go to the William A. Lyles page | created January 17, 2000

In 1985 the Lyles family sold the 206 acres of the Mountain Rest land that we had held for 130 years. More or less. But there's a trace of curiousness about how and when we got title to the property.

From Westminster to Mountain Rest

After they had buried young Zillah Lyles (1847-52), William Albert and Mary Fowler Lyles moved their family from Westminster to Mountain Rest in time to help build Double Springs Church (1858). (About this same time, James Wesley and Martha Fowler Vissage also moved their family from Westminster to Mountain Rest.)

The Lyles family built a cabin up about 1600 feet on one the higher hillsides in the area. West Village Creek ran by the cabin. An 1825 map places the home in the middle of the so-called Cherokee Purchase. Today the property is bordered on several sides by U.S. Forest Service land. A mile away southward as the crow flies, Double Springs Church sprang up for Methodists and Baptists and, for a short while, for Presbyterians.

For the next 60 years, that's where they lived, raising corn and a few other crops, tending to a few animals and a horse. In 1870, for instance, the Oconee County tax assessor's returns indicate that William Albert's taxable personal property amounted to 1 horse worth $50, 5 cattle worth $60, 4 sheep and goats worth $6, 7 hogs worth $7, one dog worth $1, manufactured articles worth $8 and all other personal property worth $21--for a total of $150.

Over the years, the family added to the cabin till at last about 1920, when they put up a frame house a little ways up the hill. After Clifton died in 1948, his sister Amy Lyles moved down country to stay with her brother Oby Coleman Lyles until she died in 1953. The frame house sat disused for some years until the family tore down it down in the 1970s. In 1985, we at last sold the property, and a new owner built a new house on the spot.

The new frame house at Mountain Rest replaced the cabin where the Lyles family had lived for 60 years, probably since the late 1850s. Most likely, Clifton Lyles paid for the house with his U.S. Army pay. (In the photo above, Clifton leans against a porch post. To his left, Amy Lyles shades her eyes from the sun. We haven't identified the young woman on the steps. The man in the center is probably James Robert Lyles. We can't identify the person seated and apparently holding a baby-like bundle.) The old cabin, just down the hill, had been relegated to serving as a barn.

The Curious Tale of the Title

William Albert Lyles didn't leave any evidence that he ever owned the land. The federal census of 1860 shows that he owned $180 of personal property but no real estate. Shortly after the war, in 1868, the newly formed Oconee County conducted a survey of taxable property that lists $82 of personal property for William Albert but no real estate. The 1870 federal census again indicates that he had no real estate; and a state tax list also in 1870 lists his personal property as $150. Another state tax list in 1878 showed that his personal property had shrunk to $94 and that he still owned no property.

It's not clear that son James Turner Lyles ever held title to the property either. The censuses and lists of 1868, 1870, and 1875, and 1884 do not credit him with any real estate.

The earliest title that we know of (so far) belonged to William Albert's grandson James Robert Lyles, sometimes known as Robert Lyles. In 1913, Robert Lyles conveyed the 206 acres to his brother Clifton by a deed dated August 13, 1913. (We haven't yet examined the deed, which is recorded in Deed Book UU, p. 63, in the office of the Clerk of the Court for Oconee County. Getting a look at the deed and plat is high on our list of things to do.)

And when did Robert Lyles himself get the title? A peculiar note from our Uncle Wilson O. Weldon to the family in 1973 said that our surveyor, B.R. Watson, "indicated that the records indicated 234 acres in 1880, deeded to Robert Lyles [born in 1879]." If this is so, someone deeded the property to a one-year-old boy. We will be searching for that 1880 record when we return this year to Oconee County. That would be the oldest evidence of title that we know of. In 1880, William Albert was still alive and James Turner was in his prime.

 

The Lyles family home
from the USGS 7.5-minute quadrangle Whetstone, S.C.
to be continued