July 25, 2013

Model of Dyer’s 1874 Airplane Displayed at Reunion

Model of Clark Dyer's Airplane                           Photo by Billy J. Turnage

        The rain didn’t come until after the 200-plus attendees at the Dyer-Souther Reunion had finished a sumptuous meal on Saturday, July 20, 2013. It had stopped by the time the featured guest, Jack Allen, concluded his remarks about the model he built of Micajah Clark Dyer’s 1874 flying machine and the model was presented to Mr. Ed Reed, Vice President and Past President of the Union County Historical Society, to be placed on display in the Old Courthouse Museum in Blairsville, Ga. The replica was on exhibit throughout the reunion, giving the public its first look at the remarkable work of Mr. Allen.
        This year, as well as in the past several years, the reunion was held at the Choestoe Baptist Church Family Life Center located on the Micajah Clark Dyer Parkway (State Hwy. 180), Blairsville, Ga. This is a fitting site for the reunion since the Dyer and Souther forebears first settled in this valley shortly after Union County was formed in 1832 from a portion of the Cherokee Nation. Some other family names that appear on the earliest records of the Choestoe Church are Nix, Hunter, Collins and others who were related by marriage or had other family ties.
        When the Scots-Irish settlers first moved into the area, there were five Indian trails that converged at this location: the Logan, Choestoe, Tesnatee, Trackrock and Enotah Trails. The intersection of these traffic lanes had already made the area into a thriving community. The new arrivals kept the same name the Indians had given the village, “Choestoe” which translates “the place where rabbits dance.”
        One of the youngsters who arrived with the first white settlers was 11-year-old Micajah Clark Dyer. Those who saw his many inventions throughout his life, the most remarkable of which was the flying machine, labeled him “a genius.” After his death in 1891, his patent and airplane were sold, and the family had only stories handed down orally about his invention for more than a century. There were no cameras or newspapers available in the mountain counties during Clark Dyer’s lifetime, and searches conducted by Ken Akins and Robert Davis in 1980 failed to produce any documentation about the airplane.
         Then, in 2004, Steven and Joey Dyer, great-great-great grandsons of Clark Dyer, located the patent for the airplane in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The patent office had loaded old patent files onto the Internet, which included Patent No. 154,654 issued on Sept. 1, 1874, to Micajah Dyer of Blairsville, Ga. for an “Apparatus for Navigating the Air.”  Later, more than a dozen 1875 newspapers published in towns outside the mountain area were discovered with articles about Clark Dyer’s invention.
         In recent years, the family has made efforts to gain recognition for the inventor. They make the case that this is not just for family heritage, but because it is an important historical event for the state, indeed for the nation, since no one preceded Clark Dyer in inventing a flying machine that was capable of controlled flight.
Jack Allen with his model
         Model builder, Jack Allen of Blairsville, is a retired Delta Airlines mechanic. He has been building models since before his retirement from Delta. One of the best known of his models is a replica of the Telstar 1 Communications Satellite that hangs in the lobby of the BellSouth Tower in Atlanta. His model of that satellite is displayed in the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie, Ga.
        Jack crafted every piece of Clark Dyer’s airplane model to scale, working from the 1874 patent drawings and descriptions, which were silent as to dimensions, leaving Jack with the challenge of using coordinates to calculate the size of the many parts. 

Display with mirror showing bottom of plane
Family members agree that, truly, Jack has pro- duced a remarkable replica of the 19th century aircraft and proved himself to be worthy of the title “Master Builder.”