Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Della L. Vandiver Zieske's
Della Vandiver was born in Choestoe, Union County, on February 1, 1886. Her
parents were John Floyd Edward Vandiver
(1849-1923) and Rhoda Lucinda Souther Vandiver
(1853-1947). The span of Della's years was 102. She put a lot of living
into the century and more of her life.
When Della Vandiver was a young girl of nine, in 1895, her
parents decided to "go west." This
call of western land opportunities was strong in that era, and John
Floyd Edward Vandiver, grandson of the
famed Adam Poole Vandiver (1787-1876) and
son of George Vandiver (1812-?) and
Frankie Wheeler Vandiver (1816-?), took the challenge to move westward. As
review, you may access my accounts about this family's move westward in
previous articles now in The Sentinel Archives online. See, in
particular these articles: "From the Memoirs of John Joseph Vandiver” (May 3, 2007);
"Continuing the Saga of Vandiver's Life in
the West" (May
10, 2007); and "John Joseph Vandiver Settles Down in Washington State" (May 17, 2007).
But this is the
fascinating story of John Joseph Vandiver's
younger sister, eight years his junior. She was nine years old when her
parents loaded the children who were going west with them (two of their
children were already married in 1895) into their covered wagon and
left the home of John Souther and Mary "Polly" Combs Souther on Choestoe, where Della was born that
cold February 1, 1886. In fact, all their married life until this point
when they decided to "go west," Rhoda Lucinda and her husband had lived
with her parents near New Liberty Baptist Church,
Choestoe, Union County. The
farm, though containing several acres along Town Creek, was still not
large enough to support John Joseph and Rhoda Lucinda Vandiver's growing family.
But this is
Della L. Vandiver’s story…and I will move
on to highlights in her long life.
Della L. Vandiver Zieske
poses at age 100 showing the large fish she caught at Port Townsend,
excitement of a nine year old girl leaving the only home she had known
in the shadow of Bald Mountain in
Choestoe to set out to unknown places with her parents and siblings.
She was sad to leave her friends and relatives, and especially her
cousins about her own age with whom she liked to play when they visited
at her grandparents' house. But Della had deep anticipation for what
she would find as their exciting adventure unfolded.
The family went
to Gainesville, Georgia in
1895 where they took a passenger train westward. "Our first major stop
was in Asher, Arkansas,"
Della Vandiver wrote. There her father got
work and Della's brother, Jesse Edward Vandiver,
was born there on March 17, 1897.
This sibling was thirteenth and last of the children born to Della's
parents. The Vandiver family remained in Arkansas
until 1900. Again the urge to move farther west propelled John Floyd
Edward Vandiver to move his family on to Back
A sad day came
for Della and her family on June 17, 1900 when
her brother, Thomas Marion Vandiver, died
at Back Creek. He had been born, as had Della, in Choestoe, Union County, on March 30, 1884. He
died at age 16 on June 17, 1900.
Della Vandiver celebrated her sixteenth birthday on February 1, 1902 in Wyoming. She
and her brother John Joseph, to whom she was especially close, decided
they would go to Medicine Bow, Wyoming.
They got the family buckboard and the horses and started out early on
that cold February morning. They had only traveled 15 miles when one of
the sudden snowstorms of that part of the west began. The temperature
suddenly dropped to about 15 degrees above zero. (How
did they measure temperature in 1902?). The snow was blinding
them, and the horses could not travel. Besides, Della and John Joseph
were freezing in the buckboard, even wrapped up as they were in woolen
blankets. Finally, they found a house along the way and the kindly
people took the Vandiver siblings in. When
the storm abated, not to be outdone by the weather, Della and John
Joseph went on to Medicine Bow and celebrated Della's birthday late.
She remembered into her old age that her sixteenth birthday was one of
A few years
after Della's birthday celebration, she was able to pursue education
for the career she had dreamed about. Her beloved brother was living in
Washington State at
the time. He invited Della to come and begin her nurse's training. She
became a student nurse at Seattle's Wayside Emergency Hospital. It
was then located aboard a hospital ship docked in the harbor. She
enjoyed her training and graduated in the class of 1908 with her
nurse's certification. For the next fifty years of her life, she was a
caring and hardworking nurse.
career was not confined to Washington state. She was called to assist in Treadwell, Alaska when
a gold mine there collapsed, leaving several miners dead and many
severely injured. She went there as a nurse relief worker and sought to
minister to the men whose lives hung in the balance.
Great War, or World War I, Della served as a military nurse. She didn't
like to talk about this period of her life. Perhaps what she
experienced was too traumatic to tell in accounts of her -nursing
career. Mainly, she worked in hospitals and as a private nurse in the Seattle
Della Vandiver was married five times. Her first three
husbands died, leaving her thrice a widow. Her last two marriages,
unfortunately, ended in divorce. Her first marriage was January 1, 1913 to
Joseph McDonald. After his death, she married Chaney Canning. After his
death, she married a Carl Zieske. Unknown
to this writer are the names of her last two husbands, unions that led
to divorce. When Della Vandiver visited Union
County, GA in
April, 1986 to see one more time the place where she was born, she was
going by the name of Della Vandiver Zieske. Della had no children of her own, but
her nieces and nephews loved her, her stories, her zest for life.
fishing and reading. At age 100 she went out in her aluminum boat to
her "bigger" fishing boat in Port
Townsend Harbor, Washington.
Boarding the larger boat, she steered it to the "saltchuck"
where the big salmon ran. One of the largest she caught there was a
28-pound salmon. One weighed in at 17 pounds; still another at 11
pounds, and one was a 35-pound lincod that
had an 8-pound silver she had hooked, it had gotten back into the
water, the lincod swallowed it, and Della
hooked the big fellow with the silver fish in its mouth. And these are
no "fish tales." They're true experiences of a seasoned seawoman who plied the waters of Straight Juan
de Fuca to find and hook the big fish.
Della Vandiver Zieske's
100th birthday cake had this inscription: "Della - 100 Extraordinary
Years." She died in Seattle, Washington at
c2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 26, 2008 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 email@example.com;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708
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