The 2005 Chastain Family Reunion, also scheduled for Rome, was cancelled due to massive disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina, so the 2006 reunion was the first in two years. There was a lot of greeting and getting reacquainted in the boardroom throughout Friday afternoon leading up to the Friday night business meeting. With a good mix of regulars and new attendees, it was exciting to hear family stories and compare family lines. Scott Ray shared a special treat with us -- a top hat that once belonged to Elijah Webb Chastain!! At the Friday evening business meeting there were reports, and new officers were nominated for three positions.
Saturday was a day of fellowship and research. On Saturday morning, the meeting room was filled. Tim Chastain from Central Florida gave a presentation on Chastain Central and finished with a quick game of Prominent Chastains. Those present named most of the 16 Prominent Chastains on his list -- very impressive!
After the presentation, research began in earnest. Brown books covered the table. The brown books contain alphabetically arranged genealogy worksheets that have been submitted over the years to the association. They are extensive. Knowledgeable researchers were also available to answer questions and lend a hand in finding family lines. New arrivals came in throughout the day, so there were more cousins to meet and more stories. Some attendees took time in the afternoon to visit the city cemetery or the big craft fair being held that weekend.
Saturday night was the banquet in the Etowah banquet room. Though there were more than fifty attending the reunion, some had to leave early, so there were about forty at the banquet. We were greeted by the Mayor pro-tem of Rome, who told us about the seven hills of Rome, Georgia; we were entertained with skits; and President Burleigh Netzky took the final vote on our new officers. They are: President, William Fenn firstname.lastname@example.org; Vice President, Doyle Chastain Genealogist@DoyleChastain.com; and Recording Secretary, Jerry Chastain email@example.com.
The warm fellowship and bonding that occurred throughout the event was quite evident, and it continued Sunday morning. A large number of Chastains were at breakfast together on Sunday morning in the hotel restaurant, so that it was almost a continuation of the reunion. From the restaurant, we said our goodbyes and were on the road home.
This is only a representation of those who attended. We were unable to get good photographs and information on everyone. More than fifty participated in the events throughout the weekend.
|Burleigh Netzky, from Techny, Illinois, was the outgoing president of the Pierre Chastain Family Association. He presided over the business meeting Friday night and the second business meeting Saturday night during the banquet. He was also on hand to help researchers with their family lines and to answer questions about Chastain genealogy. He shared with us some of his recent research on Obediah Chastain, a descendant of Rev. James Chastain.|
|Virgie Chastain was everywhere during the reunion, coordinating the program and making everything go smoothly. She and her husband, Herschel, are the Librarians for the Pierre Chastain Family Association. They are from Dallas, Texas. Virgie sold a number of sets of the definitive Pierre Chastain and His Descendants. Every Chastain interested in genealogy should have this set. You can order it from the PCFA website.|
|Carrie Chastain, from Siloam Springs, Arkansas, is our Publicity Chair. She provided support and personal energy to the program. She was an expert at the Prominent Chastains game. Carrie celebrated her 74th birthday on Sunday of the reunion. Her husband, J.D. Chastain, was very involved in the meetings.|
|The prize for longest travel to the reunion goes to Doug and Beverly Rasor of Idaho. As the recording secretary was unable to attend the reunion, Beverly served as secretary during the meetings. She is a southern girl at heart and keeps tropical flowers in her Idaho basement.|
|The shortest trip was by Linda Merck and her husband from Rome, Georgia.|
|Brothers John and Jerry Chastain are from Pickens County, Georgia. Jerry is our incoming Recording Secretary.|
|Frank and Barbara Chastain from Atlanta are both past officers of the Pierre Chastain Family Association. Frank is past President and Barbara is past Recording Secretary.|
|Blake Chastain is the son of Frank and Barbara. The little one with him is his son, Matthew. Michelle is another granddaughter of Frank and Barbara.|
|Perhaps the happiest couple at the reunion was Bob and Aneeta Morton of Satellite Beach, Florida. They were doing research in Ellijay, Georgia hoping to make some progress on their Chastain line and had come to a block when someone told them about the Chastain reunion 65 miles away. They packed up and drove to Rome, and by Saturday afternoon they had not only traced their line all the way back to Pierre, but had collected a tremendous amount of additional detail from the brown books on their various levels of ancestors. Besides that, they purchased the set Pierre Chastain and His Descendants for more information. They then stayed for the banquet, taking advantage of a cancelled RSVP.|
|On the other hand, Bob Conner of Murryville, Georgia was not successful in establishing a link to Pierre Chastain. His preliminary information indicated descent from Margaret Chastain, a daughter of Pierre. However, there is no Margaret listed as a daughter of Pierre, unless Margaret is a substitute name for another daughter.|
|The state with the second largest population of Chastains is Indiana. Representing the Indiana Chastains at the 2006 reunion were Don and Joyce Chastain of Anderson, Indiana.|
|Scott and Mary Ray brought Elijah Webb Chastain's top hat for show and tell. Scott also showed us pictures he had taken of Holly Creek near the place where Elijah Webb was killed in an accident while crossing the swollen river. It gave us an excellent perspective of what it may have been like. Today, Scott's grandson, William Scott Ray, lives about fifteen minutes from that historic spot.|
|Tim Chastain and his sister Valorie Chastain Ford are from Central Florida. Tim is one of the Brothers of Chastain Central, a website filled with Chastain information. Valorie provided the photography for the reunion.|
|Mary and Harry Kitchings are from Lilburn, Georgia. Mary is the daughter of Chastain genealogist Troy Maxwell Chastain, a very significant contributor of research to the Chastain data base.|
|Jean Roberts from Montezuma, Georgia brought a copy of Facets of Fannin, a history of Fannin County, Georgia that contains several excellent biographies of Chastains. Her husband W.J. attended with her.|
|Sharlene Joh from Franklin, Georgia is the daughter of Vergie and Herschel Chastain. With her are her daughters Karlin, Charlotte, and Victoria.|
|Beatrice Tharp drove alone all the way from her home in Ellenton in Southwest Florida. Her business card contains an unusual item -- her genealogical DNA code.|
|Jo Chastain Mantell from Kennesaw, Georgia was accompanied by her husband, Robert, and her son, Bob.|
|Leo and Lila Chastain Oliphant, Onita Copeland, and J.D. Chastain.|
At the 2006 Chastain Family reunion, Scott Ray brought us a very special treat. On Friday night, Scott presented us with an old, worn, leather carrying case. He opened it and pulled out a great treasure! It was the personal top hat once owned by Elijah Webb Chastain. Though showing wear, the top hat is in remarkably good shape. No doubt the protective case is responsible for much of the preservation. The top hat fits upside down into the form fitted case, where the hat remains except for special occasions.
Scott is a descendant of Elijah Webb, and the top hat has been in the possession of his family line since Elijah's death in 1874. When Elijah died of a tragic accident, his son, Judson Rucker "Bud" Chastain, was only sixteen years old, but he became head of the house, caring for his mother and younger siblings, and the hat became his. When Jason Rucker died in 1920, the hat remained in possession of his wife, Emma Greenwood Chastain. Emma lived her later years in the home of her daughter, Ophelia Vesta Chastain Ray and her husband Clark Ray. Their son, Scott Ray, grew up with grandmother Emma in the home. Emma designated the top hat to go to Scott, and he took possession of it in the mid 1950s. Scott is seen above wearing the top hat.
In August, 1954, shortly after Scott returned from military service and received the top hat there was, in nearby Blue Ridge, a celebration of the Fannin County centennial, with a parade that included a number of historical characters. Scott was asked to represent Elijah Webb Chastain in the parade, which he did by donning the appropriate costume and riding horseback wearing the authentic top hat. An article in the August 6, 1954 issue of the Atlanta Constitution reports:
Kin Learns To Ride Horse
To Portray Fannin Founder
By Bob Sibley
A 24-year old Atlantan is learning to ride horseback in order to portray his great-grandfather in the Fannin County centennial next week.
Scott Ray, released from the Army recently after 18 months with Counter-intelligence in Germany, agreed to learn to ride for his part in the pageant, "The Fannin Story."
The young Atlantan will have the role of E. W. Chastain, noted legislator, orator and pioneer in the Fannin County area.
"Horseback riding is all right," laughed Ray, "but I wouldn't like it as a steady diet."
100-year old hat
The fact that he couldn't ride didn't faze the Atlantan when he was asked to portray his great-grandfather in the Fannin celebration "I got a horse, went out near North Fulton Park and began practicing," he explained with a grin.
To add realism to his role, Ray will wear an imported top hat worn 100 years ago by Chastain at the celebration marking the founding of Fannin County...
Col. Chastain was instrumental along with Col. James Walker Fannin in the founding of the county. Chastain also founded Morganton, first town in the county, descendants said. (end of excerpt)
The lid of the storage case bears the words: E. W. Chastain, Georgia. The inside of the hat has an image of a building with columns and the words:
Scott speculates that though the top hat was manufactured in Paris, Elijah likely purchased it in Washington, DC during his tenure there as a congressman (1851-1855). It is unlikely that such a hat was available in Morgantown where Elijah lived. Another supporting fact is the designation Georgia on the outside of the storage case. There would be no need to mention Georgia unless the hat was used in a context outside Georgia, such as Washington, D.C. Elijah may also have worn the hat on trips to Charleston, South Carolina.
We are grateful to Scott for allowing us to see and photograph this artifact, which we did not even know existed. It is good to know that the top hat is in such careful and respectful hands.