|Vol. VIII - NO 4.||THE ELLER FAMILY ASSOCIATION||NOV 1994|
Page - 167
ON THE ROAD WITH JOHN AND LUCY And a Happy Time in Georgia
When John and Lucy Eller go "on the road" other Ellers follow along like the "rats following the Pied Piper." That simile being not too flattering to the rest of us, I'll change it to the "children following the beautiful song of the Pied Piper." Is that better?
This time John and Lucy headed East and started out a week ahead of the scheduled First North Georgia Eller Family Reunion. The first to join-up with these itinerant Ellers, were John's brother Lee and his wife Joan. That was just ten miles after John and Lucy left Skiatook, Oklahoma. Lee and Joan are from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
After two days of travel, on Tuesday, August 30, this intrepid band of four found themselves on Maw-Maw's backporch on Barker's Creek, in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. (To my grandchildren, I am Maw-Maw) That's where Gerald and I have spent the past ten summers of retirement. Earlier that day we met Winnie Biffle-Eller Green from Lawton, Oklahoma, at the airport in Asheville, North Carolina. So there we were all seven of us, later joined by our son Steve and his wife Sarah, having grape juice squeezed from grapes grown in the back yard and apple pie from apples grown in the apple orchard in the front yard. (Just recently our road has been changed to APPLE BLOSSOM LANE in honor of our apple trees.)
The next day the seven senior Ellers rented a van and traveled together across the mountains to Asheville, North Carolina (Gerald's grandfather made this trek in a covered wagon ca. 1885) where we visited the Radisson Hotel, site of the 1995 Eller Family Conference. At lunch, on the terrace of the famous Grove Park Inn, we welcomed to our midst EFA members Vance and Charlotte Eller from Salisbury and Asheville, and Olivia Cunningham of Asheville.
After the women had sated themselves in the various shops in the Inn, we bade good-bye to Vance, Charlotte, and Olivia and returned to our van and traveled a short distance on the Blue Ridge Parkway (following the route planned for the all-day tour during the Conference.) We paused at the National Park Service Folk Art Center and once again the ladies visited the shop of beautifully hand-made arts and crafts. From there, we returned to the Blue Ridge Parkway taking in the spectacular views until we came to Ox Creek Road, which led us precipitously down the mountain by the back door into Eller Cove, the early home of Joseph Eller, an ancestors of many EFA members.
Eller Cove is in Reem's Creek Valley near Weaverville, Buncombe County, North Carolina. We visited two sites in Weaverville where Adam and Catherine Henkel Biffle lived before 1790. The Adam Biffle grist mill site is still evident as are the unmarked sites of what is suspected to be Adam's and Catherine's burial places. The need for a marker on these Biffle sites is being considered by both Eller and Biffle descendants. Winnie Biffle Eller Green, who is well into her seventies, felt that she was visiting hallowed ground and stated, "I never thought I would live to see this place."
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Another purpose of the trip was to visit the restored grave of Mary Biffle Eller, daughter of Adam and Catherine Henkel Biffle and wife of John Jacob Eller, Jr. All members of our entourage and several others had contributed to this recently completed project that was sponsored by the EFA. Each expressed satisfaction with the results. A short dedication of this renovated grave site will be a part of the all-day tour during Conference '95.
Thursday, this same group of Ellers, met again on our back porch and after visiting over coffee, headed for Hiawassee, Georgia. Along the way we stopped for lunch at the most famous eating establishment in all of North Georgia, THE DILLARD HOUSE in Dillard, Georgia. This resort was founded in the early 1900's and it's owners have connections with the North Georgia branch of the Eller line.
Ed Eller of Dalton, Georgia, and host for the reunion toward which we were headed, joined us for lunch for the purpose of showing us the general location of the grave of Susannah Eller, the progenitor of the North Georgia branch of Ellers. Following the lunch,-- which I won't describe here, but sufficeth to say the sign at the entrance of the dining room stating, "I just ate my will power" is most appropriate -- Ed escorted the group on the short walk to the Head of Tennessee Baptist Church Cemetery. (So named because here are the head waters of the Little Tennesee River, the home of many early Ellers and Cherokee Indians .)
On his many previous searches for the grave of Susannah Eller in cemeteries in North Georgia, Ed had found the grave here of Malinda Gillespie, who was Malinda Eller, daughter of Susannah, and with whom Susannah was reported to have spent her later years. With this knowledge, Ed was convinced that Susannah was buried somewhere in the vicinity of her daughter in an unmarked grave.
As we stood around taking pictures of Malinda's grave, John Eller suddenly exclaimed, "There it is, it says Eller." We turned to focus on the old field stone marker to which John Was pointing only four feet from Malinda's grave stone. John says that just as he looked at the stone the sunlight hit the stone at such an angle as to illuminate what he read as "Eller." No one had observed any markings on the stone before. Such a stir of activity that followed. Efforts to clean the stone revealed markings but did not clarify the lettering. Efforts to do a "rubbing" failed because the stone was so rough. Gerald remembered a trick he was taught by Jim and Blanche Robertson of Weaverville, N.C. and rubbed dry clay soil onto the stone. This revealed that what John thought was "Eller" was really F1864 (February 1864, date of her death,) which at a glance looks like "Eller." Above were the initials S.E. (Susannah Eller).
Purists may say this does not constitute real proof that this is Susannah's grave, but don't say that to those of us who were present at what we took as a mystical revelation. We are all convinced that we found the grave of Susannah Eller, daughter of John Jacob, Jr., and Mary Biffle Eller of Buncombe County, North Carolina, who came to Rabun County, Georgia in the early 1800's. (See pictures of grave and cemetery elsewhere in this issue.)
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On the evening previous to the discovery of the grave, John, Lee, and Gerald were talking on our back porch when John asked, "Gerald, do you think it was meant to be for us to discover each other and come together." This was followed by a philosophical discussion about predestination, etc. The next day after John found the markings on the stone, Gerald whispered to John, "Do you think this was meant to be." To which John responded emphatically "ABSOLUTELY," and to which Gerald replied, "A-MEN."
For the next lap of the journey, the women separated from the men and went on to Fieldstone Inn in Hiawassee, some thirty miles distance and settled in awaiting the arrival of the men who had taken a side trip to Clayton, Georgia to visit Johnnie D. Eller. Ed and John had met Johnnie previously, and Lee and Gerald were eager to meet him. Already a legend in North Georgia, Johnnie made a big impression on the members of the group. (See Johnnie D.'s picture on the cover and his story in this issue.)
On Friday, we early arrivers gathered in the lobby to await other arrivals. The women spent the time coloring Winnie's contribution to the next Eller Family Cookbook now in progress. Guess what the men did. They talked. With each new arrival, the level of talk raised another decibel or two. We didn't have to wait long until Nancy Eller and her husband Walton Eller arrived with their dear Aunt Hazel from Crowley, Texas. Aunt Hazel was the host for the Eller Family Reunion we attended in Crowley last Thanksgiving. Hazel immediately joined the coloring project. Then came EFA President Lynn Eller from Atlanta, Georgia with his cousin and Bethel Eller Stolte, from Atwood, Kansas. Lynn was still looking pale and shaken following a hair raising experience in the Atlanta Airport where he had gone to meet Bethel on Flight 441 from Denver when suddenly it was announced, "We have lost contact with Flight 441 from Denver - there will be a delay in their arrival." You can imagine his reaction as well as the reaction of all others awaiting arrival of Flight 441. However, Bethel soon arrived somewhat shaken by her bumpy flight dodging thunder storms. Next came a group of nine Eller descendants from Tahlequah, Oklahoma still bright and perky following an all night trip. How's that for real devotion and desire to attend an Eller reunion?
Before the day was over, all of Ed's relatives arrived form points east, west, north, and south. When this jolly group of Ellers assemble, any one present is in for an extended happy occasion. Also when this jolly group gathers, we are in for music and games of all kinds. We sing hymns, gospel, country and western, and love songs. We play cards, shuffle board, croquet, and all sorts of games. But mostly we talk and get to know each other while enjoying good fellowship and lots of good food. Speaking of good food, in the restaurant the first night, Gerald got so carried away taking pictures that before he knew it, he was making perfect strangers sit up and pose for him.
Ed and Betty's musically talented children, son Eddie, daughter Tammy Poplin, and son-in-law Randy Poplin, along with members of Eddie's music group entertained us at a pleasant gathering following dinner. Several other Ellers and Eller descendants from the area also joined us including more Eller musicians.
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Gerald was delighted to get to meet Jerry Taylor for the first time. Jerry is an EFA member who is also the resident authority on the genealogy of people who live in Towns County. He and Dorothy Newbold provided us the first material we ever published on the North Georgia Ellers. He teaches a course in local history in the high school and uses genealogy to introduce his students to the subject. He has a computer in his class on which his students compile their own genealogy. He finds young people do respond to genealogy in a most positive way. What better technique could possibly be used for introducing young people to local history, historical research, and independent study? We were saddened that Dorothy Newbold, EFA's most constant supporter who is not an Eller, was too ill to attend this reunion.
Sunday, the day of the 1st North Georgia Eller Family Reunion, dawned, clear and chilly. The weather couldn't have been more perfect if we had written the specifications. Food... in addition to games and songs when these Ellers get together ... you can count on food aplenty. Ed had smoked over seventy pounds of meat, Lynn and Bethel sliced it while other members of the group arranged it attractively to please the eye and tease the palate. When someone asked Aunt Hazel, who was busily pealing tomatoes, grown in Ed's brother Kent's garden, what she was doing, her response was, "Anything Winnie tells me to do." Winnie, of course was there working diligently and at the same time directing the activities of the others. (During WW-II when her husband was over-seas, Winnie owned and operated five restaurants around L.A. so she knew how to do things right.)
To officially open the First Annual North Georgia Eller Family Reunion, Ed and Betty's daughter Tammy sang THE LORD'S PRAYER in her beautiful clear young voice which was an inspiration to all of us senior Ellers. Eddie Eller and his band kept us entertained. Joining them at intervals were Johnnie D. Eller, a master of the harmonica, and John and Uncle Robert Eller who sang. More than 125 Eller and Eller descendants registered for the door prize, one of Ed's ELLER rugs. This was won by Burnell Ellington d/o Dison Eller (see his story elsewhere in this issue.) (Note: Ed plans to provide a similiar rug as a door-prize at the 1995 Eller Family Conference in Asheville, N.C.) We left feeling that in the natural course of events, there will yet be generations of Ellers to take our place and that the spirit of Susannah "Suky" Eller is still abroad in the beautiful hills of North Georgia where she watches over this remarkable branch of the Jacob Eller family line that includes many families still living in the hill country of North Georgia and many more who migrated over the years to almost every state in the union.
................................ Juanita Eller, Co-Editor, The Eller Chronicles.
|See pictures from the 1st North Georgia Eller Family Reunion beginning on p. 206|