Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Brothers Craft Came After
Clark Dyer's Flying Machine
On December 17, 2003, America
stood poised to see a reproduction of the Wright Brothers’ flying
machine lift from Kill Devil Hill near Kitty
was in commemoration of one hundred years of flight, 1903-2003. The replica, however, with all the attention
to details, did not fly as well as the Wright Brothers’ plane, and the
100 year celebration hit an unexpected snag.
One Micajah Clark Dyer, an inventor
who lived and worked in the Choestoe District of Union County, made a
flying machine that pre-dated that of the Wright brothers by fifteen
years or more. The reason we do not hear more about this amazing feat
of a mountain genius is that he did not secure a patent for his machine
and he died before he could perfect it and get the publicity necessary
for making his invention a part of flight history.
Micajah Clark Dyer was born in South
Carolina on July 23, 1822. His mother was Sallie Dyer (b. about 1804 in
SC), eldest daughter of Elisha Dyer, Jr. (b. about 1785, d. 1847) and
Elizabeth Clark Dyer (b. about 1783, d. 1861). When
Sallie Dyer was about eighteen, she gave birth to Micajah
Clark Dyer out of wedlock. It has been a
matter of family legend that the baby’s father was one John Meyers, but
he did not ever marry Sallie nor claim his son. The
baby, Micajah Clark Dyer, was named after
Sallie’s grandfather, Micajah Clark, her mother Elizabeth’s father.
Elisha, Jr. and Elizabeth Clark Dyer raised Sallie’s son as
their own. They did, however, confuse the
record a bit, because they had already named their eighth child, a son,
born in 1817, Micajah Clark Dyer. Some have surmised that the inventor Micajah Clark Dyer’s father, John Meyers, must
have been very mechanical-minded, because Micajah
Clark early on showed propensities toward inventiveness.
The 1822 Micajah Clark Dyer moved
to Union County, Georgia with
his Grandfather Elisha Dyer, Jr.’s large
family and they settled in the Cane Creek section of Choestoe District. The family was in Union County when
the first county census was made in 1834, two years after the county’s
Micajah Clark’s mother, Sallie,
married Eli Townsend and they had a family. However,
it is believed that Macajah Clark
continued to live in the household of his grandfather Elisha Dyer, Jr. and did not grow up
with his half-siblings which included Andrew, Elisha, Thomas, Polly
Ann, William and Sarah Elizabeth Townsend.
Micajah Clark Dyer was introspective
by nature. His education in the one-room
teacher school for a few months of each year was supplemented by his
own innate ability to “figure out” things for himself.
23, 1842, when he was twenty, he married
Morena Elizabeth Ownbey
(1819-1892). To them were born nine
children: Jasper Washington Dyer (1843-1913 who married Emaline E. Lance); (Rev.) John M. Dyer (1847-?
who married Elizabeth Ann Sullivan); Andrew Henderson Dyer (1848-1903
who married Adeline Sullivan); Marcus Lafayette Dyer (1850-1921 who
married Clarissa Wimpey); Cynthia C. Dyer (1852-1917) who married John
P. Smith); Mancil Pruitt Dyer (1854-1916
who married  Rebecca Jarrard and 
Margaret M. Twiggs); Robert F. Dyer (1856-? who married Elizabeth
Fortenberry); Morena Elizabeth Dyer
(1859-1903 who married James A. Wimpey); and Johnson B. Dyer (1861-1885
who married Mary Hunter. Many descendants
of Micajah Clark and Morena
Ownbey Dyer still reside in Union
Morena Dyer had the convenience of
running water in their home at Choestoe, as Clark
devised his own water system consisting of hollowed-out logs run from
the bold spring on the mountain to their house. When
he was not busy with cultivating the land on his farm and tilling the
crops necessary to the economy of his large family, Clark Dyer labored
in his workshop.
There, he experimented with a flying machine made of lightweight
cured river canes and covered with cloth. Drawings
on the flyleaves of the family Bible, now in the possession of one of Clark’s
great, great grandsons, show how he thought out the engineering
technicalities of motion and counter-motion by a series of rotational whirli-gigs. He
built a ramp on the side of the mountain and succeeded in getting his
flying machine airborne for a short time.
Evidently, to hide his contraption from curious eyes and to keep
his invention a secret from those who would think him strange and
wasting time from necessary farm work, Clark Dyer kept his machine
stored behind lock and key in his barn. Those
who would not ridicule the inventor were allowed to see the fabulous
machine. Among them were several who bore
testimony to seeing the plane; namely his grandson, Johnny Wimpey, son
of Morena Dyer and James A. Wimpey;
Herschel A. Dyer, son of Bluford Elisha
and Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer; and James Washington Lance, son of the Rev.
John H. and Caroline Turner Lance.
Just when the fabulous trial flights (more than one) occurred on
the mountainside in Choestoe is uncertain, but it certainly happened
before Clark Dyer’s untimely death on January 26, 1891 when
he was 68 years of age. Prior to his
death, he had invented a “perpetual motion” machine.
Mr. Virgil Waldroup, a justice of
the peace and merchant in the area, had helped Clark Dyer to “send off”
to Washington for
a patent on his inventions, but these were not forthcoming before
Dyer’s death. It is also a part of family
tradition that his son, Mancil Pruitt
Dyer, turned down an offer of $30,000 for the patent purchase of the
perpetual motion machine, evidently thinking that if he held out for
more money he could receive it. And still
another family story holds that Clark’s
widow, Morena Ownbey
Dyer, sold the flying machine and its design to the Redwine Brothers of Atlanta, who, in turn, sold
the ideas to the Wright Brothers of North Carolina.
The facts of the fabulous flying machine of Choestoe are lost in Mountain Mists
and family legends. But it is a known fact
that one inventor named Micajah Clark Dyer
watched the birds fly and asked, “Why not man?” and proceeded to act on
his dream to invent a machine that would defy gravity.
It actually got off the ground in the late 1880's.
Pine Top around 1890 might have been the Kitty
Hawk of 1903 had times and
circumstances been more conducive.
c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 1, 2004 in The Union
Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708