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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reunion Reflections and Revolutionary Remembrances

Pardon my very personal and proud approach to reporting on our annual Dyer-Souther Heritage Association Reunion held Saturday, July 18, 2009 at Choestoe Baptist Church Family Life Center. We gathered some 213 strong (according to registration count) for a day of reflecting upon the past, greeting people both new to us and regular attendees, and hearing the accounts of some of our ancestors who fought to gain freedom from Great Britain during the American Revolution.

I thank all who worked hard to set up for the day and plan and implement the program. These events do not just happen. The trustees and officers of the association are Bill Collins, president, Reid Dyer, vice-president, Janice Lance, secretary, Marie Knight, treasurer of the Old Liberty Cemetery Fund, assisted by Lee Knight, Ethelene Jones, historian and newsletter editor, Keith Jones, Trustee, and Joe Dyer, Trustee emeritus. This group carries on the work of the association between reunions, plans for and advertises the reunion, and, with the help of others, sets up the meeting place for the anticipated crowd of attendees. Bill Collins concluded his long term as president at the end of this reunion. Reid Dyer became the new president and Bill will remain on the Board as a Trustee.

Andrew Turnage announced plans to further promote the work of inventor Micajah Clark Dyer (1822-1891) who received a patent (# 154,654) in 1874 for his "Apparatus for Navigating the Air." A foundation has been set up to receive funds for upgrading his gravestone in the Old Choestoe Cemetery. Plans are also under way to get his invention listed in the Aviation Hall of Fame and to build a working model of his invention according to specifications and drawings he set forth in his application for the patent. For more information, interested persons may go to this website or e-mail for information at MicajahClarkDyer@gmail. com.

A drawing for the proposed grave marker for Bluford Elisha Dyer, Jr. (ca 1785-1847) was presented by Keith Jones, Trustee. The approximate location of the grave, unmarked, has been found on property where Dyer settled when he and his wife, Elizabeth Clark Dyer, moved to the Choestoe Valley along Cane Creek in the early 1830's, becoming the first Dyer settlers in the area. Another historical preservation project is to locate the old Souther Family Cemetery near New Liberty Baptist Church where John and Mary Combs Souther buried some of their children who died prior to the establishment and development of the church and cemetery on land John Souther gave for that purpose. The Heritage Association aims to locate, if possible, this burial site and mark it.

Still another project is to mark in a more appropriate manner the family burial site of the Rev. John M. Dyer, and the gravesites of his wife, Elizabeth Sullivan Dyer and their daughter, Martha Dyer. This year's reunion saw first-time attendees from many places with ties to the Dyer-Souther and collateral families of Choestoe. From Louisiana came Ida Nix Reed and her husband Charles and daughters, Ashleigh Smith of Mississippi and Leslie Doucette of Atlanta, and granddaughter Caroline Smith. From Louisiana came Royce and Velma Dyer, descendants of Jefferson Beauregard and Rhoda Souther Dyer. From Athens, Georgia came Eva Leach Banks who descends from Samantha Dyer Alexander, and others of Eva's kin. From Warrenton, VA came Margaret Harkins Patterson, a great, great, granddaughter of Micajah Clark Dyer. From Cleveland, TN came Ed (and Dortha) Townsend. Ed descends from Sarah Elizabeth (Sally) Dyer and Eli Townsend. Ed has written a valuable family history book entitled Some Townsends of North Georgia. From Brasstown, NC came Tipper Pressley, author and presenter of “Blind Pig and the Acorn,” an on-line newsletter with the purpose of documenting and publishing information about mountain people and ways that are fast vanishing with our modern-day development. These are but a few of the "first time" attendees whom we welcomed warmly. Space precludes my listing them all here, but they, too, are important. Their names will be in the next Chronicle newsletter of the Association. We hope they will return, year after year, as do the scores of "regular" attendees, all of whom, by their presence and support, assist the Trustees to have a wonderful reunion that focuses on family solidarity and honoring the contributions of our ancestors to the American way of life.

The program for the 2009 Reunion was about our ancestors who were soldiers and patriots in the American Revolution. Brief biographical sketches were given about two James Collins soldiers who may be tied to Thompson Collins, first Collins settler in Choestoe Valley. We heard about Elisha and Amey Laws Dyer, assisting with material aid to the Revolution, as did William and Daniel England with their iron forge on Hunting Creek in North Carolina. John Ingraham, Stephen and William Souther, Michael Tanner, John Henry Stonecypher, William Jones, the two named John Nix, and the four sons of Repentance Townsend, all soldiers in the "Overmountain Men," were all briefly eulogized in the program to honor our Revolutionary War patriots. Each deserves his own story, and many have already been written about in this column in years past. Look online to see their biographies. Others will be featured in future columns.

A solemn part of the reunion program is the "In Memoriam" time. This year, we honored the memory of twenty-three of our kin who had passed away since the last reunion. We especially missed the physical presence of our beloved Dora Hunter Allison Spiva who passed away February 24, 2009, and who loved attending the reunions and contributing her sparkling wit and personality to all who came.

We honored our youngest present, little Kaitlyn Girardot from Hoschton, GA, daughter of Kari Bardenwerper Girardot, granddaughter of Judy Dyer Bardenwerper, and great granddaughter of Wilonell Collins Dyer. Our eldest one present for the second year in a row was Mrs. Irene Coker Brown, widow of Emory Brown, who at the wonderful age of 100 enjoyed the reunion and the people. The one who traveled farthest was a brand-new attendee, Simon Napoli from Australia, who was the guest of Dr. Eva Nell Mull Wike and Jim Wike of Oak Ridge, TN. Eva Nell taught Simon's mother in the 1980's as an exchange student, and now the student's son is here visiting the Wikes. He was "awed" by our reunion, and said he had never attended anything like it before in Australia. And from beautiful Hawaii, second in the "farthest distance" traveled were Linda Nahser Beadle and her husband Wes. Linda's mother is Kathleen Dyer Nahser, her grandparents were Franklin Hedden and Dora Nix Dyer, and her great grandparents were Bluford Elisha (III) and Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer. Thanks, Wes and Linda, for traveling so far, and for making sure Linda's mother gets to attend the reunion.

As I reflect back upon the Reunion of 2009, my very subjective evaluation is "wonderful, marvelous!" If you missed it this year, perhaps you will consider setting aside the third Saturday in July, 2010 to be a part of our gathering. You will find a warm welcome, good food, an enlightening program, and southern hospitality at its height. And you will learn something, too. This year, I took displays of several genealogy and other books and found people with notebook and pen in hand gleaning information on their family lines from the materials. Overall, it was a beautiful, exciting and rewarding day!

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 23, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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