Ghosts of Lincoln County Introduction

on October 5, 2018 in Southern Charm, The Ghosts of Lincoln County

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 . . .

 

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