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Union County Historical Society Blairsville Georgia

THROUGH MOUNTAIN MISTS
Early Settlers of Union County, Georgia
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

A Mill for the Settlement: The old Souther Mill
(Part 1)

originally printed August 21, 2003

All that can be seen of the old Souther Mill today are some of the stones that formed the dam on Cane Creek near the entrance to Souther Mill Estates. The weathered building housing the mill equipment that ground corn, wheat and rye burned to the ground in 1943. But many memories of the old mill that turned out meal and flour for the Choestoe settlement linger on, firmly entrenched in the minds of those who remember it or who have heard about it from ancestors.

A sawmill operated near the grist mill, using the same source of water power. Both mills were important to citizens from the mid-nineteenth century on, entrenched solidly in community life.

Who was the entrepreneur that had the foresight and skill to establish Souther Mill? His name was Jesse William Souther, Jr. (known as Jesse) born in Wilkes County, NC near Old Fort on March 12, 1813. His parents were Jesse and Jane Combs Souther. Jesse, Jr. was the seventh of fourteen children. Some of Jesse’s siblings had migrated to the new county of Union in North Georgia in the mid-1830s. Brothers Joseph (b. 9/12/1801), John (b. 1/19/1803), and Hix (b. 5/7/1815) and sister Kizziah (b. 3/27/1811) who married John Humphries had settled in Choestoe.

Before Jesse, Jr. migrated to Choestoe, he had a job to do. On April 30, 1838, he enrolled in the Third Regiment of the North Carolina Militia, in Captain Hick’s Company, at Franklin. He was engaged in what has been called the “Cherokee War”. His task was to assist in the roundup of the Cherokee and moving them to the reservation in Oklahoma.

Brother Hix Souther died in 1840, before Jesse moved to Choestoe in 1848. Brother John already had his family settled in what was later named the New Liberty section of Choestoe, securing a deed on March 27, 1837 for Land Lot # 150, 1st District, 16th Section.

Brother Joseph Souther paid taxes in 1851 on Lots 160, 161, 162 and 198 in District 16, and on another lot, # 195, District 17, which was later incorporated into Towns County when that county was formed from Union in 1856. Joseph and his wife, Sarah Davis Souther, joined Choestoe Baptist Church as new members on June 6, 1835, where he was ordained as a deacon, serving in that capacity from 1835 until he moved his family west in 1853.

John Souther and his wife, Mary “Polly” Combs Souther, gave an acre of land on which New Liberty Baptist Church, a sort of split-off from Choestoe, was established in 1843. John’s sister, Kizziah and her husband, John Humphries, moved from Choestoe to Monroe County, Tennessee.

In 1848 Jesse Souther, Jr. moved to Choestoe. Coming with him was a sixteen year old boy, James Justice, who was to be his helper in the enterprise Jesse had in mind. In the 1850 Union County census, Jesse Souther’s assets were listed as $850. Evidently he learned how to set up and operate a grist mill as he lived near Hunting Creek in Wilkes County, NC.

Family tradition maintains that the three Souther brothers, Jesse, Jr., Joseph and John, established the Souther Mill on Cane Creek, Choestoe in 1848. Joseph, being the elder of the three, evidently first claimed ownership of the mill, for the census that year shows his assets as $3,500. The brothers got the grist mill and sawmill operating well and both were definite assets to the settlers in the Choestoe District.

By 1853, Joseph and Sarah Souther had decided to go west to Benton County, Arkansas and later on to Stone County, Missouri. Jesse Souther, Jr. bought land and the interest in the mills from his brother Joseph. John also transacted for some of Joseph’s holdings. From 1853 forward, the mill on Cane Creek was known as the Jesse Souther Mill.

The millstones ground out exceedingly fine cornmeal, grist for feeding livestock, and with the finer millstones honed especially for that purpose, flour from wheat and rye flour from that grain. The flour was bolted on the second floor of the two-story millhouse, while corn was ground on the first floor.

Souther Mill was a popular place where neighbors learned the latest news, argued politics, and watched and predicted which way the impending war clouds would turn in the first rumblings of secession prior to the War between the States.

Pictures are compliments of John Paul Souther, Gainesville, GA, the grandson of Jesse William Souther who founded Souther Mill in 1848, and son of Jeptha Freeman Souther who inherited the mill from his father.

c2003 by Ethelene Dyer Jones;
published August 21, 2003 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 edj0513@windstream.net; phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA 31061-2411.