Written and Published Online by John Silver

w/contributing articles by various Silver cousins



Dear Cousins, Friends, and Associates


Christmas is upon us, and we didn’t even get over Thanksgiving.

We do hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving as much as we. Unfortunately, only two of our sons and their families could be with us this year since the other two live so far away as to make it impractical to visit on Thanksgiving. We will just have to get by with our once a year summer get together.  But the beautiful part was that the kids did all the work this year and Mom and Dad got to spend the whole day with the little ones. There are times when age has its advantages!

Again, this month, Cousins John Silver Harris and Jack Silver came to my rescue for articles for Threads. As always, each of them are great writers and they always have interesting articles. Thanks, Cousins!

Also, Cousin Carolyn Denton was kind enough to send me the latest on Frankie’s situation. I think you will find it interesting. And, Carolyn did ask me, “Hey, what about poor Charlie’s side of the story?”  I’m with you Carolyn. I would love to see something written in Charlie’s behalf. I’m sure there are others who would like to see something like this also. Thank you, Carolyn.

The following is a great story by John Harris.  John and I are aviation buffs and we entertain each other with past flying experiences.

Happy Holidays!  Cousin John


Remembering my flight on Chalk’s   

with John Harris
December 2005


The recent tragic fiery plunge of a Chalk’s Ocean Airways seaplane into Miami bay, snuffing out the lives of all 20 people aboard, brought back memories of my flight (less eventful, Thank God!) to Bimini on the old Mallard years back.

The attached article contains my recollections. Or most of them. One I didn’t report was that on the return flight, while the old Mallard was swinging into its final approach for a splash-down in the bay, the back door of the plane flew open.

None of us were particularly concerned however. And one intrepid passenger got out of his seat, held on to the side of the plane, leaned out, caught the handle on the door and swung it shut.

Upon deplaning, I asked the pilot if he knew the back door flew open during the final swing. His reply was, “Were you scared?” I assured him that it was no big concern for us and that a fellow passenger had closed it.

Memories of the Mallard…


It is with a tinge of nostalgia and sadness that I note the demise of Chalk’s Ocean Airways. It represented the romance of yesteryear’s air travel.

Its famous seaplanes, a link to the past in commercial aviation, carried the likes of Howard Hughes and Judy Garland to the Bahamas.

Sadly the romance has given away to reality. A December 2005 crash of one of its vintage airplanes killed all 20 on board.

And now, the Federal Government has pulled the tiny airline’s operating license after earlier grounding its fleet of 1940s era seaplanes.

The sad end of Chalk’s takes my memory back to a flight to Bimini that I took on one of the old seaplanes back in the 70s. May I share my memory of this adventure from my report at the time:

From Watson’s Island at Miami, the old twin-engine prop plane loads up with a maximum of 15 passengers and rolls down the ramp into Biscayne Bay.

The engines rev and the boat-like hull slices through the water sending up a spray that obliterates the view from the windows. Then it lifts right out of the water and you’re on your way.

The old Mallard lumbers along at about 1,000 feet at about 100 miles-an-hour, giving you an excellent view of everything, even the sting rays in the crystal clear water below.

And although Bimini is only 50 miles out, it’s a half-hour flight. But, who’s in a hurry? This is part of the fun. The cockpit door is open and you can watch as the pilots fly the airplane.

As it approaches Bimini, the plane settles into the bay. Then, in boat like fashion, it taxis toward the ramp on the shore.  It then lowers its wheels and emerges from the water, rolls up the ramp across a roadway and turns around in the big parking lot of the Bimini Inn, where it unloads its passengers… It is certainly a lovely way to go.

Bu sadly, Chalk’s is no more. And I know of no other seaplane airline in operation anywhere. So, such flight can live on only in memory.

John Harris, October 2007.


As a foot note to John’s article I might add that in 1959, when I was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, I had some experience with Grumman’s big brother to the Mallard.  It was designated as the SA-16 Albatross. This bird was designed for Air-Sea Rescue work. Unlike the Mallard, it had not been retrofitted with turboprop engines.

This particular aircraft was used to service the Bahamian Cays (pronounced keys) to rotate long range cameras and crews on the AFMTC missile range. There were two main Cays that had to be serviced twice weekly. These stations were operated by Pan-American Airways - Range Division. At any rate, the SA-16 was the most miserable airplane ever invented to haul the delicate cameras and associated instruments. Fortunately, I did not get the duty to upload or download it too often. And, as a bonus, I did not have to fly on it.

The SA-16 was a noisy critter, too. When it fired up the two engines to either leave or enter the loading area, it deafened everyone within hearing range. As a consequence, it became known as, “Slobbering Albert, the shrimp boat.” 



FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2007

Local woman living on Frankie Silver’s legend

She has spent decades focused on debunking myths

By Apryl Blakeney  [email protected]


MORGANTON – You could say that Maxine McCall spent the last 40 years in 1833.

The local woman took it upon herself to shed light on the legend of Frankie Silver, the young Burke County woman hanged in 1833 for the murder of her husband.

McCall grew up thinking Frankie was a big, cold mountain woman, thanks in part to words from her great-great-grandmother.  “She said she wouldn’t watch her hang because she (Frankie) wore men’s clothes and short hair,” McCall says.

Both were considered scandalous offenses, almost as horrible as killing one’s husband with an ax.

But when McCall began research in 1960, she found something that shocked her. The murderess was a beautiful, vivacious young girl.

No pictures exist of Frankie but McCall recently unveiled a photo of what she calls “Frankie Reincarnated.”  The photo is of Frankie’s great-great-granddaughter.

“I saw that photo and I knew that was her,” McCall says. “You can see it in her strong posture and the fire in her eyes.”

McCall added the picture and new historical documents to the History Museum of Burke County last week with the help of fellow researcher Perry Deane Young.  They also spent the day discounting several popular myths.

The Frankie Silver display, “Oh Lord, Remember Me” will run through August 15 at the museum.




Frankie Silver Fact and Fiction


1. She was the first woman hanged in Burke County:  False

Even Frankie’s grave marker declares the common myth. But 45 years before she got the noose, a couple from Lincoln County were hanged in Burke County.  Elizabeth and John Wells were executed for arson on October 10, 1788.

Although young Frankie was neither the first nor only woman ever hanged in Burke, people of the time believed she was. Due to poor communication, even the governor was unaware of Elizabeth Wells’ trial.  The perceived novelty of Frankie’s case helped build the interest and legend we know today.


2. Frankie sang her confession from the gallows:  False

The hanged young woman did confess, but not in song. Legend has it that she burst out in rhyme as the noose went around her neck, singing the following lyrics:

“And on a dark and doleful night I put his body out of sight.
“With flames I tried to consume him, but time would not admit it done.”


McCall says people used to transcribe “Frankie’s Confession” and pass the lyrics from generation to generation.  Her mother-in-law remembers a grandpa singing the ballad while her sister scribbled the words.

Although they have become historical, they were not written by Frankie.  A Thomas W. Scott wrote the lyrics and probably sold or passed them out during the hanging.

Frankie confessed in pen, not song. Although it’s never been found, written statements by those who read the confession say Frankie killed her husband in a “fracas” when he was loading a gun to shoot her.


3. Frankie isn’t buried in Morganton:  False

Stories persist that after the hanging, Frankie’s father had four wagons carry four coffins in four different directions.  Theoretically, this was to thwart grave robbers who would sell parts of Frankie’s body for medical research.

Some stories put Frankie’s grave at Altapass near Spruce Pine. Others say she rests in Franklin.  But the burial site off NC 126 is the only one with an eye witness.

Granted it’s the story of an 8-year-old girl, but it’s been passed from generation to generation.

The story says Mary Alexander, whose father owned the Buckhorn Tavern, stole a peek into Frankie’s coffin before she was buried.  The eight-year-old fainted on the spot.




Letters to the Editor. . .

Frankie facts inconclusive


I read with interest an article on the front page of The News Herald last Friday entitled “Local woman living on Frankie Silver’s Legend.”  The article refers to Frankie as a “murderess.”

Maybe so. Maybe not.

Perry Deane Young in his book “The Untold Story of Frankie Silver” says that Charles Silver was killed by his wife, Frankie Silver, on December 22, 1831.

Well, Maybe so. Maybe not.

The fact is that he disappeared around Christmas time and was never found intact.  Some bones were found that could have been his.  There was no DNA in 1831 to test out the bones.

Possibly, if not probably, Charlie froze to death and was buried by a friendly Indian on top of a remote mountain.

If Frankie confessed (there is hearsay that she did), to the killing of her husband, Charlie, who’s to say she was telling the truth?  She may have been trying to cover up for Blackstone, her brother, who was arrested for the killing, but released.  He was big and strong enough.

Or it could have been a conspiracy by the whole family, as some suggest.  The family may have figured that, if found out, Frankie, as a teenager and as a woman would less likely be hanged.

My point is, the facts are hard to come by, and my guess is just as good as yours, as long as I have a basis for my opinion.  I researched the story for about 20 years before I wrote the play “The Legend of Frankie Silver” in 1988.

I was charged by Perry Deane Young of plagiarism, but I wrote the play at least 10 years before he wrote his play “Frankie” (with Professor William Gregg) and before he wrote his first edition of “The Untold Story of Frankie Silver.”

I researched the story after I wrote the play, also, but saw little reason to change my play to fit unfounded conclusions.

In my play, “The Legend of Frankie Silver,” I tried to stay as close to the story as I could, even though as a dramatist I could choose the myth, legend or story which I felt was most plausible and most dramatic.

I did use the myths that were debunked in this article.

I never claimed in the play that Frankie was the first woman hanged in Burke County.

In the play I did not have Frankie sing her confession just before she was hanged.

In the play, also, I had the narrator say that Frankie was buried in the traditional place, that is about 7 miles from Morganton off what is now NC 126.

Other new found, so-called evidence has not caused me to change my play.

A case-in-point is Frankie’s ability or inability to read or write.  In my research, I found out that Frankie could read and write and taught Charlie these skills.  Some think that since we don’t have any examples of her handwriting, she could not read and write.

If she couldn’t read or write, how could she write out a confession, as some believe she did.  Even if she wrote out a confession, how do we know she was telling the truth or covering for her family or a member of her family.

I have called my play, advisedly, “The Legend of Frankie Silver.”

According to Webster, a legend is a “non-historical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition and popularly accepted as historical.”

I have found very little evidence, searched out on my own or gotten from others, to cause me to change me to change my play in any significant way.

I follow for the most part, the conclusions of Maxine McCall and Sam Ervin Jr., who did not picture Frankie as a murderess, but as one who killed Charlie, her husband, to defend herself.

I, with several wise colleagues, am revising and editing the play with a view of doing the play again when we have raised the funds.

By we, I mean the Frankie Foundation, of which I am president.

I, as playwright, mean to change little because of new-found so-called facts.

Neighbors can twist the truth and history can be rewritten by one who has an ax to grind.

The play I wrote called “The Legend of Frankie Silver” is unique because it is nearer the truth than most of other Frankie plays. It does not contain profanity and grossness ant it does not make Frankie and Charlie poor, ignorant mountain people.




Armistice Day

By Jack Silver


November 11th is coming up and this brought to mind that the day we now celebrate as Veteran’s Day began at the end of World War One when Germany surrendered to the USA, Britain, France, Italy and Japan. Yep, Italy and Japan were our side in World War One. And the day was known as Armistice Day. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, all the guns went silent. Soon the Germans got out of their trenches, yelled to the Americans, “Let’s go home.”  The Allies joined them. The war was over.

At the end of World War Two, the war ended with the unconditional surrender of Germany, Italy and Japan. I got into the war near the end. Adolph heard of me and committed suicide. Italy turned on its buddy in 1943, ousted Benito and declared war on Germany. Benito tried to escape to Germany but he was captured by the Italian Patriots and hanged along with his mistress.

Japan signed the Unconditional Surrender Document on September 6, 1945 on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. My regiment, the 21st Infantry was among the first troops to go into Japan in September and my company followed in the second wave. I was in Company G, 2nd battalion. We were sent immediately to Tattori City, high up in the mountains of the big island. A large Japanese Army Fort had been established there. We had to make sure the Japanese soldiers were gone and had left their weapons behind.

The Japanese military had been ordered by Emperor Hirohito to dissolve but Premier Tojo tried to assassinate the Emperor, failed and was captured. He was later tried and executed by a firing squad in 1948.

It was near dark when we arrived. There were six large buildings surrounding a compound. We checked out a large warehouse on the slope up behind the buildings. When we opened the large doors we found hundreds of rifles neatly stacked in rows and many swords and sabers lying on the floor, side by side. Other weapons were also found.

Guards were posted and we all settled down. There was nothing to do and we all soon got bored. There was one book, “God’s Little Acre” and one Gideon’s Bible in the camp until five copies of my subscription of the Asheville Times arrived. Chaos broke loose as my buddies fought over them.

I volunteered to help in the Communications Platoon. I hand cranked the generator for DC electricity for the transmitter/receiver radio. Three of the radiomen and I decided to explore the buildings. We found a small room on the top floor of the rear building and the door was locked. We found a key on the side of the door hanging on a new nail that must have been left by the departing Japanese. Once inside we saw the combat boot tracks on the floor that must have been left when the first Americans had checked it out. On the floor we saw four small wooden cabinets. Each cabinet was three foot high, one foot deep and one foot wide. There were three drawers in each cabinet with Japanese writing on each.  Inside the drawers we found lots of dust as if they had been left open for a long time before. We decided to take them back to our rooms for filing cabinets.

We left the cabinets in the communications room. The next morning a Japanese weatherman, in a 1935 Chevrolet automobile (with the steering wheel on the right side) drove up bringing the weather report to be sent by us to headquarters.

The weatherman took one look at the cabinets, let out a loud Japanese yelp. He told us in English that the cabinets were holding cremated ashes of 12 dead Japanese officers. They were to be a part of a monument after the Japanese victory. We knew he would tell.

When the weatherman departed, waving to us from his black 1935 Chevrolet automobile (with the steering wheel on the right side) we lost no time in returning the cabinets to the little room where we found them.

Happy Armistice Day…Uh…I mean Veteran’s Day.

Jack Silver
209 Old Weaverville Road,
Asheville, NC 28804 

(Jack, I’m sorry I couldn’t get this into the November issue. JS Ed.)



My Encounter with the CIA

By John Harris


I once had an encounter with the CIA. It was nothing spooky at all—in fact, it was very pleasant.

It was in 1973, and I had landed in the Seychelles in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The islands were one of my many stops in an around-the-world search for Utopia while on assignment for The National Enquirer.

The Seychelles were chosen for exploration because they were largely unspoiled, remote and have scenery perhaps unexcelled anywhere in the world.

Victoria, the capital, is generally a scruffy and overcrowded little town of 15,000, is the only municipality in the far flung string of islands and serves as their administrative, legal, religious and commercial center.

On the main island, Mahe (pronounced Ma-hay), the U.S. had a satellite tracking station atop La Misere Mountain, The locals refer to the station as “Le Golf Ball,” because the gleaming white spherical radome looks just like a giant golf ball.

I was soon to learn that the U.S. also had a CIA presence on the island.

The central gathering place in Victoria was the open air restaurant at the Pirate Arms Hotel. There you sit, with a fresh limeade or “Sey Brew,” the local beer, at what must e the crossroads of the world. People of all nationalities drift there for refreshments and mingling.

I pulled up a chair. Soon some newly-met friends, crewmen on the yacht, Stormy, joined me. Later, a tall, heavy blonde haired man, whom they knew, also joined us.

The newcomer to our group turned out to be a fellow American-C.J. “Chuck” Smith, who lived on Mahe. Chuck, 46, said he is vice president of Grolier International, the encyclopedia company. He was in charge of sales in Africa, south of the Sahara.

“How do you happen to live way out here,” I asked. “We’re at least a thousand miles from Africa.”

“We were in Johannesburg before coming here,” he replied, “but found we could live here, enjoy the quietness of the island, and I could still conduct my business. I make trips out and back.”

Yeah, right!

(I learned from the locals that they believed Smith was with the CIA, using the Grolier connection as his cover. Why this belief? “Because he never seems to do any work.” They told me.)

Chuck invited me to have lunch with him and his wife, Lari, next day. I accepted, fully aware that the real reason behind the invitation might be to obtain fodder for a CIA dossier, since here I was, having rolled onto this island with the unlikely story of being on a search for Utopia. But, what the hell! I had nothing to hide. And here was an opportunity to get the views of an American family that my readers could relate to.

So Chuck picked me up at the restaurant the next day and drove me up a winding mountain road, then onto a dirt road leading to his picturesque mountain home appropriately called, “La Cachette” – the hiding place.

There I met his wife, Lari, an attractive blonde 35-year-old mother of four, who writes as a hobby and had an upcoming article in the Reader’s Digest about a couple who were adrift for many days off the Seychelles.

And there were sons, Michael, 5; Mark, 6; Charles, 10; and Joe, 11; making a lively household.

I questioned the family about life on the island.

We like the remoteness of the island—the simplicity of it all,” says Chuck. “Here, there’s no pollution. We wanted isolation-or at least a degree of it. Maybe we’re coping out, but it’s really good to get away from television and, no offense, please understand, but newspapers, too.

I was back in Washington a few months ago and the TV was full of murders and scandals (these were the days of Watergate).

“But here, we’re completely out of touch with it. And yet we meet many interesting people who are traveling around the world.”

“And while we wanted a degree of isolation, we also wanted some modern conveniences since we have four young boys. But we could do without the air- conditioned sterility that you find in so many places.”

Lari agreed.

“Here you don’t have to plan a menu,” she said. “You visit a shop and buy what’s available. If they have tomatoes, you buy tomatoes. If there’s no beef, you buy fish. If there are no potatoes, you buy breadfruit.”

“And the kids need practically no clothing. There are no toy stores, so they learn to make their own toys.  They’ve already learned how to make a slingshot. They play marbles and find all sorts of things to do.”

Truly, the Smiths seemed to have found their Utopia here in the Seychelles. Their small, open house had all the modern conveniences, albeit in a somewhat modified manner. For example, there is no electric line into the mountains, so their power comes from a generator thay had installed.

Their view from the mountainside, looking out through the trees onto the beach and lagoon thousands of feet below was truly magnificent.

We sat on a second-story porch, sipping gin and tonic, and I enjoyed the scenic view while interviewing them.

If my visit with the Smiths was a typical CIA encounter, then I invite the agency to feel free to investigate me again any old time.



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

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