Posts Tagged ‘grandmother’


Nancy Elizabeth Pascal  Courtesy of Bill Tankersley

Nancy Elizabeth Paschal-Bentley
Courtesy of Bill Tankersley

Today I saw a photograph of my great-great grandmother, Nancy Elizabeth Paschal-Bentley. This rare find of a photo came to me by internet email from Appling, Georgia.

Nancy Elizabeth Paschal was born March 24, 1805, to William (1776-1853) and Elizabeth Elliot-Paschal (1780-1846).

Nancy Paschal became a part of the Leathersville pioneer family when she married John Bentley in 1822. Dr. John Bentley was the son of Nancy Tankersley and Balaam Bentley. Balaam was the son of Captain William Bentley II, who was granted land in Georgia for service in the American Revolutionary War. The land became known as Leathersville; it was the first tannery in Georgia.

Nancy was no stranger to the Bentleys. Her sister, Mary “Polly” Paschal, married Dr. John Bentley’s brother, Benjamin Bentley. They say you can’t speak of a Bentley without speaking of a Paschal. That’s the way it was down there in Leathersville, Georgia.

Receiving this likeness of Nancy Paschal was truly a gift; one I never dreamed of having.

I examined the newly acquired photo with care. As most vintage photographs Nancy did not have a smile on her face. She appeared tired and perhaps sad. I thought about how life must have been rearing a family in a log home without central heat and air conditioning, about how difficult it was to deliver numerous babies at home under these conditions. At least her husband was a doctor and her sister, Polly, was nearby.

No doubt Nancy had her hands full attending to the ins and outs of patients arriving at all hours of the day and night, not to mention her own children. And then there was the fact that their farm was a working tannery. She was a busy woman with little time for leisure, I suppose.

And her big round eyes told a story, but what exactly? I studied the photo more closely and discovered her pretty shaped lips. Her hair was dark and she was well dressed.  Was she happy? Was she truly sad? Perhaps she had lost someone in a tragic way, and had lost her smile to the ages. Or maybe the photographer told her not to smile. Or perhaps this is how a face looks after surviving a war fought on the homeland. She survived the War Between the States and lived another twenty-two years.

It is true that she lost her young son, Charlie, to that war. Charles Mallory Bentley was born April 2, 1842. He was killed in the Battle of Malvern Hill in Henrico County, Virginia, July 2, 1862; a place called Poindexter Farm. It was a seven day battle that took the lives of almost eight thousand soldiers; many called it a bloody debacle. Worrisome words for a mother to hear.

How in the world did Nancy find her son all the way in Virginia? Perhaps it was the Bentley’s pre-war Northern connections to the tannery. Did Poindexter Farm purchase harnesses, saddles and bridles from the Bentley’s? Did they know Charlie?

Impossible times in which to search for a son; the world was turned upside down. Still, she did it. Charlie was brought home and buried at the Bentley family cemetery in Leathersville; home where mother could place flowers on her son’s grave.

I wonder if General George McClellan or General Robert E. Lee realized how they changed the lines on mother’s faces across America during that week long battle? No wonder Nancy’s face became stoic, along with countless other mothers.

Those thoughts swirled about my mind as I drifted off to sleep the evening I received the photo of Nancy Paschal. The distant thunder intruded into my thoughts and that is all that I remember until I found myself walking in the woods somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I was lost.

I was dreaming.

As my dream progressed I noticed the vegetation changing from the deep forest to open meadows in the distance. I could hear the brisk sound of fast moving water and decided to follow that sound. I found a creek.

Alongside the creek were purple blooming butterfly bushes. The sound of the bubbling water seemed to beckon, so I moved on. I followed the creek and was taken by the beauty of the butterfly bushes; odd that there were no butterflies about. And though I heard rumbling of thunder in the distance, the sky was clear blue and the sun shined brightly.

And of all things, I smelled a divine aroma. The creek took me closer and closer to the delicious smell of fresh baked shortbread.

Who in the world could bake shortbread way out here in the middle of nowhere?

I suddenly saw a well put together woman in a long black dress wearing a white bonnet. I did not see her feet or legs move. She seemed to glide about on the ground without walking. She looked familiar and I was sure I knew her, but could not place her. As I approached her, I noticed that she was grinning at me. She knew me. She was waiting for me.

She did not speak, but looked at me with her big round eyes, and her hands produced a tray of rectangular shaped shortbread cookies. Each cookie was perfectly formed and organized in such a way that it looked like one giant snowflake.

“So, you’re the one baking cookies out here? How in the world did you do this? You must be a genius! No professional, not even on the Food Network could do this!”

The lady never spoke but giggled with delight as she modestly looked down. It was apparent that this lady was proud of her accomplishments though humble. And for some reason I knew she wanted me to be proud of her. For just a moment I forgot about being lost. I was in heaven. Then I remembered, “I know you ‘mam, you’re Nancy Paschal.”

Then a loud clap of thunder sat me up in my bed. I was no longer with the sweet lady down by the butterfly bushes at the creek, but home in Forsyth County, Georgia. Lightning lit up my bedroom and was followed by another loud clash of thunder.

Oh no my computer! If lightning hits I could lose my stories and special pictures! I jumped out of bed and ran down the hall to my office. I quickly unplugged my computer. I had just found Nancy Paschal and I did not want to lose her now.

What a grand and accomplished lady she must have been!

Author’s Notes:

Dr. John and Nancy Paschal-Bentley’s children: Mary A. 1822-1891, William P. 1824-1905, John Balaam 1826-1890, Dr. Benjamin 1828-1892, Jerry W. 1830-1878, Jabus “Marchall” 1832-1855, Asa Judson 1834-1918, Sallie E. 1836-1901, Martha J. 1839-1898, Charlie M. 1842-1862, Dennis Brantley 1844-1912, H. N. 1847-1877, and Susan V. Bentley 1849-1911.

More about the children: Mary married Peter Coleman Dill 1841, William married Sallie Hogan 1845, John Balaam married Mary Reid 1859, Dr. Benjamin married Mary Thomas “Tommie” Davenport 1856, Jerry married Harriet Colman 1852, Jabus Marchall did not marry, Asa Judson married Virginia Paschal 1859, Sallie married Mikiel Smalley 1858, Charlie did not marry, Dennis Brantley married Grace Amelia Ramsey 1869, H. N. married Martha Murphey 1869, and Susan Bentley married Robert Graves 1869.

Dennis Brantley Bentley was eighteen years old when his brother, Charlie, was killed at Malvern Hill.  Dennis named his first born, Charlie. Dennis had a daughter whom he named after his mother, Nancy Elizabeth Paschal. Her name was Nancy Elizabeth Bentley who married Horace “Lawton” Story who had a son, Tom Story – my father.

Dr. John Bentley and Nancy Paschal-Bentley are buried in the Bentley family cemetery in Leathersville, Georgia, along with other family members including their son, Charlie.

Aurelius, I want you to talk to that grandson of yours!” exclaimed Selina Gunby.

“Which one?” mused Aurelius Gunby as though he didn’t know.

“That little Horace.”

Yes, that little Horace needed speaking to.

Cousins Horace Lawton Story and Eugene Gunby were best buddies. Eugene was a few years older than Horace, but because of Horace’s size and Eugene’s poor health, they seemed to be about the same age.

Eugene Gunby owned a cart pulled by a trained goat. He rode it everywhere he went and often invited Horace to ride with him. Every morning Horace hurried to finish breakfast and waited outside looking for the goat’s horns to peep up over the horizon. It was time to go to school. Horace was in the first grade.

The boys spent many happy-go-lucky days with Mr. Goat. Eugene had trained Mr. Goat to come, back up and standstill; Mr. Goat did all but attach himself to the harness and cart.  Mr. Goat and the two boys took leave and ventured out to the meadows and orchards. They made their rounds across the creeks and tormented the bee hives.

The Arimathea Methodist was located between Horace’s farm and Grandpa Aurelius’ farm, which gave the boys lots of room for adventure. Eugene lived on a farm “on down the road,” Uncle Edwin Gunby had a general store nearby, and Liberty Hill School was a hop skip and jump away. They made their rounds every chance they got, always stopping by Uncle Ed’s store for licorice and peppermint sticks.

While riding the countryside, the boys relived, with much exaggeration, the stories of great-great grandfather, Basil O’Neal.  Grandpa Basil  was known as the “world’s best marksman.” According to the boys, he won the Revolutionary War single handed and run “them British” back to where they come from.

But not all was fun, games and war stories. Eugene and Horace began to argue.

The Gunbys were a close knit family and strived to be there for one another. The boys were at odds and the whole family felt it. Grandmother Selina would not tolerate this situation any longer. It was time for Grandpa to speak to young Horace.

“Horace, let’s walk out to the orchard and check on the apples and peaches. Their blooms fell off a few weeks back. Let’s see if we are making fruit yet.”
“Sure Grandpa.”

As they walked about and checked the progress of the orchard, the old man decided to sit down. “Horace, come sit with me.”

“The apples will be in soon, won’t they Grandpa?”

“Oh yes, give it five or six more weeks, peaches a little later. That’ll be something you and Eugene can do with that goat and cart – gather apples.”

“Well, I don’t think that will happen Grandpa. I’m not playing with Eugene anymore. He’s selfish and I don’t want to have anything to do with him.”

“I see and why is that? I thought you two were best friends.”

“He won’t ever let me take the reins and lead Mr. Goat. I want to be in charge of where we go in the cart, just one time. And, I’m the one who gets us outta the creek when we get stuck!”

“He never lets you drive? Why not?”

“’Cause he’s selfish and always wants to tell me what to do, just ‘cause he’s older than me. I won’t tolerate it,” said young Horace as he sat up taller to appear bigger than his six years.

“But you enjoy riding in the cart and that beats walking back and forth to school. Think about that before school starts back. That’s a lot of walking,” said Aurelius, “but what really bothers me is the arguing you two are doing. I want you to think about this before you have more harsh words: A word once sent abroad…”

“…cannot be called back. I know, Grandpa, Horatio said that. But he didn’t have a cousin like Eugene!”

“Now let’s think about this for a moment. After you have ridden in the goat cart all you want, what do you do?” Before Horace could answer, Aurelius answered for him, “You jump out and go anywhere you want to go. I’ve seen you! You and those long legs can out run any of your cousins. You should be proud of that.”

“I am! And I can climb a tree quicker than all of ‘em too!”

Aurelius laughed and enjoyed his time with Horace. They decided to walk on and check on the blackberries. Sure enough, they were coming in too. Blackberry cobbler was going to be just as good as apple pie.

“Horace look at the blackberry blossoms! Thousands of them; looks like lots of pies to me!”

“Maybe millions Grandpa!”

Aurelius took Horace by the hand and said, “Steady me a bit, Horace, so I can walk through this rough terrain.”

“Sure Grandpa, lean on me.”

“You are a thoughtful young man Horace. Tell me, what do you do for Eugene when you two get out of the cart?”

“Well, you know…”

“I want to hear it from you Horace.”

Horace swallowed hard and whispered the words, “I hand him his crutches.”

“Why do you do that Horace?”

“Grandpa, you know.”

“Please, answer my question, ‘son.”

“I hand him his crutches, because he can’t walk.”

“Why can’t Eugene walk?”

The small boy took a deep breath and exhaled. “Because he had polio and his legs won’t work anymore.”

“And you are there to hand him his crutches. You two make a good team. I want you to think about that.”

“Grandpa, I don’t want to take his goat and cart away, I just want to guide it one time. I even asked to hold one rein while he holds the other, but no! He says – not yet,”  Horace explained as he fought back tears.

Were they tears of remorse or tears for his cousin’s condition? Aurelius thought maybe some of both.

“Perhaps Eugene wants to be able to do something that others can’t do. You know how you like being the fastest runner and best tree climber? Perhaps Eugene wants to have one thing he can do – that no one else can do.”

The two walked on together all the while, Aurelius holding on to Horace’s hand or shoulder. They studied the cloud formation and picked out pictures made by the clouds. As they headed back to the house Aurelius spoke of Eugene again.

“Now you can continue to ask Eugene if you can take the reins, but it is his decision to keep them or share them.”

“I know Grandpa. I will ask him again, but if he says ‘not yet,’ then I will not be mad at him. I won’t be mad at Eugene anymore.”

And Pierce Eugene Gunby never let go of the reins.

After polio left him a cripple, he moped around and did nothing for himself. His mother took matters into her own hands.

“Eugene, you can sit there and do nothing all day long,” She pointed to a patch of land where the family was cultivating a vegetable garden, “or you can get out there and help. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

“How Mother, how can I?”

“The good Lord gave you a brain, figure it out.”

Eugene trained a goat and then a horse. He whistled for the horse and it walked to him near the front porch. He was able to tie a low hanging pillow case around the horses’ neck, and used his upper body strength to climb up on the horse. He laid on his belly and hung over the side of the horse. They went to the garden and Eugene picked vegetables hanging upside down. He filled his pillow case. He did his share.

From that summer on, Eugene Gunby was in charge of his future. The horse and Mr. Goat became Eugene’s legs. There was nothing Eugene could not do on a horse. And what he could not do physically, he made up for it academically.

When ready for college, he applied at Berry, a college in North Georgia. The founder, Martha Berry explained that Berry College was a working college and she had doubts Eugene could handle it. She turned down his request.

Eugene did not give up. He made a deal with Martha Berry. Let him on campus and give him two weeks. If he could not keep up, he would leave. She gave him that chance, and that was all he needed. He excelled at Berry and graduated.

Martha Berry later stated in a newspaper article that Eugene Gunby was a perfect example of Berry’s motto: Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

Eugene received a gift from (Coca Cola) Robert Woodruff; an Arabian stud named Katun.  Katun came from the Arabian line of Gazara and Nasr. Gazara and Nasr were the first Arabians known to grace the state of Georgia.

In 1974 one-hundred-eighty-five acres of pastures with barns and stables were dedicated to Eugene calling it the Gunby Equine Center, and on a gate within the center, the Eugene Gunby Center. This is how Berry College recognized Eugene Gunby’s concern for youth, for the handicapped, and for his deep love of horses.

Eugene became a Fulton County Circuit Court Judge, at first, riding a horse from courthouse to courthouse. Once Eugene Gunby took the reins, he never let up; not for Horace Story, not for Martha Berry, not for anyone. Eugene became actively involved in church work and served on the administrative board at Peachtree Road Methodist. He received the highest Masonry award of thirty-three degrees for his outstanding service of the Scottish Rite Masons. He served as president on the Atlanta Council of Boy Scouts of America and achieved the Silver Beaver Award. He served on the advisory board of Scottish Rite’s Hospital of Georgia and was a member of the YMCA executive committee.

Cousins Eugene and Horace remained best friends for life. It was the same every time they met. Before they departed, Horace asked, “Eugene, are you ready to let go of the reins yet?”

Eugene’s answer was always the same, “Not yet, Horace, not yet.”

 

 

 

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.

 

Nancy Story-Goss, Aunt Donn, Sarah Story-Graves

“Tom, what do you think about these pajamas?”

“I don’t sleep in pajamas, Helen,” answered Tom, “you know that.”

“Well Tom Story you will sleep in pajamas while we are at ya Aunt Donn’s house. You know how proper she is. This is the first time I’ve ever been invited to her house. I wouldn’t think about going down there under-dressed. Here, look at this. Do you like this housecoat?”

Yes, Aunt Donn was a proper woman. She was my father’s aunt; his mother’s sister. I never knew my father’s mother; she died of heart failure when Daddy was about fourteen years old. He seldom spoke of her, but I know that Daddy adored his mother. And when his eyes set on Aunt Donn, it was a special moment indeed.

The few times I met Aunt Donn was here in Tucker on Morgan Road – at my Aunt Sarah’s house, or on Henderson Road at my Aunt Nancy’s house. When the letter arrived announcing her visit, the Story family prepared for Aunt Donn for days in advance. When she finally walked through the door, you could hear a pin drop. The Story “children” all anticipated Aunt Donn with a warm heart.

And at last Aunt Donn would make her entrance; and always so well dressed. She wore a suit – wool and dark. Her legs covered to the ankles by a skirt with dark hose and black laced up high heeled shoes. Every hair in place topped off with a hat with feathers and sometimes a veil. Aunt Donn carried herself as any regal queen with her chin slightly elevated. She had an odd purplish spot on her lip which made her look all the more sophisticated.

And though all the Storys are Southern born and raised; none spoke quite the Southern that Aunt Donn spoke. Daddy and his family hit their “r” softly, but Aunt Donn’s second “r” in a word was sometimes ignored all together. I heard it was a South Carolinian influence carried over the border to Lincolnton, though it sounded somewhat British.

And now, we were invited to visit Donn Bentley-Steed at her home in Lincolnton Georgia, the place of my father’s birth, the home of his father and mother; a lot of old Southern history down in Lincolnton. And now I would get to see for myself – Aunt Donn and Uncle Walter’s home. It must be a fine place. I know it’s in the country not too far from Augusta. I know that Aunt Donn considered herself one of the first women graduates of the University of Georgia, and that at one time or another she ran a post office, taught school, and ran a hotel in Lincolnton.

“Oh for the love of Pete!” she would say, “It took the Univursity of Geo’gia over a hundred yeahs to allow a woman to be educated there. Yes, finally in 1932 the Univursity took in Geo’gia State No’mal as pawt of the Univursity.  State No’mal was, you know, where they sent girls to become teachers. Little by little the wauld is wising up!”

This matriarch had long since retired, but still known as a “do it all kind of person.” She was proud of the fact that she never wasted a moment of good natural sunlight being an avid reader.

“Too many books in the world, and just not enough time,” Aunt Donn would say as she searched for a window with sunlight streaming through. Though she never owned a television and thought them to be vile time wasters, a few years down the road, Aunt Donn became an advocate and supporter of a new kind of television programming, GPB – Georgia Public Broadcasting.

And each and every time we departed from Aunt Donn, she had us hold hands and form a circle. No matter how big or small the circle, she recited her most favorite words in the whole world, Numbers 6:24-26. “May the Lawd bless thee, and keep thee. May the Lawd make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. May the Lawd lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

Aunt Donn never had children, but claimed her students, nieces and nephews as her own. In fact she named all nine children of her sister, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story, which included my father, Tom Story. Each name had a special place in Donn’s heart and the history books. It was always a history lesson in her presence, and now my family was on the way to her house. I could hardly wait! Our best clothes packed along with new pajamas. Mama even got a new perm. Aunt Donn – here we come!

We left Atlanta and headed east – for the country. A few hours later, when Daddy announced, “We are almost there,” we had long left the country and were in the wilderness. Then he brought the car to a stop. It was hard to believe it when we saw it – Aunt Donn and Uncle Walter’s country home.

It was an unpainted wooden clapboard type home balanced up on stacks of rocks. The house could be seen underneath – that’s where the chickens lived. Two out-houses graced the backyard; girls had a cut out moon on the door while the boys had a cut out star. They could be found on the other side of the Cana Lily garden – the flowers all dried up now due to the harsh cold winter.

I don’t know what I expected, but this was not it. My parents gathered us together as we approached the front porch; Mama a little anxious while Daddy looked straight ahead with a big smile on his face. Out came Aunt Donn. She did not have on her woolen suit, but rather an ankle length navy blue dress with hose and her laced up high heeled shoes, topped off with her “shawt fur” about her shoulders. She was so glad to see us! She was genteel and gracious.

“Come in Tom and Helen! So good to see you! And look at these gulls – three of them now! Each one just beautiful! Come in – oh – please come in. Tom, where’re Sarah and Nancy?”

“Oh, there’re right behind us. They should be along soon,” Daddy and Mama explained.

“Are their husbands coming too, Tom?”

“Yes, they’re all coming, Doc (Dorsey) and Carl and all the kids too! Hope we won’t be too much…”

“Oh, Tom, I knew I could count on you! Thank you, thank you! I hated to write to you like that, but I really need some help.Walta, has the rheumatism so bad in his leg, well, he can hawdly get about! Let alone chop fie-wood.”

Daddy hugged Aunt Donn for a long time and said, “Don’t worry; we’ll take care of everything. You have lots of good help now.”

“Well, come in! Please, Helen, come in. Gulls, come on into Aunt Donn’s house!”

It was a very cold winter day and we did not tarry. My two sisters and I grabbed our dolls and teddy bears as we made our way into the house. Inside the house was a short stairway to the right that led up to a locked door, a room there I suppose. I don’t know, because no one was allowed to go up there. My sister, Patricia, and our cousins used to dream up all kinds of ideas about that locked door.

Roy told a story about gold from the Confederate treasure that was lost as the floor of a railroad car collapsed dropping solid gold coins all over Lincolnton. He was sure some of that treasure was up in that room. Linda thought perhaps a lost family piano was there. And Steve thought Uncle Walter must have another bedroom somewhere in the house. It was hard to believe Uncle Walter slept in an outside room. Patricia wondered if an old trunk was locked away containing birth certificates, wills and diaries. I liked to sit on the steps and admire the wooden star and crescent moon that hung on the wall just before reaching the locked door. The moon had its own staircase with miniature ceramic angels ascending the moon – on the way to Heaven. My father built and gifted the moon and star to his beloved Aunt Donn.

Aunt Donn would proudly boast that her Thomas Jonathan had given her the stars and moon!

The entire house was a curiosity to all of us kids. The high ceiling house was furnished with antiques, and well worn Oriental rugs covered the creaky hardwood floors. The dining room table was always set with fine china down to the finger bowls. The house reminded me of an old English library without the bookcases; hundreds of books stacked all the way to the ceiling. Aunt Donn used a librarian’s step ladder to reach the books high up.

The fireplace was the first thing I noticed as I entered the house. Over the mantle was a large portrait of a beautiful girl with long dark hair; eyes of blue. The girl was dressed in an eighteen hundreds type of white lace dress. The pretty girl seemed to stare at me – no matter where in the room I stood. I felt her presence mysteriously as though she was really there, and wanted to speak to me.

And as warm as the fireplace appeared, it was as cold inside the house as outside.

“As I said, we’re running shawt on fie-wood, Tom. Walta has not been able to chop any wood lately, poooor thing.”

“Oh, that’s no problem, really. Doc, Carl and I will take care of that, just as soon as they get here,” Tom called out as he studied a huge framed Declaration of Independence on the wall in the living-room.

Aunt Donn looked at my father as though she just adored him, “Oh, Tom, I just cannot get over how much you favah Dr. Bentley. You look just like him. One day I’ll give this Declaration of Independence to you. I know you cherish it as did Doctah Bentley. And thank you for coming to my aid. I knew I could count on you my deah-est.” She took my father by the hand and led him to the fireplace. The two of them stood there holding hands, and looking at the pretty girl in the portrait. They put their heads together, and spoke quietly to each other as though they were the only ones in the room.

Dennis Brantley Bentley 1844-1912

I would soon learn that no matter how irritated Aunt Donn became, when she stood before the fireplace and looked at the portrait of the pretty girl, she always melted and smiled in spite of herself. I called it the magic spot.

Aunt Donn’s house was somewhat of a time warp. It was not all that large, but the high ceilings gave the appearance of wide open space. But no getting around it, the house was old and cold; no electricity.

Clarke’s Hill rocks lined the steps leading up to the front porch. I know they were Clarke’s Hill rocks, because Aunt Donn told us so. According to Aunt Donn, Clarke’s Hill was named after a Revolutionary War hero, Elijah Clarke. The Hill was where Elijah Clarke held his troops while making plans to drive out the British occupant troops from the capital of Georgia, Augusta. More than a century later, the Hill was flooded and the lake was created which buried rich Georgia history and my father’s family farm underwater. It seemed that every spot in Aunt Donn’s house held a history lesson.

Uncle Walter’s outside bedroom was a “traveler’s room” off the front porch; a room without an entrance into the house. Once through the front door of the house, a very large Clarke’s Hill rock propped open a bedroom door to the left. Next to the rock was a heavy looking over-sized chest that showcased a big pitcher and bowl. The bowl doubled as a hiding place for Aunt Donn’s lipstick. Every time she heard a knock on the door, she straightened her clothes as she admired herself in the mirror hanging on the wall over the pitcher and bowl, then smeared red lipstick on her lips just before opening the door. I used to wonder who she was dressing up for all way out here, but she did it every time, even when it was just Uncle Walter wanting in the house.

And though we were just a few hours from home, Lincolnton was light years away from Tucker Georgia. What in the world were we to do here?  No television, no radio and no running water? With seven “Story” cousins under the age of nine – plenty!

I soon learned that Aunt Donn was a very serious no nonsense woman who insisted on red lipstick and properness – no matter what the circumstances – she never let her sophisticated guard down. And at times she could be very stern. Aunt Donn had a wooden ruler that she kept handy, and reminded us often of how she maintained order in her classroom back when she taught school.

I was intimidated and kept my distance as much as possible.

Uncle Walter was an odd character. He was quiet, and avoided socializing with the family very much. He sure didn’t chop any firewood with the men. He stayed in the background limping about with his cane. He did watch his big tub of water outside to be sure the kids did not play in his “good rainwater.” My cousins, Roy and Steve, sailed leaves in the tub of water while pretending the leaves were boats. Uncle Walter did not like that. He did not like it when we ran his chickens either – something about “they would never lay again!”

Uncle Walter kept his eyes on the children at all times, and reported any mischief to our parents – which became a full time job. But before the weekend was over, we cured Uncle Walter’s rheumatism. He was actually able to chase us while shaking his cane in the air. Yes, the children cured him.

Aunt Donn mostly ignored her husband and gave him a smile that said, “Chil’ren will be chil’ren.” But on occasion, she took her “rule” out to show us and said, “Chil’ren should be seen and not heard.”

I tried to stay clean and avoid a bath, because there was no real bathroom there. But when Mama found out that I fell into chicken poo, she insisted on a bath. She dragged a metal tub with a high up back from the enclosed back-porch. The porch doubled as a meat locker in winter housing good Lincolnton country ham. Mama carried buckets of Uncle Walter’s rainwater to heat up on the wood burning stove in the kitchen. She was so tired, she handed me a bar of red soap so that I could bathe myself. The soap burned, so I used very little. Mama lathered up my bath-rag and gave me a good once over. I started burning and itching. I was used to Ivory soap at home and not that harsh germ killing soap. My face and body became swollen and as red as the soap.

“No worry, now Helen. Let me take care of that child. All she needs is a little buddah-milk. That’s right. That’s what Doctah Bentley would prescribe.”

Aunt Donn took over and applied buttermilk on me from head to toe, while Mama and her two sisters-in-law decided to make a trip to the general store for some lotion to soothe my rash. The truth be known, Mama was tired of dusting books and batting away cobwebs. I have never seen her work so hard, especially in her church clothes and shoes. Mama pulled the dusting scarf off her new perm and said to my aunts, Sarah and Nancy, “Let’s go. The sooner we get outta here, the sooner —— we’ll have what we need.”

The men stayed busy chopping firewood as the children played outside. That left me alone in the house with Aunt Donn.

She covered the settee with a quilt and sheet, and then motioned for me to sit there. I was timid about walking into that part of the house, since it seemed to be for grown-ups only.

“Sit here Donnie, so I can keep an eye on you. All that running around you’ve been doing, aren’t you the one who just got over Scarlett fevah?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And outdoors running the chickens? See what happens? The good Lawd knows when you need rest. Yoah body breaks down – one way or the othah – and you have to slow down then. That’s what Doctah Bentley always said, and I see it true every day.”

Every time Aunt Donn saw a crack in my dried buttermilk, she dabbed me again. I sat there cold and shivering in my tee shirt, panties and socks. I winced and she seemed aggravated.

“Now, young lady, you sit still. This does not hurt a bit.”

“It’s cold and it smells funny.”

“You must take yoah medicine…”

“This isn’t medicine, its buttermilk…”

“You don’t need any medicine. This is how country folks live. We make do!”

She looked me over good to be sure she did not miss a spot, and then sat down in her Queen Anne chair near the fire.

“All this jumping into automobiles and running up and down the road. My fatha was a doctah and…”

“The ‘doctah’ who —— cured people with buttermilk?”

“Yes, ma’am he did cure people with buddah-milk! There are certain properties that buddah-milk…” Aunt Donn shook her head about as though she was the most misunderstood person in the world. “Why do I botha? Donnie, why do I botha?”
I shrugged my shoulders, and did not answer her, because I really did not know what she was talking about.

Aunt Donn was appalled, “Young lady! Did you just shrug yoah shouldas at me? Is that how you answer an adult?”

“No ma’am.”

“Well, that’s more like it,” Aunt Donn replied and seemed to settle down a bit. Then she started talking like almost to herself. “They used to all live here you know. Here, in Lincolnton, on beautiful fawm. They called the fawm, Leathasville. Doctah Dennis Brantley Bentley, you know, my fatha, the doctah, and yes, sometimes he did cure with buddah-milk and herbs. We used what we had available. It’s not like living near the big cities. Yes, at one time, we all lived here in Lincolnton in a lovely house. And then they left, all one by one, they went out west, except for me. I chose to stay, because, Lincolnton is my home and it will always be my home.”

“Is Lincolnton named after Abraham Lincoln? Is this where President Lincoln lived?”

“Well, no Donnie,” replied Aunt Donn. I learned fast the best way to get Aunt Donn in a pleasant mood was to simply allow her to flourish in her element; teaching. “Lincolnton Georgia was named for a man from Massachusetts, Benjamin Lincoln; born in 1733. He was a major general in the American Revolutionary War, and was responsible for overseeing the largest surrendah of the war at the Siege of Charleston. He also accepted the British surrendah at Yorktown.” She smiled to herself and went on, “So, I see you have an interest in history just like yoar fatha.”

After a bit of silence, Aunt Donn asked me a question. “What’s on yoah mind? You look like you want to say something.”

“Well, Ma’am, I hate to tell you, but Augusta is not the capital of Georgia.”

“I know that. Now why in the world would you think otha-wise?”
“When you told us about Elijah Clarke, you said Augusta was the capital of Georgia.”

“Yes, I did. Donnie,” She went on, “The state of Geo’gia has had many capitals, the last being Atlanta. The first capital was Savannah, the second Augusta, then for a shawt while, Ebenezer, Milledgeville, and Macon. When Elijah Clarke drove out the British, the capital of Geo’gia was indeed Augusta.”

Aunt Donn paused and stared up at the portrait of the pretty girl.

“She grew up at the Leathasville Fawm in Lincolnton. Lincolnton was her home, then she married her childhood sweethawt, Lawton. They moved into the home Lawton’s fatha, Mr. Radford Gunn Story, built…”

“Story? That’s my last name…”

Aunt Donn held up her hand to stop me, “Of course it is. Now just listen to me for a moment, please.”

“There in that big old house, they started a family, but they fell on hawd times fawming. The truth be known, Lawton was not the fawmah his fatha was. It’s hawd to fawm, especially near Clarke’s Hill; lots of rocks on the Hill. Lawton was beating the rocks, but the boll weevil and asthma proved more challenging. The  fawms up there were flooded by the state, and became a pawt of Clarke’s Hill Lake. They decided to go west like the rest of them, and fawm out there.”

“California?”

“No, Atlanta Geo’gia.”

I forgot myself for a moment and spoke a little too sharply, “That’s not far and it’s not out west!”
“It is far, you little whippah-snappah! It is far when one has no telephone or automobile. It may as well be Califonia!” Aunt Donn regained her composure as she allowed a tiny smile to show on her face, “I commend you on your knowledge of geography. How old are you now, six?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“That’s well indeed! Well, young lady, I see you do listen. You are simply disobedient. How many times has Walta asked you to stop chasing the chickens?”

Before I could get it counted up and give her a correct answer, she asked, “Weren’t you the one who nelly drown at Clarke’s Hill Lake a summa or so ago?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Do you see what kind of trouble you can get into when you do not obey adults?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And why in the world would one want to leave Lincolnton?” Aunt Donn returned to her story about going out west. “Yes, they all went west. They left the very place the furst settlers of Geo’gia put down roots. We have Athens just a stone throw away; the home of first and largest learning institution in all of Geo’gia. Left it for the railroad; everyone is in such a hurry now a days. Go, go, go!”

“We have airplanes in Atlanta…”

“Yes! Go, go, go. Fasta, fasta and fasta!”

I tried to change the subject.

“My father calls me Donnie, because he wanted a boy when I was born. My real name is Diane…”

“Of course I know yoah real name, Diane. And I have my doubts about that.”

“Doubts about what? Ma’am?”

“That yoah fatha wanted boys. He adores his gulls, as well as Helen and all of his sistas.”

“Well, ma’am, how did you get your name? Donn?”

“Donn is a shawt version of my given name, a long French name. Yoah fatha and his siblings made chopped livvah out of it. So, I asked them to please call me Donn.”

“Wow.”

“Yes, and it’s a very lovely name. It means given by the Lawd.

“Wow.”

“Donnie, it is not proppah to use that word.”

I looked at her in surprise, and did not know exactly which word she was speaking of. She returned my stare.

“That word – ‘wow,’ please do not use it again in my presence!”

“Yes, ma’am,” I continued to hold my stare into her eyes. I did not want to drop my eyes in fear she would discover what happened to her “rule.” This morning, when no one was looking, I slipped her wooden ruler down the side of her Queen Anne chair just under the cushion. That way when she finds it, she will think she lost it there, and no one would have to be punished. My eyes were on Aunt Donn’s eyes and I would not allow my eyes to even blink.

“You are much like her, especially about the eyes, same color of blue.” Aunt Donn seemed to drift in thought, and then came back at me, “Yes, and she was a whippah-snappah much the same as you! And Doctah Bentley had Motha to covah her in butta-milk many times. She had sensitive skin as well.”

Aunt Donn turned away from my eyes and looked toward the burning fire.

“The pretty girl in the portrait?”

“Yes, the pretty girl in the portrait,” answered Aunt Donn. She then stood before the mantle and gazed at the girl. With her right hand, she motioned for me to join her.

Could this be for real? The only people I had seen invited to stand before the fireplace with Aunt Donn were my father and his sisters. Any time I tried to go near the mantle – an adult gently pulled me back. That magic spot seemed to be reserved only for Aunt Donn and her special people.

And now, here today, she motioned for me to join her. I stood up and gingerly took a few steps and stood right next to her; my eyes on Aunt Donn and her eyes on the pretty girl. And I saw it happen; the same as always. Aunt Donn’s stern face melted away, and she became quite gentle while standing in the magic spot.

“Yes, she is a pretty girl; about sixteen when this portrait was painted. She was Doctah Bentley’s favorite you know. And here we stand, Donn and Donnie.” As a tear slid down Aunt Donn’s face, she whispered, “We’re here Sista.”

“She’s your sister?” I whispered to Aunt Donn.

“Yes, my Dear, she is my sista,” and then Aunt Donn gave my hand a gentle squeeze, and said, “and she is yoah grandmotha.”

We made several trips to Lincolnton to visit Aunt Donn and Uncle Walter, but never a visit as special as the day she introduced me to my grandmother, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley (Story). On another trip, she gifted my father, Tom Story, the framed Declaration of Independence that Daddy and his grandfather, Dr. Bentley, so dearly loved.

On our way home from our first visit to Aunt Donn’s home, Daddy insisted on stopping by the general store for Coca Cola. Mama really wanted to hurry home back to Tucker, but Daddy said the “gulls” needed a souvenir to remember Lincolnton. Daddy found a ceramic wishing well and bought it.

“Helen, every time I look at this wishing well, I’ll be thankful we didn’t lose a young ‘un in Aunt Donn’s well.”

Mama rolled her eyes.

“And look here, Helen, finger bowls. I know you want these.”

“Tom Story don’t you even think about it.”

“What do you think gulls? Finger bowls? That way you can dip your fingers in the water and keep ‘em clean while you’re eating.” Daddy threw his head back and laughed. Of course, we knew not to answer.

Back on the road, we headed home following the signs: Atlanta – WEST.

During our ride home, Daddy asked, “Gulls, did you have a good time?” We were slow to answer, all being a little tired. “What did you learn? Being around Aunt Donn, I know you learned something.”

My eight year old sister, Patricia, answered first, “Aunt Donn collects rocks. Each rock has a special meaning, and some of the rocks have been owned by the Bentley family all the way back to the seventeen hundreds. And if I practice drawing circles, it will strengthen the muscles in my hand and I will have better penmanship.”

My younger sister, Barbara, spoke next, “There are two dark spots on America.”

“Dark spots? What’s that all about Bobtail?” asked Daddy.

“Dark spots are shame. Aunt Donn says that slavery and the Trail of Tears are dark spots.”

“Is that really something a four year old needs to hear?” whispered Mama to Daddy.

“Never too young to learn that, Helen.”

“Well, Tom Story, I can tell you what I learned at Aunt Donn’s!” laughed Mama.

“What? Tell me. Now listen up gulls.”

“I learned that one must never ever cut the butter with anything but the ‘buddah’ knife!”

We all laughed, especially Daddy.

“Well, what about you Donnie? I bet you learned to like buttermilk,” said Daddy.

“Not really.” My rash had gotten the better of me and I did not feel like talking; my lips were still burning. And yes, the Coke did help some, but I was still nauseous from the smell of buttermilk.

“Well, you can’t be with Aunt Donn for three days and learn nothing,” said Daddy. “After we moved to Tucker, one of my brothers or sisters would go back to Lincolnton and stay with Aunt Donn for the summer. That fall, when we went back to school, that person skipped a grade. I know you learned at least one thing. What was it?”

“I met my grandmother. Her name is Nancy Elizabeth and she was a very pretty girl.”

Yes, I met my grandmother for the first time. And I will never forget the day I stood in the magic spot with my great-aunt, Dieudonnee, a woman truly given by God.

Author’s Note:

*In 1988 the South Carolina legislature voted to rename Clarke’s Hill Lake for the esteemed Senator Strom Thurmond. Since that day, the South has taken note of this issue. So far it has been resolved in this way. South Carolina maps name the lake, Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake. Georgia maps name the lake, Clarke’s Hill Lake.

*Leathersville can be found in the southern part of Lincolnton.

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.