Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Dr. Pierre Chastain (ca. 1659-1728) , known as “The Immigrant,” made giant ‘footsteps in the sands of time’ in at least three of the four areas pinpointed: improved living conditions, religious life, economy and agriculture.
Let us look briefly at his family for whom he sought to leave a memorable legacy. He and his first wife, Susanne Renaud, had eight children: Jean Adam, Marie Susanne, Pauline Elizabeth, Pierre, Arthuze, Jeanne Francois, Pierre Samuel, and Suzanne. Of these, seven died young, leaving only Jean Adam Chastain of his first children to carry on the Chastain name. Susanne Renaud and four of their children died by 1701 in Manakin Town, Virginia.
By his second wife, Anne Soblet. Pierre Chastain had eight children. Perhaps living conditions were more conducive to rearing children in a healthier atmosphere for six of eight of these lived to adulthood and married. The children of Pierre and Anne were: Judith, Susanna, Pierre (Jr.), Mary, Elizabeth, Rene, Janne and Mary (Marie) Magdalene. Of these, Mary and Janne did not marry, died young. Pierre Chastain married, third, to widow Mary Magdalene Trabue but had no children by her. All of you gathered at the Pierre Chastain Reunion in 2011 have traced your roots back to your inimitable ancestor, Pierre, the Immigrant, over whose name we proudly write the superscription 1.
Not to show partiality, by any means, but by way of illustration, I have selected stories of Chastain descendants from several generations to bear out the truth that many of Pierre’s progeny did, indeed, make a difference in the four areas of society we have named: (1) improved living conditions; (2) religious life; (3) politics and government; and (4) agriculture and the economy. Let us learn from their lofty examples and make a difference now and in the future. Selections include (and there could be many more):
Rev. John “Ten Shillings Bell” Chastain (1743-1805), third generation, son of Pierre Chastain and Mildred Archer Chastain. He was born in Manakin, Goochland County, Virginia. His migrations took him to various places. He died and was buried at Table Rock in Pendleton District, Pickens County, South Carolina. He had a distinctive nickname: “Ten Shillings Bell.”
It has been reported that this minister of the gospel, in association with such well-known evangelicals at the time as the Rev. Shubael Starnes and others of the “Great Awakening” movement on the frontier, was known for his resonating voice, one that carried well to great crowds gathered to hear the gospel. The cost for a well-wrought bell, one that resounded clearly, was ten shillings. Hence the nickname, a compliment to Rev. John Chastain’s ability as an orator and preacher. Before the term “church planter” was known in American parlance, Rev. John Chastain traveled far and wide establishing and strengthening churches of what became the Baptist faith. In Western North Carolina in 1774, an area that became Sullivan County then Carter County, Tennessee, he ministered at the Sinking Spring Baptist Church. Moving about forty miles to Pendleton District in South Carolina (Pickens County) in 1790, he preached there, then became pastor of the Middle Saluda Baptist Church in the Greenville District. He founded the Oolenoy Baptist Church in Greenville District in 1795 and became its first pastor. Prior to leaving Virginia, he signed an oath of allegiance at the beginning of the Revolutionary War to be faithful to the colonies. Anyone tracing their ancestry back to the Rev. John Chastain can claim him as a patriot to qualify for membership in Sons and/or Daughters of the American Revolution. In all four areas of our consideration, the Rev. John “Ten Shillings Bell” Chastain made giant steps in the sands of time. John Chastain and his first wife Mary O’Brien had eleven children: Abner, John, Jr., Martha, Edward Brigand, Mary, Elijah, Elizabeth, Cleo (Chloe), Benjamin, Nancy and Joseph. Following Mary O’Bryan Chastain’s death about 1797, he married, second, a widow, Mrs. Mary Robinson. Their children were Violet, William and Mary Lavinia.
Rev. John Chastain’s son, Benjamin (1780-1845), was selected as an Indian agent and settled in 1837 on the Toccoa River (Union County) in what became Fannin County, Georgia (1854). The story of his work in dealing with the Indians on land sales, and heading up Ft. Chastain, a holding station for the Cherokee prior to the Trail of Tears, was the subject of an earlier Chastain article.
Next in our line of Chastain greats is the Rev. Abner Chastain, (1803-1871), fifth generation from Pierre the Immigrant, and tenth of fifteen children of Edward Brigand Chastain (1769-1834) and Hannah Brown Chastain (1771-ca 1832-1837). Migrations and land holdings show that this Abner Chastain (not to be confused with his uncle by the same name, son of Rev. John “Ten Shilling Bell” Chastain) was born on Christmas Day, 1803 in Pendleton District, South Carolina. His parents took him to North Carolina by 1809. Just where and when Abner Chastain was ordained a Baptist preacher, we have not discovered the record. However, in minutes of Choestoe Baptist Church, Union County, Georgia (organized perhaps by 1832; minutes intact and preserved from 1834 to the present), this Rev. Abner Chastain was pastor. Like his grandfather, Rev. John Chastain, Abner was a church planter, leading Choestoe Church to assist with organizing other churches within the vicinity of the mountain region. According to history, 1869 had been a bad crop year due to draught and depleted lands. Rev. Abner Chastain led in organizing a massive wagon train of 250 people and started the long trek west to Colorado to settle on lands available there. We can only imagine the responsibility of leading enough wagons to accommodate a crowd of 250 men, women and children, and the hardships, illnesses and challenges they faced along the journey. Abner’s first wife, Susan Pemberton O’Kelley, may have died on the way west or shortly after they settled there at the Heurfano River two miles east of St. Mary’s at LaVeta, Colorado. True to form, Rev. Abner Chastain soon started a church in the new settlement. In the fall of 1870 he baptized the first convert there in the Heurfano River. He married, second, Amanda Elzy, Unfortunately, Rev. Abner Chastain died of pneumonia on April 1, 1871, leaving behind a new settlement and a church without the dynamic of his much-needed leadership. But he, too, even in his 67 years of life, added significantly to Chastain “footsteps in the sands of time.”
[Next: Elijah Webb Chastain, political leader; Oscar Fitzallen and Zenobia Chastain, educators; and Jason Coward Chastain, farmer, in the saga, “Learning from the Past - Shaping the Future.”]
c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 15,2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. 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.]