May 31, 2007

NCSU Extension Learns Georgia
May Have Been “First in Flight”

Photo ©Billy Turnage 2007

Pictured above: Friends of the NC State University’s Extension Service at 21st International Luncheon on May 16, 2007.

Upon invitation by the NC State University’s Extension Service Friends, Sylvia Dyer Turnage presented the story of Clark Dyer’s flying machine at their 21st International Luncheon on May 16, 2007, in Hayesville, NC. The group was very interested to learn about Micajah Clark Dyer’s invention of a flying machine in the Choestoe District of Union County way back in 1874, years before anyone else had succeeded in getting a guided craft airborne.

As the group viewed the patent issued for the machine on September 1, 1874, they found it amazing that Dyer had produced the ingenious drawings and specifications since he had only an eighth-grade education and had spent his life on a remote mountainous farm, with limited contacts outside the community. The story of Dyer’s invention had been handed down orally to each generation of the family, and the first written account of it was by Dr. Watson B. Dyer in the Dyer Family History, privately published in 1967 and 1980. Watson interviewed a couple of people who were eye witnesses to several flights by Clark Dyer in his plane, as well as dozens of others who had been told the story by their parents and grandparents.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Clark’s patent was finally discovered by one of the young descendents doing a Google search. Then, in the following year two 1985 newspaper articles were discovered that reported the invention, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat on July 16, 1875, and The Eagle (Gainesville, Georgia) on July 31, 1875.

Clark invented many other gadgets during his lifetime (1822-1891), and the family legend is that there were one or more later models of his aircraft. But even if documentation cannot be found for any of his other inventions, the 1874 patent for his “Apparatus for Navigating the Air” gives Clark an honored place in aviation history.

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