Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Memoirs of John Joseph Vandiver
ago I wrote about the famed Adam Poole Vandiver
(1788-1877), a legendary man of the mountains of North
Georgia known as "The Hunter of
Adam Poole Vandiver had a total of
thirty-two children and three wives.
With that many
children, he now has descendants from the Atlantic to
the Pacific and from Canada to
the Gulf Coast, and
I recently have
made contact through e-mail with a Vandiver
descendant with a rather common name of Dan Smith who lives in Raleigh, NC. We
have been exchanging interesting family information and he hopes to
attend for his first time the Dyer- Souther Family Reunion to be held July 14, 2007 this
Adam Poole Vandiver is Dan Smith's fourth great
grandfather. Dan's interest and relationship to the Souther clan is
through his great, great grandfather, John Floyd Edward Vandiver (1849-1923), son of George, grandson of
Adam Poole). Rhoda Lucinda Souther (1853-1947), twelfth and youngest
child of John Souther (1803-1889) and Mary Combs Souther (1807- 1894)
married John Floyd Edward Vandiver on January 9, 1872.
Rhoda Lucinda Souther Vandiver
and her husband took up residence following their marriage in the home
of her father, John Souther, near present-day New Liberty Baptist Church. In
fact, Rhoda's father gave land for that church and cemetery site where
his four land lots joined. Pictures of the couple show them as
distinguished and handsome. They had thirteen children, twelve of whom
were born at the old Souther homeplace
before the couple decided to move west. The first of Rhoda and John's
children was Mary A. Vandiver who married
Frank L. Smith on May
7, 1894. This couple moved to White
County, Georgia to
make their home. New-found distant cousin Dan Smith of Raleigh, NC,
descends through a child of the Smiths, Jesse Benjamin Smith. In
seeking information for Dan Smith, I came upon a lengthy personal
memoir written in 1959 by John Joseph Vandiver,
fourth child born to Rhoda and John Floyd Vandiver.
The memoir is valuable for the insights it gives about his early life
in Choestoe and why that Vandiver family
decided to move west.
John Joseph Vandiver was a New Year's gift, born January 1, 1878 at
his grandfather John Souther's home. He
was the fourth child born to Rhoda Lucinda Souther Vandiver
and John Floyd Edward Vandiver. Old Bald Mountain (Enota) towered above the Souther home to the
east. The major occupation of the family was farming the land along
Town Creek, raising hogs to take to the market in Gainesville, and
gathering chestnuts and chinquapins to sell.
John Joseph and
his siblings, twelve of whom, like he, were born in the old Souther
home, went to school at New Liberty that served as a schoolhouse during
the week and a church house on Sundays. The teacher he remembers as
being the best instructor was Rev. John Twiggs, "who taught us many
good things." He recalled with sadness the death of his grandfather,
John Souther, in 1889 and his grandmother, Mary Souther, in 1894. They
were buried on land his grandfather gave as a cemetery at Old Liberty.
willed his house and a portion of his land to his youngest daughter,
Rhoda Souther Vandiver. John Joseph wrote:
"Our living was meager for we had to grow all that we had to eat on the
farm. Apples were dried for winter, as were pumpkins and beans for
winter use. Potatoes were piled in a heap on the ground, as were
cabbages, and dirt rounded up on them to keep them from freezing. Kraut
was made from cabbage and stored in large pottery churns. Green beans
were pickled in churns for use in the long winters." From their sheep
they got wool for socks and spun the thread to weave woolen cloth for
In 1895, John
Floyd Eugene Vandiver decided to "go
west." Others in the Choestoe Valley had
gone west and found better paying jobs and more productive farm work in
western states. By that time, John Floyd and Rhoda Lucinda had twelve
children: Mary who was already married to Frank L. Smith; William J; Cordelia Jane who married Andrew Townsend on
March 2, 1893 (son of Eli Townsend and Sarah Sally Dyer Townsend); John
Joseph; James H.; Fankie Roseanne; Della
L; Sarah Evelyn; Nellie May; Frank Hartwell; Calla B.; and Thomas
Marion (born March 30, 1894), one year old when his family started west. Upon leaving in 1895, Rhoda Lucinda sold the
old Souther homeplace to Eli Townsend who
purchased it for his son Andrew, married to Cordelia
Jane Vandiver. Rhoda Lucinda's child,
then, was living in the place where Rhoda was born, and where Rhoda
herself had given birth to twelve children. Cordelia
Jane and Andrew Townsend had two children, also born in that house,
before Andrew's untimely death at age 24 on November 27, 1897.
In his memoirs,
John Joseph Vandiver did not tell how the
large family traveled from Choestoe Valley to
their first stop out west, Drake's Creek, Arkansas. It
was after the Civil War, and the Vandiver
family probably went by covered wagons, taking what they could of
family belongings with them to the train station in Gainesville.
From there they took passage to Arkansas.
Neither does he explain why they chose Drake's Creek for their lodging
place. Maybe other relatives had gone before them to that location.
"In 1895 there
was a depression similar to the one of 1929, and we had to work hard to
live," Vandiver remembered. "When Andrew
Townsend died (in 1897), my sister Cordelia
(Delia) came to Drake's Creek with her two children to live with us."
The thirteenth and last child was born to Rhoda Lucinda Vandiver on March 17, 1897,
with the birthplace listed as Asher, Arkansas.
John Floyd Edward Vandiver found a farm on
Lollard's Creek (the old Lollard place) for sale and bought it for
$1,500. The family finally owned their own farm in Arkansas.
Whatever the size of the farmhouse, it was no doubt crowded with Rhoda
and John Floyd, twelve of their children (after Cordelia
Vandiver Townsend joined them), and two
grandchildren, a total of 16 people.
But as was the
custom then, they shared in the work and "made do" with circumstances.
Continuing the saga of the Vandiver
family's move west, we will trace their journey to other locations to
find better work.)
c2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 3, 2007 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
Updated December 31, 2008