The earliest census of Union County in 1834 reveals three families of Chastains living within the bounds that became the county in 1832. These were John B. Chastain with three males and three females in the household; Edward Chastain, also with three males and three females counted; and Abner Chastain, with three males and four females registered.
By the 1840 census, the Chastain households had grown to seven in Union County, namely John, Abner B., Edward, Benjamin, James, Joseph C. and Abner. This increase in population of Chastains did not mean necessarily that four more families had moved into the county, but that some of the children of the three families in Union in 1834 had married and established homes within the decade.
The 1850 census reveals nine Chastain households with the following named as heads of families: John, J. B., Withrow, James, Jason, Calvin, William, Martin and Edward. One of the Chastain family historians, M. A. McGraw, in his book entitled Jason Coward Chastain and His Family (c1976) gives insight to how we find early Chastain settlers in Habersham, Union, Gilmer, Fannin and other mountain counties: "As these families came to Georgia, they all settled in the same area on Cherokee lands which became Cherokee County in 1831, Union County in 1832, and Fannin County in 1854. Their homeplaces were the same, but as the large area was subdivided, the records would seem to indicate they lived in different places." (page 12)
Returning to some of the Chastain families found in the early Union County censuses, we will trace more on their origins and contributions.
John Chastain (listed in a separate household in 1840 census) was born in Haywood County, North Carolina in 1791 or 1792. He had a nickname, "Hootchie," to distinguish him from another John Chastain, his uncle, who was known as "Blind John." The name "Hootchie" was given to this John because they settled in a bend of the Chattahoochee River when they first came to Georgia.
John Chastain married twice, first to Nancy Coward and second to Nancy Withrow. By his first wife he had one son, Jason Coward Chastain (1818-1900). By his second wife Nancy Withrow, John had eight children: Withrow, James, Joseph DeKalb, Malinda, Susanna, Hannah, Benjamin Nelson, and John. Evidently John and Nancy Coward Chastain divorced after Jason Coward was born. She later married a Kelly. When she was elderly, she returned to the home of her son Jason Coward Chatain at Dial in Fannin County. He cared for her in her dotage and she was buried in the family cemetery on the rise above the commodious Chastain house. John Chastain and his wife Nancy Withrow Chastain lived in the Ivy Log section of Union County where their eight children were born and reared.
John's father was Edward Brigand Chastain, born March 29, 1769 in Buckingham County, VA and died in 1834 in what is now Fannin County, GA. His mother, Edward Brigand's wife, was Hannah Brown (1771- about 1837). They were believed to be the parents of sixteen children, but records have been found of only fifteen, namely: Delilah, Jemimah, John, Rainey, Hannah, Mary, Griffith, Cyrus, Jehu, Abner, Elisabeth, Nancy, Martha, Edward Bruce, and Joseph Carleton. Perhaps one of their children died in infancy.
Hootchie" John Chastain's grandfather was the famous John "Ten Shilling Bell" Chastain (1743-1805), a Baptist preacher who worked with other famous pioneer ministers such as Rev. Shubael Starnes to establish churches on the frontier in Virginia, North and South Carolina. The "Ten Shilling Bell" nickname came for the elder John Chastain because of his resonating and clear ringing voice. It was reported that he could be heard, when preaching, "for a mile or more" on a still, clear day or night. Rev. John Chastain was declared a patriot when he signed the oath of allegiance and pledged his support for the American side in the fray against Great Britain. He and his family were in Powhatan County, Virginia at that time.
The other two Chastain households in Union County in 1834 were that of Edward Chastain and Abner Chastain. The Edward is believed to be Edward Brigand Chastain (1769- 1834). It seems he was enumerated in the 1834 census before his death later that same year. His partial family history is given above.
Abner Chastain was a son of Edward Brigand and Hannah Brown Chastain. Born in 1803, Abner was ordained to the gospel ministry prior to the Civl War. He married, first, Susan Pemberton O'Kelley in Habersham County, GA. This Rev. Abner Chastain served as pastor of the Choestoe Baptist Church before moving west. He led a wagon train going west, with some 250 people from Union County in the massive move. His wife, Susan, died on this trip west. Abner later married Amanda D. Elzy. Arriving in Colorado, Abner Chastain settled on the Huerfano River east of St. Mary's. There he established a Baptist Church and baptized the first convert in the Huerfano River in the fall of 1870. (Subsequent articles will trace more of the Chastain story. - EDJ)
[References: Union County census records, 1834, 1840, 1850. Books: M. M. McGraw, Jason Coward Chastain and His Family (1975). Pierre Chastain Family Association, Pierre Chastain and His Descendants Volume I (1995)]
c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 4, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.