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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tracing Some of the Jenkins Ancestors of the late Hon. Edgar L. Jenkins

A search through the 1834, 1840 and 1850 Union County, Georgia census records did not yield a single family with the last name of Jenkins. Where then did the Jenkins ancestors of our late Honorable Edgar Lanier Jenkins, sixteen years our Ninth District of Georgia U. S. Representative, originate?

Edgar’s paternal grandfather, Patterson Levi Jenkins (1855-1910), moved to Young Harris, Georgia in Towns County in 1906. He and his wife, Mariah Louisa Sawyer Jenkins (1857-1950), moved from near Robbinsville, North Carolina, Graham County, shortly after Christmas in 1906. The move was necessitated by the building of the Santeetlah Dam and the land the Jenkins family lived on in North Carolina was sold to be a part of the development for hydro-electric power for that area. Mr. Jenkins, known as Pat, had been a merchant in Robbinsville, and that was his goal in moving to Young Harris. Through his friend and fellow merchant in Towns County, Mr. Tom Hunt, Pat Jenkins was encouraged to move to Young Harris. Pat had purchased a large house and store from Mr. C. A. Webb on grounds now owned by Young Harris College. There he settled his family and opened the Jenkins Store.

Imagine the adventure of riding four days and camping out three nights along the wagon road as the Jenkins family went in the dead of winter from Robbinsville to Young Harris. It must have been a general migration, for accounts list the entourage as a “wagon train.” Who the others were that made the trek with the Jenkins family, this writer does not know. In the wagon(s) were as many of their household goods as they could pack, merchandise from Pat Jenkins’ store he had to close in Graham County, NC, and also his family: Pat himself, his wife Maria Louisa, and children Mary Elizabeth (b. 1888), William Robert (b. 1890), Nora Belle (b. 1892), Thomas Judson (b. 1896), Archie Jackson (b. 1901) and Charlie Swinfield (b. 1904). The couple had to leave behind the graves of their first two children, daughters, the first who died at birth and the second who died at twelve days of age. Two more children were born to Pat and Mariah Louisa in Young Harris: Nannie Ellen Ethel Jenkins was born in 1907, and Patterson Levi Jenkins, Jr. was born in 1910, but this namesake of his father, like the firstborn child in the family, died at birth. Seven of their ten children grew to adulthood.

Going back a generation from Pat and Mariah Sawyer Jenkins, his parents were Jonathan and Rachel Hyde Jenkins. Mariah’s parents were Thomas Patton and Margaret Jane Stillwell Sawyer. Pat and Mariah were married in Graham County, NC on January 24, 1844.

Edgar Jenkins’ father was Charlie Swinfield Jenkins, born March 4, 1904. He lacked not quite three months being three years old when the Jenkins family arrived in Young Harris by wagon train in December of 1906. In their eagerness to unload and get into the “Jenkins House” (the former Webb house), the parents evidently did not notice when little Charlie wandered off. He had much to see in his new surroundings. On his own, he went through most of the buildings then on the Young Harris campus, exploring as a little boy will all the nooks and crannies of strange and exciting places. Missing him, someone in the family finally found the little boy Charlie and rescued him. But a standing joke in the family was that Charlie was the first to “go through” Young Harris College, and that at the tender age of not even three years old. Later, many of the Jenkins family of Pat and Mariah’s children, as well as their subsequent generational descendants, would begin their college careers at the college. Honorable Edgar Jenkins himself was graduated from the college, later served on the Board of Trustees, and set up a scholarship fund that benefits students attending there. It was also at the college where little explorer boy Charlie learned early to be an excellent athlete. He excelled in basketball, baseball and tennis. Later, in 1927, he played professional baseball with the Florida State League, pitching fifteen games and winning thirteen. He was noted for his fast overhand pitch.

The Jenkins Store in Young Harris was a popular place, not only for necessary shopping but for sharing viewpoints on the state of the community, county, state, nation and world. A checkerboard with chairs—and probably near a pot-bellied stove in winter to ward off the cold—was an inviting place. Noted instructors Dr. Joe Sharp and Professor W. S. Mann frequented the store. They were also fishing and hunting companions with store proprietor Pat Jenkins. It was not unusual to see a sign on the store door on rather slow days: “Gone fishing; be back soon if the fish aren’t biting.” Probably on Mr. Pat Jenkins’ absences from the store, Mrs. Jenkins or one of the older children would answer the summons by the store bell to go unlock the door and wait on the customers.

Mr. Jenkins’ tenure as a merchant in Young Harris was short-lived, however. He died on December 16, 1910, and the store was closed. Mrs. Jenkins continued to run what was known as “The Jenkins House,” somewhat like a bed-breakfast-and meals, where “drummers” or traveling merchants liked to eat. She was noted as an outstanding cook. Two of her sons, Charlie and Will, learned to cut hair. They became the community barbers, carrying on their business in the Jenkins House. Charlie Jenkins followed his barbering talents for some years at the Jenkins Barber Shop in Blairsville prior to his years of serving as a Tennessee Valley Authority public safety officer.

Charlie Swinfield Jenkins married Evia Souther on June 30, 1929. They planned to elope, and sought out the Rev. Henry Brown to perform their ceremony. They found him preaching in a revival at Brasstown Church near Young Harris. After the service was over, he performed their marriage ceremony outside the church house, with the congregation looking on.

No keeping their marriage secret after that.

Mariah Louisa Sawyer Jenkins died February 27, 1950. She was laid to rest where her husband had been interred in the Old Union Baptist Church Cemetery, Young Harris. Following her death, the Jenkins House was sold to Young Harris College. The Pruett-Barrett building now stands on the land where the Jenkins family lived. The seven children who grew to adulthood from the union of Patterson Levi and Mariah Louisa Sawyer Jenkins have produced many descendants of this outstanding couple who moved to Towns County in the winter of 1906 from Graham County, NC.

cJanuary 26, 2012 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published online by permission of author at GaGenWebProject All rights reserved.

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