Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Tracing Some of
the Jenkins Ancestors of the Late Hon. Edgar L. Jenkins
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,
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Jones; Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Jones is a retired educator,
freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA
Updated February 19, 2012
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