yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


JUNE 26, 1977

Augustine Davidson Smith

Robert Dyer Family. Top row: Sallie, Kiziah, Allie Bell, Tinie. Bottom row: Ora, Ernest,
Hattie, Bob. Photograph from the collection of Mary E. Rushing.

In l879 Robert (no middle name) Dyer married Mary Ugenie Milam, a twenty-three year old school teacher. Mary Ugenie eloped because her family believed that, although Bob was a fine fellow, he was a financial disaster because he was past thirty and had no property besides the "Frazier Place," the poorest hillside farm in the neighborhood. After the wedding the Milams or Longs, as they were then, forgave the pair, and nobody mentioned the elopement.

The oldest son of Jimmy and Sarah White Dyer, Bob had lost his mother when he was a small boy, and Martha, the youngest child, was barely two years old.

The family endured severe poverty, but the household, run by Margaret, the oldest daughter, survived. Bob gained a fair education, but most of the children were almost illiterate. Jimmy never remarried. The Civil War came, and Jimmy and Bob hid successfully from both armies, even though preceding the battle at Lexington several thousand troops passed within a mile of their hiding places, and a running battle started at Bird's Bridge. Bob was only seventeen when the war ended and small for his age. During reconstruction the family finances improved somewhat. Margaret and Tennessee were no doubt artistic ladies, although they were almost completely without education. The quilts they made are masterpieces of craftsmanship. Margaret never married, but the younger sister Tennessee married Jim Davidson. Their only child died. Bob lived with Tennie and Jim at the time of his marriage.

Genie's background was somewhat different from Bob's. Her mother, Kiziah Bennet Milam (later Long) had inherited some property and had been, well educated. Kizzie was at different times teacher of the neighborhood school, bookkeeper at her husband's cotton gin and post-master. She was also chief clerk in her husband's store that contained everything from medicin to hardware. She could keep several of these jobs going at one time. At 22 Genie had already supervised the upbringing of her mother' second family, Jess, Margaret and Ada. Ada was four when Genie married and went wild in the store, the gin and the postoffice until she was big enough to take care of herself. Kizzie was indeed the family character; whatever she did made headlines. At the age of 25 she married Orin Calvin Milam who was 50. When Mary Ugenie was two and Kizzie was pregnant with her second child O. C., she became a widow. At the age of 32 she married William Long who was then 18. Kiziah died at 96.

Bob and Mary Ugenie moved several times from Middleburg to Shady Hill where he worked in stores before he went into business for himself. Although these were growing communities, Bob went broke at Shady Hill in the panic of 1893. Eight children were born to them, and all lived to adulthood. These were: Sallie, Kiziah, Allie Belle, Tinie, Robert, Ora, Ernest and Hattie.

In 1900 Genie died in childbirth when Sallie was nineteen and Hattie was four years old. At the time Sallie had a trunk packed to go to Sardis to attend a girls' finishing school. She never went, and the crop failure of 1900 along with his wife's death was almost too much for Bob. Poverty was a big problem for the family, but Bob was a stay-at-home type person and had a generous amount of love for his children. They survived the poverty but with no schooling besides what the communities of Shady Hill and Middleburg offered. Genie would be pleased that 77 years after her death her nine grandchildren have accumulated l4 college degrees. All of the 12 great grandchildren are in school. Mary alone of the third generation has a grandchild. Danny Jr. has a great future. He is three, smart and a great charmer.

In 1977 all of us are middle-class Americans, working and making a living.

None of Bob and Genie's children ever lived out of Henderson County. Even in the age of moving America, all the grandchildren live in Tennessee besides Robert who lives in Auburn, Alabama. Of Bob's family, only Hattie and Ernest's wife Burgess are living in June '77. The nine grandchildren were present at the reunion besides Dalton, Tinie's youngest, who had been killed in an automobile accident two months earlier. That death probably caused Ira C. and Bruce to begin plans for a family reunion.

Note: Augustine Davidson Smith is daughter of Allie Belle Dyer and granddaughter of Robert (Bob) Dyer.

See also:
Robert and Mary Eugenia Milam Dyer (photographs)
Kiziah Donnely Bennett Milam Long (with photograph)
The Powers Brothers (photographs)
George W. and Tinie Dyer Rushing Family (photographs)
The Goose Supper at Daddy Dyer's (story)
More Dyer Family Photographs

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