The Ghosts of Lincoln County Category


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!

 

Diane Story

Diane Story

When I was a child, about four years old, I visited Clarks Hill Lake with my family. It’s my first true memory of Lincoln County, Georgia. All my life I have heard about Lincoln County, as though it was some magical place of the past, Lincolnton in particular. Not many people live there, not like Atlanta. But Lincolnton is well known with places like the National Register of Historic Places. The county and city are named after General Benjamin Lincoln who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

The lake seemed to have a sacred meaning for my father, Tom Story. He started out in his laid back casual way – taking his wife and three daughters on a little adventure, but by the time we reached Lincoln County, it was apparent the man was on a mission. As soon as he parked the car he made a beeline straight for the Clarks Hill shoreline and there he stood with his hands on hips staring into the blue green water. That day when I was four years old, I noticed he was not just staring into the water, but at an old brick chimney. My older sister and I walked down to the lake and stood beside him. The bottoms of our bare feet burned on hard Georgia red clay as we enjoyed the cool splash of the water.

“That’s where I was born – right there. See that chimney? If you could go under water, you’d see the house that my grandfather, Rad Story, built. It’s there,” he assured us as he pointed, “down there. Yep, that’s where my brothers and sisters were all born, except Robert. He was born at Uncle Ed Gunby’s general store just down the road a piece.” He chuckled at the thought of Robert being born at a general store. And then he continued on about his people. “Aurelius Gunby couldn’t stand the thoughts of his daughter, Sallie, living at Mistletoe Plantation. He reeled her back here by deeding this land over to her husband Rad; lots of Gunbys lived here ‘bouts. The Storys farmed ten thousand acres from here to Thomson, land owned by Buck Story, Rad’s daddy.”

My father,Tom Story, was a quiet man, but could go on and on about the history of Lincoln County, especially when it came to his family.

“We go way back. The Gunbys were akin to the Smalleys, O’Neals – Basil O’Neal, came here during the Revolutionary War. On my mother’s side, we’re akin to the Bentleys, Ramseys, Hardins and Reids. The Hardins are buried at Ft. Gordon, which used to be their farm. Our people were some of the first in Lincoln County.”

“Why did we leave Lincoln County, Daddy?” asked six year old Patricia.

“Life can make you do things you don’t necessarily want to. Yep, life can bring you to your knees. They,” Daddy hesitated and then spoke choosing his words carefully, “Rad – well – he died. And then eventually the government, of all things, flooded our home-place. Sometimes it’s just better to git! That’s all’s that’s left now – that chimney.” Then he grinned and winked at us. “And me, and you and you.”

“And Barbara?” asked Patricia.

“Yes, and Barbara,” he answered with a chuckle. “We’re family, nobody can take that from you. Once family, always family – in life or death.”

Once our lake visits were over, it was off to Aunt Donn’s house. She was a curious though well-educated woman who taught school in Lincolnton. She was of great importance to my father as she was the only living relative of his mother. Donn always dressed up like she was going somewhere important. She lived in an old clapboard home which looked as though it had never been painted – it set atop stacks of rocks. She love rocks; they adorned her porch steps and served as door stops in her home. Not just any old rocks, but ones that came to her through history – something to do with a  Revolutionary War hero – Elijah Clarke. Aunt Donn must have been an excellent school teacher for she had a way of depositing an indelible thought into your memory bank.

“My deahs, if you want to know where to find yoah Aunt Donn, take it upon yoah self to look at a map of Geo’gia. Look no fa’thah then the bo’dah of South Ca’olina. There in Geo’gia, you will find a county in the shape of an Indian ar’ow head pointing nawth. Just remembah, Lincoln is the only county that reminds you to look to the nawth star! Yo’ll neveh be lost if you look to the heavens from whence yoah help cometh. I’ll be heah in Lincoln County with yoah Uncle Waltah, in the same place of mine and yoah fo’fathahs: Dennis Bentley, Dr. John Bentley, Balaam Bentley and William Bentley II. Now keep in mind the very reason we are heah in Geo’gia and not South Ca’olina, is because Captain William Bentley II was awau’ded land heah in exchange for his effo’ts in the American Revolutiona’y war. We call that land Leathasville; it’s neah Lincolnton the county seat. It’s where my fathah and they all – including my grandfathah, Dr. John Bentley, made shoes and saddles – heah in Lincoln County. Now let me make you awa’e of one mo’e thing of impo’tance. Lincoln County was pawt of Wilkes County until 1796. Let’s don’t neglect our Wilkes County histo’y …”

Yes Aunt Donn had an over the top Southern accent which sounded as though she was trying to mimic a sophisticated English lady. My father left Lincoln County at age five, but carried a tad of her accent with him. He had difficulty pronouncing a second “r” in a word, and sometimes his first “r” was neglected. The longer he hung with Aunt Donn, the more he sounded like her.

And on one evening when he asked Mama to please pass the “cawn” at Aunt Donn’s supper table, well, that’s when my mother, Helen Story, said, “Tom, we need to get back to Atlanta.”

I have spoken to quite of few folks from Lincolnton and never heard them speak with an accent like Aunt Donn. But then again, they weren’t born in 1881. You would have thought that Donn was a perfectionist in the area of pronunciation, since she was so particular about her name, Dieudonne Randolph Bentley. She would not tolerate a poor French accent.

“My deahs, if you cannot propa’ly pa’nounce my name, then just call me Donn! I have a lovely name,” she would say with her chin tilted up in righteous indignation. “Dieudonne is French, and it means Gift of God. And of coa’se, Randolph comes from our family in Roanake Island – you know the Randolphs – the ones related to President Thomas Jeffe’son.”

We wisely concealed our eye-ball rolling when Donn did her name dropping, but we honestly tried to sharpen up our French accent just for her. We failed miserably. Even Walter Steed, her husband, called her Donn. And my mother enjoyed calling her the “Gift of God.” You know like, “Tom, go ask the Gift of God . . .” My mother had an attitude toward Aunt Donn because the truth be known, Donn was somewhat of a pot stirrer, a loop hole finder. And she could not be beaten at her game, but never mind about all that, it will suffice to say that my father hung on her every word.

As the years passed, my sisters and I made many memories exploring rural eastern Georgia, and just flat out running wild with our cousins. Even the nights proved to be an adventure. Just how in the world do you keep from sinking to the bottom of a feather mattress? My cousin, Roy, complained that he was about to “smother to death” as he sank deeper and deeper, trapped by the high walls of feathers held together by fine linen. We loved it, because it was the only way to slow him down, and trust me when I say Roy needed slowing down.

But nothing could ever replace my first memory of Lincoln County when I was four years old, not even running the chickens, sabotaging the out-house, nor hollering down the well. That day, my father and Uncle Doc took a boat out to fish near the old brick chimney, while my mother and Aunt Sarah prepared lunch on shore. Mama busy with lunch and my two year old sister had her hands full. I made it my business to take full advantage of the situation and slipped off. I followed the alluring call of gentle splashes. Of course, Mama’s last words to me were, “Don’t go out too far.” And I obeyed her as far as not going too far out into the water, but she said nothing about following the shoreline. In minutes I found myself in a different cove, alone.

And I loved it. The water splashed my feet and legs. A dragonfly teased me, as the wind blew through the trees enticing them to hum an alluring song. I knew I should turn back, but was compelled to stay just a little longer to hear a lone bird sing with the trees. As a four year old, I felt completely satisfied and proud of myself for being independent. Then I got an idea. I could not swim as my older cousins, but I could lie on my stomach and pretend to swim. And that is what I did. And yes, I did go out a little way into the lake.

After a few minutes, I felt a tickle around my ankle. I stopped splashing and was still as could be. The tickling turned into an invisible hand that grabbed my foot and snatched me backwards, back to the shore. When I should have been on the bank, I was under water. I was disoriented, confused, and realized I was in a place that I had to get out of fast. And I knew I was on my own.

I fought hard to get away from the pull, but whatever it was, had me and sucked me deeper into an even darker place. I found myself struggling to free myself from tree roots, some thick and some thin and hairy. When I tried to surface, I hit ground. Somehow I was under ground and surrounded by water. I struggled to free myself and finally, just in time, my head surfaced and I took a big gulp of fresh air, only to be pulled back under the bank again, and again. I knew the third time I went under, I was done for. I was tired and had no strength left to fight the tree roots or the whirlpool. I was dying and I knew it.

And then a miracle happened. The ground above opened up and a bright light shined down into the dark water. Tiny little stars floated down through the light as if to comfort me. Somehow the light allowed the murmuring of the trees to filter into my ears. As the sound of the trees caressed me, I relaxed. I heard many hushed voices whispering things like: “Don’t give up, help is on the way. Don’t give up. You’ll make it.” The voices did not speak in unison, but rather here and there, some far away, some close, some male some female. I did not recognize any of the voices, but somehow believed they were folks who had gone on before me, folks who were pulling for me.

And then a pleasant sensation soothed the top of my head. It floated down through my body in waves to my toes. The feeling can only be described as electric, yet numbing. It melted my will and I surrendered. I felt a swooping feeling of being lifted. I lost consciousness.

When I opened my eyes, I was face to face with my mother. She was stunned. I was told later that one of my older cousins saw me surface for air and go under the bank. He pulled me out.

As I lay stretched out that day on the shore, my mother verbally let me have it. I was dazed and could not concentrate on what she was saying, though I know she was upset. She was angry.

The gentle sound of the water hitting the shore allowed me to escape Mama’s wrath. The more I concentrated on the sound of the water, the less I heard her. As the sun warmed my face, Mama seemed to float away. I looked toward her, but saw the trees behind her instead. The wind blew and the trees murmured, everything else was shut out. I know I was surrounded by many, but do not remember seeing or hearing them.

Three years later I was diagnosed with heart disease and would spend the next five years in and out of hospitals and on strict bedrest for three of those years. My first trip to the hospital when I was seven was most frightful. Unable to draw blood from my small arms, I was strapped to a hard table and the preparation to draw blood from my leg began. I cried, begging my parents to rescue me. Their unwillingness put me in a panic. Just as I was about to scream bloody murder and pull a Houdini, I caught a glimpse of a picture on the wall. It was a colorful rendering of a lake with water lapping the shoreline – just like Clarks Hill. To the left of the lake were tall trees, some cedars – just like Clarks Hill.

I went limp and silent.

I stared at the picture and was taken away – taken to Clarks Hill Lake. I felt the sun on my face and hard Georgia red clay beneath me. I heard the lake water caressing the shore. I felt the breeze and heard the murmuring of the trees. And those hushed whispering voices spoke to me as they did in that watery grave, “Don’t give up, help is on the way. Don’t give up. You’ll make it.”

And who were those hushed whispering voices who stuck with me? I know they are folks who have gone on before me. I know they are folks who are pulling for me. And someday I will return to Lincoln County and learn all about them. Them? The ghosts of Lincoln County.

 

~ Thomas Jonathan Story, Sr.

“Tom Story, why in the world is it, no matter where we’re going, whether it be the beach or the mountains, we always wind up in Lincolnton, Georgia?” Helen Story rolled her intense, big brown eyes (her trademark), then demanded, “Just tell me why!”

“Now Helen, you know, even to get to Heaven, you gotta go through Lincolnton,” Tom Story said with a slow grin (his trademark).