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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dyer-Souther Reunion

Saturday, July 14, 2007 marks the date for the annual Dyer-Souther Heritage Association Reunion. Choestoe Baptist Church's Family Life Center will be a-buzz with people, beginning with registration at 11:00 a. m. A bounteous covered dish meal will be enjoyed at noon. The reunion program will begin at 1:00 p. m.

If telephone calls and e-mails are an indication, many new "kin" who are just now finding out about the wonderful reunion are planning to be first-time attendees. My excitement begins to grow weeks before the event.

The reunion honors early settlers to the Choestoe Valley who began coming into the county about the time Union County was formed from the large Cherokee territory. Elisha Dyer, Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth Clark Dyer, and several of their children came from Pendleton District, South Carolina by way of Habersham County where they remained awhile, and then moved on across the mountain to Choestoe, "place where rabbits dance."

The Souther early settlers migrated from the vicinity of Old Fort, NC a few years later, about 1835, with John and Mary Combs Souther settling in the vicinity of present-day New Liberty Baptist Church. Altogether, five Souther siblings had settled in the area by 1850. These were John, Jesse William, Jr., Joseph, Hicks (or Hix), and Kizziah Souther Humphries. Jesse established a mill, with assistance from his brothers John and Joseph. The mill opened in 1848 and ground corn for meal and grains to bolt flour. A sawmill was operated on the site using the water power provided by a head of water passed through a chute to operate the turbines. The grist mill operated for 90 years.

Another family, in the valley by 1832, was Thompson Collins and Celia Self Collins. Her father, Job Self, also settled in Choestoe. Claiming other homesteads were the John and Elizabeth Hunter family. Daniel England married Elizabeth, a daughter of John and Elizabeth Hunter. The oldest house in the county still standing is the Hunter-England cabin, now in bad repair, which can be seen just off Highway 129/19 in the Choestoe District. There were other families: Nix, Jackson, Duckworth, Spiva, Henson, Vandiver, Brown, Townsend, Turner, Reece and more. By the time marriages were performed from one family to another, there soon came a rich fabric of kinship.

Saturday, present for the first time, will be Dan Smith of Raleigh, NC. He descends from Rhoda Lucinda Souther who married John Floyd Edward Vandiver. Dan is a musician. He will sing and will also lead reunion attendees in singing an old, old song.

On April 13, 1868 at New Liberty Baptist Church, Nancy Collins Souther, wife of John Combs Hayes Souther and daughter of Thompson and Celia Self Collins, sat writing the words of a song as the song "heister" lined them out to the congregation. In her own handwriting, these words have been preserved. Set to the tune of "The Good Old Way" found in Southern Harmony # 156, Dan Smith will lead reunion attendees in singing this old church song on Saturday. It is entitled "Come All Ye Righteous Here Below." Nancy Souther wrote nine stanzas of the song. Here are three:

"Come all ye righteous here below,
Oh, Ha-le, ha-le-lu-jah!
Let nothing prove your overthrow,
Oh Ha-le, ha-le-lu-jah!
But call on me both day and night,
Oh Ha-le, ha-le-lu-jah!
And I'll visit you with delight,
Sing glory ha-le-lu-jah!
When the day of judgment doth draw nigh,
Oh Ha-le, ha-le-lu-jah!
Poor sinners will lament and cry,
Oh Ha-le, ha-le-lu-jah!
For the earnest deeds that they have done,
Oh, Ha-le, ha-le-lu-jah!
They will repent in time to come,
Oh, Ha-le, ha-le-lu-jah!
A solemn memorial service will honor those who have moved from this life to the next- a large number since the last reunion.

We will gladly welcome familiar faces, those who return to their roots year after year. We will help those who come for the first time to feel welcome through connections that have been made since July, 2007. And if you would like to come, too, and see what's up with this large family, you will find a warm reception.

In 1989 my cousin, the late Watson B. Dyer, nominated me to take his place as family historian. Without even asking me if I would accept the job, I was suddenly plunged into a task I didn't anticipate. But one of the great pleasures of my life since then has been contacting people throughout America to help them find their roots. I don't always succeed in giving them the right links, but I've made many new friends and have more "cousins" than I thought possible. The Russian writer in his famous novel, Anna Kerenina, wrote: "All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." We're one big happy family and that's a good way to be.

c2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 12, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

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