August, 2012



Henry Allen Story 1838-1913

A man named Henry Allen “Buck” Story played a major role in the making of the Story family in Georgia. Buck Story was born September 23, 1838 in Warren County.

He started out farming in Warren County, formerly a part of the St. Paul’s Parish. It was a place where the first white settlers were granted land by King George III of England, back when Georgia was a colony.

Warrenton of Warren County was a pass through settlement that was part of the Creek Indian Upper Trade Path. The path started in Augusta, Georgia, and made its way to the Mississippi River. Until the War Between the States, Warrenton had a mule-car transportation system. Buck Story came into this world thirty-five years before the true railroad came to Warren County. And before Buck Story was finished farming, he had acquired extensive farming interest in Warren, McDuffie and Columbia Counties. He was a planter, same as his father.

Yes, Buck Story was a planter and a very successful one, though he did not live in an antebellum plantation home, nor did he dress as a country gentleman. Perhaps that was due to his beginnings in the life experience.

Buck Story was the twentieth child of Samuel Gaines Story. His mother was Stacy Duckworth-Story. Samuel Gaines Story died while Henry Allen Story was still in his mother’s womb. Though the unborn child was provided for in Samuel’s last will and testament, young Henry Allen had to figure out how to survive without a father’s influence or love. He had to learn to stand on his own two feet and teach himself to be a man.

Farming and hard work was all young Henry Allen Story knew, and he knew it well. He saved every dime he made and thought long and hard on each and every business decision made. It was a matter of survival.

A story to illustrate his attitude toward thrift has survived for one-hundred-fifty plus years in the Story family oral tradition. It went something like this. After a long day of work in the field, Buck Story noticed one of his workers had on a pair of trousers, better than his.

“I want to know one thing,” said Buck Story, “how can you afford those two dollar britches? I must be paying you too much.”

The man looked puzzled and said, “No, Mr. Story, these are fifty cent britches.”

“No they’re not. I know where you bought ‘em. And he sells ’em britches for two dollars.”

“No sir, fifty cents.”

With that Buck Story handed the man fifty cents and said, “Here, take this and go buy me a pair. From now on, part of your job is to do my clothes buying. And don’t tell that scoundrel who you’re buying for. I won’t pay two dollars for a fifty cent pair of britches.”

Buck Story was hard pressed to depart with a dollar if he did not absolutely have to. It was the way he made it through life and that attitude served him well.

Marriage also served him well. Buck married Rachel Ann Montgomery, the oldest child of Mary Swint Montgomery and James Franklin Montgomery on April 2, 1854 at the home of her father. Unfortunately, Rachel’s mother passed away a month before the wedding.

The Montgomerys placed an ad in the Christian Index announcing the engagement a year before the event.

James Montgomery was a wealthy farmer and did not hold to the tradition of handing down inheritance to the oldest son. He made all of his children wealthy: Rachel Ann, Martha E., David H., John B., Lucy A., Jane R., and Mary F. Montgomery.

Though money was important to Buck, so was family. He loved Rachel Ann Montgomery, and together they had six sons, no daughters. Buck proudly boasted, “Each of my sons can do the work of ten men, couldn’t have a son who could be any other way. It’s in the blood.”

The Story family farmed cotton, sugarcane and other crops of the South, but cotton was king. Nothing made Buck happier than to sit atop his horse and admire the snow white covered land for as far as the eye could see, snow white cotton covered land that is. Buck owned several farms in the fertile land just east of Augusta: Moon’s Town, Silver Dollar Farm, Mistletoe, Marshall Dollar Place, Big Cotton Gin, Little Cotton Gin, and the Garnett Place.

He stationed his sons on the farms to live and oversee them. At the end of the cotton season, Buck and his sons loaded up mule teams and took the cotton to Savannah, Georgia, where he could receive top dollar. To Buck Story, cotton was “money in the bank.”

One such year, he was stopped outside Savannah by the law.

“What’s the problem officer?” asked Buck Story.

“Well, Mr. Story the problem is, you don’t have any brakes on your wagons.”

“Don’t need any.”

“Well the city council says you do.”

“City council, what they got to do with me and my cotton?”

“You got a twenty mule team here. City council says any wagon coming in with a twenty mule team has to have brakes on the wagon, and in your case, wagons.”

“That’s about the darndest thing I ever heard! I never had a wagon with brakes…”

“Well, Mr. Story, I’m sorry, but you’re not taking that cotton into Savannah without brakes on your wagons. It’s dangerous…”

“The hell you say! My wagons are safe! Ask anybody! Man, don’t you know brakes costs money?”

“Too many wagons out of control in the city, Mr. Story.”

“My mules stop on a dime! Anybody who knows Buck Story knows I wouldn’t own a mule that couldn’t stop on a dime! This is highway robbery!”

Buck Story argued his case to no avail. He grumbled and finally pointed out a team of men and sent them into Savannah for brakes. He stayed with a few men armed with weapons to guard his “bank account!”

Yes, Buck Story was successful and made sure his family was taken care of, that is if they pulled their own weight. Everybody had to work, everybody had a job to do, and it had to be done right. And “right” meant, Buck’s way.

Buck Story was tough, he was hard. Well after he had earned the respect of the community, he never let up. He worked from sun up to sun down. He faced obstacles in life and met them head on.

Buck Story was about thirty years old when the War Between the States ended. He lost his wealth, and his horse. Yes the Yankees captured Buck Story’s horse June 11, 1864. It is well documented. They got his horse, but they did not get Buck Story. When the war was over, he recouped ninety per cent of that wealth. Buck was no stranger to loss, or starting from a disadvantage. To him it was another day, another plan. The plan was tenant farming.

Buck struck an agreement with a farmer and allowed the farmer to live and work the farm. At the end of cotton season, the tenant farmer owed Buck Story the amount of cotton agreed upon. If the farmer came up short, it was time for the farmer to move on and another took his place. Buck was accused of being too hard on farmers especially when he asked a long time friend to move on.

“Mr. Story, you’ve known me for years! And I just short a little. Surely you don’t mean me and my family to leave this farm.”

But he did mean it. Buck Story was a hard line bottom liner. It was the only way he could farm thousands of acres and raise his growing family. Buck Story was a no excuses kind of man.

Nor was Buck Story spared his share of sorrow. A few days after his sixth son was born, Buck’s wife, Rachel Ann died.

Several years later Buck married a young school teacher, Susan Winston McDaniel, from Virginia. He met her through a connection with the Ramsey-Bentley family in Leathersville. With Susan, Buck had eleven more children.

Buck Story was man of his times, a man who knew how to survive anything; anything until December 2 of 1904, when he found his son, Rad Story, in a canebrake near Thomson Road dead. Some say he never quite got over it.

In his lifetime, Buck Story raised seventeen children to mature adulthood, educating them all.  He loved them all, but losing his Rad took part of his soul. No matter how many children he had, one could not replace the void left in his heart for Rad.

Radford Gunn Story was the third son of Buck and Rachel Montgomery Story. Rad was named in honor of their minister, Radford Gunn. Reverend Radford Gunn was minister at the Little Brier Creek Baptist Church in Warrenton, Georgia.

Rad died as a result of an altercation on one of the big Story farms.

Buck had a close relationship with all of his sons, but if he was soft on one, it was Rad.

Oh, Buck kicked and screamed and gave Rad what for just like the others, but more often gave into him. Was it because he saw something of Rachel Montgomery in his son’s eyes? Or was it his more gentle nature?

When Rad Story married Sallie Elizabeth Gunby in 1885, Buck moved the newlyweds into his farm called Mistletoe. Mistletoe was the farm that backed up to Buck’s home on the farm called Moon’s Town. It was a generous offer and anyone would have been happy enough for such a life, but Rad approached Buck with the fact that Sallie did not want to live on that farm.

Sallie Gunby-Story was from a staunch Methodist family in Lincolnton, Georgia, just northeast of Warrenton. Even though Rad and Sallie started their family at Mistletoe, she became disenchanted with life on that farm. It was too far from home. She longed for Lincolnton. It was only about ten miles or so, but back in the day of horse and buggy and no telephones, it was a long way from home.

The Gunbys were a pillar in the Arimathea Methodist Church and placed great value on higher education and every day Bible reading.

The Gunby Homeplace, g-g-g grandchildren of William Aurelius Gunby & Henry Allen Story

Buck Story so often disagreed with the Gunbys way of thinking. He did not have a problem with education in general. His eighth son, Zera Story, became a medical doctor. Buck wanted his children to read and write, go to church and read the Scriptures on Sunday – after their chores were done. Livestock had to get tended to – Sunday or not.

Yes, as a father, he believed in educating his children, but for the life of him, Buck Story did not get why anyone would want a PhD in the middle of cotton country. He shook his head in disbelief at the thought of reciting poetry and sitting around discussing Homer’s Iliad.

For crying out loud, Sallie Gunby-Story, named his grandson, “Horace” Lawton Story, after Quintus Horatius Flaccus, a Roman poet during the time of Augustus! Buck chose to call his grandson, “Buster,” and preferred Lawton over Horace any day of the week.

Poetry and the like were all a bunch of nonsense and a waste of time. And time was money. Didn’t the Gunbys understand that? And the notion that “old man Gunby” released his slaves before the War Between the States did not make sense to Buck Story.

Buck Story sometimes felt like his world was being invaded by the Gunby family along with their thoughts of society and curious way of life. And it did not start with Rad marrying Sallie.

Buck’s first son, Sam Story, started the “Gunby onslaught” by marrying Ida E. Gunby, Sallie’s sister. And then in 1885 Rad married Sallie. And Sallie just could not, would not, be happy at Mistletoe. So Rad pleaded his case to Buck Story.

To add to the persuasion, William Aurelius Gunby wanted to give land to his daughter, Sallie, so that she and Rad could live near the old Gunby home place in Lincolnton – near in proximity of the Arimathea Methodist Church and all the other Gunbys. The old man would stop at nothing to reel his family in close to him. There Rad would live and work as an overseer for Buck’s farms.

Buck fought it for as long as he could, but reluctantly, gave into Rad. And after all, the Gunbys were willing to deed land over to the couple. It was beginning to make good business sense, so Buck agreed to Rad’s move to Lincolnton.

Rad built Sallie a home on that newly gifted land. Though he was Baptist, he thoroughly embraced the Gunby-Methodist way of life in Lincolnton. Their son, Horace Lawton, volunteered his time to care for the horses during church services at Arimathea, while their daughters took to reciting poetry and making hats. The girls dreamed of a day when they could own their own millinery shop in Lincolnton.

Buck Story did not know what this world was coming to.

And with the untimely death of his son Rad, Buck did all he could to help his grandson, Horace Lawton.  He tried to teach the boy to be a farmer just like him. But Buck soon found out that although his grandson walked with the Story gait and bore the Story name, he was Gunby through and through. Horace Lawton could not be hard on field hands, no more than the “old man Gunby” could own another human being. The boy was most happy when singing hymns or discussing philosophical issues.

Horace Lawton continued to farm, but it proved most difficult for this young seventeen year old man to interact and work for Grandpa Buck. While living, Rad saw to it that his son was shielded from the sterner side of Buck Story. Now, that Rad was gone, young Horace Lawton had a different relationship with his grandfather. He now saw Grandpa Buck as Chairman of the Board. Horace Lawton withdrew into his own world on his Lincolnton farm, and had less and less to do with the everyday work on Grandpa Buck’s big farms.

Yes, Buck Story had overcome every obstacle in his world. He came to terms with growing up without a father, the War Between the States, and the invasion of the Gunbys. But he was never quite the same after losing his son, Rad. Some say losing Rad was the only thing that “just about whooped him.”

Later in life, his second wife, Susan McDaniel-Story, encouraged Buck to purchase an “in town home” in Thomson. As time went on, he stayed more in town than in the countryside. Eventually, to everyone’s surprise, he left his fields of cotton for a different way of life. For the first time in his life, he let go and let others.

Some say Buck just got old and tired. Others say that young wife of his wore him out. And again, maybe Buck Story’s heart melted a bit when the good Lord gave him a daughter when his thirteenth child was born. While others say that was not the reason at all. They say finding Rad in that canebrake dead in the middle of winter was the real reason.

Buck Story gave up the ghost and left this world May 19, 1913. He is buried in the Thomson City Cemetery, in Thomson Georgia, beside his second wife, Susan. Near Susan, rest Sallie McDaniel-Ramsey, wife of politician Caleb E. “Tip” Ramsey. Also in Plot 186 are buried, Banny, Francis, Sarah, Ocey and Gaines Story. Six more Storys are buried in nearby Plot 192.

Buck Story was ten years old when the American Women’s Suffrage Movement began, and women won the right to vote just seven years after his death. In his lifetime, Henry Allen “Buck” Story saw the world change dramatically in the area of human rights. If he had lived to 1920 and witnessed this victory for women, I feel certain that he would have perceived it as another victory for that  “old man Gunby.”

Henry Allen “Buck” Story’s sixteenth child, Miss Gaines Story, wrote about her father. Below is a portion of that statement.

My father, Henry Allen Story, was a remarkable man in many respects. He was a doer of good deeds, was not selfish, but was wise in the provision of the future.  He demonstrated business abilities which controverted the theory – a man’s usefulness is over at sixty.  He was a good father in the best sense, good provider and educated all of his children. My father was an accomplished businessman who recouped financial losses during the trying years of the (eighteen) nineties which broke up seventy-five per cent of the Planters. Rest that death brought to his tired body was a welcome. He was a consistent member of the Baptist Church and enjoyed the competence and respect of all who knew him. His first wife was Rachel Ann Montgomery. They had six sons: Samuel Walker Story, known as “Fox Huntin’ Sam,” James Montgomery Story, Radford Gunn Story, Henry David Story, Benjamin Franklin Story and Columbus Marion “Lum” Story. After his first wife’s death, he married my mother, Susan Winston McDaniel of Virginia in 1869. They had eleven children: Andrew O’Bannion “Banny” Story, Dr. Zera McDaniel Story, known as “Dr. Mac,” (Mr.) Stacy Story, Claude Story, Carl Story, Francis “Frank” Story, Mae Story, known as the “Queen of the House,” and was the heroine in the novel, “The Old Old Story” by Thomas E. Watson, Sarah “Sallie” Katherine Story, (Miss) Ocey Story, (Miss) Gaines Story, and Thomas Boyd Story, known as “Little Doc.”  (End of Miss Gaines Story’s notarized statement.)

Quotes from Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-19 B. C.) English translation: Quotes from Horace

Coelum non animun mutant qui trans mare currunt – Those who cross the sea, change sky, but not the soul.

Non omnis moriar – Not all of me will die.

Author’s Notes:

Henry Allen “Buck” Story had twelve sons before becoming the father of a daughter. Mae Story must have truly been the “Queen of the House.” All total, he had thirteen sons and four daughters. His grandson, Horace Lawton Story, was my father’s father.

Regarding the birth date of Henry Allen Story: Recorded in the family Bible Henry Allen Story’s father,  Samuel Gaines Story’s death was February 28, 1838. Samuel’s will was probated on June 6, 1838. Henry Allen Story was born on September 23, 1838. The story about his father dying just before Henry Allen was born has been passed down through the Story family.

 

 

Rad and Sallie

Radford Gunn Story 1858-1904

Seventeen year old Horace “Lawton” Story stood frozen with tension allowing the cold December air to hit his face as he stood outside the McDuffie County Jail. It was early in the morning just two days after Christmas. Yes, waiting in Thomson, Georgia, a city that’s been called by many names: Frog Pond, Hickory Level, the Camellia City of the South, and oddly enough, Slashes. Lawton would wait until 10:30 A.M. for the jailhouse church service to be over. The boy and the gallows waited for the two men being prayed for this cold morning. Yes, thought young Lawton, today it ends.

Young Lawton Story was a lanky young man of six five, just like his father, Rad Story. Rad’s only son last saw him on December 1, 1904. It was after dinner when Rad left home to handle a problem at one of his farms near the community of Thomson. The problem being cotton was going missing. Rad had a plan. Inspect the farm, then double back when not expected. Take a different route as to not be recognized from a distance on his white stallion. And that is what he did, and it was the last time anyone ever saw Rad Story alive.

As young Lawton Story waited for the jailhouse door to open, he thought about what a difference a day made, a day he could never forget, a day that rocked his world in this sleepy East Georgia countryside.

When Rad went missing, the boy prayed for a different ending, anything but this. His mind thought of a million reasons why “Papa” could go missing. After all the family owned ten thousand acres. Anything could have happened. But no, Rad’s body was found thrown in a canebrake. How could he live without his beloved father? Lawton’s life would never be the same.

Radford Gunn Story was properly buried at the Arimathea Methodist Church just a short distance from his home. In a blink of an eye, a family of six children was without a father, a loving wife without a husband, thirteen brothers – now twelve.

“Rad Story was a highly respected gentleman.”

And this highly respected gentleman was well known on sight by the white stallion he rode. At eventide, December 1, 1904, his stallion returned home without his faithful rider. His wife, Sallie Gunby-Story did not have to wait on a search party to find her husband, she knew some terrible fate had befallen him.

According to the Augusta Chronicle:

“Mr. R. G. Story, one of the best known and most respected citizens of the county, had a plantation two miles from Thomson. There he went on the 1st of December to see after the work on the place. In passing through some woods, he caught two men in the act of stealing cotton. By their own voluntary confessions, made before and after arrest, he said to them: ‘Boys is this the way you treat me when you think I’m gone? How often have you done this?’ They replied that they had done it only once. Mr. Story then said, ‘Well, come with me.’ As he turned to go, (one man) shot at him three times, one bullet striking him in the side of the face. Both of his assailants then ran, and Mr. Story staggered down the road towards home. Then (one) declared, ‘Well, we are in for it now, let’s finish it.’ (The man) then started after Mr. Story with an axe, but (the one) having no axe, outran him and overtook Mr. Story, whom he held until the other came with the axe, struck Mr. Story in the head. Then (the man) holding down Mr. Story took the axe and struck him. His corpse showed four mortal wounds to the head. The two men then dragged his body off the road and threw it into a canebrake.”

A search party formed, and on December 2, his body was found.

“Rad Story’s body was found by his father, Henry Allen Story and (half) brother, Claude Story who were amongst the search party. On December 3, there was a tremendous gathering in Thomson. Judge Hammond in Augusta was wired and he took the next train to Thomson. The hearts of the people were deadly stirred, the most deadly passions were aroused. But good judgement and good morals stayed the hand of vengeance.”

But good judgement and good morals were getting hard to come by with the people pouring into Thomson. They came from all over the county and state. A special meeting was called at the courthouse, a meeting of resolution. An expedient course of action had to be taken if the city was to be saved from destruction and violence. Five more judges hurried into Thomson, the Honorable: West, Farmer, Ellington, Callaway and Sturgis. A resolution was adopted and the trial was scheduled. The docket was cleared and trial set within the week.

The Honorable Judge Henry C.Hammond quoted Proverbs to calm the mass of people: “He that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.” Rad Story’s own father pleaded for peace and order, to allow the law to take it’s own course and that punishment be meted out by the courts.

One of the two men arrested had confided in a girl. “I had a fuss with my boss, Mr. Story, and I shot him.” She went to the authorities with the information.

The man’s home was searched and a bloody axe with hair on it was found under his mother’s bed. Both men pled “guilty.” The two men were asked to withdraw their guilty pleas and attorneys were appointed to represent them. They were tried and sentenced by a grand jury. They were found guilty and would hang by the neck until dead.

Seventeen year old Lawton Story was as distraught as his mother was stricken with grief. His little sisters cried themselves to sleep every night calling out for “Papa.” Lawton could not help but want the killers of his dear father dead. He counted the days until December 27. It was a private hanging with only a few were in attendance, young Lawton was there. Nothing could bring back his Papa, but he would finish it by seeing the execution through.

It was a cold day in Georgia when Rad’s son waited to face the men who swung an axe that day on Thomson Road. Judge Hammond had already resolved the issue with this statement: “Though a sad, yet yesterday was a great day for the city of Thomson, and the county of McDuffie. And the trial held there reflected credit upon the south and its civilization. May this wonderful example of self-control and high regard for law be followed throughout the land. At late hour last night all was peace and quiet in Thomson, and there was not the slightest apprehension of trouble.”

But it would not be resolved for young Lawton until he stood before the gallows. Now justice would be done. With a pounding heart, Lawton’s senses were sharpened as he took it all in. He would see this and remember it all the days of his life. And that is true, he did remember it all the days of his life, but not in the way that he thought he would.

Finally, the moment came and the two convicted men were marched onto the gallows together. According to the Augusta Chronicle, both were cool and composed and said they were ready to die. One was serious over the matter, while the other man smiled and announced, “I’m ready to skin the cat.” And according to eye witness, young Lawton, that man also said, “Let ‘er rip!” At that, the death cap was placed on them, they hanged.

Young Lawton stood there in shock. He wanted to close his eyes, but they were frozen open. When he was able to move, young Lawton left the jailhouse and rode his horse hard; hard until he had an asthma attack. He choked about the time his horse spooked and he was thrown. His uneasy horse left him all alone on Thomson Road with his misery.

Lawton struggled to regain his breath. He fought with everything he had, but succumbed to exaggerated breathing, choking, and hot tears of despair. If only his father was here now, the gentle giant of a man would cradle his son’s head and shoulders in his arms like a new born baby. His soft reassuring voice would stabilize his son’s heart rate. His gentle hand on his brow would slow Lawton’s breathing. Rad knew what to do. Lawton knew he was safe in the care of “Papa.” Without his father, what would he do? Lawton knew the answer to that question; he would surely die.

Overwhelmed with grief, he could not rise just yet. He lay there staring at the cloud formation wishing he could turn back time and be with his father, just one more day. Lawton finally stood and realized how sore and weak he was from the asthma attack and fall from his horse. He slowly made his way down the road back to his Clay Hill Lincolnton home, all the while, wishing he could run away and forget.

As Lawton walked, he recalled another time when he wanted to leave Lincolnton. As a child, it was the worst day of his life, the only time his father laid a hand on him. He was so distraught from the swipe across the backside, the boy decided to run away from home. He set out for the Thomson Train Station – walking. He spent all of his money on candy while in the station. He had no money left for a train ticket. Not knowing what to do, he sat there in the train station until “eventide.” That’s when Rad Story showed up on his white stallion. Little Lawton slept lying against his father’s chest all the way home.

How could his world change so much in such a short period of time? Just a few weeks ago, he and his father went hunting together. The Radford Story family shared Thanksgiving together. It was a happy time. Soon after, the family discussed how they would celebrate the birth of Christ. There were verses in the Bible to recite and songs to be practiced. There was a lot going on within the family, a time of joy.

Life had made a staggering turn. Lawton wanted to run away, forget everything.

Mother was making preparations to move the family to Uncle Ed’s home in the city of Thomson. The Rad Story home-place was about to say goodbye to sisters: Maude,Theodosia, Eddy, Reesie, and three year old, Ruth Radford Story. Lawton’s world was truly turned upside down in a matter of days. His mother never remarried. She eventually wound up in Decatur, Georgia, where she is buried in the (old) Decatur Cemetery along side her brother, Professor Charlie Gunby and her daughter, Theodosia.

But that December day in 1904, the family exploded. Lawton saw the handwriting on the wall as he walked. If he stayed, he was about to be the only one left at home, the home his father built, the home where just a few weeks ago his father said grace over their Thanksgiving dinner.

Seventeen year old Lawton would remember that prayer forever, but it was what happened just after the “Amen” that Lawton would replay in his mind. When Rad Story said “Amen,” he raised his head and looked into the eyes of his son and said, “Now girls, remember to thank your brother for the turkey. He’s a straight shoot.”

“He’s a straight shoot,” replayed in the mind of this grieving son as he slowly walked home. He remembered the lingering look from his father that day at the table. It was the last time he recalled looking into his father’s eyes.

Yes, Lawton wanted to leave and never come back. But who would take care of Papa’s horse? Who would put in the crops this spring? And who would put flowers on Papa’s grave?

This was a heavy burden for a seventeen year old, not yet a man, but no longer a boy. As he approached his Lincolnton home, he looked out across the land and then allowed his eyes to set on the mourning door draped in black.

Would he go, or would he stay? He faced his future and made the decision right then and there. There was never really a question in his mind about leaving Lincolnton. It was too late. Lawton would stay. He was already in love with the Bentley girl, Nancy. If he could have looked past that door, he would have seen himself there with his Nancy. He would have known that eight of his nine children would be born there, one being my father, Tom Story.

Lawton “Papa Story” with Diane, Barbara and Patricia Story at Christmastime

 

As the eighteenth granddaughter of Lawton Story, I sat on my parent’s front porch on Morgan Road in Tucker, Georgia, and heard this story told many times by my grandfather. Yes, my grandfather was the seventeen year old boy who lost his father that cold December in 1904.

After dinner, my grandfather, my Papa Story, walked to our front porch and sat down. When the sun set, we knew to be still. We sensed it, because Papa Story became very quiet during eventide. His demeanor changed. And then when the darkness enveloped us, his voice seemed to deepen and he spoke to us in a quiet grave tone.

This made my mother, Helen Story, uneasy and she always whispered to my father, “Tom, the girls will have nightmares.”

My father ignored her and looked intently toward his father, as we three little girls did. Mama sat back and remained tense. She wore her thoughts on her sleeve, “How far will Mr. Story go this time?”

One night Papa Story looked at my mother and ever so gently said, “Helen, this is important. The girls must hear this.”

And then he continued with his “important” story.

“Papa did not come home. His horse returned without him – at eventide. Even unto this day – at eventide,” Lawton paused to take a deep breath trying to stave off an asthma attack. Eventually his throaty whisper found our ears through the darkness of night, “I can hear the sound of my father’s horse running to the barn. I feel uneasiness in my stomach – knowing something’s wrong. I hear the distress bell – Mother rang. I sense fear stirring in my little sisters. I was with my grandfather when my father was found in that canebrake. When Grandpa (Henry Allen Story) saw Papa lying there, he hit the ground like a mighty fell oak. He was never the same. Soon thereafter, it was chaos. There was a call to order – Thomson was about to explode, folks wanted to tear it down, starting with the jail. My grandfather pleaded for peace. He did not want to lose another son.” Lawton paused to reach into his sweater pocket. He pulled out a small handheld respirator and blew into it. When he had recovered, he went on. “And – – – –  at eventide – – – – I see the faces of those two men standing on the gallows.”

And then as always, my grandfather sat still and very quiet. We all sat frozen with suspense, though we knew exactly what he would say next.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

When my grandfather looked back on that day, he was at peace with the fact that the men were brought to justice for the murder of his father, though he regretted wanting them to hang.

One night on the front porch after my grandfather told the story about Rad’s death, my sister, Patricia asked, “Why didn’t Rad pull his gun out on those guys and shoot ’em?” Which made my mother almost swallow her tongue, although silently my father nodded his head in agreement to the question. And Papa Story answered, “Rad Story never carried a gun unless he was hunting. He didn’t need a gun. My father was a big man and he not afraid of anything.”

After reading the newspaper articles about my great-grandfather’s death on Thomson Road, I now realize that Lawton Story told his little granddaughters this tragic story with great delicacy. It breaks my heart to think about how painful this must have been for him to dredge it up and relive it. I wish it was possible to go to my grandfather and give him a big hug and tell him how much I love him. But I cannot, so I will remember the stories he told and how he made sure we heard these words:

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.” And, “He that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.”

According to my Papa Story, they were words to live by. And by the way, Papa Story gave credit to King Solomon and never mentioned anything about a judge  when it came to the quote about ruling the spirit. I found out about that in the Augusta Chronicle.

And I will remember Christmas; a time that has always been a season of great celebration in the Lawton Story family. My grandfather went through the motions, but he could be singled out easily in our large family. He was the quiet one with the faraway look in his eyes.

Though the newspapers identified the men responsible for my great-grandfather’s death, I chose to omit their names. Nor could I force my hands to write a complete description of the condition of his body.

May Radford Gunn Story rest in peace.

 

Author’s Note:

Radford Gunn Story was born October 1858, died December 1, 1904. His grave was moved to the William Aurelius Gunby family plot at Dunn’s Chapel when Arimathea Methodist became a part of Clarks Hill Lake. The Augusta Chronicle stated Rad G. Story was forty-seven years of age in December 1904.

“Thomson, Ga, Dec 2. The body of Rad Story was found this morning by his brother Claude H. Story and his father H. A. Story who where among the party searching for him in a cane swamp about two miles north of Thomson…” – Augusta Chronicle

Headline quotes from Augusta Chronicle December 3, 1904: “Mr. Rad G. Story Foully Murdered Near Thomson  Well know Resident of McDuffie Attacked From Behind  Head Crushed In”

Other quotes and headlines: Story Slayers Hanged at Thomson, Speedy Justice Stops Lynching at Thomson

Most of the details (quotes) about the crime came from the Augusta Chronicle, some information from the Wilmington Morning Star. Knowledge of the newspaper articles came from Patricia Moss, granddaughter of Ruth Radford Story.

Rad Story was the third son of Rachel Ann Montgomery and Henry Allen (Buck) Story. They had five other sons: Samuel (Fox Huntin’ Sam), James, Henry David, Benjamin and Columbus (Lum). When Rachel died, Henry Allen Story married Susan McDaniel and had seven more sons and four daughters. Radford Gunn Story was named after Reverend Radford Gunn of Little Brier Creek Baptist in Warrenton, Georgia.

Proverbs 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.

Christmas photo 1956: Every time a granddaughter was born, Papa Story (Lawton) wanted her named Sallie after his mother. No one took his advice. Christmas 1956 we visited him to show off our Christmas dolls, whereupon my little sister, Barbara, held up her doll and said, “Her name is Sallie, and she has blue eyes and blonde hair just like your Sallie.” With tears in his eyes he put Barbara on his lap along with “Sallie” an requested a photo. He loved us all, but was especially fond of Barbara.