Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Witzel Family in Union County by 1834
Ebenezer Witzel family was in the 1834
census of Union County,
a special listing of
citizens called for by Act of the Georgia Legislature in 1833 and
completed on March
24, 1834. Of the
population of 903 in the county in 1834, the Witzel household numbered
Ebenezer Witzel was the only male in
his household, with his wife (whose name we do not learn until 1860 as
and three female children. They were
still in Union in 1840, and had grown
children, all females under the ages of fifteen.
We do not know what happened to
Ebenezer Witzel family in 1850. Maybe
the census taker missed going by that family’s dwelling.
But by 1860 and thereafter, the Ebenezer Witzel
family was recorded in the new Fannin County
(formed in 1854
from parts of Union and Gilmer).
Maybe I should call these early
settlers whose names are listed in the 1834 census of Union County
as “First Families.” In a sense, they
were the first families to take up residence and carve out a living
hills, valleys and ridges of Union.
Witzel is an unusual last name, one
that catches the eye in a list like a county census.
It is listed Witzel, Wetzel, Whitzell and
other similar spellings. German in
origin, it means a descendant from “Wizo”, a sort of slang name for “Wild Forest.” Could
it mean, then, that the original Witzel
immigrants to America
came from the Black Forest of Germany?
It is known that Johannes Geog Wetzel settled in Pennsylvania in
the 1700s and his
descendants migrated from there to various states.
According to the 1860 census of Fannin County
(where we find the Union County Ebenezer Witzel of the 1834 Union
was a farmer, owned his own land evaluated at $2, 500 and his monetary
He had been born, according to the 1860
census, in North Carolina,
and his wife, Minerva, had been born in South Carolina.
was 53 years of age and she was 41. They
had two children remaining at home in 1860—John, age 14, and Hulda (Oregon?), age
Did the Witzel family move from Union County
Probably not. It is possible that
they lived on the same land they owned in Union
in the 1834 and 1840 census listings.
Why they were not “found” in the 1850 census is a matter of
In 1860 they were in Fannin, possibly on the farm they had occupied in Union.
Ebenezer and Minerva Witzel, one of
the “first families” of Union lived
section of the new Fannin
Creek. There Ebenezer had established
the first iron forge to operate in the new Fannin County. This writer does not know the date of the
iron forge’s opening, but it is very likely that it was in operation
first in Union
before Fannin was founded in 1854. The
iron mill was a large trip-hammer forge weighing several hundred pounds. It was operated by water power from a dam
Ebenezer had built on Sugar Creek.
There this enterprising man also
established a sawmill, likewise operated by water power.
The sawmill was of the old type called a sash
saw and worked in a vertical up-and-down motion.
To show how the Civil War adversely
affected private business, the 1870 census shows that Ebenezer Witzel’s
property evaluation had gone down to $1,000 and his monetary assets to
$800. The reduction was probably from
several factors like the actual cessation of iron manufacture (his
not operate during the Civil War) and his saw mill, from the poor
the war, and from Witzel’s deeding portions of his farm to his children
married and established their own homes.
By 1870, Margaret Witzel, Ebenezer’s
mother, had come to live with Ebenezer and Minerva.
It is interesting to note that this 83-year
old lady, born in North
had her occupation listed as “knitting socks.”
Making socks from wool in 1870 was an important element of
Ebenezer Witzel, born in North Carolina in 1807,
died in Fannin
County in 1871. His body was laid to rest on his own
land. His was the first burial in what
is known today as the Curtis
just off Curtis Road
There his wife, Minerva, was also laid to rest when she died October 4, 1904. It is believed that an unmarked grave in the
Cemetery may be
that of Ebenezer’s
mother, Margaret Witzel. The Witzel
property was bought by Richard Ivy Byrd Curtis and became known in
as the Curtis homeplace and Curtis Cemetery.
I did not find any Witzel
in early Union
records. Next door in Fannin County,
however, some thirteen Witzel and Wetzel marriages are listed between
of 1854 and 1901. These marriages are of descendants, children and
grandchildren, of the early settlers Ebenezer and Minerva Witzel who
way to Union before 1834.
Jones; published Sept. 10, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
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 October 5,
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