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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

This Old House

"Did you know that the old Hunter-England Cabin is being torn down?"

So was the distressed call I received last week about the old cabin beside Highway 129/19 at Choestoe, which had been a landmark as long as any of us can remember, and much longer.

Legend holds that John Hunter (b. c1775 in VA, moved to Buncombe County, NC, then to Union Co., GA; d. 1848 in Union County, GA) built the cabin about 1832 (no later than 1834).

The Cherokee were still residents of the area. A story passed down in the family is that John Hunter and other workers who built the cabin had to ward off Indians who looked with disfavor upon those of light skin building a dwelling beside the Nottely River on land that had been hunting grounds and home for the Cherokee for untold generations.

"That's such an historical house. Isn't there something that can be done to prevent its being torn down?" another distressed caller asked me.

My response to him was that we as citizens and lovers-of-history had neglected to get the old house officially on the Register of Historic Places. Our hands were somewhat tied as to what we could do, outside of having the money for the price being asked for the cabin- which was destined for tearing down and removal.

It was obvious by the telephone calls and emails to me that many in Union County and descendants of the Hunter-England families for whom the cabin was originally named were "up in arms" about what was happening with the ancestral home.

As a lifetime member of the Union County Historical Society, and as a descendant of those pioneer settlers, John Hunter and Daniel England, I wanted to do what I could, albeit long-distance, to assure that the cabin would not be razed and lost to posterity. We had such a little bit of time to really take action.

The Hunter-England Cabin

I thought of what a landmark the cabin was in my growing-up years. I grew up "across the Nottely River" (on the east side) from the Hunter-England cabin. But my mother's portion of land from her father, Francis Jasper "Bud" Collins, was acreage that adjoined the land on which the Hunter-England cabin was built. When my sister, Louise, married Ray Dyer, they built their first house across the highway from the cabin. In those days, when I walked a footlog across the Nottely in the short-cut from our farm to my sister's new house near the old cabin, I went by the old house on each trip to visit my sister's family. In those days, the old cabin was occupied, rented to people we knew, other kin who always invited me in to warm by the cabin's fireplace or take a friendly meal in the little lean-to kitchen that had been built onto the old cabin. "This old house" was a fixture in our community, a place built a hundred years before I was born. It's sturdiness seemed to assure all of us in the community that it would be around forever.

I thought about John Hunter and Daniel England, my ancestors. John Hunter moved his family from the Mills River Section of North Carolina, then Buncombe County, and later named Henderson County. In the ones coming to Georgia with John and his wife, Elizabeth, were sons Andrew, William Johnson, and Jason Henderson, and daughters Harriet and Martha. Later, his daughter Rebecca, who had married Samuel Riley Lance in North Carolina, also came to Georgia and settled near her father and mother. It is through Samuel Riley and Rebecca Hunter Lance that our noted Union County poet, Byron Herbert Reece, traces his lineage through his mother, Emma Lance Reece. Settler John Hunter was the great, great, great grandfather of the poet.

John Hunter's son, William Johnson Hunter (1813-1893), married Margaret Ann ("Peggy") England, daughter of William Richard and Martha "Patsy" Montgomery England. She was a granddaughter of Daniel and Margaret Gwynn (Guinn) England.

Daniel England was noted as a patriot, giving aid during the Revolutionary War from his iron foundry in North Carolina. William and Peggy married in Habersham County in 1839. In 1840, they built their house not too far from William's father's cabin. That house, said to be one of the first built of planed lumber in the Choestoe area, still stands today on Liberty Church Road. It was the ancestral home of many Hunter descendants, including 103-year old noted teacher, Mrs. Dora Hunter Allison Spiva. It is through one of the ten children of William and Peggy England Hunter that I trace my ancestry to John Hunter, the cabin builder. Their daughter, Georgianne Hunter, married Francis Jasper Collins, and they became my grandparents through my mother, Azie Collins Dyer.

When John Hunter died in 1848, he was buried in the Old Salem Cemetery on a mountain directly up from the cabin he built. It is a sad commentary, indeed, to think that the long-time landmark will no longer be on land near his final resting place.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Apr. 3, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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