From Choestoe, Georgia to Washington state is a long distance, even by today's air miles. In 1895 and the years following, it was a journey of faith to find work and places to live. The stops the John Floyd Edward Vandiver and Rhoda Lucinda Souther Vandiver family made along the way in their move west in 1895 were recounted in the memoirs of their fourth of thirteen children, John Joseph Vandiver. This is the third and last in a series of his memoirs.
In the spring of 1906, John Joseph Vandiver moved to Seattle, Washington. There he went to work in a surveying crew mapping the route for the Oregon and Washington railroad that paralleled the Northern Pacific from Portland to Seattle. That job was completed in November.
Work in Alaska was next on Vandiver's agenda. When he landed in Catalla in March, 1907, the weather was colder than any he had experienced in his life. Seven feet of snow greeted him.
The surveying team worked in all weather conditions and finally finished the work for a terminal and rail line northward to the Copper River. In November of that year, with the Alaska surveying over, he returned to Washington.
Job prospects were still poor. He found work on the survey team for the Tieton Canal and the Ellensburg high line. While he was thus engaged, he decided that he needed more education. He attended night school in Seattle at the YMCA. Finishing high school, he was admitted to the University of Washington in 1910. Simultaneously studying at the University as a "special" student and working for the Reclamation Service on the Tieton Canal as inspector, John Joseph Vandiver was able to complete his engineering studies.
But all was not work for this ambitious man born in Georgia and transplanted in far away Washington state. While a student at the University, John Joseph Vandiver met and courted beautiful Lula May Estee, also a student. She was from East Lynn, Illinois.
They were married May 26, 1914. As newly-weds, they lived near the Tieton Canyon where John Joseph was employed by the Reclamation Service keeping canals and roads operable for construction of the giant Rimrock Dam. When the Reclamation Service wanted to transfer engineer Vandiver to Wyoming, he and his wife decided Washington was for them, and he resigned from his job, moving to Yakima permanently. There he spent most of the remainder of his career as a carpenter, building his own house and those for many others. As he progressed in his ability as a builder, he was able to upgrade the houses he built for his own family, including one for his in-laws, Mr. and Mrs. C. D. Estee, whom he and Lula Mae moved from Illinois to live near them in Yakima.
John Joseph and Lula Mae Estee Vandiver had two children. Ada Margaret Vandiver was born May 23, 1915 in Seattle, Washington. John Henry Vandiver was born August 23, 1916.
From his parents and their beginnings in the mountains of North Georgia, John Joseph Vandiver learned a strong work ethic which guided him all his adult life. He was always able to make a way for himself and his wife and children. Honesty and integrity were distinctive marks of his character. He admits in his memoirs that at times life was "hard sledding." But he persisted, was willing to tackle hard jobs, and finally had a most productive life. Many of the couple's happiest years were spent in a house he built for them on Pleasant Avenue in Yakima Washington. There they could see the towering mountains in the western landscape. No doubt, as he grew older, the mountains of Washington state reminded the aging Vandiver of Choestoe Valley and towering Bald Mountain, the highest peak in Georgia near which he lived from 1878 until he left in 1895 going west.
c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 17, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.