June 1, 2018

Interview of Author of "Flying off Rattlesnake Mountain"

New Novel tells the Amazing Story of Pioneer-Inventor, Micajah Clark Dyer
      On May 15, John Clark, Director of the Georgia News Network in Atlanta, traveled to the mountains of Northeast Georgia to interview author Sylvia Dyer Turnage about her recently published book, Flying off Rattlesnake Mountain. Her book is a narrative, non-fiction story based on life as it was experienced by the pioneers who came into the mountainous area in 1833 to a land that had long been occupied by Cherokee and Creek Indians. The story follows the life of Clark Dyer (1822-1891) and tells how he came to have a remarkable theory about a machine that could be built to enable a man to fly like a bird.

        Turnage is the great-great-granddaughter of Clark Dyer, and she based her novel on information gleaned from every available source – old newspapers, census reports, family recollections and historical records, some copies of which are included in back of the book.     
Sylvia Turnage and John Clark with flying
machine model at Historical Society Museum.
       John Clark began his interview with Turnage at the Union County Historical Society Museum located in the Old County Courthouse on the Square in Blairsville, where a scale model of Dyer’s flying machine is on display. The model was built in 2012 by retired Delta Airlines machinist, Jack Allen. The display case has a mirrored bottom that enables a viewer to see the pedals, gears and pulleys that moved the wings and rudder of Dyer’s machine to control its direction in flight.
Turnage and Clark at monument in
Old Choestoe Baptist Church Cemetery.
       From the Courthouse, the interview was  continued to the Old Choestoe Baptist Church Cemetery where Clark Dyer and his wife Morena are buried. Their original hand-carved soapstone grave markers were embedded in a new granite monument that was placed in 2010 to honor Dyer for his invention of an “Apparatus for Navigating the Air,” for which he received Patent No. 154,654 from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on September 1, 1874. Negatives of drawings from his patent are also embedded in the monument.

Micajah Clark Dyer Parkway near Richard
 Russell Scenic Highway (ahead on right.)
      From the cemetery, the interview continued down the Micajah Clark Dyer Parkway (State Hwy. 180-East), which runs through the land that comprised the Dyer family farm property in the 1800s. The road was named to honor Clark Dyer in 2006 by Resolution of the Georgia General Assembly. The Parkway is pictured here near its junction on the right with Richard Russell Scenic Highway (State Hwy. 348). 
        A couple of turns off the Parkway brought John Clark to Dyer’s old homeplace located in a little valley lying between Cedar and Rattlesnake Mountains. A small marker posted by 
Marker at area where Dyer's flights
took place. 
the driveway announces that this is the area where Dyer’s flights took place (estimated to have been about 1875 to 1885—at least 28 years before the Wright Brothers’ flights).
        Rattlesnake Mountain rises to an elevation of 3,000 feet in back of where John Clark and Sylvia Turnage are standing in the photo below. Clark Dyer built rails on the side of this mountain to propel his flying machine into the air. With the passage of 130-plus years, there may no longer be any trace left of his rails, but family members continue to search for them. 
        There does remain a water trough above the creek flowing at the foot of the mountain that channeled water to strike a wheel and turn it for powering a gristmill and slash sawmill that Clark Dyer built and operated beside the creek. Part of the old millpond still remains, as well as portions of rock walls that were built to keep free-ranging livestock out of the yard and fields in those days.  
Turnage and Clark at the base of
Rattlesnake Mountain.
      Before John Clark left the flight site, Sylvia sang "The Ballad of Clark Dyer's Flying Machine" to him. She wrote the song in 1994 and included it in the book she published that year entitled "The Legend of Clark Dyer's Flying Machine." Much later, in 2011, the National Recording Corporation in Rome, Georgia, produced a CD of the song.
        "Flying off Rattlesnake Mountain" is available in both hardcover and softcover editions from the Union County Historical Society, directly from Sylvia Turnage, and from Choestoe Valley Store: https://choestoestore.com/. Softcover books are also available at the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga.; Mountain Crossings and Sunrise Grocery in Blairsville, Ga. and at Amazon.com. In addition, the hardcover book is available for checkout at the Union County Public Library in Blairsville, Ga.