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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Rev. Edward Leander Shuler—mountain lad

Rev. Edward Leander Shuler (March 15, 1886-October 21, 1959)
Pictured at Mercer University, 1914

In the Mercer University, Macon, Georgia college yearbook of 1914, underneath the picture of Edward Leander Shuler who received his AB degree from that institution that year was this quotation which he had chosen as representative of his life to that point:

"A man that fortune's buffets and rewards
Has ta'en with equal thanks."
One of fourteen children born to William Jackson Shuler (1830-1936) and Elizabeth Townsend Shuler (1861-1947) of Ponder, Georgia, a section of Upper Choestoe along the Logan Turnpike, Edward Shuler knew it was through "buffets and rewards" of fortune and the grace of God that he had succeeded in completing his college degree. He would go on to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky for a master's degree, and then return to Georgia and Florida where he completed his career as a minister and teacher. Born March 15, 1886 in Choestoe, Edward Leander Shuler died October 21, 1959 in Jacksonville, Florida.

I have just reread Edward L. Shuler's book, Blood Mountain, his memoirs, published in 1953 by the Convention Press of Jacksonville, Florida. The subtitle of his book is "An Historical Story about Choestoe and Choestoeans." He says in his foreword: "This is a rambling tale, combining the deeds and sayings of Choestoeans who lived in a small rural district in the Georgia mountains, which was called Choestoe." (iii)

Written in a folksy manner, with avid use of the mountain vernacular language in the dialogue, Edward Shuler recalls a time past when frugal and hard-working parents, even though limited themselves in formal education, held a strong ambition for their children to go to school and make a difference in the world of their day. The wisdom he quotes from his Uncle Enoch Shuler, his father, Jack Shuler, and his mother, Elizabeth, is well-embedded in the book's story line and shows how the author benefited from their sage advice.

Edward Leander Shuler received his education at Hood's Chapel School in his community with inimitable teachers Bud Miller, John Twiggs, Silas Chambers and others. With this foundation in his one-teacher country school, Edward went to "boarding and batching" school at Hiawassee Academy, the school founded by cousins and great men who went out from the mountains to make a difference. These founders of the mountain school were the Rev. Dr. Fernando Coello McConnell and Rev. Dr. George W. Truett. Edward remembers how he went with his mother and father to the home of Henderson Dyer to borrow money for Edward to pay his fees and set up his "batching" room in Hiawassee. At Hiawassee Academy, Edward was introduced to Latin and Greek and the classics of literature. He was also on the Truett Society debating team and learned to become a good public speaker through that experience. His years of learning at Hiawassee Academy, a Mission School in the mountains, were basic to all he did in his succeeding years.

While studying at Hiawassee Academy, Edward Shuler and Laura Collins began their courtship. She was a daughter of Archibald Benjamin Collins (1863-1897) and Mary Louise Jackson Collins (1862-1934). Her brother, Mauney Douglas Collins (1885-1967), was a good friend of Edward Shuler. Mauney Collins would become Georgia's state superintendent of schools and served in that capacity from 1933-1957. Laura Collins and Edward Shuler married August 18, 1906.

The next step in Edward Shuler's education was at Young Harris College. In his memoirs, Rev. Shuler describes Young Harris as "in that pasture was the tree of knowledge, and it had only good fruit on it, and it was ripe…That nearly every one who attended the little college did eat of the good fruit was shown by the life each one lived later on. In half a century, the college sent forth a hundred and forty young men as gospel preachers." (p. 95, Blood Mountain). At Edward's graduation from Young Harris, he heard the famed preacher, the Rev. Sam Jones, deliver the graduation sermon.

The next step in education for Edward Shuler was Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. He and his wife Laura and their little girl, Ruby Jane Shuler (born March 7, 1908) went across the Logan Turnpike to Gainesville, caught a train to Atlanta, spent a day or two seeing the capitol and other sights there, and then on by train to Macon. Her brother, Mauney Douglas Collins, who was already a student at Mercer, accompanied the Shulers on this trip. Thanks to the president of Mercer, Dr. Jameson, who managed to find money from endowment scholarships, the Shuler family was able to live frugally with enough to eat in one of the Mercer cottages specifically set aside to house married Mercer ministerial students. Edward's account of how he studied hard for his first sermon at a church of any size outside those at which he had preached in the mountains before going to Mercer, the Wrightsville First Baptist, recalled both the anticipation and the nervousness of the encounter on Mother's Day. As it happened, all turned out well and the people welcomed the "preacher man" who had grown up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Edward's seminary degree was earned at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.

Edward and Laura Shuler had two other children besides Ruby Jane: a son, Paul Edward Shuler, was born November 12, 1909 and Mary Elizabeth Shuler was born November 23, 1915.

Edward Leander Shuler was ordained to the gospel ministry at Oakwood Baptist Church in Hall County, Georgia in 1910. Laura continued her education and graduated from Florida Southern College. In addition to rearing their children, she also became a teacher with a thirty-year career. She loved poetry, both reading and writing it, and some of her poems are included in Edward's book of memoirs.

Even though much of their work was in the Jacksonville, Florida area, Edward and Laura Shuler never lost the desire to return to the mountains. The serene valleys and hills and the mountain people remained dear to their hearts. Edward, as well as Laura, wrote poetry. In his "The Old Nottely" he lauds the tumbling river that cascades through Union County. The river became for this couple, moved away, a symbol of how life itself flows and cascades, touched by and touching a multitude of people.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 7, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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