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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, May 23, 2010

From the Memoirs of John Joseph Vandiver

Several months ago I wrote about the famed Adam Poole Vandiver (1788-1877), a legendary man of the mountains of North Georgia known as "The Hunter of Tallulah."

Reportedly, Adam Poole Vandiver had a total of thirty-two children and three wives.

With that many children, he now has descendants from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to the Gulf Coast, and points beyond.

I recently have made contact through e-mail with a Vandiver descendant with a rather common name of Dan Smith who lives in Raleigh, NC. We have been exchanging interesting family information and he hopes to attend for his first time the Dyer- Souther Family Reunion to be held July 14, 2007 this year.

Adam Poole Vandiver is Dan Smith's fourth great grandfather. Dan's interest and relationship to the Souther clan is through his great, great grandfather, John Floyd Edward Vandiver (1849-1923), son of George, grandson of Adam Poole). Rhoda Lucinda Souther (1853-1947), twelfth and youngest child of John Souther (1803-1889) and Mary Combs Souther (1807- 1894) married John Floyd Edward Vandiver on January 9, 1872.

Rhoda Lucinda Souther Vandiver and her husband took up residence following their marriage in the home of her father, John Souther, near present-day New Liberty Baptist Church. In fact, Rhoda's father gave land for that church and cemetery site where his four land lots joined. Pictures of the couple show them as distinguished and handsome. They had thirteen children, twelve of whom were born at the old Souther homeplace before the couple decided to move west. The first of Rhoda and John's children was Mary A. Vandiver who married Frank L. Smith on May 7, 1894. This couple moved to White County, Georgia to make their home. New-found distant cousin Dan Smith of Raleigh, NC, descends through a child of the Smiths, Jesse Benjamin Smith. In seeking information for Dan Smith, I came upon a lengthy personal memoir written in 1959 by John Joseph Vandiver, fourth child born to Rhoda and John Floyd Vandiver. The memoir is valuable for the insights it gives about his early life in Choestoe and why that Vandiver family decided to move west.

John Joseph Vandiver was a New Year's gift, born January 1, 1878 at his grandfather John Souther's home. He was the fourth child born to Rhoda Lucinda Souther Vandiver and John Floyd Edward Vandiver. Old Bald Mountain (Enota) towered above the Souther home to the east. The major occupation of the family was farming the land along Town Creek, raising hogs to take to the market in Gainesville, and gathering chestnuts and chinquapins to sell.

John Joseph and his siblings, twelve of whom, like he, were born in the old Souther home, went to school at New Liberty that served as a schoolhouse during the week and a church house on Sundays. The teacher he remembers as being the best instructor was Rev. John Twiggs, "who taught us many good things." He recalled with sadness the death of his grandfather, John Souther, in 1889 and his grandmother, Mary Souther, in 1894. They were buried on land his grandfather gave as a cemetery at Old Liberty.

John Souther willed his house and a portion of his land to his youngest daughter, Rhoda Souther Vandiver. John Joseph wrote: "Our living was meager for we had to grow all that we had to eat on the farm. Apples were dried for winter, as were pumpkins and beans for winter use. Potatoes were piled in a heap on the ground, as were cabbages, and dirt rounded up on them to keep them from freezing. Kraut was made from cabbage and stored in large pottery churns. Green beans were pickled in churns for use in the long winters." From their sheep they got wool for socks and spun the thread to weave woolen cloth for clothing.

In 1895, John Floyd Eugene Vandiver decided to "go west." Others in the Choestoe Valley had gone west and found better paying jobs and more productive farm work in western states. By that time, John Floyd and Rhoda Lucinda had twelve children: Mary who was already married to Frank L. Smith; William J; Cordelia Jane who married Andrew Townsend on March 2, 1893 (son of Eli Townsend and Sarah Sally Dyer Townsend); John Joseph; James H.; Fankie Roseanne; Della L; Sarah Evelyn; Nellie May; Frank Hartwell; Calla B.; and Thomas Marion (born March 30, 1894), one year old when his family started west. Upon leaving in 1895, Rhoda Lucinda sold the old Souther homeplace to Eli Townsend who purchased it for his son Andrew, married to Cordelia Jane Vandiver. Rhoda Lucinda's child, then, was living in the place where Rhoda was born, and where Rhoda herself had given birth to twelve children. Cordelia Jane and Andrew Townsend had two children, also born in that house, before Andrew's untimely death at age 24 on November 27, 1897.

In his memoirs, John Joseph Vandiver did not tell how the large family traveled from Choestoe Valley to their first stop out west, Drake's Creek, Arkansas. It was after the Civil War, and the Vandiver family probably went by covered wagons, taking what they could of family belongings with them to the train station in Gainesville. From there they took passage to Arkansas. Neither does he explain why they chose Drake's Creek for their lodging place. Maybe other relatives had gone before them to that location.

"In 1895 there was a depression similar to the one of 1929, and we had to work hard to live," Vandiver remembered. "When Andrew Townsend died (in 1897), my sister Cordelia (Delia) came to Drake's Creek with her two children to live with us." The thirteenth and last child was born to Rhoda Lucinda Vandiver on March 17, 1897, with the birthplace listed as Asher, Arkansas. John Floyd Edward Vandiver found a farm on Lollard's Creek (the old Lollard place) for sale and bought it for $1,500. The family finally owned their own farm in Arkansas.

Whatever the size of the farmhouse, it was no doubt crowded with Rhoda and John Floyd, twelve of their children (after Cordelia Vandiver Townsend joined them), and two grandchildren, a total of 16 people.

But as was the custom then, they shared in the work and "made do" with circumstances.

(Next week: Continuing the saga of the Vandiver family's move west, we will trace their journey to other locations to find better work.)

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 3, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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