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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ivy Log as a bustling settlement

"It is evident and conceded that the center of activity of early Ivy Log was near the mouth of Ivy Log Creek. Here creaked the Casteel Mill. Here rang the iron foundry operated by R. W. Roberts and last by David Thompson prior to the Civil War. Here was Hunt and Cooley's store. Here Lovell made chairs. Here George Patterson fashioned hats from lambs' wool. Here was a school on the east side of the creek. Here is the Casteel Cemetery, numbering twenty-four graves, not far distant from the pioneer cabin site. Here on the west side is unmistakable evidence of a church--a cemetery where forty or more are sleeping that last, long sleep. Today in this vicinity all is quiet and still, save the murmur of waters, the sighing of the wind in the pines and the night bird's croon--a requiem for the slumbering pioneers awaiting the resurrection."

The above is from the pen of Union County Historian, Mr. Edward S. Mauney, written in 1948, and reproduced in the compendium entitled "Sketches of Union County History III" edited by Teddy J. Oliver and published in 1987. Mr. Mauney's history of Ivy Log is on pages 85-87 of the book. If you have a copy available to you, please read his flowing language and listing of people who made up the early census records of that north central district of Union County numbered Militia District 843.

"Here creaked the Casteel Mill," Mr. Mauney wrote. Barney Casteel not only established a mill for the convenience of settlers in Ivy Log District, but he also served as a minister of the gospel and as a "practical doctor." This designation probably indicates that he knew the value of herbs as medicinal plants and could prescribe certain treatments for common diseases. This first Casteel family migrated from East Tennessee. Mr. Mauney writes that they lived in their covered wagon under a large tree "for a season until a cabin could be hewn from the primitive forest."

Barney Casteel was listed as 63 years of age in the 1850 Union County census, and his wife, Mary, was 60 that year. His native state was Tennessee and hers was Virginia. Among their known children were James who married Minta Ellege. Robert married Nancy Simpson. Hastings married Sarah Lance. William married Emily Rabun. John G. Casteel married Rachel Byers. This couple had three children who became doctors- Dr. Lewis Casteel, Dr. William J. Casteel, and Dr. Van D. Casteel. John Casteel became a judge. The other four were Lafayette, Robert, Mary and Adelaide.

In the Ivy Log District are two Casteel Cemeteries. The one known as Casteel Cemetery No. 1 has one marked tomb with the name Ann Casteel, 1833-1861. She may be a daughter of the first settlers, Barney and Mary Casteel. Also buried in the Casteel 1 cemetery, according to Historian Mauney, are George Patterson and his wife, without marked stones, the "hatter" or milliner of Ivy Log District. Mauney states that this family lived at "the Ned Chastain place," and were the forebears of most of the Pattersons in Union County. Casteel 1 cemetery has at least fifteen unmarked graves.

An interesting story is told of the Casteel 2 Cemetery which is located south of Casteel 1 and across Ivy Log Creek from the first burying ground. None of the graves in this cemetery have stones with names. But buried apart from the graves which were of the early Casteel family and their descendants is a known grave, though unmarked. It is that of Gentry Taylor who met his death in 1876. He was killed at a moonshine still because he resisted arrest. The community, due to the circumstances of his business and his death, would not allow him to be buried in the Antioch Church Cemetery. His final resting place was at the Casteel 2 Cemetery, but distant 50 feet east of the other graves in the cemetery.

Mr. Mauney touches on moonshining as a business in his history of Ivy Log: "From many a sheltered nook on the tiny streams rose wisps of smoke that gave evidence of the pioneers brewing their own spirits without fear of God or man, in the days when it was not considered a sin. But they were rigid in their belief of honesty. One patriarch [was] "churched" for taking whiskey from his own "stillhouse" that belonged to someone else" (p. 87).

Space precludes telling of other early settlers, but family names passed to the present generations show that many hardy settlers had children in subsequent generations that made this mountain district and other parts of Union County their permanent home.

For example, there was Robert B. Conley and his wife Susan Kincaid Conley who migrated from Clear Creek in Buncombe County, NC to the Chester District of South Carolina and then to Ivy Log. But tragedy came to them on the move from South Carolina. Their young son, John Lawrence Conley, age two, died at the Tugaloo River at the South Carolina line. They brought the little corpse on into Georgia and buried him at the first cemetery they found on their route within Union County, Old Choestoe. This family lost another son, Elisha, in the Battle of Chickamauga during the Civil War.

Solomon Chapman and his wife, Adeline Odom Chapman were early Ivy Log settlers from Wilkes County, NC. Reece Creek in Ivy Log was named for early settler John Reece. And the list goes on.

Mauney ends his Ivy Log history with these pensive words: "Today the crude wheels and the distaffs are still. The hands that turned them are mouldered to clay. Today there is a new generation - their descendants - living in a bustling world of modernization." He wrote that in 1948. What would he say today? Housing developments extend even to tops of high hills and roads are busy with traffic all hours of the day and night. Small farms have virtually disappeared but some corporate farms are master producers of the products they specialize in. And, dotted here and there throughout the district are spires of churches with modern buildings, begun as log cabin places of worship by the early settlers. The one-room school houses are no more, long since consolidated into the modern graded school complexes at the county seat of Blairsville. Someone aptly wrote: "The only thing certain is change."

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 28, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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