Posts Tagged ‘Lincolnton’


Dennis Brantley Bentley Family

Dennis Brantley Bentley Burial site at Salem Baptist

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

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

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

She said it so many times.

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

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

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

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

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

“Never? Not a sign of one?”

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

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

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

Henry Allen Story

Henry Allen “Buck” Story

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

My answer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Got it, Aunt Don.”

Not long, I see a sign near the road.

Turn Here To Find Your Free Ticket To Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Dennis Brantley Bentley

Dennis Brantley Bentley Record Keeper at Salem Baptist Church Lincoln County

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

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

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

“Hello ma’am, can I help you?”

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

“Would you like some water?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bentley Road.

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

Mt. Zion Church Road.

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

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

Leathersville Community.

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

Liberty Hill Community.

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

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

Highway 150 also known as Cobbham Road.

Which way to go? I studied my map.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cobbham Road near Happy Valley Lane.

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

Thus the Storys and Bentleys become one.

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

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

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

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

Tom Story’s brothers and sisters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Down there in Lincolnton.”

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

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

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

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

Where?

Down there in Lincolnton – of course, my deahs!

Note:

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

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

O’Neal Note:

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fitzpatrick Hotel

Fitzpatrick Hotel

“Hello, anybody here?”

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

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

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

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

“It’s two o’clock.”

“I know ma’am …”

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

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

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

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

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

His eyes widened a bit as he spoke.

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

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

“What did they find out?”

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

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

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

“What did they say?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He gave me a curious look.“

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

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

Mary Stuart's English Ivy

Mary Stuart’s English Ivy   at Robert Toombs Home

 

“Oh?”

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

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

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

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

He laughed.

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

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

“Professor, we’re ready.”

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

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

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

Dunns Chapel Cemetery Photo by Tom Poland

Diane at Dunns Chapel Cemetery
Photo by Tom Poland

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

Mark Twain would be proud!

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

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

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

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

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

“No I looked. The basket is empty.”

“Room 204 is where I put soap …”

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

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

“Yes, front desk.”

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

“Oh yes found it. Thanks Daniel.”

“So you are staying another night?”

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

“That’s awesome! Have a good night!”

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

Deafening silence? Oh yeah.

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

Hmmm, wonder what he did wrong?

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

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

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

Do you still want him?

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

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

One can only wonder.

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

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

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

Now is time to finish The Ghosts of Lincoln County.

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

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

A FIN!

Note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dear Reader:

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

 

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.

In Lincolnton, Georgia, several years before the Great Depression, lived a man, Horace Lawton Story, Sr., and his wife, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story. Before it was all said and done, they had nine children. They lived in a farm house built by Lawton’s father, Rad Story.

Life was hard on the farm especially for Lawton, mainly because he suffered from asthma. He also struggled with the rock ridden land and fought bow weevils. But on he went with his farming and caring for his family; a family he adored.

Nancy did her part. She could sing like and angel and cared for her prize Rhode Island Red chickens. She was the only one who could approach the “wild thangs” without getting flogged. She was happiest when pampering her chicks; the Reds and her baby chicks: Grace, Beau, Sarah, Robert, Miriam, Caleb, Gene, Tom and Nancy, Jr.

The children stayed busy with school, working the farm and throwing a basketball at a hoop made from a bushel basket. They all worked together and played together. The Storys were all for one, and one for all.

“Do you see this stick?” Lawton Story would ask his children. When he had their attention, he would then snap the stick in two.  “See what happens when you stand alone?” Then he would hold a stick, one for each member of his family, and try to break the bunch in two, as he did with the single stick. Even his strong hands could not break the bunch. “When we stand together as one, nothing can break us. We stand separate in the world, we can be broken. Stand together children, be there one for the other.”

As it would happen, tragedy befell this lovely family when one of the daughters became ill. Miriam was the fifth child; a child who was born with a “blue veil” over her face. Miriam was sickly much of her childhood and smaller than her siblings. She was very young when she came down with “the fever.” A burial dress was purchased for her and stored away in the wardrobe. The dress was a large version of a christening gown; dark creamy in color. Nancy Story prayed that little dress would never be worn by her daughter.

All care was given to Miriam, but to no avail. Then the day came when she refused food and became lifeless. It was impossible to keep the child awake.

Nancy had spent days working frantically with Miriam. She had racked her brain to remember all the ways of healing practiced by her grandfather, Dr. John Bentley. Nothing was working.

The doctor was sent for yet again.

“I don’t give her any hope, Nancy. There’s nothing to do that has not been done. She’s in the hands of the Lord now,” the doctor said as he looked out the window, so not to look Nancy and Lawton in the face. “Let her rest.” The doctor struggled to find the words, “Make preparations – now.”

The stunned family could not come to terms with the thought of losing little Miriam. How could they survive as a family, without her silly little giggle and bright eyes? The family encircled Miriam’s bed and they all prayed and spoke their minds – hoping the good Lord and Miriam could hear them.

Nancy was the first to make a move away from her daughter. She went to the kitchen and poured dried black-eyed peas into a pot of cold water. And then she did something never done before. When putting away the sack of dried peas, she stopped and held the sack close to her heart. She walked back over to the pot of peas soaking in water.

Nancy put her hand back into the sack and pulled out three more handfuls of dried peas and with each one she said, “One for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Spirit. Now,” she said calling out with authority, “that will do. Lawton, tomorrow we will all leave this house and catch up on the chores.”

Lawton was stunned and the children dismayed. What was Mother thinking? Mother was speaking out of the realm of reality. The children reminded her of the stick story and how they always stood together. They would not leave their sister.

Nancy Story stood firm, “Everything is backed up. We have stock to feed, wood to chop and corn to pull, and,” she hesitated, but being a strong and sensible woman, she continued, “and Lawton, you have a job to do in the barn.”

Lawton fought back tears and said, “Come sunlight, I’ll get started on the coffin.”

The black-eyed peas cooked throughout the night and before daylight, Nancy cooked cornbread. The children questioned why they were eating black-eyed peas and cornbread for breakfast.

“Where’s the ham and eggs, Mother?”

miriamwithleastones

Older Miriam with the “Least Ones”

“The eggs are in the hen house and ham is in the smoke house, waiting for us to tend to it,” answered Nancy Story to her children. “Today we will eat peas and cornbread, catch up on the chores. Grace, you and Sarah, go to the smoke house on the way in and cut some ham for dinner.”

The children ate their unusual breakfast of peas and cornbread while they took their assignment from Mother; that is all but the Least Ones: Caleb, Gene, Tom and Nancy, Jr.

“You Least Ones come with me,” Lawton said to his babies. He looked at Nancy and said, “They can hand nails to me, and I can keep a close eye on them in the barn.”

So, off they went after each one kissed Miriam goodbye. They would work hard today. They would keep Miriam on their minds and hearts. They would pray in the field or in the barn; no matter where their assignment took them.

Miriam was left alone in the house. She was not able to speak, but had heard the words of the doctor. She had heard the prayers pleading for her life. And come sunlight, she heard her father hammering nails into her coffin. She was sick, she was weak, but with every pound of the hammer, something inside her stirred. It was the will to live.

And she knew what she had to do.

Miriam had to get to those black-eyed peas on the kitchen table. Somehow, someway, Miriam slid out of bed and crawled to the kitchen table. She struggled to the chair. She fell time and time again. Somewhere along the way, she passed out. When she regained consciousness, she tried to climb onto the chair again. And finally she made it. She mustered up energy to get onto the table. Miriam crawled to the big bowl of black-eyed peas where put her little mouth on the rim. She sipped black-eyed pea juice.

When her family returned to the house midday, they found little Miriam unconscious on the kitchen table. They were shocked and speechless.

Robert, the fourth child and detective of the family, pointed to Miriam’s mouth. “What is that on her face?” Robert got closer and smelled Miriam’s mouth. “That’s black-eyed pea juice! She’s been eatin’ black-eyed peas!”

With that Lawton found his voice, “Beau!”

The eldest son knew exactly what that meant. Beau scooped up little Miriam into his arms and put her back into bed. The rest of the family circled her bed and quietly sobbed and gave thanks. Nancy stayed in the kitchen where she pulled out another big pot and “put on” more dried black-eyed peas to soak, all the while thanking the  good Lord.

From that moment on, someone stayed with Miriam during the day and fed her black-eyed pea juice, one drop at a time. Miriam recovered and grew into a lovely young woman. She married and became the mother of four children: Frances, Rachel, Curtis and David. And thank the good Lord Miriam never wore that little dress hanging in her mother’s wardrobe, though she kept it as a keepsake and on occasion pulled out the dress to show it to her children and grandchildren. Miriam believed the sickness made her smaller than her brothers and sisters, but she was Story enough to beat the death angel on that day in Lincolnton, so long ago.

My father, Tom Story, was among the “Least Ones” who went to the barn that early morning and handed nails to his father to make Miriam’s coffin. And though he was only a tot, he carried this story in his heart his entire life.

I remember Daddy and his family, telling the black-eyed pea story from my early childhood, as did all Story cousins. Miriam held a special place in the hearts of her brothers and sisters, as she was the bridge who connected the older ones to the “Least Ones.” Whenever there was a disagreement amongst brothers and sisters, it was Miriam who reminded the family of the stick story. She had a way of pulling peace out of thin air. Another “Least One,” Gene, would later say of Miriam, “We all loved each other and we all love our children, but it seemed like Miriam just loves a little bit more.”

And even today, whenever a stubborn sickness enters my home, I give the Holy Trinity its due, give thanks for my Grandmother Nancy, and “put on” the black-eyed peas.

Recently my friend, Sheila Kirkman-Barron, told another black-eyed pea story. Years back, her children’s pediatrician, Dr. Leila Alice Denmark, advised Sheila to throw out the cereal and eggs and feed her children black-eyed peas for breakfast. When Sheila did so, her children became free of allergies.

Dr. Denmark ate black-eyed peas for breakfast. She lived to be fifty-three days shy of one-hundred-fourteen years of age. Well known Georgia pediatrician and author, Dr. Denmark died December 10, 2011. But before her departure, she prescribed black-eyed peas to many Georgians.

Black-Eyed Peas Recipe

Sort 1 lb. dried peas (look ’em is what I’ve always heard) and remove anything that is not a pea – also throw away ugly peas

To cook peas quicker, soak dried peas in cold water – an hour or so

Rinse peas in cold water

Put peas in large pot and cover with about 6 cups of  hot water

Add salt and pepper to taste along with seasoning (I use chicken bouillon, some use fat meat)

Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook until tender – about 45 minutes.

Delicious with hot cornbread.

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.”

 

 

 

A seven year old boy stood in silence as he looked on the still remains of his grandfather lying in a coffin. Horace Lawton Story was a lanky lad with light sky blue eyes. He wore his blondish hair cut close to the scalp, unlike most young lads in 1893, because his grandfather favored it.

“When a soldier goes into battle, he shaves his head; that way his hair will not tangle and get caught up in something, and slow him down. Do away with pride Horace and keep your hair cut close to the head so that you will be ready for anything at any time,” spoke William Aurelius Gunby to his grandson in months past. “Don’t be an Absalom!”

Young Horace Story knew all about King David’s Absalom, Grandpa Gunby had seen to that, and much more. The man was a staunch Methodist who lived his belief daily.

Young Horace stood there before his beloved grandfather with pride as he took away his cap as though showing Grandpa Gunby his obedience. Horace fought back tears and tried to be a brave soldier, but failed as hot tears streamed down his face.

Being a brave soldier was important to the Gunby family, especially since his great-great grandfather, Basil O’Neal, was a Revolutionary War soldier. But today was a time sorrow could not be hidden. Horace would be a “brave little soldier” on another day.

William Aurelius Gunby was delighted when his daughter, Sallie Elizabeth Gunby-Story, gave birth to this grandson. Sallie had lost a son who was still born, but this baby boy was a born fighter and survived. And as a proud grandfather, he insisted the baby boy be named after the famous Roman poet, Quintus Horatio Flaccus, because there was more to life than being a fighter. Aurelius wanted to teach his new grandson strength through humility.

Yes Grandpa Gunby knew the importance of being a strong and accomplished soldier, though he was a quiet and peaceful man. He was a Georgia planter by trade. He believed in power through the All Mighty, hard work, deep thought and kindness. He was born January 29, 1828, in East Georgia and married his sweetheart, Selina Anne Smalley.

Selina was born October 12, 1832, and was the daughter of Michael and Eleanor “Nellie” Neal Smalley. Nellie was the daughter of Revolutionary war soldier, Basil O’Neal. After the colonies earned their independence from England, the O’Neals dropped the “O” in O’Neal and became Neal in an act of patriotism.

Young Horace was proud of his “fighting for freedom” family. It came natural as he was “raised on it.”

But today, as Horace Story stood before his fallen grandfather, he recalled the many days that he walked with Grandpa Gunby outside – out under the clouds.

“Come here Horace, come walk with me,” Grandpa Gunby would say as he cut Horace from the herd, “Just you and me.”

This always delighted the young lad although he had to take three strides to his grandfather’s one in order to keep up.

After walking for a while, Grandpa Gunby would stop dead in his tracks, look up while shielding his eyes with his hand, “Beautiful cloud formation today; maybe rain tonight. Look at ‘em move.”

Horace would mimic his grandfather and shield his eyes and study the clouds. After a while the grandfather would speak to his grandson, and this is what Horace lived for. He hung on every word.

“What do you see Horace?”

“I see a kite, but it’s dissolving fast. The wind is blowing.”

“A picture is a poem without words, that’s what Horatio the Roman poet said. Wise man; Horace what do you know of Horatio?”

“I know I’m named after him,” they walked on a bit, then Horace looked up to his grandfather and asked, “Grandpa, how did Horatio get so smart? Was he born smart? Or did he have to study hard?” Horace took a deep breath and let it all out. “Grandpa I know you want me to memorize the whole Apostles’ Creed, but it’s too long.”

“Stay with it and you will get it all. But, for now, let me hear what you know.”

Horace thought for a moment then said, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord.”

“Excellent! That will do for now.”

“Grandpa, how did Horatio become so wise,” Horace reminded his grandfather of his question.

“It was life’s circumstances that made Horatio wise. He was born to a wealthy family. He went to the best schools and fought alongside Marc Anthony in the Battle of Philippi.”

“Horatio was a great soldier too? Like Grandpa Basil?” young Horace was amazed and curious. “Why didn’t you tell me about that before? You’ve just told me about his wise sayings.”

“Well, I suppose I never mentioned it, because Horatio did the unthinkable; you might say – the unspeakable.”

“What? What did he do?”

“Well, my boy, even though Octavia and Marc Anthony won that battle, it had little to do with Horatio.” Grandpa Gunby chuckled and chose his words carefully, “Well, how can I put this? No other way but to say, Horatio got scared, threw down his shield and weapon, and ran like a scared dog.”

“No way Grandpa, you wouldn’t name me after a coward. I hope Eugene don’t hear about this.”

Aurelius laughed, “Eugene is your cousin and best friend! But you are right, Horace, I would not name you after a coward, nor a rich man fighting for the Roman army. There was more to Horatio than that.”

“Like what?”

“Horatio accepted his disgrace. He knew when he was wrong. He lost his family’s wealth. He lived in poverty, sometimes going hungry. That’s when Horatio embraced hard work. As he worked sun up to sun down, he thought about how it was to be wealthy, a soldier, a poor man. That is when he wrote down his thoughts.”

“Like – Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work,” Horace said proudly.

“Yes, you have learned well for such a small lad, very well said,” Aurelius Gunby continued speaking as they walked and admired the cloud formation, “Life is ever changing just like those clouds. The secret to happiness is to embrace the change, learn from the past, and move on. That is true wisdom and Horatio learned that and shared it with you and me.” Grandpa stopped suddenly and pointed to the sky. “Now, Horace, tell me what you see.”

“I see an elephant to the right and a bear to the left.”

“Yes, I see the bear, but not the elephant,” Grandpa Gunby studied harder. “And see now the bear is becoming a flower. Do you see that?”

“Yes sir, I do see it. It’s beautiful.”

The grandfather took a step forward and the grandson followed suit. They walked a bit further and the grandfather spoke again, “You know Horace, one day you will leave this place and find your own way into the world. Lord only knows what is in store for you; some good —– some bad I suppose.” Aurelius watched the clouds swirl about. “The sky over you will change. Yes, those who cross the sea, change sky, but not their soul.”

Young Horace nodded his head “yes,” because he understood his grandfather all too well. He had heard this quote for as long as he could remember. Every time someone in the family took leave, Aurelius Gunby sent his loved one on his or her way with a reminder that their soul would not change just because they were away from home.

The two walked on together, and then Aurelius got down to the real reason for the walk. And it would not be the last time this subject came up.

“Now Horace, what’s this I hear about you and your cousin squabbling?”

“Who Grandpa?”

“Who? Who have you been arguing with? Over Mr. Goat?”

“Oh, that. Well, I want to lead Mr. Goat some times. Eugene always has to lead! It’s not fair!”

“Eugene trained Mr. Goat and he helped his father and uncles build the cart.  It’s good of him to ask you to ride with him. Doesn’t that beat walking back and forth to school?”

“But he could let me take the reins some of the time; don’t ya think?”

They walked on. Finally the old man said, “A word once sent abroad, flies irrevocably. Horace, my boy, once a bitter word comes out of your mouth, it cannot be pulled back. It is out there forever. Please remember that when speaking to someone. And I dare say, it is your decision how you treat Eugene.”

They walked on for a few more minutes still noticing the clouds and pointing out pictures in the sky, saying little.

The memories of the walks and talks overwhelmed seven year old Horace as he stood before his still and silent grandfather in the Gunby parlor. This was a change that he had to embrace, just as Horatio accepted his demise.

The voice of his grandmother, Selina, interrupted his thoughts for a moment. She was speaking to a black man who lived on the Gunby farm for as long as Horace could remember. She sent for him and he had come into the parlor.

“I want to thank you for caring for Mr. Gunby,” said Selina Gunby.

“No ‘mam, no need, it was my pleasure.”

Selina smiled graciously at the man, “I knew you would want to say goodbye to him.” Selina walked toward the man and extended her hand. He accepted her hand as tears rolled down his face.

“Years ago, Mr. Gunby freed his slaves, before the war I might add; before it was Mr. Lincoln’s law,” stated Selina.

“Yes ‘mam he did. He told me I was free – like the rest of ‘em, and I said, Mr. Gunby if I’m free to stay here and care for you then that’s what I’m a gonna do. And ‘mam, that’s what I did.”

“And no one could have done better, and now you are free to go as you were then.”

“No ‘mam, if you don’t mind, I’ll stick around. Someone needs to look after Mr. Gunby’s grave. I don’t want no roots growing in or around his grave. I want to keep it cleaned off. I’ll see to it every day.”

“Very well,” Selina replied, “you are welcome to stay for as long as you wish. The family is grateful to you. Will you help us carry Mr. Gunby to the wagon?”

The man did not answer, but went straight away to the coffin where he stood for a moment and wept.

Young Horace stepped back as the coffin was closed and carried out of the house.

As Horace followed the coffin, he knew he followed the remains of an honorable man; a man Horace was proud to call “Grandpa.”

As the family walked out of the house and gathered about the wagon, Charles Oren Gunby raised his hand to hold up the horses. He looked up to the April sky and observed the clouds racing about, and said, “Those who cross the sea, change sky, but not their soul.” He wiped his eyes and asked, “Does anyone else have something to say about Father before we leave the farm?”

The black man raised his head and said, “Pale Death will beat at the po’ man’s do’ and the rich man’s do’ – all the same – that’s what Mr. Gunby said.”

“Yes indeed. Is there anyone else?” asked seventeen year old Charles Gunby.

Young Eugene Gunby said, “Yes, Uncle Charlie. I want to say: Happy is a man who fears dishonor worse than death, and is not afraid to die.”

William Aurelius Gunby was right  when he said Horace would leave this place, have good times and bad times. Horace married his childhood sweetheart, Nancy Bentley; they had nine children and twenty-six grandchildren. At the tender age of seventeen, Horace had to accept the fact that his father had been murdered. At seventeen, he buried his beloved Grandmother Selina the same year he buried his father. As a farmer, Horace toiled over rocky soil and fought boll weevils. He put food on the table and clothes on his family during the Great Depression.  Horace watched a beloved son slowly and painfully become a cripple. He buried his wife and son. He fought asthma all the live long day.

And it was Uncle Charlie, who encouraged Horace to leave Lincolnton and come to the Atlanta area. Charlie Oren Gunby became Professor Gunby and taught school in Decatur, Georgia. He also owned a small farm on the edge of Tucker. Horace packed up his whole family and moved to that little farm.

I am proud to say that Horace Lawton Story (Sr.) was my grandfather. Anyone who knew him knew that no matter where he found himself, under good or bad circumstances, Horace Lawton Story was a man with an unchanged soul.

And though Horace had less than eight years with William Aurelius Gunby, he closely followed his grandfather’s footsteps all the days of his life.

Author’s Notes:

The black man cared for Mr. Gunby’s grave until the day he died.

The William Aurelius Gunby family lived in a big two story white house near Arimathea Methodist.

William Aurelius Gunby was born in 1828 and died April 20, 1893. He was a steward in the Methodist church for thirty years. He is buried at Dunn’s Chapel.

Also buried at Dunn’s Chapel are William Aurelius Gunby’s parents, William Gunby 1798 – 1858 and Hannah Digby-Gunby 1786 – 1831.

Dunn’s Chapel’s 650 Ridge Road Appling, Georgia. Appling is near Lincolnton, Georgia. Some call the area Leah, Georgia.

Horatio was a poet who was born 65 BC. The English translation of Horatio is Horace.

Quotes from Quintus Horatio Flaccus that were used in this story:

A picture is a poem without words.

A word once sent abroad, flies irrevocably.

Those who cross the sea, change sky, but not their soul.

Pale Death with impartial tread beats at the poor man’s cottage and the palaces of kings.

Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wilanty, could you do me a favor?”

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

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

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

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

“Mother should go…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilanty Story never married, never owned her own home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A FIN!

Author’s Notes:

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

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

I recall back in 1955 sitting down at Aunt Donn and Uncle Walter’s supper table in their Lincolnton, Georgia farmhouse. The house was of yesteryear as were the rugs and furnishings. The whole house was a timed warped mystery and though I had to be on my best behavior, the adventure was worth all the fuss.

The first thing I learned about visiting the Steeds was to wait on Aunt Donn’s lead. She was of the old South and no matter how humble her present world, pomp and circumstance were important to her. She was definitely in charge and spoke with an aristocratic Southern accent ignoring her second “Rs.” I noticed the longer my father was around his mother’s sister, he fell into that same accent.

One thing was for sure, my father, Tom Story, loved his Aunt Donn. The world seemed to revolve around this dear lady as far as he was concerned. He hung on her every word.

And now it was “suppah time” and the event of setting the table took place. Each person had a place setting of fine china along with a matching finger bowl to dip fingers in should we get “mussed.” All this finery and it wasn’t even Thanksgiving.

And finally a large platter of country ham was placed on the center of the round table next to platter of hot biscuits. A tureen of red eye gravy balanced the two platters. Corn, which Aunt Donn pronounced “cawn” set next to a bowl of string beans and potatoes.

Yes, it was time to eat and I could hardly wait to sit down at this fancy table. I received “the eye” from my mother and knew it was time to slow down and look to Aunt Donn. Aunt Donn approached the table and stopped at her chair. My father pulled her chair out and nestled her up close to the table. Daddy placed his hands on her shoulders as he kissed the side of her head. Aunt Donn patted his hands. Then we all sat down.

Aunt Donn was not quick to get to the meal. She wanted to remember the “good Lawd” first and foremost. There would be no eating until “the Lawd had his due.”

“Shall we bow our heads?” asked Aunt Donn as she looked about the table at each and every one of us. We bowed heads and Aunt Donn blessed the meal, the day, Tom and Helen Story and the “little gulls,” the weatheh, the laying chickens, the fi’ewood Tom chopped and the biscuits Helen made, the coming night and tomorroh’s sunrise.

As a child of about six years of age, I became restless in my chair. I squirmed and Aunt Donn prayed.

“And deah Lawd, please fo’give our boldness and make us humble in yoah sight. Allow us to remembah the wheat and the tare. Let us be mindful of the tares as they slip in during the night and take root and grow amongst us without detection. Oh how the tares stand haughty and obstinate along-side the wheat!  One cannot tell a tare from the good wheat as they stand togethah in the field of life…”

“What’s a tare?” I thought. I wanted to ask but knew this was not the time. And so it was, I remained silent. But the only way to remain still was to open my eyes a tiny bit so I could peep through my eyelashes at Aunt Donn. I spied on her as she went on about pride cometh before the fall.

My eyes drifted to the right of her and I saw my father’s elbow on the table and the side of his face being supported by that hand. His eyes were closed and he had a warm smile on his face. I could tell that he knew we were into a long blessing and that he was enjoying every minute.

Seeing my father sit there next to Aunt Donn seems just like yesterday. Daddy was a tall handsome man with dark hair; just thirty one years of age. He looked relaxed and well dressed in his gray and brown Argyle sweater. How would I know that nineteen years later he would have a fatal accident? After so many years, it is sometimes hard to really remember what his face looked like. But all I need do is close my eyes and go back to that Lincolnton supper table and I see his face clearly.

Next to Daddy sat my little sister, Barbara, who quietly rocked her doll, Sally. My older sister, Patricia, sat next to Barbara and was the perfect example of what Aunt Donn thought a “propah” child should be.

The next chair was Uncle Walter, but he was not in his chair, though he was there before the blessing. It startled me a bit to see that empty chair. Did the tares (whoever or whatever they were) slip in and take him? My mother must have sensed my restlessness, because I felt her bad eye upon me. I quickly regained my composure.

“Fathah deah Lawd, let us, yoah humble folk, know that at hahvest time, the wheat will loweh its head and the tares will remain upright, neveh showing an ounce of humility…”

Again, I opened my eyes a bit and peeped through my eyelashes, being careful to not look to the left at my mother. Daddy’s face was still resting on his hand and his smile was unwavering. Barbara had fallen asleep sitting up still holding her doll, Sally. Patricia was reverently in the praying position, and Uncle Walter had returned as quietly as he left. His absence went completely undetected.

“Yes Lawd, let us, yoah people, be as the good wheat and observe humility. In Yoah blessed name Lawd, Amen.” Then Aunt Donn looked about the table and I know we all looked the very same as when we sat down. But she seemed to think we look differently. “Just do look at y’all! I have neveh seen y’all look so beautiful! You are the good wheat! Not a tare among you! And I love you all! Waltah deah, will you pass the biscuits please?”

I sure am glad Uncle Walter made it back to the table in time to pass the biscuits, and relieved to know there was not a tare in the house.

Yes, Aunt Donn would have her say no matter where or when or how long. Years later, a car would pick Aunt Donn up in Lincolnton and take her to Stone Mountain and other Atlanta areas just so a group of folks could hear what she had to say about education.  She spoke to us about these trips.

“Now I tell you gulls, I have no need for the television. I wouldn’t have one if you gave it to me. But I see how chil’ren and adults, for that mattah, gaze into the screen as though there is no tomorrah. It distresses me how the awt of conve’sation and writing has left us. So, as Waltah says, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ These trips are impotant and all togethah necessary for that very reason. I along with other teachahs of Geo’giah stand befo’e the television folks and attempt to explain the impotance of mass education.”

Aunt Donn smiled, and with great pride she explained, “A new television station is coming to Geo’giah and it is imperative you gulls watch this new station; tell yoah friends and yoah future chil’ren, let everyone know.”

The new television station came to Georgia just as Aunt Donn said it would. It started out with one name and then another. Today that educational station is called GPB, Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Even though Dieudonne Bentley-Steed is long gone, her memory is forever with us. Her “say” is still being heard. And I close my eyes every night thanking the “good Lawd” the tares are not amongst us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Story-Goss and Patricia Story-Logan

“Good morning!”

I was surprised to hear my sister’s voice on the other end of the phone so early in the morning.

“Di, Aunt Nancy and I got in from Lincolnton last night. I wanted to call you then, but it was too late. I hope it’s not too early.”
“No, did you have fun?”

“Well we gathered a lot of new information, and found the grave of Buck Story’s second wife Susan McDaniel, but not Rachel,” explained Patricia, “I know she is somewhere in the Warrenton or Lincolnton area! But it looks like she vanished! Without a trace!”

“Rachel? Buck Story? Do I know them?”

“Yes you do, Di I’ve told you a hundred times. Buck Story is our great-great grandfather. Buck’s real name is Henry Allen Story. Rachel Ann Montgomery, our great-great grandmother, was his first wife.”

“Oh yes that’s right. Forgive me,” I said, “It’s not easy to remember folks born over a hundred years ago before seven in the morning.” Ignoring my little touch of sarcasm, Sister went on.

“We found Susan McDaniel right there, beside Buck Story, in the Thomson City Cemetery. And what a monument! I got pictures, wait until you see them, but no Rachel, no sign of the first wife anywhere! Rachel and Buck Story had six sons and the third one was Radford Gunn Story. That’s Papa Story’s father.”

“Oh yeah, I remember now. Well, maybe she was buried out the back door of the old homestead, that’s what they used to do with you when you died back then. They buried you where they threw out the dish water.”

Sister continued to ignore my humor; nothing was getting her off track.

“Aunt Nancy and I have looked in every cemetery in Lincoln, McDuffie, Columbia and Warren County. We combed the archives…”

“What about an obituary in the local newspaper,” I suggested.

“We’ve looked there too, not a trace of an obit.”

“Do you know how she died?”

“She and Buck Story had six sons, and Rachel died nineteen days after Uncle Lum was born. She was just twenty-eight years old.”
“That’s tragic. Lum, what kind of name is that?”

“Columbus Marion Story – they called him Lum. You know, I’ve told you about him. He left Georgia and went to Tampa to live. There he became a sheriff and cleaned up the crime in Tampa. He’s buried down there.”

“Di, you sound sleepy. Did I wake you?”

“Yes, but I’m awake now.”

“Well, why don’t you get up and get dressed, and come over here. When you get here, I’ll drive us to the German Bakery in Stone Mountain. We can have lunch and I’ll tell you all about the new information we got this time.”

Before I could get into the shower the phone rang again.

“Di, are you awake yet? This is ya mother.”

Of course it’s my mother. I’d know that voice anywhere.

“I’m awake. I’m getting ready to come over your way to Tucker. I’m gonna meet Pat and we’re gonna go out for lunch.”

“Good! I want you to talk some sense into ya big sister! You won’t believe what she and Nancy have been up to in Lincolnton!”

“They’re looking for Rachel Montgomery’s grave,” I replied.

“Yes! And climbing over fences, ignoring no trespassing signs! Did you know the trip before this trip, ya sister fell into a grave up to her chest? I found that out from ya Aunt Sarah.”

“No! She never told me that!”

“Good thing ya Aunt Nancy is a strong woman! She grabbed Pat’s arm and pulled her out!”

“Oh my…”

“Yeah, and there’s more! They hang out at the eating places near the courthouse looking for lawyers and old people who might know something. They actually picked up two men in downtown Lincolnton.”
“What?”

“Yes, put them in the car and drove off somewhere in the sure nuff country to find an old woman who knew of a forgotten cemetery.”

“What?”

“Yes, the men said they knew of a woman who could take them to a remote area full of old graves. The woman didn’t have a phone so Pat and Nancy had to drive them to her house.”

“Them?”

“Yes, the two men they picked up in Lincolnton!”

“And so what happened?”
“They found her and talked her into gettin’ in the car to show them where that forgotten cemetery was located.”

“No, they didn’t.”

“Yes they did. I thought if Nancy took Chris, they’d be more cautious…”

“Chris Goss went this time?”

“Yes she did, and Patricia drove that car with Chris sitting in the middle and ya Aunt Nancy on the other side of Chris, with those three strangers in the backseat. Nancy came to her senses and did get nervous about it. After the old woman took them waaaay out into the country on back roads, Nancy decided to wiggle her foot around inside the picnic basket to see exactly where their gun…”

“Their gun?”

“Oh yes they carry a gun out in Lincolnton, ‘cause of wild dogs and the like.”

“So, what happened? Pat didn’t mention this on the phone. That must be the reason she wants to talk to me today.”

Mama went on, “Pat decided to raise the electric windows since so much dust was getting in the car and Nancy had her hand out the window. Nancy wasn’t paying attention to the window, because she had her mind on that gun. Pat rolled the window up on Nancy’s hand.”

“No way.”

“And Nancy didn’t want to holler out to Pat, so she mumbled out of the side of her mouth, ‘my hand is in the window.’ Several times Nancy tried to get Pat’s attention to get her arm free without alerting that team in the backseat. All the while Nancy worked her foot trying to fish the gun up, but Pat drove on and kept asking, ‘What? What did you say Aunt Nancy?’”

“No way. Why didn’t Aunt Nancy scream?”

“Because she was afraid that bunch in the backseat would mug ‘em! And Nancy was afraid if they knew her hand was pinned down – they’d make their move then!”
“No way.”

“Poor Chris sitting between Pat and Nancy finally yelled out, “Mama’s hand is caught in the window!”

“Oh my God in Heaven, that’s so dangerous.”

“I’m telling you! Di, you talk to Pat, maybe you can talk some sense into her. When she and ya Aunt Nancy are down in Lincolnton, they lose all sensibility!”

There was no talking sense into Pat or Aunt Nancy when it came to grave hunting. They fed off each other. For the past five years, every spring and fall those two detectives combed the countryside of Lincoln, Columbia, MdDuffie, Warren, Wilkes, and Washington counties, for a week at a time. They were in hot pursuit uncovering clues to find genealogical details of the Story family. When not in the graveyards, they were in courthouses, country stores and visiting with any distant relative they could dig up. They rubbed gravestones with chalk and took pictures, and now, rescued each other when falling into rotted graves. Not to mention the gun part.

I had no interest in the past. I found some of the stuff somewhat interesting, but became more involved when the hunt for Rachel Montgomery was on. I did not go willingly, but it seemed that during this time, my sister, Patricia, knew more about the dead than the living. It was all I heard until I had Rachel Montgomery front and center of my mind.

The timeline of events became a curiosity to me. Over lunch at the German Bakery I brought up the subject. “Well, what about the War Between the States? Did Buck Story go off to war? And how did Rachel fit in to that time period?”

“Oh yes, Buck Story enlisted in Augusta, May 8, 1862. Let me look at my notes,” answered Pat as she pulled out a little notebook from her purse. “Company A 21st Battalion Georgia Calvary CSA. That group later consolidated with two other groups and became 24th Battalion Georgia Calvary and Hardwick Mounted Rifles. His last known paycheck from the army was written on December 31, 1863 signed by Captain Law. Buck Story reported ‘present’ on September 30, 1864.”

“September 30, 1864? Okay that means he was still on active duty about seven months before Lee surrendered his sword at Appomattox and the war was officially over.”

“Yep, and Rachel of course stayed home, I guess looked after things there, then Buck came home. She had Lum that September 21 in 1865 and she died October 10, 1865. That must have been a devastating year for Buck Story. He fought in a failed war; his wife died and left him with a newborn and five other little boys.”

“How soon did he remarry?”

“Oh he didn’t remarry until 1869, four years later. Oh yes and look at this,” said Pat as she showed me her notes, “Buck Story’s brother, Sanders Walker Story, was wounded in the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on December 31, 1862. He actually died from the wound and pneumonia in a Virginia hospital April 17, 1863. Before the war Sanders Story was in the mercantile business in Warrenton, Georgia. He fought with the McDuffie Rifles. He was Buck’s closest sibling in age, about seven years old when Buck was born.” Pat shook her head in disbelief, “Buck Story had a lot to sort out before getting married again. I guess that’s why he waited four years.”

“I can’t believe you know so much about this, truly amazing Pat.”

“Well, most of the Civil War stuff is from our cousin, Gene Graves. He frequents the Atlanta Archives. I’ve seen him there.”

“Gene Graves, another family genealogist. I had no idea.”

Lunch was over and so was my Story family history lesson. It was time for me to get back home. I was married at the time and living on a horse farm, Pounds’ Stable, near Dunwoody with two young sons. We were pretty much isolated and could not see a neighbor from our farm house.

Down a long winding driveway through a clump of trees, our Cape Cod home was nestled within the tree line with a sloping side yard that led to a pasture down to the area where two creeks fed into the property. The creeks were far away, about the length of three football fields from the house, and emptied into the Chattahoochee River. And most nights, the fog from the water crept up across the meadow and surrounded the house giving it a foreboding look.

I was used to seeing the house with the big barns during the daylight hours and was not afraid at night when the fog joined us. At night it became so dark you could not see your hand in front of your face, and on windy nights, the wind whipped around the back corner of the house, making a sound like a screaming woman.

My husband traveled and it was the boys and me at home alone from Tuesday morning until Thursday or Friday evening. The only excitement we had was when a nosy cow or horse wandered out of the pasture into someone’s yard way down the road.

That is until Rachel Montgomery came to visit.

And in the following days, I continued to hear bits and pieces of the week long adventure in Lincolnton. “So what’s this about you falling into a grave?” I asked Pat.

“Oh my goodness, I couldn’t believe it! My feet never hit bottom! Aunt Nancy grabbed my arm and yanked me up in a matter of a second! How’d you know? And anyway that happened last year.”

“Mama told me.”
“Oh don’t tell her too much Di, she’ll worry.”
“Too late.”

Sister laid out what she knew about Rachel Montgomery. “Okay, this is what I have, Di. Rachel Ann Montgomery was the first child of James Franklin Montgomery and Mary Swint-Montgomery. Rachel’s father, James was born on the Fourth of July in 1816, and died April 28, 1884. Mary Swint, her mother, was born July 12, 1817. James and Mary married August 22, 1836. Rachel was born on December 2, 1837 in Warren County, Georgia. Rachel became engaged to Henry Allen Story a year before they married.”

“How do you know they were engaged for a year?”

“Because it was in the Christian Index,” answered Pat, “Buck and Rachel were married in James Montgomery’s home in Warren County, Georgia, on April 2, 1854.”
“You mean the home of her parents?” I asked.

“Yes, but her mother died about a month before the wedding.”
“Oh, that’s sad.”
“Yes, it is sad.”

“And again, exactly how is it Buck Story is related to us?”
“Henry Allen – called Buck Story – was Daddy’s father’s father. There’s our father, Thomas Jonathan Story, Sr., his father, Horace Lawton Story, Sr., and his father Radford Gunn Story and then Rad’s father was Henry Allen ‘Buck’ Story. And Buck’s father was Samuel Gaines Story and I think Samuel’s father was a Richard Story, but I don’t have documentation on Richard Story yet, still working on that.”

“You know for sure?”

“Yes, it’s true and all documented by a deed, or a will, or a tombstone or a Bible entry. That’s what we’ve been doing down there.”

“Well whose grave did you fall in?”

“None of our relatives. We found out about a remote cemetery from a retired lawyer in Lincolnton. It’s out near the lake. You won’t believe the carving on the tombstone! It was a wreath with every flower in the South carved in it! It was so beautiful. I wanted to rub it so I could bring a copy of it home to show everybody. That’s when the earth gave way and I fell in.”

“What if you had been alone?”

“I’d never do that alone, and I’m glad Aunt Nancy’s a strong woman.”

Did that slow Aunt Nancy and Patricia down? No. They were already planning their next trip.

Usually I take in what Pat is telling me about our ancestors, file it away somewhere in the recesses of my mind and go on with life at hand, but not this time. Every time I spoke to Pat, she was unraveling what happened to Rachel Montgomery, and I could not put Rachel out of my mind.

“She just could not have disappeared,” Pat went on, “they all have tombstones so why not Rachel? Her parents were very wealthy and so was Buck Story. Buck and his second wife have a huge tombstone. Did they all forget about Rachel?”

“Where are her parents buried? Did you look there?” I asked.

“There is a Montgomery family cemetery with high brick walls around it.  Some of the graves are not marked.”

“That’s her I bet.”

“Why doesn’t it have her name on a stone? That doesn’t make sense. And why wasn’t she buried at Moon’s Town? That’s where she should be, at her home.”

“Moon’s Town?”

“Yes Moon’s Town. It was the home place of Rachel and Buck Story. Rachel bought Moon’s Town with her own money. She paid six-thousand dollars for one-thousand-four-hundred-and-forty-five acres. When she bought Moon’s Town from the Moon family, it made Buck Story one of the largest land owners in the county.”

“Are you kiddin’ me? How’d she get that kind of money back then?”

“No, I’m not kidding, Rachel’s father made all of his children wealthy, not just his sons, but daughters too. And Buck Story owned farms in several adjacent counties. He’s everywhere! He owned Moon’s Town thanks to Rachel, Mistletoe, Marshall Dollar Place, Big Cotton Gin, Little Cotton Gin, and the Garnett Place. He bought the Marshall Dollar Place after Rachel died for eleven-hundred dollars in 1870. It was a small farm of four-hundred-ninety-five acres.”

“Small?”

“Yes, small compared to the standards of the day. It took a lot of land to grow cotton and sugarcane back then.”

“And he bought it five years after the War Between the States had ended? He was doing well financially in hard times, and must have had U.S. currency not Confederate.” I told Pat. “Well how many sisters and brothers did Rachel have?”

“Some say James Franklin Montgomery had fifteen kids, but I can only document Rachel, Martha, David, John, Lucy, Jane and Mary. I’m still working on the others.”

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel.

Pat’s words stayed on my mind as I went about my daily work about the house. I stayed busy keeping an eye on our roaming cows, but could not get Rachel Montgomery out of my thoughts. I wondered if she worried over broken fences and wandering cows.

Yes Rachel Montgomery was indeed a mystery. I called my sister often to discuss clues. “So you think she died from birthing Lum?”

“Probably, since she died nineteen days after he was born. First born was Samuel Walker Story who was born in 1855, second was James Montgomery Story who was born in 1856, third was our great-grandfather, Radford Gunn Story who was born in 1858, fourth was Benjamin Franklin Story who was born in 1861, the fifth was Henry David Story who was born in 1862, and last was Columbus Marion Story who was born in 1865.”

“And she died leaving a man with five little boys and a newborn? And he waited four years to remarry? That’s surprising,” I said.

Pat continued, “Then he married a school teacher from Virginia in 1869.”
“When they married, did she have children too?”
“No, I think she was about eighteen years old and…”
“How’d he meet her, in Virginia?”

“Well, Di I first speculated he met her during the War Between the States. That’s the only time I can figure he would go that far north, but then I found out that Caleb “Tip” Ramsey’s wife was a McDaniel, and she is buried next to Buck’s second wife, Susan McDaniel.”

“Tip Ramsey? Haven’t you mentioned his name before?”

“Yes, he was from the Lincolnton area and was related to Daddy’s grandmother, Grace Amelia Ramsey-Bentley.”

“The Ramsey-Bentley connection! And the plot thickens! Susan McDaniel must have come down to Georgia for a visit with Sister and met that long tall handsome Buck Story!”

Pat laughed and said, “The story goes Buck Story sent Susan Winston McDaniel an empty trunk and she packed that trunk up and came down to Georgia and married him!”

“Well, at least she had an education and could teach the children.”

“And you would think he would think enough of his first wife to mark her grave!”

“Rachel Montgomery’s grave is there somewhere and if you ever find it, maybe we can mark it ourselves,” I assured Pat.
“Di, I have looked everywhere. It makes me sick, I cannot move on with my research until we find that grave.”

“Sure you can, just pencil in what you know and then ink it when you are sure. Isn’t that what you do?”

“Yes, but it looks like Rachel Montgomery will stay penciled in forever.”

Well maybe not.

As time moved on, Rachel crept into my mind more and more. I began having little silent conversations with her. When I cooked dinner and rang the bell to call my boys in, I would say something like, “Does this ring a bell, Rachel?” or when breaking up a dispute between the boys, “I bet you did this on a regular basis, Rachel. I feel for you – six boys!”

One day I heard a baby calf crying desperately. I walked up to the barn and found a mother cow dead, with a newborn baby calf crying over her. I saw the sad faces of my sons with tear filled eyes. That day death became real to my boys. And as the days went by, I watched James and Jonathan work hard at feeding the calf with baby bottles. How sad they looked when the baby calf cried for his mother. As I mixed hot water and formula to fill the baby bottles, I thought, “Rachel who fed the baby you left behind?”

Winter set in and the wind blew up across the lower pasture and whipped around the corner of my twelve year old son James’ bedroom. He complained about hearing a woman scream. He talked about it so much, seven year old Jonathan, heard it too. They both tried to convince me that is was a real woman and not the wind.

Because of unusual shadows not noticed before, I started sleeping with the lights on. Bumps and strange sounds made for uncomfortable nights and we began marking the days off the kitchen calendar for “when Daddy comes home.” The boys were quick to get their chores done and in the house behind locked doors before nightfall. Then one weekend Jim did not come home. He stayed up north for a convention.

My mother showed up that weekend with her overnight bag. When I opened the door for her she said, “I’m here to hear that screaming woman.”

The boys were delighted to see “Nanny.” That night a storm blew in and the electricity went out. We lit candles and Mama pulled out a flashlight from her bag and said, “I never go anywhere without this.”

We all went to bed and tried to sleep, but the “screaming woman” was at it and there was a definite sound coming from downstairs. I slowly made my way down the upstairs hall in the dark. I was stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of a shadow; an image of a woman in a long flowing gown at the foot of the stairs holding a flickering candle. Her head was topped off with a strange looking night cap of old.

“Who’s there? Speak damn it!”

“It’s ya mother Diane. Get down here now. There is something out there making a grunting sound!”

I quickly stepped down the stairs and followed Mama. She whizzed past the large window in the family room. “There,” Mama cried out, “there, did you see that? It’s big and white! It ran across the backyard going that away!”

“Mama, are you sure you saw something?”

“Yes, I saw something. Di, why in the world don’t you have blinds on these window? Folks can see in,” said Mama while shaking her head in disbelief.

“No one can see us out here.  We like the openness…”

Then we heard it again. The sound was coming from near the back door off the kitchen. It sounded like someone was beating the side of the house with a sledgehammer.

“You hear that? “

When I did not answer Mama, she became irritated. “This house has too many doors and windows, not enough wall! All anyone has to do is knock out a window and step in. The windows may as well be glass doors,” said Mama.

Then we heard it again. Something was intentionally hitting the side of the house, something big and strong; it could not be our imagination.
“Did you hear that Mama?”
“Yes of course I did! Now I’ve seen it and heard it! What are ya gonna do Di? Call the police?” With that Mama picked up the phone and said, “The blamed phone is dead, somebody’s cut the line!”

“No they haven’t. It’s the storm. We need to calm down before we scare the boys.”

Too late, they were peering wide eyed through the banister.

“I’m not going to stay in here all night and wonder what it is. I’m going out there.”
“Goin’ out there? Have you lost ya mind Diane?”

“I’m going out there,” I said handing Mama an umbrella. You hold the umbrella over me and I’ll take the flashlight.”

“Won’t do you no good – batteries are dead. That’s why I’m holding this candle.”

“Okay, hold the candle over here, Mama. I have some batteries in this drawer.” We managed to reload the flashlight and I said, “I’ll go out the backdoor first and you stay behind me. Boys you stay inside.”

It was pouring down rain, but I did not care anymore. I was tired of this nonsense and was determined to see what it was. I yelled out at the top of my lungs to be heard over the rain, “Get out of here! Leave me alone!”

Before I could get all the words out, an inaudible sound was made directly beneath me, just under the deck. Something big hit a support pole and shook the whole deck. I let out a blood curling scream. A cow ran out from under the deck across the backyard, making a new hole in the fence getting back into the pasture.

With that my senses returned and I realized I was soaking wet. Where’s Mama? I knocked on the door. I knocked on the door because it was closed and locked. When I got inside the boys draped me in towels.

“It was just a silly old cow. Everything is alright.” I circled the room with the flashlight and found my mother standing in the breakfast room.

“Mama, isn’t it bad luck to stand under an opened umbrella in the house? And — what are you doing with a tablecloth runner tied around your head?”

“My head was cold, Diane. This house is drafty.”

The boys bundled up in quilts and pillows on the den floor. Mama and I slept on the sofas. I finally went to sleep but not before I heard Mama mumble to herself, “Helen Story, I’ll bet you one thing! Before nightfall tomorrow, you’ll be in ya car heading back to Tucker-town!”

The next day, Pat and Aunt Nancy joined us for dinner and a game of Rook. As we settled into our game, Aunt Nancy began to reminisce about the Lincolnton trip.

“Pat, did you tell ‘em about the one armed man you met in that store?” asked Aunt Nancy.

“Uh, well, no, I didn’t,” reluctantly answered Pat.

“Tell ‘em!” Aunt Nancy demanded.
“Tell us what? What one armed man?” asked Mama.

“Yeah, what one armed man?” I couldn’t wait to hear this one and wondered why Pat had not mentioned it before.

“Oh, it’s nothing really,” Pat tried to down play it.

“Nothing! Tell them what that man said about ya great-great granddaddy, Buck Story!”

“Yeah, tell us Pat,” I had to know.

“Well, I went into this tiny old country store,” said Pat,” and found two men there at a pot bellied stove playing checkers.”
“By yourself? You went in by yourself?” asked Mama.

“Yes, Helen it was alright,” Aunt Nancy answered for Pat, “I was in the car being the look out. And I had the gun right there in my sights, laid up on top of our picnic basket.”

Mama looked disturbed as she slowly shuffled the cards.

Pat went on, “I had no idea what I was going to say. So, I just walked in and looked at them and said, I’m the great-great granddaughter of Henry Allen Story, and I am looking for anyone who might know my family. I am actually looking for a Story cemetery where his first wife, Rachel Montgomery, could be buried. I am looking for Rachel Ann Montgomery-Story’s grave.”

“It’s a wonder you two didn’t get shot!” Mama was not thrilled.

Aunt Nancy had a smile on her face that shined brightly with family pride. Her eyes and ears were on Pat. She wanted to hear this story about her great grandfather. She clung to Pat’s every word as though it was the first time she had heard them.

Pat took a deep breath and continued with her explanation, “The one armed man stood up. He looked like a rough mountain man, but when he smiled at me, I knew he was an okay person. He said, ‘You are Buck Story’s great-great granddaughter?’ And I said, Oh! You know his nickname! And he said, ‘Everybody knew his name. He lived in a place called Moon’s Town. You can find it just over ya shoulder a piece down the road. I heard of a Story cemetery, but never seen it.’”

“He then drew a map on a brown paper bag. He pointed to the map and said, ‘Look in and around there. That’s where the old home place was, not there now, cause of development and all. They’re building houses all out in there. They could’ve moved the graves, I don’t know.’”

Pat continued, “I thanked him over and over. He was so nice, and when I got ready to leave he said, ‘Buck Story owned ten thousand acres back in his day. You know, when I was a kid, I knew him. Every time he saw me, he flipped me a silver dollar. He was a good man.’”

We all sat there at the dining room table speechless. I broke the silence.

“Unbelievable! Pat that is incredible! You went into a strange place, way out in the country – into a Lord knows what kind of store – and found a one armed man sitting at a pot bellied stove playing checkers, who actually knew Buck Story! You didn’t find Rachel Montgomery’s grave, but you found someone who personally knew her husband, the father of her six boys!”

I was totally blown away. Mama was not impressed.

“Nancy Story-Goss, it’s your turn to deal,” said Mama as she handed Nancy the deck of cards, “And I have something to say on the subject of Rachel Montgomery.” Mama spoke to us slowly and deliberately as though we had never heard the English language, “I want y’all to listen to me and remember that that woman died over a hundred years ago. Please, please, let her poor soul rest in peace!”

We knew it was time to get back into the card game. But after a while, we began to talk about the odd goings-on at my house. We all had a good laugh about the cow episode and Mama’s night cap. Then Pat asked Aunt Nancy if she thought some of the other strange occurrences could be the ghost of Rachel Montgomery.

Mama rolled her big brown eyes around to the back of her head, “I’ll deal this time,” she said trying to pull us back into the Rook game. “Nancy, you and Pat are losing this game in case you don’t know it.”

“Do I think it could be Rachel’s ghost?” asked Aunt Nancy. “Heavens no child, that’s not the ghost of Rachel Montgomery. To be absent from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord!”

At the sound of Aunt Nancy’s wise words, I felt a sense of relief throughout my body and silently I said, “Thank you Aunt Nancy, tonight I will be able to sleep with the lights out, sanity has been restored.”

Then Aunt Nancy continued with a faraway look on her face, “That sounds like someone who experienced unrequited love. That’s not Rachel Montgomery for she had the love of her life! Buck Story! No, that’s not Rachel Montgomery. That’s Aunt Wilanty!”

“Aunt Wilanty? Who is she?” I asked astonished.

Aunt Nancy stood and walked over to the window and peeped out, “I’ll have to tell you about her another day. It’s about dark. Helen didn’t you say we needed to be on our way back to Tucker before dark? These roads can be tricky, you know.”

“Yes indeed Nancy. I’ll get my things together,” answered Mama.

“But what happened to Aunt Wilanty?” I persisted.

Aunt Nancy ignored me as she picked up her purse. She gave me a big Story hug and called out to Pat, “Come on Patricia, get your keys. It’s time we get back to Tucker.”

“But what about Aunt Wilanty?” I asked again.

“Diane, Aunt Wilanty was a complicated woman, and we don’t have time to do her justice tonight,” explained Aunt Nancy as she smiled with that faraway look, “Wilanty Story, now that’s a Story for another day.”

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.