Category Archives: Uncategorized

JAMES THOMAS BY THE SLICE

It would be nice if what is available in surviving records was intact enough to clearly tell the stories we all seek of our past.  That’s not possible simply because many of the records are gone ..lost or destroyed over time. Seeking to find our way back across the Great Pond, we from the Old North State are tempted to look upstream, gathering the answers to our questions from such books as The Virginia Cavaliers and writings of people like John Boddie.  Genealogical CliffsNotes of sort, such publications provide cheat sheet histories leapfrogging family histories across the eastern tidewaters of Virginia.

Hypothetically, the novice, in one sitting, can sit down in a library, and by studying the works of folks like Boddie, can chase their lineage back to first arrival in historic James Town, …that is the goal, isn’t it? But really and truly, such an approach is 100% absolutely backwards. It’s ALWAYS best to start with the here and now, slowly and methodically working one’s way back through yesteryear.  Move from the known to unknown, not the reverse.

Books such as The Cavaliers are awesome though they will get you in trouble. Quoting such research is like quoting any.  What are the resources and how are the connections made?  How were the connections made especially when they are inferred because of record losses and multiple generational gaps passing through counties with little surviving history.

Bad examples are set in place and later incorporated as gospel by later generations of us weekend historians. It is a tough reality and one that tempts us all.  And yes, we’ve all given in only to worry about whether our own version of events will stand the test of truth. We’ve all made mistakes and of each one, it’s bad when intentions are questioned after our own memory fails. Also, in truth, the study of family history is merely a hobby or interest that can go away as easily as the day you first leaned you were hooked. When you lose interest, the drive to make things right disappears as well. Always work to keep fresh those things you love …history for some of us requires emotional maintenance.

In the game of putting together your family puzzle, realize there are going to be plenty of times when you can fit together multiple pieces and yet not fit them to the rest of the picture you hope to present.  We know the information is important, but how do we show it? When that happens, do not ever force the pieces. That is wrong! If you knowingly force unproven connections, all you are doing is setting the stage for your work to be hijacked through error and misinterpretation. Explain yourself forty ways from heaven so you will not be remembered by your mistakes.  Yes, things may have happened as you believe, though reality is an equal opportunist and always reserves its right for being found. Once in print, errors seldom go away.

Donald Rumsfeld was correct, concerning “knowns,” there are numerous variations on the theme of knowledge. Rather than seeking to build the family tree of all trees, for the family historian, it is nice to do studies as if they were snapshots in time. Take time to learn and appreciate all you can about a certain place, time, and person. Document and source your work and celebrate that one thing. At least for a given time or event, you can proudly declare that you know what happened. History is like a loaf of bread.  We can serve it up whole or sliced.  

From a singular point of interest, move your research backward or forward in times …slowly. And most important, expand your point of interest in hopes of gaining perspective.  If you can’t find what you need on a person, look next at the family, and then next at the neighbors, and then next at time. It’s like casting a net for fish, sometimes you need to cast wider in order to capture the same number of fish. You can’t tell simply by looking at the water.  Most of the time the fish themselves will tell you where and how big a net you need to present. And about the process as is related to family history, it is one thing to put yourself in the shoes of an ancestor …It is another to put yourself in the shoes of all your ancestor’s neighbors.  If you cannot find the answer by looking at the individual, open your field of view. The effort is hard though the results are hugely rewarding.

And here I sit writing this gibberish while surely you are wondering why.  Well, things have been quiet with my paternal Thomas family history for quite some time. And with the virus and such, I decided recently to look online to see if I had overlooked anything. As is normal, one thing led to the next and from there another piece of the puzzle fell into place.  Thoughts from new Facebook communities gave me new perspective.  From people I don’t even know, I’ve learned it’s not so much about learning the details you are looking for as is having the electronic ear of those willing to comment on your ideas.

Anyhow, in a matter of a week, I’ve gained enough information to provide my first good snapshot of James Thomas who died ca. 1780 in Bertie.  The research reinforced what I had believed concerning James’ homeplace and neighbors while totally changing other thoughts.  The effort began to connect me to generations of Joseph Thomas who I believe is in my family. Yet unanswered is the exact connection between Joseph and James.  And most of all, I’ve learned important stuff reminding me of the woes of following the leads of others. That, and seemingly out of nowhere, I am reminded of how it is  possible to change an entire story through the discovery of a single record that was there all along. 

In my next post I plan to introduce James Thomas, not his genealogy, but a simple slice of his history. Sometimes genealogy is not so good when seen in entirety.  Its outer shell is tough, hiding you from the yummy details. When you find that happening, try serving up your family by the slice. Sometimes a little bit of history goes a long way.

A TAXI RIDE TO REMEMBER

Pronounced somewhat like  ..Las VEGAS, the hotel community of Weggis is tightly nestled against the nearly 6,000 ft Mt. Rigi, along the northeastern shores of Lake Lucerne. Driving into the area two days earlier, after touring the Dolomiti mountains and Neuschwanstein Castle, we stayed at the remote location on the east side of Lake Lucerne because it was cheaper and offered a more restful atmosphere. Normally we would have chosen center city though the morning voyage into Lucerne by boat added to the sense of adventure.

Waking early for the next leg of our trip, I remember eagerly watching the MeteoSwiss weather report on TV as we dressed and readied to hit the road. The forecast had not changed as the development of afternoon storms was still predicted for the Alps.

We were scheduled to stay that evening at the Hotel Wengener Hof in the mountain resort of Wengen. Our goal for late afternoon was to hike from Männlichen to Klein Scheidegg along which route we would experience the awesome views of Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau. By the way, cars are not allowed in Wengen and the mountain top town is reachable only by cog wheel train. As for its pronunciation, my wife and I loved saying to each other …Veeeengin.

Hearing the weather report, my anxieties ramped up knowing that we had to reach the mountains before arrival of any storms.  Switzerland is not cheap, and I envisioned our next stop as being a beautiful Julie Andrews type of singing-on-a-mountain-top day. Or, it could end up with us sitting in some unknown restaurant looking out at stormy weather in wonderment of what could have been.  My goal was to reach the Lauterbrunnen car park by noon.

Heading out and being no more than 45 minutes into our drive around Lake Lucerne, something went wrong. Passing the city and maybe a few smaller towns, somewhere in the middle of nowhere our navigation system suddenly came alive. It ordered us to take the third exit at the next round-a-bout. Problem?  We were traveling an Autobahn grade highway and there was no round-a-bout in sight!

An exit sign appeared ahead and not knowing what to do, we took it and crossed the highway as if a round-a-bout had existed.  Driving maybe ten minutes in God only knows what direction, the navigation system alerted us again that we needed to turn around and go the other way.  At that point I was imagining my mountain views melting away in the dismal rains I had read about in travel forums.  You would not believe how many people seek ideas on what to do when their Alps trips turn to rain. Anyhow, making the correction and reaching the point where things first went wrong, we were told once more to turn around!  At that point Christina pulled out her cell phone and soon we were back on track using Google Navigation.  We lost an hour.

Once more we became lost.  Seeing signs for Bern and areas within France, I knew we had gone too far.  We turned and eventually found our way to the correct exit leading to the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The views at that point were not immediately exciting. We were on a meager two-lane road heading off into lower elevation mountains. But, while looking ahead, in the direction of our remaining 20-minute drive, the occasional curve gave view to the whitest of peaks I have ever seen.  Framed by the narrow and shadowy valley walls, the triangular peak of Jungfrau, known as the top of Europe, jutted proudly from the skyline ahead.  The mountain was brightly lit by the sun, which was thankfully still visible!

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Jungfrau, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen is known as the land of waterfalls. Numerous falls drop along nearly vertical valley walls to the green and flat pastureland below. One such fall actually cascades within the mountain which attraction is a must see. Another fall provides a scenic backdrop as it drops behind the town.  Though arriving late, we drove fifteen more minutes beyond Lauterbrunnen deeper into the box canyon to the end of the road.  It was pretty cool to stand at the exact point where the green fields turned into the towering  Jungfrau which stood before us.

Turning attention to reaching our hotel, we then headed back to town and parked near the train station.  Thank goodness we had prepacked smaller luggage for that evening’s one-night stay. We took a short walk from the parking deck to the train station where we caught a 30-minute scenic ride to Wengen.

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About Wengen, it is situated on a gently sloping plateau or bluff about half-way to the top of the mountain ski area known as Männlichen. From Wengen one must take a gondola the remainder of the way to the top.  That, or hike a strenuous 3,500 vertical feet over a matter of several miles. More about Männlichen later.

Once off the train in the town of Wengen, we bounced our roller luggage behind us as we strolled the main street towards our hotel. Our stay was near the Evangelical Reformed Church which location offers one of the best views of the valley below. Note that the photo at the top of the page was taken from this viewpoint.

Warmed by the summer winds flowing northward off the Mediterranean Sea, the building skies ebbed and flowed with the continual passing of clouds and sun. Making it to the hotel, where, upon being cordially greeted, we were shown to our fifth-floor room. We had our own little balcony where the cool breeze and warming sun added much relaxation to this once in a lifetime experience. It was great!  What an escape from the summer heat we had left back in North Carolina!  The entire morning had been spent in the car and now, being about 2 pm, we decided to take a well-deserved nap before heading up to the top from which point we planned to hike back down by way of Klein Scheidegg.

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View From Our Hotel Window

Awakening and at ease, upon stepping out on the balcony, I was greeted with clouds and peppering rain. My heart sunk knowing that our only sight of sun-lit mountains may now be a thing of the past. However, journeying forward and before reaching the lift station, nature again greeted us with sunshine. The second chance assurance was welcomed and made for an even greater day. And yes, there were more brief showers. Though to our delight, we would learn that the clouds and their shadows punctuated the constant change of scenery. With each passing minute nature demanded us to stop and take notice of something yet unseen. Every view was new and the clouds, sun, and rain were all part of that rhythm.

And about the gondola, our visit was in the first week of summer operations. The gondola had just opened for the season after being retrofitted with something new.  Passengers could now pay an additional five dollars to climb a stairway leading to a railed viewing platform where they could make the ride atop the car itself.  Wow, my wife and I were the only ones onboard and of course we gave it a try. We felt like Leonardo DiCaprio proclaiming King of The World in the movie Titanic! No more cagy feelings from being pinned up while forced to see the world through scratched window panes. The unobstructed view and overall experience was fabulous.

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About Männlichen.  Upon reaching the lift, we learned that the trail leading to Klein Scheidegg had not yet opened.  Snowpack along a north facing wall still buried a section of the trail making it impossible to hike. At that moment it was truly a bummer though how could one complain as our being where we were was an amazing opportunity .

Disembarking the gondola, the lift operator reminded us of something that I did not hear. The message later turned out to be important.

We walked the area noticing how others moved about quietly in awe. Their words were carried away by the gentle breeze that swept the mountain top vista. Everyone was trying to absorb it all while seeking some magical  viewpoint and photo opportunity. It was a difficult task to improve on the vastness of perfection we saw before us. In time we came to realize that  no camera made  will capture the image better than what is naturally created in the mind’s own eye. Photos are great, but best of all are the memories they stir.

Hiking the grassy meadow along the Männlichen Royal Walk, we slowly made our way to the pinnacle.  Much of the time was spent wandering here and their chasing every visual nuance we saw. The grass was deep and green. The landscape was filled with an inordinate enormity of flowers recently released from the grip of last winter’s snow. Dandelions were everywhere with their puffy heads as big as tennis balls. Nature even called upon us to crawl the ground where we inspected many other flowers of the like we had never seen.

And of the cows we had hoped to see …they had not yet made it to the top.  We were at the place showcased in numerous episodes of Rick Steve’s TV series of travels in Europe.  From his shows, we learned that every year cattle farmers from as far away as Lauterbrunnen walk their small herds to summer on the grassy meadows above. As the trail remained blocked with snow, their annual journey up the mountain was yet to come. Also, every fall, a return trip ends when a fair like atmosphere envelops the town of Wengen as the annual parade of herds arrive home from their summer stay up top.

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Walking to the cliff’s edge, looking below, we were graced with the sight appearing along the cable way towards the village of Wengen.  And peering further down-slope, we could see the waterfall dancing like a whip along the rock cliff as it found its end behind the quaint town of Lauterbrunnen.  The whole of the valley was visible with mountains equal to those we stood upon rising beyond. And even further yet, in the hazy expressions only displayed in context of distance, appeared Interlaken and Lake Thune shining like a ribbon of silver in the afternoon sun.

Turning our heads and walking the mountain ridge in the opposite direction, one’s eyes are greeted by the distant alpine town of Grindelwald. Way down below and being nearly 15 miles away, the town sits at the end of a sister box valley to that of Lauterbrunnen.  And cloaked in clouds, rising from the edge of this valley town, were the three great mountains. Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau stood before us occasionally showing themselves from under the ghostlike movements of velvety clouds.

My wife and I had recently seen the Eiger Sanction, and yes, there we were with the mountain standing before us. And as for Jungfrau, known as home to the highest rail station in Europe, you could catch glimpses of that facility shimmering in the bright but sinking sun. How wonderful it was to see these things, knowing too that trains ascended the great mountain by way of tunnels carved deep into the hard rock. There was so much to take in and we were at the right place and our time was good.

Reaching the top of Männlichen, a viewing platform had been arranged just so people could get a better view.  It made me chuckle as that whole idea struck me funny.  Who needed a platform as the view was all about and everywhere!  On the other hand, it was nice to sit a spell with my wife, taking in all that we had seen. We absorbed it all, anticipating clouds with their shadows racing across the landscape below. In one-minute we were cloistered in passing banks of cloud only to be suddenly released into brightness with an unopposed vision of all that the Almighty says is good.

I cannot say enough about the beauties we saw. All I could think was …what if it had rained?  We would have never known. Seeing is knowing, and in all of this, my wife and I took the time to spread out in the deep grasses near the upper reaches of this great place. We laid there for what seemed to be an hour, resting, holding hands and talking about what we were seeing. Everything was good and perfect. And then my wife noticed something out of place.

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Truly alone, all the people we had earlier seen were now gone.   Looking downward towards the lift station, the gondola was no longer running. It was after 5 pm and the lift had closed. The mountain, for all practical purposes, was closed. I could not imagine it being so as we were nearing the golden hour. This was rightfully the time of day when nature shows its best. We were in trouble and yet, we were at a place of peace.

We walked our way back towards the lift station knocking on all the doors that were now bolted. We saw a trail sign and realized we could hike back up Männlichen and then down the 3.500 ft of elevation covering several miles of unknown wilderness. It must be steep and I had no map or plan to study.  Also included in the equation was my heart. Having recently undergone ablation surgery for afib, my need to take medication was critically important.  Normally I carry an emergency dose on my key ring, though this time it was empty from being used the day prior. My much-needed medicine was stored in luggage back at the hotel.

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Continuing to explore the mountain top, a small ski lodge had not yet transitioned to be open for summer.  Workers were likely staying there and possibly others, though from outside, the place appeared to be deserted. We circled the building before eyeing someone inside who came to our aid. We stood there for ten minutes discussing possible options with one being the hiking trail down to Wengen. That idea was not advised and quickly shot down. We were told that coming up from Grindelwald, there was a small road which could be used.  And once reaching Grindelwald, we could catch the train to a small town nearer to Interlaken where we would then transfer to another train running to Lauterbrunnen. And, from Lauterbrunnen we would catch the little cogwheel train we rode earlier. Below is map showing our plan.

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Yellow – Cogwheel Train to Wengen, Green – Gondola Ride and hike, Purple – Taxi Ride to Grindelwald, Gray – train back to Lauterbrunnen

We were told all of this was doable that evening with the aid of Regio Taxi Service that could carry us down to Grindelwald. That is if a driver could be reached who was willing to make the nearly 15-mile trip up the mountain. Agreeing to this plan, the lady pulled a phone number from behind the counter and made the call. Heck, it was only money, but in return we had the chance to see this place in a way many tourists never will.  Witnessing the falling sun and coming on of evening was worth every penny spent. And one nice thing, paying with credit card, we were shielded from the pain of seeing dollar bills flow from my wallet much like the water fell from the mountain below.

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We waited outside, at ease watching the sun set.  It took a little over thirty minutes and then, coming up the distant roadway, we could see the taxi slowly winding its way up the mountain (above).  The lady driver pulled up and in memory of the experience, I asked and was granted approval to take the photo below.

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Our taxi ride down the mountain was an experience in itself.  The driver was very friendly and listened to Bavarian yodeling music most the way down. She quietly sang and yodeled along with what was playing.  She showed real appreciation and talent for the unique genre of music.  And of this experience, how often does one get to hear yodeling whilst riding down the mountain in a taxi!

We passed all sorts of barns and homes distinct to the region. After explaining what we needed to do next, our driver dropped us off at the train station at which time she encouraged us to hurry as the approaching train would soon be leaving. We boarded the train as the sun began to set behind the mountain we had just descended.  Reaching the connecting station known as Zweilütschinen, we waited at the remote location for thirty minutes for the next train heading to Lauterbrunnen.

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Finally back to Wengen, we enjoyed a plate of cheese and potato raclette and cold Swiss beer. What a day! And now making it to our room, the remainder of the evening was spent on our little balcony watching the last glow of day disappear from the tips of distant mountain tops.

It was a day I’ll never forget and then for the next day, we planned to see the underground water fall and views from the other side of the valley before picking up the car for the ride south into Italy.  Our next night’s stay was scheduled for Varenna, a little lake front town on lake Como. That is a story meant for another day.
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A STAY IN EDINBURGH: NOT YOUR NORMAL CHECK-IN

Awakened by the sound of pelting rain, and peering out with nose against the windowpane, the soupy mix of fog and cloud obscured the view across the loch. It was our first trip to Scotland and this was what we crossed the ocean to see.  Such weather is nothing new to the locals and as Tom Bryan tells us in one of his poems, it …

Gets in yer neb, lugs,
unner thi oxters tae.
Oan yer heid, in yer een
til ye’re drookit, ken?

Seeking to share with you my expectations for the day to come, the above (deciphered with aid of an online translator) warns simply … yes, the rain and fog gets into your nose and ears and even under the arms too. It gets on your head and in your eyes until you are totally drenched, you know?

Staying in the town of Oban, we found lodging at Barriemore B&B which, overlooking the seawall, offered a panoramic view of the protected sea passage with glimpse of Loch Linnhe lying beyond. From our bedroom we could lay eyes upon the waters at a point where the lake intersects the Sound of Mull. Likely the most distinguished cartographic feature of Scotland, Loch Linnhe cuts northeast across the land mass as if carved in one blow by some mystical God of yore. The lake spans north from Oban to Inverness situated on Scotland’s north coast.

Oban, the primary seaport serving the rich fishing waters surrounding the Hebrides, is home to a fleet of ferries communicating the northwest reaches of the country. And, travelling west by ferry from Oban across the Sound of Mull, one can visit the Isle of Iona, the Outer Hebrides, and of course the Isle of Mull. It is this last location that my maternal Love family claims to be their ancestral home. And, it is in that piece of information that the reader can find reasoning for why my wife and I decided to visit this distant place. Below is the itinerary for this leg of our quick trip encompassing the United Kingdom.

We had a long day ahead with our next night’s stay being in Edinburgh.  Timing was crucial as for that evening, we held two expensive tickets to the year’s first showing of the annual pageant known as the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

We loaded the car aboard the Caledonian – McBrayne ferry for a short ride to the Craignure dock located close to Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull.  The journey by water was vividly wonderful though the changing weather constantly threatened to chase us from the rails to safe hidings within the ferry. We passed several sailing vessels and a remote lighthouse before Duart Castle appeared from the fog. The view across the water stirred stories I had been reading, including one of the history of the Spanish Armada and of the nearby sinking of one of its ships.

Arriving at Craignure, we disembarked and drove the long and winding road (pun if you like), passing through tall ferns, towards Duart Castle.   The tour was worth the effort though most important were the stories told by an animated old guide who reminded me of some character from a British TV comedy series. In full regalia including kilt and all the accoutrements, the old gentleman spoke briskly with a most interesting brogue.  Of course he was interested in my good ol’ southern drawl as I asked if he knew anything of my Love family who supposedly lived nearby. He expressed in no uncertain terms that it is highly improbable that they ever set foot in the castle.  Yes, he said, they may indeed have been septs of clan McLean, though that in no way means they ever lived in the same house.  He encouraged me to visit a bookstore and museum in Oban specializing on clan histories.  To that  directive I would have obliged though the seaport town was now a place in my past …at least for now because we hope to pass through Scotland again on some trip in the future.

Leaving Duart, it would have been wonderful to drive the several hour trip along the loop road around the Isle of Mull.  And better yet, it would have been amazing to explore the rugged beauty of Iona which is reachable by way of another ferry from the south of Mull.  So many great choices and it always comes down to a matter of time …and money!!  So, instead, and realizing the need to push forward, we drove a few miles to the Fishnish Ferry which allowed us to cross the Sound of Mull back onto the mainland of Scotland.

Earlier, at home and with the aid of mouse and computer, I guided my little yellow Google Man along every possible route leading to Edinburgh. I knew we would want to traverse the Scottish Highlands by way of the famed region of Glen Coe.  But now, being on the west side of Loch Linnhe, what route would give us the best view of the highlands?  I also sought the narrowest, windiest, and most quintessentially Scottish route possible through the scarce populated area that laid before us.

My research effort paid off as I found a one-track road B8043 which crawled down the hills before reaching the waters. There, skirting the edge of a cliff, we drove the narrowest of road which ran along the shore with magnificent views towards the distant mountains. You could see the heart of the region where Scottish clans once battled.  We also had the chance to drive through herds of sheep with frequent stops for plenty of photos including that of a schooner anchored offshore.  For those fearful of British cars and driving on the wrong side of the road, such a route is simply magnificent, offering a safe change to build confidence behind the wheel.

We drove another 15 miles north along the west side of Loch Linnhe before crossing over another ferry at the village of Corran. From there we headed into Glen Coe, considered to be one of the most beautiful spots in the world. It is also the place, where in 1692, a massacre took place in which 38 members of the McDonald Clan were slaughtered or burned to death.

There is an eerie sort of beauty one witnesses while passing through the deep glen. The almost reverent display of fog and cloud silently dances among the craggy mountain tops. Carved by an ancient glacier, this masterpiece of nature is defined by its steep valley walls which, upon reaching the top, quickly turns and rolls suddenly downward to meet the cascading river below. The vision recalls the goings-on of those rugged people who once lived in this desolate region. One can imagine muddy legs and bodies wrapped in woolen kilts tending livestock on the landscape where grass is plentiful. It is so beautiful!  Yet, deeply green with dense growth of ferns and other native fauna, even the ground we walked upon purged itself of water with each step we made. Tom Bryan gets it right as you cannot visit this mystical place without expecting to get wet.

Exiting the valley to the east, the view spreads wide with your eyes being pulled slowly downward following the vanishing road where, in the distance, it crosses a contemporary arched bridge spanning the River Etive. Nearby is the King’s House, a B & B once on the military route, which was built by the English army in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite rising. Though set in an utterly different context, the view is as grand as that Forest Gump witnessed at the ending of his run among the natural monuments of Arizona. You cannot drive the road without expressing awe in the presence of this display of God and nature.

At this point, the sun was running its race as did we.  It would have been nice to visit the lands of Rob Roy McGregor and the Stirling home of Robert the Bruce …but time was against us.

Reaching the outskirts of Edinburgh, I felt this was a city I did not care to drive. It was full of one-way roads and we were coming in on a busy afternoon. We made it to a remote car park as a special news bulletin broke on the radio. Hurriedly preparing to board the bus for the ride into town, we missed the message though heard mention of trouble in town.

Concerning tourism, this was one of Edinburgh’s greatest weekends throughout the year. On tap was the Edinburgh Festival Fringe which “is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture on the planet. For three weeks in August, the city of Edinburgh welcomes an explosion of creative energy from around the globe.” Also, just beyond the drawbridge leading into Edinburgh Castle, a stage was set for an evening extravaganza showcasing the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Performers included the country’s top military drum and pipe band along with the royal marching band. Also, in 2013, the year we attended, a guest group from Korea was invited to perform. In addition, there was a special appearance by the puppet War Horse in celebration of that year’s well received movie of same name. Each night the show ends with an amazing fireworks display taking place above the castle walls. Below are a few pictures taken from the event along with official video showing the entire Tattoo for 2013.

 

With all this in mind, we rode the bus to Edinburgh old town where we were let off at the North Bridge stop.  We had a room reserved at The Scotsman, a really nice hotel once the home of the Edinburgh Newspaper. Getting off the bus and crossing over the main rail station by bridge, we were a bit curious about the many emergency vehicles we saw along the side of the road.  Represented were every sort of police, ambulance, and rescue unit imaginable along with vans marked Terrorist Response blah-blah-blah. They all had their lights flashing  ….hmmm, not good.

The walk leading to the hotel entrance was lined with groups of emergency workers apparently wrapping up what was going on. My wife and I moved forward to the front desk where we were told that a young Russian couple had just committed suicide two floors above where we were scheduled to stay.  We were told they had had made a pact and released two military grade canisters of cyanide gas in their room. Serious Stuff! And the building had been fully evacuated and returned to normal except for the floor where the couple had stayed. Folks from that floor still filled the hotel lobby.

Wow, you can imagine that with all the events scheduled for the day, the emergency response teams assumed the suicide may have been part of some opening volley or part of a massive terrorist plot.

As we checked in, sofas and furniture from the deceased couple’s room was being removed behind us. A lady from Texas was standing near us in robe, upset because she could not get back to her room to finish getting ready for the evening’s performance.  As for us, my wife and I made it up to our room where we caught a thirty minute nap before having to head up the Royal Mile towards the castle. The evening went splendidly as did our three-night stay at the Scotsman. It’s sad for the deceased couple …and really for all involved.  Though, the excitement will be one that I will always remember.  On the next day the headlines went worldwide.  Headlines included everything from “Horror on the Sixth Floor” to “Cyanide Suicide” on a copy of the Daily Record which we brought home with us from our trip.

A DRIVE THOUGH THE DOLOMITI

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Flying over the Alps, is that the Matterhorn I see?

While paddling late afternoon across the lagoon, my head came to a stop as my eyes locked on an impressive range of snow-capped mountains rising in the distance above the islands of Venice. The bold and angular mountain tops, far away and barely in focus, appeared to be what we had crossed on our earlier flight from Frankfurt.  That is another story. Anyhow, the distant panoramic view was simply stunning!  We had to go there!

dolomiti routeI spent the next few years studying on what I had seen on that earlier trip. It turns out that I had been looking at the Dolomiti, known also as the “pale mountains” for their light-colored rock structure.  The Dolomiti are made of fifteen massifs, being compact groups of mountains. Google image searches led me to learn that that this was a place we would wat to see.    But what route to take?  How would a trip through the Dolomiti fit into a travel itinerary?

Looking at it from a grander view, I thought, how nice would it be to see and be able to compare the Swiss Alps, the Dolomiti, and lake country of northern Italy …all in one trip? An itinerary fell into place with exception to the route through the Dolomiti.  I knew we would want to see Oberammergau (site of the Passion Play) and Neuschwanstein Castle, but what land route should we take to reach Austria? What was the oh-my-gosh, most beautiful road passing through northern Italy? After countless hours on the computer walking my little yellow Google man on every “blue” road I could find, I realized the entire blessed place was simply beautiful.  That did not solve my problem!  In the end, from a Frommer’s online travel forum, some local truck driver wrote of his many deliveries through the region. He said there was only one great route and provided a Google Map to support his claim. Basically, the route carried us north on A 27 before crossing through the mountains to A 22 which carried us to Innsbruck, Austria. A believer in word of mouth, I jumped on the idea which fit perfectly into an upcoming trip.

[note: I’ve never planned something that could not be improved upon. In the following posts I’ll try to also include information on things we should have done differently.]

After flying into Venice, with two days there (you can never have too much of Venice), we rented a car at the airport and headed north on A27. Oh, and we let the rental folks know the nature of our itinerary so that they would give us a car with enough umph to make the trip.  Looks were not important at all on this trip.

Making good time on this first leg of the trip, I learned much later that we had overlooked a stop worth making.  The town of Treviso, near Venice, is inland though built on the water with canals like Venice. Of special interest, a restaurant there, called Le Becherrie, is supposedly the place where the desert Tiramisu was first made. How about that! That is the kind of thing you want to experience in travels!

In two hours of drive time we arrived at Cortina d’Ampezzo, which, for us, was the visual gateway into the Dolomiti. From that point the road narrowed, winding its way upward through pristine hemlock forests with occasional views of massive walls of stone.  The road became straight and easy going for a while as we appeared to ride the top of some long flat-topped ridge.

We had not realized how important the region was in war.  During World War II, allied troops advancing north out of Africa punched through the region. And in World War I, intense mountain-top battles halted the advance of Austrian/Hungarian troops into Italy.  Prior to the war, much of the area in present day Italy was part of Austria. At one point the Italians planted large amounts of explosives under a cliff-top military post which when detonated, destroyed the high elevation perch along with many Austrian troops thereupon stationed.  The trained eye picks up on the large number of explosion pock marks in cliffs and mountain sides throughout the drive.

 

Passing near the congested community of Pian Falzarego, we turned onto SP 24 which carried us onward to the pass of Valparola. Cars packed the roadside as people in gear ventured deeper exploring this most rugged leg of our trip.  The road narrowed a bit as it skirted the top of the world. It was June and we were nearing the snow line. The view of grotesque and ever-changing jags of mammoth rock renewed with each twist and turn as we neared the pass. Like looking across some ancient graveyard of giants, the view from the 7,000 ft elevation was immense, giving us unimaginable glimpses of the ancient stone monuments as far as one’s eye can see.

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If the elevation and distant views were not enough, a small museum along this highest run of road was packed with artifacts and story-telling placards of horrific battles once fought nearby.  Built in the 1890’s, the Austrian built Forte Tre Sassi, or Fort of Three Stones, was a favorite target for the Italians during WWI. The bombed landscape and a crucifix stand in solemn remembrance of a past people today hope will never be repeated. I encourage you, to Google walk this impressive section of highway. Click on this Google Link

From Valparola Pass, we turned south passing numerous hillsides, each covered in green unlike in winter when Italians ascend to this place to enjoy skiing and other winter sports.  We reached the town of Arabba and turned onto SR 48 which wound tightly upward to Passo Pordoi, a ski resort and travelers’ stop for many on bus excursions. The location is also well travelled by cyclists as well as those cruising on motorized bikes.

We reached the stopping point for the day and luckily our hotel had been earlier booked from home. Being the first week of June, our trip happened to occur during the customary change-over period from winter to summer. [note: plan accordingly as in Italy and elsewhere in the alps, resorts typically close or greatly reduce operations during the first week of June in order to clean and adjust for summer following the end of ski season.]  Unplanned travel during this time is a bit risky if you do not book your stay in advance. Also, note that access to some of the higher elevation trails may be denied in order to protect tourists from the dangers of unsafe conditions.

Our timing was both good and bad, the hotel accidentally booked us during their close time. So, we, among with a few others, were the only ones staying at Hotel Col di Lana. The price was fair and their restaurant was the only one  with full menu  that was open for many miles.  Following a good night’s sleep, I awoke before sun up to hike the hill to a small chapel that stood nearby. The rising sun from that spot was fabulous. In the distance, a round topped monument marked the burial site of over 8,000 Austrians who had died and were buried at that place during the two world wars.

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After breakfast, we went across the street and rode the gondola to the ski post at the top of the mountain. It was June and yet we were able to hike for hours along the snow packed landscape. The view was breathtaking, and we gave thanks for our safety upon reaching an iron cross people collectively filled with stones from the surrounding area.  We joined in the tradition.

Heading back to the road, we drove north again passing grand displays of nature such as Tore del Sella and Grohmannspitze.  The road would soon turn more westerly as our slow downhill descent led us through miles of little mountain villages. Soon we came upon A27 where the remaining hour drive into Austria was along a major four lane highway. Our trip through the Dolomiti was at end.

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The sights we saw were incredible and will always stay in my mind. Going back to the days of my childhood, I remember a scout leader once telling us that the Virginia Blue Ridge mountains we made almost as if God had raked the back of his fingers along the earth below. In comparison, we were told that, here in North Carolina, it was as if God had grasped, squeezed, and sat back down clumps of earth below.  Virginia was a land of narrow ridges with long broad valleys while North Carolina, a land of ancient hills rolled with time creating many twists and turns and cold dark hollows.

The mountains we traveled in Italy were mostly in the range of 12,000 ft elevation. They were pristine and had only recently been pushed from the ground below. I can imagine that once upon a time the views in North Carolina may have been similar.  Our 6,000 ft. mountains were also once 12,000 feet tall.  Imagine the 6,000 feet of rock and soil that is now gone.  Where did it go? The view for us is about the enormity of erosion where in Italy it’s about the birth of the same process that is forever changing.

A TRIP NORTH

archivesOutpours of raw emotions during the last few months have fueled Covid related fears. The tragic loss of life at the hands of a policeman has challenged the underpinnings of who we are as a people. Sense of due process is nowhere to be found and it seems each of us are pitted against each other based on opinions, that in good times, would remain properly confidential.

Marrying later in life, my wife Christina and myself have devoted ourselves to each other, along with trying to be the best aunt and uncle we believe possible. We also decided early that much of our free time would be spent in our yard and on travels abroad. It has been a great experience and we have loved every minute of our adventures. However, as with others who travel, our “experiences” remain locked within our minds and out of sight as bits of info on the phone or camera card. It is sad and very seldom that we have the chance to share the dirty little details of where we’ve been.

In hopes of dampening the unhealthy stew of reality presently in place, I plan to keep one eye on world events while aiming my heart to better days. I hope you enjoy as my memories are put into word.  If not for you, then at least I’ll have a place to go when retrieval from the eventual failing of memory prevents me from remembering. No rush!

Travels do not happen without planning.  Along with planning come hitches. As my childhood scoutmaster Steve Dubay once said many years ago, the most perfect scouting outings will not be what you will remember most. Instead, you will reflect fondly on the freezing cold, the blistered foot, and knowing you survived the seeming unsurmountable challenges. For me, no better wisdom has ever been spoken. But that really is not true either as when asked what he wanted most in life, my father’s answer was simply “kind words and cool water.” Nothing else matters.  I hear you dad and am reminded once more what that really means.

I will not base the upcoming posts chronologically or in any other order. They will be randomly presented thoughts beginning with a domestic trip made in 2001. This initial post will be followed with tales from excursions mostly to Europe.  My wife and I have witnessed many things in our few years of travel. Two times we saw the sun fall, a policeman silenced a knife wielding terrorist, and watching from the gate window, we saw our plane leave without us. We survived an attempted robbery, sunburn, and numerous mishaps on the motorways.  We could have traveled in the security of a hired tour guide, though I am thankful we did it our way.

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As assistant director of the Crafts Center at North Carolina State University, my responsibility back then was over the maintenance of many things mechanical, along with the supervisory role over the best equipped student owned woodshop in the nation. At that time, I would rather be carving a piece of wood than having a fine dinner. I did not even own a pet as my world back then was greedily driven by the need to create.

It was also a time following the passing of my father. It was a time when a newfound interest in family history threatened to upend my love of wood.  It was actually ten o’clock at night and having finished teaching a Wednesday evening introductory woodworking class, I swept up the shop, turned in my class folder, and waved bye to the student attendant as I headed out on my adventure.  Having recently learned of Benjamin Thomas, my earliest known paternal ancestor, my old red truck was packed with blanket and pillow in tow as I headed north to Washington DC.  My goal?  …to learn from what I could find at National Archives. Without any real planning, my interests were primarily centered around Revolutionary War records and War of 1812 bounties. If time allowed, I hoped to swing up to Philadelphia in search of records for a John Love, who once lived there. He may or may not have been related to my mom’s side of the family.

Clicking along I-95 through the dismal darkness of southern Virginia, my mind drifted off to my only other trip to DC …which was made with my family in the mid 1960’s. Surely less than 6 years old, back then I found no interest in the long wait to see a tiny flame they called eternal. Dad, bless his heart, was never good in heavy traffic.  I remember going back and forth, rounding the round-a-bouts and crossing the Potomac river numerous times until we could figure out where we were heading. I also remember seeing the statue of Iwo Jima numerous times though I do not think we ever found the entrance and a place nearby to park. I loved the Washington Monument if only I would have been tall enough to see out of the windows.  And Jefferson and Abe Lincoln were awesome.  Did you know the names of many states are named on a five-dollar bill?  Mostly about DC, I remember the zoo and dad getting too close to the tiger’s cage and of how far a cat of that size can pee. But of it all, my little mind made note of the enormity, especially the impressive granite monuments which were everywhere.

All but falling asleep at the wheel, it was late night and I remember the Pentagon appearing out of the darkness as I approached DC. After being lost for quite a time, I remember passing Lafayette Park to the right with St. John’s Episcopal coming into view on the left. My tired eyes could not grasp what they beheld as the church porch was covered with temporary tents made of cardboard and other rubbish. The nearly 100 people encamped alerted me to an element that my considerations had overlooked. It was sad and a memory I will never forget.

Driving a bit further and winding my way through several blocks of governmental plaza, I came upon Pennsylvania Avenue and knew from the hardcopy map that archives was nearby. At that time, being after three o’clock am, my eyes hurt really badly from sawdust and a lack of sleep. I was absolutely worn out.  Needing sleep, the tree lined curb along Pennsylvania Avenue was the perfect place to get some sleep …so I thought.

No more than thirty minutes into stretching out on the bench seat with pillow, someone knocked at the glass sidelights startling me into a painful existence somewhere less than being fully awake. It was the homeless people. That is all I could think, and then I was fully awake …and scarred. Easing back into driving position and cranking up the trunk, I continued down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capital building.  It was at that point that I glanced at the gas gage which was near empty.  Wow, there I was in the land of monuments and no gas in sight.

I turned onto a road and remembered what I had once been told.   “If lost, continue in one direction till you come to a landmark.”  For me, the landmark I sought was a gas pump and I knew driving around the capital would be fruitless. After a few miles all I saw was the gateway over Chinatown as the glaring lights of police cars passed in the distance. In a few more miles I came upon a sketchy all-night gas station. Attempting to pump the gas myself, a person possibly homeless entered my world. He took the pump handle from me and smiled as he began pumping the gas.  I gave the poor fellow a bit of money and we both went on our way.

Realizing I could not simply park and camp on the corner, I decided to make the best of the situation. For the next hour I drove around all the sights in DC seeing the glow of each monument from afar. It is a scene like none other. Somewhat like the somber reverence of a moonlit graveyard, the shades of black were strong, demanding respect and attention. Ever since the experience I have always wondered about leading a field trip to some such field of stone as part of a study in photography. I surely do not have the talent to lead such an activity though would certainly pay to participate.

It was not long before sunrise and I knew I had to find my way back to archives. Regardless of who I met in the dark of night, I decided to pull over once again along Pennsylvania Avenue. Finding my way to sleep, I slept for just a bit before once again being awakened.  This time the source of agitation came from men hollering from the next block over.  I cranked up the old red truck once more and drove around the block to scope out the situation. The noise was from construction workers waiting for the underground parking garages to open for the upcoming day. I pulled behind them where I found peace and real sleep.

At that point, and out of nowhere, suddenly the noise was excruciating as the city had come alive. Cars zoomed by as people passed to my right and left. Quickly cranking up the truck I ducked into the garage where nature demanded of me another hour of sleep. I obliged. Upon reawakening about seven o’clock, I climbed out of the stale underground tomb. It was difficult to push myself in the hot morning air along the brightly lit sidewalks of summer.

I made my way around a building and through the columnade of the Navy Memorial before crossing the busy street to the front entrance of archives.  Better awake than me, the homeless were busily putting their cardboard homes back into hiding for another night.   There were also workers dragging out hoses to wash the sidewalks. The good town was alive and ready for the day.  Turning to visualize where I had been the night before, a smile came over my face realizing my fears had all been unfounded.  There before me was the tree lined curbs where I had spent the night in fear. Looking a little higher I realized I had chosen to camp out under the overhang of the J. Edger Hoover Building.  Really, were those homeless people who had awakened me upon my first arrival? G-men maybe? Hmmmmm …you can always tell the new kid on the block.

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National Archives is everything I thought it should be.  Upon entering the first order of business is the filling out of official paperwork authorizing the issuance of an identification card. Within the grand entryway, an ink pen adorned with cardstock resembling a feather quill was used to sign in. Access to microfilm rooms was by way of secure doorways like the ones you would expect on a battleship.

That morning I met with an archivist who scheduled retrieval of the original documents which I later viewed in a reading room while wearing cotton gloves. The day was splendid and as a side note, at one point I noticed people gathering at a window along one wall of the building.  Curious as to what was going on, I had to look. Appearing straight down from the window, a long transfer truck was stuck in the steep and narrow ramp leading to the basement loading bay.  I understand all the records for out-going president Bill Clinton were onboard the truck which was much bigger than those the building was originally designed. My mind was too tired at the time to comprehend the humor though I overheard all varieties of yuck-yuck as I got back on task.

Leaving the archives by four o’clock pm, I had no more than an hour before I really needed to head north. After grabbing a dog and some chips I made my way around to the back side of Archives where the Constitution was on display.  Crossing the street, I had about thirty minutes to tour the National Portrait Gallery. It was wonderful! Even if by way of quick glance, I had the chance to lay my eyes on America’s greatest treasures. This was also the place where once stood a hotel where William Thornton’s National Patent Office was housed. Thornton was interested in North Carolina’s gold and bought up nearly 50,000 acres to search for it in present day Stanly County. Leaving the Gallery, I grabbed a dog and chips before returning to my truck for the next leg of the trip to Philadelphia.

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Somewhere in Maryland, or possibly Pennsylvania, I pulled over at a truck stop to grab a bite and catch some zzzzz’s. Waking late in the night, a bird bath was in order before changing into a fresh set of clothes. Ahhh, much better! And back on the road, crossing the bridge into Philly, I made it to downtown in the wee hours of morning.  The ornate courthouse stood tall with the statue of William Penn powerfully lit against the ink blue sky. Luckily, I found a parking deck within two blocks of my destination. The prison styled barbed wire wrapping the deck alerted me that this place was not as civil as I would wish it to be. Crime must be a real issue in Philly.

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courtesy of wikipedia 

As there was another hour or so remaining until sun-up, and really wanting to get a better look at the courthouse, I risked the opportunity to get out and explore the surrounding area. The sight was amazing though it was quite eerie walking through the dark passages running underneath the Courthouse.  Trusting the rising hair on the back of my neck, I made my way back to the safety of my truck for a quick nap.

The rising sun was coordinated with steady stream of business folk walking the city street, all heading towards the courthouse. I followed suit though stopped at a breakfast house where I had a good meal while watching the almost military-like maneuver passing by the window.

I eventually made it to the clerk of deeds office where the workers were just opening shop.  Asking about the location of deed indexes, my slow southern voice gave away the fact that I was not local.  And in return, their answers were quick and initially unhelpful until they realized I was on a mission and would not go away until satisfied.  Really, all I wanted were any deeds for John Love ca. 1850-1880 …easy peasy! That, and then estate records, marriages, and were there other things I could find. It never ends.

The man helping me told me I really needed to go to a records office at another location that was put in place for people like me to research.   He told me of the subway and of going across town to reach the facility. Clueless and never having ridden a subway, I asked about a taxi. The man was actually quite kind as nearing lunch time, he told me to give him thirty minutes and he’d ride out to the facility with me. It was a rough ride but glad I the public servant had been there for me.

I found a few deeds and records that will be used someday in a later post.  However, I did not find the smoking gun I had been looking for.  The day was long and it was nearing 4 pm when I decided on one last option.  While walking the area the night before, I had noticed a fine building with plaque reading “Historical Society of Pennsylvania.” Making my way back to the courthouse, I walked down to the building where upon entering I was told that only thirty minutes remained until closing.  I spit out the name John Love and begged if they had anything quickly accessible. The historian walked me to the card catalogue where we found the bible record for the man I sought.  It was not THE smoking gun I had been looking for though I did have the opportunity to hold a document that drove my hypothesis deeper. Often, we drive hundreds of miles only to realize that we have arrived at a place different than what we had envisioned. That, or we learn new information that sends us to a hundred miles in another direction. And, sometimes there is a dead end.

Returning to Raleigh, I slept for days.  My trip north will always remain with me. It was a great summer trip though my fond memories of those days were upstaged and robbed by the deeply sad events occurring a month later on September 11.

LIFE ON THE UPPER CAPE FEAR

I imagine that Miss Thomas and her group of young ladies had a wonderful day at Raven’s Rock along the Cape Fear. It was 1891, a picturesque place and of course all were lovely and brilliant.

Following graduation from NC State, I had the pleasure of teaching middle-school woodworking and other fun subjects in the town of Garner. And then one day, a student came to me after class asking if I’d be willing to help out with their scout troop. Hearing that I was a backpacking enthusiast, the student let me know that their scout master was preparing to move. My answer was of course yes as I always intended to give back those sorts of things that had helped me as a youngster.

For the next eight years, the scouts introduced me to their favorite camping locations with one being Raven Rock State Park. I was not born in eastern NC so the experience was educational.

Now some forty years hence, I’ve learned through Y DNA that parts of my Thomas family once lived in the area spanning from Raven’s Rock up the river past the present day crossing of Hwy 42. And now looking back at the 1891 article, I imagine Miss Thomas is likely my cousin. Hi Miss Thomas!

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While browsing newspapers.com I came across the following wonderful article on the 1850’s Cape Fear Region. The writer follows along on the steam boat “The Brothers” which cruised the river from Fayetteville to the Town of Haywood once located in the peninsula between the Haw and Deep Rivers. I find the article fascinating and think its presentation now will be helpful in setting the tone of later posts. Note that the area around the western bank at Buckhorn is important to my family.  Take a look, please check out the links, and of course …enjoy!

21 Jul 1856, The Observer, Fayetteville.
For the Observer
THE UPPER CAPE FEAR RIVER

We have frequently been tempted to attempt a description of the scenery on the Cape Fear between Fayetteville and Wilmington; but a belief that nearly half your readers have made the voyage and seen for themselves, has deterred me from the undertaking. The same reason does not apply in reference to the scenery between Fayetteville and Haywood, for until recently that portion of the Cape Fear has been a sealed book, except to the raftsmen and those who live upon the river banks. The recent completion of the locks, dams, sluices, and canals, from Cross Creek to Locksville, has opened a channel for trade and commerce, and already the steamer’s hoarse whistle has awakened the echoes that have slumbered for ages ‘mid the woods and wilds that adorn the banks of the Deep and Haw rivers.

Through the politeness of Capt. L. A. Williams, I was permitted to accompany him on the first trip that the Brothers made.

The steamer left her wharf on Thursday 10th July, at 5 p. m., and rested for the night at Silver Run Lock, immediately above the Bluff Church. In this distance there was much in the luxuriant foliage and lofty trees that adorn the steep abrupt banks, to keep the attention on the alert, and please the fancy – much in the contemplation of the skill and art expended in overcoming the falls in the river’s rocky bed, that was calculated to enhance our estimate of man’s power and capacity. Early in the morning we passed the ancient royal borough of Aversborough, which again begins to lift its head, and feel the beneficial effects of water navigation.

Steaming upwards and onwards we soon reached the head of Aversborough Falls, and were passing McNeil’s Ferry, McAllister’s Lock, approaching towards Fox’s Island Lock and dam, as perfect and beautiful a specimen of workmanship as can be found any where in he U. S. The top of the dam is as true as an air line, and the water in falling into the pool presents the aspect of a polished mirror, without break of flaw from bank to bank.

From this point, the Toomer and Northington’s hills are seen in the dim distance rising one above the other, clothed in he must luxuriant foliage, reflecting back their varied beauties in the crystal pool that swept along their base.

The distance from Fox’s Island to Northington’s Lock is about 9 miles. For seven of those miles the river is skirted on either hand by a profusion of gray willows, and about half a mile of low grounds, upon which grows a rich and beautiful crop.

After passing Purify’s Ferry, and getting in the neighborhood of Fish Creek and McKay’s Landing, we were surprised to behold on the margin of the river, Cedar Rock rising about 40 feet, covered with the moss of ages and clothed with species of Gum, Cedar, Ivey, and Pine. This we deemed the sight of the trip- but judge our surprise, when, on rounding a point on the River, near Northerington’s, we beheld a grayish granite ledge of rocks, rising abruptly from he water’s edge, at least 100 feet towards the sky, and at one point apparently suspended over the channel in which the steamer gracefully moved. The face of the rocks was covered with a white and greenish moss, the accumulation of many centuries. Upon the top of the highest peak we noted a giant pine, that for ages has towered above the undergrowth that covers the mountain side, but which has been recently smitten with the lightning’s flash, and is fast crumbling away. On nearing this tall cliff, and gazing upon its growing front, we felt as if in the presence of an old familiar friend, and memory, ever busy, ran back upon “highland scenes.” We wondered that we had never heard of the “Raven Rocks” of old Cumberland before, equaling as they do in beauty, if not in sublimity, the mountain pass defended by a Helen McGregor, or Rob Roy, and immortalized by the Great Unknown. The scene was to me too interesting and beautiful to pass unnoticed. The Boat was fastened to the shore, and in company of her motley crew, I set out upon a tour of observation.

On landing, the first object that attracted my attention was a rock bearing a strong resemblance to a modern pulpit. Entering between the fissure of the rock, the pulpit stands in front, the solid rock behind, whist a most glorious sounding board is formed by the rock over your head.

Following the path, we found the lower part of the rock had been washed away by the freshets of the Cape Fear, so that we could stand underneath the overhanging mass, and remain perfectly dry, whilst the rain dripped in torrents some 15 feet towards the river. Still lower down we discerned a Cave in the face of the Rock, but left it unexplored, for fear of reptiles and want of light. Between the ledges of these rocks we took advantage of a mountain gorge or ravine and ascended to the summit. We found that we were on the plantation of Major Neill McClean, where we had before been without suspecting that we were in the neighborhood of such objects of interest and curiosity as the Raven Rocks really are.

At Northington’s Lock we saw specimens from the excellent granite quarry that is upon the river bank.

From Battle’s Lock we had a fine commanding view of Buckhorn hills and water falls. Beyond the falls, the hills burst upon the sight. White granite rock seemed to form the base, whilst ranges of receding forest hills appeared to rise and kiss the clouds in the distant west. To overcome these falls, a canal of two miles has been made around them. Into the Canal the Brothers sped, and missed the most luxuriant foliage “walked the waters like a thing of life.”

[ Important to my family history, the above boldened passage is detailed in the following. On the linked image, look to the northeast side of the river and you’ll see the remains of the canal and from there should be able to interactively follow the canal to its reentry point above Buckhorn dam. I see this and sadly imagine the slave labor required to  dig the canal. Please take a look at the this Google Maps link. Also, please look at the images below. You’ll see the run of the Cape Fear from below Raven Rock upstream to beyond Buckhorn dam and locks. Note there are two locks in what appears to be a canal circling  around the rocky rise and dam at Buckhorn.]  Click on Caption to go to source …and make sure to do so and look closely. You’ll see older canals that had been abandoned after a storm referred to as “Sherman’s Fresh”

[Compare the image above to the linked google image. Do you see the two miles of canal? The article continues, telling of the boat passing through one of the two locks at the base of present day Buckhorn dam.]

At one Lock on this canal, within range of the eye I noticed a greater variety of woodland growth than is usual viz: Mulberry, Cedar, Sycamore, Oak, Elm, Willow, Pine, Chestnut, Chinqupin, Gum, Beech, Birch, Poplar, Hackberry, Hornbeam, Persimmon, Alder, Pau Pau, Holly, Ash, Hickory, and Walnut, and undergrowth in the wildest profusion. Emerging from this canal into the Cape Fear, our eyes were greeted with lovely and majestic sights.

Towards the west, hill upon hill, clothed in richest verdure, met the eye. Towards the East, the rich and varied scenery of Buckhorn was bathed in the gorgeous colors of a setting sun. A broad and deep river lay before us to the ancient town of Haywood. Soon its inhabitants hailed us as we passed up Deep River to Locksville, the highest point to which Boats can now run. This is a place that formerly had a historic name and reputation. As Ramsey’s Mills, at which Cornwallis halted, in his retreat before Green after the Battle of Guilford Court House. Here Capt. Williams and the steamer Brothers, at sombre twilight, rested from the labors of the day. Click on Caption to see the full map!

I have thus briefly and very tamely attempted to describe the beauties of the trip. On Saturday we returned to Haywood, and found Col. Williams and Major Stedman, the Electors for the district, discussing the claims of Fillmore and Buchanan to the Presidency.

The town of Haywood consists of 260 acres of land, lying on the peninsula between Deep and Haw Rivers. The two principal streets are 180 feet wide. There is a public square embracing 8 acres. Immediately on the point of the peninsula, where the two rivers meet, lies a plantation containing some 300 acres, forming a fine extensive clearing. Standing for the first time on the grass-covered streets of Haywood, I could not help thinking on its past history, and its truehearted but now departed friend Judge Murphy, and both subjects formed strong examples of the mutability of human things and human schemes.

Nearly three-fourths of a century ago, a point 3 miles north west of Haywood stood prominently before the people of the State as a rival to Chapel Hill. It was by many deemed more suitable and more central as a site for the University of North Carolina. In the Legislature, Chapel Hill triumphed over Haywood by a majority of two. And again, in locating the Capitol of the State, on one ballot, Haywood but needed one vote more to have been the Raleigh of the good old North State. What effect a different location would have had upon the destiny and importance of the Cape Fear country and south eastern portion of the State, I will not attempt to describe. From one point on one of the principal streets in Haywood, there is a beautiful and extensive view of hill and dale, mountain gorge and glen. Following the course of the Cape Fear, the eye rests upon Buckhorn hills and McLean’s mountains, some 12 miles distant, whilst in a north west direction, the hill sides are visible some 4 miles. Running diagonally to this view, there is another, extending east and west some 8 or 10 miles, and but for two points of woodlands that thrust themselves into the range of the vision from the point on which I stood, near Haw River, the eye could embrace a range of 20 miles, and could luxuriate in admiring the oak covered crowned mountains of Wake and Chatham, as well as the pine covered hills of Harnett and Moore. What effect the navigation of the Cape Fear will have on Haywood, is beyond my ken to say; but Judge Murphy always maintained that its prosperity depended upon the happening of this event.

In my trip I had an eye to the useful as well as ornamental, and must confess I was agreeably surprised to find so many solid and substantial Locks and Dams upon the River. In common with most of our citizens, I have hitherto maintained that the Company should have commenced operations at Cross Creek and extended their improvements upwards, and I blamed Mr. Dobbin for not inserting that as a provision in the Bill extending State aid. But after going up and down the River, and observing the stability of Stone-packed Locks and Dams, as compared with Sand-packed, I have materially changed my opinion. Where rock was freely used, the works stand true and firm, where sand and clay were used, the Locks and some of the Dams are out of line, and careening to one or the other side. These defects the Company are now correcting and for that object keep the Haughton and six flats engaged in carrying rock from the quarries to the weakest points. The Brothers and Flat made the trip loaded, and never touched bottom except between Cross Creek Lock and Fayetteville. The whole line of works is in better condition than the public had been led to suppose. Having some idea of the rapidness of our river, and the force against which the works have to contend, we are therefore cautious in saying unhesitantingly that all the Locks and Dams will stand firm. Yet we do say, such is the amount of talent and art expended to break the force of those freshets, and so evenly is the force expanded over the whole surface, that we incline to the belief that the waters of the Cape Fear have at last been caught, bridled, and tamed. So that with proper caution on the part of Lock Keepers, and Superintendents and occasional repairs, there is not apparent reason why the work should not stand.

son is doubtful, but Corn, Wheat, and Flour, will find an outlet through this channel, either to Fayetteville or Wilmington.

The only obstacle that prevents Coal reaching market, is at Locksville – a point where a fall of 35 feet in 1 ½ miles had to be overcome. Upon this distance there are three contractors, two of whom will accomplish their tasks soon. The third it is supposed cannot, owing to changes in the plan, and difficulties not anticipated in the character of the work. To this point, however, the Company’s are now bending all their energies; and it is desirable they should succeed in transporting Coal to Marker before the winter sets in.

The Egypt Coal Mine is about 11 miles higher up the River than Locksville. Of this work you gave a detailed and interesting account in the Observer some time since – and account in which I supposed of so much importance that it would have found a place in our papers.

In company with a friend I called on McMcLane, and found him and his Lady exceedingly hospitable. In the morning we descended the shaft, and I can say I never descended one presenting more points of admiration, or evincing more skill in the Engineer and workmen. The timbers and sheathing were all strong and substantial. The workmanship seemed as perfect as is possible in a shaft; and what speaks volumes in praise of Mr. Mclane and his foreman Mr. Dunn, is that the shaft has been sunk 482 feet, the water pumps put in, a reservoir for water dug out, the Coal excavated about 100 yards from the shaft, and not the slightest accident has happened about the work – a fact that can be stated in their praise, and one that can rarely be said in reference to sinking a Coal shaft.

I tried my hand at digging Coal, and renewed a familiar acquaintance with the Pick.

It is a beautiful a vein of Coal as I ever worked; and if the navigation were but completed to this point, Exchange would soon be abundant in our midst.
B.

MY MYSTERY SCHOOL ON ISLAND CREEK

Among the photos housed at the Oakboro Museum is the above picture tagged “Drye School.” It is certainly not the same Drye School that once stood on the corner of Rene Ford and River Roads. This is another Drye School supposedly located downstream from my grandfather Daniel Arthur Thomas’ home place along Island Creek. Information attached to the photo states that Daniel Arthur Thomas is the boy standing on the back row …four from the left end. He’s the one wearing a hat.  And, the information also says that that the little girl standing in the front row and seventh from the left is my grandmother Eva Lucinda Burris. From their eventual grave markers, I know that Daniel Arthur was born in 1890 and his wife Eva was born in 1897. In the photo Daniel Arthur Thomas looks like he may be seven years older than Eva …it works for me!

Often, I find myself wishing to talk once more to my deceased ancestors about things I have noticed in photographs and other records from the past. For example, in the above photo, I see a number 8 in one of the panes of glass in the window to the right.  And if you look closely, there’s also a number 325 in one of the panes just above the heads of those standing in the back row. What’s that about?  Was a child doing their homework on the dust covered glass? And, why is there a board nailed across one of the windows? It surely isn’t strategically placed there to hold hats.  Was it put there to protect newly installed glass? …maybe before there was no glass in the window?  I also like what the clapboard siding is telling me.  It seems nice and straight with no warps or signs of wearing.  Is it new wood? Is  the class of students standing in front of a relatively new schoolhouse?

The photo and the question it raises about the age of the school house are of importance only because of a curious notation I later found in a deed of sale. Let me give you a little background and then will get to the deed in question.

Dated 17 Jan 1891, Solomon and wife Eliza C. Pless sold 287 acres (Stanly 18-426) to their daughter Julia Ann Thomas. The land adjoined Nelson Smith to the west and crossed Island Creek. The large tract takes in the entirety of the shaded area in the following image.  The long red shaded area represents a 30-acre land grant issued in 1836 to Solomon’s father Peter Pless (2730 Montgomery). At that time, the tract joined Michael Garmon’s land to the north. And to the southeast of Solomon’s land, the green shaded tract represents a deed (6-484 Stanly) from Mathias Furr to Solomon Pless. The deed mentions Jacob Green to the east, Peter Pless to the north and Holden Hartsell to the south. Note that Mathias Furr’s daughter Elizabeth Caroline Furr married Solomon Pless. This is a great opportunity to share a picture of Caroline Elizabeth Furr Pless whose picture is hands-down the most descriptive image I’ve ever seen of my early family. Also, about the image below, I have included a key listing all the surrounding deeds as far back as I could find (see caption).

 Solomon Pless lands (all shaded)

A.        (6-436 Stanly) Daniel Freeman to Jacob Green

B.        (28-570 Stanly) Elizabeth Green to Andrew Honeycutt

C.        (11-533 Stanly) Sophia Treece to Solomon Pless

D.        (6-49 Stanly) Rowan Garmon to Nelson Smith

E.        (5-06 Stanly) John Howell to John T. Howell

F.        (60 Stanly) grant to Sampson Watts

G.        (574 Montgomery) James Crump

H.        (14-22 Stanly) William R. Hartsell to David C. Curlee

Solomon and Elizabeth Caroline Furr Pless had daughter Julia Ann who married my namesake great grandfather George Washington Thomas. During the early 1900’s Julia and George began splitting up their land among their children. Dated 24 May 1906, the two sold 40 ½ acres (39-121 Stanly) to son Henry W. Thomas:

“Beginning at the Ford of Island Creek and in the center of said creek and the Brook’s ferry road, then with said road N. 84 E. 12 chs to an iron pin at the fork of the said roads; then with the Big Lick Road N. 69 E. 19 chs. to an iron pin center of said road near the School House in the Hinson line; then So. 10 ½ E. 2 1/3 chs. to white o. by a stone; then So. 19 E. 13 ¼ chs. to a stake in Hartsell line; then So. 89 W. 23 ½ chs. to a pine; then No. 85 W. 13 chs. to Island Creek; then up the various courses of the creek to the beginning.”

As you can see in the plat above, the school as identified in the deed should have been situated near the intersection of Big Lick and Hatley-Burris Roads. It may have been located on the land Mathias Furr sold to his son-in-law Solomon Pless, but more likely, the school was situated on either the old Jacob Green land to the east or Holden Hartsell lands to the south. Seeking help from all the older folks I could find; none have ever heard of a school in that location.

At this point, I chose to exercise another angle of attack that has always burned in my mind.  Knowing my grandparents were in school together as children, it only makes sense that they must have lived near each other and were once possibly even been childhood friends. And knowing that Grandma Eva is the daughter of George Henderson and Mary Magalene Burris, do they show up in record living close to my Thomas family?

Dated 8 Apr 1909, S. S. and Martha Lilly sold 138 acres (24-264 Stanly) to Tobitha J. Rowland.  The daughter of Andrew J. Honeycutt, Tobitha married Thomas H. Rowland who died in 1884.  Taking in the entirety of both red shaded tracts below, Tobitha’s land adjoined Charlie A. Honeycutt on the northwest corner, W. H. Sasser to the southwest, Yow along the southeastern line, and Pless to the northwest. Tobitha’s land adjoined land that Solomon Pless purchased from David Treece deceased. Notice that the red shaded rectangular tract was sub-divided with the western half shaded dark red.  See how close that tract is to the yellow shaded lands of George W. Thomas who was father of my grandfather Daniel Thomas? Dated 27 Apr 1899, Tobitha J. Rowland sold the 68 ½ acre darker shaded tract to George W. Thomas. Ten years later, on 18 Nov 1909, J. H. C. Flowe of Mecklenburg sold the same tract to George Henderson and wife Mary Magalene Burris. Five years later, on 23 Aug 1914, Daniel, the son of George Washington Thomas married Eva Lucinda Burris, the daughter of George Henderson Burris.  Looking at the tracts below, we can see why both Daniel Thomas and Eva Burris appeared in the School photo. At that particular time frame we know for sure that the families of Thomas and Burris lived near each other.

Also, among the family photos acquired by my parents is the school picture above.  My dad believed he is the littlest boy wearing a scarf and standing beside the little girl in front of the others. If so, I wonder if his older brother (by one year) Buford is in the photo?  Also, I’m sure his first cousin Vann Thomas would also be in the photo. Where are they? And, is it me or does the person believed to be my father look like some of the others standing nearby.  If so, who are they and how do they relate? It’s important to question oral history just as you would any other form of record.

Assuming for point of discussion that my father’s recollections were correct, then the photograph above raises another question. Knowing my dad was raised on the same farm (yellow tract above) that his dad  grew up on, I wonder if the above image showing my dad was taken in front of the same schoolhouse where both his parents were once photographed?. Remember the condition of the lapboard siding in the photograph showing my grandparents?  Does the image above appear to represent the same construction techniques? If so, did the structure age consistently considering the twenty-year span between generations? Again, is the picture of my dad above taken at the same location where my grandparents were photographed?

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Up to this point, my strategy has been family centered. Not finding the answer of my quest concerning education, I knew it time to draw upon a larger circle of influence. In doing so I came across land records which carried me off into a new direction. After moving further south with my mapping initiative i began to question whether the school was located south of Solomon Pless’ land along present-day Big Lick Road?

In 1843, Holden Hartsell received a land grant for 100 acres on Island Creek (Grant 48, Montgomery).  Taking in all the dark red shaded area above (including the checkered area), the tract at that time joined Peter Pless land to the north and George Cagle to the west. Its lines also ran along the “the old Polk Road” between two points marked with black stars.

Holden Hartsell died in 1865 and on 22 Apr 1866, his wife Adeline Coley Hartell  was appointed a 56 ½ acre  widow’s dower or thirds. The platted dower tract (checker boarded above) adjoined Nelson Smith  to the south and B. L. Green deceased to the west. Note in the metes and bounds below that a schoolhouse is mentioned though not precisely located … “after counting out one acre at the school house.”

Wow!!!  ….this is very early and very close to the southeastern end of my ancestral lands. Could it be the same school mentioned in Solomon Pless’s 1898 deed? Possibly, though we have no proof.  I’ve traced the deed above forward when in 1878, William Riley Hartsell and wife Rhoda sold to David C. Curlee 210 acres being the entirety of the above land shaded red (Stanly 14-22). According to the metes and bounds, the conveyance should have encompassed the 56 ½ acres that mentions a school ..and yet, there was no mention of the school.

David C. Curlee died ca. 1885 and his land was ultimately divided into three tracts.  Pertaining to the image below, tract 1 is found in the loose estate papers while tracts 2 and 3 are referred to in later deeds:

(Light Red) Known as Tract 1 of the estate of David C. Curlee, surveyed in 1891, being 77 acres joining Solomon Pless to the north, L. L. Furr to the west, and Nelson Smith to the south.

(Pink) Deed ( 29-406 Stanly) being 48 acres deeded on 29 Dec 1898 from G. W. Thomas and wife J. A. Thomas to Minnie C. Sasser (and her bodily heirs if she has any and if not to her brothers and sisters). The deed mentions Charley Dry to the east and Nelson Smith to the south.

(Green) Known as Tract 3 of the estate of David C. Curlee, conveyed 7 Feb 1905 and being x acres (Stanly 31-316) deeded by C. P. Hartsell to C. C. Little. Mentioned in the deed is Solomon Pless to the north, Lot 1 to the west, Lot 2 to the south, and Charley Dry land to the east.

No further than 100 yards away from the noted corner (red star) where a school should have stood, the estate of Holden Hartsell and later David C. Curlee offer possibilities. However, I have not seen any mention of a schoolhouse in either the estate records or later conveyances. It’s worth noting that the division of the lands of David C. Curlee was contested and resolved through trial reaching the North Carolina Supreme Court.  Is it possible that actions at that time led to the abandonment of the school? Yes, but I can’t weigh in on such possibilities as at this point all clues seem to vanish. To me the memory of the school on Island Creek remains a mystery. What in the world was my namesake ancestor George W. Thomas referring to when he noted that a corner of his land was “ near the school house?” And, if there was indeed a school nearby, did both my father and his parents attend the same school?

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It is wonderful to have access to old photographs believed to be of your ancestors. But as time goes by, we lose contact with those we loved, those who we have always depended on to tell us about the way things once were. We end up regretting missed opportunities and we kick ourselves over the questions we’ve failed to ask. It is only natural. My dear grandmother lived to 98 years of age and she certainly could have clarified my curiosity.  And as for my dad, he surely knew where he went to school and could have told me more about the photos. But, how would I have known what to ask? Oh, how I wish I for a do-over! And a word to you and you, if anyone has ideas on  where I need to look, please share, please let me know!  ….time moves on.

CLARK’S GROVE: BEFORE THERE WAS CHURCH

geotuck21Out of curiosity I posted the above on Facebook in hopes that someone in Stanly County might be able to identify the mentioned Union Grove Church. Google locates a church by that name in Albemarle, but nothing shows up in Furr township. Tammie Rabon Hudson responded to my post with “didn’t this church become Clark’s Grove near Stanfield?”…to which Tara Talley Tarlton replied “I found Union Grove Church on another- deed 27 page 458, James T Lee and James Taylor, 15 acres excluding church, in 1901. James T Lee gave the land to Clarks Grove Trustees in 1903.”

The online conversation led us to conclude that Union Grove Church predated Clark’s Grove and once stood on or near the site where now stands the defunct Clark’s Grove Primitive Baptist Church. Tara Talley Tarlton also mentioned a scheduled gathering in May at the old church. I understand the service has been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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geotuck22If you asked me for the best architectural example of a Primitive Baptist Church meeting house, I’d rank Clark’s Grove as being a classic and at the top of the list. Located in the southeast corner of Stanfield and situated on Hwy 200 and Webb Road, the old brick structure stands as a proud reminder of our past. The building stirs thoughts of Sabbath and of it being approached on foot and by wagons filled with the families of hardworking farmers dressed for worship. You can imagine the many feasts that have been spread under the grove of trees. And of course, we’re reminded of sadness and of those who gathered to bury their dead.

Today, technology gives us new looks at the old church. As seen on Google maps (red shaded in image 1 below), the church stands on the northwest boundary line of what appears to be a larger square shaped tract (yellow) that’s slightly askew. Looking for clues in the form of tree and fence lines, I ask of the reader, can you see how I was able to locate both the church lot and the larger square shaped tract? That’s a loaded question as the landmarks are hard to distinguish in this instance. So, let’s look at another source, the Stanly County Geographical Information System (GIS). Providing all the land boundaries for every ownership across the entire county, GIS is a hugely helpful resource for mapping land. Point in question, image 2 below offers yet another view of the lands surrounding and to the southeast of Clark’s Grove. As you can clearly see, boundary lines appearing in this view confirm the square shaped tract I’m looking for …and it’s this tract that reveals a great story that’s been lost to time.

In the GIS image above, you may have noticed that the larger square shaped tract has been subdivided numerous times in which I’m sure the various conveyances spanned what is likely more than 100 years. It’s in one of these subdivisions of that breakup that the church known as Clark’s Grove was founded. And it is somewhere nearby that an earlier church called Union Grove once stood. They may very well be the same church. That story has likely been told and as for me, I see no need in revisiting that aspect of the church history. Instead, I’m looking further back in time in hopes of uncovering some sort of cultural beginnings. I’m looking for events that if never happened, may have made it difficult for a church to be spiritually born. And now, it’s at this point in writing my post that I realize that much time has been devoted to the larger square tract without offering a clue as to why.

The history of the large square tract becomes known by way of information gleaned from the deeds of surrounding lands. Please look at the following GIS study which begins to tell the tale.

geotuck6

As for the green shaded tract above, its earliest known conveyance is in the form of an 1856 deed (6-280 Stanly) from Gabrial Barba to Brittain L. Green. At that time the land adjoined Mary Long to the north, George Cagle Senior and Lewis Springer to the east, and George Tucker to the west. A few years later, in 1861. Gabriel Barbee sold the purple and deep blue tract (6-280 Stanly) to Michael Dry. Gabriel’s tract adjoined Lewis Springer to the east, Drewey Morgan to the south, and again, George Tucker to the west. And, in 1857, Gabriel Barbee is recorded as selling the combined green and purple shaded tracts (4-315 Stanly) to Daniel Freeman. At that time, George Cagle’s land was described as “now occupied by Sarah Cagle, his daughter.” Also, George Tucker’s land to the west was described as “George Tucker’s line, now owned by the Greene family.” Looking a bit further into the future, in 1882 Michael Dry sold the blue shaped tract (28-468 Stanly) to L. C. and wife Maggie L. Ponds. At that time the tract was described as “adjoining the lands of John Furr, Wilson Furr, M. Dry, and others.” And as for the green shaded tract, Andrew Honeycutt later sold it to John A. Furr.

geotuck8Realizing the deeds above were pinpointing George Tucker land that had later been owned by the Greene family, I now had solid clues on the early history of the large square tract upon which now stands Clark’s Grove. Digging into my box of hand-drawn and unplaced land plats, I lucked out and found the following 1857 deed in which John Barba, Sabra Greene, Jacob Greene, and Elbert Greene of Cabarrus sold 152 acres (6-25 Stanly) to Israel Furr. You’d think that John Barba, or his wife, was one of the heirs within the Greene family. And, he and the others were possibly selling off their rights to an estate. And note that the boundary lines of the above green and blue tracts match up perfectly to those of this large square tract sold to Israel Furr. From all of this we now know that George Tucker once owned the land, it fell into the hands of the Green family, and was later sold by what may be the heirs

A succession of family members named George Tucker spread through Cabarrus and Stanly Counties. Second in the chain of the Tucker family is a George Tucker who owned land near the intersection of Love Mill and Honeycutt Roads. Sometime shortly after the year 2000 I met and traveled that area with Hellen Tucker Obermeier who happened to be the most knowledgeable person I’ve ever known on all things Tucker. She led me to Kinza Baptist Church where supposedly the old Tucker homeplace once stood. Helen carried me to the back corner of the cemetery where two gravestones lay flat and slightly below the ground level. Writing was visible though likely not for long as the cascading turf was quickly covering the stones.

Helen and I stood upon the hallowed grounds as she spoke of visiting the graveyard a few years prior. Not seeing the George Tucker grave, Helen and her daughter Diane began probing the turf till they hit rock. Together, the two cleared the stones from beneath inches of sod revealing the engraved markers for the first time in many years. On my visit with Helen I took pictures of the graves with my old film camera. Having the film processed, only the image of George’s wife’s grave was properly exposed (see below). Since that time, and not having a good picture of George Tucker’s grave, I visited the cemetery again in 2017 only to learn that the earth had once again retrieved the stones. I had no idea where to look and certainly did not want to get caught digging in the church lot. At that point I visited Helen once more and her daughter Diane printed copies of their pictures. And as luck would have it, I’ve somehow lost that set of pictures. And sadly, and further complicating the situation, I recently learned that Helen Obermeier passed away in 2019. And now, due to Covid 19 related restrictions, I dare not go south in search of locating the much-needed pictures for this post.

At this point I’m beating myself up and know that loss of such resources may be felt forever. But then two thoughts popped into my head. First, I remember my last visit to the church and of a conversation I had with a devoted member who was cutting the grass. The man said it would be great if the church at least had a copy of the photos. After receiving the prints from Helen, I dropped off a second copy with the fellow who was still at work. Maybe at some point I can get back to the church to inquire about those copies.

In my second thought I had an ah-haa moment upon realizing the importance of something I had heard during a recent presentation by cousin and mapping expert David McCorkle. Going to the Stanly County GIS site, I did the happy dance in learning that the technology gives you several aerial view choices. The land boundaries are overlaid on several optional aerial map images spanning numerous years. It so happens that one of the maps is based on images taken in 2005.  Why is that important? Below you can see that  in 2005 the stones as were visible to the satellite’s camera as they had been recently rediscovered and brought to life by my friend Helen.

geo tuck

Kinza Baptist Church

Born ca. 1764, George Tucker (Jr) is the son of George and Maria Dorthea Tucker who are buried on the east bank of the Rocky River at the end of Smith Road which is located about a mile north of Reed gold mine. During the 1830’s many from the area moved into the southwest corner of Stanly County. I’ve always thought one reason for the movement was due to damage gold mining had inflicted upon the land. The scarred landscape must have been an eyesore. And, there is also the fact that gold was later discovered along Rockhole and Island Creeks in southwest Stanly County. Did that play any role on the move? …likely so.

George Jr.’s sister Caterenah “Catherine” Tucker married John Barba (Barbee) who died in the 1870’s. John Barbee is buried at Meadow Creek Baptist which is near Reed gold mine. Caterenah’s grave does not survive. For me, there’s a confusing problem with this scenario as there is also an earlier “John Barba” buried in the same graveyard where George Tucker Senior is interred at the end of Smith Road. Who is he and how does he relate?!!!

In 1837 John Barba purchased land on Little Meadow Creek from George Linker. The deed was witnessed by George Tucker. In 1850 John and Catharine Barba are listed as living in Cabarrus County:

geotucker9

1850 Cabarrus County, North Carolina

And then during the early 1850’s John Barba deeds his lands to his sons. Located north and west of present-day Locust. There is no deed or grant of origination for the lands of John Barba.

Frog Pond, NC, 1:24,000 quad, 1981, USGS

In 1855, John Barba and others disposed the lands (4-137 Stanly) of Malicha Harwood, deceased. Below are all those who are listed as sellers in the deed along with the implied names of the wives’ parents:

• William Eudy and wife Sabra (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Hastin Hatley and wife Bathsheba (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Jacob Green and wife Mary (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Daniel Lowder and wife Elizabeth (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Edmond Whitley and wife Susannah (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Paul S. Furr and wife Sarah (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Wiley Hatley and wife Mazah (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Hardy Green and wife Abigail, heirs to wit: (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)

o John Barba and wife Foreba (daughter of Hardy and Abigail Green)
o Caleb Osborn and wife Mary (daughter of Hardy and Abigail Green)
o Martha Green (daughter of Hardy and Abigail Green)
o Sabra Green (daughter of Hardy and Abigail Green)
o Jacob Green (son of Hardy and Abigail Green)
o Elbert Green (son of Hardy and Abigail Green)

The above is important in that the deed identifies Foreba (Phoebe, Fereby?) and Mary as being daughters of Hardy and Abigail Green. Also, Martha, Sabra, Jacob, and Elbert Green are identified as being the children of Hardy and Abigail. It is probable that Abigail passed by the 1855 dated deed as why else would her children be listed as heirs? A little background info on Hardy Green …he and a brother Jacob are sons of Jacob Green who lived and died on Grassy Creek in Anson/Union County. The elder Jacob is likely a brother or at least contemporary of Gideon Green who I have researched heavily in the past. Hardy was born ca 1795 and his brother Jacob was born ca. 1800.

Hardy is a bit of a mystery as in 1850 he fails to appear in census records as living along our Rocky River. His brother Jacob is 57 years of age and living in Stanly County. At that point, Hardy Green is listed as 60 years old and living far away in Burke County which is in the western part of our state. Others from the Rocky River region living near Hardy include James Gurley who married Mary Keiser, the daughter of George Keiser of Cabarrus. Of note, James and Mary’s son Thomas Dove Keiser was one of the wagon masters for the first Oregon Trail crossing. And, after confirming the deed naming Hardy’s wife, note that Abigail had likely passed by 1850 as she does not appear in the census. Also confirming the deed, the census lists Hardy and Abigail’s children Fereby, Jacob, and Elbert Green.

geotuck12

1850 Burke County, North CArolina

After 1850 Hardy Green and his family returned to Stanly County where they are  mentioned in the deed for the large square tract. Do you remember that? Dated 1857, John Barba, Sabra Greene, Jacob Greene, and Elbert Greene of Cabarrus sold 152 acres (6-25 Stanly) to Israel Furr also of Cabarrus. For sale is the tract upon which now stands Clark’s Grove Baptist Church. And, occurring before this sale by the heirs of Abigail Harwood Green, at some point prior the land had been owned by George Tucker who is likely the same George Tucker whose home once stood on the grounds of present day Kinza Baptist church.

So, now we have a bit of context as to the identification of the sellers of the important large square tract. However, before continuing, I’d like to expand the story a bit further. As you may recall, Mary Long is identified as owning land to the north of the large square tract. The land was at one point owned by Thomas Long who I suspect is linked to the Long family who intermarried with my Love family in eastern Cabarrus. Also, owning or making improvements on the same lands are James Crump, Henry Goodnight, George Cagle Senior and daughter Sarah, L. L. Furr, and Solomon Pless, and Philas Hartsell. Mary Long’s land was adjoined by that owned by Brittain L. Green, Holden Hartsell, Eli B. Honeycutt, and Murphy Hopkins. Expect more on the Mary Long tracts in the future.

Before moving forward, you need to know that in 1861 Mary Long, Melinda Green, Jacob Green, and Susan Long now “of Pope County Arkansas” sold 25 acres (deed 6-290) to W. F. Moss. On the next page in the deed book, and occurring in 1874, Mary Long, George Long, Louiz Long, and Melinda Green “of Ripley County Missouri” sold another 45 acres (deed 6-290) to W. F Moss. These folks appeared in the 1860 Pope County census as seen below. And, you will note that among those living in the household of Mary Long are Elbert Green aged 26 and Jacob Green aged 30, the sons of Hardy and Abigail Harwood Green.

geotuck10

1860 Pope County, Arkansas

And Hardy Green, the father of those who moved to Arkansas, did not make the trip west. In 1860 Hardy Green is listed as living in southwest Stanly County. He is without wife Abigail but note that daughters Sabra and Patsey are still living at home with their father:

geotuck11

1860 Stanly County, North Carolina

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I began this post with an 1897 deed from Michael and wife Mary Dry to M. T. and wife S. E. Hartsell. The ill-defined 50-acre tract adjoined the lands of J. A, Furr, Wilson Hartsell, Franklin Teeter, J. T. Lee, and Mathias Furr and was also described as “lying near Union Grove Church.” We know that in 1901 James T. Lee donated land for use by Union Grove Church and then in 1903 he gave land to Clark’s Grove Church. And, this land lay within or adjoined the 152-acre large square tract that once belonged to George Tucker.

We know that George Tucker also had land and a homeplace along present day Love Mill road at the site of Kinza Baptist Church. As a matter of fact, the church cemetery sort of merges with and becomes one with what was once the burial ground for the George Tucker family. And, we know that George Tucker is the brother of Caterenah Tucker who married John Barba. They lived north and west of Locust where John gave land for Meadow Creek Baptist Church. Their son Gabriel Barba happened to own land adjoining the large square tract south of Stanfield. that was once owned by George Tucker. There was also Hardy and Abigail Harwood Green’s daughter Foreba who is mentioned in a deed of conveyance for that tract of land. We know by the deed that Foreba married a John Barba who is likely connected to the John and Caterenah Tucker Barba family. And in all of this, I cannot prove the origin of Union Grove Church. I cannot with certainty find a spiritual tie that binds this story. I can, though, encourage Kinza Baptist Church to embrace a past that includes the story of George Tucker. And likewise, the story is likely not known at all as connects to the lands where Clark’s Grove Church now stands.

In closing, I hope that the deadly virus will one day be behind us. I hope that the church community will once again gather to fellowship on the grounds of Clark’s Grove Baptist Church. I also hope that the life and stories of those who came before will be better understood and shared. They were truly spiritual people and I feel their life achievements had a part in shaping the religious landscape.

And, as for Kinza Baptist, I’ve always been curious why there seems to be a an aire of exclusion in maintaining the memories of a past worth remembering. The George Tucker graves deserve a more honorable presentation. Does the church body have concerns of encroaching upon the hallowed grounds? If so, why not at least place a bronze plaque and corner stones to mark the hallowed space. I’d like to once again see the hidden stones rise again. But then again, I know they have survived and been protected for many years lying just out of reach of human sight and touch. Do we dare risk history? Where do family stand and what do you believe?

LIEUTENANT RINGSTAFF AND DEATH AT THE HANDS OF JOHN MEDLIN

Samuel Henry Ringstaff enlisted on 15 Jan 1862 in CSA Co. B, 43rd Regiment. At 24-28 years of age, he had been, by occupation, a merchant living in the town of Monroe, Union County NC. Quickly promoted to rank of 1st Lieutenant by late summer of 1862, Henry Ringstaff was ordered by General Gustavus Woodson Smith to seek and arrest area deserters who had not returned from leave. The mission became violent, ultimately leading to the issuance of an indictment of murder against one of the deserters. And, following the actual crime, Lieutenant Ringstaff, himself, returned to duty only to be captured and imprisoned by the enemy for a period of nine months. The said Ringstaff’s papers, including his order to arrest area deserters, were either lost or stolen while in confinement.

In this post I’ll introduce a new twist to what is already a well told story pertaining to a shooting at the hands of John Medlin. Before moving forward I’d like to thank Julie Hampton whose knowledge and online collection of all things Union County has been of great help. Thank you, Julie.

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A resident of Union County, Lieutenant Ringstaff knew he needed additional support to achieve his mission. He summoned Hosea Little, who the said Ringstaff later claimed in court “was not a soldier.” Also brought to help were five others including John Short, Thomas D. Winchester, and Culpepper Austin. Thomas D. Winchester was a merchant and post-master for the town of Monroe. And, Culpepper Austin was a long-term Sheriff of Union County. Together, the men gathered on Friday evening, 5 Dec 1862 at about 10 or 11 o’clock before making way to the home of John Medlin. Eben A. Helms, Calvin Williams, and Hilburn (maybe Wilber) Hasty would also be found hiding out with the said Medlin. Benjamin H. Houston later deposed that “in the summer and fall of 1862 he was a Lieutenant in a company in the service of the Confederate States, and that he was then in the actual command of said company that Eben Helms and Calvin Williams were privates. He deposed that sometime in August or September of said year, the said Helms and Williams deserted and had not returned to their command up to January 1863.”

Lieutenant Ringstaff would eventually testify that “he and another man” went upon the said Medlin’s porch, where was heard someone knocking at the door on the opposite side of the house. Ringstaff said he then ‘put his eye to a crack in the side of the house, and before he had time to see anything, someone in the house said, “God damn you!” and fired a gun, the ball from which cut his whiskers and knocked splinters in his face.’

Ringstaff’s testimony was followed up with a similar statement by Culpepper Austin:

“…when they first went to the house of the prisoner, one of their companions named Short went up on the porch upon the opposite side to Lieutenant Ringstaff and knocked at the door. A female voice within inquired “Who’s there” to which Short replied “it doesn’t matter, I have come here with the proper authority and I intend to come in,” to which the female replied there is nothing here that belongs to you and I will not open the door, that Short continued to knock and said “ if you don’t open the door, I will have it open. That at this time Culpepper Austin looked into the house through a crack and by a light in the fireplace, saw the prisoner advancing stealthily toward the fireplace, with a gun and an axe in his hands. That he raised up his foot and placed the handle of the axe upon it and eased it down on the floor, [John Medlin] then raised his gun to his face, then Austin called out “look out he is going to shoot” and immediately the gun fired which cut Ringstaff’s whiskers, that Ringstaff called on the deceased to open the door and give him a chance, that the door was opened, he does not know by whom or how. The said Austin also deposed to the running on the other side of the house and said that a gun was fired at the man who first ran from the house.”

Lieutenant Ringstaff then asked Thomas D. Winchester to borrow his double barreled gun. Ringstaff then said to Hosea Little, who was standing by, “open the door and give me a chance.” Ringstaff testified that he may have said “I will shoot the damned rascal who shot at me.” The rifle had a hair trigger which accidentally went off at that time. The door was opened afterwards, and Ringstaff thinks it was opened from the outside. The door was not kicked in or broken down.

Ringstaff then testified of hearing someone running on the other side of the house. He heard someone say “here they go” and then ran around and saw his men running off after someone. He heard voices in the house in a low tone and called to his men to come back. When Hosea Little and another started to return, when they had got within about ten paces of the house, a door opened on the side that they were advancing on. Three men stepped from the house and two guns were fired in quick succession by them possibly from a double-barreled gun. It was at that time that Hosea Little fell. The man advancing with the said Ringstaff was also hit. From a letter later written to Gov. Z. B. Vance, it can be deduced that the man advancing with Ringstaff was Thomas D. Winchester. All went quiet after Lieutenant Ringstaff shot at the three men as they into the darkness of night.

Thomas D. Winchester later testified that Hosea Little was shot in the leg. “There were twenty seven or twenty eight holes made by the balls, three or four of the balls had passed through the leg making two holes each, that one ball found in the boot of the deceased weighed nearly an ounce, that the shooting took place on Friday night and the deceased died the next Monday.” Dr. McLaughlin testified that he attended on the deceased from the time he was shot. He described the wounds substantially as had Winchester.

The three had made their escape and were on the move. Dated 4 Dec 1862, Col. J. C. Mullis of Jenkins Store, NC received the following command from the Attorney General:
“Arrest & send to Camp Holmes the following men from your county; should they have left the county, “ascertain where they have gone”: John Medlin about 6’, 175 or 180 lbs, about age 24, fair skin, light hair; Eben A. Helms, about 5’ 8”, fair skin, light hair, 3 fingers off left hand, age 22, about 160 lbs; Calvin Williams 5’10”, “boy faced, rather down look,” round shoulders, swarthy complexion, dark hair, 150 lbs; Hilburn Hasley, about 5’6” to 10”, freckled face, light hair, round shoulders, 150 lbs, age 22. “These men are deserters and have used force against those attempting to arrest them. You will use every effort to arrest them.”

A short time after the homicide, John Short went to the county of Burke where John Medlin, Eben Helms, and Calvin Williams were delivered to him and Major McMurray. While being conveyed on the stage to the railroad, John Short said to the prioners “boys this is a bad scrape, Hosea is dead.” To that, Eben Helms said ‘I am clean of it; I did not shoot and when you knocked at the door I said “Boys, that is John Short, let’s give up,” but John Medlin took his gun and went to shooting.’ Williams also said “I’m clean, I did not shoot.” All this was said in the presence of John Medlin who said nothing but hung his head. John Short also said to the prisoner, “was that you that I ran from the house?” John Medlin replied “…no that was Wilbur Hasty. We three stayed in the house and ran out together.” The said John Short further stated that after they had arrived at the railroad, he had a conversation with Hasty and Williams in which they both said they were innocent of the homicide and that they did not shoot. This was all said in the presence of the prisoner who said nothing. Eben Helms was also asked who did the shooting. The said Helms replied John Medlin did all the shooting, and to that the prisoner made no answer.

Upon reaching the Company Shops on the N. C. Railroad near Salisbury, and following any questioning, somehow John Medlin was able to escape capture by jumping from the train:

$100 reward

Once again things went quiet. John Medlin was either on the run or was remaning low by attempting to shadow service with the military he had once evaded. And as for Lieutenant Samuel Henry Ringstaff, he rejoined the 43rd regiment where he appears on muster rolls through the spring of 1863.

At about 11 A. M. on July 3rd, Ringstaff was “wounded in the head and captured while crossing the mountain” during the battle of Gettysburg.

statue of libertyOn 24 Oct 1863, Henry Ringstaff was transferred from DeCamp General Hospital on David’s Island to nearby Fort Wood, Bedloe’s Island in the New York harbor. After the war, the walls of Fort Wood were backfilled to make the star shaped base upon which now stands the Statue of Liberty. On 29 Oct 1863, Henry Ringstaff was transferred to Johnson’s Island Prison for Confederate Officers which was located on the Sandusky Bay of Lake Erie.

On 4 Oct 1864, the Lieutenant appears on a list of sick and wounded soldiers paroled from Johnson’s Island Prison to be forwarded to Pt. Lookout Prison MD. There, he joined a political party and his signature appears on a lengthy letter from al the officers in support of Governor Zebulon Baird Vance. Records show Lieutenant Ringstaff was transferred from Johnson’s Island to Pt. Lookout Prison MD on 6 Oct 1864. Lieutenant Ringstaff arrived at Point Lookout on 11 Oct 1864 and from there may have been transferred to where he was exchanged at Aikens Landing on the James River.

Looking back to the fateful days leading up to Gettysburg, we’ll see that John Medlin reappears from hiding about the same time Lieutenant Ringstaff marched towards the most fabled episode of the American civil war. We will learn of the said Medlin’s reappearance from a letter written by Samuel Hooey Walkup. Lieutenant Colonel Walkup, also from Union County, was considered by others to be one of the bravest officers in the Northern Army of Virginia. Back in 1858, he and the aforementioned Thomas D. Winchester had provided their views at a Congressional session seeking to locate the birthplace of Andrew Jackson.

In a letter penned to Gov. Z. B. Vance dated 9 Jun 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Hooey Walkup told of what he had learned upon arriving in Richmond VA two days earlier. Having traveled from Kinston NC, his unit found John Medlin Junior and his father John Medlin Senior in camp where the young Medlin was trying to get into the regiment. Walkup states that the said Medlin had deserted from the 20th regiment and that he is the person who had killed Mr. Hosea Little and crippled Mr. T. D. Winchester. He eludes to the capture and of General Winder of Richmond who had earlier released John Medlin Junior and his father. Walkup called Gen. Winder & inquired on how Medlin Junr. came to be let out. The general replied that he had no authority over the prisoner …that a Confederate court could not try for an offense committed against state authorities. The general wanted Walkup to have him arrested & sent to him so that he could send him to his Regt. What? Not wishing to do the business of General Winder, Walkup told him (Winder) that he ought to send Medlin to the governor to be tried by civil law if the military could not punish for such offense.

The governor responded to Walkup’s letter as follows: Gen Winder that if there is a certain ….of Medlin being shot by the military, I will not send for him, If not, I will. ZBV

Richmond VA. June 9, 1863

His Excellency
Gov Z. B. Vance of N. C
Raleigh N. C.

Dear Sir;

Upon our arrival in Richmond Sunday 7th June from Kinston N. C., we found John Medlin Junr., who was a deserter from the 20th N. C. & who killed Mr. Hosea Little & crippled Mr. T. D. Winchester both of Monroe in Union County N. C. last winter, whilst they were attempting to arrest him & three others, all of which was reported to you by the militia authorities – Gen. Winder of Richmond had released John Medlin Junr. & he and his father who had come to Richmond VA, were in our camp, & young Medlin was about trying to get into our regt. I called on Gen. Winder & inquired how Medlin Junr. came to be let out stating his offense – He replied that he had no authority over him. That a Confederate court could not try for an offense committed against state authorities. But wanted me to have him arrested & sent to him & he would send him to his Regt. I did not care to trouble myself about his for that business but told him (Winder) that he ought to send Medlin to you to be tried by the civil law if the military could not punish for such offense.

Gen Winder that if there is a certain ….of Medlin being shot by the military, I will not send for him, If not, I will. ZBV

S. H. Walkup
June 9th/63

We know from the above correspondence, and from later court records, that John Medlin and the others involved were returned to Union County by order of Governor Zebulon B. Vance. On the 8th Monday after the 4th Monday of August 1863, it being the 19th day of October A D 1863, a Superior Court of Law opened and was held for the County of Union at the courthouse in Monroe. The Honorable John L. Baily Judge presided.

Judge John L. Baily presented jury foreman Eli Stewart the Bill of Indictment. Eli and his fellow jurors are listed below:

jury 1

And then, another judge, the Honorable James W. Osborne, ordered on the 8th Monday after the 4th Monday in February A D 1864, it being the 18th day of April 1864, that the trial be moved to Mecklenburg County:

The said John Medlin Junior, being brought to the bar here in custody of the Sheriff of Union County and it being demanded of him how he will acquit himself of the felony and murder in the said bill of indictment charged against him, he says he is not guilty and for good and evil he puts himself upon the court and Mr. Solicitor Armfield who prosecutes for the state in his behalf doth the like upon affidavit of the prisoner this indictment is removed to the county of Mecklenburg by order of the court for trial, and it is required of the sheriff of Union County that he deliver the prisoner on Thursday of the term to the sheriff of Mecklenburg County.

On the 9th Monday after the last Monday in August 1864, it being the 31st day of October 1864, at the Superior Court of Mecklenburg, Judge R. R. Heath presided over the new trial.

And of keen interest, a most crucial witness, Lieutenant Samuel Henry Ringstaff had been severely injured at Gettysburg and locked away in Yankee prisons for more than nine months. He was basically missing from action for the entire period of John Medlin’s escape. And having only recently been exchanged at Aiken’s Ferry VA on 11 Oct 1864, it’s amazing he was able to made it back to Union County in order to testify. But as records have shown, Lieutenant Ringstaff did in-fact testify.

Up to this point the reader has seen the prosecutorial information gleaned from letters, newspaper articles and witness statements supporting the Bill of Indictment. The prosecution had ended and now it was time for the defense. As written in the Attorney General’s report, the prisoner’s counsel argued that:

1. The prisoner did not do the act of shooting.
2. If he did, it was excusable, as it was done in self-defense — defense of the prisoner’s dwelling.

Sending the jury to deliberation, Judge Baily charged them with five truths that must be adhered to in making their decision. And of that, I ask you the reader to study these closely:

1. That if these men banded together as deserters, with a common understanding and determination to stand together and resist all persons who might lawfully come to arrest them, and if the prisoner killed in consequence of this determination, it would be murder.
2. If the prisoner knew he was a deserter, and sought as such by persons having proper authority to arrest him, and killed to prevent such arrest, it would be murder.
3. If the prisoner believed, and had reason to believe, that a mere trespass only was intended, and killed to prevent such trespass, it would be murder.
4. If the prisoner killed for revenge for anything that had been done to his house, and out of malice, it would be murder.
5. That if the prisoner killed because his house was broken into in the night, he not knowing what was to follow, he would be guilty of nothing; that if the prisoner believed, and had cause to believe, that a known felony was about to be committed on himself, his property, or his family, the parties being in apparent situation to commit said felony, and he killed to prevent it, then he would be guilty of nothing. house; in defense of his person and family, and in prevention of a threatened felony.

Upon the return of a guilty verdict, the court case is recorded as follows:

Being chosen, tried, and sworn to speak the truth of and concerning the premises upon their oath, say that they find the said John Medlin Junior guilty of the felony and murder in manner and form as charged in the bill of indictment. The prisoner John Medlin Junior is placed at the bar and it being demanded of him what he has to say why the court should not proceed to judgement of death on him, he moves for a new trial and for a venire de novo, and their motions are overruled, and the rules discharged, and it is ordered and adjudged by the court that the prisoner at the bar, John Medlin Junior, be taken hence to the jail of Mecklenburg County and there remain until Friday the twenty fifth day of November A. D. 1864, and that on that day he be taken by the sheriff to the said county to the place of Execution for said county between the hours of ten o’clock A. M. and four o’clock P. M. and then hanged by the neck until he be dead.

From the said judgement the said John Medlin Junior prays an appeal to the Supreme Court which is granted upon the prisoner John Medlin Junior giving bond and security.

The case of State vs. John Medlin had already been moved from Union to Mecklenburg County and now, once again, he requested a new trial at a new location. The request was denied though the appear to the Supreme Court was granted. Dated 20 Nov 1864, the N. C. Argus, which is published in Anson County NC, reports the following:

In Union county last week …A man named HELMS, charged with being accessory to the shooting of Little, was tried and acquitted. It will be remembered that MEDLIN, HELMS, and other deserters, were concealed in a house when the deceased Little, and other officers, approached it for the purpose of capturing them. MEDLIN is to be tried here this week. Charlotte Democrat.

…On Friday, John MEDLIN, from Union county, was tried for killing Hosea Little. MEDLIN was a deserter and Little and others were trying to arrest him, when MEDLIN fired and killed Little. The jury returned a verdict, guilty of murder. The prisoner, MEDLIN, took an appeal to the Supreme Court. – Charlotte Democrat

John Medlin Junior won his right to appeal. Seeking information from the depositions and trial results, I immediately went to the Mormon FamilySearch site online which has supposedly recorded all the loose papers supporting past North Carolina Supreme Court cases. But, upon looking there, I did not find the Medlin case. As it turns out, the Mormon effort did not copy ALL the cases. And of those that did not get copied, I have no idea as to why. Then going to NC State Archives, I looked through the card index of cases, quickly pulled the file, and found a treasure trove of depositions which make up most of what’s found in this post. And also included was Justice Richmond Mumford Pearson’s report which follows. Pearson was chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme County.

State vs. Medlin

In State vs. Jarrott, this court taking to the law to be that insolence on the part of a slave to a white man would justify battery, but not an excessive one, awards a veniere de novo on the grounds that the instruction to the jury must be understood as having reference to the testimony, and was in that sense erroneous, and used these words – “the language of his honor indeed is that” if the prisoner used the provoking language testified by the witness the deceased had a right to whip him.” “But by the phrase whip he must necessarily be understood as meaning to whip in the manner testified by the witnesses,” that is with a knife and a piece of fence rail.
In this case, we think the prisoner has ground to complain of the third instruction, i. e. “if the prisoner, believed and had reason to believe that a mere trespass only was intended and killed to present such trespass, it would be murder.” Forsaking the law to be that a mere trespass to personal property does not mitigate where the killing is with a deadly weapon, but that a violent trespass to the person does mitigate, this instruction must be understood as having reference to the kind of trespass spoken of by the witnesses, and in that sense is erroneous. His Honor having in the second instruction presented the case to the jury in the footing that the deceased and the party to which he belonged had proper authority to arrest the prisoner, in the instruction now under consideration assumes that the deceased and the party to which he belonged were acting without proper authority, and that what they did or intended to do was a trespass, and must necessarily be understood as meaning the kind of trespass testified by the witness, that is going to a man’s house in the night time with a number of armed men for the purpose of seizing his body! – – Killing to prevent a trespass of this nature is certainly no more than manslaughter.

It occurred to us that this error might be owed by the fifth instruction. On consideration we are satisfied that instruction cannot have the effect, because it is qualified and reshiated by the words “he not knowing what was to follow.” On the supposition that he did know what was to follow, that is, that they intended to arrest and take him off as a deserter, the killing was mitigated, unless they had proper authority to do so, which view is not presented by this instruction, and consequentially it does not cure the error of the third instruction. The first and second instructions assume that there was proper authority to arrest. The other instructions assume that there was not. This most important question is left undisposed of, and to that omission the want of cleanness in the case is to be ascribed.

As is said in Gaither vs. Ferrebee 1 Winston, 315, “his Honor has left the case to the jury in such a manner as to make it impossible for this court to know what his opinion was on a question of law, arising on the facts of the case, and of course making it impossible to review his decision .” Unless his instructions are to be considered as mere abstract positions of the law without reference to what was testified by the witness, there is error. Veniere de novo.
  Pearson

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For me this intriguing story begins to wind down with the above Supreme Court ruling. With little fanfare, it appears John Medlin may have been acquitted due to the improper nature in which his home was approached in the middle of the night. That, and the fact that no official authorization was ever presented. A man has the right to protect himself. But though he was not found guilty, it appears John Medlin Junior and Senior may have felt the sting of community wrath. Less than two years following the trial, the two removed to Lawrence County, Illinois where they lived out the rest of their lives.

Going back to early fall 1864 when the murder case was moving towards retrial in the Mecklenburg County Courts, Col. Samuel H. Walkup wrote a telling letter to Governor Z. B. Vance. Of concern were the actions of a local battalion of the Home Guards. On 2 Sep 1864, Walkup wrote of their combing the county in search of deserters. This, at a time when the sorghum and molasses industry was in high demand and yet, most working aged men were at war. Walkup further claimed that the action was overbearing considering it impacted everyone and yet sought to arrest but a hand full of deserters. To that point Walkup pleaded for a temporary cease in the searches, at least until the demands of the fall harvest ebbed:

Monroe N. C. Septr 2nd 1864
His Excellency Gov Z. B. Vance

Dear Sir

Col. Brown of the 63rd Bat. Home Guard has been in this county from Mecklenburg for three or four days – & Majr Ashcraft has the Battalion out of the Home Guards from this county – I also learn that a Battalion from Anson Co. is ordered here.
Now there is but six deserters reported present in this county. Two of them have come in under your proclamation & two others I am informed will be in in a day or two – So that there appears to be no call for any forces here for purpose of arresting deserters. There are none to arrest. There have been no depredations made by any of them in this county for some time past. Those who had committed any have all been taken & sent back to their Regts sometime since.

If the purpose is to put the Battalions under organization so as to be ready for any emergency, that objective has already been accomplished. They are now organized & will be in a state of readiness for meeting & moving at short notice.

I would most respectfully bring to your excellency’s attention, with great diffidence the citizens of the county – Our county (Union) has very few slaves & the few white men left here are the laborers who are necessary to save the growing & matured crops. It is now in the beginning of tine to save fodder & the Sorghum Molasses are now ready for manufacturing & there is a considerable quantity of it planted. Neither can be saved unless these men are left at home – & this is, I learn the case in Mecklenburg & other places – Our county had to rely for its supply last year beyond its limits for some of these necessities of life & it behooves them to use all their resources to keep from suffering.

I hope you will therefore take the premises into consideration & have the home guard released from active service until they can collect their fodder & Sorghum – or until some greater emergency arises for their surmise & when they can be more conveniently spared – this is the general wish & cannot desires of all concerned in the prosperity of the county & its necessities – whatever may be the condition of the county in other sections. I feel sure that there are not ½ dozen if more than two, deserters in Union County – Nor do I believe there are any worth notice in any adjoining counties fewer in fact than ever before.

You will please excuse me for making so free as to suggest these remarks
Respectfully & Truly
Your Obedient Servant
                                                                                  S. H. Walkup (Col. 48th N. C.)

Again, things go quiet. Then, starting around 1874, estate records for the deceased Henry Ringstaff begin to appear in Union County. Harkening back to his roots, many of the documents originate in Orange County NC as distributions from family there. One last time the spheres of influence coalesce as a member of the Houston family is awarded guardianship of Lieutenant Ringstaff’s children. The order was signed in 1876 by Samuel Hooey Walkup, Probate Judge.

Walkup probate

BURRIS/BURRAS/BURRES/BORROUGHS: ENGLAND TO CAROLINA?

The accepted start for many of our Carolina families passes through the counties bordering the Chowan River in northeast North Carolina. As early as the late-1600’s, Virginians were drawn to the fertile flood plain previously the home of several tribes of Indian. Records lead us to this place and it is there where dwindling sources fail in linking our story to family further back in time. Responding to this gap in history, most of us pounce on probabilities that we spread with others from early arrivals along the Chesapeake. Sure, it’s possible we first lived in a place like Jamestown though other possibilities shouldn’t be ruled out.

As for my Burris family, we first appear in earnest after 1740 in Bertie County. Our history is tempted by others with variants of our name already established in the area. Provable connections to family prior to 1740 have yet to be made.

During the 1740’s our Burris/Burras/Burroughs family began buying and selling land along the network of swamps south of the Wiccacon River. The Wiccacon snakes west to east emptying into the west side of the Chowan River in the county of Bertie. Bertie was formed from what was previously known as the Chowan Precinct. Family deeds in the area mention Killem, Chinckapin, Flat, and Horse Swamps. Also mentioned are Maul’s Swamp, the River Pocoson, and Blount’s Branch; all of which are part of the intertwining network south of the Wiccacon.

In this area also settled a fellow named Capt. John Campbell who probably came to Carolina during the 1730’s. A native of Coleraine, Ireland and at one point living in London, John established a plantation along the Chowan that he called Lazy Hill. It is said that John Campbell has the esteemed honor of being the first to bring seine net fishing to America. His plantation once stood on the east side of a town he founded that was aptly named Colerain, North Carolina. John Campbell also owned land in other regions of the state. In the 1750’s and 60’s John Campbell of Bertie County purchased three tracts of land totaling 2280 acres on the Pee Dee River and Jones Creek in Anson County. Note that ca. 1778 our Joshua Burris Senior and his son Joshua Burris Junior received land grants on the same waterways in Anson. Curious, and to make it more interesting, John Campbell began selling off his large holdings in Anson County beginning in 1775 with the last sale occurring in May 1778. That’s the same month and year that Joshua Burris entered his land grant in the county! Could Joshua Burris have been introduced to the lands of Anson County by way of some business or personal relation with Capt. John Campbell? How well did they know each other?

In testament to the life of Capt. John Campbell, a full page article dated 8 May 1927 appeared in the Charlotte Observer. The introductory paragraph for that article follows:

john camp artice
Of importance to me is how the life record of John Campbell intersects with the opening chapters of our Burris family history. But first, a word of caution! Please note that just as there is a lack of evidence connecting our family to a past in Virginia, what I’m about to suggest includes its own leaps of faith. Even so, this is radically cool stuff and the historical connections are worth being told.

The following came to me by way of a wonderful site called Sally’s Family Place. As relates to the above mentioned John Campbell, copies of the entries shown below are housed at the British Public Records Office, London. Note that copies of these records are also available on microfilm at the North Carolina State Archives:

Nov-Feb 1739/40 London – Embargo placed on Mary and Mariane by British Public Records Office.

27 th of Feb 1739/40 an Order of Council and Warr for “discharging from the Embargo the Snow Mary and Mariane John Campbell Burthen 100 tons or thereabouts Navigated with five men now in the River of Thames bound for North Carolina loaden with Sundry Merchandise in a perishing condition, and having on board 50 poor foreign protestants and Servts whom he has maintained on board ever since 23rd Dec last.” [PRO, 1734-1740]

Piquing my curiosity, this record offers a possibility that we have never considered. Simply put, is it possible that our Burris family was among the “50 poor foreign protestants and servts whom he [John Campbell] maintained on board?” Sitting in the River Thames and bound for North Carolina, was our family among those poor fifty onboard the ship Mary and Marianne who would soon lay eyes on Campbell’s Lazy Hill Plantation? Did they work off their debt of gratitude through labor in establishing Capt. John’s plantation? I can imagine the men on board a ship crossing the ocean and of their conversations of what they would see and do in the new world.

But, at this point I’ve not seen the names Campbell and Burris jointly named in records prior to the 1760’s. And, there’s certainly nothing linking our family to the ca. 1740 voyage from England to the shores of the Chowan River. Connecting our family to the Captain, it was in 1765 that Joshua Burres witnessed a conveyance from Simon Parker of Edgecombe to Wm. Robinson. The 200 acres adjoined Pettforms meadow, Chinkapen Swamp, and Capt. John Campbell’s land. Joshua Burres who witnessed the transaction is believed to be the son of James Burras who died ca. 1767. And, this James Burrass had a son James whose life is at the center of this article.

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It was in 1777 when Stephen White of Bertie sold to James Burroughs [Burras] 100 acres called Jackson’s Landing on the west side of the Chowan. James is the son of James Burras Senior who died per a will recorded in 1768. The actual will does not survive. The above mentioned deed to James Burras states that the land is “where the said Stephen White now lives and lately purchased from John Campbell, merchant.” So, this land had been owned by Capt. John Campbell prior to our earliest known ancestor’s purchase of the said tract. In 1785 James Burras sold the same land to John Moore, merchant of Edenton. James Burras’ wife Ann signed the transaction. Online, I’ve seen Ann’s maiden name as being “Bryant.” I’ve yet to find proof.

From the 1739/40 record in London, we know that Capt. John Campbell was in the business of shipping goods and people across the Atlantic. And like Capt. John, his son James is also recorded as being involved in the maritime industries. In possession of the “handsomest vessel ever built in America,” Capt. John’s son James Campbell placed an advertisement in the North Carolina Weekly Gazette which was published in New Bern. The year was 1777, the American Revolutionary War was heating up, and James sought to hire a crew in order to “cruise against the Enemies of the Thirteen United States.”

campbell ship

Two years before James Burras purchased the previously mentioned land from Stephen White, Joseph Lawrence also sold 100 acres to James Burroughs. This land was situated on the “west side of the Chowan on Mill Swamp joining the road and Burrough’s old line.” Of importance, the deed was witnessed by James Burroughs’ son Reuben as well as a person named Lucy Burroughs. As has already been shown, records prove that James Burris’ wife is named Ann. Could her name be Lucy Ann? Or, is she somebody else?

And then, in 1787, James Campbell [son of Capt. John Campbell] sold 100 acres to James Sorrell. The conveyance was for “part of land belonging to James Burras who conveyed it to Joseph Laurence, who sold it to sd. Campbell on south side of Flatt Swamp joining Dempsy Kail and the Wiccacon Road.” Here again there is a connection between the Campbell family and our earliest known ancestor. Truly an important deed, this transaction names neighbors whose connections with our family extend into the 1830s. The deed also provides us a glimpse of where our family land might be located. Signaling a move west, in 1787 James Burroughs now of Orange County sold to James Askew 100 acres of land. Again, James Burroughs’ wife Ann signed the deed.

The following year, on 1 May 1788, James Campbell placed a notice of reward in the paper for the return of a run-away mulatto named Arthur. The slave did not take his “negro cotton jacket and trowsers, but took away with him a new suit of blue cloth clothes.” Arthur “went to one James Burras’s on Orange County where he has a wife” and “soon after let out for Georgia, Cumberland, or South Carolina and will try to pass so a free man. Any person apprehending him to me on Chowan River, in Bertie County, shall receive a reward of TWENTY POUNDS.” Once again James Burras is linked to the Campbell family though this has to be James Burroughs Junior as we know his father passed ca. 1767.

Run away Arthur - Newspapers.com

Time flies and in 1802, and being for love and the affection towards his son, James Burroughs of Orange County gave Reuben Burroughs 200 acres on the waters of New Hope Creek. The deed states that the tract was “part of the land James Burroughs purchased from John Moore.” Could this be the same John Moore, merchant of Edenton, who purchased James Burroughs’ land in 1785 Bertie County? There would be more land transactions for the Burroughs’ family including an 1808 land grant to Reuben Burroughs for 106 acres adjoining his father’s land. From what I can tell, the family lived somewhere near the crossing of New Hope Creek and present day Hwy 15/501 between Chapel Hill and Durham.

James Burrows/Burroughs, the father, died ca. 1807 as per his loose estate record filed in Orange County. And, before the estate was settled, on 30 Jan 1813, the life of James’ son Reuben Burress came to a brutal end. From newspapers we learn that he was murdered while on horseback along the road leading to Chapel Hill. The following article appears in the North Carolina Star which was published in Raleigh:

Reuben Burris murder

The murderer was apprehended and the case was quickly ruled upon. The following appeared in the local newspaper back home in the area where the Burroughs family had once lived:

reuben burris murder II
With father and son now dead, settlement of the estate of James Burras Jr moved forward. From the loose estate papers, survey below represents the New Hope Creek lands of James Burroughs and how they were divided among his heirs:

jb1

We knew of Reuben and now the estate papers introduces us to James and Ann Burroughs’ other children. By 1818 Zacchaeus and Bryant had moved south and are recorded as purchasing land in southern Chatham County where The History of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association records the two as representatives of Fall Creek Baptist Church:

burrough church

I could carry the children’s story further but for now will end with final thoughts on the family of Reuben Borroughs. To that end, I’ve always wondered how, in the old days, tragic events such as the fatal shooting of Reuben Borroughs impacted the family. Did they cave in sadness to such devil’s play or do they move forward with head held high? From another newspaper article we learn of Reuben’s wife Jane and what kept her busy following the untimely death of her husband.

seminary
In reading the above, I’d love to learn more about Jane Burroughs …of the school and how it evolved. This is special and I can imagine somewhere near the school was the family plot and resting place of James Burras and his son Reuben. But, knowing the area has now been overtaken by roads and businesses along the 15/501 corridor, is there any possibility? I wonder.

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In closing, it’s plain to see that there was a real connection between our Burras/Burroughs family and that of Capt. John Campbell. But, when did any ties begin and do they span the great pond. In honesty I kind of doubt the latter though facts leave open the very real possibility that we indeed came over as late as 1740. And, this is but one possibility luckily brought to light by way of another’s blog post and the discovery of a legal record housed in London. I’m sure there are more possibilities if only we knew what they were. To those who subscribe to Newspapers.com, please take a look at the crazy wonderful article written in 1927 about Captain John Campbell of Coleraine, Ireland.