Posts Tagged ‘Ga’


Dennis Brantley Bentley Family

Dennis Brantley Bentley Burial site at Salem Baptist

A bright light warmed my face. I opened my eyes to four windows opposite my king-size sleigh bed at the turn of the century Fitzpatrick Hotel. Sunlight streamed through the far left window – six thirty in the morning. I pulled the covers over my head and tried to go back to sleep. No use. I was nudged by a voice from the past, as relentless as the sun.

“Time to get moving, rise and shine, my deah. Daylight is a wasting. So many books to read and neveh enough sunlight.”

That was the faraway voice of Dieudonne Randolph Bentley-Steed, my father’s aunt from Lincolnton. She was a Lincoln County school teacher born in 1881 who never acquired the need for electricity nor other such “foolishness.” Deceased for nearly 50 years, her will can still be felt and her aristocratic Southern accent heard in my head, especially when I am in this part of the country, so near to her beloved Lincolnton.

She said it so many times.

“If you evah need yoah Aunt Donn, take it upon yoah self to look at a map of Geo’gia. Look no fa’thah than the bo’dah of South Ca’olina. There in Geo’gia, you will find Lincoln County, shaped like an Indian ar’ow head pointing nawth – the only county in the state that reminds you to look to the nawth star for direction. Don’t bothah to call. I have no telephone. If you need anything – just knock! I’ll be there my deahs, always. Please don’t dilly dally about …”

Yes, I hear you Aunt Donn, loud and clear. I’m getting up. As I make my way down two flights of winding stairs, I’m met by the front desk clerk.

“Good morning, did you sleep well, Miss Diane?”

“Sure did Gwen. Disappointed I didn’t see any ghosts. This place is supposed to be haunted you know.”

“So, I’ve heard. I’ve never seen one either.”

“Never? Not a sign of one?”

“Well, one day I was all alone in the lobby, I sneezed and heard a little girl say, ‘bless you.’”

(Maybe I don’t want to see a ghost after all. Yep, time to get moving.)

Yesterday had been the Thomson day. There just off Main Street on Tom Watson Way, I found the Thomson City Cemetery. I paid my respects to my great-great grandfather, Henry Allen “Buck” Story. A tall monument fitting his larger than life persona beckoned; he was easy to find, right there facing Main Street. Grandpa Buck rested in peace with his second wife, Susan Winston McDaniel and her sister, Sallie McDaniel. Surrounding the Story patriarch were many of his grown children.

Henry Allen Story

Henry Allen “Buck” Story

I was drawn to one grave in particular, Andrew Banny Story, Buck and Susan’s first born child. I got to know Banny through one of his descendants, Betsy Haywood from North Carolina. She sent me a Facebook email asking if we could be related. She said her Story descendant, Stacy Story, was from Thomson and that she had an antique doll passed down to her from that family. The doll’s name, Banny. No one knew where the odd little name came from.

My answer:

“Betsy if your Story relatives came from Thomson, Georgia, and you have a doll named Banny, we are related. We have the same great-great grandfather, Buck Story; you are from his second wife and I am from his first. Stacy Story was the third son of Buck and Susan Story. Apparently, the doll was named after (perhaps a favorite) uncle, Andrew O’Banion Story. He was called Banny.”

And what does that say about Banny Story, for a child to name a doll after him?

Banny Story must have been a lovable person, one who made children feel safe. His presence was needed when he was not there, so a doll took his place. As a doll, he was always there for play or comfort, comfort from a storm or perhaps a fever. He must have been dependable, one who was wanted and not forgettable unto this day.

Betsy cherishes this little doll, a precious family heirloom and very happy to know where the name Banny originated.

Recently I received an email from a Story now living in Texas, Laverne. She sent me a photo of my Aunt Donn’s gravestone. It’s next to her father’s grave, Felton Story, in Lincoln County, Georgia. Laverne read my blog about the Bentleys and Storys and informed me that she is related on both sides of the family. Another dear friend made via internet and genealogy. Next time Laverne is in Georgia I hope to meet her in person.

Darryl Bentley emailed me thanking me for writing the stories about Donde (Donn’s husband called her Donde). He remembered living next door to her on Mt. Zion Church Road and mowed grass for them when they moved into the town of Lincolnton. He too is related to Bentleys and Storys, and to Laverne.

Back to Thomson. The most famous in the Thomson City Cemetery is Tom Watson. Down Tom Watson Way turn right onto Bethany Drive and “Author and Statesman” Thomas Edward Watson’s grave can be found alongside his wife, Georgia Durham. On the corner of Tom Watson Way and Bethany Drive is Watson’s Victorian home.

I mention Senator Watson because he wrote a novel entitled, Bethany: A Story About the Old South.

In this book Watson’s heroine, Nellie Roberts, is modeled after Buck and Susan Story’s daughter, Mae Story. Mae was Buck’s thirteenth child, first daughter. Bethany is the name of the fictitious town in Georgia where the story takes place.

I couldn’t help but notice the odd looking black star markers noting Confederate soldiers. Yes, Grandpa Buck has one too. I picked a few buttercups and placed one on his grave, two on Banny’s.

From the far rescesses of my mind, I heard Aunt Donn.

“Where are my buttahcups? My deah you have been in Lincoln County so many times as of late and no buttahcups for yoah Aunt Donn? No visit to pay respect?”

Perhaps it was my conscious speaking to me rather than Donn. Frankly I have not been able to find Salem Baptist. I can see Salem Baptist Road clearly on the map, but finding my way down these long country roads is a bit overwhelming for an Atlanta gal. But I will try again first thing tomorrow morning.

I left Thomson. As I drove north I thought about my great grandfather, Rad Story. It was about two miles north of Thomson that his body was found in a canebrake so says the Augusta Chronicle Archive. He was shot in the face and received four mortal blows to the back of his head. As I traveled about two miles north of Thomson, I slowed down as I wondered where he fell, where he drew his last breath leaving my grandfather head of the family at age seventeen. Next stop Dunn’s Chapel on Ridge Road in the Leah – Appling community to pay my respects to Rad, always.

My visit to Dunn’s Chapel was the end of a long Saturday. Time for a bubble bath at the Fitzpatrick in a claw foot tub and a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow morning here. Putting away the Sunday edition of the Augusta Chronicle, I gather my maps and coffee and said good-bye to Gwen and any ghosts that may be lurking about at the Fitzpatrick Hotel. I left Washington-Wilkes and followed the signs to that county shaped like an arrow head, all the while listening to Braveheart.

I passed Amity Road. Sounds familiar. Yes that’s the road I have been looking for! Turned around. Turned left onto Amity Road looking for my next turn Greenwood Church Road, then Woodlawn Amity Road and then Salem Baptist. Only problem, I pass Greenwood Baptist Church and no Greenwood Church Road and I run out of Amity Road. Not wanting to get lost, I turn left onto another never ending country road heading toward Lincolnton. If all else fails, I’ll go 47 to Interstate 20 and go west back to Atlanta.

“Maybe Amity Road crossed this long country road you are on? My deah, how about tu’ning around and try that?”

I find myself having a conversation with my deceased great aunt and funny thing, she was making sense. I turned around, found the road and turned left. No road signs for a while. But eventually, yes, Amity Road continued on, but to where? I was in desolate country now. I pulled over to get my bearings and was surrounded by a pack of aggressive dogs, not a cute little lap puppy in the bunch. With a pounding heart I eased on down the road thankful the top was up. This was not the place to run out of gas or have a flat tire. I’d hate to be here at night. Amity could turn into Amityville Horror Road. I hit the gas and I left the dogs in the dust.

Why in the world am I out here in God knows where, alone? Hadn’t planned it that way. My friend who is a native from Lincolnton had an emergency. Something about business partner falling into water and losing camera equipment. I have a local cousin who has volunteered to show me around, but did not want to call and say, “I’m here!” Not without notice. So I’m on my own looking for Salem Baptist. I can do this. I drive on until I reach another point of decision.

How long will I stay on a road that goes to nowhere? Amity Road seems to go from one name to another, Thomson Highway, Lincolnton Highway and then again no name at all. A few homes barely visible from the road feel unfriendly. Like maybe they are way out here for one reason – to be left alone.

Where in the world am I? I pull over to sip cold coffee and think. I can go left and hope to find Lincolnton, though probably too far south, or I could go right and go to – where?

Thinking, thinking – what to do? Discouraged, I knocked on my rear view mirror in surrender to Aunt Donn.

“Well, Aunt Donn, I can’t look to the ‘nawth’ star because it’s daylight. So much for the county shaped like an arrow head showing me direction,” I mused as I gave into hopelessness.  That’s when I caught a glimpse of a small monument. And lo and behold, what did I see? An arrow – pointing right.

“My deah, why don’t you follow that ar’ow?”

“Got it, Aunt Don.”

Not long, I see a sign near the road.

Turn Here To Find Your Free Ticket To Heaven

Without thought, I turned in and found a parking space near the road. Too bad its Sunday morning with folks all dressed up going to church and me out here wearing shorts. I planned to wait until service started then slip out of my car into the cemetery, that is until my eyes landed on SMALLEY.

Confirmation! I’m in the right place. So what if I have on shorts on a Sunday morning? It is July in Georgia – 95 degrees out there. I quickly made my way to the Smalley plot and could not believe how many Smalleys were there. I eased a little deeper into the cemetery and found: Felton Story. That’s my newly found Texas cousin Laverne’s father. Next to him was a Steed monument: Walter Ennis and Dieudonne Bentley Steed. Uncle Walter and Aunt Donn. Well what do you know? Aunt Donn, I’m here.

I look about for some sort of wildflower. No buttercups here. I did find a handful of frazzled clover. I placed one on Felton Story’s grave and two for Aunt Donn and Uncle Walter. I stood back looking at the site in disbelief.

“Sorry to be so long Aunt Donn. I didn’t come to your funeral in ’68 because I was in Panama, Central America. My husband was stationed there teaching soldiers to jump out of helicopters into the jungle to train for Viet Nam combat duty. I just could not get back here to Lincolnton. I want you to know that I had so much fun visiting with you when I was a kid. I know you wanted me to listen more and talk less, something I’m still working on. Next time I will bring proper flowers, now that I know where to find you. Love you all the way to the North Star and back.”

I stood there for a moment and in my mind’s eye I saw her looking at me, the way she did when she was proud of me.

Dr. Dennis Brantley Bentley

Dennis Brantley Bentley Record Keeper at Salem Baptist Church Lincoln County

I moved on to the other side of Aunt Donn and found a tall impressive monument with genealogical history on all four sides. It was the patriarch and matriarch of my father’s mother’s family: Dennis Brantley Bentley and Grace Amelia Ramsey Bentley. Dennis Bentley, son of Dr. John Bentley and Nancy Elizabeth Paschal. Grace Amelia Ramsey, daughter of Caleb “Tip” Ramsey and Grace Caroline Hardin.

There about them were several of their children. Older son, Charlie Ramsey Bentley, Salem Baptist record keeper just like his father, Dennis, was buried there. Younger son, Caleb Hardin Bentley not to be found. I wondered if he was buried in Florida. Florida is where he went when he ran away from home after a quarrel with Donn. One infant born to Grace Caroline Bentley Burgess crowded in the far corner of the lot.

I placed a clover on each grave. Suddenly a man called out to me. He stood near the church on the edge of the cemetery. He was an elderly man, well-dressed suitable for Southern church going.

“Hello ma’am, can I help you?”

“Oh, no sir. I’m just visiting with my kin.”

“Would you like some water?”

“No sir, I have a drink in the car. Thank you just the same.”

“Well come into the sanctuary, get outta this heat. We can tell you how to get a free ticket to Heaven,” he said with all sincerity.

“Yes, I saw your sign,” I laughed, “that’s how I knew I was in the right place! Unfortunately, I’m wearing shorts today. My Aunt Donn would turn over in her grave if I entered Salem’s sanctuary improperly dressed.”

He chuckled. “Well, I think you look lovely my dear, but I understand. I sit near the front door. If you need anything, just knock!”

Aunt Donn was a supreme communicator, and apparently still is. I had to laugh. As I said goodbye, I left the rest of the clover with her.

I left feeling happy and confident. If I don’t find anything else today, I have found my Aunt Donn. Back to Amity Road I continued to drive south hoping to run into Interstate 20. I soon found road signs revealing my family to me. It was amazing. First up:

Bentley Road.

Yes, they had to live near to attend Salem Baptist.

Mt. Zion Church Road.

I know that road. I turned. Yes, it is where Aunt Donn and Uncle Walter lived. The road now paved. It was a narrow dirt road with a creek to the left. And there it is. No house. But no doubt, this is where they lived.

I returned to Amity Road and was greeted by my ancestors via more road signs.

Leathersville Community.

It was Leathersville in Lincoln County that the Bentleys called home, some say the first tannery in Georgia. My great-grandfather, Dennis Brantley Bentley made shoes there. His father, Dr. John Bentley traded medical services for hides and land. Balaam Bentley, John’s father, started the tannery by acquiring hides for trade. It was Balaam’s father, Captain William Bentley, who was granted 100 acres as payment for his services in the Continental Army. 100 acres grew into thousands.

Liberty Hill Community.

Liberty Hill School is where Aunt Donn and her brothers and sisters attended along with Horace Lawton Story, a boy who would become my grandfather. It was at Liberty Hill School that Horace Lawton Story fell in love with Nancy Elizabeth Bentley, daughter of Dennis and Grace Amelia Ramsey Bentley. Lawton and Nancy married, had nine children all born in Lincoln County, Georgia, the baby boy was my father, Tom Story.

As I traveled on I found another road that had eluded me.

Highway 150 also known as Cobbham Road.

Which way to go? I studied my map.

If I turn left I go to Fort Gordon where my father’s great-great grandparents are buried: Thomas Hardin and Gracie Reid Hardin. Thomas Hardin (1787-1852) left Virginia to farm in Georgia. His farm now a part of a military facility known as Fort Gordon. Thomas and Gracie were the parents of Grace Caroline Hardin who married Caleb “Tip” Ramsey. Tip and Grace had Grace Amelia Ramsey who married Dennis Brantley Bentley who had Nancy Elizabeth Bentley, my father’s mother. It’s the line known as the Graces in my family.

I’ll catch Fort Gordon next time. Today I turn right onto Cobbham Road. And as pretty as you please, I saw where the Bentleys left off and the Storys started. Now the Storys welcomed me with banners disguised as road signs.

Mistletoe Road. Story Road. Moonstown Road. Marshall Road.

My grandfather, Horace Lawton Story, was born on Mistletoe Plantation, owned by his grandfather, Buck Story, now a part of Mistletoe Park. Mistletoe Plantation backed up to another Buck Story owned property: Moonstown with his Marshall Dollar Plantation nearby. Buck inherited Moonstown Plantation when he married Rachel Anne Montgomery, his first wife, the mother of his first six sons. Third son was my great grandfather, Rad Story.

Familiar names on road signs whispered reminders of the past. They were here.

And how about that? Another place I’ve been looking for: The William Few Home. William Few signer of the U.S. Constitution briefly lived on Cobbham Road. He returned to New York where he lived the remainder of his life. His grown children and grandchildren lived in the Georgia home and it was a place where my grandfather played as a child, many stories told about that yard. The Few home-place neighbored Buck Story property. If William Few’s place is here then I had to be close to Happy Valley.

Cobbham Road near Happy Valley Lane.

I moved on about a mile or so and sure enough another historical marker: Basil O’Neal. A soldier who fought the British and Indians, born in Maryland, moved to Virginia where Basil married Mary Ann Briscoe. They purchased land and while traveling to Georgia over the Appalachian Trail on horseback, they named their new home Happy Valley, because they expected to be happy in Georgia. They had Eleanor (Nellie) O’Neal who married Michael Smalley. Eleanor and Michael had Selina Smalley who married William Aurelius Gunby who had Sallie Gunby. Sallie married Rad Story. Rad and Sallie had Horace Lawton Story who married Nancy Elizabeth Bentley who had Tom Story, my father.

Thus the Storys and Bentleys become one.

At age fourteen, Tom Story, lost his mother to heart failure. He never got over it. Aunt Donn was the closest thing to a mother he had. And though from the age of five, he lived in the Atlanta area, Lincoln County was where his heart belonged. It was “Lincolnton” that put a smile on his face.

And I came to realize why I had a hard time finding these places. They mainly lived in Lincoln County and some spread over into Wilkes, Columbia and McDuffie County. But when Daddy and his brothers and sisters spoke of home it was always, “We’re from … down there in Lincolnton.” I can still hear their voices.

Papa Story (Horace Lawton Story): “Well, Lincolnton is home. Lincolnton is where I fell in love with Nancy Bentley, a blue blood.” Looking at his grandchildren he said this to us, “That’s why you’re my blue bird specials, each and everyone of you, don’t ever forget that. Lincolnton is where I farmed and the rocks about got the best of me, farmed alone since I was seventeen, that’s when my father was killed on Thomson Road. Still didn’t want to leave. Then the state flooded our home-place to enlarge Clarks Hill. Had no choice then. That’s when I moved my family to Atlanta to be near Mother. It’ll always be home, a place of great joy and great sorrow – down there in Lincolnton.”

Daddy, the quiet one in the family (Tom Story): “The cedars sing you to sleep – down there in Lincolnton. Never heard a sound quite like it anywhere else.”

Tom Story’s brothers and sisters:

Grace: “It’s where I get my name – down there in Lincolnton. I’m a part of the Grace lineage on Mama’s side of the family: the Bentleys, Ramseys and Hardins, first born daughter gets that name. Been going on for over two hundred years. Something to be proud of. That’s why we all love that song, Amazing Grace, it’s our heritage from Mama. Speaking of Mama, I sure do miss her. I can see Mama now, with her prize Rhode Island Reds, down there in Lincolnton.”

Lawton, Jr. (Beau): “I know you won’t believe this but when I was a kid, I rode a cow to school – Salem School. I had it trained to wait on me. That’s where I learned to talk to animals to soothe ’em down. I could teach a rooster to lay down and roll over. No place like it in the world, home – down there in Lincolnton.”

Sarah: “Any time Robert went missing we could find him at this woman’s house, she lived on the lake way back in the woods. Yes, Mama was pregnant with Caleb the first time (three year old) Robert went missing, walking up and down that lake bank calling for him. Worried sick he’d drown in the lake. It’s a wonder Mama didn’t lose Cabe. But Robert didn’t answer cause his mouth was full of apple pie. Oh yes, did I tell you? You walk through an apple orchard to get to her house – down there in Lincolnton.”

Robert: “When I was a kid, I knew an elderly black woman who out did anybody baking apple pie. I slipped off to her house every chance I got, pretended to be lost. She’d hear me crying and come after me. Took me by the hand and led me to her kitchen. I coulda gone blindfolded, smellin’ my way to that pie! She lived in the midst of an apple orchard down near the lake – down there in Lincolnton.”

Miriam: “Well, I like to think on Lincolnton, because we were a whole family then, not one cut from the herd. And my little brother, Caleb, could walk, run and play when we lived – down there in Lincolnton.”

“There’s medicinal power of black-eyed peas. Yes ma’am, black-eyed pea juice can stave off the death angel.”

“Where in the world did you learn that, Aunt Miriam?”

“Down there in Lincolnton.”

Caleb: “I can close my eyes and hear my brothers and sisters when I think on Lincolnton. I can see us playing basket ball at the barn and swimming in the water hole, and working the fields. I was out there with them then, not in this wheelchair. We played hard and worked hard – down there in Lincolnton.”

Gene: “I still go down to Lincolnton at least three times a year. I buy Lincolnton cured ham and sausage, enough for me and my brothers and sisters. I fish around the chimney of the house Grandpa Rad built, the house where we were born. The best fishin’ is out there at Clarks Hill. Don’t believe me, ask my sister, Sarah. She’s the only one who can out fish me. And I always stop by Aunt Donn’s grave at Salem. It’s home – down there in Lincolnton.”

Nancy: “I hope one day someone will write a book about my family, the Bentleys and the Storys. I’m proud of my name: Nancy Bentley Story. I want all the family, you know the younger ones coming along, to know their grandparents and great grandparents – on and on back. If you don’t know who you were, how can you know who you are? Be proud of your ancestors. Dig into our east Georgia genealogy. It’s where we come from – down there in Lincolnton.”

As I drive on looking for signs to Interstate 20 westbound, I shared my father’s smile. For I have come to realize why “down there in Lincolnton” was a magical place for him and his siblings. Its home and it feels like home. Its where we find the spirit of that strong willed school teacher – Aunt Donn – in a Georgia county located nearly to South Carolina. A county shaped like an Indian arrow head pointing to the North Star, reminding me from whence I come and where I am going. If I ever need anything, all I have to do is knock and I am there.

Where?

Down there in Lincolnton – of course, my deahs!

Note:

Caleb Eubanks “Tip” Ramsey married three times. First wife, Grace Caroline Hardin, second wife unknown to me, and third wife Sallie McDaniel. He was a planter and politician, close friend of Henry Allen “Buck” Story. Buck’s second wife was Sallie’s sister, Susan McDaniel.

Later discovered that many Paschals were baptized at the Greenwood Baptist Church on Amity Road, the place where I turned around three times looking for Greenwood Church Road. My grandmother, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley (Story), was the namesake of Nancy Elizabeth Paschal who married Dr. John Bentley of Leathersville in Lincoln County, Georgia.

O’Neal Note:

The O’Neal family dropped the O in their name as an act of patriotism and became Neal.

Some information about Basil O’Neal came from A Biography of Basil O’Neal by Annie Pearce Barnes Johnson, historian of Georgia Society Daughters of American Colonist, 1961, Atlanta, Georgia.

Millie Briscoe was Basil O’Neal’s first wife. After Millie’s death, he married Sarah Hull Green.

Some information came from Basil O’Neal’s son, Basil Llewellin Neal who wrote, A Son of the Revolution. Llewellin was born when his father was 80 years old. Basil’s last child was born when he was 85. Sarah Hull Green was daughter of Captain McKeen Green. The captain served with relative General Nathaneal Green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

AllyPillow2 I was sunning in a cage on the sidewalk when I heard the voice of a young lady in the distance.

“What’ll this puppy look like when he grows up?”

“Well, his mother is over there if you want to take a look at her.”

The lady walked over to me and knelt down. I was on. I sat up straight and crossed my two front paws. I tried to look as dignified as possible. This could be my only chance. Most shoppers overlook me and go straight for the puppies and who could blame them? I lifted my head. And boy was she impressed.

“Well, what’d you think ‘mam? Do you want that puppy?”

“Now why in the world would I want that puppy when I can have her?”

“Yes, she is pretty and good natured too.”

The lady looked deep into my eyes and talked to me.

“My goodness you are a pretty girl! Savannah, you’re mine – I hope you know that. Oh how I wish James was here to see you!”

As a couple moved in closer to take a look at me the lady became defensive.

“She’s mine; I just need to finish the paper work.”

They moved on and the sweet lady smiled and winked at me.

“You are mine, you beautiful girl!”

The lady’s voice was sweet and her touch sweeter. Who was she? And why did she pick me? I don’t know, but I sure was happy! I am going to have a home, a real home. I had lived most of my life as a guard dog – whatever that’s supposed to be. Apparently I was not a very good one. My master tried to teach me words like:

“Get ‘em girl! Sic ‘em!  Come on! Bite it, bite my arm girl!“

I wondered…what kind of language did that man speak? And why in the world would I want to bite a blue thing on a man’s arm?

 I stayed at home in an apartment all day guarding it, and then all night in a bicycle shop guarding it. I rarely had human contact and that made me sad. My heart told me that I was a people dog not a fierce guard dog. I tried hard to please my owner, but even he knew I was a mistake and that is how I wound up here at PetSmart, along with a few of my puppies.

“So it’s the mother you want! Good choice. I was worried about her; it’s the puppies most people want. I’ll get the paper work so you can take Savannah with you!”

But it was not to be and the lady left in tears. She promised me she would return because I belonged to her. She said she would not give up until she had me. The lady ran away crying.

I thought of her for the next few weeks. I dreamed of her sweet voice. Who was she? I know, she must have been an angel sent to rescue me; yes, my angel. I looked for her to return, but soon gave up when I was moved to another store for more exposure, and then another and another. She would never find me now.

On the weekends I was placed in a cage alongside many other four legged creatures, much like me. Many were “adopted” but I was left unnoticed, that is until that young lady bent down to speak to me. She was a pretty gal with blonde hair, and oh what a sweet voice she had. I had never in all my life felt such kindness. I will never forget her words that day.

“They won’t let me have you. I live in an apartment and don’t have a fenced in yard. Oh, Savannah, I hate to leave you,” she said to me as she fought back tears. And so away she went. I called out for her to return, after all I was used to apartment living. But she kept running. I was so close to having a real home.

Then one Sunday afternoon, I heard a familiar voice.

“James! There she is!”

Yes, it was the pretty blonde – my angel – and she found me!

“Look at her James. Yes, this is my dog! I told you! Just look at her! Oh my goodness! I can’t believe we found her!”

The big guy laughed as he opened the door to my cage and let me out. The two bent down and loved on me.

“So you’re the one I’ve been driving all over Georgia looking for? Do you have any idea how hard it was to find you, Savannah? Jillian, she is perfect, except for that name. She doesn’t look like a Savannah. Let’s call her Ally.”

With that “Jillian” snapped a leash to my collar and said, “Let’s keep Ally with us. I don’t want to lose her again.”

They took me inside PetSmart and gave the manager a notarized statement from J.B., Jillian’s father, stating that Jillian a responsible person and that he would see that I got plenty of exercise. The manager looked skeptical and was about to say something when the assistant manager walked by.

“Are you that woman who has been calling every PetSmart in Georgia looking for a black lab?”

“Yes, I’m the one and here she is! I found her!”

With that the manager smiled.

“So, you’re the one? In that case, I will accept your father’s recommendation. Savannah is yours!”

I went home to a small apartment and lots of walks through the woods and a special place called Stone Mountain Park. We eventually moved to a house in the Tucker-Decatur area. The house had gigantic trees in the yard and a creek in the back and a fenced in yard. Best of all, there were squirrels in those trees just waiting to be chased. We spent many years together in that home. I even learned how to open closed doors. That James and Jillian could not lock me out of a room. And when I found them we laughed and laughed.

And J.B. made good his promise of seeing that I got exercise. I ran around in his tennis court playing ball with Charlotte; Charlotte and I became best friends. His parents up in North Carolina, made me a special running place. Papa Roy used to smile at me and say, “Whenever something happens to you, they’d better dig two holes. My granddaughter’s not likely to ever give you up.”

I got to know Gramma-Di by spending the weekend with her, and boy was she a basket case trying to “baby-sit” me. She just knew I was going to disappear into thin air. She figured her son would forgive her, but what about Jillian? She kept me on a tight leash when we went for a walk. One day I spotted the handsome border collie who lived next door. I took off running; just wanted to say “Hello.” Gramma-Di screamed and held on for dear life. Unfortunately she fell down and could not get up. A moving company man drove by and asked her if she needed some help. She said, “Just get that dog! The black one!” The nice man put me in the house and allowed Gramma-Di to use him as a crutch. From that day forward, Gramma-Di allowed me to go outside alone while she stayed behind the closed door holding the leash.

At Christmas time, we decorated the house. I liked all that, but I could not help but be a little jealous of the attention they gave to that tree. When I could not take it any longer, I moved in and pushed them away from the tree. Hey, it’s me you dote on, remember?

James traveled and left me sometimes for days. When he returned, the big guy looked stressed and worn out. I greeted him each and every time. I was so glad to see him. He smiled and loved on me and spoke tenderly to me, actually he talked baby talk to me and I loved it. I noticed that after a few minutes of playing ball with him, he loosened up and was his old self again. James really needed me to keep him healthy.

Jillian spent every night with me, though she left me regularly during the day to teach the kids at school. I always came first, but the kids came in at a close second. We did spend every weekend together grading papers, clipping coupons and drinking coffee. Well, Jillian drank the coffee and I enjoyed my “good girl”snacks.

One night, Jillian dressed up in a fancy dress and James wore a suit, tie and all. They celebrated that night at an award dinner; DeKalb County honored Jillian as Teacher of the Year for her school.

James went through a time of non-stop traveling; seeing twenty-two states. Twenty-two states! That was too much!  

I could not help myself; I sank into a depression and could not eat; my hair fell out. I could only look for James, until one day I could not lift my head. I heard her on the telephone.

“I think she is pining for you. I think she is dying. I’m going to take her to the hospital.”

The very next day, James walked in. I was so happy to see him, but could not make myself stand to greet him. He knelt down before me and spoke.

“What’s the matter with my good girl? My Ally girl, what’s wrong baby?”

I weighed close to eighty pounds, but the big guy scooped me up in his arms as though I was light as a feather. They took me to the hospital where the doctors gave me fluids. I stayed for a few days and then I perked up. James and Jillian took me home and he carried me around like a baby for days. They were both attentive and best of all, James stayed; he quit that foolish job. He never left again, except for short business trips now and then. And then there was the day I really got sick and had to have surgery; my old pancreas was acting up. The doctor discussed my options. Yes, I was gonna be a goner without that surgery. No one spoke for a moment. Then James asked, “Do you take Visa?”

One day while alone at home, someone broke a window in the basement and walked up the stairs and broke open the door. The intruder entered our home. It frightened me and I was reminded of my training as a guard dog. I was lying on the sofa in the living-room when the crime took place. So, what was I to do? I started to bark and put up a fuss when I realized it was an older woman who seemed harmless. And anyway, it was nap time.

The woman went into the kitchen and made herself a sandwich with James and Jillian’s ham and pickles.  She did take some things including family jewelry and a computer. She left and later we found out that she was a homeless person.

James and Jillian were not upset at all, because the woman did not harm me.

“Yes, my Ally-good-baby, you’re all right now girl. We won’t let anybody get you! You’re our good girl!”

I was not good at being a guard dog, but I had that “good girl” nailed down.

They both loved on me overtime that night and they thanked God for keeping me safe. They never mentioned the family jewelry or the computer to God, just me.

The years passed and there was another celebration. Yes, they both dressed up in their fancy clothes and Jillian was again DeKalb County Teacher of the Year for her school. I know that if she cared for her students half as much as she did for me, she was the best teacher in the whole wide world. But she did more than teach them, she cared for them.

Jillian and her sister camps out all night for “black Friday.” Jillian says they can buy more on that big sale day and they had to be first to get the best bargains; gifts for needy children. Jillian wanted all children to have a “good Christmas.”

The three of us were happy for so many years. They were good years of walking in our Decatur neighborhood saying hello to other neighbors walking their loved ones; lots of nurses, teachers, Cocker spaniels and boxers there. When we approached a neighbor, I tried to lift my head a little higher so that James and Jillian would be proud of me. I also tried to be on my best behavior, but that was not always easy. It was the squirrels I tell you; always taunting me. When I got the chance, I chased those rascals!

I could run for hours on end. My black coat was thick and shiny. I was bathed and brushed. They even cleaned my teeth and slipped meds in little pieces of cheese to me. Yes, we enjoyed each other’s company. But the day came when I wanted to chase those squirrels and my legs did not want to cooperate. When we went for a drive, I had a hard time climbing into the car. James gave me a little push and I was able to get by with that little bit of help for a while, until finally he had to pick me up and put me in the car. James never complained.

“That’s okay Ally, I don’t mind helping you. You deserve it! Ally-good-baby!”

Yes, I slowed down with my old legs giving out. Then a strange thing happened; everything was getting dark. It got darker and darker until one day I could not see at all. I sometimes managed to hobble across the living-room only to get stuck in the corner. My old legs could not back up and I could not see a thing. I stood there patiently until I was noticed. No need to bark. I was not abandoned, just stuck in the corner. And yes, James or Jillian always came to my rescue and gently guided me out of the corner.

“That’s alright my Ally girl! That’s all right. You’re a good girl, my Ally-good-baby!”

Home alone, I tried to wait as I always do, but I could not hold it. I did a “no-no.” For sure, they would be mad at me today. But when James and Jillian found my “no-no,” it was cleaned up without a word of admonishment.

“What’s the matter Ally? Are you sick or tired? That’s all right. You couldn’t help it. It’s okay girl, it’s okay.”

I tried hard to please, but from then on, I could not control myself. They took me to the doctor again and they got more pills to hide in little pieces of cheese. That helped for a while, but to tell you the truth, I could not control myself. I was so ashamed and tried to hide, but the big guy always found me.

“It’s okay my Ally-good-baby. It’s okay, you are a good girl!”

He loved on me and Jillian loved on me. As time went on, they gave me most all of their attention. I was thankful because I really needed care now. I could not see. I could barely walk and my hearing was leaving me.

Oh how I enjoyed going to Gramma-Di’s home where I could survey her backyard secret garden. But now when at the bottom of the sloping yard, I can no longer make it back up to her house. I waited until James missed me and then as always, he came to my rescue. He picked me up in his arms and carried me back to the house.

“That’s okay my Ally-good-baby. You are a good girl! I can carry you. You deserve it!”

Keeping watch over Jillian as we traveled to North Carolina to visit with her grandparents was becoming a faraway memory. I can still occasionally remember how the air felt on my face as we drove down the highways.

Not too long ago, I stayed with Pop for a week so James and Jillian could go on a much needed vacation. I’m afraid I was too much for Pop, though he never complained. The truth of the matter is – I have become old and sickly. And my hair is falling out all over the place. And forget going to Jillian’s father’s home; too many steps. I wish I could tell them how tired I am, but I don’t want to complain, nor do I want to worry them. I know they all love me.

A day came when I sensed sadness in James and Jillian, although they kept their voices happy when speaking to me. I knew when they entered the room although I could not see them. I tried my best to hide the tiredness I felt inside. I really tried to lift my head and smile at them, but that was getting harder and harder to accomplish.

One day I did not realize James was in the room. Unfortunately I allowed him to see how I really felt. I know he saw me because his voice was different. When he tried to speak to me, his words were cut short.

I heard Jillian say, “It’s time.”

“I’m going to see if we have any mail. Jill, please stay with Ally.”

James walked to the mailbox and when he returned he spoke to Jillian.

“Tonight at seven, it will be over.”

They loved on me as they laid down beside me and rubbed my coat. James carried me in his arms to the car. Jillian sat with me in the backseat. That car ride to the vet’s office was of great comfort to me, eventhough I was so sick. I cannot explain it, but I knew things were going to be okay.

When we arrived, straight away they took me to a room and put me on a table. James and Jillian told me how much they loved me and that I had made them the happiest two people in the world. Then there was a long silence until James finally spoke.

“Jill, do you mind if I step out for a minute?”

“No go ahead James. I’m with her.”

With that, Jillian and I were alone. I could not see her, but I could feel her hands gently touching me. My heart beat slowed down and I could feel myself slipping away.

 I felt a face next to mine.

Who was it? I don’t have to have eyes to know – she’s the angel who found and rescued me. I wish I could say to her: “I’m ever yours.”

I was left that night lifeless on that table.

“I don’t want to go home yet, James. I can’t bear the thought of going into an empty house — without Ally.”

“I don’t want to go home either. I have an idea. Let’s drive around to our favorite places for a while. We could both use a drink.”

“Yes,” said Jillian as she wiped away the endless stream of tears from her face. “Let’s get a drink.”

James and Jillian drove straight away to the Varsity and got their usual: Diet Coke and Frosty Orange. They then drove by the Fox Theater to see what was playing. For a brief moment their grief was relieved as their attention went to the marquee and rush of theatre goers.

 And then it was on to Ponce de Leon where they took their short cut to Stone Mountain.

James and Jillian first noticed the fire flies as they drove through the West Gate of Stone Mountain Park. They turned right and drove slowly around the mountain all the while admiring the trees and lake through the moonlight. The steadfast solidarity of the mountain hiding in the dark shadows somehow comforted them. They pulled over and stopped at the Covered Bridge where they rolled the windows down and listened to the croaking of the frogs. Occasionally they heard a quiet plop in the water; no doubt a turtle in search of a better resting place. They slowed to an almost stop at the Grist Mill to hear the water gently splashing over the big mill wheel; they slowly left the park.

And then it was on to Hugh Howell where James parked the car at their church, Mountain West, another place where Jillian teaches the children. After checking out the building progress of the new sanctuary, they continued up Hugh Howell and found themselves on Main Street – Tucker. As they drove past Matthew’s Cafeteria, they acknowledged it as the place of the best fried chicken in Georgia.

 From Main Street they took a left and drove down LaVista past the Browning Courthouse and made a right which took them to Morgan Road; Nanny’s house. James stopped and admired his grandmother’s house for a moment, watching a squirrel run across the yard. He tried to ignore the squirrel as it made him think of Ally.

“Helen Story lived here for sixty years.”

James spoke of his grandmother in order to ignore his painful thoughts, only to burst into tears. Jillian rubbed his shoulder to comfort him.

“I think I’m ready to go home now; how about you, Jill?”

“Yes, I’m ready James. Let’s go home.”

They drove across the Tucker train tracks near Lawrenceville Highway where James slowed down at Sherry’s Produce Market.

“Nanny used to buy her vegetables there when her legs hurt too bad to walk. Sherry handed whatever Nanny wanted through the car window so she didn’t have to get out of her car.”

“That was kind of Miss Sherry to care for your grandmother like that.”

“Yes, it was.”

They drove past the school where Jillian taught.They looked at each other and smiled. He drove onto Highway 78 as they finished their Diet Coke and Frosty Orange.

Yes, it was time to go home. Tonight would be the first time in fifteen years that Ally would not be home to greet them. Though James and Jillian could never again embrace their good girl, she remained in their hearts – ever yours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All my life I have heard stories of a good and just woman. She was born in Warren County, Georgia in 1825. Yes that was a long time ago, but the mark she made on the Story family is indelible. Her life was an example of self sacrifice and taking the higher road in all that she did. Her reputation survived her earthly years by nearly one hundred and ninety years. She was called, “Aunt Wilanty.”

I learned of Aunt Wilanty as a small child. When breaking a candy bar to share, my father’s voice floated in from the background,“What would Aunt Wilanty do?” Of course, remembering the stories of Aunt Wilanty, I reluctantly offered the larger piece to my sister.  Aunt Wilanty was the yardstick by which our father, Tom Story, measured his daughters’ generosity.

Here is what I know about this woman who was the sister of my great-great grandfather, Henry Allen “Buck” Story.

April 2, 1854, this was the day Wilanty Story dreamed of. She sat proudly in her carriage as the driver trotted on to the James Montgomery estate in Warren County, Georgia. Every hair on her head was in place and she looked as “fine” as any bride on this important day, the wedding day. Not her wedding day, but her baby brother, Henry Allen’s.

Henry Allen, was a tall good looking young man who was about to marry his childhood sweetheart, Rachel Ann Montgomery. Their engagement was announced in the Christian Index a year ago, and since then, every care had been made for the young couple to have their perfect day when Georgia was new with bloom.

“It’s always someone else’s day,” Wilanty must have thought so many times. But after today, it would be her time. As she rode past the peach trees and forsythia in bloom, she recalled the day her father spoke to her about staying the course, and most of all, make it to the finish line. Wilanty smiled as she spoke the words of her father aloud, “A fin (aw fin), Papa, a fin!”

“A fin,” Wilanty’s father, Samuel Gaines Story, a man born in 1776, spoke these words often. He was a hardworking Georgia planter who had little time for small talk. He took a short cut when possible with these two words, “A fin.”

With those two words spoken, his children got a move on and worked a little harder and faster. They finished whatever was expected of them.

When Wilanty was a small child, she questioned her father, “A fin? What does it mean? Why do you say that, Papa?”

“A fin means ‘To the end!’ It’s the motto of ye family crest – back in Scotland. We Storys are a sept of the Oglivy Clan ye know. There on our Coat of Arms stands a lass with light hair with her hands on her hips – looking accomplished and strong,” he smiled at his youngest daughter. “She stands on the words ‘A FIN.’ And that is what she stands for – she stays her course To the End.”

Samuel Story sat back in his chair and was quiet for a moment as he recalled his grandfather’s stories of Scotland. “Very few Scots, have a fair lass on their crest. Maybe we’re the only ones in all of Scotland. She was a good and just lassie, who had the courage to do battle for Robert the Bruce and Joan of Arc. And my little Wilanty, the good and just lass on the crest wears a blue dress, blue as the sky over Scotland. Might’en be the same blue as the color of ye eyes.”

Yes Wilanty Story learned her father’s lesson well. She had stayed the course; as of this April day in 1854, she finished the course. After today, she would be free to live her own life.

Just a few years after the talk with her father about Scotland and the family crest, Samuel Story died leaving a family of nineteen children and a baby on the way.

Wilanty, the youngest girl, stepped forward and made the commitment to care for her mother, Stacey, through the pregnancy. At age fourteen, Wilanty, was all grown up. She also helped her mother by caring for her seven year old little brother, Sanders Walker Story, and her newborn baby brother, Henry Allen Story. Wilanty took every step Henry Allen took and kept a watchful eye on him.

“A fin,” became her motto as she taught her baby brother the important things of life, like Scotland; the things Papa would have taught his young son had he had the chance.

And today, her job was finished. Henry Allen Story would take a wife and his new life would begin as her new independent life would also begin. She smoothed out her blue dress as she smiled thinking to herself, “Yes Papa, my dress is as blue as the sky over Scotland.”

A new sense of joy filled her soul as the carriage approached the Montgomery home. All the while thinking of the day she would take a husband, one day she would own her own home, care for her own gardens and have her own babies. And it all started after today.

As the carriage stopped in front of the Montgomery home, out stepped the groom, her brother, Henry Allen. He stood tall and straight to greet Wilanty. How proud she was of her baby brother, but she saw a look on his face that worried her, “What is it? Is everything okay?”

“Wilanty, could you do me a favor?”

“Of course, what in the world, Henry?”

“Rachel is missing her mother,” explained Henry Allen, “she even thinks the death of Mary could be a bad omen.”

“Oh of course she is missing her mother. And truly, there is no such thing as a bad omen. But how dreadful to lose your mother just a month before your wedding day. Tell me what can I do?”

“Just go upstairs to her room and knock on the door. Ask her if you can help her dress or fix her hair. Her sisters are there but, I think she would be comforted if someone like her mother was with her,” Henry Allen explained.

“Mother should go…”

“Mother shouldn’t try to make it up the stairs. Iot’s you Wilanty that will take Rachel’s grief away. It was just this morning that they took down the black mourning drape and replaced it with white flowers.”

“Oh how dreadful,” said Wilanty, as she turned to admire the fresh baby’s breath on the front door, “And what a shame for Mary (Swint-Montgomery) to pass on at a time such as this. This is the day every mother waits for. I’ll go.”

Wilanty made her way up the stairs and down the hall to Rachel’s room. There she softly knocked on the door and opened it a bit. “Rachel, may I come in and see how pretty you look?”

And that is how Wilanty joined the new Henry Allen Story family.

After Rachel and Henry Allen married, they moved from Warrenton to the Thomson area in McDuffie County, to a farm called Moon’s Town. At first, Wilanty would stay to help the young couple set up housekeeping, and then came the first baby, and of course she would stay a while longer to help Rachel with the baby. Then the second baby came, the third baby came, the fourth baby came, the fifth baby came. Then the War Between the States came and Henry Allen left the Moon’s Town farm while Sanders Walker Story left his mercantile store in Warrenton. The brothers went off to war. Henry Allen left Wilanty to “take care of my family.” Now was not the time to leave and she could hear her father’s words, “A fin.”

“But if I don’t leave now, it will be too late! I wish I never heard those words!” She must have had this conversation many times, especially when she saw that one special person give up on her and marry another.

Wilanty stayed at Moon’s Town. She cared for Rachel and the five little boys: Sam, James, Rad, Henry and Benjamin.

The years past and the war began to wind down. The South was losing the war and Wilanty lost her little brother, Sanders. He was wounded at the Battle of Murpheesboro and died shortly thereafter. Wilanty cried herself to sleep many nights talking to her deceased father, “Papa I tried. I tried so hard to care for Sanders. I begged him not to go! This is Mr. Lincoln’s war not yours Sanders! Stay at your merchantile! That’s what I told him, but he would not listen to me!  Papa please forgive me.”

Wilanty prayed by night and by day she carried a clothes basket with her everywhere she went. There amidst the clothes, she kept a loaded pistol. She kept it handy in case a war tattered straggler happened onto Moon’s Town and wanted more that a meal.

And Wilanty prayed for Henry Allen in the still of the night when Rachel and the boys were asleep. “Dear Father in Heaven, Please send an angel to care for Henry Allen; send him home to his wife and little boys. Let Mr. Lincoln have his war and let it be over.”

One prayer night Wilanty realized she was not alone when she heard Rachel’s voice from the hallway, “Amen.”

Wilanty and Rachel’s prayers were answered on a cold winter day when Henry Allen walked through the front door. Thank God at least one brother made it home safe and sound.

The war was officially over in the spring of 1865 when Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

Henry Allen worked on his farms from sun up to sun down. He burned the midnight oil toiling over deeds, ledgers, plats and maps. He had to find a way to make his farms viable, and tenant farming seemed to be the way.

If Wilanty had wanted to start her own life, she would have to wait. With the loss of the war, Henry Allen had lost his wealth, his brother and his horse. And now he was working every waking hour trying to salvage his farms. This was not the time to leave her brother.

And when September rolled around, Rachel had her sixth son, Columbus Marion Story. This time Rachel did not do well. In fact as each day passed, Rachel became weaker. Rachel called for Wilanty often to take the baby. She asked Wilanty to care for the boys and raise the baby as her own. Of course, Wilanty assured Rachel that she would get stronger tomorrow and everything would be alright. On October 10, just seventeen days after baby “Lum” was born, Rachel died. She was twenty-eight years old.

Wilanty kept her promise to Rachel and stayed with the six boys. And now Henry Allen had to deal with the biggest loss of all, his dear Rachel.

About four years after Rachel’s death, Henry Allen married a school teacher from Virginia. Susan Winston McDaniel was the little sister of Sally McDaniel-Ramsey. Sally was the wife of a local Democratic politician and farmer, Caleb “Tip” Ramsey, a friend of Henry Allen.

Here was the opportunity for a new beginning for Wilanty Story. She busied herself to get the house ready for the new bride, Susan. She excited her six nephews about getting a new mother. How wonderful it was going to be.

On the day Susan arrived at Moon’s Town, Wilanty had each boy dress in his Sunday clothes, each boy wearing a clean pressed white shirt, black tie, dark trousers and a black jacket. As the hour approached, Wilanty had them line up in birth order: Samuel Walker Story, James Montgomery Story, Radford Gunn Story, Benjamin Franklin Story, Henry David Story and Columbus Marion Story.  There they all stood joyful and proud.

As soon as Susan settled in and the boys got acquainted with their new mother, Wilanty would take her leave.

Not long after the union, other children were born and Susan had her hands full looking after her own. Susan preferred to have her children eat first, and then the older boys were allowed to come in from the barn and eat last. The six boys being older had chores to do. But when Susan’s suppertime seemed to drag out a little too long, Wilanty filled her pockets with biscuits and made a quick trip to the barn. Susan made cookies for her children, while Wilanty made cookies for Rachel’s boys.

Wilanty would never leave those first six boys. Her heart and soul belonged to them.

Wilanty Story never married, never owned her own home.

Her baby brother, Henry Allen, prospered and by the end of his life in 1913, owned ten thousand acres which were all working farms.

Henry Allen Story and his second wife, Susan had eleven children; seven boys and four girls. The six sons of Henry Allen and Rachel Montgomery–Story all lived to adulthood, married and had families of their own.

The third son of Henry Allen and Rachel was Radford Gunn Story. In 1904 Rad was killed in an altercation near one of the Story farms. The death of Rad devastated the Story family, especially his five brothers. After the death of Rad, some of his brothers left their lifelong homes in the Thomson area. They seemed to have disappeared. And that too is where the story of Wilanty ends. Nothing else is known of her.

One hundred years later, my sister, Patricia Story-Logan, moved to a little horse farm near Tampa, Florida. Whereever Pat is, she is looking for Storys. Pat found evidence that Henry Allen and Rachel‘s baby son, “Lum” Story moved to Tampa. There so many years ago, Lum became a deputy sheriff and preached the Gospel in Tampa.

Soon thereafter, Pat found a pioneer graveyard in Tampa. She found the disintegrating grave of Columbus Marion Story. And next to his grave site was a crumbling grave stone, the letters barely legible: WILANTY STORY.

Aunt Wilanty was a good and just woman who kept her promise To the End. And I have to believe that she is wearing a blue dress; blue as the sky over Scotland.

A FIN!

Author’s Notes:

Radford Gunn Story had a son, Horace “Lawton” Story, who had a son, Thomas Jonathan Story. Thomas Story was my father.

Samuel Gaines Story’s second wife was Stacey Duckworth-Story. Stacey Duckworth was born in 1794. Stacey and Samuel married on March 21, 1812 in Warrenton, Georgia.


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.

 

 

 

Caleb Hardin Bentley

September 26, 1906, “Nancy” Elizabeth Bentley left the Leathersville family farm that she so loved. She grew up there in East Georgia on wide open meadows, timberland and a bustling tannery. But perhaps it was the herb gardens that Nancy would miss the most; time spent with her father, Dr. Dennis Brantley Bentley, who passed down the art of healing through the pretty flowers.

Nancy soaked in the healing stories of her grandfather, Dr. John Bentley and her great-grandfather, Balaam Bentley.

Oh how she loved hearing about her great-great-grandfather, William Bentley II, who settled in Wilkes County Georgia in 1775. Nancy knew her history well and could have told you that a part of Wilkes County became Lincoln County in 1796. And that William Bentley II (b.1729) was a captain in the Colonial Army.

The captain brought with him from South Carolina, his wife Mary Jane Elliott (1729-1843) and five children. He built a two room log cabin on the north side of Little River.

Because of  a low treasury, Captain William Bentley II, received two land grants for his service to the Colonial Army, one in 1784 and the second in 1785.   The cabin he built was damaged by fire when burned by Indians. Fortunately, Captain Bentley’s daughter, Chloe (Mrs. John Josiah Holmes) and her two daughters Apsylla and Penelope Holmes, hid in the woods and watched as the cabin burned. They narrowly escaped harm and the girls made it to the fort where Captain William Bentley II was in command. He rebuilt and dug in to stay. When the captain died, his hundred acres had grown into a thousand acres.

The land was a mirror of the origin of the name Bentley, “place where the bent grass blows.”

Captain William Bentley II left his land to his two youngest sons, Joshua and Balaam. Balaam eventually bought out his brother’s interest in the land. Farmers in the area brought in hides to sell to Balaam to make ends meet. With the hides, Balaam opened the first tannery in Georgia in 1805. He also built a store and traded with the locals as well as the Union Army and Northern markets. Because of the bustling trade of leather goods, this area became known as Leathersville. The Bentleys sold shoes, straps, bridles, harnesses, and saddles made by hand at the tannery.

Dr. John Bentley Courtesy of Bill Tankersley

Dr. John Bentley 1797-1867
Courtesy of Bill Tankersley

 

During the War Between the States, Leathersville sold leather goods exclusively to the Confederate Army. After the war, the Bentleys signed a oath of allegiance to the Union and they were back in business selling to the North again.

When Balaam Bentley died in 1816, he left Leathersville to his two sons, John and Benjamin Bentley. Dr. John Bentley bought his brother part of the estate.

Over the years, the two room log cabin became a log house by adding another log cabin to the existing structure, as well as an outdoor kitchen. At some point in time, clapboard was added. An office was built in the front side yard for Dr. John Bentley to perform surgical procedures and administer medicine to the general population arriving by foot, wagon, buggy and on horseback.

Another member of the family, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Bentley, built a two story home on the property in the mid 1800s and carried on the medical tradition as well. The land grew to over thirteen thousand acres.

Eventually, the Bentley descendants drew lots of five-hundred acres each, thus dividing the land.

And on this day in 1906, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley’s wedding day, the Bentleys still lived there.

Nancy was proud of her adventurous and accomplished family, but realized her roots mysteriously lie across the Atlantic Ocean in England. There it started with yet another William Bentley. But it was the stories about healing that captured her attention.

There was no question that Nancy’s grandfather, Dr. John Bentley was a medical physician. In fact, Dr. John Bentley was paid for medical services quite often by the deeding of land. But it is doubtful her father, Dennis Brantley Bentley, was truly a medical doctor since he signed documents “Esquire.” All the same, he was called “Doctor” by all who knew him.

During Dennis Brantley Bentley’s days on the Leathersville Bentley farm, his job was to oversee the tannery. He stated his occupation as shoemaker in a Georgia census. But no matter how involved he became with the tannery, Dennis Bentley never neglected the herb gardens and was prolific in his knowledge of healing. And his daughter Nancy learned as much as possible from “Father” and excelled in school.

In Lincolnton after school one day, young Nancy Bentley “whopped” a young school boy with her lunch pail for teasing her little brother, Caleb. Nancy had had enough of Lawton laughing at Caleb’s long dark curls. She told that tall lanky Lawton Story to pick on someone his own size! She walked ahead with her hand on little Caleb’s shoulder, as she looked back at Lawton with those piercing blue eyes.

Nancy Bentley was far more than just a pretty face with unruly thick hair. She understood the secrets a beautiful flower held within. She knew which flower could heal an abscess and which one could cool a fever. She could play a piano, sing and ride any horse she had a mind to. And she would not take any stuff off that Lawton Story!

Being from a long line of farmers, young Lawton Story did not understand all about Nancy being called a “blue blood” or her knowledge of medicine. He did understand one thing, he loved spirit and Nancy Bentley was the epitome of spirit. Nancy Bentley was the only girl for him. And he knew it that day after school when she stood up for her little brother, Caleb.

And on this glorious autumn day, September 26, 1906, Nancy Bentley left her beloved home of five sisters and two brothers, to marry that boy she “whopped” upside the head with her lunch pail for teasing her little brother. He was Horace “Lawton” Story, the son of Radford Gunn Story and Sallie Elizabeth Gunby-Story. Rad Story was a well known farmer. When Rad married Sallie Gunby, they moved into a home on the Story farm called Mistletoe in north Columbia County. Sallie was reluctant to live there so far away from her family. Her home was in Lincolnton. The Story farm was about ten miles from Lincolnton.

The Gunbys were a close knit family who were highly educated and staunch Methodists. Rad Story built a two story home in Lincolnton near Arimathea Methodist, near the Gunby homeplace.  Their son Lawton was born at Mistletoe, but for most of Lawton’s young life, he lived in the house that his father built in the Clay Hill area of Lincolnton.

The total burden of farming was set upon the shoulders of young Lawton the year he was but seventeen years of age, when his father, Rad Story, was killed December 1, 1904 on Thomson Road.

Lawton remained on the Rad Story homeplace and carried on. Two years after the death of his beloved father, he proposed to his sweetheart, Nancy Bentley. The two were married by Reverend LeRoy (LaRoy) while Lawton and Nancy sat together in a horse drawn carriage under blue skies and colorful foliage in the background – witnessed by God and family. With the “I do” said, a “giddup!” and the crack of leather, the horse trotted on and the carriage pulled away. Nancy Bentley left Leathersville, to start her new life with Lawton Story in Lincolnton.

Author’s Note:

Records state that Captain William Bentley II was born in 1729 and died in 1792, although other records state that he was honorably discharged from the Army in 1799.

 

Engagement photo of Tom Story and Helen Voyles at the Henderson Mill

In 1946 I was made by the hands of Mr. Woodall. I was not the only one. Mr. Woodall built several of us on Morgan Road in Tucker Georgia. I liked Mr. Woodall, although I really never bonded with him. I knew our relationship was a temporary one. And all the while we were together, it was because he was busy making me complete. No, I was not the only one, but I was the last one on Morgan Road.

Mr. Woodall lived within my walls until October 1948. I remember that day clearly, because the leaves were unusually beautiful in their glow of red and gold. The trees were really showing off that year; I felt in my heart that something special was about to happen to me, and I was right.

Mr. Woodall packed and left me alone and empty. But I was alone just for a day or so. One morning, a nice young couple pulled up and parked their car in my horseshoe shaped driveway. The man and woman along with a pretty little girl, got out of the car and stood there looking at me as though I was the most beautiful thing they had ever laid eyes on. They slowly made their way toward my front porch. Suddenly the man stopped and looked back at the road.

“Now which house on Morgan did your mother’s mother live in?”
“You have to go to the dead end down there, and turn right. In 1884 my Grandma, Cora Maddox, was born in a log house back up in those woods,” the lady replied.

“Maddox? I thought her name’s Jenkins.”

“She’s a Jenkins because she married Grandpa – William Darling Jenkins.”

“And here we are – after nearly sixty-five years – back in her neck of the woods,” he smiled and was truly amazed. He wrapped his arm around the lady and continued their approach to my front porch.

Then the man stopped again and seemed star struck as he looked up at my gallery of painted leaves. The young lady walked on holding the hand of their fifteen month old daughter. The man was frozen in awe.

“Wow – Helen – look at these trees,” said the tall handsome dark haired man, “The leaves are beautiful. Looks like gold and rubies.” He smiled with a faraway look, “I’m a rich man.”

“It is beautiful, Tom,” laughed the pretty blonde lady, “and right over there is a perfect place for a daffodil bed near that tree. Come on, let’s go into the house. I’ve only seen it once.”

“Seen it once?” Yes, I remember them now. They’re the couple who rented from the Johnson’s on LaVista – directly behind me. When the little girl was a tiny baby, they walked from the Johnson house through the cow pasture and through the woods to visit Mr. Woodall. They were quite excited when they arrived. Oh not because of me, but because the young man had walked up on a calf in the near dark, and it reared up and took him and the baby girl for a ride. Luckily, they were not hurt, but rattled just the same.

They talked to Mr. Woodall about purchasing me. Since they did not return, I thought they had chosen another. But no, here they are today about a year later and looks like they are moving in. I ease dropped on the couple and heard them discussing their need for a new home. They wanted me now, because another baby was on the way, due in April. Now that was something for me to look forward to: a toddler, a baby and a daffodil bed in the springtime.

Display cabinets for Cofer Bros. made by Tom Story

My new owners were the Storys: Tom, Helen and Patricia Anne. I soon realized that Mr. Story was a family man. He built a workshop out back to build cabinets and take on carpenter jobs. He liked being home near his family.

Truly, Mr. Story was in love with my trees; he called me “the little house in the woods.”  Mrs. Story loved my screened in front porch, although my porch was not yet screened when the Story’s moved in that day. But it was the first thing that Mr. Story did to me. Mr. Story took a lot of time and pain to make diamonds on the open wainscoted portion of my porch; then he tacked up the screen.

When Mrs. Story brought him a cup of coffee, she laughed, “Tom Story, you are making diamonds around our porch.”

“What else but diamonds? We have the gold and rubies in the yard; may as well have diamonds in the house. Helen, I tell ya, we live in a treasure chest.”

“A treasure chest?” laughed Mrs. Story, “Tom, this is good enough for us, but I don’t know about it being a treasure chest.”

Mr. Story took a moment to look about at the grandeur of my leaves as he had done so many times, and said, “Gold, rubies and diamonds; I’m a rich man.” He sipped his hot coffee as Mrs. Story rubbed his head, “It’s a treasure chest to me, Helen.  I have a lot of projects around here to get to. And I’d better get busy before that new baby gets here, and I won’t have time to do another darned thing!”

But before that baby came, we had Thanksgiving. Mr. and Mrs. Story roasted a large turkey with a pan of cornbread dressing with gravy. Mr. Story liked everything his wife cooked, and was very pleased about the Thanksgiving leftovers.

And then Christmas came. Mr. and Mr. Story cut a live Christmas tree on Mae Moon’s farm near the Tucker – Stone Mountain area. Cutting a tree at Aunt Mae’s was a Jenkins-Voyles family tradition. It wasn’t Christmas until Mrs. Story visited with her Aunt Mae Moon; a trip she made in a horse pulled wagon every Christmas Advent as a child.

But it was Mr. Story who made sure their tree was decorated to perfection. And if a tree’s limbs were not balanced just right, he’d cut off a limb and nail it to the part of the tree that was lacking. He loved Christmas lights and strung the bright lights all about my roof line and gables. It made me feel special – and beautiful. He made the air within my walls smell festive with boxes of oranges, apples, peppermint, chocolate and lemon drops. Mr. Story hammered a big fat nail into a hairy coconut and drained the milk into a glass. Mrs. Story took the coconut and milk and made a Japanese fruit cake. The Story Christmas traditions were formed in the very first Christmas while living on Morgan Road.

I became close to this little family. Mr. Story was ever so soft spoken; a man of very few words. He looked upon his family as pure gold. I especially loved being with Mr. Story in the evening hours when he picked up his Gibson guitar, and played music. He played bluegrass and sometimes hymns from an old Baptist Church Hymnal. It was quiet time and all seemed well with the world. I loved my new family and they loved me. I especially loved it when they called me “Home.”

And that was the beginning of a long relationship with the Story family. The baby came April 3, 1949 – another little girl – Helen Diane.

Mr. Story teased Mrs. Story, “Now Helen, you know I want a son,” he grinned and winked at her, “On second thought, I have two boys right here; I’ll call ‘em Pat and Donnie.”

“Tom Story you’ll do no such thing, it’s Patricia and Diane.”

They were still having that conversation when two years rolled around and another April baby was born – another girl – Barbara Gail. Mr. Story called her “Bob” and sometimes “Bobtail.”

Mrs. Story bought dolls and tea sets for the girls, while Mr. Story bought cowboy outfits, cap guns and farm sets. Mr. Story built his three little girls a sand box to play in – right out my back door.

Patricia, Barbara and Diane Story

On a cold snowy winter day in 1961, Mr. and Mrs. Story brought home another baby; this time in a blue blanket – a son – Tommy. And Mr. Story never let up with his dry sense of humor, “Now, I have four boys,” he laughed.

And his girls, now fourteen, twelve and ten still played the game, “Daddy, we’re not boys! We’re girls!”

Mr. Story laughed with his girls as though it was the first time he’d ever heard that story. He so loved to tease his girls.

Little Tommy loved kicking footballs around and spent hours playing with cars and a fast racetrack. Mr. Story got busy flooring in part of my attic, so Tommy could have a good place for his racetrack town. Mr. Story found ways to use every inch of my space. Even before the little boy came, Mr. Story found all kind of ways to change me.

Mr. Story eventually enclosed my open back-porch and made it a laundry-room, then added a little porch to the new laundry-room. He also built another screened back-porch off the middle bedroom. The knotted pine kitchen cabinets Mr. Story built have survived to this day.

Lots of changes! And not just within my walls. Eventually the Johnson home on LaVista was torn down. The pasture between me and the Johnson’s was done away with, and they built St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on that piece of property. The swamp land next to the Johnson home was filled in and Tucker Elementary was built there.

Mrs. Story was happy about the new school so close by, but Mr. Story was not happy about the new road that came with it. The old wooded logging trail next to my property line was made into a “highway” as Mr. Story put it. He often said, “Helen, we may as well be living down on Peachtree Street in Atlanta.”

Mrs. Story went to the woods with a bucket and shovel. She came back with pieces of privet hedge. She worked hard for days planting them along-side the property line between me and the new school house road, to keep the cars out of sight and hold down the sound. Mr. and Mrs. Story loved the peacefulness of the quiet sleepy little neighborhood of Morgan Road and worked tirelessly to maintain it.

Mr. Story loved living far away from the city lights. He loved the rural nature of Tucker Georgia. On a clear night, he could be found sitting outside studying the stars. Sometimes the three little girls joined him. They too were mesmerized by the black blanket of a sky with tiny sparkling lights. They were delighted to be able to find the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. Then the questions came.

“Daddy, how did God get to be God?”

“Daddy, who made God?”

“Just how big is God, Daddy?”

Mr. Story was not quick to answer his daughters, but took a good long while and did not allow those questions to interrupt his concentrated study of the sky. Then, finally he spoke, “Well girls, I can’t tell you how God was made. And I can’t tell you who made God. I can tell you how big He is.”

“How big Daddy? How big?”

Mr. Story smiled as his eyes continued to search the sky. “Well, God is big enough to hang the moon and stars in the sky.”

“Wow, Daddy! God is big!”

And as much as Mr. Story would like for his home to remain in the country without the glare of city lights, Tucker grew. New homes, churches, stores, schools, parks were built, and the street lights came. Many years later Tucker Elementary was changed to Tucker Recreation Center. And the Browning District Courthouse was moved to the front lawn of the Tucker Recreation Center.  And Aunt Mae Moon’s acreage with the Christmas trees became part of a development called Smoke Rise.

The roads around Tucker became busy paved lanes. Chamblee Tucker connected to LaVista, LaVista  connected to the little school house road, and the little school house road connected to Morgan Road, and Morgan Road connected back to  Chamblee Tucker where Tucker High School is –  forming a school time traffic loop. I still recall Morgan Road when it was just a little dirt road cut through the woods that by passed the old logging trail. The homes on Morgan Road were not separated by curbs or pavement; they were essentially little houses in the woods.

Mr. and Mrs. Story enjoyed taking the girls to Grant’s Park and the Fairgrounds. And most every summer, they packed up the car and headed for the Great Smoky Mountains. There they listened to good blue grass music at the Grand Ole Opry. Mr. Story would come home and practice new songs on his Gibson after each trip to the Opry. Just such a vacation ended as they returned during the wee hours of the morning.

To their surprise, Morgan Road had been paved. They walked up and down Morgan Road by moonlight, laughing all the way. I heard the two older girls ask for roller skates. The next thing I knew, Mr. Story had torn up Mrs. Story’s butterfly garden in the front side yard.

I spent many days watching little Patricia chase butterflies, and I was a little sad to see that garden go. I wondered what Mr. Story was doing as he outlined a long space with boards and then filled it in with concrete. When he finished, he called his girls, “Pat, Donnie, Bobtail! Your mother has something for you.”

Mrs. Story brought out boxes of roller skates, and laced her daughters’ feet up. “I don’t want you girls skating on the road. I want you to skate here on our new driveway,” explained Mrs. Story.

“Listen to your mother girls and stay out of the road,” added Mr. Story.

When the girls were not skating, Mr. Story parked his car on the driveway and did away with the horseshoe drive. I was so proud! I was the first on Morgan Road to have a “paved” driveway, and with the paved roads on two sides of me, I had a well turned out look. Morgan Road went from a wood-land to a suburb seemingly overnight.

There were many more changes on the way. I learned to trust Mr. Story and know that whenever he got his tools out, it was for the best. He took a sledgehammer to me once.

Patricia and Diane had a “little kitchen” in the closet that opened up to their mother’s kitchen. They had their own miniature stove, sink and refrigerator as well as a double stacked doll’s bed. They cooked what Mrs. Story cooked; they held a baby as Mrs. Story held a baby. The pantry ceiling had an open place where things could be stored away in my attic. Little Diane took issue with that pantry.

One day Mrs. Story found her second daughter standing frozen in the pantry. “Diane, are you alright? What’s wrong? Tom! Come here! Something’s wrong with Diane. Diane, speak to me,” shouted Mrs. Story as she held on to baby Barbara.

Mr. Story rushed into the kitchen and grabbed Diane up in his arms, “Donnie, what’s wrong?”

“Oh, she’s okay,” explained Patricia, “she’s just scared. She thinks the boogey man lives up in the attic and he’ll get her when no one is looking.”

Mr. Story went straight away to his carpenter workshop out back. He returned with a sledgehammer and took that pantry down along with the whole wall. Mr. Story explained to Mrs. Story that he had been thinking about opening that wall up anyway. He liked the idea of the kitchen and the family room being open; that way no one was ever alone in the kitchen. He replaced the wall with a planter; a planter with round bars that connected the ceiling to a waist high narrow cabinet with holes in it for flower boxes.

Funny thing, he never got around to putting the flower boxes in the holes. It became a place for the little girls to hide their unwanted food. The girls were not big eaters, and Mrs. Story insisted they clean their plate before leaving the table. Those little girls were quick to stash away their unwanted dinner into the planter holes.

Whitie, their over-sized Tom-cat would jump on the screened back-door and cry out. He clung there with his claws until he got the chance to get inside that kitchen. Whitie ran through the kitchen knocking whoever was in his way down as he made a mad dash for the planter opening.

“That’s the craziest cat I’ve ever seen in my life!” Mrs. Story could not bond with that crazy cat. As soon as Whitie finished with the clean up, he was just as wild about going back outside and jumped on the screen holding tight with his claws, crying out.

“Will someone let that crazy cat out?” Mrs. Story called out; she kept her distance from Whitie. It makes me chuckle to think about it. I don’t believe Mrs. Story ever knew that the planter was Whitie’s main feeding ground.

But the planter was not a permanent fixture. In many years to come, the Story family would grow with in-laws and grandchildren. The sledgehammer was put to me again, and a long and wide bar replaced the planters.

Goodbye Whitie!

Mr. Story also moved the kitchen wall back to make the back bedroom a small room giving the kitchen space for a larger table. Mr. Story wanted each person in his family to have a place to sit for a meal together.

But I am getting ahead of myself; first things first. The large back bedroom was used for Diane to recover from Scarlett fever and rheumatic fever when Diane was only seven years old. That was a sad time for me, I so wanted the Storys to be happy. It broke my heart to see them down. I remember one conversation that I wished I had not been privy to.

“Patricia, you will go to G.A.s tonight. I insist,” said Mrs. Story.

“But I don’t want to leave Diane.”

I’ll take care of Diane. I have not once left this house since she’s been ill. Now, no more arguing from you; you need to get out and do things with your friends.”

“I’ll go next year, if Diane is not sick again…”

“No, you’ll go this year,” Mrs. Story was firm as she looked Patricia in the eyes. “There is something I have to tell you. You know, your sister may ——- pass away. You have to know that. You must get on with your own life —- outside the walls of this house. You will go and participate in G.A.s – I insist.”

Diane recovered after three episodes of rheumatic fever spanning over a period of five years. It was Mrs. Story who figured out why she was relapsing. Mrs. Story made a temperature chart on a clipboard. She took Diane’s temperature three times a day for a period of five years. Mrs. Story noticed that Diane’s normal body temperature was 97.1. When Diane had what seemed to be a normal body temperature of 98.6 or so, she was running a low grade fever. She needed a doctor then, not later. When the doctors realized that, Diane was treated within the proper time-frame. And at age twelve, Diane became well, and the sick-room went back to being a regular bedroom.

The doctors from Emory and Grady thought highly of Mrs. Story’s methodical, practical approach to healing. They said, “Mrs. Story wrote the book on excellent home-care.”

A few years before Diane became ill, Mrs. Story’s paternal grandmother, Emma Voyles, lived in the front bedroom adjacent to the living-room.“Granny” loved making quilts. For weeks she cut colorful cotton squares and triangles. She sewed the colorful pieces together on an old treadle sewing machine. When finished, she had one big square; the “top.” Granny lined a huge metal square frame with a “bottom” piece of material – her favorite color was navy. She placed white cotton stuffing on the bottom; then Granny topped it off with the colorful top piece.

That’s when Mr. Story screwed in four hooks to the front bedroom ceiling, and hoisted Granny’s quilt square up in the air. Granny then sat comfortably and hand quilted her masterpiece.  It was a joy to watch the perseverance of such an elderly woman. I heard she was born in 1869 – in April.

It was a sad day for the Story’s when Granny passed away in her sleep that night in 1957. The whole family was together – that is all but the little boy. Tommy had not come here yet. It was a celebration of sorts, Valentine’s Day. The family enjoyed red heart boxes of candy, and the girls showed off their highly decorated cigar boxes full of valentines from friends. Many stopped by to give Granny flowers, cards, and her favorite, red Jello.

Granny retired as usual, but her breathing changed during the night. Of course, I stayed up with her – just the two of us. I was with her when the angel came, and asked Granny if she was ready for the journey to Heaven. Granny being a pioneer sort, of course, said, “Yes.” Mrs. Story found her grandmother the next morning. Granny had a smile on her face. Mrs. Story spoke often of that smile for years to come.

I miss Granny. I also miss Mr. Story. One October day, Mr. Story left for a contract job, and never returned. I know it was a fall day, because he stopped and admired the beauty of my trees. He never took my colorful gold and ruby leaves for granted. No matter how much of a hurry he got in, he took time to admire them. That very morning, I heard him mumble to himself, “I’m a rich man.” My gold and red leaves have come and gone thirty-eight times since I last saw Mr. Story that morning. I heard he fell off Avondale Elementary while fixing the roof.

And I miss Mrs. Story perhaps most of all, maybe because we were together – alone – for so many years. She had breathing problems and all sorts of ailments. But the last few weeks that we were together, she became very sick. She poured over her Dick Frymire book reading home remedies. She read up on diabetes in her medical book; the book was still open to that page when the “children” came home a few weeks later.

I’ll never forget that early Monday morning when Mrs. Story drove herself to the doctor in downtown Tucker. I’ve not seen her since.

I remember the day Mrs. Story moved in and was in a hurry to get inside to see me.  But before entering my front door, she planned her daffodil bed. She was very young, still in her teens. I can see her now walking up my front steps holding little Patricia’s hand. Over the years I have watched Mrs. Story go from five-four to just five feet tall. I heard her tell someone she was shrinking because of deteriorating arthritis. I saw her beautiful blonde hair turn dark and then to solid white. And though she sometimes got lonesome, she always had me. I comforted her with my roof and walls as much as possible; I kept her safe and warm. I have seen Mrs. Story’s daffodils come up through the ground three times since I saw her last. Yes, I miss Mrs. Story.

I miss the girls and the little boy too. One by one, they grew into fine adults. And one by one they moved away and started their own family. Each of Mr. and Mrs. Story’s children had two each. Those were fun days when they came back to visit. It was little ones all over again: Lowry and Kimberly, James and Jonathan, Brian and Christopher, and Emilee and Katelyn. And to this day, if you look closely, you can find two unfound Easter eggs. I know where they are.

There are no secrets between me and the Storys.

While growing up, most every Sunday, the Story grandchildren made their way up my front porch steps to “Nanny.” Only the first four grandchildren felt the arms of “Grandee.”

The grandchildren entertained themselves playing touch football in my leaves, and games and puzzles on rainy days. The living-room was headquarters for Risk tournaments. They quickly outgrew the Risk game map so the oldest grandchild, Lowry, taped paper together in order to cover the entire open space of the room. Then he drew a map of the world from memory.

Yes, he became a world traveler and went to places like Massachusetts, New York, Canada, Ireland, England, Scotland, France and the Bahamas. He never forgot his “Nanny,” sometimes making phone calls to her at three o’clock in the morning just to say “Hello Nan, are you awake?”

I saw a spark forever extinguished in Mrs. Story’s eyes when her grandson, Lowry, went to Heaven. It was near Christmas time and Mrs. Story could never bear to have another live Christmas tree in her home. She eventually displayed a ceramic Christmas tree on the big eating bar. Not as many lights as I would like to see. But I supported Mrs. Story in her decision, though I do miss being lit up each year.

Long gone are the years when Mr. and Mrs. Story poured over the kitchen table studying their budget; wondering how they would ever pay the eight-hundred-sixty-nine dollar loan they owed for their home. But it always worked out; they managed.

And long gone is the day Mr. Story cussed me. He filled a wheelbarrow full of concrete. He then rolled the wheelbarrow in through the kitchen, family room and then finally to the bathroom. There he used the mixture to stick ceramic tiles to my walls. Mrs. Story told him to stop cussing me, because the neighbors would think he was cussing her. For some reason he told me I was “not doing right.” I was glad when that day was over.

My scariest moment with the Storys came about one o’clock in the morning on a cold winter night. It was near tragedy. Patricia came home in the wee hours from Habersham County where she performed with the Tucker Drill Team at a play-off football game.

That night all was quiet within my walls with soft sleeping sounds, along with the occasional distant lonesome sound of the Tucker train. Patricia quietly closed the front door and left the lights off; she did not want to wake anyone. She began to undress while standing quietly in the family room before the flame to warm. Just as Patricia took off her tasseled boots, a super strong wind blew the front door open – crashing the door against the living-room wall. She screamed and ran to Mr. and Mrs. Story’s bedroom, yelling, “Someone’s in the house!” Startled by the crash and hearing Patricia, Mr. Story grabbed his rifle – his loaded rifle.

At the same moment, Diane woke from a sound sleep to the door crash and Sister screaming. She leapt out of bed, hiked her flannel gown up and ran down the hallway to her parent’s room. Mr. Story took aim in the dark and shot at Diane. He thought Diane was the intruder. Fortunately, the bullet whizzed over her head. I took the bullet in the chimney. That’s okay. I’d take a bullet for any of those Story kids.

So much has happened within and outside my walls. I was a popular place for the neighborhood children to play: roller skating, kick ball and playhouse. Mrs. Story played outside with her little girls showing them how to build playhouses with pine straw and sticks. She showed them how to furnish their pantry with different types of soil and berries, and how to make sofas and chairs with brick and planks from Mr. Story’s workshop. Mr. Story taught the girls how to build and paint bird houses. And that Story boy became a phenomenal football kicker. Mr. Story stayed busy taking his son to play ball at Fitzgerald Field. Yes, a lot has happened here, but then came the years when I was all alone.

Alone, I watch for Mrs. Story’s daffodils to pop through, and remember how she planted them when she was a young bride. Through the years I so enjoyed watching her admire her daffodils. It brought her so much pleasure!  As the years passed, Mrs. Story was forced to watch the progression of her flower garden from her chair in the family room, not able to walk about much anymore. I remember how she watched my trees drop their red and gold leaves to the ground each October. I’ve seen the tears stream down her face. Oh, it’s not for the beauty of my leaves, but the beauty of her husband – long gone now.

Yes, for a lot of years, Mrs. Story was alone – but not really – I was with her. I knew she would never leave me – until that day – that March day she left and never returned. As she backed out of the driveway, she stopped and took a moment to enjoy her daffodils that were just peeping through the hard ground. She took one last look at me, smiled, and then allowed her car to roll backwards into Morgan Road.

“Home” 2011 marks the end of 65 years with the Story Family

When Mrs. Story had been away for three weeks, the Story kids came back to me, but only for a short while. It was not like before when we were happy together. They seemed much older and perhaps a little sad or tired. They worked hard to clear out all of the furniture, china, books, everything. I was cleaned up and painted down. And then something happened to me that never happened in all of my existence; Diane put a “FOR SALE” sign in my front yard. What was she thinking? I took a bullet for that kid.

Many people made appointments to see me. Not many really liked me. They made comments to my face.

“Needs a new kitchen.”

“Not enough closet space.”

“Needs new bathroom and new kitchen.”

“Needs work.”

“Wonder how old that roof is?”

“Needs new light fixtures.”

“Porch needs screen.”

“When was this house built? Did you say 1946? Wow, that is old.”

“Pretty  nice, yes, pretty nice.”

What? Yes, he said I’m “pretty nice.” But he left and others came; more negative remarks. I heard one man tell Tommy that he wanted to cut down all my trees. When Tommy asked if the man would like to see inside the house, the man said, “No, I’d tear that down too.”

Tear “that” down too? What is to happen to me? Oh how I missed my Story family. If only Mrs. Story would come home, she’d straighten all this out.

Diane came in one day and walked through each room and told me goodbye. She told me I had served the Story family well, and that they would always remember and cherish me. “Good job,” was the last thing she said to me. She laid an acorn on the window sill in Mrs. Story’s bedroom. It wasn’t just any acorn, but a perfect acorn – one with the cap still nice and secure. Then my electricity and water got turned off.

I guess Mrs. Story is not coming home after all. I sit here on Morgan Road now a tiny house by today’s standards amongst the big trees, and wonder. What will happen to me? I’ve been alone for so long, Mrs. Story’s voice is but a faint memory. I struggle to bring the sound of her voice forward, “Breakfast is ready, hurry up; you’ll be late for school.” It would be such a joy just to see Mrs. Story’s little ceramic Christmas tree lights. I try hard to remember everything, but each day I forget a little bit more.

I am empty and useless, not a heartbeat around except for the squirrels who play on Mrs. Story front porch swing. Occasionally I see them drive by slowly; I’d know those Story kids any day of the week. Yes, I’d know that “Bobtail” anywhere.

One morning I heard a car door open and close. Someone is here. Is it the man with his chainsaw? Is he here to cut down my magnificent trees, and tear me apart – piece by piece? I hear more car doors. He’s not alone.

They slowly approach my front porch. The man says, “Wow, boys look at the red and gold leaves! Aren’t they beautiful?”

“Yes, they are! And lots of them Daddy! Maybe millions!”

“Come on up to the porch boys, you can play in the leaves later,” Daddy said as he waited. “Well here it is boys, I promise, we will not have to move again. No more leaving friends behind; no more starting over. This is home.”

Then I heard something I haven’t heard in a very long time, children running through my rooms, children laughing, children playing. I noticed something familiar about the man; yes he’s the one who said I looked “pretty nice.” As the days pass, I learned that “Daddy” is a soft spoken man of few words. He looks at his children – four boys age five to ten – as though they are pure gold. He has big plans for me, “upgrades.” Not sure what that means, but I will find out.

Hmmm, I wonder how “Daddy” feels about – Christmas lights. I’ll just have to be patient, wait, and see.  I can’t help but smile to see the squirrels on Mrs. Story’s swing blaze a trail back to the woods. Those four little boys are awesome!

Now I remember; my name is “Home,” and I am a treasure chest.

 

“Just like hound-dogs, Helen,” laughed Aunt Annie, “we’re eating just like a bunch of ol’ hound-dogs. Grab the food and run to the road and chomp it down.”

“Well, Annie, we could go to the Piccadilly or Po Folks if you want to. I know you like to eat at those places, but I didn’t think you felt like getting out that much. I thought you wanted to go to Wendy’s…”
“Yes, I do like Wendy’s. I’m just saying – it’s the way ol’ hound-dogs eat. You’re right; I don’t feel like getting dressed or combing my hair. I don’t look descent enough to go out, and Wendy’s has good food. But, think about it Helen, don’t ol’ dogs grab their food and run to the road and hog it down?” laughed Annie. “We’ve turned into hound-dogs sittin’ out here on Lawrenceville Highway!”

Helen laughed, “Hound dogs huh? Well, maybe.”

Annie ate a few more French fries and then spoke with a serious tone, “Y’ Mama would turn over in her grave if she could see us now. I don’t ever remember seeing her table without a tablecloth – and flowers. In the spring-time – it was y’ Daddy’s apple blossoms in a quart jar, and zinnias and snow-balls in summer, Nanina limbs in fall, and pussy willows in winter. Remember how she fried squash blossoms? I’ve never seen anybody else do that. Yes, Lois Voyles could cook a good meal. Yes sir, when I wanted a good meal I went down to Lois’ house. Always used china, don’t believe my sister ever used a paper plate.”

“That’s true Annie. Nothing fancy, but Mama always set the table.”

“Remember her pies? Lord have mercy! Lois and Wade would dry apples in the summer and store ‘em in big white pillow cases and hang ‘em from the ceiling. Then she take out what she needed and boil ‘em down, then she added sugar and the like, cooked ‘em with a top and bottom crust, and stack ‘em up six high!” Annie laughed, “And that Wade Voyles would cut a slice all the way through. Lois would say, ‘Wade, surely you’re not gonna eat six pieces of pie!’ and Wade would smile and say, ‘No, Lois, I’m just gonna eat one piece!’ Yes it was one piece, but it was six deep!”

“Yes, Mama did make some good pies, and Daddy loved them,” laughed Helen, “I guess that’s why he grew so many apple trees. But this is a sign of the times. None of us are able to go to that much trouble anymore. We need to get going soon, Annie, it’s about time for your medicine.”

“Y’ know, Helen, Lois was hard on you girls,” said Annie totally ignoring her niece’s suggestion to go home.

“Mama was strict all right.”
“Lois was hard on me too. I know I was her little sister, and she always thought she could tell me what to do. But she couldn’t. We had it out many a time. I didn’t cook nor sew the way she did. And I couldn’t make a flower live if my life depended on it, and I didn’t want to do those things. Lois did. But, you know, we never lived more than two miles apart. I lived just beyond one end of Main Street Tucker, and Lois lived just beyond the other end of Main Street Tucker. And no matter how upset she got at me, she always set me a place at her table.”

“Whether you came or not…”

“Before I could say – I’m sorry – Lois would say, ‘you gotta eat. Come on in,’ the best time to make up with Lois was at supper time.”

“Well how about it Annie? Have you finished your supper? Are you ready to go home now?”

“Yes, I am, just as soon as I finish off this last bite of burger. Yes, Lois would throw a fit if she saw me here with my face in a piece of paper eatin’ like a dog.”

Annie threw her head back in her usual whole-hearted way, clapped her hands, and laughed. My mother, Helen Voyles-Story, now looked after her aging aunt, Annie Jenkins-Sorrells, and on some days, Annie “did not do well.”

As Mama put away their trash and helped Annie wipe her face, she said, “All right now, Annie, let’s go home. Did you enjoy that?”

“Yes, I did, just like an ol’ hound dog!”

The closer Helen got to Old Norcross, Annie became increasingly more uncomfortable. “Why are we going this way, Helen? You know I don’t like this part of town. Why are you going down this road?”

“Annie, you live here.”
“Why do you want to say such a thing to me, Helen?”

“Because, I’m saying it, because you live here, Annie. You have lived here for years. Annie, are you all right?”

“I’ll be alright, just as soon as you turn this car around and get out of here!”

Helen pulled into Annie’s driveway and put the car in park. “Helen! Get out of here now!” Annie was very upset. She cried. “Please, Helen, don’t do this to me! Get out of here! Why, oh why, have you brought me to the poor side of Tucker?”

“Poor side of Tucker? Annie! What’s wrong with you? This is your home! You built this house during the war, remember? “

“I never did such a thing! Helen! This is not my home! Let’s get out of here! Get me out of the poor side of Tucker now! You know I’m afraid of this part of town.” Annie covered her face with her hands and cried.

Helen got out of the car and walked around and opened the door for her aging aunt. “Come on, Annie, it’s getting late. I think you’re confused…”

“No, please Helen, don’t make me get out…”

“Come on now. I’ll help you inside and then you’ll be alright. You’ll recognize your…”

“Please, Helen, no. These people will come home and call the law to us…”
“No, Annie, it’s okay. You’ll see.”
Helen coaxed Annie out of the car and up the steps. Helen then put the key in the front door.

“Helen, what are you doing with a key to this house?”

“It’s your house, Annie. You gave me the key. Remember this door? It’s not just any door; look how thick it is. You got it from the old Biltmore Hotel.” With that the door opened, and Annie cried out and trembled all over.

“Let’s get out of here, Helen!”

“Annie, what in the world has come over you?”

Yes, something had “come over” Aunt Annie. Just last week, Mr. Jimmy, a nice man who took care of Aunt Annie’s house repairs, called Mama.

“Mrs. Story, this is Jimmy. I just wanted to let you know that Miss Annie is not acting just right. She seems scared, and she wants me to tear down her front porch – and wants it done immediately. I really don’t think I could remove that concrete porch without equipment, and that would damage the structure of the house.”

Mama told Mr. Jimmy to not tear down the porch. She would talk to Annie and get back to him.

“Annie, Mr. Jimmy called me. He says you want him to tear down your front porch.”
“Well, why did he call you? That’s my business.”
“Well, Annie, I don’t think you have thought it through…”
“That porch has to go!”
“You love to sit out there in the summer-time…”
“Not going to sit there anymore.”

“Why, Annie? What’s wrong with that porch?”

“Mr. Andy told me about the drive by shootings that’s going on now. People get shot sitting on their front porch now a days.”

“Not one drive by shooting has occurred in Tucker…”
“Yes, they have! Mr. Andy would not tell me a lie.”

Mr. Andy visited with Aunt Annie every Sunday; they had formed a serious relationship. No matter what was going on, when it was time for Mr. Andy, Aunt Annie tuned him in and tuned everybody else out. She sat and watched him with a goofy look on her face – as though she was being courted by this man.

“Annie, Andy Rooney reports news from all over the world – not Tucker, Georgia. That’s 60 Minutes…”

“I know what I know, and I want Mr. Jimmy to tear down that front porch! You tell him to tear it down! Or I will get somebody who will!”

Annie Jenkins was the baby sister of my mother’s mother. Annie’s only sister, my Memi, had long left this world, as well as all their other siblings. Annie was the last of her generation. Her first husband, Will Akins, was a much older man, and died leaving her a young widow. For years, she lived alone and focused on work and saving money. She never had children. Later in life she married Orin Sorrells. She out lived him as well.

Orin and Annie Jenkins-Sorrells

Until recently, Annie was a self-sufficient woman. Annie owned and paid for, two automobiles at a time, though she never drove a car. Her husband, Orin, did the driving, and on her instruction, alternated driving one car and then the other. That way the battery would stay charged up in each car, and each car would maintain low mileage. Now, my mother drove her car over to Aunt Annie’s house, and then drove Aunt Annie’s cars for her.

Once Aunt Annie told me that though she could not read, she had learned the numbers that mattered. She set her alarm clock to four o’clock AM. Upon rising, she dressed like a man to do a man’s work. She caught the five o’clock morning bus that carried her to her job on the south-side of Atlanta, where she made cardboard boxes on an assembly line. Annie worked two shifts five times a week, “Diane, I may not know much about book learning,” she would laugh as she spoke to me, “but I figured out one thing. I work one shift to pay my bills, and then I work a second shift to buy CDs at the Bank of Tucker.”

Annie saved and waited until she could afford the best. According to her, she had a sturdy house that no wind or rain could move. And she built it and paid for it – all on her own. She had the best furniture. Her dining-room suit was a mahogany Duncan Phyfe. Her beds were sound with the top of the line mattresses. Her grandfather clock was the best in town. Her hardwood floors didn’t have a scuff on them. Annie was proud of her humble beginnings and accomplishments. But today, Annie was easily moved to fear and tears. And she was determined to get rid of that front porch.

But tonight Annie did not recognize her front porch, nor did she know her own living room.  According to Annie, she had just broken into a stranger’s house on the poor side of Tucker. She made a run for the front door and tried to escape. Helen was able to get between her and the door.

“Annie, please, calm down. Don’t cry. If you calm down, and sit a minute, you’ll come back to yourself. Here, sit in your swan chair. You remember the swan chair. You fell in love with the swans carved on the arms. You put it on lay-away at Rich’s and Tom picked it up for you. Here, Annie sit in your swan…”

“I’ve never seen that chair before in my life! No, Helen, please, let’s get outta here, before somebody catches us here! We’ll go to jail for this!”

They struggled, the front door jarred open. And Annie broke free from Helen’s hold. Suddenly, Annie stopped and was quiet and perfectly still. She stared out across the porch, across the yard, and across the street. In the glow of the street lights, she saw something that stopped her cold. Annie was frozen with bewilderment. Helen put her arms around her and asked, “Annie, what is it?”

“Harold and Estelle’s house,” answered Annie with tears streaming down her face.

“Yes, that’s Harold and Estelle’s house. They’re your neighbors – they have been for years.”
“Oh, Polly, help me, please help me.”
Mama smiled and hugged her Aunt Annie, “Oh, Annie, you’ve not called me Polly in years. Am I still your Polly?”
Though crying, Annie tried her best to speak, “You’ve always been my Polly. Why would I call you anything else?”

Turning Annie around and going back into the house, Helen said, “I’ll help you Aunt Annie. Come on now; let’s get out of this night air. I’ll put you to bed and give you your meds. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

“Will you stay with me until I go to sleep, I mean, will you rub my back until I fall asleep?”
“Yes, Annie, I will, I always do. Now, come on, let’s go inside.”

Upon crossing the threshold, Annie cried out, “God, help me. I don’t know this place!”

“This is your home; the home you love so much. Come on Annie. Just take a step when I take a step. Watch my feet. Don’t look around.”

Becoming very childlike, Annie obeyed, “Okay, Polly. I will. Will you pray for me, Polly?”

“Yes, Annie, I’ll pray for you.” Helen seemed calm, but inside her heart pounded. Helen prayed a silent prayer all the way to Annie’s bedroom. She prayed silently while putting Annie’s gown on her, while brushing Annie’s hair, while rolling down her support hose, and while putting warm socks on her feet. She prayed silently, “Please, Lord, give me the right words for Annie tonight.”

My mother’s silent prayer was answered when she looked at Annie sitting on the bed. There Annie sat with her head bowed, eyes closed tightly, and hands together under her chin like a very small child. Helen knew what to pray. Helen prayed these words for Annie.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul to take. Amen.”

Aunt Annie had the Alzheimer’s disease.

Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)

“Okay Mom, it’s your turn. What have you been up to the past few weeks?” asked my ex-husband, Jim, as he looked around at our two sons to pay attention.

“Time out! Mom’s turn,” our older son, James agreed.

“Show time, Mom!” Jon said, “What’s happening?”

“Nothing much, just work. You know, Mama knew the Matthews way back when this place was a coal company. Mrs. Matthews brought her fried chicken here, and sold it at lunch time to the Tucker workers. When the coal company closed down, Mrs. Matthews continued to serve her famous fried chicken here, and here we are today.”

“My favorite is the chicken pot pie,” added James.

“Nope, it’s the fried chicken for me,” said Jon.

“I guess my favorite is the vegetables, especially the collard greens,” added Jim, “But it’s hard to beat these biscuits and country ham. Now don’t try to change the subject, Di. Tell us what you’ve been doing lately.”

“What’s going on with me is to enjoy breakfast with you guys in my hometown of Tucker – to catch up with y’all.”

“No, no Diane,” said Jim. “We’ve already heard it. I went fishing, James played touch football with his friends and Jon’s watching the girls. You have to do something besides work. Let’s hear it.”

“Yeah Mom,” both sons agreed.

“Well, I did do one thing a little unusual, but I don’t think you’d be interested in stuff like that.”

“Sure we are. We’re interested in you, and we want to hear it,” urged Jim.

“Sure Mom, let’s hear it,” replied both James and Jon.

“Well, one night last week, I went to a healing circle. You’ve heard me speak of my friend, Sherry Henderson, who lives on a horse farm – she held the circle in her pasture.” All three guys were quiet and looked on with curious interest as I continued, “It was really nice. Everybody paid five dollars entry at the gate. As we entered, Sherry saged us, and then we found a place to sit around a campfire. The fire was enclosed with stones…”

“Why did you have to pay five dollars?” asked Jim.

“Oh, the money went to Mr. Three Trees for holding the healing circle…”

“Mr. Three Trees?” asked both boys in unison.

“Yes, Mr. Three Trees is a Native American…”

“How many showed up?” asked a curious Jim.

“Oh, I’d say about twenty, maybe more.”

“How long did it last?”

“Maybe an hour and a half.”

“That’s good money,” remarked Jim.

“It was really worth it…”

“Saged? How do you get saged?” asked James.

“You just stand up straight and hold your arms out, and someone allows the smoke from a bunch of dried sage to encircle you. It just takes about five seconds, then you’re allowed to enter the circle…”

“Hmmmm, never heard of anything like that, and I’ve been around horses and pastures all my life,” mused Jim as he looked around at the boys who returned a puzzled look. “Where’d they dig up Mr. Three Trees?”

“He’s a friend of Sherry’s from out west. I can’t remember the name of his tribe, but I know it’s out west, because we sang about the return of the white buffalo…”

“White buffalo?” Jim seemed a little shocked, “never heard of such a thing.”

“Well, according to legend, when the white buffalo returns, the people are in for good times. It’s a meaningful story and cute little song.”

“How’d it go?” asked Jim.

“I don’t remember.”

“Really? Well, camp songs are fun, getting outside with your friends, that’s always fun,” replied Jim, trying to be supportive.

“Yeah, we sang several songs. It was a nice autumn evening. The sky was clear with a full moon. Mr. Three Trees was something of a philosopher. He said even where we sat told him a lot about each of us.”

“How so?” asked Jim.

“Direction, I sat south of the fire. That means I’m facing the sun for a good time – looking for the lighter side of life. The ones who sat on the north side of the fire have a desire for higher education such as a student or teacher. That’s where Mr. Three Trees stood – in the north.”

“What’d he say about the east and west?” asked Jon.

“I don’t remember. But before we smoked the peace pipe, all women having their period had to back away from the circle by thirty feet.”

Jim, James and Jon stopped eating and put their forks down. I had their undivided attention. Apparently I’d misjudged them. They were interested.

“Peace pipe? Mom, you smoked a peace pipe?” asked my younger son, Jon.

“Yes, the pipe was an incredible piece of artwork with feathers and tiny animal claws hanging off of it. Mr. Three Trees said we smoked a special blend of herbs – seven herbs. He named all seven of them, and correlated each herb to a different part of the human body. I can’t remember the names, they were those biological terms.”

“Cannabis?” asked Jon.

“No, Jon, it was not pot.”

“Mom, you smoked pot! Out there in that pasture! I guarantee it!” insisted Jon as he shook his head in disagreement. “Then, why don’t you remember stuff? You remember everything! Doesn’t she Dad?”

Jim laughed, but refused to agree with Jon as he remained silent on the subject.

“I have never smoked pot in my life, and did not smoke pot that night. Jon, if you heard the words to a song for the first time, would you remember? Would you remember the biological or scientific term for seven plants? Hearing them only one time? And, anyway, I was there in a casual environment, not a classroom.”

“Mom, would you know the difference? If it had been pot?” quietly asked my older son, James.

“Yes, I think so, son.”

“Let’s hear what else Mom has to say,” instructed Jim, “Go, ahead Mom.”

“Well, as I said, it was a beautiful clear night, a night where it is easy to tell the Big Dipper from the Little Dipper…”

“Hash-sheeee!” exclaimed Jon.

“It was not!” I defended myself and Mr. Three Trees, as peace loving James held his hands up to once again call for time-out.

“Why did the women – having their time of the month – have to sit outside the circle?” asked Jim, “I’d hate to say something like that to a woman, especially in these days.”

“The peace pipe has a long tradition of prayer – a lot like the prayer shawl. And a woman having her period has a powerful energy about her. According to Mr. Three Trees, it would have interrupted the energy of the forty years of already gathered prayers.” All three were quiet and wide eyed as they listened for more. “We passed the pipe around – right over left. In other words, we crossed our heart with the pipe as we handed it to the next person. While holding the pipe, each person said aloud what he or she wanted the group and God to hear…”

“What’d you pray for Mom,” asked James, “or was it personal?”

“I asked God to grant peace, love, and happiness to the all children of the world; to bless my two sons. Then I smoked the pipe. I then passed the pipe across my heart to my friend, Sherry. She asked God to bless the Inner Space, a place where all religions could study, and thanked Him for our nation, a country where religious tolerance is the law of the land.”

After taking a deep breath, I continued, “After everyone smoked the pipe…”

“What about the women asked to leave the circle?” asked Jim, “They didn’t get to pray or smoke?”

“Yes, they did after we finished. Mr. Three Trees chanted a song and then walked out to the women and heard their prayers, and then they smoked.”

“They could smoke out there? But not in the circle? That’s absurd.” Jim said, “Today – in the real world – a man would get sued and probably do jail time if he asked a woman to back off from a business meeting, because she was having her monthly.”

“It had something to do with the power of the group, the circle. If she smoked during that time of month, she could destroy the power of the pipe – or something like that. It made sense when he told us. It all boiled down to that time of month as something very powerful, so powerful that it would ground the pipe. Anyway, when we finished smoking, we ate salsa, chips and parched pumpkin seeds out by Sherry’s swimming pool.”

“Sounds like Sherry has a nice place. What’d you have to drink?” asked Jim.

“Apple cider. It was a very enjoyable harvest moon evening.”

The boys were all ears, but remained silent. “There’s nothing like being outside,” Jim decided to break the silence, “That’s why I love being on Lake Lanier on a clear night.”

“Mom, you really have to be careful what you smoke and what you do hanging out in a pasture at night…”
“I’m sure Mom knows what she’s doing, Jon,” interrupted James.

“More coffee?” asked a polite waitress.

“Yes, please,” I replied, thankful to change the subject.

We all began to chatter at the same time, and the healing circle was soon forgotten. We left Matthew’s Cafeteria with hugs and kisses. As I opened my car door, my son, Jon, yelled out across the parking lot, “Mom! How do you get seven herbs out of three trees?”

“His name was Mr. Three Trees!”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right.”

We left Matthews by way of Main Street – each in our own separate car – going our own separate way – until next time.

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