Ghosts of Lincoln County

The Window

You are the fairy tale told by your ancestors. ~ Toba Beta

My ancestral journey began with a near death experience when I was four. Three years later a window served as a portal connecting me to my ancestors. This is how it happened.

Tucker Georgia, late 1950s

Through a window I see the world framed in pink polished cotton. A twin Birch stands between my window and Tom’s workshop. I watch him come and go, though no need, his routine known by sound. Beyond the Birch to the right, a little girl with bouncy blonde curls plays in a sandbox. An older girl builds a sandcastle in a red wagon. They play “make believe” as they adorn the castle with flowers, poke salad berries, and acorn tops. They pull the wagon to the Birch in front of my window. They tell me the fairies now have a place to stay overnight. There the castle braves the day until raindrops fall from the sky. I watch the fairy’s home dissolve before my eyes and wonder, how long before the little guys return to their rightful place in the world?

Outside the window to the left, I see tall gladiolas growing near a leaky spigot. The red blooms wither with first cold snap, then faithfully return in summer. Before liberation, I watched them come and go three times from the window framed in pink.

One discouraging day, I buzzed Tom, unloaded soon as he entered my room. Told him I was tired of being an outcast. Tom went silent as he stared out the window. Not sure what he was looking at, the Birch, his workshop, perhaps the woods? The distant roar of the school playground filtered my room. Tears traced his face. He spoke.

“Donnie, we don’t know what God has in store for us – that includes the outcast. Ah like to go to Lincolnton, back to the home of my ancestors, especially when Ah have something worrisome on my mind. My people started out there, a place called Little River . . .”

As he spoke, Tom was in Lincoln County. I followed his words to the banks of Little River. In search of a rock chimney that survived a lake expansion, a chimney that marked where he “got bawn.” He recalled a Leathersville woman who played piano in perfect pitch. Tom spoke of a grandfather never met but knew all about the man’s Tennessee Walker. Tom described the cedars in Lincoln County, how the wind made ‘em hum. He mimicked the sad but sweet song of the whippoorwill and explained how much brighter the stars were in Leathersville than “Atlanna.” He told of a doctor who gathered healing herbs in the woods. What the doctor couldn’t find, he planted – nor above rolling up his sleeves to build a wagon wheel or tan hide. Tom spoke of war and lost gold. The people: pioneers, farmers, soldiers, and slaves – all connected to land near Little River. He explained how the enslaved became freemen and freewomen, how a black man bled red, just like a white man. He spoke endearingly of churches – mostly Salem. He often said with a smile, “You gotta go through Lincolnton to get to Heaven.” Yes, Tom was a quiet man, but not when it came to his ancestral home . . .

Ghosts of Lincoln County

Nancy Elizabeth Paschal

Dream of Knights, Soldiers, and Nancy Paschal

A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Today I saw the face of Nancy Elizabeth Paschal – a stoic face framed with a simple white bonnet. Heard she descended from Knights and Ladies; I was surprised at no smile, no regal bearing. She appeared tired, perhaps sad. Living in a log home, isolated in the country with no running water, no electricity – had to be hard. Imagine giving birth to thirteen babies under such conditions, at least her husband was a medical doctor. No doubt Nancy had her hands full attending patients arriving at all hours, not to mention her own children. And then there’s the fact her home was a working tannery. Her big round eyes told a story. Her shapely lips had something to say. Was she sad truly? Perhaps the photographer instructed not to smile. Or perhaps I looked upon a face who survived war fought on the homeland . . .

Much Baddow

Since it is likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of knights and heroic courage. ~ C.S. Lewis

William E. Paschal and Elizabeth Elliott had a daughter who married tanner-farmer-medical doctor, John B. Bentley of Lincoln County. That daughter gave birth to over a dozen babies and outlived her husband by twenty years – in a time when women commonly died in childbirth. She descended from Knights, Lords and Ladies with great Estates trod by Royalty, including the House of Bruce, Tudor, and Stuart. She descended from skilled artisans, governing officials, writers, soldiers, healers, and world travelers. She was third cousin to Mayor of Tahlequah (Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma). My great-great grandmother, Nancy Elizabeth Paschal, was a grand lady indeed!

More Much Baddow

No room in this book for extensive lineage, nor do I have access to that information. For practical reasons, John Pascal born in 1475, is the 1st generation of the Lineage of Nancy Elizabeth Paschal. Nancy was a Paschal born not in the Holy Land, not in France, not in England, but in America. William Penn led the way.

The Generations

1st generation John Pascal, born 1475 in Auvergne France, immigrated to Essex County, England with English wife, Margery Wiseman. Margery was widowed in England with two youngsters. Margery was born in Canfield of Essex, England 1476.

2nd generation John Pascall II – born 1495 in France, lived at Much Baddow of Essex, England. He possessed great Estates, died in 1544. His wife was Margaret Noke 1495-1575.

3rd generation Andrew Paschall – listed as Knight, born in Essex, England, 1531, died 1603, wife Jane Joane Pynchone of Essex, England.

Interesting Brother

3rd generation Andrew Paschall’s older brother, 3rd generation John Paschall III, 1519-1589, was first to hold Lordship of Great Baddow Manor and the Vicarage. Brass Monument in the chancel of a lady with a frill and hood inscribed: Here lyeth buried the body of Jane Paschall wife of John Paschall and daughter of Edward Lewkenor Esquire who deceased 16— (incomplete date 1614).

4th generation Sir Andrew Paschal II – born and died in England, 1573-1607, knighted July 23, 1603, at Whitehall (two ceremonial days before) Coronation of James I.

5th generation Thomas Paschal – born 1590, died January 26 about 1638. Will probated in Court of Canterbury, 1639. Had at least nine children.

6th generation William Paschal – born about 1608 in Bristol, England, died about 1670. Had four wives, six children with two wives.

7th generation Thomas Paschal – born March 13, 1633 (or 1634) in Bristol, England, died August 13, 1718, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; arrived in America 1682, Thomas was elected to the Provincial Assembly in 1685 and 1689, elected to Philadelphia Common Council 1701-1704.  English wife, Joanna Sloper, died in Philadelphia in 1707. Her parents: William Sloper and Joan Burrus of England.

Thomas Paschal, King Charles II, William Penn

Charles II (great grandson of Mary, Queen of Scots) owed a debt to the late Admiral William Penn, 1621-1670 (who was Member of the House of Commons 1660-1670). Charles II made good that debt by granting land to the admiral’s son: William Penn (1644-1718). Penn sold 500 acres to (7th generation) Thomas Paschal while Paschal and Penn were still in Bristol, England.

Philadelphia Business Directory, 1690 by Hannah Benner Roach: Thomas Paschall, pewterer, was Philadelphia’s first such artisan, probably having arrived in August 1682, from Bristol. A First Purchaser of 500 acres, his first settlement was “on the banks of the river Schuylkill,” when he sold his city lot in 1686 to Ann Lee, he was of Philadelphia County. By 1690, when he bought from Thomas Jenner a bank lot between Chestnut and High, he had moved to town, and was rated here on his Philadelphia estate assessed in 1693 at 150 pounds . . .

Ghosts of Lincoln County

Wrightsboro Village

If we give you a pistol, will you fight for the Lord? But you can’t kill the Devil with a gun or a sword. ~ Old Quaker Saying

Wrightsboro Village first called Brandon, was founded in 1754 by pretending Quaker, Edmund Grey. Real Quakers, Joseph Mattock and Jonathan Sell, petitioned the Royal Governor Sir James Wright for land in 1768 after the Treaty of Augusta was signed. They were granted 40,000 acres and renamed in Wright’s honor.

The Rock House near Thomson, Georgia, is a lasting remnant of those pioneer days. The house was built by Thomas Ansley in (1785?) 1782. Thomas designed the house after New Jersey homes with inside chimneys and thick walls. The Rock House doubled as the stagecoach stop.

Thomas Ansley was born in Monmouth County, New Jersey, January 14, 1737. While leaving New Jersey, Thomas (and his brothers Benjamin and William) joined a group of Quakers. They wound up in Georgia with a close-knit community of about sixty families. Thomas was a weaver, served in the Continental Army as a forager. He did not bear arms. He was awarded bounty grants and applied for more land, thus owning 4500 acres in Richmond and Wilkes County.

Ansley, Cox, Duckworth, Story, and Carter Neighbors

Thomas Ansley, builder of that marvelous Rock House, married Rebecca Cox in 1760. They were my 5th great grandparents. This is how it happened.

Thomas Ansley and Rebecca Cox had Rebecca Ansley who married William Duckworth; their daughter Stacey Duckworth married widower, Samuel Gaines Story; their son Henry Allen “Buck” Story married Rachel Montgomery; their son Rad Story married Sallie Gunby; their son Horace Lawton Story married Nancy Elizabeth Bentley. Lawton and Nancy had nine children including Tom Story my father.

Samuel Gaines Story and Stacey Duckworth’s children: Rebecca, Francina, Andrew, Martha Ann, Elizabeth, William, Susannah, Lilly, Wilanty, Samuel Gaines, Sanders Walker, and Henry Allen “Buck” Story. Samuel Gaines Story was born May 13, 1776, probably in Warren County, Georgia.  

Thomas and Rebecca Cox Ansley’s granddaughter, Ann Ansley, married Wiley Carter in 1821. Wiley sold out in Warren County in 1851 to move to South Georgia twenty miles north of Plains – Ellaville Friendship Road.

Puritan Influence

Wrightsboro was known as a Quaker community, though few Quakers documented. Many were Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian as nearby graveyards witness. Many feigned Quaker roots to join the movement to Georgia, a place free of Puritanical influence. Back in the day, not uncommon for a person to hang for any crime. A viable witness: an apparition. Such as the man who hanged for arson, simply because someone dreamt, he did it. His pregnant wife pleaded, “He is innocent.” She named her newborn, Innocent, as a reminder of that wrongful death.

Revolution Influence

People came to Wrightsboro Village for other reasons. One such instance was the burning of the Few Family Home in Orange County, North Carolina, 1771. They hung carpenter James Few, no trial. He was a suspected Regulator, making James Few the First Martyr of the American Revolution.

James Few’s brother, William, made his home in Wrightsboro Village, “not by choice but last resort.” A historical marker on Cobbham (Highway 150) commemorates the location of the William Few Home built in 1781 (burned down in 1930). William Few signed the U.S. Constitution. He neighbored Basil and Millie Briscoe O’Neal’s Happy Valley Plantation.

Samuel Gaines Story

Many found Wrightsboro Village. Non-arm bearing Quakers led the way, some surely hoping a gun totin’ Protestant lived nearby. When did Samuel Gaines Story enter the community? Did he feign Quakerism as the desperate? Was he born in Georgia? Or did he meet up with a migrating group in New Jersey or North Carolina?

This is what is known about my great-great-great grandfather. Samuel Gaines Story was born in 1776, 52 days before the Declaration of Independence. He was a gun totin’ Baptist, a successful planter who owned five hundred acres in Wrightsboro Village. He neighbored the Ansleys, Duckworths, and Carters. He married Thomas Ansley’s granddaughter, Stacey Duckworth; Samuel was thirty-six, Stacey was eighteen. Wrightsboro Village is where Story roots took hold in Georgia. Roots established by Thomas Ansley, a man from the Delaware Valley in New Jersey, a man seeking religious freedom, a man who built a home standing strong three hundred years later, a man who did not tote a gun, a man who made cloth and lived off the land, a man who offered his home as a stagecoach stop, a man who gave America a president.

Many Wrightsboro descendants can be found up the road a piece in Lincoln County. Land where my great-great-great-great grandfather, Captain William Bentley II, received 100 acres on Little River, near what is now Salem Baptist. 

Sam and Winnie Note

Samuel Gaines Story married Winifred Brooks 1795 in Warren County, Georgia. He called her, “Winnie.” They had many children. After her death, he married Stacey Duckworth in 1812.

Rock House Location

Travel south on Washington Road toward downtown Thomson. Take a right on Tom Watson Way. Bear right onto Hickory Hill Drive. Go 3.8 miles, turn left on Three Point Road. Go 1.2 miles, turn right onto Rock House Road. About .25 mile down on the right, is the incredible rock house. Stagecoach Road and Wrightsboro Road nearby.

Carter Genealogy

Thomas Carter Senior, arrived in Virginia about 1637 from England. Kindred Carter was 5th generation descent from Thomas. Kindred moved from North Carolina to Georgia settling in Richmond (now McDuffie) County near Little Germany Creek. Kindred had James, born 1773 in North Carolina. James married Eleanor “Nellie” Duckworth in Columbia County, Georgia. James and Nellie Carter had Wiley Carter (1798-1864). Wiley married Ann Ansley; they had Littleberry Walker Carter (1832-1874) who was killed by partner in a financial dispute involving a carnival machine known as a Flying Jenny. Littleberry’s wife, Mary Ann Diligent Seals, born in Warren County, Georgia, died on Littleberry’s burial day. Littleberry and Mary Ann had William A. Carter, then came James Earl Carter, and finally James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, POTUS.

(Upper Richmond County, Georgia, became Columbia County in 1790.)

Nellie Duckworth Carter

Nellie Duckworth’s parents were Christiana Ramsey and Jeremiah Duckworth. Nellie’s brother was William Duckworth, William was Stacey Duckworth’s father. Stacey married Samuel Gaines Story. Stacey was Nellie’s niece.  

Few Family The name, “Benjamin Few, Rebel Officer, Richmond”, appeared on the blacklist of British Governor Wright, and subsequently The Georgia Gazette on March 14, 1782 announced that “A Georgia Parole” (hanging) had been reserved for the “virtuous Few.”  Benjamin Few was brother of William and James Few of North Carolina. Ignatius Alphonso Few (1789-1845), born in Columbia County, Georgia, was son of Captain Ignatius Few and Mary Candler. Ignatius Few (b. 1789) was Founder of Emory University. Cousin, Asa Griggs Candler, was Emory’s greatest benefactor, donated 75 acres to establish Emory University in Atlanta (donated over 8 million dollars).

Wrightsboro Methodist Church

Quaint historical Wrightsboro Methodist is nestled in the woods located on US 78 near the intersection of Stagecoach Road. Buried in the Colonial Cemetery are Veterans of the Revolutionary War, as well as the Civil War – Gettysburg, Shiloh, and Fredericksburg. Also found are ancestors of Asa Griggs Candler, founder of Coca Cola Company, Mayor of Atlanta.

Ghosts of Lincoln County

Teatime in Leathersville

Having picked some tea, she drank it. Then she sprouted wings, and flew to a mansion, to escape the emptiness of the world. ~ C. Jen


As a small child, I experienced a unique teatime in an unlikely place – a creaky old Lincoln County farmhouse. Pure magic was revealed by an austere woman who often wore a suit – woolen and dark – skirt almost to the ankles, topped with a black hat of veil and feathers, along with a striking piece of jewelry. Though after “receiving day”, she dressed plainly in a cotton housedress. Straight down the middle she parted her more than ample white hair pinned back neatly in a bun. Regally she carried herself, with chin up elevating a purple spot on her lip, which oddly increased her air of sophistication. She had eyes of blue – just like my daddy.

Yes, she was kin to Tom Story, and though his family (on both sides!) was Southern born, none spoke her Southern. Heard it was the Carolinian influence carried over the border to Georgia, though it sounded somewhat British – a tad put on. She was well educated, a graduate of Normal.

The first time I remember going to her home was somewhat of an emergency. Mama got an emergency perm, we got emergency new clothes and shoes. Couldn’t show up looking any ol’ way, Helen saw to it by outfitting us at Cofer Brothers on Main in Tucker, Georgia.

Well dressed and packed, we headed east – for the country. Over two hours later Daddy announced, “We’re almost there.” We had long left the country and were in the wilderness; finally, we arrived in a place called, Jawjah.

Her Jawjah home was an unexpected vision, hard to believe. Unpainted clapboard balanced on stacks of rocks. Underneath open, that’s where the chickens lived. Two closet rooms (the library she called ‘em) graced the backyard; girls had a cut out moon on the door, while the boys had a star. Sears and Roebuck catalog used for wiping not buying – in the “library” found on the back side of a gladiola garden – flowers cold weather dead.

Mom gathered us like ducklings as we approached the front porch; Daddy looked straight ahead – big smile. The door opened and there she stood. She didn’t have on her a-goin’-to-Atlanna woolen suit, but rather a mid-calf navy taffeta dress with a “shawt” fur about the shoulders. She welcomed us with open arms as she worried the whereabouts of her nieces. Right behind, Daddy assured. She really wanted to know the where ‘bouts of their husbands ‘cause she had heavy lifting to do.

Daddy thanked her for the letter, said his feelings would’ve been hurt had she not. She thanked him, making apologies for the rheumatism. Daddy laughed it off and hoped six adults and eight kids wouldn’t drive ‘em crazy. She motioned us in with air kisses as we crossed the threshold; it was cold, we did not tarry. Loaded down with dolls and teddy bears we entered her humble abode. It smelled enchantingly of sandalwood and charred embers. A short stairway to the right led to a locked room. Off limits, made clear immediately. 

We little cousins speculated about that “off limits” room. Roy thought the Confederate lost gold from the Chenault House was hidden there, while Linda thought it Nancy Bentley’s missing piano. Steve thought it the man’s insidethe-house bedroom. (Hard to believe the man slept in a front porch traveler’s room.) Patricia wondered if an old trunk was locked away containing birth certificates, wills, and deeds. I liked to sit on the stairs and admire the wooden star and crescent moon that hung on the wall, a moon with a staircase and miniature ceramic angels ascending to Heaven. My father made it for the old woman, said it was a way to honor the Brightest Star in Heaven.

She boasted that nephew, Thomas Jonathan Story, gave her “the moon and Nawth star!” Daddy did enjoy star gazing, especially at her place. Stars much brighter there than in “Atlanna,” he’d say. Outside, he often stood alone in the dark, invisible except for the round glow of his Camel unfiltered.

This was the home of Walter and Dieudonne Bentley Steed who lived in the Leathersville Community of Lincoln County. I would learn much about this out of place country woman and odd little husband of hers. Yes, she seemed out of place, like maybe she belonged in a European city like London or Paris but chose to live in the backroads of obscurity – with Waltah. She was old when I met her, a retired schoolteacher who was sweet, then again stiff, and distant. 

Walter and Donn were a curiosity to us kids, as much as the high ceiling home furnished with dusty antiques. Well-worn Oriental rugs covered creaky hardwood floors. Books stacked almost to the ceiling, reminded me of an Old English library without bookcases. She needed bookcases, used a rolling ladder to reach high up books. Her table always set with fine china down to the finger bowls; books occupied chairs.

Outside, the chimney was cracked and pulling away from the house. A crack that would’ve gone unnoticed had it not been for us kids pulling down a vine to tie up Uncle Walter, a plan thwarted by the old man himself. But it was the inside fireplace that intrigued me. Impossible to ignore was a large finely framed photograph that hung over the mantel. It was a facial close-up of a pretty girl about sixteen years old, her long hair wisped gently about her face. Was it done in black and white or tones of sepia? Hard to say, for it’s been over six decades since I first laid eyes upon that face. The feeling is far more endured than sight. I felt her presence – something unsaid in her eyes. I studied that pouty face looking for clues, knowing I should know her. As warm as the fireplace appeared, it was colder inside than out. The old woman spoke as though she read my mind.

“As Ah said, we’re running shawt on fi’ah-wood.”

“We’ll take care of that, don’t you worry, Aunt Donn.” Daddy’s reassuring voice floated in from the front hall where he was preoccupied with an old document hanging on the wall. Donn followed his voice, leaving me alone. I focused on two tiny teacups and saucers which set near the photo. What was an old woman doing with a child’s tea set? While I dared touch a cup – gently with one finger – Aunt Donn’s voice floated in from the hall.

“Oh, Tom, Ah just cannot get ovah how much you favah fathah. You make me think of him so. One day Ah’ll gift the Declaration to you. Ah know you cherish it as he.”

Hearing approaching footsteps, I quickly retreated from the touch of cold porcelain. I stood back while they held hands looking at the pretty girl in the photograph. I soon learned that no matter how stiff the old woman appeared, when she stood before the photo and tea set, she melted like soft butter.

Oddly, every time someone knocked on the door, Donn straightened her clothes, admired herself in the front hall mirror, reached into a “voz” for lipstick – carefully smeared her lips red. Who was she dressing up for way out here? Strangely, it was Uncle Walter who did the knocking.

Though we were just a few hours from Atlanta, Lincoln County seemed like another country. And what could eight cousins under the age of nine do in a place with no television, no radio, and no running water?

Plenty! Let’s start with Uncle Walter.

Walter was an odd character – quiet and avoided crowds. He did not chop wood. He limped in the background with a cane – guarding a washtub of rainwater. My cousins Roy and Steve, sailed curly leaf boats in that water. That made him unhappy. We chased chickens, just wanted to pet ‘em. That made him unhappy. We bowled with chicken eggs. That made him unhappy. Chickens stopped laying. That made him unhappy. We hollered down the well. That made him unhappy. We slammed the “library” doors. That made him unhappy. We played hide-and-go-seek in the dead flower garden. That made him unhappy.

What made Walter Steed happy was to report mischief. Despite that, we did him a big favor. We cured his rheumatism, evident when he chased us while waving that cane in the air, a miracle no doubt.

While there, I feigned cleanliness ‘cause no real bathroom. But when Mama found chicken poo on my legs, she dragged a metal tub from the back-porch to the kitchen. She carried buckets of Uncle Walter’s precious rainwater to heat on a wood burning stove. Exhausted, she handed a bar of red soap to me. The soap burned, so I used little. Mama noticed. She lathered up the rag and gave me a good once over. Burning, itching, I became one big red welt.

“No worry, now Helen, let me take care of that chile. All she needs is a little buddah-milk. That’s what Doctah John B. Bentley would prescribe.”

Mama rolled her eyes. Aunt Donn patted me dry, dressed me in white “step-ins” and socks, dabbed thick cold buttermilk on my nakedness. (No refrigerator, no need. Buttermilk kept in ceramic pitcher covered with cheesecloth on the partially enclosed back-porch.) Mama pulled the scarf off her new perm; she and her two sisters-in-law made a get-away to a general store for lotion. Truth be known, Mama was tired of dusting books and batting away cobwebs. I’ve never seen her work so hard, especially in church clothes and high heel shoes.

The men chopped firewood. Kids played outside. Walter stood guard over the chickens and rainwater tub. I was alone with her. She made tea, then covered the settee with a quilt and sheet. She motioned me to sit. I was timid, reluctant. Condemning eyes, she cast upon me until I moved.

“Sit here near the fiah and be sweet. All this running around,I do declay-yah! Aren’t you the one who just overed Scawlett fevah?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And running the chickens? See what happens? The good Lawd knows when you need rest. Yoah body breaks down – one way or t’othah. Anothah thing, don’t evah leave black eyed peas on yoah plate again. Can’t live on peach pie alone.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Every time Aunt Donn saw a crack in my buttermilk cast, she dabbed me. I sat there cold, shivering. I winced when she touched me, which aggravated her for some reason.

“Now, young lady, you sit still. This does not hu’t a bit.”

“It’s cold and smells funny.”

“You must take yoah medicine . . .”

“Buttermilk is not medicine!”

She grimaced as she looked me over making sure I was well covered, then sat in the Queen Anne chair near the fire. She sipped tea from the tiny cup – matching cup still on the mantel.

“All this jumping into automobiles and running up and down the road. My grandfathah was a doctah and . . .”

“The doctah who,” I rolled my eyes just like Mama, “cured people with buttermilk?”

“They-yah aw certain prope’ties in buddah-milk . . .” She stopped midstream and shook her head as though she was the most misunderstood person in the world. “Why do Ah bothah? Donnie, why do Ah bothah?”

I shrugged my shoulders because I didn’t know what she was talking about. Appalled she was – set her teacup down.

“My deah little lady! Did you just sh’ug yoah shouldahs at me? Is that proppah behave-yah for a chile?”

(I guess not.) “No ma’am.”

“Well, that’s more like it,” Aunt Donn settled down. After a while, she spoke into thin air. “They all used to live heah you know. Heah, in Lincoln County – Leathahsville – on beautiful fawms. Doctah John B. Bentley, my grandfathah, the doctah, and yes, he cured with buddah-milk. And, young lady, do not evah roll yoah eyes at me, ‘less you meet my rule!

I drew up in a tight ball trying to disappear. She took a deep breath – got back to talking to empty space as she picked up the little teacup.

“All lived heah – then they left, one by one. Ah stayed because this is home.”

Aunt Donn stared into space as though expecting the air to speak. She stood momentarily poking the smoldering ash, then allowed the Queen Anne to hold her as she stared into the awakened fire. Her smile was distant as though she’d just met a faded memory. The room so quiet, I felt obliged to say something. I asked the only question I could think of to bring her around, you know, change the subject.

“Ma’am, is Lincolnton named after Abraham Lincoln? Is this where President Lincoln lived?” I asked looking about at the old house that could’ve been as old as Abe. She quickly snapped back, was very pleasant. I soon learned the way to regain her good mood was to simply allow her to flourish in her element, teaching.

“Well, no Donnie, Lincolnton, Jawjah, was named fo’ a man f’om Massachusetts, Benjamin Lincoln, bawn in 1733. He was a majah general in the Revolution.” She smiled. “So, Ah see you have interest in histo’y. Got that from yoah fathah. Abraham Lincoln was bawn in Kentucky and lived in Illinois befo’e becoming president long aftah the Revolution.”

After a bit of silence, Aunt Donn posed a question. “What’s on yoah mind? You look like you want to say something, my sweet.”

“Well, ma’am, I hate to tell you, but Augusta is not the capital.”

“Ah know that. Now why would you think othah-wise?”

“When you told us about Elijah Clarke, you said Augusta was the capital.”

She sipped tea, eyeing me closely as though trying to figure me out.

“My deah, Jawjah has had several capitals, the present – Atlanna. When Elijah run off the British, it was Augusta.”

“Ma’am, why do you have so many books?”

She looked about assessing my question as though the first time such a thought had occurred to her.

“Well, my deah, ‘to travel fah, there is no bettah ship than a book,’ so said Emily Dickinson. And she was right, as was Douglass, ‘Once you learn to read, you will be forevah free.’ Donnie, books aw my best friends.” She sipped tea. An occasional crackle-pop of burning wood drew her deep into a stare of the fire. I wondered how the girl came to be on the mantel. Again, magically Donn knew my mind.

“She grew up heah in Leathasville, moved a shawt piece down the road when she married Lawton Storee.”

Story? That’s my name . . .”

Aunt Donn held her hand up like a stop sign. “Of cou’se it is. Donnie, do not interrupt an adult.” She took a deep breath, then spoke as though telling a fairytale.

“Once upon a time, in the Storee home, they stawted a family, then fell on hawd times. Truth be known, Lawton was not the fawmah his fathah was. Lawton was beatin’ the rocks, but the boll weevil and asthma proved mo’e challenging. His fawm condemned, was to become pawt of the lake. They moved west like the rest of them, and fawm’d out they-yah.”



(I forgot myself.) “That’s not out west!”

She did not approve of a child correcting an adult and said so with her eyes and uppity tone and choice of words.

“It is fah, you little whippahsnappah! With no telephone nor automobile, it may as well be Califo’nia!” Aunt Donn regained her composure as a tiny smile melted her face, the look that said – I’m proud of you.

“Donnie, Ah commend you on yoah knowledge of geog’aphy. My little deah, how old are you now, six?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“That’s well indeed! Little lady, Ah see you are quite bright. You aw simply disobedient. How many times has Waltah told you to stop chasin’ the chickens?”

Before I could get it counted, she asked another question, “Weren’t you the one who nelly drown in Clarks Hill?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Do you see what happens when you do not obey?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And why would one want to leave Lincoln County?” Aunt Donn poured more tea. “Yes, they went west. We have Athens just a stone throws away, the home of furst and lawgest unive’sity in Jawjah.” She shook her head as though irritated about something. “They hurry so now a days. Jump in an automobile, go, go, go!”

“Actually, we got airplanes in Atlanta. We watch ‘em take off all the time.”


(Wrong subject, change it.) “My father calls me Donnie because he wanted a boy when I was born. My real name is Diane.”

“Ah know yoah real name, Diane. And Ah have my doubts about that.”

“Doubts about what, ma’am?”

“That yoah fathah wanted a boy when you were bawn. He adores his gulls, Helen and his sistahs, and Lawd knows he loved his mothah. Tom is a woman’s man, always has been.”

(Woman’s man?) “Well ma’am, how did you get your name, Donn? That’s a man’s name. Are you a man’s woman?” She placed her teacup down hard enough to rattle the saucer; her eyes burnt a hole through me.

Donn is a shawt version of my given name, a French name. Yoah fathah and his siblings made chopped livvah out of it. So, Ah asked them to call me Donn.”


“Yes, Dieudonne, it’s a lovely name. It means Gift of the Lawd.”


“Donnie, Ah detest that wo’d.”

Which word? Surprised, my eyes widened. She returned my stare.

“W-O-W, not to be used in my presence.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I held the stare. I didn’t want to drop my eyes for fear she’d discover what happened to her “rule.” This morning when no one was looking, I slipped it down the side of her chair under the cushion. That way when she found it, she’d think she lost it, and no one would be punished. Never saw her hit anyone, but I didn’t want to be first. I stared her down. She stared back until tears filled her eyes.

“You are much like her, especially about the eyes, same shade of blue. Yes, and she was a whippahsnappah, and Mothah dabbed her with buttah-milk many a time.”

The old woman dropped her stare and focused on the crackling fire. Her tongue still for a long while. I broke the spell.

“Were you talking about the pretty girl in the picture, ma’am?”

“Yes, the pretty girl in the picture,” she answered softly. She stood and walked to the mantel. With her right hand behind her, she motioned me to join her. I dared not. Impatiently, she wiggled her fingers. I obeyed walking slowly, careful not to crack my buttermilk cast. We stood together. My eyes on the old woman, her eyes on the picture. Again, her face melted magically like soft butter.

“She was about sixteen when this was made. She was fathah’s favorite you know; she’s named after his mothah, Nancy Elizabeth Paschal. Now here we stand, Donn and Donnie.” As a tear slid down her face, she whispered, “We’re heah, Sistah.”

“She’s your sister, ma’am?”

“Yes, my little sistah. At yoah age, she rode Dulce the Pony. With a little gitty up, that pony would take her anywhere she wanted to go – quickly!” She gave my hand a squeeze, “My deah, she is yoah fathah’s mothah – yoah grandmothah.”

We made many trips to Lincoln County to visit Aunt Donn and Uncle Walter, but none compared to the day she introduced me to Nancy Elizabeth Bentley. On our way home, Daddy stopped at a general store; he thought Coke would help me get over the buttermilk treatment. Mama wanted to get home, but Daddy said the gulls needed a souvenir to remember Lincolnton; he bought a ceramic wishing well.

“Helen, every time we look at this, we’ll be thankful we didn’t lose a young ‘un in the well. And look here, finger bowls. I know you want these.”

“Tom Story, don’t even think about it.”

“What do you think gulls? Finger bowls? That way we can keep clean at the table.” Daddy threw his head back and laughed. (We knew better.)

We followed Atlanta Westbound signs.

“Gulls . . .”

“Tom, there is an r in girls.”

“Ah know, Helen, that’s what I said. Gulls did you have a good time? What’d you learn?” Slow to answer, all tired. “You had to learn something from Aunt Donn. What was it?”

My eight-year-old sister, Patricia, answered first, “Drawing circles will strengthen muscles and I’ll have better penmanship.”

“What about you, Bob?”

 “Stay away from the chickens,” Barbara answered.

“That’d make Uncle Walter happy! Wouldn’t it, Bob?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, what about you, Donnie? Ah bet you learned to appreciate buttermilk,” he teased.

“Not really.”

“After we moved to Atlanna, we took turns staying with Aunt Donn for the summer. Whoever stayed, skipped a grade that fall. You had to learn at least one thing. What was it?”

“I learned that Nancy Elizabeth Bentley was a “whippahsnappah” and Aunt Donn drinks tea from a toy teacup when she misses her.”

Never forgotten, that place called Jawjah, or the toy teacups on the mantel of that magical old house, the place where I stood with Dieudonnee Randolph Bentley Steed – a woman who was truly a Gift of God.


Aunt Donn passed away; she was eighty-seven. She arranged her own funeral, every word, flower, song, and of course, her outfit and piece of striking jewelry. Donn and Walter are buried near her parents: Dennis Brantley Bentley and Grace Amelia Ramsey at Salem Baptist. My father, Tom Story, attended Aunt Donn’s funeral and watched her buried. He left Lincoln County to never return.

Ghosts of Lincoln County

Lincoln County Lost

What is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs?

~ Chief Seattle 1786-1866, Duwamish Leader

I am forgotten though I am – still. My first memory was the cry of the whippoorwill echoing through the forest. Man came cutting a path through the trees. Many followed, some hunted then moved on, while others fell trees making homes. Some grew plants to eat; they helped and hindered each other, sometimes maiming or worse. Odd behavior, though I never judge, for I support all, including the fancy clothed soldiers with loud guns.

I am forgotten, though once I was used – perhaps taken for granted. The paths they cut wide started it. Roads they called them, roads trod by horses, wagons, and eventually the horseless carriage. Sojourners passed through, while others chose to stay-put where school and church bells ring. I got accustomed to the odd ways of man: ceremonial fires, weddings, barbeques, harvest time, and barn raisings. That made them happy. Sad, they became with sleepless nights when Doc So-and-So was summoned. With happiness comes sorrow – the cost of loving, someone said.

Man’s spirit belongs to the Creator, but it was me they turned to with farewell tears. I silently received flowers lovingly placed on the sacred spot – flowers they hand selected from my dress so elegant, but there came a time when I dressed in rags and faced abandonment. Prayers heard through the pines were for me. I witnessed trembling hands and broken hearts as they packed all they could carry. At least once, they looked back in disbelief, knowing they will never see me again. They moved the farewell markers with a shovel full of sacred ground to another site but left the remains.

Do not grieve for me, for I was not destined to cross the finish line. I bow to my fate. Early one morn, a squawking crow announced the change – yes, the water came submerging 72,000 acres. Only then did I realize – I cannot swim. Gone the croaking frog, gone the whippoorwill song, for the water was relentless and all consuming. Alas, the wooing winds blew peacefully, calming the new lake. You can see me only if you can imagine: no water there. Yes, I am alone. You may think me lonely, but I am not, for within my bosom are the remains of countless loved ones placed in my care.

I am Georgia, though now they call me Lincoln County Lost.

Ghosts of Lincoln County

Cousin Rebel Rose

I had a right to my own political opinions. I am a Southern woman, born with Revolutionary blood in my veins. Freedom of speech and of thought were my birthright, guaranteed, signed, and sealed by the blood of our fathers. ~ Rose O’Neal Greenhow

On the way home from a usual night of frolicking, John O’Neale fell off his horse. That’s what his drinking buddy said, but upon further examination, too many wounds for one fall. Drinking buddy hanged. John left gambling debts. Maryland plantation lost. Children disbursed, daughters Maria Rosetta and Ellen Elizabeth O’Neal, were sent to live with an aunt who owned a boarding house in sight of the Whitehouse, more importantly, within firing range of the Whitehouse.

The D.C. atmosphere taught Rose the ways of politics and high society. She was a snob who was clever and outspoken. Among her friends: John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, and Stephen A. Douglas, Pathfinder John Fremont and his wife, writer Jessie Benton Fremont, diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, James Polk, and James Buchanan. Also: correspondents Jefferson Davis and General Pierre Beauregard, and mentor, Dolley Madison. Rose had a run in with Abe Lincoln. But before that run in, she married prominent Dr. Robert Greenhow. In 1854, Dr. Greenhow died leaving Rose to raise four daughters. She got by as a widow; it’s the correspondents that got her in trouble.

Rose sent a cryptic message to General Beauregard, information that changed the outcome of First Battle of Bull Run (also called Battle of Manassas). What should’ve been a skirmish became a war. Arrested by Allan Pinkerton (himself!) she was imprisoned within the walls of the boarding house with eight-year-old daughter, Little Rose. Lincoln released them and demanded Rose stay in Confederate territory until the war was over. That Southern sympathizing boarding house was taken over by the Union Army.  It was John C. Calhoun who taught Rose the art of cryptic messaging.

South of the Mason Dixon, Rose was received with open arms. Jeff Davis sent her to Europe seeking financial backing where she was entertained by Napoleon III and Queen Victoria – got engaged to the Earl of Granville while there. Returning home, a U.S. gunner boat ran her blockade buster aground near North Carolina. Uncertain of which side of the Mason Dixon she was on, she jumped into a rowboat and paddled south where a large wave capsized her little boat. She drowned, because $2000 in gold was sewn into her underwear, along with a copy of her cryptic code, and manuscript, My Imprisonment.

I like to think of my distant cousin as an author, but in death Rose was thoroughly exposed. She’s been called many names: Wild Rose, Rebel Rose, Blushing Rose, Confederate Rose, and others (some not so good). Writers and Hollywood producers have had a field day with her adventurous life. NBC-TV series The Americans, The Rebellious Rose, The Rose and the Jackal, The Pinkertons, The Better Angels of Our Nature. Books, Wild Rose by Ann Blackman, The Rebel Rose by Ishbel Ross, Rose and Blockade Runners by George Johnson, Jr., Spy For The Confederacy by J.C. Nolan, Genteel Rebel by Sheila R. Phipps, RG, Confederate Secret Agent by Dorothy Fremont Grant, more including, My Imprisonment by Rose O’Neal Greenhow.

Inscription at Find a Grave in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, North Carolina, Tombstone: Rose O’Neal Greenhow 1814-1864 A Bearer of Dispatches for the Confederate Government

Historical Marker:  Rose Greenhow, Confederate spy and Washington society woman. Drowned near Fort Fisher in 1864, while running Federal blockade. Grave 1 m. N.E.

Notes: Wild Rose by Ann Blackman, source.

Genealogy of Maria Rosetta O’Neal Greenhow: Parents were John O’Neale (1770-1817) and Eliza Henrietta Hamilton. Grandfather was Laurence O’Neale born about 1733 Fredrick County, Maryland. Great Grandfather was William O’Neale born about 1695, Frederick County, Maryland, died 1759 in Fredrick County, Maryland (his wife was Eleanor Ball). Great Great Grandfather was Joseph Owneill born about 1670, died 1747 in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

Descendants of John O’Neale Prepared by the O’Neal Genealogical Association: John O’Neal, born about 1770, died on April 23,1817, in St. Paul’s Parish, Prince George Parish, Maryland, about age 47. John married Eliza Henrietta Hamilton on January 1, 1810, in Prince George’s County, Maryland. John O’Neal’s father: Laurence O’Neal. Footnote #21: Rebel Rose, Life of Rose O’Neal Greenhow, Confederate Spy by Ishbel Ross, Page 1.

Rose’s sister, Ellen Elizabeth O’Neal (1813-1897) married James Madison Cutts, nephew of James and Dolley Madison; Dolley referred to Ellen as My Pet. Ellen died at eighty-four, buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.