. She had the good fortune to study under one of the outstanding teachers of the area, Professor M. C. Briant. She learned Latin and Greek as well as the classics. In Ward’s History of Gilmer County, Briant was praised as a teacher of distinction and Zenobia Addington was noted as one of his outstanding students. It is assumed that she boarded and attended the Academy where Briant taught at Ellijay, GA.

Zenobia Addington began a school in Fannin County at Morganton in 1868. Called “Zenobia’s Academy,” the school drew students from a wide area. They found places to live with citizens of the town, then the county seat of Fannin County, formed in 1854 from parts of Union and Gilmer counties. Records show that Zenobia employed three or four teachers, besides herself, depending on the enrollment. She was enterprising, applied for a grant from the Peabody Foundation, and received money for the school at Morganton. In the summers, students could attend free, but in regular sessions, the cost was $1.00 per student for tuition, with the parents making arrangements for room and board.

Then romance came along for school administrator, Zenobia Chastain. At the time of their courtship, Oscar Fitzallen Chastain was working in a store in the city of Morganton. They were joined in holy matrimony on December 18, 1872 in Union County by the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes. No doubt he had been attracted to the industrious school teacher who had a good reputation as a fine educator. Oscar Fitzallen Chastain had been old enough to serve in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. His father, Colonel Elijah Webb Chastain, also served with the South. The elder Chastain had been a representative to the state legislature at the capitol in Milledgeville when Georgia seceded from the Union on January, 19, 1861. Mary Zenobia Addington’s and Oscar Fitzallen Chastain’s marriage joined two outstanding families, one of Union and the other of Fannin.

On May 17, 1884, Oscar Fitzallen Chastain was ordained as a minister at Morganton Baptist Church. Teacher and minister were to join forces to extend the educational outreach even beyond Zenobia’s Academy at Morganton. (To be continued)

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 26, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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