Posts Tagged ‘Bentley’


Fitzpatrick Hotel

Fitzpatrick Hotel

“Hello, anybody here?”

I walked the halls of a three story Victorian hotel looking for any sign of life. No one. Wandering through the lobby, I happened to see a note on the check in counter: If you need help call Carolyn at 706 …

I turned the phone around and dialed. A woman’s voice on the other end had a question for me.

“Are you the lady who was supposed to be here at noon?”

“Yes ma’am, unfortunately I got a late start …”

“It’s two o’clock.”

“I know ma’am …”

“Well, I just got home. I don’t live in downtown Washington-Wilkes, you know. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Twenty minutes later, Carolyn, checked me in and wasted no time telling me about Daniel.

“Now Daniel will be in and out. If the front door is locked use the Lady’s door. I’ll give you the code. That way you can come and go as you please.”

She was right about Daniel. He was in and out, mostly out. If I could pin him down for a moment, I had a question for this young man, a haunting question.

“Hey Daniel, have you ever seen any ghosts in here?”

His eyes widened a bit as he spoke.

“I’ve never seen a ghost here. No ma’am, nor ever spoken to a guest who has seen a ghost here. But a while back, a ghost hunting crew checked in …”

Looking around at the high ceilings, Oriental rugs and Victorian furniture, I pushed.

“What did they find out?”

“Well, not sure ma’am. They kept to themselves, Ghost Brothers, a TV show coming out soon. Yes ma’am, the Fitzpatrick Hotel and all unseen guests will be on that show, so I hear.”

“So, Ghost Brothers found signs of paranormal activity?”

“Don’t know. Didn’t ask. I did overhear ‘em talkin’ though.”

“What did they say?”

“Oh, something like,” in a slightly Shakespearean tone, Daniel, paraphrased the TV spokesperson, “Thick warm smell of history permeates this 1898 hotel. You can feel where ghosts filter through the muted stained-glass windows. The Fitzpatrick is where the mystics meet majestic grandeur …”

Daniel’s voice trailed off as he let himself out the front door. He turned back to the door long enough to key it locked. And he was gone. I was alone in a locked hotel and the only guest checked in today, at least the only one with a body.

The first night I fell asleep staring at the hall light creeping under the door, mindful of expected dark spots to appear in the shape of shoes or feet. I was ready to scream bloody murder, all the while knowing there was no one to hear.

But the Fitzpatrick Hotel is not the only haunting building of “majestic grandeur” in Washington, Georgia. Historical markers dot the square and roads.

The Robert Toombs Home can be found just minutes from the Washington Square. Toombs was a successful planter, lawyer, U.S. Congressman and Senator, the man from Georgia who shouted to his constituents: “Defend yourselves, the enemy is at your door …”

I toured Toombs’ 7000 square feet home, a home that was elegant, yet warmed cozy by old creaking hardwood floors. I especially enjoyed the garden even in a light misty rain. While photographing the English ivy at the front porch steps, I bumped into a man who introduced himself.

“Since you are a history professor, you’ll want a picture of this.” I said to him.

He gave me a curious look.“

“According to Marcia inside, this ivy came from the garden of Mary Queen of Scots.”

“Well, my dear, you do know Bob Toombs was full of BS?”

Mary Stuart's English Ivy

Mary Stuart’s English Ivy   at Robert Toombs Home

 

“Oh?”

“Oh yes, said he could drink all the blood spilled fighting the Yankees. Little did he know, blood spilled would be of biblical proportions. Blood up to the bridles of horses, even a bit much for Toombs to swallow. Yes, Bob Toombs was full of shit!” He chuckled. “But that ivy could have come from Mary Stuart’s garden. Who knows? Bob was an influential man.”

“What about the gold? Do you know anything about the lost Confederate gold? That’s why I’m here, to gather information to write a short story …”

“That gold was transferred by railway from a bank in Virginia to pay off Confederate debt. The last of the gold was to go to Europe, but it didn’t make it. Robbery occurred somewhere around the Chennault House between Washington and Lincolnton. Some say the Chennault family was tortured, strung up by the thumbs till they passed out. The lady of the house was separated from her nursing child for an extended period. Union soldiers meant business about getting that gold back. The Chennaults apparently did not know. If so, surely one of them would’ve spilled the beans hearing that hungry baby cry. I understand Lincoln offered the Chennault’s an apology. You know Lincoln revealed his true feelings about the South when he said, ‘with malice toward none.'”

“Yes, he did. Back to the lost gold, professor, I heard Jefferson Davis spent the night at the Chennault house disguised as a woman …”

He laughed.

“Davis was running from Union soldiers, hiding at the Chennault’s house. I’ve heard about the woman disguise thing, but don’t believe it. As far as the gold, I believe that gold was taken about three miles from the Chennault’s. Others will swear the robbery took place at the house. It remains a mystery to this day what happened to that gold. By today’s standards it would be worth over a million dollars.”

A group dressed in graduation caps and gowns approached along with a photographer.

“Professor, we’re ready.”

“Okay, looks like my graduating history club is ready to go. Good luck dear on your hunt for the lost gold, but I believe you’re chasing ghosts. Even Margaret Mitchell wrote about that gold in Gone with the Wind. The Union soldiers thought Rhett had it, threatened to hang him. People have been speculating over a hundred and fifty years. Maybe it was taken out west and melted down, who knows? Well, hope your pictures of Mary’s ivy turnout. And hey, I’ll check out your blog! ”

Chasing ghosts was right in more ways than one. I’m really here to finish a book I’m writing, The Ghosts of Lincoln County. This part of Georgia was home to my ancestors back in the 1700s. I am looking for their old home-places with the use of a map and computer printouts. The only way a map could be of use to me, is if it was to jump on my steering wheel and take control of the car. The roads here are long and give new meaning to the term country mile. And there is little evidence of a place found even looking straight at it.

I would know my ancestors better if I could see where they worked, lived and died. But frankly it is like trying to find a needle in a hay stack, much like searching for the lost Confederate gold. I feel so close yet so far away.

Dunns Chapel Cemetery Photo by Tom Poland

Diane at Dunns Chapel Cemetery
Photo by Tom Poland

I have had some luck finding the disappearing trail of my ancestors thanks to writer, Tom Poland. Thanks to him, I have seen the Chennault House, a monument listing the names of my great grandfathers of old, Clarks Hill where my family home-place is now under water, and Dunn’s Chapel, where many of my ancestors are buried, and Liberty Hill School. He also gave me a tour the Lincoln Journal where I met part of the staff, and last but not least, he introduced me to the best fried chicken in Lincoln County.

Mark Twain would be proud!

Liberty Hill School was most meaningful to me, because it is the schoolhouse where my paternal grandparents met as children. It was the place where they fell in love, a love that blessed them with nine children and twenty-six grandchildren. A little schoolhouse that has survived time in Leathersville – Lincoln County.

As far as the Fitzpatrick Hotel, I returned to stay another night only to find my soap gone. I started to call room service, but why bother? I walked down the yesteryear stairway, feeling strangely alone. I found a note on the counter: If you need help call Daniel 706 …

The voice at the other end asked, “Hello, Diane, is that you? Are you still there?”

“Yes, Daniel, I am here and I don’t have any soap.”

“Sure you do, it’s in the basket on the white chest in your bathroom.”

“No I looked. The basket is empty.”

“Room 204 is where I put soap …”

“That’s the room I’m in, and Daniel, no soap.”

“No way, I … Oh well, never mind. Where are you, in the lobby?”

“Yes, front desk.”

“Okay good. Look behind the desk for a shoe box. There should be some soap there.”

“Oh yes found it. Thanks Daniel.”

“So you are staying another night?”

“Yes I love it here, feel right at home!”

“That’s awesome! Have a good night!”

To tell the truth I do feel at home at the Fitzpatrick Hotel, especially when I ascend the staircase from the lobby to the second floor. It is oddly comforting for my hand to slide down the rail as I descend the same steps as my ancestors did. Could my ancestors have come this way? The Fitzpatrick would have been something spectacular at the turn of the century. Surely my folks walked into this hotel. Did Rad Story put his arms around Sallie and give her a twirl on the worn hardwoods in the ballroom? Did his big brother, Fox Huntin’ Sam, stay over for a social? Did Rad’s father, Buck Story, chew the fat about politics and the price of cotton and sugarcane in the lobby? Did Dennis Bentley make a house call to aid someone with an herbal concoction or stay over while supplying Washington with saddles, bridles, and shoes from Leathersville? I wonder about these things as I make my way about this grand place, a place where the silence of yesteryear is deafening.

Deafening silence? Oh yeah.

The Fitzpatrick Hotel is built on the first cemetery in Washington, Georgia. Only the head stones were removed, and there lies the remains of many, including the first (some say second) woman hanged for murder in the State of Georgia, Polly Barclay. Polly was known as a fast beauty with magnetic charms. It’s said she gave her brother $200 to rid her of a problem. Problem? Young Polly married an old man. All seemed well until the day she set eyes on a young farm hand, Mark Mitchum; she wanted him. And, apparently, she could no longer tolerate her husband.

Hmmm, wonder what he did wrong?

Mr. Barclay’s world was perfect, until about supper time. He was the envy of every man in Wilkes county young or old, until that night, about supper time. Yes, his young Polly was a looker. He had given her everything, wealth, good standing in the community and a handsome home with a barn full of cotton, money in the bank so to speak. Where had he gone wrong? Surely these things ran through his mind as he lay in a pool of blood. And another thing, there had been a noise in the barn. He didn’t want to deal with it, but Polly insisted. Did he see his assailants? Did he put two an two together? The old man was found alive, but died within three hours without one word spoken. Why? The ball from the revolver cut his tongue clean off.

Hmmm, I wonder? Anyway why kill the man? Why else? Love and money.

From an old oak tree, Polly hanged on May 13 (Friday 13th), 1806, at the west end of town. Polly’s brother was tried and found not guilty. Mark Mitchum was classified as nolle prosequi. Polly Barclay was the only one convicted and paid the price, not with a rope, but a chain around her neck, wearing her silk wedding reception gown, a glorious sight until the end no doubt. Does Polly roam the halls of the Fitzpatrick searching for Mr. Mitchum? I’d love to happen up on Polly, see her sashaying down the halls of the Fitzpatrick in her fancy gown. I’d have one question for her.

Do you still want him?

One cannot help but be moved by the strong invisible pull of antiquity and imagination at the Fitzpatrick Hotel. I did not hear Polly’s chain rattle at the Fitz as so many do on a foggy dark night, but did hear some knocking while drawing water for a bath in my claw feet tub. While researching Polly Barclay, I came across a place known as the Washington tavern – a room within a hotel, a place that celebrated politics and public events. The watering hole was also called “Gal in the Fountain.” Many rallied within those walls, elite men such as: George Walton – who signed the Declaration of Independence, Oliver Hilhouse, John Dooly, Samuel Davis, William and Gabriel Toombs, Burnett Pope, Benjamin Taliaferro, Gen. David Meriwether, Gen. John Clark – who shot a hole in a hanging portrait of George Washington while socializing at the “Gal,” Col. N. Long, Job and John Callaway, Silas Mercer, John Appling, Dr. Joel Abbot, John H. Walton, Zechariah Lamar, G. Hay, Sanders Walker, and many more.

My eyes widened at the name, Sanders Walker. My great-great-great grandfather, Samuel Gaines Story (born 1776), had a son, Sanders Walker Story (killed at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, during the Civil War). Samuel would have been thirty-eight at the time of Polly Barclay’s hanging. He was a successful planter in the area and apparently was good friends with Sanders Walker. These men were a testament to the high caliber of people in Wilkes County in 1806 who influenced the community of Washington, and no doubt held great debate about Polly Barclay at the “Gal.” Was it possible that my three times great grandfather, Samuel Gaines Story, downed an ale at the “Gal in the Fountain” right here in Washington-Wilkes?

One can only wonder.

Then came my journey’s end. Time to leave room #204. I packed and left historic Washington; time to say goodbye to all ghosts. I drove eastback through Lincoln County to Interstate 20. Left feeling good for coming and knowing I was near to the heart of my ancestors, sad for feeling alone in the fact that I did not find everything I was looking for. After several trips to this area, I decided that it is time to be happy with what I have.

I was in search of answers for my blog, www.tuckerdaysremembered.com. After posting several stories of The Ghosts of Lincoln County, questions and comments poured in from all over, some good, some bad. I am appreciative of all the encouragement received. “Cousin Ann G.’s” email stunned me when stating that I did not know the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution. Just for her, I wrote a chapter entitled, Disclosure. Thank you “Cousin Ann G.” And, I am amazed at the people who allude to the fact that I should have a DNA test to prove that I am related to “those” Bentleys. I have no need for DNA for I know who I am. I know because my father, Tom Story, told me, just as his father and mother told him and so forth and so on.

My life has been made rich with stories of old. I am of the least of the many storytellers in my famly.

Now is time to finish The Ghosts of Lincoln County.

As I see the last glimpse of Lincoln County in the rearview mirror of my Mustang, I say goodbye to looking for that needle in the haystack, a needle that is as elusive as the lost Confederate gold. I say goodbye to Little River, Aunt Donn, and to the love of my father’s life, Lincolnton, Georgia.

I am Westbound to Atlanta! Yes, Daddy, I am going home.

A FIN!

Note:

Tom Poland writes about everything Southern, a columnist for the Lincoln Journal. He has also written numerous books, latest entitled, Georgialina, A Southland As We Knew It, the University of South Carolina Press.

Buck Story’s legal name was Henry Allen Story 1838-1913.

Research of Polly Barclay came from, Miss Eliza A. Bowen, who wrote for the Washington Gazette and Chronicles 1886-1897; her manuscripts about the people of Wilkes County was compiled into a book, The Story of Wilkes County. Information also came from Murderpedia. Mr. Barclay is said to be buried on the spot where he fell, covered by two unhewn stones near the old Elberton and Augusta road, a few miles beyond Sandtown.

“Gal in the Fountain” was run by Micajah Williamson in 1806.

A FIN means “to the end,” Gaelic, Story motto, coat of arms. (Pronounced Aw FIN.)

At the time of this writing, www.tuckerdaysremembered.com, has over 300,000 pages viewed. Thank you!

 

Dear Reader:

This is the ending story for The Ghosts of Lincoln County. Scroll down and you will find The Ghosts of Lincoln County Introduction. There will be thirty stories in between. Book coming soon!

 

 

Dieudonne Randolph Bentley-Steed was born and raised in Lincolnton, Georgia, where she enjoyed the best of life with her books, fine china, and real silver, which she used daily in spite of the fact her modest home was without running water or electricity. She was proud of the fact that she graduated from State Normal College, and was quick to let you know that “Noh’mal” was a part of the University of Georgia. And though she had a Southern accent which resembled another language all together, she insisted that her name Dieudonne be pronounced with the “propah” French accent.

Often she reprimanded us by saying: “If you can not accomplish this small feat, then just call me Donn.”

We all called her Donn. Donn was my father’s mother’s older sister.

And we all knew where to find Donn. “Get yoahself a Geo’giah map and look fo’ the county which resembles a Chai’kee broken ar’ow head pointing nawth, dividing Geo’giah and South Ca’olina. There, you will find yoah Aunt Donn in Lincoln County.”

Aunt Donn was a retired school teacher who wed late in life and did not have children of her own. She claimed and named all nine of her sister Nancy’s children. Her sister Nancy was my father’s mother, and Aunt Donn named my father Thomas Jonathan after Stonewall Jackson.

And as any day, Donn Steed read a book, but today was different as she was mindful of the mantel clock as it chimed the sixth hour. Eventide was approaching and she would be ready for it. She continued to silently read Ecclesiastes, pondering time, mindful of the ticking away of minutes.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die…A time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

Donn marked her spot, then read a verse one more time before closing the book, “Yes,” she thought, “A time to keep, and a time to cast away.” And aloud Donn spoke these words with deliberation, “A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Tears ran down her face as she continued to read aloud, “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for wawh, and a time for peace.”

Time and the proper thing to do filled every crevice of Donn’s thoughts these days. The dancing and laughter was over, that much was for sure. Could it be a time for wawh? She would have to speak to “Sistah” about this and she would this day. “Yes,”  Donn thought, “it is a time to speak.”

Shadows crept into the room, a time when Donn normally lit the kerosene lamp, but not today. Today she stood and reached for her “shawt fur” and wrapped herself warmly. As she stepped across the room, Donn suddenly stopped at Dr. Bentley’s roll-top desk. She yanked open a drawer and shuffled about until she found an old school photo taken at Liberty Hill in Lincolnton.

An unexpected smile crossed Donn’s face as she admired the photo. “There is Nancy and Lawton, Caleb, Cha’lie and Ca’oline. And just do look at that sad face on Ella Spires! And Ella wearing the rose Nancy gave her.” Donn shook her head in disbelief, “It’s as though this pictu’e was taken just yeste’day. Yes, Nancy and Ella were upset because the photog’aphah wouldn’t let you sit togethah.”

And with a chuckle that could not be contained, “And me!” Donn blew her cheeks out big holding her breath and rolled her eyes to the back of her head as she had done in the photograph. Suddenly she reached for the desk to steady herself. “Well, I can’t do that anymore. It makes me swimmy headed. Yes, y’all scolded me about making funny faces at the photog’aphah, but I didn’t listen. Y’all were right,” Donn mused, “I never listen to anyone. And now I have to live with that silly face for the ages.”

With that, Donn returned the photo to the past under letters and documents of old to her grandfather’s desk. She opened the back door and walked out into the yard to her now dormant flower garden.

“Donn, where’re you going at this hour?” asked Walter.

“Oh, just a shawt walk, I want to cleah my head, Waltah.”

“Don’t be long, it’ll be dark soon.”

“I shan’t be too long Deah, don’t wor’y about me,” Donn tried to reassure Walter. Her husband had always cooked for Donn, but had become an old mother hen since Donn’s sister, Nancy, passed away in April.

Yes 1938 was a year of sorrow for Donn. It was the year her sister, Nancy Bentley-Story died of heart failure. Nancy lived in Tucker near Atlanta, and Donn lived in Lincolnton many miles away. But distance could not part these two sisters. And Donn had come to realize that death could not part them either.

As a child, anytime Nancy went missing, she could be found in Dr. Bentley’s herb garden or Mother’s flower garden. That was when they were children; back when family and time together were taken for granted.

Tonight Donn walked to the only garden she had – pitiful as it was. Her garden was not at all as fine as the Leathersville gardens, but it would have to do. She looked up at the twilight sky searching for the first sign of a star. Allowing herself to be a kid again, she sang quietly to the tune of a child’s song, “Star light, Star bright, Furst star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight, Calling on Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story.”

When the first star winked back, Donn settled down with a smile, “There you are Sistah, glad to see yoah as beautiful as eveh.” Quickly, Donn’s smile dissipated as she got down to business. “I need to talk to you about something, rathah impo’tant. There is chaos in yoah home.” Donn chuckled nervously as she continued, “Yoah husband has always encou’aged the chil’ren to be high spirited, and now he has to live with the consequences! You were the one who b’ought ordah to the home. And my deah sistah, now you are not there.”

Donn was quiet for a moment while she allowed the cold air to comfort her face, “Little Nancy is doing the best she can. She makes a big pan of biscuits every mo’ning and pone of co’nbread at suppah time, and gets her lessons. That’s a lot for a twelve yeah old. She told me that Mothah taught her to make biscuits. She said you instructed her while sitting in a chair; sitting in a chair, because yoah hawt was too weak to suppo’t you. And little Nancy, yoah namesake, is doing a good job with the biscuits. I wanted you to know that.”

Namesake Nancy Bentley Story

Though tears streamed down her face, Donn couldn’t help but smile when thinking of her brother-in-law, Lawton. “Sistah, Lawton got so aggravated hea’ing the doahs slam shut, he fo’bade the chil’ren to use the doahs! So now they use the windows instead. What a sight! Chil’ren crawling in and out of windows! What will the good people of Tuckah Geo’gia think?” Donn shook her head in disbelief, “I am sorry to tell you, but they have made kites out of yoah quilts. And that baby boy of yoahs, that Tom Story! He lassoes live snakes. Then he ties a wiggling snake to a stick and chases little Nancy. Gene is just as bad! One day a while back, their fathah sent the three of them out to the field to bu’n dried cawn stalks. Gene and Tom wanted to play ‘jump the fiah,’ but little Nancy wanted to get the work done, so they wouldn’t get a whoopin’ from Papa. She took off her new shoes, yes, Lawton bought the child new school shoes. She is tickled pink ovah those shoes and took them off to keep them clean. She told the boys to help with the wurk. But no, Gene and Tom would not stop playing. Then the boys got the idea to tie Nancy’s shoe strings togethah and dangle her new shoes ovah the fiah, fo’cing the child to play with them. And yes, they got a whoopin,’ little Nancy too, for she would rathah be punished than call out her brothas. Yes, Lawton Story is losing his patience. I do believe he is at wit’s end.”

Donn was silent for a moment; as though she was giving her sister time to digest it all. “I know how the chil’ren feel; I remembah the day Mothah died as though it was yeste’day. I remembah Fathah standing at the foot of her bed as her spirit ascended to the good Lawd. He said, ‘A time to be born, and a time to die. Today is a time to weep and mourn, for my lovely Grace Amelia has left this earth.’ Fathah wept so on that dreadful day.”

“Donn, come in, it’s dark out already,” Walter called out to Donn through the night air. Before Donn could answer, Walter noticed something strange. “Donn! Is that you standing in the dried up gladiolas?”

“Yes, Waltah, I am in the ga’den. “I’ll be there directly Deah,”

“I don’t like this a bit, not one bit,” Walter grumbled to himself.

Donn heard the screen door squeak as it closed, and knew she was alone with her thoughts again. “The chil’ren won’t admit who took a pencil and poked out the eyeballs of their grandmothah, Sallie Gunby in the po’trait of her and Rad Story. But one of them did it. It’s strange, they seem to enjoy tortu’ing each othah, but will band togethah when one is put upon. They will not fo’sake one anothah for the wauld! No mattah how much trouble they get in.”

Donn wiped the tears from her face and pulled her fur tighter, “Caleb doesn’t cause as much mischief as do Gene and Tom. Caleb is struggling, Sistah. I hate to tell you, but his pa’alysis is getting wurse.” Donn took a deep breath and felt a burden lifted when she got that information out. She quickly changed the subject, for she did not want to tell her sister that Caleb would never recover.

“I do not believe Caleb instigates the mischief; he enjoys the excitement of the unexpected. So, he does join in with the encouragement of mischief, I am sorry to say. Yes, he enjoys every minute of the chaos.”

“Donn, I’m making tea for you. Come on in now,” called out Walter through the night air.

“I’ll be in shawtly Waltah,” called out Donn. Then she whispered up to the stars, “I know Waltah means well. But a body needs time alone with the Heavens and I cannot explain that to him in feah of him thinking me daff!”

Donn took another deep breath and quickly continued her conversation, because she knew her time was growing short. She knew that Walter Steed would walk out there to get her if she did not come in soon. She had to get said what needed to be said. This was a time to speak.

“Sistah, I must speak to you about something of great impotance. Lawton has met a woman. I’ve heard that she is from a pioneeh family of Tuckah. Her name is Minnie Beatrix Brand. She helps little Nancy in the kitchen and is good to the boys, especially Tom. They say, when a sto’m comes, she gets Tom to sit at her feet while she holds his hand and rubs his back with her other hand.” Donn cried as she explained, “I guess what I am saying, is the chil’ren are going to get anothah mothah.”

Donn wept uncontrollably. “Oh Sistah, how I wish you had not gone away; this would neveh eveh happen if you were heah. You are the love of Lawton Story’s life, even back when that silly school picture was made, eve’yone knew you were meant fo’ each othah! Why did you have to go? But who am I to ask such a question? The good Lawd says ‘A time to die.’ It breaks my heart to know it was yoah time to die, leaving foah chil’ren at home. I know you had nine, but the othahs are grown and mar’ied. The foah left at home are but chil’ren. And they are in need of a mothah so badly. Sistah, maybe it’s time for them to have anothah mothah.”

“Donn!”

“I’m coming Waltah!”

The screen door closes again. Donn has few minutes left. It’s time to get serious.

“Sistah, you know it was raining on the day you left us. It was as though the angels were crying their eyes out.  It had been raining fo’ days, and the Hea’st got stuck in the mud when they tried to leave with you. The wheels mi’ed up and made big ruts in the yawd. All the chil’ren cried for you, especially the young boys. Caleb said, ‘They’re stuck, that’s ‘cause Mama doesn’t want to go leave us.’ Gene said, ‘I don’t care what Papa says – Mama doesn’t want to go to Heaven.’ And Tom cried out, ‘Dear God, please don’t let my Mama be dead!’ Tom had to be restrained fo’ days.”

Donn wiped her eyes again, “But it was Little Nancy that worried me the most, for she did not cry. She stood firm and stared as they took you away. For days she could be found staring at the dried ruts left in the yawd. As days passed on, the ruts crumbled and disappeahed. That’s when little Nancy cried. It was as though her teahs picked up where the rain left off.”

Donn was silent for a good long while, “Sistah, I knew if I talked to you, you would advise me. And you have, wisely. Yes, I know what to do now. It is a time to plant the seeds of kindness. I will get myself to Tuckah and meet this Miss Minnie and I will accept her on behalf of the enti’e Bentley family.”

Donn heard the screen door open again, “Donn, it’s dark, your tea is cold, and I’m coming to get you.”

“It’s okay Waltah, I’m on my way now. Just wait for me at the doah, Deah. My feet know the way.”

With that Donn stepped out from the midst of dead gladiolas and headed back toward the house. She suddenly stopped and looked up one last time at the brightest star in Heaven, and whispered, “Good night Sistah.”

Author’s Notes:

The one room school house in Lincolnton was Liberty Hill, near Leathersville.

Children in the Liberty Hill 1894 class picture are: Left to Right – Front Row – #4 Caleb Hardin Bentley, #6 Horace Lawton Story, #16 Nancy Elizabeth Bentley. Second Row – #12 Ella Spires, #16 possibly Effie Louise Bentley, #17 possibly Casey Lowe Bentley. Third Row – #5 Dieudonne “Donn” Bentley, #9 Charlie Ramsey Bentley holding a chalk board with his initials CRB Aug 1894, #10 Caroline Grace Eugenia Bentley.

Ella Spires never married nor left Lincolnton, and lived to be a very old woman. Though blind in the last years of life, she always smiled when hearing the voices of Nancy Bentley-Story’s children. Nancy’s children called Ella, “Cousin Ella.” As a young woman, Ella embroidered a bouquet of flowers using Nancy Bentley’s hair as thread. Nancy Bentley and Ella Spires were life-long best friends.

Nancy Elizabeth Bentley and Horace Lawton Story were born in 1886, photographed in school class picture in 1894 when they were eight years old, married in 1906.

Charlie Bentley became a teacher and Caleb Bentley moved to Florida where he became vice president of a fruit company.

Genealogy of the Bentley children in the school photograph: Parents Dennis Brantley and Grace Amelia Ramsey-Bentley, grandfather Dr. John Bentley, great-grandfather Balaam Bentley, and great-great grandfather Captain William Bentley II. Captain William Bentley II was granted land in Wilkes County which is now Lincoln County, for payment of services rendered in the Colonial Army during the Revolutionary War. He was from South Carolina. Over the years the Bentleys traded services for hides and land. The land became known as Leathersville. Leathersville is just south of Lincolnton, Georgia.

Click on photos to enlarge.