Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Zenobia Addington Chastain, Teacher
Two weeks ago I
promised a continuation of the life and work of Zenobia
Addington Chastain, daughter of March and
Sarah Moore Addington of Union County who
married Oscar Fitzallen Chastain on December 18, 1872.
I felt it
timely to write last week about the Byron Herbert Reece Cultural Center and
the grant received to assist with the work there. Today, I continue
with the life and work of Mrs.Chastain,
outstanding teacher, and her husband.
The work begun
in the Academy founded by Zenobia Addington in Morganton, Ga., was
to continue. Even in those days the quality and extent of the Academy’s
outreach enabled a grant from the Peabody Foundation and for a time it
received funding and was known as a Peabody School.
husband’s ordination to the gospel ministry on May 17, 1884, the
couple’s interests continued in “Zenobia’s
Academy,” but began also to take another turn. Rev. Oscar Chastain was
one of the founders of the Morganton Baptist Association, and the group
of churches assumed leadership of a high school already organized but
needing some help in Mineral Bluff, Ga.
Then, in 1899,
the association voted to found the North Georgia Baptist College in
Morganton. Unbelievably, the school opened in the fall of the same
year. In its 26 year history, from 1899 through graduation of 1925
(when it closed, with buildings and grounds deeded to the Fannin County
Board of education) the school offered classes from first grade through
two years of college, with an outstanding “normal school” for training
teachers. It was a natural transition that the already established “Zenobia’s Academy” could be absorbed into the
new school. Classes were held in the old Fannin County Court House at
Morganton as the county seat had moved to Blue
Ridge in 1895.
Chastain continued as a teacher there, with her husband a strong
supporter, business manager and chairman of the Board of Trustees. At
one time, the couple mortgaged their own house and land in order to
provide necessary income to keep the college open. In 1906 the North Georgia Baptist College was
named one of “The Mountain Schools” of the Home Mission Board. Funds
were received for a new administration/classroom building, and later
for a dormitory. A companion “Mountain School” was
operating in Blairsville from 1904-1930 as the Blairsville Collegiate
Oscar Chastain opened their home for relatives and others who needed a
boarding place so they could attend the North Georgia Baptist College. The
couple had three children of their own, daughters Mariam
E., Mary E. and Nettie A. The girls were
listed as ages five, three and one in the 1880 census. The daughters
preceded their parents in death. Two married, and evidently died in
childbirth or shortly thereafter.
It has been
said of Zenobia Addington
Chastain that she was the “educational mother of the mountain area.” In
a time when women’s work was mainly as a homemaker and helpmeet to her
husband, she was establishing and maintaining an academy and later
supporting and teaching at a college that touched countless lives.
Records show that graduates of both Zenobia’s
Academy and the North Georgia Baptist College went
out to be teachers, lawyers, businessmen, ministers, doctors and
nurses, all giving credit to an industrious and visionary mountain
woman who worked hard to help them attain their goals.
lady, born in Union County but
spending productive years in education in Fannin County, did
not deviate from what she considered her mission and calling. Her
husband, the Rev. Oscar Fitzallen
Chastain, died in 1906 at age 62 and Zenobia
died in 1907 at age 60. They were buried near the graves of their
daughters at the Morganton Baptist Church Cemetery, not
far from the site of what had been “Zenobia’s
Academy” and of the North Georgia Baptist College. The
epitaph on the joint tombstone for Rev. and Mrs. Chastain reads: “They
loved God and their fellowman.”
her husband had a vision and worked to make it a reality. Indeed theirs
were noble lives, nobly lived.
c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Feb. 9, 2006 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