I don't want to belabor the point, but this year's reunion may have been one of our best. Registration showed 214 in attendance for the morning, noon and early afternoon gathering. Many more came for the program at 3:00 p. m. commemorating the invention of Micajah Clark Dyer's "Apparatus for Navigating the Air," and the naming of a portion of Georgia Highway 180 the Micajah Clark Dyer Parkway. The new arrivals lifted the attendance count to 300 or more.
That program itself, carefully planned by Clark Dyer's great, great granddaughter, Sylvia Dyer Turnage, was well worth the effort people made to come from great distances, such as California, Oregon, Ohio and Texas to attend the dedication service. Sylvia and her family worked on wonderful displays that told the story of the inventor and his patent for the "Apparatus..." secured in 1874. The displays were given to the Union County Heritage Association Museum where visitors may read and see the story of Micajah Clark Dyer.
Earlier, in the regular reunion part of the program, a spinning wheel was donated to the Union County Historical Society Museum. Made by John Combs Hayes Souther in 1875 when his daughter, Sarah Evaline married Bluford Elisha Dyer, the heritage piece had been lovingly cared for and preserved by Ann and her husband, the late Bill Rich, and had come to them by Bill's mother, the late Nancy Louisa Dyer Rich, a daughter of Sarah Evaline and Bluford Elisha Dyer.
Many attended for the first time this year. Among them were Ralph Collins of Granbury, Texas, who is a great, great grandson of Willliam Dallas Collins (1846-1938) and Sarah Rosannah Souther Collins (1849-1929). Several months ago Ralph Colllins (who has the nickname "Bits" because he was called "Little Bit" as a child) called and introduced himself to me. He had visited my cousin William Clyde Collins of Choestoe and Clyde gave "Bits" my telephone number, telling him I was historian of the Dyer-Souther Heritage Association.
Already, Ralph Collins had learned that his great, great grandfather, Dallas Collins, was the third child and first son of Francis ("Frank") Collins (1816-1864) and Rutha Nix Collins (1822-1893), and Francis was the fourth child of first Collins settlers to Choestoe, Thompson Collins (1785-1858) and Celia Self Collins (1787-1880).
Ralph Collins' great grandfather was the firstborn of Dallas and Rosannah Souther Collins, James Elias ("Eli") Collins and Frankie Jane Jackson Collins (1870-1962). His grandfather was Vance Porter Collins (1897) who was born in Georgia before his father, James Elias, moved to Granbury, Texas. In Texas, Vance Porter Collins married Jessie Linthicum, and their second child, Doyle Collins, became Ralph "Bits" Collins's father.
Ralph and I have been exchanging e-mails and family history information. He and I agree that once one becomes interested in genealogy, it is hard to let go until the missing pieces of the puzzle of family connections are fitted together.
Have you ever met anyone whom you felt, at first contact, that you have known all your life? This was the case when Bits Collins and I first met in person on Sunday, July 15 at the reunion. Cousins whose common ties reach for generations back are inextricably tied together by common family bonds and hardy pioneer stock. His great grandfather "went west" looking for a better way of life, leaving behind the graves of two babies who died as infants, Rannel Collins (1891) and Floyd Collins (1897), buried in the Old Choestoe Cemetery. Without access to any James Elias Collins family journals, we can assume that he and his wife Frankie Jane Jackson Collins moved to Granbury (or Weatherford), Texas about 1902 with their children Leona, Arthur, Vance Porter, Ernest Fulton, and Marion Dallas (born in Georgia in 1901). The last four children of James Elias and Frankie Jane Collins were born in Texas: Tressie (1903), Joseph Taylor (1905), Gusta Roseanne (1909) and Vester Eugene (1912).
I was a child when my great Uncle Dallas Collins died October 18, 1938. His funeral made a lasting impression on me. My mother and father took me to Uncle Dallas' home near New Liberty Baptist Church where they helped with funeral preparations. My father, Jewel Marion Dyer, was handy with tools and he helped to make the casket for Uncle Dallas from seasoned timbers stored in the barn for that purpose. Great Aunt Sarah Rosannah Souther Colllins (1846-1929) had preceded her husband, Great Uncle Dallas, in death. She was my father's great aunt (a daughter of Jesse John and Mary "Polly" Combs Hayes Souther). Her husband, Dallas Collins, was my mother's uncle. This double-relationship was somewhat hard to figure out. We just knew we were "kin" on both sides of the family. I can remember the ladies preparing the body for burial. They also lined the casket with cotton and attached a satiny cloth to its interior before the body was gingerly laid in the homemade coffin. That was in the days before country folks used funeral homes. Mother and other kin also helped her cousin Martha Aria Collins with the cooking for the large crowd that gathered for the funeral. Aria and her husband, Moody Watson Collins, lived with and looked after Uncle Dallas prior to his death. The funeral was held at the house the next day, with a large crowd present.
I told Ralph "Bits" Collins this remembrance from my childhood of his great, great grandfather's funeral. Sadly, Ralph's great grandfather, James Elias (Eli) Collins did not attend the funeral. This firstborn son of William Dallas Collins preceded his father in death, dying in Granbury, Texas on January 8, 1938.
Back in Milledgeville, Georgia, which is now my dwelling place, I am still reveling in the memories of a marvelous day in the hills of Union County, where the morning mists covered the mountains with an effervescent glow as the sun rose to drive the fog away and provide a marvelous day of beauty. The fellowship, as well, was bright and shining. Selah.
c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 20, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.