Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Last week’s column introduced the Denton Family early settlers to Union County, dating back as far as 1834, when the first census revealed that seventeen by that name in three families were living in the county. The heads of Denton households then were James, Elizabeth and Eliza Denton. In the 1840 listing, we found five households headed by Levina, Samuel, Jonathan, Elijah and George M., with the Union population of Dentons then numbering twenty-three. In 1850, the Dentons were in six families numbering a total of thirty-one, headed by George, Samuel, Jonathan, Samuel, Jr., William, Elihu, and Elijah.
A precursory examination of the 1860 and 1870 Union census records did not reveal a single household of Dentons in Union. What had happened to most of these families of earlier decade census tabulations? Had a mass exodus of Denton families occurred within the twenty year period between 1850 and 1870? Furthermore, an examination of the Union County Cemetery records did not reveal marked Denton graves within the parameters of Union.
Knowing that Denton was a very prominent name in neighboring Towns County, it was rather easy to surmise what had occurred. When Towns County was formed from portions of Union in 1856, several of the Denton families, without moving from the properties they had occupied when the 1850 census was taken, had been absorbed into the new principality of Towns.
Take, for example, the family of George and Catherine Wood Denton, present in Union in 1840 and 1850. They were within the parameters of the new Towns, and were quickly oriented to life there, not having moved at all. In fact, George Denton helped the new county in its early years by being appointed (or should we say “elected”) the county’s very first Tax Collector—maybe not a very popular job but a necessary one, nonetheless, to the government of the new county.
In addition to being a farmer in the Upper Hightower section of Towns County, George also was a land surveyor. He used this skill to map out the county seat town of Hiawassee and to survey farms and holdings of other citizens. Last week’s column listed six children of George and Catherine Wood Denton. Altogether, George and his wife, the daughter of William and Nancy Osborn Wood, had eleven children whose names and birth dates are as follows: Elizabeth J. (1837), William J. (1839), Elisha H. (1841), Nancy (1843), Samuel M. (1845), Jeremiah J. (1847), John M. (1851), Martha Ann (1853), Lucinda A. (1856), Margaret M. (1856), Mary C. (1860) and Georgia (?). George and Catherine moved from the Upper Hightower section of Towns to White County. When George was back for a visit to one of his children still residing there, he became ill and died, and was buried in the Upper Hightower Baptist Church Cemetery. It is believed Catherine died and was buried in White County.
The third child of George and Catherine, Elisha H. Denton (1841-1922) joined the Confederacy during the Civil War, enlisting on August 24, 1861 and serving through January, 1865, having reached the rank of Lieutenant during his enlistment. Returning to Towns County, he married his sweetheart, Cinthia Berrong, on January 18, 1865. She was a daughter of another well-known pioneer family, Andrew Jackson and L. Osborn Berrong. Elisha and Cinthia made their home in the Swallows Creek Community of Towns County where ten children were born to them: Lillie A. (1867-1936) who married Taylor Wood and Alex Parker; Robert M. (1868-1934) who married Maggie Rogers; Louisa Caroline (1870-1938) who married Elisha Eller; James L. (1872-1941) who married Esta Foster; Ollie M (1874-1892), never married; Phairella O. (1876-1955) who married Joe Hooper; Erastus M. (1878-1936) who married Nannie McLucas; Demascus (1881-1961) who married Minnie Smith; Esco (1884-1952) who married Ora Foster; and Doll (a son, 1886-1964) who married Myrtle Eller.
Of the many descendants of George M. and Catherine Wood Denton, we can identify businessmen, bankers, educators, politicians, farmers, developers—almost every occupation
For example, James Young Denton (1899-1982), son of Robert M. and Maggie Rogers Denton, became a noted banker and financier, having been instrumental in the growth of the Bank of Hiawassee and in securing the charter for the Union County Bank in Blairsville, and getting it established. He married Emma Belle Maney on May 20, 1920 when she was only fourteen years of age. Young was then a teacher, and he enrolled his young bride in the Hiawassee Academy. J. Y., as he was better known, and Emma Denton became quite a team. She, too, became a noted worker and director of the Bank of Hiawassee, was a horticulturist with her daylilies known far and wide. They had six children, five of whom reached adulthood and became productive citizens. Their children were J. C. Denton, Evelyn Denton (Groves), Elois Denton (Anderson), James Lanier Denton who died young from whooping cough, J. William Denton, and Emma Jean Denton (Anderson).
Another of the children of Robert M. and Maggie Rogers Denton was their daughter Isabel, born April 28, 1906, who became a noted elementary school teacher mainly in Towns County but also in White and Forsyth Counties in a career that spanned forty-three years. When my husband, the late Rev. Grover D. Jones, was pastor of the McConnell Memorial Baptist Church in Hiawassee, among our loyal members were Mrs. Isabel Hall and her beloved husband, Mr. Leonard Hall. As a young ministerial couple, we were “taken in,” encouraged and loved by this couple who often had us in their home as guests. Isabel Denton married widower Leonard Hall, a veteran of World War I, on June 29, 1947. Mrs. Isabel Denton Hall was noted not only for her work in the school system, but she served a total of twenty-five years as Hiawassee Baptist Association’s Church Training Director. When Leonard and Isabel passed on, we felt like we had lost some of our very dearest friends.
Doll Denton (1886-1964), tenth and last child of Elisha H. and Cinthia Berrong Denton, and grandson of George M. and Catherine Wood Denton, also lived in Towns County. Beset by Hodgkins disease, one of Doll’s legs had to be amputated in 1960. But he learned to walk with his prosthesis as he carried on a near-normal work life on his farm and later assisted his son-in-law, Ayscue Hopper (married to Doll’s daughter Grace), near Tuckaseegee, NC with the operation of his farm. Doll Denton married Myrtle Eller on September 10, 1905. To them were born nine children, seven daughters and two sons: Mae Belle, Grace, Gladys, Dorsey, Edith, Ethel, George, Opal and Earl. Remembered for their strong work ethic and their stalwart Christian influence, Doll and Myrtle Denton stand out as productive citizens of the area. After Doll’s death in 1964 and his burial at Lower Hightower Cemetery in Towns County, his widow Myrtle lived alternately with her daughters Edith Denton Chambers and Ethel Denton Everett in Blairsville until Myrtle’s death on March 31, 1970.
Denton is a place name deriving from the Old English word “denu” meaning valley. Scots and English settlers came to America in the early migratory years and found similar valleys to their European homelands among the hills of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. We are grateful for these hardy settlers who made a dinstinctive “Dent” in the way of life in these mountain communities.
Jones; published May 12, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
[Ethelene Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at e-mail email@example.com; phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA 31061-2411.]