Posts Tagged ‘Lawton Story’


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Horace Lawton Story

Young Lawton Story turned over in his bed and buried himself deeper in the linen and quilts, hoping he was dreaming. But the knock on his door returned. He was not dreaming. It was time to wake up.

Life on the Story farm was a huge responsibility for an only son. At the time, Lawton had four sisters who stayed busy learning to sew and sing. The older two girls loved reading the family bible and poetry. All the girls were interested in making hats.

But as the oldest child, the hard work of the farm fell squarely on young Lawton’s shoulders. He dressed quickly in the dark and made his way through the hall and downstairs as quietly as possible. He was a thoughtful brother who did not want to wake his sisters. Downstairs in the kitchen, his mother, cut open hot biscuits and slipped a thick slice of good Lincolnton country ham in them, as she greeted him, “Good morning sleepy head!”

Lawton sat down and downed his breakfast. He had wasted a good part of the morning. It was almost five-thirty.

“Good morning son,” said Rad Story as he entered the room and poured himself another cup of hot coffee. “I’ve already fed the horses, couldn’t wait for you any longer. Better bundle up! It’s brutal out there; one of the coldest mornings yet.”

Lawton finished up breakfast quickly. It was time he headed out to the barn. An hour every morning before going to school, he twist corn.

“Son, if you don’t get with it, we won’t have enough corn seed to plant this spring. How many seed bags do we have now?”

“I’m working on the second one Papa,” answered Lawton.

“That’s not nearly enough. Go on out there and get started. I’ll help you if I can.”

“Thanks, Papa.”

Sallie Story wrapped four more biscuits for her young son to take to school for lunch. “Do like your Papa says and bundle up. It is cold out there.”

It was cold for this part of Georgia and the wind made howling sounds, not to mention, it was dark as night. And the sisters were still snuggled in their beds nice and warm. Truth be known, Lawton really enjoyed the company of his sisters and their reading and singing and creative sewing. Growing up in a household full of “women” made Lawton a natural socializer.

Young Lawton Story was no stranger to responsibility, even on Sundays. The Rad Story family belonged to the Arimathea Methodist. Young Lawton took care of the horses and buggies during the service. He stood by an open window of the church to hear the singing and preaching. Sometimes he watered and cared for as many as sixty horses during the worship service. Lawton loved the social world around and about Lincolnton.

And now here he sat in the dark barn, freezing cold, with a single lantern. He must have wondered, “What is wrong with this picture?” But he did not want to disappoint his father and so Lawton slipped off his gloves that his mother forced on him. No one could twist hard kernels of corn off the dried cob with gloves on.

Being a farmer in the 1890s was a tough job all year round. In the spring-time, it was cultivating the ground with plows harnessed by livestock; then came the planting. Summer-time was weeding and irrigating.  Late summer and fall was harvest time which brought in the fresh crops and started the job of drying, canning and curing. Winter-time was just as busy. It was the time to plow up the fields to make room for the next crop, and replace the seed supply. Without seed, there would be no spring-time planting.

Young Lawton would not let his father down. So, he twisted the corn until his callused hands almost bled.

“How’re you doing in here, son?” asked Rad as he slipped in between the barn doors.

“I’m alright, sir.”

Sallie and Rad Story

“Need some help?”

“Yes sir,” replied Lawton with a big smile on his face.

Rad Story seldom had time to help his son with the seed process, but this cold morning he made an exception.

“My hands are almost frozen!” said Rad Story as he rubbed his hands together. “This might warm my hands up, what do you think?”

“Maybe.”

“Okay, Lawton, throw me a few of those corn cobs, careful now.”

Lawton would one day grow up to be six feet and five inches tall, just like his father. This morning he was just a tall lanky kid not realizing his own strength. He carelessly threw a corn cob at his father too wild to catch. The cob hit his father’s frozen hand sending horrendous throbs of pain throughout his hand.

With that the tall stout father stood and turned Lawton’s backside around. Rad swatted his son a couple of times. Rad quickly regained his composure and said, “I’m sorry son, but it hurt so bad; I just had to whoop you a little.” Rad Story held his hand close to his chest and went round in circles until the throbbing stopped.

Lawton twisted the corn alone until school time. Lawton was not happy. Never in his life had his father laid a hand on him. But today on this cold and dark morning, Lawton had his first and only “whooping.” More than anything, his heart was broken.

Lawton did not do well at school that day. He did not want to socialize with his friends, not even his special friend, Nancy Bentley. Lawton had a lot of thinking to do. After school, he twisted corn for another hour. Then the tired lad went to bed right after supper. He did not even want to listen to his sisters read that night.

Nor could he sleep. The warmth of his mother’s quilts comforted him, but he could not relax enough to fall asleep. He was hurt, angry and most of all, he felt disconnected from the most important person in his whole life, his father. Yes, this little boy cried.

Then, he got to thinking. He would not be treated that way by his father. Nor would he work for him. Nor would he ever set eyes on him again. Papa could twist his own corn. Papa would be sorry.

Lawton had a plan.

Lawton would rise earlier than his father. That meant he had to get up before four o’clock in the morning. May as well call it night-time. May as well leave now, since it’s a long walk to the Thomson Train Station. Who knows? Maybe he’d get lucky and catch a ride on the back of some buckboard. He would quietly ease through the sleepy house and take a bag full of left over cornbread and biscuits. He would pour all of his hard earned coins into a sock and stuff it into his pocket. He would then set out for the train depot. He would not be here when Eugene and Mr. Goat stopped to pick him up in the goat cart; he would not go to school today. Eugene and Mr. Goat would have to go without him. He would catch a train to where ever and be gone before anyone could find him.

And that is exactly what he did, well maybe not exactly. Lawton did make it to the Thomson Train Station. All the biscuits and cornbread were gone by the time he got there. Just as he was about to purchase a ticket, he spotted the candy jars. Why not? So he purchased a piece of candy, then another, and another. Before long, Lawton was out of money and could not purchase a ticket to anywhere but here.

What was he to do?

Lawton sat down on an old church pew in the depot and stared into space. He watched the movement of the day as his eyes followed the sun up through the cracks of the wall. He knew his father was looking for him, and by now was frantic. Heck, not just his father. His sisters were out of bed, running around and screaming his name. As unpleasant as the situation was, the thoughts of his sisters out in the cold calling his name brought a little smile to his face. But he could not allow himself to think of his precious mother. Funny thing, he had not thought about what Mother would do when she realized her only son was missing. His heart broke as he fought back the bitter tears of regret. And when he thought of his cousin, Eugene, going to school without him, it made him sad. Who would help Eugene out of the cart and hand him his crutches?

Young Lawton sat on the pew. It had been a long day. He was tired and his feet hurt.

But what could he do now? He could not go home. And he still felt anger toward Papa.  He did not know what to do, so he did nothing. Young Lawton sat still as a mouse and hoped to disappear on that church pew in the train station. He sat there all day, and occasionally caught himself drifting into sleep. When awake, he followed the sun through the cracks in the wall as it made its way back down. It was about “eventide” now. Then he got a glimpse of something he would know anywhere, his father’s white stallion.

Lawton froze. His eyes followed the horse through the cracks in the train station wall as it made another circle, then another circle, and another. Twenty minutes passed and he continued to see the white horse circle the train depot, walking very slowly. Then the white horse stopped and did not circle again. Lawton sat there for as long as he could stand it, then stood to his feet. He knew that his father was waiting for him. And anyway, he had missed lunch and supper. It was time to face the music. It was time to face Papa.

Young Lawton slowly walked to the door and opened it. He mustered the courage to lift his head and look up. And there in front of him was his father, Rad Story, sitting atop his white stallion.

And for some reason, the young lad was not angry at his father anymore. In fact, Papa and his white horse was a “welcomed sight for sore eyes.”

Rad sat still and Lawton stood still for a few moments. Lawton knew he had to make the first move. He slowly approached the horse and stopped.

Rad Story made the next move.

“Son, are you ready to go home?”

“Yes, Papa,” whispered young Lawton.

Rad Story lifted himself up and sat down behind the saddle. He leaned down to offer his hand and said, “Here son, you sit here. It’ll be past your bedtime by the time we get home.”

Young Lawton took his father’s hand and was lifted atop the horse. With the movement of the withers, and the darkness of night for a blanket, young Lawton relaxed and lied against his Papa and fell asleep.

He awoke the next morning in his own bed. And he was allowed to sleep late, just this one time. Had the boy been awake last night when he arrived home, he would have known that it was Papa that held him in his arms like a newborn baby and carried him upstairs to bed. He would have known that his little sisters ran breathlessly and opened doors for Papa as they squelched their excited giggles. And that it was Mother who placed an extra quilt on her son as she kissed his head.

Many years later at my Aunt Sarah’s home on Morgan Road in Tucker Georgia, Lawton Story and his sisters, met for a long over due supper and fellowship. Four of his sisters were there. Theo had long since passed away and was buried in Decatur, Georgia along side her mother and Uncle Charlie.  They were all there in spirit for their names were mentioned often.

The elderly ladies were fascinated by the Story family crowd that showed up to greet them. They were proud of their big brother’s nine children and “so many little grands!”

PaPa Story’s sisters were Annie “Maude” (b.1888), Theodosia “Theo” (b.1892), Eddy Gaines (b.1893), Marion Pierce “Reesie” (b.1895) and baby Ruth Radford (b.1901) Story. It was there that my sister, Patricia, heard that Radford Gunn Story and Sallie Elizabeth Gunby-Story’s first born child was a son, stillborn. Their second child was Lawton, our grandfather, and then the five daughters.

The conversation went from the present Storys to the long gone Storys. The sisters laughed as they recalled their millinery shop in Lincolnton, and which sister was the most creative. My grandfather, now our “PaPa Story,” talked about how hard the work was on that Lincolnton farm. He could never get rid of all “those rocks.” He smiled often as he recalled the fun he had with his “little sisters.” He teased them about “getting to sleep late.”

“Oh sure, Lawton, six o’clock was late!” They teased back at their brother, and laughed the night away.

PaPa Story spoke with regret that with all the grandchildren he had, not one was named, “Sallie,” for his precious mother. And of course, they all recalled “Papa’s white horse.” And even Baby Ruth remembered Papa on the white horse, and she was but three years old when Rad Story met an untimely death.

But my grandfather, Lawton Story, Sr., was most touched and could not hide the tears in his eyes when he spoke of his kind and gentle father and the day he ran away from home. The sisters listened with compassion.

“I had nowhere to go since I spent my train ticket money on candy. I stayed there all day. About eventide, I saw Papa’s white horse walk slowly round and round the depot, and then it stopped. I knew Papa was waiting for me. I slowly gained courage to walk out of the train depot. When I looked up and saw Papa sitting atop that white stallion, my heart melted. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. Papa sat on his horse looking straight ahead, a perfect profile – looked like a portrait. I wanted to run up and cry out – I’m sorry Papa! Please take me home!”

Then PaPa Story looked about at all of his grandchildren and laughed with pure pleasure. He knew that whenever he mentioned the white horse, he had our attention. That’s when he would say, “And it was a beauty of a horse, a Saddlebred; a horse that could be ridden all day. Papa said that horse was so smooth, he could’ve been sitting on a comfortable chair. I wish you could’ve seen Rad Story sitting on that white stallion…”

Author’s Note:

The portrait of Sallie and Rad Story was damaged when Lawton Story’s young children poked their grandmother’s eye balls out with a pencil. My sister, Patricia Story-Logan, had the eyes replaced.

Horace Lawton Story was born in 1886 on the Mistletoe Farm owned by his grandfather, Henry Allen “Buck” Story. They later moved to a house that Rad Story built in Lincolnton. Both farms are now under water, Clarke’s Hill Lake sometimes called Strom Thurmond Lake. The Buck Story farm was also a part of what is now known as Mistletoe State Park.

Horace “Lawton” Story, a tall man of six feet and five inches, worked tirelessly to rid his inherited Lincolnton farm of rocks; a never ending battle every farmer faced on Clarke’s Hill. And while at that home, “Nancy” Elizabeth Bentley-Story, gave birth to eight children. They had nine, but their fourth son, Robert, was not born in the Lincolnton farmhouse built by Lawton’s father, Radford Gunn Story. He was born in Uncle Ed Gunby’s general store.

Lawton said many times that he knew Nancy Bentley was the girl for him even as a young boy at school. He knew it for a fact, when Nancy “whopped” him on the head with her lunch pail for teasing her little brother, Caleb.

“Pick on some one your own side Lawton Story!” she yelled back at Lawton as she walked ahead with her protective hand on little Caleb’s shoulder. Lawton loved highly spirited people and he was impressed. He soon learned to befriend little Caleb Bentley was to befriend his sister, Nancy. Nancy and Lawton became best friends. And on a pretty September day in 1906, Lawton and Nancy married in a horse drawn carriage.

Lawton and Nancy’s first born was a daughter – much to their delight! The baby girl’s name was decided on many generations before she was born. Nancy’s mother was Grace Amelia Ramsey, her mother was Grace Caroline Hardin, and her mother was Grace Reid (born 1791). It was said that Grace Reid and her brother rode to Georgia on horseback all the way from Virginia. The song “Amazing Grace” was taken as the family song and served as a guide to live and die by. It was the fate of the Graces and all who touched their lives.

The Bentley family tradition honored the Grace of God by naming the first born daughter, Grace. Nancy’s family honored each child with a special name, captivating family history within the name.

And so it was, Lawton and Nancy were honored to name their firstborn child, Grace Truman Story. Grace for the Grace of God, and Truman for Dr. Truman Briscoe, one of Lawton’s great-grandfathers, who was a medical doctor, born in 1747.

And it would seem that Lawton and Nancy were plenty busy naming children, but the couple did not name their children at all. Nancy’s sister, Dieudonnee “Donn” Bentley, actually named all nine of them.

Donn was born in 1881 making her the fourth child of the eight children of Dennis and Grace Ramsey-Bentley. Donn was a school teacher and devoted her life to her students and the children of her little sister, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story. Donn’s life was filled with jobs teaching, overseeing land and timber, and making sure her little sister’s children had proper names. And she had an end all Southern accent!

Donn had Grace named, it was time for another. This went on about every two years. The second child was a boy, Horace “Beau” Lawton Story, Jr.

“Now little Lawton my deah, I named you in honoh of yoah fathah, and Horace Lawton is a very fine name. Horace is a name straight out of the classics, the Roman classics. But for some reason, yoah fathah insist on calling you Beau. I suppose ‘Beau’ is a good name, not one that I would have chosen. But, aftah all he is yoah fatha and I shall abide by his wishes.” Donn would shake her head in disapproval, “Sistah knows I do not approve of nicknames.”

Donn named the third child, Sarah Elizabeth Story.

“I named you Sarah, because the name Sarah means a highly ranked woman; a princess mind you. She had great beauty, innah and outah beauty. She became the wife of Abraham. The Old Testament calls her Motha of Nations. And let’s not forget how impo’tant the name Elizabeth is; it means consecrated by the Lawd. As you may well recall, my fathah’s mothah’s middle name was Elizabeth – Nancy Elizabeth Paschal. And most impo’tant, yoah own motha’s middle name is Elizabeth. And let’s let’s not fo’get that tall beauty of a woman with head full of golden hair, yoah fathah’s mothah, Sallie Elizabeth Gunby-Story,” Donn would shake her head in disbelief. “Did you know that Sallie Story was six feet tall? My deah, Sarah Elizabeth, much is expected of a woman who carries such a powahfull name.”

Donn, farming and raising a family kept Lawton and Nancy busy during the first years of marriage. In fact, farming was starting to look dismal to the young Story couple. An offer for Lawton to help Uncle Edwin Gunby run his general store was accepted. They moved out of the Radford Gunn Story home with three little ones. The fourth child was born while away, a son, Robert Randolph Story.

“Just because sistah moved away when you were bawn did not stop me. I named you aftah the Robert Randolph Ramsey family of Roanoke Island, Virginia. My mothah, Grace Amelia Ramsey‘s fathah, was “Tip” Ramsey, whose fathah was Robert Randolph Ramsey. Now take heed, the Ramsey family of Roanoke Island was related to Thomas Jefferson, writah of the Decla’ation of Independence. I too was given the middle name Randolph, and I’m proud to give you my middle name; a prominent name indeed. My deah Robert, no doubt you will be a leadah in yoah community with a name such as this!”

Donn wrote daily to Nancy, “Sistah, I’ll be so happy when you and Lawton return to your true home. I’m lonesome for you and the children. I must tend to their education.”

Luckily for Donn, running a general store did not satisfy Lawton Story. The couple returned to the Rad Story home to try farming again. Now there were four children and the fifth on the way.

Donn named the fifth child, Miriam Dieudonnee Story.

“I named you Miriam, for Miriam was an impo’tant person in the Old Testament; she was Moses’ sistah,” Donn explained. “In a desperate attempt to save Moses’ life, Miriam placed her baby brothah in an ark and floated him down rivah to be rescued by the pha’oh’s sista.  Now mind you my little Miriam to look after yoah brothas.”

This responsibility little Miriam took seriously. And Donn would try to explain Miriam’s middle name to her. “I know you call me ‘Aunt Donn,’ but my real name is Dieudonnee. It is French which means – given by the Lawd.” Donn tried repeatedly to teach little Miriam how to pronounce her French name properly. “And my deah, Miriam Dieudonnee, you are given by the Lawd, and don’t you eveh fo’get it. Even though you cannot pronounce it, I am proud to share my name with you.”

Miriam soon have three little brothers to look after. And she took that responsibility seriously, after all her name was Miriam. Yes, three more sons were born unto Lawton and Nancy Bentley-Story.

Donn named the sixth child, Caleb Edward Story.

“I chose to name you Caleb, because Caleb was a warriah who assisted Joshua in the Old Testament when Moses could go no furthah into the Promise Land. Caleb was my baby brothah’s name. Caleb was also yoah great-grandfathah, Caleb “Tip” Ramsey, who was a well thought of politician. Ead is a fine Old English word for Edward, which simply means, happy. I saw yoah little face just moments aftah you came into this wauld, and I could not help but smile. My deah, you make us all so very happy!”

Donn named the seventh child, Eugene Radford Story.

“Gene, every time yoah fathah reminisces  his youth, he speaks joyfully of his cousin, Judge Eugene Gunby. And I could not forsake the Gunby-Story families by using all Bentley names. It was time to honoh the honohable judge and yoah grandfathah, Radford Gunn Story. I knew Radford must be a pawt of yoah name the moment I saw yoah strong chin on yoah handsome face peeping at me through that blue blanket. Radford Story was the man who built the home you were bawn in. He was a tall handsome fawmer who was hawd wawking, and traveled all oveh the countryside riding a magnificent white stallion. My deah Gene, I strongly suspect you will do well, or die trying.”

Donn named the eighth child, Thomas Jonathan Story.

“I chose to name you Thomas, because Thomas was the Apostle of Christ who was not afred to question the status quo. And my deah, I named you Jonathan, because Jonathan was a devoted friend of King David in the Old Testament; the same loyalty I suspect that I saw in yoah blue eyes the furst time I looked upon yoah little face.” Donn smiled as she recalled her American history, “You know Gene’al Stonewall Jackson’s name was Thomas Jonathan. That name has a nice musical ring to it.”

Donn named the ninth child, Nancy Bentley Story, though she was always known as “the baby.”

“Now, Nancy, I want you to know that you have a very special name. I named you in honoh of yoah mothah. Yoah mothah was named in honoh of Nancy Elizabeth Pascal. Oh Fathah would be so proud to know he has a beautiful granddaughtah like you named after his mothah. And I named you Bentley to remembah who yoah mothah came from. Yes, I want you and yoah brothahs and sistahs to remembah yoah mothah’s people. Oh yes, and let’s not forget, Nancy is Hebrew fo’ Grace.”

Frequently Donn dramatically recalled the process she used in choosing the names of her nieces and nephews. She was a grand teacher and held a captive audience whenever she spoke.

And though all the “chil’ren” were “deah” to her, Donn held a special place in her heart for the one she had the most history with, Grace. Before Grace was born, Donn and her brother-in-law Lawton, went round and round on the first born’s name. Lawton Story’s life was filled with stories of Dr. Truman Briscoe and come hell or high waters, his first born, be it a girl or boy, was to be named Truman. Donn was just as determined to name her Grace, upholding the tradition of naming the first daughter, Grace, thus Grace Truman Story.

With tear filled eyes, she would say, “Now my deah Grace Truman, my ‘amazing Grace, oh how sweet’!” And Donn would finish with, “Baby Nancy was the final diamond placed in the crown of the Lawton and Nancy Bentley-Story family. May the Lawd continue to bless all of you, my little deahs!”

Nancy and Lawton had their family. And this determined father of nine children worked endlessly to raise a family as a farmer. Lawton’s mother, Sallie Gunby-Story, wrote often to encourage her son to come to the Atlanta area where she lived with Uncle Charlie. Sallie Story would write, “Son – if you want the best education for your children – you’ll come to Atlanta. There is opportunity here. Uncle Charlie says you can run his farm in Tucker. Oh for goodness sakes! Bring Donn with you!”

Leaving Lincolnton for the Atlanta area was a hard decision, because it meant that his Nancy would leave her beloved sister, Dieudonnee, in Lincolnton. And what would the children do without their “Aunt Donn?”

But the day came when Lawton moved his family from Lincolnton to Atlanta. The State of Georgia made that decision for him when they deemed the Rad Story farm a part of a new lake that would flood Elijah Clarke’s Hill, Clarke’s Hill Lake.

The first half of the Story children was about grown, while the smaller ones were age eleven to three.

So this was the plan. Lawton would go to the Tucker farm with the older boys, while the older girls would stay behind with their mother to help with the smaller children. Lawton, Beau and Robert went to Uncle Charlie’s farm on a buckboard drawn by a team of horses carrying supplies and timber.

Lawton and his two sons worked to add two bedrooms and a fireplace to the existing house on Uncle Charlie’s farm. When complete, Lawton would send for the rest of the family.

Aunt Donn was left behind in Lincolnton, because she could not bear to leave her familiar surroundings. As the Bentley matriarch, she still had timber and land to consider. And anyway, this was the Story family, not the Bentleys. The Bentley’s belonged to Lincolnton. It was a place Donn called home which was steeped in rich Georgia history. Her nieces and nephews would visit Aunt Donn often. If Robert ever went missing, Lawton and Nancy Story would look at each other and say, “He’s at Donn’s.”

And then Donn did the unthinkable. She took a husband, “Walta.” Her life would always be Lincolnton.

While in Tucker, the Story family enjoyed good times and bad times. Even during the Depression, the Story’s made time for fellowship with Gwinnett and Dekalb County families with dinners on the ground. In spite of the hard times, they set the table with a tablecloth and gave thanks to the Lord for all their many blessings.

In a photograph made of one such dinner, members of the McGee family are mainly to the left and the Storys are mainly to the right. The tallest man is the Story patriarch, Horace “Lawton” Story, Sr. Extreme right to left: Lester Graves, Grace Story-Graves, Robert Randolph Story, unknown man possibly Harvie Singleton, Dorsey “Doc” Graves, Bonnie Cofer-Story, Lawton “Beau” Story, Jr., Sarah Story-Graves, Miriam Story, McGee woman, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story, Horace “Lawton” Story, Sr., McGee woman and three McGee men. Front row of children from left to right: Eugene “Gene” Radford Story, McGee, McGee, Baby Nancy Bentley Story, McGee, Thomas Jonathan Story, “Junior” Graves, Caleb Edward Story.

And all the children of Lawton and Nancy Bentley-Story met that special person, and the Story family flourished, having twenty-six children. That is all but Caleb Edward Story. When Caleb was sixteen years old, he suffered a head injury while playing football at school and developed spinal meningitis; slowly but surely his spine bent backwards. His brothers and sisters all rallied around Caleb refusing to believe Caleb could be taken away from them. They supported him in every way and urged him to never give up. He died at the age of thirty-five, and was the first of the Story children to join “Mother” in Heaven.

When Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story passed away from heart failure in 1938, her husband, Lawton, laid her to rest at Pleasant Hill Baptist.  Though she never told him, he knew it was what she wanted. Lawton remained Methodist, but relaxed his Methodist will so that he could one day rest beside his beloved lifelong sweetheart and wife – in a Baptist cemetery.

Nancy died about a year after learning that her son, Caleb, was diagnosed with spinal meningitis. Her heart could not bear it.

But before any spokes of the Story family wheel was broken, a photograph was made of them. Bottom first row left to right: Thomas Jonathan Story, Horace “Lawton” Story, Sr., first grandchild, John Lester Graves, “Junior” (son of Lester and Grace Story-Graves), Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story and Baby Nancy Bentley Story. Second row left to right: Eugene “Gene” Radford Story, Caleb Edward Story and Grace Truman Story-Graves. Third row left to right: Miriam Dieudonnee Story, Sarah Elizabeth Story-Graves and Bonnie Cofer-Story (Beau Story’s wife). Fourth row left to right: Robert Randolph Story, Dorsey “Doc” Graves (Sarah’s husband), Horace Lawton “Beau” Story, Jr. and Lester Graves (Grace’s husband).

In the Story family photograph, Sarah and Caleb are standing center surrounded in solidarity by their family. Sarah has her hand on the shoulder of her little brother, Caleb. Each and every one of the Storys in this photograph has followed their brother, Caleb, into Heaven. He led them to the Promise Land just as the Old Testament Caleb helped Joshua lead the Israelites into the Promise Land.

It was Sarah who was the last to go. Even though she was the third child, she remained here on God’s green earth until all her brothers and sisters had crossed over. Perhaps she stayed behind to offer a supportive hand to all of her brothers and sisters. Or perhaps she stayed because Aunt Donn had impressed upon her soul that her name was “Sarah Elizabeth, and with such a powahful name, much is expected, my deah.”  And when the old days were talked about, it was my Aunt Sarah who frequently said and sang, “It’ll Be a Glad Reunion Day.” Sarah passed away three days shy of her ninety-eighth birthday.

Yes, they have all left this world and are reunited up there in Heaven.

As the eighteenth grandchild of Lawton and Nancy Bentley-Story, I remember and love the ones I was privileged to know. I also know and love the ones of past generations that I did not meet, because of the stories passed down about them. I feel a strong connection to them all, especially when I hear the song, “Amazing Grace,” the Story family’s favorite song, a tradition passed down by the Bentley family.

And I know without a doubt they all love and support each other in spirit, as they did while on earth. That love and support so beautifully illustrated by my grandmother’s defensive hand on her little brother Caleb’s shoulder, when a “school boy” teased him. I saw it again in the Story family photograph with my Aunt Sarah’s hand on the shoulder of her little brother, Caleb. Just as I know they love and support me and my family today. I know that to be true, because that is who we are, the Storys.

 

Children and Grandchildren of:

 Horace Lawton Story, Sr. (born July 3, 1886 died February 15, 1963) and

Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story (born April 22, 1886 died April 12, 1938):

Grace Truman Story-Graves (married John Lester Graves)

Junior, Ann and Ted

Horace Lawton “Beau” Story, Jr. (married Bonnie Cofer)

Horace

Sarah Elizabeth Story-Graves (married Dorsey “Doc”Graves)

Elizabeth , Gene and Roy

Robert Randolph Story, Sr. (married Marie Burruss)

Wayne, Charles, Robert and Clyde

Miriam Dieudonne Story-Sexton (married Chester “Check” Sexton)

Frances, Rachel, Curtis and David

Caleb Edward Story

Eugene “Gene” Radford Story (married Mary Bramblett)

Carol and Richard

Thomas Jonathan Story, Sr. (married Helen Voyles)

Patricia, Diane, Barbara and Tommy

Nancy Bentley Story-Goss (married Carl Goss)

Linda, Steve, Earl, Eileen and Chris

 

Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story’s Family

 Dennis Brantley Bentley (born September 2, 1844 died September 29, 1912) and

Grace Amelia Ramsey-Bentley (born 1852 died 1905):

Effie Lou, Charles Ramsey, Dieudonnee “Don” Randolph, Caroline “Carrie” Grace Eugenia, Nancy Elizabeth, Caleb Hardin, Desaussiue “Dessie” Ford and Casey Lowe Bentley

 

Horace Lawton Story, Sr.’s Family

 Radford Gunn Story (born October 1858 although tombstone states born 1869 died December 1, 1904) and

 Sallie Elizabeth Gunby-Story (born June 13, 1863 died February 29, 1932):

Horace Lawton, Annie “Maude,” Theodosia “Theo,” Eddy Gaines, Marion Pierce “Reesie”, Salena, and Ruth Radford Story

Author’s Notes:

*There is a question about Carrie Bentley’s name. The internet says her name is Caroline Grace Bentley. Though in Aunt Don’s own handwriting, she states her sister is Caroline Eugenia Bentley. Perhaps her name was Caroline Grace Eugenia Bentley.

*Click on pictures to enlarge.