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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Silas Chambers, Country School Teacher Extraordinary

Seated: Teacher Silas Chambers holding their first child and his wife, Laura Hood Chambers, about 1899.

Standing, Laura's younger sister, Jessie Mae Hood (1886-1902), who died at age 16 with a fever.

We read this account about early country schools in Edward Leander Shuler’s book, Blood Mountain (Convention Press, Jacksonville, FL, 1953, p. 48):

“ ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child,’ had long been the rule both parents and teachers had followed in Choestoe. The rule was used, they said, by the Cherokees in bringing up their children throughout the Georgia mountains before the white people went to Choestoe to live. But a new age of learning was destined to change the people of Choestoe. It would change their thinking first and then their ways.”
That ‘new age of learning’ came when young Silas Chambers from “the other end” of Union County went to Hood’s Chapel School to be the teacher. Edward Leander Shuler’s father, William Jackson Shuler, had a voice in hiring the young, aspiring teacher. So did Mr. Theodore Saxon, another prominent man in the community. The Reverend John Twiggs, who had been the teacher at Hood’s Chapel, had moved on to White County across the mountain to preach and teach, leaving the local school on the Logan Turnpike without a teacher. Maybe Silas Chambers had heard the news that the community was without a teacher. He went, seeking the job as the schoolmaster.

Silas Chambers was minus a right hand and a portion of that arm. In inquiry, he told Mr. Shuler that he had lost his arm in an accident while he worked on the railroad in North Carolina. In damage settlement from the railroad, the young man had received money with which he went to Bellevue Academy to learn to be a teacher. He came well-qualified, with credentials in science, mathematics, the classics of literature and language, history and philosophy. He also enjoyed sports and proposed to teach the pupils how to play baseball, wrestling, “town” ball, and swimming.

The parents of Hood’s Chapel Community welcomed the young teacher who got a place to board in the community and began the summer school term as soon as crops were “laid” by. He was a brilliant conversationalist, and even before school began, the people knew that he had worked not only on the railroad, but that he had experience in the mines at Copperhill, Tennessee and on the log trains that loaded at the Culberson, NC railroad depot. Even though he had lost an arm, he compensated with strength and power in his body, and the dexterous use of his left hand and arm.

In baseball and town ball, he taught the students coordination and good sportsmanship. After school hours, he took the boys hunting on the mountains. He taught many to swim in the mill pond or in the deep hole of the Nottley River. School was an exciting place, for learning was active and interest was high. He made available more books than the students had known before, and he taught research methods and through experiments.

Then Silas Chambers met a young lady, already out of school, but who would pass by the school building going to her care-giving job at Tom Alexander’s house, where she helped LeEtta Alexander with her new baby and the other children. This young lady’s name was Laura Hood, daughter of Mary Reid Hood and Richard Jarrett Hood. She lived up near the Helton Falls along a mountain trail from Hood’s Chapel School.

The young couple began to see each other at church meetings. Later, as no surprise and to the delight of the Hood’s Chapel people, the couple announced a date for their wedding. Then, on a Sunday in the early springtime, while dogwood trees were in full bloom, Silas Chambers and Laura Hood were married in a beautiful ceremony at the home of her mother, Mary Reid Hood, with the Rev. John Twiggs performing the ceremony. This was in 1896. The festivity was complete with a reception with good food for all guests and a serenade to the new couple. It was a typical mountain wedding celebration in the late nineteenth century.

How long Silas Chambers continued to teach at Hood’s Chapel School is unknown to this writer, but sometime later, the young couple decided to go west for better job opportunities for the excellent teacher who had opened up the vistas of learning for many in the Choestoe section around Hood’s Chapel School. Many who themselves became teachers, ministers, doctors and lawyers as well as farmers and housewives testified to the lofty influence this teacher had on their early learning experiences at the little country school.

The couple settled near Denver, Colorado in a township called Brighton. Silas Chambers was born in 1867 and died in 1938. His parents were Juan Roswell Chambers and Mary A. Shields Chambers. Silas’s brother, J. W. Chambers, married Laura Hood’s older sister, Ida Hood. J. W. and Ida Chambers remained in Union County when Silas and Laura went west. Occasionally the younger couple would return to visit relatives in Union County.

Laura Hood Chambers died March 23, 1938 at the Presbyterian Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Her death certificate lists causes of death as pneumonia and cardiac hypertrophy. She was 58 at the time of her death. Her husband died the same year as she. He was 71. Their triple tombstone at Brighton, Colorado has the names Silas Chambers (1867-1938), Laura L. Hood Chambers (1880-1938), and son Ferd Chambers (1905-1920). Other known children of this couple were Mercer, Peter, Emma, Grace and Florence.

Edward Leander Shuler writes of this teacher extraordinary, “Silas Chambers was the chief actor in the drama of life that unfolded at Hood school house” (p. 57).

[Resources: Edward Leander Shuler, Blood Mountain. Jacksonville, FL: Convention Press, 1953. Pp.48-57. Carol Thomas Alexander, Mary Reid Hood and Richard Jarrett Hood Families. Compiled 2001.]

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 1, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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