Week 15: April 12, 2014
William Clark Bryan
William Clark Bryan, my great-grandfather, was born April 1, 1876 Lumpkin Co., Georgia, one of six children; obit said born Fannin Co, Ga, but county lines changed many times back then. He was born to parents William Madison Bryan and Francis “Fannie” Jemima “Mimi” Fortner; her headstone reads Fannie Fortner Bryan.
At about sixteen years of age, William left home when his father remarried to Prairie Flowers Hawk; he went to live with older sister Sara Catherine Bryan Long. His father began a new family, having eight more children with Prairie. William was the only boy in the first marriage, having only sisters, but had several half brothers when his father remarried.
There seemed to be much animosity in the family after the father remarried; I don’t think there was much contact for awhile. W.C.’s daughter Myrt remembers a few visits to the grandparents in the mountains; those trips took over a week, to come and go, as they traveled by wagon. Straw was piled in the back and covered with quilts for sleeping – no motels!
William married Sara Elizabeth Turner on Jan. 6, 1898 in Lumpkin Co., and went to Ducktown, Tenn. to work in the copper-mines; that is where their first child Lola was born. He told his daughter Myrt about working there and and seeing all the dead brought up out of the mines.
When I began my research, I first turned to my great Aunt Myrt Bryan Poss who told me, “My daddy’s name was William Clark Bryan and my mother’s name was Sarah Elizabeth Turner; she had two sisters and one brother. When Papa married her, I don’t remember and I don’t remember their parents names either. I was too little and we didn’t live close to one another back in those days, but they did come from the North Georgia Mountains. Papa’s daddy was William Madison Bryan and his mother’s name was Fannie Fortner. We didn’t see them much either because they also lived in North Georgia. I only remember them coming once and that was with his second wife Prairie Hawk Bryan, my step-grandmother; they stayed mostly in the mountains where they lived. Papa’s children were Lola, Paul, Clyde, Myrt (me) and Leon, then Nannie Kate who died when she was about four years old, then Charlie and Gordon and Jewell. Nannie Kate was buried at Beaver Dam Church cemetery in Wilkes Co., near Washington and Woodstock, Georgia.
We were all born and raised in Georgia, as were both of my parents. Daddy had twin sisters, Mary Elizabeth and Barilla J.; they both died, so I heard Papa say, as babies. I never knew our parents to show any difference in any of us children, they loved us all the same. My mother had one brother, Barney, he died after the war was over. He came and lived with us for awhile and died at our house when my brother Gordon was a little baby. I remember seeing mama’s sister a few times, but I don’t remember her parents; she went to see them when my brother Leon and I were babies. The only way people, back in those days could travel, was by wagon; we never traveled much to the mountains as it was such a long distance. Mama’s parents are buried at Nimberwill Baptist Church in Lumpkin Co., Ga. In growing up, I remember living with my parents in a house in Wilkes Co., before moving to Greene Co. in Union Point.”
The 1900 census shows that W.C. Bryan was in Washington, Green Co., Ga and worked in sawmills, a cotton gin and an oil mill. He worked at J.J. Rollerfords’s sawmill and a dairy farm owned by Hart Sibley where he milked dairy cows and farmed. Later in life, after retiring from farming, he drove a wagon around town in Union Point, Ga. and sold mineral water from Daniels Spring, a spring just outside of Union Point. Besides selling mineral water, he also sold vegetables from his small farm and watermelon rind wine. My grandfather Edgar McKinley saved all the watermelon rinds for him from his farm.
About 1921 he bought his first car, a 1919 Ford Touring car, later he bought a 1921 Ford Coupe. Even though he owned a car, I heard he still loved taking the horse and wagon out.
Once while visiting in the mountains, he and his uncle became so drunk on apple brandy wine that they ran their car off the road down into a pasture. The man who owned the land pulled their car back out to the road for them with his mule. I guess no DUI’s back then!
After his first wife Sara Turner died, he went to visit his sister Sara Catherine in Lumpkin Co, and met Evie Cochran, whom he had known when he was young. They wrote to each other and eventually they married. She wasn’t in good health like him when they married; they married more for convenience it seems. She moved to Greene Co. to live with him in his small house just outside of Union Point.
William Clark Bryan died July 10, 1954, in Sharon, Taliaferro Co., Ga.; just two years after I was born. He was buried next to his first wife Sara in Wisteria Cemetery in Union Point. Evie continued to live in their home but her health was not good; she eventually was moved to Sharon Convalescent Home after becoming bedridden for five months and later to a nursing home in Augusta, Ga where she passed away in 1963. My grandfather, Paul Pinkney Bryan looked after Evie, after his fathers death, and took her back to Dahlonega to be buried at Siloam Baptist Ch. next to her first husband; that was her wish.
When my mom helped to clean out their house, after their deaths, she found a small princess ring and it was given to me; I’ve kept it through the years. Under the car shed she saw the lip of a piece of glass sticking up through the dirt – it turned out to be a pressed glass pitcher – Venus and Cupid pattern. She was astonished to dig it up and find it in perfect condition; Evie must have thrown it out at some point. Also found in a bible was a letter written during the Civil War to someone’s sweetheart. The names did not match anyone in my ancestor lines but I did discover those surnames in the Lumpkin Co. area. Maybe one day I’ll discover who they were.