Mary Lousia Brown Lyles

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Mary Lousia Brown Lyles at 93
Mary Lousia Brown Lyles at 102


THE TOCCOA  [rest of page missing]
TOCCOA, GEORGIA, THURSDAY, September 20, 1951
VOL. LXVII, No. 36

News and Views About People You Know
By Mrs. R. Frank Garner, Sr.

Open house was held on Sept. 8 at the home of Mrs. Pearl Pitts at Old Deer Court to celebrate the ninety-third birthday of Mrs. Pits' mother, Mrs. Mary Louisa Brown Lyles.  About one hundred close friends and relatives from far and near were present.  They were there from Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. [my emphasis -- JBL]

Chauga Creek, near Old Ft. Madison, S. C., was in the wilderness of the raw state ninety-three years ago.  James Buchannan, the nation's only bachelor president was in his second year as resident of the White House when Mary Louisa Brown was born to Travis and Elizabeth Cobb Brown on Sept. 8, 1858.  Five other children were born to this couple, but they have been dead for lo! these many years.  Mary Louisa is the only survivor.

The story of this girl-child's life is an interesting one.  She has lived through the terms of nineteen president, and the horrors of five wars.

When her beloved Southland went to war against the North in 1861, it took her father and his nine brothers.  Ten sons from a single family.  Two of those sons did not return.  One of the vivid memories of this remarkable woman, is when her father and his brother Marion went to Walhalla to catch the little Blue Ridge train which was to carry them to war, they took their mother's arm and struck up the song, "We're Going Home To Die No More."  Of the ten sons this mother sent to war, these were the two who did not return.

Her father was wounded in the Battle of Guilford's Court House in Virginia.  He died and is buried in Richmond in the National Cemetery.  She never saw his grave.   His friend A. E. Clinkscales, fought by his side and came home to tell the family of his death.  Later he married the widow of his friend.

The Yankees came to Chauga Church one Sunday.  Part of the troops came in and took seats while the others remained outside, unhitching all the horses and making 'way with them.  That was when the pulpit stood in the center of the church and the white people sat in one end, the negroes in the other.  The preacher preached to the whites awhile, then would turn and preach to the negroes.  Old Chauga Creek Church still stands today.

Mrs. Lyles remembers how the young ladies wept over the loss of their fine saddle horses.  Her grandfather had left his horse tied in the deep hollow, where he kept him from sight of any Yankee.  He also kept his meat buried in a secluded spot.

"People now-a-days don't know what hard times are," she says.  "Even as a child I could not go out to play until I had spun so many hanks of thread.  "We washed our clothes at the branch, then ironed them with sad irons heated by a big wood fire.  Skirts and petticoats were yards and yards full, and trimmed with ruffles and frills that drug in the dust."

At twelve years of age she joined Hopewell Methodist Church, which was located between Madison and Westminster, S. C.  She attended Chauga Creek School, and her last teacher was Mr. Bill Doyle, "a fine man."  "I don't have a school mate left," she tells you.  "The last one died last year.  He was Bradley Collins."

In 1883 Mary Louisa married Mr. John Bill Lyles at the home of an aunt, Mrs. Amanda Spencer, with whom she had been living in Old Madison.  Two children were born into their home.  They are Mrs. Pearl Pitts of Tugalo and Mr. Paul Jones Lyles, of Atlanta, both now in their 60s.

Mrs. Lyles tells you of the days when there were no matches.  Flint rock and cotton were used.  A fire had to be kept going some place in the house.  Houses were usually small and the heat was felt throughout.

She knew Toccoa when it was called Dry Pond;  when there were only three stores;  when a Dr. Harris was the only country doctor and the Davenport's [sic] ran the first boarding house.  A small Baptist church stood below where the Fred L. Hayes store is today.  She can well remember walking from Old Madison to Tocca to attend that church.

She saw the first train that ever ran through Toccoa.

She lived to see the LAST train run over the one track road.

"I saved over $2,000 boarding Railroad men, and preparing their lunches," she says.

"My step-father helped build the depot at Deercourt.  All the framing is hand-hewn -- that is --cut out with an ax.  Wooden pegs were used for fastening.

"All the grading for the Railroad was done by convicts and mules," she goes on to relate.  "The bosses were cruel those days.  The convicts were kept in a stockade.

Mrs. Lyles is a full blooded Democrat, and never fails to vote.  She considers it a privilege and a duty to go to the polls.  She hopes to vote for the next president and frankly states if Eisenhower runs, she will vote for him.

The newspapers and the radio keep this amazing woman fully informed on the day's happenings.  She devours every word of the daily papers -- even the ads.   The Record is eagerly awaited every Friday morning.  She still likes to cook corn Light Bread and the Sweet Milk Loaf.

She absolutely will not be seen if she isn't tidied up.  She dons her best if she steps out, and her shoes must ALWAYS be polished.  She wears a fancy old styled broach, that whispers of a by-gone day.  She likes the modern fashions and thinks bobbed hair is pretty and convenient, and if a little plaint and lipstick helps ones looks, then put it on.

Her only handicap is her hearing, but that does not prevent her hearing the radio.  It does keep her from attending church or other gatherings.

She still possesses some prize household pieces she has used all her life.  There is a desk, over 150 years old.  A baking skillet the same age.  The desk is built of heart pine, maple and walnut, put together with pegs.

Since her husbands death in 1937, Mrs. Lyles has lived with her daughter.  She assists in all the household chores.  She cooks, she mends, she sweeps and dusts -- she does anything she WANTS to do.  Her daughter says she has never been awkward in her movements and has never had a fall.

"I would like to live seven more years and round out a hundred, if I can keep my health.  If not I don't want to live," she says.

Her grandchildren are:  [edited due to privacy concerns.]  There are 19 great-grand children.

Deercourt Toasts "Granny" at 102

By Ella Cooper Garner

Deercourt -- Granny Lyles' grey eyes lighted up each time one of her kinfolk came into the yard and up to where Granny was "holding court" as this north-east Georgia community helped her celebrate her 102nd birthday Sunday.

She could spot each person and knew them all, although she had to peer over her glasses to see some folk across the yard.  But even with bifocals she could see her three-tiered pink and white birthday cake with 102 candles burning on it.

Actually, Granny was 102 on Sept. 8, but Sunday seemed a better day for celebration.  So Deercourt waited until then to honor the oldest woman of Stephens County.


Granny was all dressed up in a black dress and a big orchid, but that didn't keep her from insisting on holding the babies when their parents brought them up.  Granny has 19 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

Granny's philosophy of life is simple:  "It's what you do for others that counts."

She is full of curiosity.  Although she spends most of her time in bed or a wheel chair, nothing escapes her.  She avidly reads the newspapers -- with special interest in parties given for brides.  She keep up with politics and her memory of events, past and present, amazes those who know her.


"In my day young folks were kept busy.  We didn't have time to get into trouble - no juvenile delinquency problems," Granny said.  "I had to spin and weave when I was too little to reach the spinning wheel.  Holes were bored in the floor to lower the wheel so I could do my part of the work.  So much was allotted, and if we did not get it done, we didn't get to play.

"I walked three miles coming and going for my schooling, carrying a lunch in a tin pail.  We had all classes in the same room."

Granny won't receive guests until she is properly groomed -- her hair fixed just right and her gold ear rings through the pierced holes in her ear lobes.  "They pierced my ears 90 years ago and put a piece of silk thread through to keep the holes open," Granny said.


Granny is the daughter of Travis and Elizabeth Cobb Brown, and they lived just over the line in South Carolina when Granny (Mary Louisa) was born in 1858.  They moved to Georgia when Granny was still as small child.

Granny is a member of the Methodist Church and has been for 90 years.  She joined the Hopewell Methodist Church, then moved her membership to Providence Methodist -- near where she lives today.

Granny says that she wants to be buried in the churchyard at Providence, but "although I'm ready to go, I'm not anxious to go," she said.

Granny was married to John Lyles in 1882 in the home of her grandfather, who reared her.  Her father died in Richmond, Va., after receiving a wound in the battle of Bull Run, and is buried there.


Granny had two children, both of the living:  Mrs. Pearl Lyles Pitts, with whom she makes her home; and Paul J. Lyles of East Point.

One of Granny's first memories is of a time when she was a little girl and "the Yankees came by old Hopewell while we were at church one Sunday.  They took all the good horses and left their starved ones.  The Hughes girls had two new saddle horses.  I never saw folks cry as they did for those horses…"

Still remembering, Granny wen won,  "I saw the first train make its initial trip from Atlanta to Washington when it came through Toccoa .. Toccoa used to be called Dry Pond."

Among Granny's treasured possessions are a homespun counterpane made by her mother before Granny was born and an enlarged picture which hangs by her bed -- a picture of Granny when she was a beauty of 20.