Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Profile of Union County in 1850
A profile of Union County’s
population and work can be gained from the 1850 census of the county. Total population registered at that time was
6,958, with 1,141 families (or households) enumerated.
This does not account for some of the
“hidden” residences that may not have been visited and enumerated by
taker J. J. Logan as he made his trek from house to house from
16, 1850. The fact that it took
him a little more than
six weeks to make his home visits speaks for the expanse of the county
consisted of lands taken into Fannin County
in 1854 and into Towns
in 1856 when portions of Union were
incorporated into the then newly-formed counties.
The total value of properties owned by
citizens in 1850 was said to be $485,688.
Think of the broad acreage within the county and its stated
compared to what it is in 2010, a mere 160 years later.
It is almost unbelievable how much land has
increased in value since those early years of settlement.
Recall that Union
was formed from a portion of the expansive Cherokee Lands
County) in 1832.
Slave owners were enumerated by a
simple notation in the census of “owns ____ (number) slave(s)”. Slave owners had in their possession numbers
of slaves from 1 to the highest, 27. A
total of 259 slaves were enumerated for 1850. I will list here the
double-digit numbers of slaves: Henry
Alston, 27; J. E. Purkins, 18; J. H.
Morris, 17; J. R. Wyly, 16; Sidney Harshaw, 13; R. C. Loiter, 12: John Stevenson, 12; T.
11; and E. G. Barclay, (an attorney), 11. Most
who owned slaves had only one, with the
single-digit owners ranging from 1 to 8.
My great, great grandfather, Thompson Collins, owned 5 to assist
his sons on the acreage he owned.
Already in process in 1850 were measures which would lead to the
Emancipation Proclamation declared by President Abraham Lincoln during
Civil War. Most of Union County’s
citizens, as the census shows, did not own slaves.
Through other records we learn that the
county was about half pro-Union and half pro-South in political
The chief occupation of people in Union
in 1850 was farming. Other occupations
listed were attorney,
physician/surgeon, merchant, lawyer, teacher, clerk, waggoner, tailor,
preacher or clergyman (usually with designation Baptist or Methodist
the occupational title), tanner, saddler, brick mason, cooper (barrel
carpenter, blacksmith, wagon wright, stone mason, mechanic, shoemaker
cobbler, hatter, cabinet maker, wheel wright, and miller.
In examining the various occupations listed,
I was surprised to find only one miller listed:
George W. Crawford. Knowing that
an ancestor of mine established one of the first mills in Choestoe and
that he was not listed as “miller” by trade means that he made his
mainly by farming. This was probably
true of others throughout the county who ground corn and wheat for the
public. Another occupation not listed
was miner. Those who discovered gold,
mica and other minerals on their property prior to 1850 did not at that
make their living by mining as their chief occupation.
The 1850 U.
S. census was the first that
listed names for all in the household.
Prior to that time, enumeration had given only
the number in the household, with the 1840 census listing number of
females within given age brackets.
Thankfully, with the 1850 census, those who consult listings for
genealogical purposes can begin to link children with parents, and
in subsequent census records. The 1850
census also gave the state of birth of those listed so that searchers
return to other state records to find origins of their ancestors.
Education was not a priority in Union County
in 1850. Ten persons listed their main
occupation as teaching—quite a small number for a population of 6,958
of the 1,141 families having several children to educate.
The number of people over 20 who could not
read nor write was numbered at 1,215, which was about 1/6 of adults. Schools were few and far between, with either
“house” schools or short-term sessions of school held in a combination
building where both school and church met.
Those listed as attending school within the year numbered 1,103. If all ten teachers in 1850 were engaged in
teaching, their average classroom size could have been 110. This is not likely, for those in a community
having school privileges would have had a sort of “rotating” student
those pupils not needed in the most ardent months of farming attending
school. It is also possible that those
with “farming” as their main occupation could also have been short-term
teachers. I know this was true with one
of my ancestors, John Souther, who could “read and write and cipher,”
taught others near him, including his own family, the basic rudiments
item of interest learned from the 1850 census is the number of surnames
present within families in the county 160 years later.
Many, many current residents can trace their
ancestry back to early settlers. This
continuation of families within the same geographic area declares a
the land and satisfaction with the way of life—even with all of its
changes—within the parameters of the “mountains of home.”
Jones; published June 24, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
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 June 28, 2010
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