The old England Cemetery is on a knoll above the Chattahoochee River that winds its way just south of Helen. Behind the Comer Vandiver house, under a giant beech tree, said to be the largest of its kind in Georgia, some dozen unmarked stones seem to be a part of the landscape, so settled are these stones in their hillside setting. I shall never forget the feeling of connection I had the day, several years ago, when Mr. Vandiver showed my husband and me the cemetery known as the England Cemetery. There, in two of the graves marked only by fieldstones, were interred my ancestors on my mother’s side, William Richard England and his wife Martha “Patsy” Montgomery England, my great, great, great grandparents.
Richard England and his wife Martha “Patsy” Montgomery England moved from Burke County, North Carolina with a general migration of settlers to the Nacoochee Valley about 1826. Richard was the youngest of ten children born to Daniel England (1752-1818) and Margaret Gwynn/Guinn England (1758-1847). In Burke County, NC, Daniel and Margaret England lived at Hunting Creek on their plantation located near present-day Morganton, NC. Daniel England operated an iron foundry there and rendered material aid in the Revolutionary War through supplying iron for weapons. His widow received land in Habersham County, Georgia in the land lot drawings. Richard’s oldest brother, Elisha, had settled at Mossy Creek about ten miles south of Helen in 1820.
When Richard and his family moved over the Unicoi Turnpike they brought with them his mother Margaret who went on to Mossy Creek to live with her eldest son, Elisha and his family, already settled into their cabin. With Richard and Martha were their children born in North Carolina: Jonathan Athan (1816), Daniel (1818), and Margaret Elizabeth (1819). The couple had four children after they made the move to Georgia, but evidently they went back and forth from Georgia to North Carolina, for one at least (as indicated) was born there: Jerome (1822, GA), Coleman (1826, NC), Mary Amanda (1828, GA), Mary Ann (1831, GA). With Richard on the move to Georgia in 1826 were his sisters, Nancy, who had married (and later divorced) Moses Harshaw) who settled at Sautee; and Isabella who married Groves Morris.
Richard England owned two large tracks of land in the valley. One was located where Helen’s present-day water-treatment plant lies, and the Gold Mine tourist site. Then he bought a large valley lot at the base of Hamby Mountain at present-day Robertstown. There he built up a good farm.
Richard became very ill in 1835 and immediately made his will, evidently thinking that he would not recover. He did not. He willed his estate to his wife with a distribution of a child’s part to each of their children as they came of age. Martha England never remarried after Richard’s death in 1835. Their place in the upper Helen valley at Robertstown became known as “The Widow England’s Place.” He was buried in the England Cemetery that overlooks the Chattahoochee River. Other graves there are those of Joseph, Martha and Coleman England and Priar Pitner and perhaps some young children of the early settlers.
Several of the Englands traveled across the Blue Ridge from the valleys along the Chattahoochee River and settled in the new county of Union. The old Choestoe Indian Trail left the Unicoi Turnpike about three miles north of Helen and crossed Low Gap. The Tesnatee Trail was west of the Choestoe Trail and crossed the Tesnatee Gap. This latter trail became the Logan Turnpike. Daniel England, second son of Richard and Martha England, went “across the mountain” and built a cabin about 1834 near the Nottely River. The old England cabin still stands today where it was originally built. In bad repair and showing the ravages of time and neglect, it is near Georgia Highway 129 about seven miles south of Blairsville.
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 13, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.