Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Going home, A tribute to John Paul Souther (1915-2006)
Col. (Retired) John Paul Souther and wife, Virginia Parks Souther September
In his book War Not Forgotten: A
Eyewitness Account -
World War II - North
Africa and Italy (Wolfe Publishing Co., 1995) Lt. Colonel
John Paul Souther entitled Chapter 11 "Going Home." After three years
of rigorous service in the First U.S. Armored Division in the North
African and Italian Campaigns, he was finally going home to Gainesville, Ga., to
see his wife, Virginia Parks Souther, and his 37-months old son, Billy,
whom he had never seen.
met her returning war hero in Atlanta,
leaving their son in Gainesville with
her parents. When John Paul and Virginia arrived home, young Billy ran
from the porch with his hands outstretched, saying the wonderful words,
"Hello, Daddy!" He had seen pictures of his daddy and greeted him for
the first time in his young life, not with shyness, but with
excitement. John Paul Souther wrote: "There could be only a few such
joyous occasions as this in a lifetime" (War not Forgotten. Page 224).
18, 2006 was "Going Home" time again for
John Paul Souther.
daughter, Lynn Souther Godshall, called to
tell me of her father's death, she said: "He died quietly and
peacefully about 3 a. m." He had shed the bonds of earth and illness,
and with a transition not unlike the end of the war and returning home
to family, he was welcomed to his eternal home by the Lord he loved.
On earth he had
earned many medals and commendations for his bravery and excellency in battle.
I imagined the Lord's welcome to this trustworthy soldier and follower:
"Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful...enter
into the joy of the Lord" (Matthew 25: 2, 23).
had much meaning for World War II veteran, Lt. Colonel, retired, John
Paul Souther. He was a decorated soldier returning after rigorous years
during World War II. He was one of those we now term "the greatest
generation." But he had another love for home, and "going home," back
to his roots in Union
He was born May 4, 1915 to Jeptha Freeman Souther (1865-1953) and Mintie Iva Ann Dyer
Souther (1876-1937). He was the eighth of nine children born to this
couple. In a tribute lauding the attributes of his mother written March 16, 1987,
John Paul said of her: "Today, there are eight of these nine children
living between the ages of 68 to 89. This being very extraordinary has
to reflect her ability on how to raise a large family...My brothers and
sisters... think of our mother in this great accomplishment." (p. 332, Souther
Family History by Watson B. Dyer, 1988).
Seeking to pay
even greater respect to his mother and father and his upbringing on a
dirt farm in Choestoe, Union
County, Ga., Lt.
Col. Souther wrote a book-length tribute to them and to their way of
life. Between the Blood
and the Bald, Choestoe, Georgia, 1915-1940 (c2000) is a look
at 25 years of life there. Taken together, both this book and War Not Forgotten
comprise a chronological account of life from strong family roots in
Choestoe to a valiant (though humble) hero's part in World War II. At
the same time biographical and memoirs, his widely received books added
greatly to the history of an era from 1915 through 1946.
It was my
privilege to work with John Paul Souther on some major historical
projects, and to participate in and observe him as he engineered
On April 30, 2005,
just prior to John Paul's 90th birthday, we held a program at the site
of the Souther Mill on Cane Creek, Choestoe. Jesse Souther Jr.
(1813-1869), grandfather of John Paul, built the grist mill in 1848
after he had migrated from North
Carolina. My own great grandfather, John
Souther (1803-1889), older brother to Jesse Jr., had arrived in Union County
about 1836. He and another brother, Joseph Souther (1802-1937) all
assisted with building and operating the mill. Following Jesse Jr.'s ill health and death, his youngest son, Jeptha Freeman Souther (1865-1953), father of
John Paul, when he became old enough, and with the help of various
millers, oversaw the operation of the Souther Mill until it was closed
in 1937. Theodore Thomas, a great, great
grandson of Jesse Souther Jr., built a shed to house the memorial
plaque and pictures at the millsite. Now
people who travel by where the old mill stood for almost a century can
stop and read a portion of history. It was a cold, misty day, that April 30, 2005,
when we met for the program to honor work of our ancestors. But the
fact that John Paul Souther, at almost 90, was able to see this dream
of preserving history accomplished gave all of us present a warm glow
Paul Souther had purchased and installed tombstones at the graves of
his grandparents, Jesse Souther Jr. and Malinda
Nix Souther at Old Choestoe Cemetery.
Tracing some of the exploits of his grandfather, John Paul knew that
before his move to Union
Jesse Souther, Jr. had served in the U. S. Army during the removal
process when the Cherokees were sent to the Reservation in Oklahoma in
preservation effort by John Paul Souther was marking the graves of Malinda Nix Souther's
grandparents at the Stonecypher Family Cemetery at Estanollee, Ga. She
was a daughter of William Nix and his wife Susannah Stonecypher Nix. Susanna was a daughter of John
Henry and Nancy Curtis Stonecypher.
ceremony conducted in 1995 saw numerous people gathered near the two
story mansion (preserved and still standing) John Henry Stonecypher built for his family about 1790.
With a lofty tribute given about the Revolutionary War service of John
Henry Stonecypher (1756-1850), with taps
played by John Paul's grandson, young Jonathan Mark Souther, and
appropriate patriotic music for the processional and memorial service
by Jonathan Mark and my own son and grandsons (Keith Jones, Brian,
Nathan and Matthew), we stood beneath tall trees and thought on the
legacy left by John Henry Stonecypher Jr.
and his wife, Nancy Curtis Stonecypher.
Thanks to John Paul, the small family cemetery had been surrounded by
an ornamental iron fence and gate, and a granite marker told major
highlights in the lives of the Stonecypher
patriot of Revolutionary War fame. Thanks to John Paul, it was a time
of deep reflection and appreciation.
In John Paul's
own words, he stated that "my largest project was the George Washington
Bicentennial Year bust" erected at the corner of Washington and Green
Streets in Gainesville and
dedicated on December
14, 1999, the bicentennial of our first
president's death. As chairman of the committee, John Paul Souther
raised $42,975.00 for the successful project. The original bust, twice
life-size, sculpted by Dr. John Lanzalotti,
is mounted on an eleven-ton base of Elberton, Georgia
granite. There passersby on Washington
Street, Gainesville, can
see the bust of George Washington and think on the contributions of the
"Father of Our Country."
although not able to attend the Dyer-Souther Heritage Association
Reunion, John Paul Souther donated to the Union County Historical Society Museum the
oxen yoke his grandfather, William Jesse Souther Jr. had used when he
moved from Old Fort, NC to Choestoe, GA., in
the 1840s. Theodore Thomas had restored the yoke and had it in tip-top
shape for the presentation. That same year, Virginia Parks Souther,
John Paul's beloved wife, presented a picture of her husband in his
World War II uniform, and a picture of the medals and awards he earned
in service. These all can be seen in the Old Courthouse Museum, Blairsville, GA.
This week a
hero was laid to rest. One who loved and cherished his home on earth
and contributed significantly to life and freedom here, was freed from
the bonds of feeble flesh and made his last trip home. His "Going Home"
was celebrated with accolades and fond remembrances. All of us who knew
him have been enriched by associations with John Paul Souther, farm
lad, soldier extraordinary, businessman, historian, family man, kinsman.
c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 24, 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 email@example.com;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708
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