The sixth of eight children born to Archibald Carr Nix (1842-1906) and Sarah Ann Williamson Nix (1842-1927) was given the name Columbus Hannibal Nix when he was born April 1, 1874. His name shows the parents' interest in history. Perhaps they did not dream at the time of this sixth child's birth how adventuresome the life of their sixth child would be, prophetic of the name they gave him. It was soon shortened to "Lum" by which he was known the rest of his life.
An unusually bright lad, Lum Nix received what education was available in his home community of Choestoe, showing keen ability in history, geography, and mathematics. At age 17, equipped with the ability to sharpen saws and other handicrafts, like caning straight chairs with oak strips, Columbus Hannibal Nix set out on his life of adventure beyond the mountains of Choestoe Valley. In 1891, it was not easy to "go west, young man," but that was exactly the direction he headed. This was about the time that several in Choestoe Valley heeded the urge to find their livelihood beyond the mountains.
His exact journey and mode of travel are not known to this writer, but he probably went to Gainesville to board a train for his westward journey. Before leaving he would have saved up enough money for his train fare and upkeep along the way. Or, being an enterprising young man, he could have earned money at temporary stops as he sharpened saws or caned chairs.
His westward adventure took him to Colorado, to Idaho, to Oregon, and on to Alaska. At these places he pursued what has sometimes been called "gold fever," seeking that ever-elusive metal in various quick-claim mines in three states. Alaska beckoned him, and he moved northward. Records show that he got a grant in the Yukon on September 2, 1897 for a placer mine. His life as a miner would be the fabric of the stories he told later when he returned to Georgia. Lum Nix was a great storyteller. His life was one great tale of adventure, lived out in his travels and undergirded by his ability to fascinate his listeners by the places he had seen, the work he had done, the people he had met. He would come by our home when I was a child and young teenager and spend two weeks or more with us. Our home was his "base" of work as he sharpened saws for farmers in our community, or caned Reed-made chairs that had worn out with so much use. Now I wish I had listened more carefully to his true tales of adventure and how he overcame great difficulties in his search for treasure.
After twenty years of the adventuresome life, Columbus Hannibal Nix returned to Choestoe in 1911. His father, Archibald Carr Nix, had died in 1906. It is doubtful that Lum returned from Alaska for his father's funeral. But he had other aims upon his return to Georgia. He began to court beautiful Lillie Henson, born December 15, 1881 to Lum's sister, Ruth Alice "Nelle" Nix Henson (1866-1898) and Joseph Denson "Doss" Henson (1856-1926). On the Henson side of the family, Lillie was descended from her grandfather, James Madison Henson, great grandfather, Joseph Henson, Jr., and great, great grandfather, Joseph Henson, Sr. Like members of the Nix family, the Hensons had been early settlers in Union County and Choestoe District. A school named Henson operated for many years in the district, named for this family who had established it.
Lillie Henson and Lum Nix were married January 28, 1912 in Union County. Their children were Alice Pearl, born December 12, 1912; Roy Carl, born October 12, 1914; Corene Etta, born September 10, 1916, Nellie, born July 4, 1918 and Jack Columbus, born July 22, 1921.
The west still held a fascination for Lum Nix, so he packed up his young wife and their firstborn Pearl and headed west in 1913. This trek saw them living in Oregon and Idaho, where children Roy, Corene and Nellie were born. In 1919 they returned to Choestoe, then moved to Blairsville before Jack's birth in 1921.
In 1925 Lum Nix bought land in White County, Georgia and moved his family there where he and Lillie lived out their lives, except for the intermittent journeys Lum made to places he had lived, making his way by his well-honed crafts. Everywhere he went, he was known for his adventurous tales, made even more fascinating by the fact that he was the main character in them.
A great niece of Columbus Hannibal Nix tells the true story of his expertise at setting broken bones. Doris Elizabeth Nix (daughter of Aaron Jacob Nix and Ethel Elizabeth Ensley Nix, and granddaughter of John Wesley Nix and Minty Lavada Reece Nix), was four years old when she fell and broke her leg with a double compound fracture. This happened August 20, 1923, for, as Doris remembers, "my mother was in labor with my sister, Wilda Ruth", who was born on that date. Her Great Uncle Lum came walking up the road shortly after the terrible accident happened and Doris was in great pain with her broken leg. He said that he could set the leg. Doris remembers the excruciating pain, but is grateful that she never had any trouble with the bones knitting back properly. She remembers that Lum had Aunt Lena (Emma Lena Nix Dyer) gather up wool rags she could find to wrap around the broken leg. He then directed her to pour hot water over the woolen rags to bring the swelling down in the leg. With this done, he made a splint from wood, pulled the broken leg into place and set it. The procedure must have been traumatic for the four-year old child, with nothing to lessen the pain. "I sure remember screaming," says Doris Nix Bigger of this experience from her early childhood.
I count myself fortunate to have known this unusual man of the mountains. When I entered Truett McConnell College in 1947 as a charter student, one of my excellent professors there was his first-born child, Alice Pearl Nix, who later became the head of the psychology department at West Georgia College, Carrollton.
Columbus Hannibal Nix died in 1950 and Lillie Henson Nix died in 1973. They were interred in the Friendship Church Cemetery near Cleveland, White County, Georgia.
c 2007 by Ethelene DyerJones. Published August 9, 2007 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. All rights reserved.