Posts Tagged ‘Childrens healthcare’

Caleb Hardin Bentley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. John Bentley Courtesy of Bill Tankersley

Dr. John Bentley 1797-1867
Courtesy of Bill Tankersley


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author’s Note:

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


Written for and read at Shiloh United Methodist, oldest church in Forsyth County Georgia

Theme: What My Bible Means to Me

When I was six years old, my mother and father gave me a special Christmas gift. That Christmas morning when all the gifts were opened, my mother handed me the last gift under the tree.

“Diane, this is for you. It’s not from Santa. It’s from your father and me.”

My two sisters quickly took notice. Mama defended her statement, “Diane is six years old now; she can read as well as anybody. Patricia, you got your special gift two years ago – remember? And in two years, Barbara, you’ll get your special gift. This year is for Diane.”

All eyes were on me. I removed the red ribbon and white tissue paper. What was it? Of course, it had to be a book, but what kind of book? What made it so special? For the life of me, I could not remember what Patricia’s special gift was two years ago. I took a deep breath and carefully opened the box. Inside the box was a black leather bible. To tell the truth, I was a bit disappointed. I mustered up a weak smile and thanked my parents. I tried, but could not hide my disappointment.

My father sat on the living-room hardwood floor next to me, and took my bible into his own hands, “Let’s see that,” he said as he admired it, “that’s real leather, and look here, there’s your name in gold letters. This isn’t a toy you know, it’s the real thing. You’re a big girl now. You can read. Keep this by your bed and read it – even if it’s just one verse a day. You can learn all about Jesus in the New Testament, look here,” he said as he flipped through the pages. “You know Jesus was a carpenter, an honorable profession,” he said as he smiled.

“Diane, your father is a carpenter too,” added Mama.

“I know.”

Sisters at Easter

Daddy handed the bible back to me and gave me a hug as he winked at Mama. I took the opportunity to leave the room and stash that bible away in my bedroom. I wanted to get back to my new toys. It was a few years later before I read any verses at all from that bible. But, I did take it to church on Sundays, so I could get a gold star by my name.

About a year later, I became sick with scarlet fever and then rheumatic fever. I was examined by many doctors. One day I noticed Mama packing a suitcase with my pajamas, house shoes and robe. Biting back her tears, she reached for my bible and said, “Let’s don’t forget this; I want you to read it – that is if you feel like it. Anyway, always keep it near.” She went on talking as she packed, “I know it seems like a lot of words – it’s a big book for a seven year old girl, that’s okay; don’t worry about it. Just read the red words. They’re the most important ones.”

I knew something was really wrong when Daddy came home in the middle of the day. When Mama saw him she left the room. I heard her whisper, “You tell her.”

Daddy could hardly look at me, but forced a smile and cheerful voice, “We’re gonna take you to Atlanta to see another doctor. He wants to run some tests – so – you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days. You’ll be home before you know it.”

Daddy hugged me, picked me up, and put me in the car. I stayed at the hospital for two long weeks. I shared a big room with lots of sick children. It was called a children’s ward – sick children for as far as the eye could see. I wanted to go home. I wanted to play with my sisters, Patricia and Barbara. Mama came to see me every morning and left late in the afternoon.

One evening, a night shift nurse came over to check on me. She noticed my bible on the night-table and could not take her eyes off it. She left and came back frequently to admire it. “What a treasure!” she said.

“Do you want to read it?” I finally asked.Red Words of Jesus

“Oh, Diane, I see it has your name on it!”

“Of course it does. It’s mine. My parents gave it to me.”

“It sure does have your name on it! And just do look at the fine tissue paper pages! I know you are proud of this! How much of it have you read?”

“Not much,” I really did not want to admit even to a stranger, that I had not read one word of it. “Do you want to read it?”

“Oh no, I couldn’t, I mean – I really wish I could…”

“You can.”


“Sure you can read it all you want, just make sure you have it back before Mama gets here. She’ll be here early in the morning.”

“You don’t mind? Oh, Diane, one day I’ll have a fine bible like this one.”

“Why don’t you have one now? I thought all grown-ups had a bible.”

“Well, I’m still in nursing school and work the night shift so I can support my family…”

“Oh. Well, that’s okay; you can read my bible all night if you want. That is, when you’re not working.”

She ran her hand across my bible as though it was pure gold. She could not take her eyes off it. “I’ll have it back before the sun comes up. You can go to sleep and be assured I will return your bible, and maybe a special gift for letting me borrow it.”

“You don’t have to do that, just make sure it’s back before Mama gets here, or I’ll be in trouble.”

And she did borrow it often; and she always returned it. And each time I awoke to a piece of gum or a pink flower made of tissue paper and a pipe cleaner – on my bible. Every night she told me how lucky I was to own such a treasure. She cherished her reading time, and thanked me over and over.

Finally my stay at the hospital came to an end. I went home, but everything was different. I no longer shared a room with my sisters. I had my own room. I could not play, could not watch television, nor could I walk. I was on strict bed-rest. My parents assured me it was for a short while, but a short while turned into almost a year.

To entertain me, Mama read all kinds of books to me. She read so much, she frequently lost her voice. My father spoke to Miss Cookie Thomas while he was in downtown Tucker one day. When she asked about “Helen,” Daddy told her how Mama was losing her voice from reading to me. She called Mama on the phone and volunteered to do the reading.

Miss Cookie Thomas brought in a big bag full of children’s books. She opened it and said, “You pick it!” We had great fun together. She loved to read and I loved to listen. One day I was a bit blue, “What’s wrong? Not feeling well today?”

“I tired of being sick – I’m tired of being cooped up in this room. I want out of here.”

Miss Cookie Thomas thought for a moment and then said to me, “Did you ever hear about a man who healed sick people?”

Miss Cookie Thomas had my attention. “He could not tolerate sick children. It broke His heart to see a sick child. Everywhere He went, He touched people and in that instant, they were healed. There are lots of stories about Him.”

I looked in her big bag, “You won’t find Him in my bag, but you will find Him in here,” she said as she reached for my bible. She flipped through the pages and said, “Let’s try this one.”

I nodded in anticipation.

Diane's 12th Birthday

Miss Cookie Thomas read from the Book of Mark. Jesus, the Healer was approached in a village by Jarius, a father in distress. His twelve year old daughter needed help. The father of the girl was told to not bother the healing man, because his daughter was already dead. The Healer told the father of the girl, “Be not afraid; only believe.” Then the Healer went into the little girl’s house as the crowd laughed at Him. Jesus paid no attention to the mockers. He focused on the sick child as he held her hand, and said, “Talitha cumi!” which meant – “Little girl arise and live.” And she arose and walked. Everyone was astonished.

“What’d He say? Talli…?”

Miss Cookie Thomas said it again, “He said, ‘Talitha cumi!’” She wrote the strange sounding words on a piece of paper in red crayon. “Diane, any time you feel sad or tired of this bed, look at these words, remember them, you’ll feel better.”

After almost a year of bed-rest, I was allowed to walk again, and eventually returned to school. But soon thereafter, I relapsed and spent many more months in bed. I recovered once again, only to relapse again.

Miss Cookie Thomas came as often as possible, but now had other small children to read to. I was getting older. Now she left her big bag of books at home, since she had read everything in it. She read from my bible.

I loved it when she read about the Healer’s followers. Jesus taught them how to heal too. Every time she mentioned James and John, the sons of thunder, she made a loud noise like thunder. She made me laugh and forget about being sick, and it was thrilling to hear about sick people getting well in an instant.

One day she asked me how I’d like it if I had two sons called, the sons of thunder. After that question, I didn’t want to hear about the sons of thunder anymore. Recently, the doctors told me that I could never have children. Now at such a young age, I really wasn’t thinking about having my own family. But it made me sad to realize I had no life now, nor would I have a life in the future. And it was hard being sick while aware that life was going on all around me, as I was secluded in this back of the house bedroom.

And then there was Miss Winnie Collins.

While painting the house of Miss Winnie Collins on Old Norcross, Daddy got to know this odd little lady. She was an artist and puppeteer who went about Tucker on a bicycle. She strapped a black suitcase onto her bicycle and would pull out all kinds of strange things from her suitcase. One being a huge wide brim black hat layered in long black silk which hid her face while making a perfect stage back drop for her puppet shows. She gave me art lessons and entertained me and my sisters with her shows. Miss Winnie Collins kept me busy drawing and painting. I used my bible to steady my paints and turpentine. Mama gave me a look of shock when she saw green oil paint on my bible. Then she smiled and said, “Well I did say to keep it with you.”

Needless to say, there were many discouraging days when I could only dwell on my loss, especially on pretty days when I could hear the students play at recess time at Tucker Elementary. Nothing Miss Cookie Thomas read, not even Miss Winnie Collins’ puppet shows, could cheer me. I was approaching twelve years of age and was not allowed to stand on my own feet. Mama fed me. I could not draw or paint anymore. I eyed my bible and thought about the strange sounding words of the Healer. I looked at the red letters Miss Cookie Thomas made for me, now crumpled and ragged with age. I thought about the twelve year old girl in the bible, and how her father went out and found Jesus, the Healer.

Dianes Birthday with parents

Diane's 12th Birthday with parents, Tom and Helen Story

I closed my eyes tight and imagined my own father driving up Morgan Road and turning right onto Chamblee Tucker and then down Main Street – Tucker. I imagined that Daddy parked his van and walked out into the Cofer Brothers Lumber-Yard. While purchasing lumber for his next job, Daddy ran into a stranger in town; a carpenter. I imagined that my father told that particular carpenter about his daughter at home in a sick bed. This carpenter told my father that his name was Jesus, and He was here ready and able to heal sick children.

In my mind’s eye, I saw the Healer get into Daddy’s van and come to our little Morgan Road home. They came into my room and the Healer said to Daddy, “Be not afraid; only believe.” The Healer held my hand and said, “Talitha cumi – little girl arise and live!” I imagined myself standing up. I saw myself being received with open arms and astonishment by my family.

I concentrated on my soon approaching birthday and my attitude changed. Now, when I heard my family talking and seemingly enjoying life without me, I imagined they were preparing a home coming party for me as did the father of the Prodigal Son. In my heart of hearts, I knew that soon, I would join them. I would get out of this bedroom! I looked forward to my birthday – my twelfth birthday. The day came when my mother placed a birthday cake on my lap in bed. My cousin, Rachel, took pictures of the celebration. I keep those pictures in my bible, so I can always remember that day. I became twelve – and that year – I became well. I left my sick-bed and never returned.

Diane's 13th Birthday, happy to stand in the kitchen.

Diane's 13th Birthday, happy to stand in the kitchen.

I still go for yearly check-ups for my heart. The doctors cannot believe it. “It’s amazing,” they’ll say, “how you can have such a long history of heart disease and not even have the slightest murmur – it’s beyond reason. And, you have children?”

“Yes, I do. I have two sons, James and Jon. They’re the sons of thunder, you know,” I tell them as I hear Miss Cookie Thomas make the sound of thunder in my mind. It makes me smile from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.

Diane with sons James and Jon

As you may have guessed, I learned to appreciate my special Christmas gift from my parents. It is now ragged around the edges and the pages are pulling loose, but after all, it has been well over fifty years since I first received it. It has been a life long journey in which the book revealed itself to me. It’s a gift that I have sometimes ignored, sometimes mistreated, but I know it is a treasure. It’s the place where I learned that Jesus was far more than a carpenter. My bible has parrot green paint and turpentine circles on it. It bears my name in gold letters. This is my bible!

Daddy with the three sisters Diane, Patricia and Barbara

“I don’t want to stay here,” I pleaded with my father.

“We’ll see what the doctor says,” he said as he tried to console me.

Even though I was just seven years old, I knew Daddy was placating me as he looked around the over-crowded waiting room. I sat on a bench crunched up as close to Daddy as possible. Mama was in and out of the room. She was busy filling out papers and answering questions. Both seemed upset, but tried hard to appear removed from the grief in their eyes. I tried to be still, but fidgeted as any small child in such an atmosphere. The anxiety rose to a breaking point.

“I want to go home now! Please, Daddy, take me home! I’ve already seen two doctors and I don’t want to see another one!”

“Well, Donnie,” Daddy said, “the doctors may decide to let you go home…”

“If they don’t, you’ll stay with me, won’t you?”

“I would if I could, but I can’t. You know that I have to work.”

“What about Mama? Will she stay with me?”

Daddy took a deep breath and bit back his tears as he answered, “No, Donnie. You know she can’t.” My father rubbed his throat as though it ached, “She has to look after your sisters, at home.”

“I’m not staying here. I promise you, I will not stay here, especially alone,” I warned Daddy as my voice broke. I continued to negotiate with Daddy with questions and threats. I came up with every reason in the world to go home. The doctors and the nurses were too slow, not to mention, they were strangers. What happened to not speaking to strangers? And they couldn’t even get blood out of my arm. The doctor had to be called and he took it out of my leg! The hospital was too big. I could get lost or operated on by accident. And the hospital is in Atlanta for heaven’s sake! Atlanta is a big place! Still, nothing I said moved Daddy. He stared straight ahead not responding. As a slightly bloody gurney rolled by, I asked, “What if the sheets are dirty? Will you make me stay in a big hospital in downtown Atlanta – alone – on dirty sheets? Will you leave me here Daddy?”

“No, Donnie I won’t leave you here if the bed has dirty sheets.”

“You’ll take me home?”

“Yes,” he struggled with the words, “I’ll take you home.”

That’s it. I had it, a plan. I closed my eyes and silently prayed in earnest, “Dear God in Heaven, let this place have dirty sheets, in every room, on every bed. Please God, let there be dirty sheets!” I crossed my fingers, toes and legs for good luck.

Daddy gently touched my shoulder to interrupt my prayer. When I opened my eyes, I saw a nice man kneeling before me. The man waited for our eyes to meet, and then he smiled at me – with a big huge smile. He then reached into a large bag and pulled out a brand new doll wrapped thinly in white tissue paper, so thin I could see the doll’s face. The nice man handed the doll to me.

“Here, she’s yours, all for you.”

I hesitated and looked up at Daddy. He gave me the okay look and I accepted the gift. “What’s your name?” asked the young man.


“Donnie? That’s an unusual name for a lovely lady like you.”
“My real name is Diane. Donnie is my nickname,” I explained timidly. We smiled at each other for a moment. He patted my head and shook Daddy’s hand. Daddy did not speak, but nodded thank you to the man. The man then moved on looking about the room for another child. I watched him for a few minutes and then decided to look at my new gift. I held my new treasure close to my chest. I felt a little guilty that my two sisters at home did not get a new doll too. We always got things together. I hesitated about tearing the paper away.

Daddy finally found his voice, although it sounded a little strained, “Go ahead, Donnie, open your gift. See what that nice man gave you. Go ahead, open it,” encouraged my father.

Reluctantly I tore away the tissue paper to expose her face. The doll looked just like me with short dark hair and blue eyes. She seemed to smile at me. Her smile was contagious, and I could not help but smile back at her. For a moment I forgot about the doctors, blood tests and the worrisome thought of spending the night alone in a strange place so far from home. I forgot, that is, until I looked up and saw Mama. As she walked closer, I realized the man pushing a wheelchair was with her.

They put me in the wheelchair, and pushed me to the elevator, and then down a long corridor. I held my new doll tightly, and prayed silently – eyes wide open – all the way, “Please dear God, let the bed have dirty sheets. Please, let me go home. My Daddy won’t leave me here on dirty sheets. He promised to take me home if they’re dirty. He won’t leave me! He won’t! I want to go home, please, let the sheets be dirty. Please Daddy! Take me home!” And then the wheelchair stopped.

Daddy spoke first, “Wait a minute, Helen. I want to take a look at those sheets.” He examined the bedding. Daddy  did not look at me when he approached me. He just bent down and picked me up in his strong arms. He set me on the bed. Mama dressed me in a hospital gown. Daddy walked about the room examining everything.

“You see Donnie? You see how clean everything is?”  Daddy tried to reassure me, all the while, making sure our eyes did not meet.

“Yes sir,” I answered in a faint whisper.

“That’s right, everything is nice and clean here,” Mama agreed, “and the nurses will take good care of you. Get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll be back some time tomorrow – as soon as Pheobe can come over and stay with your sisters.”

“What about Daddy?”

“Daddy has to work tomorrow. He’ll drop me off and then come back. When he picks me up later in the day, and you can visit then. Isn’t that right, Tom?”

Daddy nodded yes. He didn’t speak. Mama took over, “now, say your prayers like a good girl.”
I choked back my tears, bowed my head as I struggled to find my voice, “Loving Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child. Make me gentle as Thou art, come and live within my heart. Amen.”

I wanted to cry out and beg. I wanted to throw a fit and demand, but I knew none of those tactics were of any use. I was defeated. My throat ached as I silently accepted my fate. Mama and Daddy gently covered me up to the chin with a blanket. They kissed me good-night and good-bye. I was a big girl; I did not cry when they left me. As I lied there alone in the dimly lit room, I longed for my home in Tucker. I wanted my sisters, Patricia and Barbara.

The only one to hear my late night sobs was my new doll. She was my best friend that night, and stayed with me throughout my two week stay at the hospital. I returned to the hospital frequently throughout the next four years, and my special doll always accompanied me. I grew up and outgrew my heart condition. Forty-five years later, in 2000, I returned to another childrens hospital in Atlanta – this time as an aunt.

Emilee and Kate Story

Sisters Emilee and Kate Story

My dear sweet two year old niece, Kate, suffered a brain tumor. Kate faced surgery and more than a long year of chemotherapy, radiation, transfusions and morphine. Kate did not like being in the hospital. She longed for her home in Tucker. She wanted her sister, Emilee. Early into her diagnosis, Kate received treatment in the community room of the hospital. There she was entertained by a group of actors. Kate especially loved the dragon-lady, and had her picture made with the lovely green creature.  Kate admires that photo often. No matter how Kate feels, that photo always brings forth a genuine smile. And though Kate returned to the hospital frequently for treatment, she did not cry. As her parents carried her down the long corridors, her only question was, “Ma-Ma, Da-Da, where is the dragon-lady?”

May God bless all hospital volunteers!

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