The Mountain Signal, (Lumpkin Co. GA) Thursday, April 16, 1874:
“It becomes our painful duty to chronicle the death of Col. E.W. Chastain, of Fannin County, caused by being drowned in Holly Creek, on Thursday the 9th of April, near Ellijay, Gilmer County, Ga. He had been off on business, accompanied by Col. Dickey and Senator Jervis, of Fannin County, his personal friends. They were all on horse-back, and in attempting to cross the ford, the creek being much swollen from recent rains, Mr. Jervis before, Col. Chastain in the center and Mr. Dickey behind. Mr. Jervis had just succeeded in getting across when he heard Mr. Dickey holler out to Col. Chastain to “rein his horse upstream.” Mr. Jervis looked around just in time to see Col. Chastain’s horse fall, having struck a large rock in the ford, and the water being very swift Col. Chastain was plunged into eternity almost in the twinkling of an eye. All efforts were made by his friends to render him assistance, but he was not seen anymore after he fell from his horse.
Senator Jervis at once dispatched the sad news to his friends, and the citizens round about the place was called together, and our informant thinks the body was recovered on Friday morning following.
This sad fate of one of the leading spirits of N.E. Georgia will be deeply deplored by all who knew him. Col. Chastain was once a member of Congress from this district before the war, and has held many offices of trust and honor. He was Colonel of the first Georgia Regulars in 1861, and was stationed on Tybee Island, near Savannah.
We deeply sympathize with the family and friends of the deceased, and would earnestly commend them to Him who has promised to be a “Father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow.”
Since writing the above, we learn from the Morganton mail rider that the body of Col. E.W. Chastain was found early on Friday morning about a half mile below where he was drowned, and the body was conveyed to his home in Fannin County, and was interred on Monday morning. We learn that the funeral was the most largely attended, by citizens, kindred and friends of any ever before in that country.”
The Mountain Signal, (Lumpkin Co. GA) Thursday, May 14, 1874:
“The Late Hon. E.W. Chastain.
Interesting Memorial and Biographical Sketch by the Hon. H.P. Bell.
Washington, D.C., April 27, 1874.
Editors Constitution. The family and some of the friends of the Hon. E.W. Chastain have written to me asking me to write his obituary and send it to the Constitution for publication. In compliance with this request, I have written the enclosed sketch, which is more of a biography than obituary. I trust you will do these friends of deceased, (and they are legion), as well as myself, the favor to publish it. I doubt not that it will be read by a great many of your readers with interest, not on account of the merit of the production, but from interest in the subject. I am respectfully your obedient servant,H.P. Bell.
Hon. Elijah W. Chastain.
The death of this distinguished citizen and estimable gentleman has created throughout the State, the most profound regret. It occurred on the 9th inst., and was peculiarlysad in its attendant circumstances. Returning from Dalton in company with the Hon. John B. Dickey and the Hon. John A. Jervis, where they had been on business pertaining to the contemplated Dalton and Morganton Railroad; in crossing Holly Creek, in Murray County, which was swollen, the ford being rocky and the current rapid, Col. Chastain’s horse stumbled and fell, precipitating him upon a large rock, and falling upon him, so crushed and disabled him that he could not escape, and thus he was drowned in the presence of his friends who were unable to render him any assistance.
He was born in the State of South Carolina, September 25th, 1814, but came to Georgia in early life. He married Miss. Clarissa Brazleton, of Jackson County, in 1838, and soon after settled on Toccoa River, in what was then Gilmer County, where he resided until his death. He filled with usefulness and distinction high positions in the military and civil service of the State. Elected a Captain in the war with the Seminole Indians in Florida, in 1837, and promoted to the command of a regiment in 1838, he served through that contest with honor and distinction. In 1840 he was elected to represent Gilmer County in the Senate and continued to represent the county until it was united with Murray in a senatorial district, which he also represented, serving in the Senate consecutively for the period of ten years. As a Senator, he exhibited high qualities for debate and legislation, and at once took his position among the leading minds of the State, rendering to the county signal service. In the fall of 1851 he was nominated for Congress, in a district (the Fifth) distinguished for its talent, and after a brilliant canvass, marked by intense excitement and enthusiasm, defeated his accomplished antagonist, the Hon. W.H. Stiles, by a large majority. Entering the House of Representatives in the calm between the agitation of 1850 and 1854, he made but one speech during the term. It was delivered March the 5th, 1852, on “The Union and Southern Rights Parties in Georgia.” He was re-elected to the 33rd Congress. It was during this session that the Kansas-Nebraska Act, under the leadership of Douglass in the Senate, and Stephens in the House, was passed. In the culmination of the excitement upon this subject, on the 20th of May, 1854, Col. Chastain delivered a very able speech, probably the ablest of his life. Belonging to the progressive school of statesmen, the detester of tyranny, and a worshiper of liberty, he favored the acquisition of Cuba, and made his last speech in Congress June 12th, 1854, upon that subject. The convention that nominated his successor unanimously adopted a resolution approving his official conduct as a representative of the people. After four years of public service, in exciting terms, involving many hundreds of votes on every variety of questions arising in the National Legislature, with each of these votes closely scrutinized by over a hundred thousand constituents, an unanimous judgementof approval is no ordinary compliment, and one that seldom falls to the lot of public servants. In 1857 he was appointed by Gov. Brown attorney for the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which office I believe he resigned. He was chosen a delegate from Fannin County to the Convention in 1861. He believed honestly that secession was the only remedy for existing evils and apprehending dangers, and, true to his nature, without counting the cost or looking to consequences, he followed the convictions of his heart, and the dictates of his judgement, and ardently supported secession.
At the commencement of the late war he served as Lieutenant Colonel for some time of the 1st Regiment Georgia Regulars. I am not advised how long. This was his last official public service; but he never ceased to feel a deep interest in all matters affecting the public interest, whether of a political, material or moral character, and was always ready to make his contribution of means, labor or sacrifice for their advancement.
Like many other distinguished men, Col. Chastain did not possess the advantages of a liberal education, nor the adventitious aids of fortune, but in natural intellectual endowments he was perhaps inferior to no man in Georgia. In physical development, a model of perfect manhood, quick in apprehension, fluent in speech, felicitous in repartee, bitter in invective, graceful in manner, wise in council and fearless in action, modest as a maiden, and brave as Caesar, he was a born leader of men. He loved the gladiatorship of the political arena, and always left it a victor. He was never defeated when a candidate for office. Ardent in his attachments and thoroughly honest in his convictions, he infused into his friends his own zeal, and bound them to him with the earnestness of devotees. Although engaged in fierce party contests, and in office for a period covering nearly sixteen years, neither envy or malice ever dared to assail his official integrity or personal honor. If he was a zealous partisan, it was because he was an ardent patriot, believing the highest interest of the country was involved in the success of the principles of his party. He never surrendered to an enemy, nor betrayed, nor deserted a friend.
He was admitted to the bar in 1849. The owner of a large and valuable farm, and largely engaged in politics, the practice of his profession was more an incident than an object. Yet for a number of years he did an extensive and successful practice. More successful in the result of his cases, than productive of remuneration for his services, for he seemed to loose sight of his fee in his anxiety for victory. Indeed, he seldom asked a client for money, and if he did it was in such a good natured way that the client felt sure but any sort of excuse for non-payment would be received. A very large number of his fee notes became barred by the statute of limitations and were never paid. The poor especially always found in him a willing counselor and a zealous and an able advocate. He was distinguished at the bar for his courtesy to the bench and his professional brethren, and for his adelity to his client. He studied the science of government more than law. Politics seemed to be his native element. In what is known as the black letter of the law, his reading and research were not extensive. He discarded the pompous formularies and ignored the technical subtleties of the books. With him the law was not so much a grand system or science invested with the awful forms of a solemn antiquity like some ideal divinity, as it was the simple practical means of enforcing rights and redressing wrongs. And while others admired the gorgeous drapery with which the Goddess of Justice is clothed, he tore it away and approached the alter of her worship, charmed with the beauty of her naked simplicity. Still, with the love of the right and abhorrence of wrong, his accurate knowledge of men and his fine powers of advocacy, he was a formidable adversary in the Court House and especially so before the jury. He was more fruitful in legitimatere sources for the continuance of his cause, when unprepared for trial, than any member of the bar I ever saw. The professional reader will understand and appreciate the importance, frequently to their client, of a continuance, when the showing cannot be brought entirely up to the rule. His were not always ready, not always not prepared to make a strictly legal showing, yet his professional skill always compensated his client’s business. He moved the continuance and would insist with such earnestness, showing so many excuses for his client’s negligence, and appealing to the Court with such courtly grace and elegance, and bring his showing so nearly up to the rule, that it was impossible to resist him. Colonel Chastain leaves a widow and seven children in sorrow and bereavement, all of them, I believe, members, and some of them leading and most useful members of the Baptist Church, in whose creed he was a firm believer. Much and deeply as the community in which he lived lament his sad and untimely death, and greatly as he is beloved by that community, it was in the home circle where he is missed, that he was beloved with the warmest ardor and mourned with the bitterest anguish. I will not raise that veil, nor obscure the light of the vestal lamp that burns to his memory on that sacred shrine. I bring friendship’s last offering and drop upon his grave “the tribute of a tear.”