january 2006


Written and Published Online by John Silver

w/contributing articles by various Silver cousins



Dear Family and Friends,


Here it is January and December is just a memory.  The shopping is finished and it is time to take all the gifts to the various stores for refunds or exchanges.  But we do hope everyone had a wonderful time during the holidays.  May the new  year be kind to us.

This month I would like to reprint an article I received several years ago.  As we all know, Joe Silver passed away in 1998.  This is a story of him and his family and I like to be reminded of the old ways things were done when I grew up.  I think you will find this story heart-warming.  It is titled, “Mountain Family Bound by Traditions.”

Happy New Years



Mountain Family Bound by Traditions

by Michael Joslin
News Journal Features

In the Silver family of Yancey and Mitchell Counties, North Carolina, love and tradition that are the threads that bind generation to generation.  The youngest are knit to the oldest through an intricate pattern woven by their heritage.

Although 85-year-old Joe Silver suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, his wife and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have maintained their mountain ways of self-sufficiency.  Raising their own food, grinding their own cornmeal, milking their own cows and churning their own butter, and helping each other with loving attention, the Silver Clan continues to prosper and grow.

It started simple enough over 60 years ago.  After walking on a small path over the mountain that separated Jack’s Creek from Higgins to court Lois, Joe decided to marry his sixteen-year old sweetheart.

“Me and Joe got married in the old courthouse in Burnsville in 1935.  We lived in a house with my parents for two years.  Then we moved out into a little log house with one room and lived there for four years.  Had two children there.  We rented for a long time before we could buy land of our own,” says Lois Silver, sitting next to granddaughter, Brandy.

Joe and Lois had nine children.  While two boys died young, the other seven throve on their raising and have produced twenty-one grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.  Farming has always held the family together, providing both sustenance and a sense of purpose that has endured.

For most of their lives, Father Joe led through active example.  He farmed, cut timber, and worked a sawmill, served as a guard at a nearby prison and taught his children the meaning of hard work and the rewards that follow.  The lessons once learned have never been forgotten.  “ I tell my boys what I did with my daddy.  It brings back hours and hours I spent with this man here.  It’s a good memory, though we had some rough times,” says Ralph Silver, reaching over to hug his father who sits silently in overalls and a freshly ironed blue shirt. 

The Silver boys help their mother today with their father, just as they have shared chores throughout their lives.  Those who live around him take turns.  Clifford and Turner come in the morning, and Larry and Stanley in the afternoons.  Their care goes beyond simply dressing and feeding; they maintain the rural self-sufficiency that has become a way of life.

Clifford has assumed the chicken raising responsibilities.  His Cornish game fowl wander all around houses and barns providing eggs for all.  He also handles the milking.  His cows and bull gaze placidly from the barnyard.

“Normally I milk about 6:30 to 7:00 in the morning.  I get the milk and then get Dad up.  He’s worth taking care of.  Turner is here every morning with me.  In the evenings I milk sometimes around 5:00,” he says, opening the door to an outbuilding that houses another of his farming obligations.

His grain mill and its Hercules engine sit ready for use next to the corn crib.

“Dad had this mill.  He ran the mill when he was just a young man.  Later on he bought it.  I’m saying that this engine – Dad ran it before he was married – this thing is probably 65 years old,” says Clifford., as he takes the crank in hand to show how to start the five horsepower engine by “manpower.”

He then walks over to the sorghum cane mill used to squeeze the juice for making molasses every fall.  Brother Turner has the cane mill and boiling furnace as part of his responsibilities.

Brother Ralph lives in McDowell, but this Sunday he is visiting.  He inherited the blacksmith and horse working part of his Dad’s load, and he is proud to say it.

“When I was young, he did it all.  He taught me.  He did all of his ironwork.  Everything that broke, he fixed it.  We’ve still got his old forge and anvil he made horseshoes, swingle trees and all on. I guess that’s where I got the interest,” says Ralph, looking at his father.

This son also caught the work-horse fever from his father and is passing it on to his sons.

“My dad gave me all his old horse equipment before he got sick.  I love that old stuff.  It’s not really worth any money, but I wouldn’t take nothing for it.  What I really enjoy is getting my horses out and getting them hooked up to a disc harrow or something and putting them to work.

“I put my boy on the seat and see his feet dangling there, and it reminds me of what I did with Dad.  It was on-the-job-training with him. As he used to say, ‘ It’s fist and skull’ “ says Ralph with his arm around his father who looks at him silently.

Ralph taught his boys to make a haystack this past year so that they could know that part of their heritage.

“I said, ‘Boys, this is just playing around this evening.  What if you had to 12 a day like we did?’  I reckon it had been thirty years since there had been a haystack in McDowell County,” he says.

Ralph credits his mother as well as his father with instilling a sense of responsibility and a love of country life for him.  He remembers when he and his brothers broke a butter churn by throwing it around while making butter.

“She just laid it to us.  She made you do things, your chores and all.  And we survived, and we made it well.  I’ve tried to teach my boys the same,” says Ralph, and then smiles at his mother sitting across the room.

Life for Lois continues in the pattern she and her husband established years ago.  Gathering eggs, Milking cows, churning butter, keeping a garden, slaughtering and preserving hogs, getting in hay and grain, grinding their own cornmeal are family concerns that are held by the family.

“We never bought no eggs, no milk, no butter and no meat.  Never bought a chicken in our lives.  We kill our own chickens and put them in the freezer.  We always did grow a big garden.  Potatoes, beans – dry beans, green beans, pickled beans – and corn.”

“That corn is Indian corn.  It bears real good, makes good sized ears.  That’s my joy.  I like to see them raise a good garden, put them by something good to eat,” says Lois, who then sends grandson Nathan to the dining room to bring in a display of their corn

He returns with three ears bound by the husks.  A deep red ear, a white ear and a speckled ear show the variety that their traditional corn crop bears.  When Clifford grinds the grain, the Silver family receives a white meal that makes their cornbread.

Nathan is the son of Larry.  The teenager intends to continue in the farming tradition.  He helps slaughter hogs in the fall, garden in the summer and put up hay.  He takes pride in his heritage.

“I like to go over to Higgins to see where Papaw was raised and all of his brothers.  I want to stay on Jack’s Creek and try to do the same way.”

“I’ve watched him and helped him.  I remember when I was real young; we’d be in the fields and he would put me on the back of a horse and ride me around while he worked.  Yeah, I always stayed right on his heels,” said Nathan, looking at Joe with love.

While trouble has come to the Silver family with Joe’s old age, Lois and her children it is no match for the love and strength that has accumulated over the generations.

Joe’s Lineage: George Silver Sr. > George Silver > John Jackson Silver > Marvel Alexander Silver > Silas Wesley Silver > Joseph “Joe” Silver m. Lois Silver.

Lois’ Lineage: George Silver Sr. > George Silver Jr. > John Jackson Silver > Green B. Silver > George Franklin Silver > Samuel Theodore “Tildee” Silver > Lois Silver m. Joseph “Joe” Silver.

Joe and Lois were second cousins once removed.


For some time, I have been referring to Kona, Mitchell County, North Carolina, as though everyone should know the location and the history of the little village.  For those who are not familiar with Kona, herein lies a little of the history of our beginnings in North Carolina.

Kona, Mitchell County, North Carolina – This unusual name identifies this community that perches above the Toe River not far from the confluence of the North Toe River and the South Toe Rivers.  The official directions describe it as laying between Bandana and Boonford, named for the legendary Daniel Boone who is said to have forded the river here on many of his excursions into the west.  Equally unusual is the history of this quiet spot which reaches back to the year 1806.  This is the year that Kona saw some of its first settlers.  A wagon train from Frederick County, Maryland brought the Silver family and others to claim George Silver’s land grant awarded him for his 5 years of faithful service in the Maryland Continental Line during the Revolutionary War. The Buchanan and Buchanan families of the wagon train are still well represented in the area.

This was wilderness then.  A place of isolation, home only to the deer and the bear, the beaver and the otter, the wolves and the wild turkeys gobbling in the woods.  The streams rippled with fish. 

While the road to Kona has become a byway rather that a highway, the importance of the small place spreads its influence throughout the United States and beyond.  From here, the descendants of George and Ann “Nancy” Silver have spread not only to the forty-nine other states but literally to the four corners of the earth.

Before today’s permanent name of Kona came into being, the community had another name.  That name was “Jeff Davis.” This occurred during the Civil War when the community was an island of Rebel in a sea of Unionism.  Of course this was due to the popularity of Jefferson Davis and his being the President of the Confederate States of America.  The story of our Kona families in the Civil War would present enough material to fill a full novel and must be told at a later time.  Here, there was not a single family in the Valley that did not lose a son to the war.

Today’s name, “Kona,” comes from two of the sources of Kona’s rich history – the railroad and the mineral industry.  A simple, short name was needed for the designated stop on the railway.  Robert Wesley Lawson, a dispatcher for the Clinchfield Railroad, came up with a name in an imaginative way.  A large deposit of feldspar in the area was his inspiration.  Three chemical components of feldspar are potassium, oxygen and sodium.  The periodic table of elements uses K as the symbol of potassium, O is the symbol of Oxygen and NA is the symbol for sodium.  Lawson put these three symbols together to form the name, “KONA” to identify this stop on the railroad.

Later, Lawson quit his job with the railroad to enter the mining field with International Minerals Company, which opened a large mineral processing plant on the river at Kona. Although the company closed this plant in the 1970s, the huge facility has never been dismantled and still stands as a ghostly structure.

Today, visitors to Kona arrive on Highway NC 80 North, which cuts between NC Hwy 226 and US Hwy 19 East in Mitchell County.  The blacktop winds above the Toe River before entering Kona below the old Kona Baptist Church, which has been partially converted to a museum.

Standing in front of the church, you can have a wonderful view of the community.  You will notice the scenic beauty, the pastoral peace and quiet and the magnificent mountains at the same time.  Many family visitors have made the statement that they, “felt as though they had come home from a long journey.” Everyone senses the feeling of peace and tranquility.

Lush pastures and climbing tree farms make a perfect setting for the simple houses and churches that comprise the community.  On the horizon the Black Mountains present themselves in an unsurpassed view.  On a clear day you can see the various peaks of the mountains, from Celo Knob back to Mount Mitchell stretching away, ranked one behind the other to reveal the true nature of the rugged range.

Below the road stands the ancestral home of the Silver family.  Built in the first decade of the Nineteenth Century by Revolutionary War Veteran George Silver and his sons, the house has been in the family for 6 generations.  The old two-storied home is probably the oldest standing structure in the Toe River Valley, if not Western North Carolina.

Behind the church the old cemetery holds the remains of generations of the Silver family. Going back to the late Eighteenth Century, George and Nancy Griffith Silver lie here as well as their son, Reverend Jacob and later members of the Silver family including Charles “Charlie Silver.

Charlie was the victim of one of the most famous murders in the mountains. The story of Charlie and Frances “Frankie” Stewart Silver has been told and retold for over a century and a half, with many, many versions. Frankie killed her husband with an ax, chopped his body into small pieces and burned his remains in the fireplace.  Eventually she was caught and after a lengthy trial was found guilty of murder and hanged.  It has been said that she was the first white woman to be hanged in North Carolina.  Not true! She was neither the first woman or white woman hanged in North Carolina.  Charlie’s remains, those that were recovered at different times, ashes and bones, lie under three upright stones in the family cemetery. A marker was placed on Charlie’s graves several years ago.

The small cross headstone (shipped from Italy by his family) of Alesandro Rubacci, an Italian immigrant worker killed in a mining accident, sits in the same row as two unmarked graves said to be those of family slaves, give clues to other aspects of life at Kona.  If headstones could talk, there would be a myriad of stories to be told.  There are many, many graves marked by a standing stone with no names.  While we regard them with deep respect, the occupants will remain nameless until judgment day.

Inside the Baptist Church (Big Church) bits and pieces of the history are somewhat tied together.  A Silver descendant, the late Wayne Silver, with the help of others, has assembled a collection of documents and artifacts to tell the story of the community.  Letters, journals and other writings introduce you to Monroe Thomas, the “Gentle Giant” of Kona.  Monroe was a son of Maggie Silver Thomas, a daughter of Reverend Jacob Silver.  He was a writer, philosopher, poet as well as an intelligent observer of mountain life.

There will be more on the Kona Community in future editions of the Silver Threads.



The 58th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, Company “K”

& Civil War Letters to Folks Back Home

by Rex Redmon


Today is Sunday, December 18th and as I begin writing this article for January’s newsletter, we here in the upstate of South Carolina are thawing out from one of the worst ice storms to hit our area in decades. The storm that hit us on Thursday, December 15th caused not only tree limbs to break away and fall, but entire trees fell on power lines, homes, cars and also on the highways and byways counties wide. This morning, members of the Presbyterian Church I attend worshiped God in overcoats and by candlelight because we had no heat or electricity. Fifty Thousand people in Greenville County are still without power and the temperature falls below freezing every night.

Too, hundreds of thousands of people still suffer from the after -affects of this past season’s tropical storms and hurricanes, so who are we to cry about a little ice, some downed power lines, broken limbs and freezing temperatures in our bedrooms at night?

Yet, I mention this issue about the ice storm to make a very vivid point. At least I have a roof over my head where I can get in out of the harsh elements of weather that can be so life threatening. Our ancestral relatives of “K” Company, the 58th North Carolina Infantry Regiment did not have the good fortune to sit on a sofa by a warm gas log fire with a roof over their heads and wait out the weather before they resumed their battle formations again in the winter of 1863/64.

They spent the long winter freezing in two man pup tents or spent the winter in muddy trenches in the hills of Northern Georgia between Chattanooga and Atlanta. An earlier letter written on December 18, 1862 from George McGuire to McCajah and Nancy Tugman, exactly one hundred forty-three years ago today, describes life as it was with the 58th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. For readership and legibility, I have edited the letter. The letter first appears in Jeffery Craig Weaver’s book, 58th North Carolina Infantry, Company “K” in its non legible form.


Big Creek Gap, Campbell County, Tennessee

December 18, 1862


Dear Brother and Sister,


It is with pleasure that I seat myself this morning to write a few lines to you in token of my best respects to you. I can say to you that I am in tolerable health at this time hoping these few lines will find you all well and doing well. I can inform you that I received a very _____ letter from you yesterday which gave me great satisfaction to hear from you and to hear that you was all well. I have been very bad of late with a cough and a cold with a stopped up head and lungs but I am getting better.


There is a head sickness here in camp and only half of our company is able for duty. Moses Greer and Salomon Greer are both dead plus six others in our camp died. We don’t know how ling we will stay here nor how soon we will be attacked by the Yanks, but if they come we will give them the best we got in our shop.


I am in a bad fix to write today for I expected to go home about this time and have got knocked out of it and it hurt me a ___ bad. I received a letter from home a few days ago and they is all well…[1]



Some historians have written that both the Union Army and the Southern Army lost more men to the harsh elements of the weather and camp ridden diseases than they lost in actual combat.

However, as we again move forward to April 28, 1864 to the camp of “K” Company near Dalton, Georgia; Garrett Dawes Gouge wrote to his wife Rosanne expressing his concern about hearing bad news from home. The bad news about which Garrett is apparently concerned involves the 111th Regiment of the North Carolina Militia stationed in Burnsville, Yancey County, NC and commanded by Colonel John B. Palmer, the former commander of the 58th. 

Various buildings in the town of Burnsville contained stores of food and equipment (including guns and ammunition) for the militia’s personal use. On April 10, 1864, according to Dr. Lloyd Bailey in his book, Toe River Valley Heritage, Vol. II; while the militia was on duty in Madison County, an assembly of some seventy-five to one-hundred Confederate deserters, bushwhackers and Union sympathizers raided the stores and took control of all the provisions. A battle took place in the town of Burnsville the following day between the militia and the raiders and order was promptly restored and the supplies retained.[2]

Another article referring to the same incident appeared in the Asheville News on April 21, 1864. The article also appears in Dr. Bailey’s book and the article reads as follows:


The Tories, several hundred of them strong, occupied the town of Burnsville, Yancey County, last week. Some of the citizens fled to this place, others to McDowell County.


Troops were sent forward to dislodge them, and on Saturday evening, Col. Palmer (who has only returned the evening before from Richmond) went over to take command (of the local militia). Great anxiety is felt to hear something from him, but up to the time of the present writing (8 o’clock Wednesday morning) nothing is known. If the enemy has the nerve to stand, a severe fight has or may occur. We have, however, seen enough Tory movement to induce us to question whether they will strand “square up” when the chances are anything like equal. If we hear anything before going to press we will add to this article.



Since our form was made up, we are informed that Col. Palmer attacked the enemy in Burnsville on Tuesday morning last, capturing some 15. The rest had “smelt a mice,” and skedaddled as we predicted they would. Mont. Ray, the leader of the band, escaped.[3]


The Col. Palmer mentioned in the above article is Col. John B. Palmer who was commander of the 58th North Carolina Infantry Regiment when the Regiment was mustered into service on July 24, 1862. According to Weaver, Palmer was wounded at Chickamauga and went back to Western North Carolina to recover from his wounds.

Weaver states; …while there Palmer received orders to assume command of the Department of Western North Carolina. Palmer’s headquarters was in Asheville and he remained in Western North Carolina until the end of the war. Palmer was relieved (as commander of the 58th) by General James Green Martin in mid-August, 1864. Despite this relief, Palmer did not return to the 58th. [4]  

After the Army of Tennessee, including the 58th North Carolina was driven from Missionary Ridge in the early winter of 1863, they retreated to the area of Dalton, Georgia, where they bivouacked during the long winter of 1863/64 as did the Army of Northern Aggression, who set up camp in the town of Chattanooga. Many of the Confederate soldiers were assigned to trench digging duties as was probably the case of Garrett Gouge, because he states in his letter of April 28, 1864 to his wife Rosanna (see Silver Threads, December 2005); I have been hearing bad news from there since I got back.

 Prior to the letter of April 28, the last letter we have from Garrett was written on November 8, 1863. Apparently he and other members of the 58th North Carolina were busy during the winter digging the trenches between Dalton and Atlanta, Weaver alludes to the fact the Confederates had been busy over the winter preparing a network of entrenchments from Dalton to Atlanta, a distance of some thirty plus miles. There are not any letters from any members of the Gouge or Silver families preserved during that time period. After the April 28th letter, Garrett’s next letter was written on May 22, 1864.

However, before I record that letter lets return to the scene of the battlefields when the date is May 7, 1864… and the Army of the Tennessee is again focused on the business at hand ― War, Weaver calmly states. 

He writes, General Sherman turned up the heat and advanced on the Confederates at Dalton, Georgia. During the first engagement, the Army of the Tennessee suffered the loss of many lives as well as countless men wounded and disabled, many disabled for life.[5]

Two days later, Weaver says, the 58th participated in the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, a 500 foot rock cliff. The fight was obstinate and bloody with Union casualties numbering 837 to 600 Confederate losses. Sherman decided the ridge could not be taken from the Confederates so he resorted to flanking maneuvers and tactics to force the Southern Boys off the mountain.

Weaver says the Southern Commanders were painfully aware that Sherman would have to make a serious mistake for a Confederate military victory to occur in Georgia. The commanders realized their mission was to hold the Union Army in check until the Northern elections in November 1864. Considering the odds, The Union army had 104,000 men in the field to the Confederate’s 67,000; holding the Yankees in check did not seem likely.

With 100,000 men and twenty days worth of supplies Sherman pushed the retreating Southern Army into present day Marietta, Georgia, just north of Atlanta, where the Southerners were entrenched in a heavy thicket. The Federals were allowed to advance to within 25 to 30 paces before they were cut down with a thunderstorm of fire from the concealed Confederates. The entrenched Confederates were one man line deep and they held their line against a three man line advance of Federal troops. This battle was known as the Battle of New Hope Church. Considering these battle and maneuvers, Garret Gouge writes to his wife, Rosanna, on May 22, 1864 telling her about the events occurring in his life over the past fourteen days.


Camps near High Tower River

May 22, 1864


Mrs. Rosanah Gouge, dear companion:


I gladly embrace the present opportunity to drop you a few lines to let you know I am well as … hoping this note may find you and my little children well.


We have been fighting and skirmishing with the Yankees for 14 days but we have not lost many men yet. Alexander Silver was wounded slightly in the right leg. Lt. Duncan was wounded slightly and Henry Justice (was) wounded in the right breast mortally.


The Yankee force was too large for ours and we fell back to meet our reinforcements. We are on one side of the High Tower River and the Yankees on the other. It is supposed that we will have a big fight here before many days but it is uncertain when it will come off. We beat the Yankees back in every attack.


We have had plenty to eat on our march. You must not be uneasy about me. I am doing the best I can.


I received one letter by hand of L. D. Silver and some peaches which I was glad to get. I received one letter by the hand of Arthur Buchanan.


I have given you all the interesting news. Give father and mother (and) Patty and Hector my love and respects. Also Sarah Howell.


I gladly received Nancy Wilson’s letter and I will write an answer to her letter the first chance. Please tell her I will write her soon. I will close.  Yours truly.


G. D. Gouge to Rosanah Gouge


(Editor’s note: Nancy Wilson was Rosanna’s sister.)


             Until next month, I sincerely hope everyone had wonderful holidays and I wish for each of our Silver Family cousin’s nation wide, A Very Happy New Year!


Cousin Rex Redmon



John Silver
Genealogist & Editor
64S Fairfield Drive
Dover, DE 19901
[email protected]

Barney Kaufman
7408 Lake Drive
Manassas, VA 20111-1960
[email protected]





[1] Jeffery Craig Weaver. 58th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, Company “K”. Arlington, Virginia, 1995, 1997.

[2] Dr. Lloyd Bailey. Toe River Valley Heritage, Vol. II. Walsworth Publishing Company, Inc. Marceline MO 64658. Page 47. 

[3] IBID.

[4] Jeffery Craig Weaver.  58th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, Company “K.” Arlington, Virginia,1995, 1997.

[5] IBID