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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Monday, August 23, 2010

Old Letters From Davis Kin Give Insights to Life in Early Union County

Communication now is so much more advanced from the days of dated letters from 1861 and 1871.

Here is the background of this story. David Davis of Vale, North Carolina read some of my articles in “Through Mountain Mists” and noted especially those about England, Souther, Davis and other names with which he was familiar in his genealogical lineage. He got in touch with me both through e-mail and by telephone. He gave me a delightful account of how he had come into possession of some old documents held by a Mr. Wilburn Davis in McDowell County. The elderly Mr. Wilburn Davis had an old wooden box containing family papers, copies of deeds, tax receipts, some church records and the like. David Davis said of the box and its contents: “It was a treasure trove.” He made copies, and in a package from David, I received copies of two letters from Union County Davis kin addressed to relatives back in McDowell County.

David Davis of Vale, North Carolina, would like to correspond with anyone who is a descendant of the Davis brothers and sisters who settled in Union County as early as 1846 or before. He thinks they just might possibly have stored somewhere in a trunk or box, as the elderly Mr. Wilburn Davis of McDowell County did, letters received from the relatives back home in North Carolina, as these to the family members there were kept for all those years and passed down in a dove-tailed wooden box. He would like to hear from you if you can help him in his search. His address is David Davis, 6401 Bill Ledford Road, Vale, NC 28168, telephone 704-276-1302, e-mail:

Now to get on to the connections, and to some of the news in the preserved letters from the nineteenth century.

In the 1850 census of Union County were these settlers who came from Old Burke (Now McDowell) County, NC to settle in Union. Thanks to David Davis of Vale, NC for making me aware of their names. These were listed in the 1850 Union County Census: I list them by household number (the number given by census taker J. J. Logan as he recorded between September 2 and November 16, 1850):

(718) Davis, Meredith age 43, born in North Carolina; (no wife listed; evidently she had died prior to the 1850 census); Children: Anderson, 18; Logan, 16; John, 14; Caroline, 12; Mary, 10; Sarah, 8 (all six of these were born in North Carolina prior to the move to Union County); James, 6; and Thomas, 4, both born in Georgia. A Mary Davis, age 60, born in North Carolina, was listed in Meredith’s household. She, no doubt, was the sister who came with her brothers (and her sister, Sarah Davis Souther who probably was already settled in Union) when they moved from North Carolina to Union County, Georgia.

(714) Davis, Jehial (census-taker’s spelling; it probably should have been Johile—and I have found it in another genealogy listing as John Hoyle, shortened to Johile, born November 1, 1852 in McDowell County, NC, died September 10, 1926). “Jehial” was listed as age 48 by the census-taker, born in North Carolina. In his household were wife Abigail, 34, born in NC, and children Jesse, 15; Sophia, 13: Nancy 11; and Martha, 6, all born in North Carolina; and born in Georgia, Mary, 4; and Hester, 2.

(806) Davis, Salathial, 52, born in North Carolina; his wife, Elizabeth, 45, also born in North Carolina; and children still at home, Reuben, 18, and Martha, 7, both born in North Carolina.

And a sister to Meredith, Mary, Johile and Salathial Davis was Sarah Davis Souther, who, with her family was listed in the 1850 Union County census:

(681) Souther, Joseph, age 48, born in North Carolina; his wife, Sarah, age 50, born in North Carolina; their children, still at home in 1850, were listed as Stephen, 21; Mary, 17; Jesse, 15—all born in North Carolina. And, born in Georgia, were these children: Elizabeth, age 11, Josiah, age 8. And living in the household of Joseph and Sarah Souther in 1850 was Joseph Frady, age 15, whose relationship to the family is not given.

In other genealogical records we find that a daughter of Joseph and Sarah, Lydia Louise Souther, married Richard H. Wimpy on February 14, 1850 in Union County, Georgia, with William Prewitt, minister of the gospel, performing the ceremony.

And now to the letters David Davis found from members of these Davis families in Union County to their relatives back in McDowell County, North Carolina:

One from Marida Davis in Union County, Georgia to her sister Jane England in McDowell County, NC dated November 10, 1871: After the general opening of being in “common good health” and the usual wishes about the recipient’s health, Marida writes this interesting news: “I have not much general news to write, only there is a great prospect of a rail road a-coming to Blairsville and I think that the road will come. The name of the road is North Georgia and North Carolina rail road. Hit (sic) will intersect with the Suite railroad at Calhoun, GA and Walhallie, South Carolina. The people of this community is a subscribing to the road a great deal and I think we will have the road in about two years.” The Marida Davis who wrote the letter, I think, was the Mary Davis listed in the household of Meredith Davis in the 1850 census.

Unfortunately, the railroad Merida Davis wrote so enthusiastically about did not ever come to Blairsville, but instead was routed to Blue Ridge, Culberson, NC and Murphy, NC., probably due to lack of funds to build it over more mountainous terrain to Blairsville. The railroad reached Blue Ridge in 1886.

A letter in which Mary Davis signs her name as Mary (not Merida) Davis to her brother David Davis and family back in North Carolina was dated October 18, 1861 (?, year date a bit obscured). It reflects hard times coming on because of the Civil War. Health was “common” except for “the Rumatis” that plagued the writer. She wrote, “Johiel left this country and moved down in (illegible) County about 100 miles. I ain’t seen him since he left here.” In both these letters is a message of homesickness to see others of the family and to hear from them. Family ties were not severed by distance.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published August 19, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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