Helen Story’s Richmond

In the ‘50s, Helen Story was an enterprising young woman. For $20 she purchased a used Richmond Treadle Sewing Machine from church member, Winnie Gravitt. With that Richmond she kept her three daughters well dressed – and entertained.

We watched her change thread, fill the bobbin and sew in zippers with the speed of light. Watching the bobbin fill was mesmerizing. Helen slowed down when pulling a thread through a piece of hemmed cloth making a “pretty little ruffle.” She smiled as though surprised – every time. Not much she couldn’t do, but make button holes. With a stack of gingham and seersucker, she walked across Morgan Road to Aunt Sarah’s house. In a day or so Sarah returned the clothes with button holes. Good as store bought. It took a special feature for button hole-makers that the antiquated Richmond did not offer.

But what she had Helen perfected. Hours on end her feet powered that machine to a fine hum. We took turns sitting on the Richmond foot-petal, atop her feet and went for a ride, mindful not to grab the big wheel. A lesson learned the hard way.

My mother was an organizer labeling every article of clothing down to the white socks, pink thread for Patricia, always blue for me and yellow for Barbara. Just a few stitches of our favorite color and that article was assigned to rightful owner, making laundry day a breeze.

Diane and Patricia, halter-shorts by Helen Story

Waste not want not was her motto. Only one Simplicity Pattern purchased for her 3 daughters. She cautiously cut out the tissue paper pattern. Positioned it on material laid out on the kitchen table, careful to crowd the pieces in as much as possible. Cut, then took the pieces to the sewing machine. There we watched her every move. Serious she was. With the rider of the foot-petal determined and positioned on her feet, Helen started slowly, then as a powerful locomotive she gave it more steam, then take off time. That’s when she bit her lip as her big brown eyes focused on the foot-feed. Time for silence except for the Richmond whirl.

With the hum quiet, magically a halter top appeared. Hum a little more, the shorts appeared. Question. What color rick-rack? She listened to our in-put then made her decision. Sometimes we won, sometimes not. Helen had an eye for color but kept in mind our favorites. But first the owner of the new outfit had to be determined. That’s when she snapped her fingers to the tune of no-nonsense. Though she’s been deceased for 10 years, I can still hear it. We lined up in pecking order. Whoever the outfit fit – was the proud owner.

Diane, Barbara and Patricia Story

If the piece fit me – Diane – the middle girl, it was mine. Then she laid the used pattern piece on the remaining material on the kitchen table. She cut a couple inches wide for Patricia. Then she folded her paper pattern in a couple inches to cut smaller pieces for Barbara. If short on material, she worked it like a puzzle to get every inch. Back to the machine. Miraculously, the clothes fit. If not no problem. She had a handy dandy seam ripper and knew how to use it. Alterations no problem for Helen Story.

That is how the little girls of  Tom and Helen Story stayed well dressed for school and church. Yes, she made beautiful little dresses with petite embellishment. Nothing fancy. “Nice for my girls,” is what she wanted.

Thanksgiving of 2018, Helen Story much on my mind as I prepared her recipes. Then I read about disappearing treadle sewing machines by Southern Writer, Tom Poland. Mama got a little closer. I opened the put-away sewing machine, now used as a table in the guest room. With a damp cloth, I dusted the cabinet including that big wheel that bit my fingers. Looking at the foot-petal I realized how tiny we were then. I carefully put my hand in the well and grabbed hold of the cold iron machine hidden so many years. And there it was, Helen Story’s $20 innovative clothing store for her daughters, Patricia, Diane and Barbara. Thank you Mama; you made us look so “nice.”

 

 

 

 

 

June 1962

“Mother, Diane and I want to see Prince and the Pauper in downtown Atlanta, not around here in Tucker! How boring. We’re goin’ to Atlana!” 

“Gail, I will not drop you off on the streets of Atlanta – especially in pouring down rain. Forget it.”

“But there’s nothing to do around here.”

And on and on it went. Most young teens would’ve given up, but not Gail.

Mary and Hubert Humphrey did all to accommodate their only child. Mary almost died giving birth and it was touch and go with Gail. Mary was my mother’s cousin. Even Helen Story,thought the sun rose and set upon Gail Humphrey. If I was with the Humphreys all was well with the world according to Helen. And it was. Long story short. Mary and a girlfriend pulled up to the curb of the Plaza Theatre on Ponce de Leon to let Gail and me out. Gail opened the car door.

“Hold on girls! I just do not feel right about this!”

“Mother, please don’t embarrass me in front of Diane!”

“Gail, you are 13 years old! What will Helen Story say when she hears about this?”

Before I could speak (though I had no intentions of telling Helen anything) Gail said, “Helen supports the buddy system! Always stay together and look out for one another.”

Mary looked at me. I was on. “Mama does support the buddy system.”

Mary thought hard, reconsidering but became irritated as the wind blew rain into the car putting a damper on her new shampoo and set. Still, she stood her ground not allowing us out of the car.

“What kind of person would allow two 13 year olds out on Ponce alone in Atlanta? Gail, Hubert will not be happy about this! What if the movie is sold out and you’re stranded on the street?”

“Oh Mother, you’re so dramatic. Why not watch us go in? We’ll wave when we have the tickets. Go to lunch and then come back and wait on us – right here in this spot. We’ll be okay.”

“Well, that makes sense. I’ll watch. Don’t forget to wave! Or I will sit here until you come out!”

That’s the roughest I ever heard Mary speak to Gail. We ran to the outside ticket booth. Just before facing a woman selling tickets Gail said, “Let me do the talking.”

(Well okay, why not?) With a straight face – serious as a heart attack – Gail looked the woman in the eyes and said, “Two for Lolita.”

“You mean – Prince and the Pauper?”

“Two for Lolita,” Gail said without blinking an eye.

Visibly disturbed, the lady said, “Absolutely not! You must be 18 to see that movie or,” she smiled knowingly, “have permission from a parent.”

“Our mothers are in that car. See? They’re waiting to make sure you give us our tickets,” Gail said as she pointed out the car with two women anxiously looking on. “I hope Mother doesn’t have to get out and get her new hairdo ruined! She’ll be so mad.”

Gail and I waved at the two women in the car. They waved back motioning for us to hurry in. The lady disapprovingly handed over the tickets. We were given an odd look by the gatekeeper who pointed to the door with Lolita in big red letters above it.

Inside the theatre, Gail insisted on sitting in the middle of the room – in the wide open for all to see. I suggested sitting on the edge near the curtains. No. We sat centerfield. There two 13 year old girls learned the ways of the (sick) world. We reacted in different ways. I felt as though the long arm of Helen Story was about to grab me, whereupon I would face the worst of judgement. Still, I looked on. Gail saw this enlightenment as a comedy where her belly laugh was heard throughout the room filled with silent-stiff-necked adults.

June of 1962 will never be forgotten, nor lessons learned: (1) Beware of very friendly old men. (2) BSP – Buddy System Power

June 2018

My dear childhood friend, Gail Humphrey, passed away in June 2018. Aggressive brain tumor. She is survived by two sons and too many friends to count. She will always be remembered for her sense of humor, gift of gab and full embracement of life. No doubt she entered the Pearly Gates at record speed, entertaining all.

Girlfriend, you are missed.

Atlanta History Note:

Plaza Theatre on 1049 Ponce de Leon Avenue is an Atlanta landmark with the longest operating history. Opened December 23, 1939, still serving the Druid Hills, Virginia Highlands and Poncey Highland neighborhood. Architect was George Harwell Bond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plumb Nellie

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. ~William Shakespeare

 

Plumb Nellie, 1970s

I rode horseback across a Dunwoody meadow. Plumb outta the city and Nellie in the country, as Aunt Donn would say. “Yes I agree, Aunt Donn. This is as plumb nellie as you can get this close to Atlanta.” Not at all unusual to carry on a conversation with my late and great Aunt Donn of Lincoln County.

I sat atop Britches, a dun bay with black tiger stripes at high points of knees and hocks. Beautiful animal. We walked through sweet grass; tall grass blowing in the breeze ready for bush-hog. Was this a mirror image of the Saxon meadow of Drew Bentley-Haye? That land grant from William the Conqueror to the first known Bentley?

Moseying along on horseback under blue sky makes room for the mind to roam. Perfect day. Cloud watching triggers the imagination, encourages intellectual curiosity. Nonsense some say. William Aurelius Gunby would approve of such nonsense, my philosophical great-great grandfather of Columbia County.

We swing wide right to miss the blackberry thicket. Slow and easy a must for a hot August day in Georgia. To the creek where Britches can stand in sand and cool water. After a long drink Britches meanders inside the tree line. We pass the “chair” tree, directional marker most likely made by the Cherokee. Beaver dam on the right. River straight ahead. The sound of water cools the body. Ferns please the eye. Sun bounces off water and rocks shooting a hint of color through the trees. No wonder the Cherokee called the river, Chattahoochee – the Painted Rocks.

Natural beauty by sight, smell and sound, absorbed like a sponge. Eliminate illness from the mind; the body will follow. So said progressive thinker, my great-great grandfather, Dr. John B. Bentley, country doctor born 1797 in Lincoln County.

Riding with the flow of rushing water energizes the body. Muscles relax. Nerves tingle all the way to the toes. Was that why Court of Ordinary Gene Gunby rode so hard on the Chattahoochee River trails? Was he trying to awaken his dead legs? Nothing ordinary about my grandfather’s cousin, Judge Eugene Gunby, country cripple boy from Lincoln County.

Out of nowhere comes a dappled gray pony trotting through the woods alone. Wonder what color Dulce was? That sweet pony so loved by the children of Dennis and Grace Bentley. Their daughter, my Aunt Donn, wrote of Dulce the Pony in a letter to Atlanta. Written while living in that old creaky farmhouse in Lincoln County.

We move on to breathtaking beauty found in an odd place, the old ferry boat crossing. White blooms climb cedars, reaching for the sky: the magnificent Cherokee rose. Britches reads my body language and stops. I admire the never-ending white blooms while listening to water rush. Back in the day, the Chattahoochee served as a territorial divide. White settlers on the south, Native Americans on the north. The north side now marked with development. Still the white blooms reach for the sky as if the spirit of the Cherokee refuses to leave.

I wonder? Was the State Flower of Georgia named for a beautiful Indian maiden?

Rules that separate races are made to be broken. Anyway, how long was it before a white settler and Indian maiden became lovers? George Washington Paschal left his Wilkes County law office to aid General Wool in the relocation of the Cherokee. Cupid struck when George looked into the eyes of Sollee Ridge. His new father-in-law, Second in Command of the Cherokee Nation.

Britches took the high trail through the woods to circle back to the barn. Shade lowered the temperature. To avoid a snake encounter, he swung wide avoiding the natural spring. Horses know. Hazel Bentley Eubanks learned of such things while exploring the where ‘bouts of Balaam’s tannery known as Leathersville. Balaam Bentley, my great-great-great grandfather of Lincoln County.

Loose reins best with a good horse in the woods. The woods eerily quiet except for an occasional bug or bird sound. Could’ve been the days of Tomochichi and Oglethorpe. Not a soul in sight, though the trees seem to hide someone watching. No sign of the modern world. No big wheel in a cul de sac. No weed-eater noise. Just muffled sounds of horse hooves hitting dirt floor.

Was this the way of my ancestors?

Did they experience this-kind-of-quiet living in the backwoods of Georgia? Was the forest silent when Chloe Bentley watched that log cabin burn? Did she hear Indian ponies running? No way to call for help. No fire department, no 911. Was she afraid in the woods after the attack?

Would I like living in isolation? No car? No shopping center? No cell phone? A river dictating where to live? One day I will be a memory, as my ancestors and the Cherokee. What will survive?

Britches picked up speed as we left the canopy of leaves. I tightened the reins. This state champion barrel racer always on the lookout for a “barrel” and that lone scrub pine would do nicely. With a bit of urging, he trots through the creek. No need to stop, refreshed already. He crossed the meadow through the buttercups and Queen Anne’s lace, stopping occasionally to nibble daisies, passing a pond and two Halifax green barns.

Halifax green? Unusual color for a barn. Barns are red, but not at Pounds’ Stables. What color did Buck Story paint his barns? Probably weathered gray, no paint at all. Penny pincher he was. Second thought, he would paint to protect his investment, but not for show. Buck Story, my formidable great-great grandfather had many barns in McDuffie, Warren, Columbia and Lincoln County.

Britches walked on avoiding the riding rings. He automatically stopped at the hitching post in front of the big barn. Time for sweet feed and brush down. His silent request understood.

My great grandfather, Rad Story, was a man who understood his horse. They say Rad was known in McDuffie, Warren, Lincoln and Columbia County by that magnificent white saddleback stallion he rode. No doubt, hay and sweet feed were familiar smells to him. Did Rad and Sallie ride together for pleasure? Perhaps a romantic ride on a lovely day under blue sky and white clouds? I like to think they did. An indelible moment of sweetness for Sallie, before Rad was murdered near Thomson Road in McDuffie County.

It was a beautiful day in 1968 when I rode Britches with my friend, Jim. As we galloped along Jim pulled reins on his quarter horse, Julie, looking back at me.

“Do you like it here, Di?”

Near the blackberry thicket we built a Cape Cod home and raised two sons, James and Jonathan. Jim and I were married for 25 years. Today all that remains of my Plumb Nellie is the Chattahoochee River and my two sons. I often wonder, did the Cherokee rose survive?

2003

On a hot August day I found myself within a few miles of my once upon a time Plumb Nellie. I stood in a delivery room holding a newborn baby, Jonathan Caleb “Jayce” Pounds. As he peeped out the blanket, I had to say, “Oh my dear, you look so familiar. I know I’ve seen that sweet little face somewhere.”

2010

While cleaning out my desk, I found a photograph.

“Jayce, come take a look at this old school photo for Gramma-Di.”

My seven year old grandson examined the photo. I pointed to a six year old boy on the front row.

“Who does that little boy look like?”

Me, he looks like me.”

After a moment, his eyes left the boy and moved on.

“Who is she?”

Out of 61 people in the photo, Jayce pointed to an eight year old girl sitting on the front row, 12th down from the little boy.

“That’s Nancy Bentley. The little boy who looks like you, is her brother, Caleb Hardin Bentley.”

“Caleb? That’s my name.”

“Yes, by coincidence, you have the same name.”

“And same face.”

“You are related to these people, you know. Nancy Bentley grew up and became my father’s mother. That would make her your great-great grandmother.”

“Look at him, his hair is buzzed.”

“Yes, that little boy is Horace Lawton Story. He married Nancy Bentley. Lawton used to tease Caleb about his hair – those long curls. Nancy told Lawton to pick on someone his own size. He loved her spirit. They married and had my father, Tom Story. Tom married Nanny and they had me. I had your father and Daddy and Mommie had you.”

“It started on the same row at school.”

“Yes, the same row at Liberty Hill School, 1894 in Lincoln County.”

“Look at that girl. What’s wrong with her eyes?”

“She’s making a face at the photographer. That’s Aunt Donn, Nancy and Caleb’s older sister. Boy oh boy, I can tell you some stories about her.”

And the beat goes on . . .

 

Shiny new Denmark High and Stadium centerpiece a sprawling Forsyth County meadow. No expense spared. Adjacent the new facility, a once grand two story home being swallowed up by magnolias and creeping vegetation, signaling bulldozer time. Beside this yesteryear home stands a country doctor’s office, small but big enough, sandwiched between chimneys made of rock and red Georgia clay.

The office hours sign removed; the empty space screams – doctor not in.

Years ago, the doctor walked Mullinax Road with aid of a tall walking stick. Tiny, no more than a hundred pounds, wore a simple cotton dress to the ankles. Her face shadowed by that pioneer bonnet. Her outline was that of the Dutch Doll quilt pattern.

Once we stood together in a buffet line at our neighborhood restaurant.

“Well, Dr. Denmark, I see you like black-eyed peas and tomatoes.”

“Yes, I do love vine ripened tomatoes. They peel them nicely here. Most places don’t peel. Black-eyeds mighty fine.”

“By the way ma’am, I like your bonnet. I pass you on Mullinax all the time, I know it’s you by the bonnet.”

“Where’s your bonnet? Need protection from the sun.”

“One day, maybe I’ll get one. I do use sunscreen.”

I followed the serving line to the peach cobbler, cakes and pies. She broke line and returned to her table.

Sorry to say, that’s all we ever said to each other. I saw her less and less, then noticed stillness about her home, sadly heard she passed away. Seven years later, I still look for her when driving down Mullinax. Gone the wise woman who prescribed black-eyed peas to her patients, who loved peeled vine ripened tomatoes.

Prescribed black-eyed peas? Yep.

Recently my friend, Sheila Kirkman told a black-eyed pea story. Years ago, pediatrician, Dr. Leila Alice Denmark, advised Sheila to throw out the cow milk, bread, box cereal and eggs, instead serve black-eyed peas for breakfast. Much to Sheila’s surprise, her children became allergy free.

Dr. Denmark ate black-eyed peas and shredded cabbage for breakfast; she drank lemon water. Born 1898 in East Georgia, she lived 114 years 60 days. At 100 she stopped lecturing at the University of Georgia. At 106th birthday party, she refused cake saying she’d not consumed added sugar in over 70 years. Received Fisher Award for research on whooping cough vaccine. Wrote two books. Dr. Denmark died December 10, 2011. Before her departure, she prescribed black-eyed peas to many Georgians.

I wish they’d make a pea patch on that land, plenty of room for agriculture even with the new facilities. Only right for students to wonder, “Hey, what’s with the pea patch?”

Now when I drive down Mullinax, I see a sign: Denmark High – Home of the Danes. I like to say, Denmark High – Home of the Dame! She was a Southern woman and she was mighty fine!

Below, my black-eyed pea story and recipe, excerpt from Ghosts of Lincoln County by Diane Story.

Black-Eyed Peas

Lincoln County before 1928

Miriam Dieudonne Story was born in 1917 with a blue veil stuck to her face. This strange occurrence happens less than one out of 80,000 births. A caulbearer was considered powerful, lucky with special talents in the fields of leadership and judgment. The next Dalai Lama is sought by looking for one with birth membrane still attached, someone able to look beyond the veil. Miriam was in the company of Albert Einstein, Napoleon and Alexander the Great.

For all the good fortune attached to Miriam’s birth, she faced death early. So likely her mother purchased a burial dress, a beige Christening gown made for a child rather than baby. Perhaps it was her good fortune that she did not wear it.

Little Miriam became too sick to eat or drink, became lifeless. Nothing worked. Doctor sent for again, in the middle of the night.

“We done all that is earthly possible. Don’t give her any hope. It’s up to the Lord now,” the doctor said. “Let her rest.” He hesitated. “Lawton, make preparations – now.”

They prayed. The sun peeped, the rooster crowed. Mother quoted Bunyan: What God says is best, is best. She walked away. She made cornbread. Put on a pot of black-eyed peas. She blessed the peas, then stepped away.

“Now, that will do. As soon as we eat, we leave this house,” said Nancy Bentley.

Husband stunned. Children dismayed. What was Mother thinking? Talking out of her head? They reminded her of the stick story about staying together. They would not leave Miriam.

Nancy stood firm, “We have stock to feed, eggs to gather, wood to chop and corn to pull, and Lawton,” she hesitated, “you have a job to do in the barn.”

Nancy set peas and cornbread on the table.

“Where’s the ham and eggs, Mother?”

“Peas and cornbread. Finish your work. Meet at the well. We come in together.”

Just not herself, but then how does a mother act knowing her child is dying? They ate their unusual breakfast while taking assignments.

“You little ones come with me,” Lawton said, “I can keep an eye on you in the barn.”

They kissed Miriam and wondered, would it be the last time? They left the house. They worked. They prayed in the field, the smokehouse, the henhouse and the barn. They kept moving.

Miriam drifted in and out of consciousness; in enough to know she was alone. Not supposed to be like this. She heard hammering. With every pound, something stirred. It was the will to live. Knew what must be done. Gotta get to those black eyed-peas, her only focus. She slid out of bed, crawled to the table. She sipped pea juice. They found her asleep on the table. Until full recovery, little Miriam was fed black-eyed pea juice, one drop at a time. She never wore the dress that hung in Nancy Bentley’s armoire. On occasion Miriam pulled it out to show it off.

“Yes ma’am, yes sir, I want you to look at this! My burial dress. Hadn’t got around to wearin’ it yet. Didn’t use that coffin Papa built for me neither. That’s ’cause I beat that death angel! Aunt Donn said it’s ‘cause I was born with a blue veil attached to my face.”

“Blue veil?”

Yes, according to Aunt Donn, I’m a caulbearer. That’s why she named me after her. Miriam Dieudonne Story, the special one! Even though I didn’t grow Story tall like the rest, I was Story enough to beat the Death Angel in Lincoln County!”

My father, Tom Story, helped build Miriam’s coffin. It was his childhood story.

“Ah was about four when Papa took us to the barn; the mornin’ we come to call the black-eyed pea breakfast. Papa hammered awhile, cried awhile. He told us that Meerum was goin’ away. He said we need to always remember her, ’cause she loves us so. Gene and Caleb cried while handin’ boards to Papa. Ah handed the nails and wiped tears with my sleeve – his and mine. He told me one day Ah’d make a fine carpenter. That moment on, never wanted to do anything else. Depression came on and couldn’t afford nails to make things anymore. Pulled nails from the barn. Took so many, Papa told my older brothers to go to town and buy a pound of  nails and get ’em in those boards, before a big wind blew the barn down.” He laughed then got serious, “And my sistah, Meerum, didn’t go away after all.”

Miriam held a special place in the heart of her eight brothers and sisters. The fifth child who bridged the older to the younger; she could pull peace out of thin air.

Gene said of Miriam, “We all love each other and we all love our children, but it seems like she loves a little bit more. Nobody can out-love Meerum.

Many a Story puts on the black-eyed peas when need arrives. Give the Trinity its due, give thanks for that strong willed woman from Lincoln County, Nancy Bentley. As the peas cook, we remember that newborn who first saw the world through a blue veil, a special one indeed.

New to the South? Never ate black-eyeds? Recipe below.

Black-Eyed Peas Recipe

Sort 1 lb. dried peas, remove bad peas or stones

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

Rinse in cold water

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

Pepper to taste

Seasoning (chicken bouillon, fat back or hog jowl)

Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until tender – about 45 minutes. Add salt to taste after peas are done.

Good any time with hot buttered cornbread and ice tea. Peeled vine ripened tomatoes make it mighty fine.

Welcome to the South!

 

 

 

 

 

Rock city momTanasi is Cherokee for river, a beautiful river that runs through hills and valleys. Autumn brings color making the forest resemble my Memi’s homemade quilts. Perfect timing to feast the eyes.

But first things first. Whenever this Georgian makes way for Tennessee, it is by Look Out Mountain where Rock City is home to the gnomes and fairies. Seven states can be seen on a clear day, a hiker’s dream come true. More intriguing is the tale of two Cherokee lovers who partook in forbidden love. The man was thrown off the mountain. The woman jumped after her lover, a Cherokee Romeo and Juliet. That site is called Lover’s Leap. To get a feel for the fall, walk across the swinging bridge. It will take your breath away suspended two-hundred feet above an eighty foot waterfall. Breathtakingly beautiful – and I am proud to say that part of Look Out Mountain is in Georgia.

As a child it was an annual trip. My interest in real estate surely started there as we drove through the Look Out Mountain neighborhood picking out houses my sisters and I wanted to live in. My favorite was Little Red Riding Hood Trail. My sister, Patricia, loved Mother Goose Trail and my sister, Barbara loved all the roads including: Aladdin, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Elfin and the Fairyland School. If we found a house available, we were certain we could talk our parents into buying it. Nothing was ever for sale.

Ruby Falls next stop, though still on Look Out Mountain, now in Tennessee. And the trees and foliage are just as inviting as on the Georgia side. Now to board an elevator and drop two-hundred sixty feet underground. It’s about an hour hike through the dark shadowy cave to the waterfall. Today they have lights on a timer. Upon entrance into the dark falls room, water is heard as a cool breeze greets you. After a moment the lights come on and music from heaven plays – and there before me is a waterfall located over one-thousand twenty feet underground. Awesome experience.

The real reason for being in Tennessee is the Grand Ole Opry – this year celebrating their ninety years anniversary – so it’s off to Nashville. My father, Tom Story, lived for the Grand Ole Opry and it was a part of our annual trip to Tennessee. We were the first to arrive and the last to leave. While in the Ryman Auditorium, we drank cups of hot chocolate while enjoying the show. My favorites were Minnie Pearl with the price tag hanging from her hat and the square dancers. My father played the guitar (Gibson only!) and was into the pickers.

While at home every Saturday night (very late!) Daddy could be heard fidgeting with the radio in the dark. He tuned in Hank Williams and Kitty Wells. After a while, static took over and the fidgeting started again until he had Little Jimmy Dickens coming in loud and clear, then static returned. But always heard was Flatt and Scruggs singing about Martha White biscuits – ending with “Goodness gracious, its pea pickin’ good!”

Every so often, my mother could be heard saying, “Tom, the girls need their sleep!”

Did that deter him? No.

And here I am at the new Opry where the journey began some fifty (sixty?) years ago. Tom Story would be amazed at how beautiful the new Opry is, but I know my father. He would have his eyes glued to the center stage floor that was cut from the Ryman – the spot where all the greats stood while performing. He’d enjoy the new acts, but he’d long for the talent coming in through the static.

The new Opry was thoroughly entertaining. A host of talent: the Swan Brothers, Del McCoury Band, Easton Corbin, the Willis Clan, Connie Smith, David Nails – and Rascal Flatts brought the house down! The music was a nice mixture of bluegrass, traditional country and the new guys.

Other than the Opry, Daddy’s favorite Nashville place was the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. When we were not in the shop, we were “camped out” at the restaurant across the street. The front window was the only table he would have and we had to eat slowly while he watched for Ernest Tubb to enter or exit the record shop.

Often Mama coaxed Daddy into giving the table up. “Tom, see all those people? They’re waiting on a table. We’ve been here too long, we need to go.”

“Helen, as long as we’re eating, this table is ours. Girls, have another piece of pie.” He stalked the record shop.

I don’t recall the name of the restaurant, but the walls were covered with china plates and they had the best lemon meringue pie, though three pieces in one meal was much for little girls. The restaurant is no longer there, but that giant Ernest Tubb guitar still marks the spot of the record shop.

And if Daddy was here in Nashville today, he would spend an entire day in the Johnny Cash Museum. I can see Mama rolling her eyes.

And it was not a Tennessee vacation until Daddy pumped the car brakes pretending they were “gone” as he drove recklessly down a steep mountain road. We girls had him figured out and laughed between screams though Mama did not find it amusing. Nor did she find it amusing when he stopped to feed a cute little bear.

“Tom Story, look there! Do you see that sign? DO NOT FEED BEARS!”

Did he listen? No. The real reason to be in Tennessee was to find bears. The mother bear joined him and we fed them both from inside the car. When we had no more food – the mother bear  swiped the door jamming it closed. For the rest of the trip Daddy crawled in and out on Mama’s side. When we returned home, Daddy pried the door open. It made an awful noise. He immediately told us what key the sound was in.

Now today, as I travel with my son, James, we will not stop for any bears, not even the little cute ones. Lesson learned.

Leaving Nashville behind, we headed to Franklin, Tennessee, the cutest town in the world, also the place where the bloodiest five hours of the Civil War was fought – the place six Confederate generals died in one day at the Battle of Franklin.

The Lotz House and Carter House are must see if you enjoy old homes – especially homes shot full of holes by rifles and cannons. The road from Nashville separated these two homes. As I stood on the Lotz front porch I wondered, “What in the world did Mr.Lotz think as he watched twenty-five thousand Union soldiers pass by his five acre farm?”

I received a mental answer to my question from a ghostly being, my (great) Aunt Donn. She was a school teacher in Lincolnton, Georgia. Aunt Donn came in loud and clear with her aristocratic Southern accent, “My deah, the end is neah, that is what the po’ man thought.”

Yes the end was near and no one knew that better than little Matilda Lotz. The gunfire and cannon booms drove her across the road to the Carter farm where she hid in the cellar. Tough for a child, but the hard part came when she crossed the road to return home. At age six years and two days, she climbed over dead soldiers stacked ten deep. Her beautiful home had a side wall splintered off and a cannon ball set in the front room parlor. Bewildered, the child walked the halls and rooms. Just yesterday, she and her nine year old brother played hide and seek there. Today the same rooms were filled with soldiers bleeding out on the hardwood floors. Blood stains remain to this day. This had been a happy place for little Matilda where the most conflict she experienced was the trouble she got into from drawing on the walls with pieces of cooled coal; she could not resist drawing farm animals.

After that dreadful day on December 1, 1864, little Matilda lost herself in paint and coal, drawing her place into the new world. As a single young lady she ignored disapproval of traveling alone to France where she studied art. If she could survive her sixth birthday, she could go it alone in Paris. Today her little artistic treasures can be found in the William Randolph Hearst mansion in California, the Lotz House, and museums throughout the world. If you happen up on one of her pictures as someone recently did at a flea market (purchased for five dollars), you will find that it is worth millions.

The best entertainment in Franklin is the Ghost Tour, really a way to get the skinny on what went on behind closed doors back in the day and the result being: souls that cannot find rest and walk the streets of Franklin, Tennessee, streets adorned with Garden Club floral arrangements, pumpkins and scarecrows.

Yes going to Rock City, Georgia, and Tanasi, is always a trip down memory lane with a little history lesson. It’s a place I love to be. And still! No house for sale on Little Red Riding Hood Trail!

Note:

Robert Blythe, at the Lotz House Museum, is a great historian who brings the Battle of Franklin and the Lotz family to life.

 

My Aunt Irene never owned a home or car, but believe me, she got around. A downtown person who worked at interesting places like the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She knew the bus routes by heart. Seldom called to announce visits, rather surprised us by stepping off the bus at the corner of Lawrenceville Highway and Main in downtown Tucker. Up Main Street, left onto LaVista, final destination, my house on Morgan Road.

She brought news with her. Her daughter, Doris, lived in a log cabin in Decatur. Cousin Anna and Aunt Tillie, lived in West End in a big high ceiling house. Exciting to hear about Atlanta and Decatur. Irene also had a fashion model daughter, Evelyn, who lived in the D.C. area; Evelyn’s husband, an editor for a news magazine. And Irene’s son, Danny, was a career soldier who traveled the world, married a pretty German lady.

Irene had worldly  connections.

Never got in a hurry. Irene was slow yet deliberate. Thorough and methodical. Whether cool or warm, she wore a long sweater with over-sized pockets. Sometimes a dress, but always big pockets. Her eyes sharp for a four-leaf clover, special acorn or an unusual rock. I loved to sit on the front porch listening to the goings on in my yard. I never saw it, until she pointed it out, then it was clear as a bell.

One spring I discovered something on my own. A robin building a nest. Mother Robin worked for days carrying twigs to construct a nest on my swing-set. I anxiously waited for Aunt Irene’s next visit to show off my find. I watched daily for her coming down Morgan Road, but no Irene.

One day three tiny blue green eggs appeared. A beautiful sight to behold, still no Irene.

One Sunday afternoon, I saw her strolling along, not a care in the world. I ran to meet her, grabbing her hand to hurry her along. She laughed.

“What in the Sam-Hill? Diane, don’t you want to see what’s in my pocket?”

“Not today! Wait ‘till you see what I found!” I led her cheerfully around to the backyard, by-passing the front-door greeting. “See that? Three eggs – robin eggs – not two – but three! I watched the mother build the nest and everything, and now, there they are, three tiny eggs!”

As I reached for the nest, Irene grabbed my hand.

“Must never touch.”

Sensing something wrong, I explained, “I waited for you. I waited a long time.”

Irene relaxed as her smile returned, though she held my hand firmly. She admired my rare find, then asked me a question.

“Where’s Mother Robin?”

I shrugged my shoulders. Then Irene led me to the back-porch steps. We sat there for a few minutes while searching the sky for the mother. It sprinkled rain. She sat there just like it was a sunny day.

“They’re robin eggs alright, Diane. What a treasure! But you know, you must never touch a bird’s nest …”

“What about the eggs?”

Especially the eggs.”

Why?

Irene didn’t answer right away, but turned her face up allowing the drizzling rain to wet her face.

“Have you ever wondered why it rains?” Irene asked.

“No, not really.”

“Everyone needs to know why the sky weeps. She spoke in a soft whisper. I drew close to hear.

“Well, Diane, sometimes the sky rains because the world loses precious beings, you know, the little ones.”

“Like robins?”

She nodded her head in affirmation.

“A mother robin will build a nest in anticipation of her children. Just like your mother prepared for your birth a few years ago. Those eggs are babies, but not until she sits on them for a good long while. That’s her job – the job nature gave to her. Oh, she may fly away, but she’s never far. I’ll bet you by George, she never takes her eyes off those eggs. But even if she’s not looking, she knows when a human has touched her nest. And when that happens, she will desert the eggs. They will never hatch, never become little birds.”

Why?”

“She senses danger and will not sit on a touched nest.”

Irene pointed to the fast moving clouds, “The clouds quickly spread the news.”

What news?”

“That a mother has abandoned her young …”

“She’s not ever coming back?”

Irene ignored my question as she spoke of the sky.

“And finally the winds cannot take the sadness any longer, and the sky opens up and down comes the rain.”

My heart was breaking.

“That is sad for the sky.”

Aunt Irene and I sat there on the back door steps in the rain, both sad. For we knew the world was less three robins.

Irene Voyles-Allen (my PawPaw’s sister) was a wonderful storyteller!

Lunch time at the credit union – best part of the day. A lot got said during twelve years of lunches with my co-worker friend, Joyce. We developed a kinship that distance nor time can erase. It was a sad day when my lunch buddy retired leaving me to fend for myself, forcing me to reach out to others.

Joyce and I kept in touch for a while but as life kept us busy, we seemed to see each other less and less. It was during my trips to Lincoln County that I began to think – I need to call Joyce. Yes every time I passed the road sign: Greene County, I thought of her.

She was born Joyce Greene (Greene with an “e” she always said) and grew up in South Georgia on a farm. She was a high school basketball star and oldest sister to three brothers. She married a military man and traveled the world, living in places like London, San Francisco, and her favorite! Myrtle Beach. To make extra money for her growing family, she donned a skimpy cowgirl outfit (boots too!) and spun a roulette wheel while stationed in Reno – or was it Vegas? That girl got around!

So, I called Joyce. We met at our favorite place, Norman’s Landing. It was just like old times. Joyce looked great with her beautiful smile, nails freshly manicured. She wore a scarf with a touch of hot pink that brought out the pink in her cheeks. This woman was and is the epitome of well put together glamour!

On a chilly November day we sat in front of a fireplace in a log cabin sharing lunch. We caught up on our news worthy lives. Then the waitress dropped the check on the table.

“Joyce, we have met here on my birthday several times and you always buy my lunch. Today, we are going to pretend it’s your birthday and I’ll take the check.”

Joyce’s smile disappeared as she leaned in with her eyes big and round. “Well, Diane, if you are going to do that, I will tell you my real age.”

We laughed and after careful consideration of both of our ages, declared not to miss another birthday. Suddenly Joyce put her hands up in her little girl way and whispered. “Diane, I want to tell you something and then we never need to speak of it ever again.” She took a deep breath and said, “About four weeks ago, my granddaughter died …”

As sisters, we shared a moment, never to speak of it again. Albeit, it was a good day to share lunch with a friend.

 

Polly Voyles

Little Polly Voyles

As a small child, I was bedridden with heart disease. This aggravation took three years out of my life. Those years were eased greatly by a mother who loved to read and she read to me often, so often in fact, she regularly lost her voice.  Looking back on my childhood, I realize that was how my mother, Helen Voyles-Story, demonstrated her love for me. But it was when she put the book down and got that gleam in her big brown eyes that I most longed for. And it happened just like that one winter day as I watched the snow fall outside my bedroom window.

Yes, Mama put the book down as she turned her focus to the window. Together we watched snowflakes fall from the sky, snow that stuck to the trees in our woodsy backyard.

It had been a busy morning. She fed me my breakfast because I could not hold a fork. She carried me piggyback to the restroom because I could not walk. She sponged bathed me and dressed me in clean pajamas. She wrapped me warmly with one of her grandmother’s homemade “healing” quilts. She read to me in hopes I would drift back to sleep, because she had a lot to do. Breakfast dishes needed to be washed and the laundry folded while my two sisters were at school, but not today. Today Mama would sit with me and talk most of the day away – just the two of us. Putting the “beans on” for supper time would have to wait. Mama chuckled as she rolled me over to rub my back. “Diane, let me tell you about a rascal of a little cat I had when I was a little girl about your age. That silly cat followed me around from pillar to post. That was back when I was called Polly.”

She couldn’t help but chuckle to herself. I was all ears.

“Yes, Tom Kitten reminds me of that cat. Of course, I was not allowed to own a cat. Ya PawPaw would not allow a cat in the house. And believe you me, that cat knew to stay outta his way.” She laughed. “I don’t know why, but that cat took up with me and followed me around everywhere I went.”

“Is it the same cat that followed you to the cotton field?”

“Yes, the very one, he’d follow me down the cotton rows and crawl in my cotton bag for a ride; that made my bag look heavy like I’d picked a lot of cotton. When I held the bag up for my parents to see, they’d say, ‘Polly, that’s enough, you can read now.’ Then I’d empty my cotton-slash-cat bag into the wagon, sit down and read a book. Yes, ol’ Cat and I were a team.”

“What was his name?”

“I called him ol’ Cat. I couldn’t name him, because that would be claiming it. Ol’ Cat slipped into the house one night. It was Christmas Eve and I let him hide in my bedroom. Daddy was out late – working. My sister, Mary Frances and I had the Christmas tree decorated. Back then we used real candles to light the tree. We worked for days making decoration and couldn’t wait for Daddy to come home so we could light those candles.”

“PawPaw worked on Christmas Eve?”

“Yes, that’s when we lived on Old Norcross in Tucker. He worked any time someone’s well ran dry. Wade Voyles could study the lay of the land and dig, always found water. Not everybody could do that. You know he studied at Georgia Tech; in the forties he studied War Training, got a foreman degree. Anyway, he came home late that Christmas Eve – tired and dirty. We got the matches out and he told us to go ahead and light the candles. Mama put his supper plate on a little table in the living room; that way he could watch us. Frances lit the candles high up and I lit the ones near the bottom.”

“What’s so funny?” I asked as Mama laughed out loud.

“Well, I’m gonna tell you what’s funny, Diane. That ol’ Cat slipped into the living room and for some reason, ran and jumped into the middle of that Christmas tree!”

“Did he catch on fire?”

“No, by some miracle he did not catch fire, but he let out a loud squall that was terrifying! He clung on for dear life and that tree wobbled to and fro! Frances ran and opened the front door. When she did, ol’ Cat darted out! The wind blew in and poof! Instantly, that tree was engulfed in flames – from top to bottom. Daddy stood up, walked over to the blazing Christmas tree and put his big foot into it – and – out the door it went – a ball of fire sailing through the night air!”

“Did you get another tree?”

“No, it was late Christmas Eve; there was no time to go to Aunt Mae’s for another tree. And there I stood, within seconds, no cat and no Christmas tree. I wondered: Will Santa come tonight? What if I never see ol’ Cat again – no tellin’ how many hours I’d have to spend in the cotton field, I’d probably never have time to read another book.”

“What did PawPaw say? Were you in trouble for having the cat in the house?”

“Wade Voyles never said a word. He walked back to the little table, sat down and finished eating his supper. Mama didn’t say anything either except, ‘Wade, do you want some more oyster stew?’”

Mama looked a tad dreamy eyed as she continued her story. “The next morning I woke up and there was that little table Daddy ate his supper on – in the middle of the living room floor. On that table was a cedar tree limb stuck in Mama’s lemonade pitcher. It was decorated with a little this and that – looked like Frances’ handiwork,” Mama said with an all knowing eye. “And there were a few gifts for me under that limb.”

“What? What did you get, Mama?”

“I got a new dress, and a book, Little Women, and a funny looking little brush.” Mama smiled big at the thought. “I looked at the little brush with puzzlement. Frances whispered to me, ‘Polly, it’s a cat brush.’ I quickly slipped that little brush in my pocket and opened the front door to check on the weather; and when I opened the door, ol’ Cat slipped into the house, just as pretty as you please.”

Mama took my temperature again and made a note on her medical chart. I had to think fast to keep her in my room. As soon as the thermometer was out of my mouth I asked, “Did you buy all of your Christmas trees from Aunt Mae?”

“Buy nothing! Aunt Mae wouldn’t take a penny from us. And it wasn’t Christmas until I’d gone to her tree farm, and that was well after I married ya Daddy.”

It worked, she sat back down.

“As soon as Tucker School broke for Christmas, I packed my suitcase and waited on Uncle Tom Moon. I never knew when he was coming, didn’t have a phone back then you know. I just knew he was coming to Tucker sooner or later for supplies and would swing by Old Norcross and pick me up. No matter how cold it was, I sat on the front porch steps listening for the wagon wheels and the clip clop sound of the horses.”

“Horses! They didn’t have a car?”

“No, they did not have a car. It was in the thirties and folks were trying to survive the Depression. Most roads back then were dirt roads, old logging trails widen to accommodate cars and horses. Yes, some had cars, but there was still plenty room for the horse and buggy. Anyway, every year I went to Aunt Mae and Uncle Tom Moon’s to select my Christmas tree.”

I was surprised to know my mother knew anything about horses. “Mama, tell me about the horses.”

“I loved those old horses. I petted them and hugged on ’em, but wasted no time climbing onto the wagon. We left Old Norcross and eased out of Tucker down a dirt road through the woods; trees thick on both sides, every tree imaginable. I passed time by identifying trees. Recognizing trees was easy during summer when the leaves gave their identity away, but not so easy in winter. If I got one wrong, Uncle Tom Moon grunted.”

“What kind of trees did you see?”

“Georgia trees: poplar, sycamore, sugar maple, silver maple, hickory, holly, black walnut, sweet gum and dogwood – all stripped down bare except for the pines, cedars and magnolias. The oaks were easy to spot, ‘cause the dead leaves clung on until spring. And of course, acorns marked the spot of the great oaks. The horse trots made a sound like two coconut shells keeping time to a tune. We passed by dried up cotton fields with a hint of white – cotton overlooked by the pickers, looked a little like snow. And there were homes here and there. I was excited and could hardly wait to see Aunt Mae and the mountain.”

“The mountain?”

“Yes, Diane, the mountain – Stone Mountain – that’s where we were headed, and I knew we were almost there when I could see the granite dome. I have to admit it was a little spooky while deep in the woods. The clip clop of the horse hooves was mesmerizing; each sound took me deeper into an enchanted forest, not to mention, Santa was on the way. And when Santa arrived, I, Polly Voyles, would have the most beautiful Christmas tree in all of Tucker.”

“Why was it spooky?”

“Spooky because back then, there weren’t that many houses around – a feeling of loneliness crept in. And the woods made unexplainable noises. It didn’t bother Uncle Tom Moon a bit nor was he much of a talker; he was a curious sort. Once we saw smoke rising through the trees in the distance. He said, ‘Look there, Polly, smoke rise. The Indians made smoke rising a common sight back in the day, but not now.’ Of course, I had to ask why and he said, ‘White man.’”

Mama talked on.

“What did the white man have to do with the Indians, Uncle Tom? When did they leave? Where’d they go to school?”

“Diane, I asked a million questions as any small child would. He clicked to the horses and turned left near what was the Rosser farm and went down a ways from the mountain. In a while, he clicked again and turned right back toward the mountain. We passed the place where they made sorghum syrup before he finally spoke.”

“The Cherokee Indians used to hunt these woods – smoke rise was the only way you’d know they were here. They used the mountain top as a look-out. They’d see you, but you’d never see them. Alls left now’s … their spirit.”

“Mama, did you ever see any Indians in the woods?”

“Not a one, Diane, you know I’m not that old. But believe you me, when we went through the woods in that open wagon, my eyes were peeled and my ears were listening hard. Once in a while I’d hear rustling in the woods; sometimes I got a glimpse of a rabbit or deer, sometimes a fox. And then again, I’d hear the call of a crow or a bird singing. I saw shadows in the woods, probably just the sun light filtering through. As a small child listening to Uncle Tom’s folklore, I felt edgy about maybe seeing an Indian, but not really afraid, because Uncle Tom Moon liked them, I could tell he did. And he seemed a little miffed that they were gone. And then in no time at all, I saw Christmas trees – white pines – bluish green trees, all in perfectly straight rows. Uncle Tom Moon then handed the reins to me.”

“You drove the horses?”

“Well, at that point, the horses knew where we were and they took themselves home. And there waiting for me was Mae Moon. She was a tall thin woman who most always balled her hair up. She never had children, for some reason she sorta claimed me.”

“I remember her. She was very old.”

“As long as I can remember, Aunt Mae seemed on up in years, even when her hair was black.” Mama shook her head, and got back to her story. “I could not wait to get my Christmas tree, but she insisted on order – first things first. I was to go into the farmhouse to warm and have something to eat. And then there were Christmas cookies to make; Gingerbread-men and Gingerbread-women, not to mention the Snowball family made of popcorn balls, and everyone of them had to be decorated just so. On about the third day, Aunt Mae wrapped her head in a woolen scarf and I knew it was the moment I’d been waiting for, walking the Christmas tree farm. She had already looked over the trees and tied a long white ribbon on about five likely candidates. I always wanted a bigger tree, but she would laugh and say – ‘that tree will not fit inside your house! Wade and Lois will have to cut a hole in the roof!’ Oh how I loved spending my few days with Aunt Mae. I examined each tree closely. I do recall one special day when I made my decision.”

Mama looked out the window at the snow coming down, deep in thought. “While examining one marked tree, I happened to look beyond the tree and saw the mountain. Now mind you, I had seen that mountain countless times, but that day, it was like seeing it for the first time. It felt like I was dreaming. Then something cold hit my face; to my surprise, it was snowing.”

“Like it is today, Mama?”

“Yes, Diane, just like today.”

Mama reached for my hand and held it, then turned her attention back to the window.

“Aunt Mae held my hand as we watched the snowflakes fall from the sky, without a word, I gave her the nod of approval. Neither of us spoke as we stood there admiring my tree; neither caring about the cold. I knew then that I would always remember that moment. After a while, Aunt Mae let go of my hand and stepped forward. She took a long white ribbon – a remnant of an old sheet – and tied it into a big bow – that way Uncle Tom Moon would know which tree to cut. Though Aunt Mae was standing near, she seemed far away when she spoke.

“Polly, would you look at that? An abandoned nest with a robin egg blue, no prettier color in the entire world.”

Mama wiped away a tear.

“Our eyes focused on the robin egg that would never hatch. A bit of sadness crept upon me, thinking of what would never be. And then strangely enough, I felt someone watching from afar. I gazed up at the mountain top, but saw no movement. The feeling did not leave and I hoped it was a Cherokee admiring my Christmas tree, my tree, finely decorated with a genuine bird’s nest, robin egg blue and a fancy white bow, all topped off with new fallen snow.”

Mama paused for a moment. Her eyes were far from my sick bed, yes, she was a million miles away. A slow smile gave her heart and mind away as she spoke.

“Yes, that day I sensed the great spirit of the Cherokee. I wished the spirit of the Cherokee children could see me, me and my Aunt Mae.”

~On November 17, 1931, my mother was born in Nicholson, Georgia, but lived her whole life in Tucker, Georgia, in the shadow of Stone Mountain. Her name was Annie Helen Voyles-Story, but was “Polly” to near and dear ones who knew her as a cotton-topped child. Later she was affectionately called Nanny, by her grandchildren. She loved a good book and we all enjoyed story time with her. In time, I would learn that the dirt road from Tucker to Stone Mountain was named after an Atlanta attorney, Hugh Howell. The Christmas tree farm was located on Old Tucker Road. The Moon’s farm became a part of a development called Smoke Rise, and of course, the mountain is Stone Mountain.

Each and every time I drive down Hugh Howell Road or hike the Cherokee Trail or find myself atop the granite mountain, I too feel the presence of a great spirit: little Polly Voyles.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote my first book in the little white house. The little white house was a building next to Tucker High which took care of the overflow of Tucker Elementary, the whole second grade.

The second grade teachers encouraged us to participate in an autumn art project. Anyone wanting to do so could use the desks lined up on the front porch. I liked the idea of getting outside and viewing Main Street downtown Tucker.

I took the first desk.

All the week, I worked on my project. Another second grader, Gwen, sat next to me. She had a square freckled face, always the best dressed girl in school, and her soft brown hair sported a fresh perm. Gwen was very interested in my project.

“Looks like you are making a book of some kind,” commented Gwen at least ten times a day.

“Maybe I am and maybe I’m not,” I did not want Gwen or anyone knowing what I was doing. No copycatting my work. I wanted to be the only author.

“It’s easy to see that’s a book, Diane. You have a bunch of pages tied together with red ribbon. I know a book when I see it.”

“Maybe it is and maybe it’s not,” was my only answer. This served to intrigue her all the more. Gwen became all about my business. I worked hard drawing pictures of birds; all kinds of birds. And at the bottom of the page, I wrote a line or two about each species.

“That’s a book alright,” said Gwen knowingly, “a bird book.”

I ignored her.

At the supper table when asked what I did at school today, I informed my family that I was writing a book. I also told them that I planned to be a famous writer or artist when I grew up. I had not yet decided which, maybe both.

Mama agreed that I did have talent, a talent I did not inherit from her. I was proud of my artistic talent and explained to my family that I was the best artist in the whole second grade, this project would be an easy A+.

“Pride cometh before the fall, remember that Diane,” was my mother’s response.

What in the world was Mama talking about? What did being a great artist have to do with pride or falling down? I think Mama was confused and I chose to ignore her. Actually I thought Mama ignorant for saying something like that to me. She reminded me a little bit of that girl, Gwen.

Of course I kept this information to myself and looked forward to my outdoors class. I took close notice of the trees and pinecones. I wanted to create a natural environment to show case the birds.

And every day, Gwen interrogated me, “How many pages does your book have? What’s the title?”

“How do you know it’s a book?” I snapped back. That Gwen was tricky alright.

“What do you think you are? An author? Or an artist?” laughed Gwen.

“Maybe I am and maybe I’m not.” (Dealing with Gwen was getting harder by the day.)

Just as I was finishing up, my teacher, Mrs. Keith, came out and said, “Okay children, you have five minutes left to finish your project and turn it in.”

With a knowing smile Gwen rubbed it in. “Now we’re all going to know the title of your book!”

Still ignoring her I tweaked my cover page with my best effort, a beautiful red cardinal. I waited to the last second to write the title across the top of the page. Now it was time to reveal my work. It was a simple title, “Birds.” And that was it. I took a fat black crayon and wrote the title. There! It was finished and perfect. No doubt Mrs. Keith would show my book off to all the other teachers, and no doubt they would marvel at it as they displayed it for all the second graders to witness.

I, Diane Story, was about to known as a great artist and author right here in Tucker, Georgia, in the little white house.

“Brids? What’s a brid?” Gwen asked.

“Gwen, it is Birds, not Brids!”

“Oh yeah, take a good look at that Diane.”

I looked at my manuscript and could not believe my eyes! In my haste, I wrote B-R-I-D-S.

Mrs. Keith held out her hand. I held the book close to my heart with both hands. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Keith. But I have a correction to make.” I was devastated. The blood left my body.

“Sorry Diane, time is up.” Mrs. Keith took my book as she glanced at the cover. “And by the way, that is a good looking cardinal.”

But it was not perfect and I did not have time to replace the cover page. To truly correct it, I would have to draw another cardinal. It made me sick.

That afternoon, Mama was waiting for me on the front porch.

“Let me see it! Let me see that easy A+?”

I was not at all enthused. Daddy walked up and said, “Let’s see it Donnie! We’ve been waiting all week. I took off from work early to be here for this event!”

“Oh, it’s not that great, it’s okay, I guess. I got an A- not an A+,” I said discouragingly.

“Oh no, no way, but you are the best …” said Mama.

“A- is nothing to sneeze at, Helen,” Daddy pointed out.

“I should have gotten an A+, but I wrote a word wrong,” I tried to explain while choking back the tears.

Mama examined my book.

“Diane, you know how to spell birds. I know you do.”

“I know, but at the last minute, I rushed and got it wrong,” I sobbed.

“I like brids, just as much as birds. I think I’ll start calling them brids too,” said my father. He was like that. He would rather change Webster’s dictionary than to see his children disheartened.

“You’ll do not such thing, Tom Story. The correct word is birds, not brids. Diane got it wrong and that’s a lesson learned.”

That was just like Mama, she was a realist while Daddy was a creative dreamer. Mama often said that being a creative dreamer was why Daddy was such a good musician. And yes, pride cometh before the fall – even in the little white house in Tucker, Georgia.

I never got over admiring birds. And to this day, I  love trees and pinecones. And I will never forget how my father on occasion whispered to me, “Donnie, that’s a beautiful brid.”

“Yes, Daddy, that is possibly the most beautiful brid I have ever seen.”

It was our secret.

 

 

 

 

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.