Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2017 - 41
Did a North
BEAT THE WRIGHT BROTHERS
There is a patent-No. 154,654, dated September 1, 1874-granted to one Micajah Clark Dyer for "an apparatus for navigating the air." Did Dyer really get
sufficiently airborne off a mountain in Union County, Georgia, about a quarter
century before the Wright Brothers, to qualify for first flight?
by Joe Tennis
Stories say Micajah Clark Dyer flew like
an eagle about a generation before
the Wright Brothers' fabled first
flight on the Outer Banks of North
Carolina in 1903.
But not everybody thought Dyer
was sane in doing so. In fact, one
newspaper writer thought Dyer
may have been ready for a room at
a mental hospital after he allegedly
took flight in the isolated mountains of Georgia's Union County in
For decades, Sylvia Dyer Turnage
heard such stories about Dyer, her
great-great grandfather. But that's
all she figured they may have been:
family legend and lore. Great material. But how do you prove it?
Then one of her nephews made
it a point to research Dyer. Turnage,
in turn, got so interested that she
self-published a couple of small
books, in 1994 and 2009, about her
ancestor's aviation aspirations.
As it turns out, says Turnage, a
retired accountant, the old family
stories have appeared to be true.
"He flew off Rattlesnake Mountain," Turnage contends. "There's
no way to really know how far he
flew. But he flew enough that he
impressed everybody that they
talked about it for over 100 years
with nothing written or pictured or
Today, a monument at Dyer's
grave in Union County notes him
as "a genius who lived and died in
obscurity but who left behind a rich
legacy in the field of aeronautics."
Dyer was born on July 13, 1822
in Pendleton, South Carolina. His
family settled in Union County,
Georgia, when Dyer was still a boy.
He came from a family of farmers. And that's what he was, too: a
Still, he must have been a
"They said he watched the
November/December 2017 41