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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Circuit riding preacher—Rev. Milford Gilead Hamby

The work of circuit riding ministers in the early days of settlement in the mountain counties of north Georgia required a person of strong physical constitution as well as one with strong commitment and dedication to the spread of the gospel ministry.

Milford Gilead Hamby was born in Spartanburg, S. C on May 18, 1833. His parents were William and Nancy Christopher Hamby. In 1852 when he was nineteen years of age, he received a license to preach and was soon accepted into the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church.

By 1855 he was a fullfledged minister whose circuit included Dahlonega in Lumpkin County and a far-flung area including Upson (it is not clear if this is Upson County or a town named Upson), Cusseta, Blairsville in Union County, Carnesville in Franklin County, Canton, Cumming, Powder Springs, Ellijay, Morganton in Fannin County, and Homer, Georgia, in Banks County. From 1855 through 1885, a total of thirty years, he kept 29 appointments per month. Before modern transportation, except perhaps a train in some areas that would take him to Powder Springs, we can only imagine what trusty steeds he must have owned during this period to get him to his charges.

An error appears in the marriage date of this minister of the gospel in both the article in the “Union County, Georgia” History book (1994, p. 176) and the earlier “Sketches of Union County History, Volume 2” (1978, p. 70), both of which list him as marrying in 1850. The Union County marriage record gives the date of his marriage to Eleanor C. Hughes as August 9, 1859, with Joseph Chambers, minister of the gospel, performing the ceremony.

Eleanor Hughes, known as Nellie, was the daughter of a Methodist Minister and a merchant, the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes (1809-1882). Eleanor’s mother was Nancy Bird Hughes (1818-1881), daughter of the Rev. Francis Bird, another early Methodist Minister in Rutherford County, N.C. Like so many early settlers to Union County, the Hughes family stopped first in Habersham County. They were among those who moved over the famed Unicoi Turnpike to settle in Habersham, and then across the mountain later to Union before 1850.

Born to Milford G. and Eleanor Hughes Hamby were seven sons and three daughters. Son William Thomas Hamby became a noted Methodist minister; other sons were Francis B., Joseph O., Melvin, John M., Lovick O. and Manley P.; and daughters Nancy, Martha and Sallie.

During the Civil War Milford G. Hamby served for six months in the Cherokee Legion, Company A. of the Georgia State Guard. Records show his pay was forty cents per day.

In the eulogy to his wife, Eleanor Hughes (April 1, 1827-July 18, 1902) published in the “Wesleyan Advocate,” this account is given of how she helped him during the Civil War:

“During the war, while her husband was serving the Canton Circuit, surrounded by both armies, Brother Hamby’s wearing apparel was so badly worn that he thought he would have to stay at home. Sister Hamby happened to think of an old sheep skin that was in the house. She sheared the wool off and with some thread which she had, she made her husband a pair of pants that he might be able to go on with his work.”

The eulogy praises her for “walking by the side of her husband for forty-three years, proving herself in deed and in truth his helpmeet, cheerfully sharing with him the joys and hardships of the itinerant work.”

I looked for a printed eulogy for the Rev. Hamby who died in May, 1911, but to date my research has turned up only the one for Eleanor Hughes Hamby, who, upon her death in 1902, left “a devoted husband and six children to mourn their loss.” Both Mrs. Hamby and Rev. Hamby were interred at the Shady Grove Methodist Cemetery in the Owltown District of Union County where their tombstones may be viewed. Many are the Hamby descendants of these two stalwart ancestors who worked hard in the mountain region in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 17, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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