Posts Tagged ‘War Between the States’


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.

 

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.”

Caleb Hardin Bentley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. John Bentley Courtesy of Bill Tankersley

Dr. John Bentley 1797-1867
Courtesy of Bill Tankersley

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author’s Note:

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