SILVER THREADS

VOLUME VI

ISSUE No III

March 2008

http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~silver/south/newsletter.html

 

Written and Published Online by John Silver

w/contributing articles by various Silver cousins

 


 

Aaah, Spring is just around the corner!!

 

The daffodils are peeking out and the squirrels digging up the acorns they stored. So far this has been a mild winter for us. Very little snow. I didn’t even get to use my snow blower. I do hope all of you are enjoying this break in the weather,

This month, I’ve put together several stories, some of them new, some old and of course a real treat from Jack Silver. Made me think of my early years in the military. Thanks, Jack, I do hope you are feeling better.

I just talked to Mary Echols. I’m sure most of you will remember her. She attended every Silver reunion as far back as I can remember. She has had several strokes and is not feeling well. I’m sure she would appreciate hearing from all of you. Her address is:  Ms. Mary B. Echols, 554 Hickory Flats Rd., Gillsville, GA 30543 and her phone number is 706-677-4502.

Until next month,

Cousin John and the staff

 


 

 

Lizzie

 

I must give credit for the following article to several people. First, Carolyn Denton, who sent me a copy of the article. Carolyn has been sending me stories and gems for the past several years. Thank you Carolyn for introducing me to the magazine, “Blue Ridge Country.” I have since subscribed!

Next, to the writer of the article, Elizabeth Hunter of whom I have been an ardent reader for several years. Elizabeth is a terrific writer!

And next to Cara Ellen Modisett, Editor of the Blue Ridge Country Magazine. Cara, along with Elizabeth has graciously permitted me to reprint the article about Lizzie. I, along with our readers, really appreciate your generosity. Cara has made me promise to include the next line…..

 


 

“First Published in Blue Ridge Country magazine, November/December 2007; reprinted with permission.”

 

Imagining Lizzie

By Elizabeth Hunter

 

She didn’t want to be called Lizzie, but that’s the way her husband introduced her around the community, and Lizzie she remained.

Her name was Hannah Elizabeth Pedersen when she stepped off the boat, one among the teeming multitudes who came from the Old World to find the promise in the New. She arrived in New York City in 1912, probably with her sister Selma, the two Pedersen girls following a cousin who emigrated earlier from their home in rural Sweden. Another sister would follow, although she would marry a Swede and return to the land of their birth.

I think of Lizzie, not in New York, where she spent the first two years of her American life, but here, in the Bandana Community where her husband, Edward Milton Robinson, brought her before their first child, Robert, was born, in February, 1915.

Lizzie and Ed had met at the home of an Army General that Ed, then in the army, had been assigned to guard, and where Lizzie had found work as a maid. The couple traveled by train to Toecane, a few miles downriver. They had to leave the trunk holding Lizzie’s worldly possessions there and walk to Bandana. Ed, or someone in his family, returned later with a wagon to retrieve it.

Lizzie’s first grandson Alvin Livingston (her first and favorite, by everyone’s account) and his wife Carolyn now live in a house on the site of the last house that Lizzie and Ed built, a house ordered from Sears. Alvin thinks he has Lizzie’s trunk. He knows that he has her Swedish Bible.

I have been avid to see this Bible since last winter, when I heard about it on one the Thursday evenings when we gather to talk about what life was like before electricity or much in the way of roads reached our community.

Lizzie used that Bible, and an English translation, my neighbors said, to teach herself written English. I picture her bending over the two Good Books in the light of an oil lamp, at the end of a long day’s labors, as the katydids struck up their pulsating chorus, or as the fire crackled in the stove. I watch her comparing the familiar words in one to the unfamiliar words in the other.

I marvel at her determination, and imagining her, kindle with the joy she must have felt as the meanings of unfamiliar words clarified over the years, the way a stream gradually clears after something stirs it up. She learned what she set out to learn, though Lizzie never lost her, “brogue.” Water was “vater.” Those who remember her, remember that. Her comprehension clarified though her tongue never did, entirely, over the years.

Lizzie was born in 1893 and died in 1963, of the heart problems that killed two of her brothers in their 40s, back in Sweden where all of the Pederson men remained, perhaps they were not less adventurous than their sisters, but because they inherited the Pederson land. I don’t know this though this is what I imagine. Between the time of her arrival, and her death 50 years later, what Lizzie established has survived her by nearly half a century.

Everyone agrees that Lizzie was a hard worker, a woman who prided herself on keeping a spotless house. She churned butter twice a week and “could scrape a pot so well she could get enough to feed an extra person.” She made sweet cinnamon rolls and never threw away leftover biscuits, but broke them up and put milk and sugar on them for bread pudding. She threw nothing away. She crocheted and quilted and darned socks, drawing the thread over a lump of wax to strengthen it. Raised a Lutheran, she became a loyal member of Silver Chapel Baptist Church, although her granddaughter Doris Hughes remembers her pulling a chair up close to the radio and bending forward to listen to, “The Lutheran Hour.”

Of course Lizzie raised a garden. Everyone did. She was a meticulous in its care as she was with her house. She didn’t tolerate weeds, or for that matter, rocks. As she hoed, she hauled along a bucket that she filled with whatever her stones her hoe struck. At the end of each row, she dumped it out. She planted enough beans in the field below the barn to feed her family through the winter – and enough to fill the back end of Jess Johnson’s pickup when he came through the community looking for produce to buy for his store on Mine Creek.

“How much you want for those beans,” he’d ask.

“All I can get.”

“Well, I couldn’t give you too much.”

“Vell, I can’t take too little.”

Through the years, Lizzie kept in touch with her siblings: with her sister Selma, married and settled in Minnesota, and with another sister Astrid – the one who married and returned to Sweden. In the late 1920s, Astrid paid Lizzie’s way home for a visit and gave her $50 to pay a neighbor couple to look after her and Ed’s four children while she was away. Ed, who does not come off as well as Lizzie in the recollections of those who knew him, found out about this arrangement, declared he could look after his young’uns himself, quit his job and demanded the $50 from the couple – and promptly spent half of it on a pocketwatch. It fell to daughter Selma, then about 12 years old, to do the cooking and take care of the younger children in her mother’s absence.

“Ed was worried to death that Lizzie wouldn’t come back,” someone recalls. He wasn’t very loving most of the time although he wrote her loving letters while she was gone. He needn’t have worried; Lizzie wasn’t tempted to remain in Sweden, although Bandana had seemed like the end of the earth when she first arrived here. She was happy to see her family, but she had no desire to toil on the Pederson farm for the rest of her life. After an absence of two or three months, she came home. Although she survived for another three decades, she never saw Sweden again.

I have said that I wanted to see Lizzie’s Swedish Bible. At Alvin and Carolyn’s one summer afternoon, I held it in my hands. It was missing both covers and some of its pages, which surprised me. The print was small, the paper of its pages thin. I leafed through them, looking for some sign of Lizzie, and on the leaf between the Old and New Testaments, I found it: the names and dates of the births of her four children, recorded in her hand with the Swedish spelling of the months: Robert in 1915; Selma in 1916; Wilma in 1919; Clarence in 1921.

I assumed that the missing covers and pages disappeared after her death, but thinking about it now, I wonder. It is the custom to record family births and deaths on the inside cover of family Bibles. Might Lizzie have used the sheet between the testaments because the covers were already missing? If so, why? She would not have been careless with this book. I picture her lugging a bucket of rocks out of a bean field under a blazing sun. I see her scraping the last smidgeon of food from a pan, or bending her ear to the radio. But the scene in which part of her Bible is lost eludes me. It will not clarify, it hovers beyond my imagining, torn from any account of her, it seems, forever.

 

Our thanks again to Blue Ridge Country, Cara Ellen, Elizabeth and Carolyn.

 


 

Remembering Lizzie:

 

I was so thrilled to read Elizabeth Hunter’s story on Lizzie Robinson (Nov/Dec’07). She was a gracious lady. I can remember my mom stopping to visit Lizzie when I was a small child. I thought her house was the “biggest house” compared to the two-room log house I was born and partially raised in. I remember when Lizzie and Ed’s first grandchild, Alvin, was born. My childhood friend and I stopped in to see the new baby. Lizzie made sure we didn’t have a cold or sore throat before we were allowed to go near the baby. What stands out most in my mind was the fact that Lizzie and her family did a very kind deed for an uncle of mine. His wife died, leaving him with two small daughters and a newborn, three-week old baby girl. They took this baby and kept her until she was about six months old, until another uncle and his wife were able to take her and raise her as their own. In time this baby grew up, left Bandana, and is now a grandmother.

That is the kind of people Ed and Lizzie Robinson were.

 

Elberta Wing
Kernersville, NC

 


 

Bashful Mountain Man Helps Woman, Children

From Roaming The Mountains
by John Parris

 

ESTATOE – A brace of wild turkeys for his love lay at his feet.

But the pretty slip of a girl for whom they were intended didn’t even know that John Bailey existed.

For the young mountain man was shy and bashful when it came to making a play openly for the love of Ruthie Ellis.

So, he courted her from afar while he tried to get up the courage to tell her he was the mysterious and unseen visitor who left gifts at her cabin door.

It had been going on for six months and now John Bailey stood atop his secret lookout and scanned the pattern of the valley below.

Leaning on his rifle, his eyes searched for a glimpse of the girl who had unknowingly stolen his heart.

A brace of wild turkeys that he had shot as he had come up the mountain lay at his feet.

The twilight of an early winter evening lay upon the land.

About noon there had been a flurry of snow and the sheltered coves and clearings of Estatoe Valley were still dusted white.

But now the sweep of the sky was cold and clear in spite of a blaze of pinkish red behind Celo and Deer Ridge.

The light faded, turning an apple green and the less practiced eye would have seen nothing more than the masses of pines among the gray oaks and walnuts in the wilderness below.

But John Bailey had a keen eye. He could squint across a creek and knock out a deer’s eye with his muzzle-loader or bark a squirrel off a tree on a cloudy day.

Because he was sharp of eye he saw something that pleased him and set his heart to pounding.

Far down there, down there in the clearing surrounding a lonely cabin on the Estatoe Trail, he spied a sudden movement.

Out of the cabin chimney came a puff of smoke as somebody heaped fresh wood on a fire.

And then he made out the figure of a woman chopping wood in an open space at the side of the cabin. Two or three children played near her by the chimney wall.

John Bailey picked up the turkeys and swung himself down from an outcropping of rock and headed toward Estatoe and the cabin.

He parodied an old, old folk song singing as he picked his way down the mountain. “bring my love two turkeys, two turkeys I bring my love.”

It was dark when he reached the clearing. As he came up to the open space before the cabin, the door suddenly opened and a young woman came out. The light of the fire cast a red shadow across the snow for a moment. Then the door closed.

John Bailey froze in his tracks. It would never do to be seen. He stood in a shadow in the fringe of rhododendron and held his breath until the woman disappeared into the low cow shed in back of the cabin.

And then he disappeared into the night headed for his cabin some ten miles away on South Toe River, near what now is Bowditch. Even in daylight it was a difficult journey for there was no trail and the country was wild.

But, John Bailey didn’t mind. He was as happy as a lark. He had fetched his love a brace of turkeys which he knew would please her for she had no man of her own to provide her with game.

And what was a long walk of ten miles when he had seen his love even if it was no more than a glimpse. He had seen her with the firelight in her dark hair, and that was enough to send his blood aboil.

When Ruthie came back to the cabin she saw the turkeys leaning up against the door. She bent down, picked them up and went on inside the cabin.

The children, lying before the fire, looked up and said:

“Where did you get the turkeys? Bet you didn’t shoot them. Bet some feller left them.”

Ruthie Ellis said:

“They were at the door when I came back from the cowshed. There at the door, like the quail and the fish and the piece of deer meat.”

For a moment she stared into the fire, thoughtful like.

“Sure wish I knew who brought them” she said, more or less to herself. “It’s a puzzle, that’s what it is.”

Ruthie Ellis was a newcomer to the mountains.

She had come down from Maryland about a year back, the Christmas of 1806 in a wagon with the Griffith, Silver, Buchanan and other families. She had started out with her sister, her sister’s husband, Henry Buchanan and their children.

They had heard tales of a virgin land where pine trees were in squads on the ridges and trooped down tho drink the waters that rippled with bass and trout.

They had heard stories of a land where there was beaver and deer and bear and of unclaimed acres that would fatten cattle and hogs. A land that would supply food and money, what with beaver skins selling at two dollars apiece and other pelts as high as five dollars apiece.

But shortly before the immigrants reached the Valley of the Toe, both her sister and her sister’s husband took sick and died. Ruthie was left to take care of her kinfolk’s children ranging from two to six years old.

When Ruthie woke up on Christmas morning of 1806, snow was blowing in her face and she was on Big Crabtree near what is now Spruce Pine.

Here, the party broke up with each family proceeding to their land grant. It was a wilderness sparsely settled.

So, when the families went their separate ways, Ruthie was faced with the prospect of taking care of three orphaned children as well as making a place for herself single-handedly in a new and difficult environment.

In that area, now composing Avery, Mitchell and Yancey Counties, there were but 40 families.

Most of the folks that came down from Maryland settled in or near Little Crabtree Creek and began felling trees and grooving logs for their homes.

Ruthie and the children stayed with friends at first.

Then she went boldly off by herself, settling on the Estatoe Road at the forks where the byroad turns off to Brushy Creek where her friends built her a cabin.

She was ten miles from her friends and it was a hard living for a single woman but she was as courageous as all-get-out.

That was where John Bailey saw her for the first time during the following year. He saw her from far off and fell in love with her. But, she didn’t see him and didn’t know that was a John Bailey in the land.

However, she had heard of the Baileys. Everybody in the Valley of the Toe had heard of them. They were quality folks, owned a heap of land and were well to do.

After getting his first look at Ruthie, John Bailey set his cap for her. But he was so shy and bashful that he couldn’t come right out and make his intentions known. Instead, he started sneaking a creel of trout, a piece of deer meat.

Strangely enough, everyone in the valley knew about John Bailey’s feelings for Ruthie Ellis. That is, everybody but Ruthie Ellis herself.

So it was in the summer of 1807 all the families gathered to hear a wandering preacher, and Ruthie told a friend about her mysterious visitor who, unseen, brought her fish and game.

“Law me, child,” said the woman, “Don’t you know who that is? Why, it’s John Bailey. That’s him, standing over yonder. And a handsome feller he is.”

Before the day was out, folks saw that John and Ruthie came together.

They hit it off right away and John asked if he could come calling and Ruthie said she would be mighty happy to see him.

First thing you know, John up and asked Ruthie to marry him. And she said, “yes” hardly before the words were out of his mouth.

John Bailey assumed responsibility of Ruthie and three orphan children. He built a new home near Penland and moved his family into it. From this new home they could look up and see the peak where John had spent many an hour gazing down on Ruthie and wishing he get up enough courage to tell Ruthie he loved her. They prospered, lived happily and had children of their own.

And when folks got to wanting a county government of their own – you see this was Burke County then – John Bailey got right out and fought for it. And they got it!

They named the County Yancey and John sold the County 100 acres of land for the county seat, which took the name of Burnsville. In time a peak was named for John Bailey. It was a peak where he had spent many an hour looking down on Ruthie Ellis’ cabin and dreamed of making her his wife.

All of which goes to prove that love finds a way, even when a fellow hides from the girl he loves.

(John Bailey m. Ruthie Ellis > Nancy Bailey m. Lewis Buchanan > Jane Monrovie Buchanan m. Levi Dewise Silver.)

(George Silver Sr. > George Silver Jr. > Rev. Jacob Silver > Alfred Leonard Silver > Levi Dewise Silver m. Jane Monrovie Buchanan.)

 


 

Green Mountain Boy

By Jack Silver

 

(True story that I never told my buddies in the army)

 

When I first went into the army in WW2, I was stationed at Camp Blanding, Florida, near Jacksonville. I was a green mountain boy, a yokel, with not much experience in cities, and in particular, restaurants. I had never eaten in a restaurant or a café, never.

About the only thing I knew about restaurants was in the movies, where there was always a man that couldn’t read the French menu, and other actors made fun of him, so I thought all cafés had French menus.

One Sunday morning, about four weeks after I arrived at camp, I was given a 1 day pass to go into Jacksonville. They gave the pass to me just before breakfast, and told me that I had to hurry to catch the bus into town at the main gate. I left without breakfast.

I had not had time to make any buddies, so I went alone, and when I got into Jacksonville, most of the other men on the bus went into bars or pool halls. I wanted to see the city and soon I looked around and I was the only soldier on the street. I began to get hungry and started looking for an A&P store to buy some bread and something to go in it. I sure wasn’t going to a café and get laughed at because I couldn’t read a French menu. There was not a single grocery store open that I could find. I was getting hungrier and hungrier.

I decided to find a café and just look around. I was desperate for something to eat. The only place I found open was a drug store. It had some writing on the glass window that said there was a lunch counter inside, and they served breakfast and lunch. I was torn between starving to death or being laughed at. Finally, I decided to follow the next man who went inside and to order whatever he did by just saying, “The same for me!” after he had read the menu.

It wasn’t long before an older man entered and I stayed right behind him. He did sit down at the lunch counter and a waitress came down and yelled at us, “What’ll you have, Sweeties?” Where was that French menu? I didn’t know but I decided to stick with plan A. When the older man said, “A banana split,” I simply said, “The same for me.” I didn’t look up at the waitress and she went toward the front and returned with 2 banana splits. That sure wasn’t what I wanted to eat but it was better than nothing, or so I thought.

The older man gobbled his banana split down and left quickly. I watched as he picked up the ticket that the waitress had left and took it to the register and paid. I took my time and tried to let my hungry tummy digest the banana split as I ate. After several big swallows, I remembered what my Dad had taught me. He said to always give thanks and not be like the pig. He said, “A pig just keeps on eating acorns and never looks up to see where they come from.” I closed my eyes and thanked God for, “this that I am about to receive.” Then I raised my eyes upward to let God know that my words were for Him. When I opened my eyes, I saw the menu on the wall behind the counter.

The menu was in plain old American English. No French words. If I had only looked up! The menu said they had one egg for 25 cents, two eggs for 45 cents, and with sausage or bacon for 60 cents. Coffee was 5 cents a cup. I felt stupid. At that time I should have yelled for the waitress and ordered myself some breakfast, but I was too backward and too afraid I would make a fool out of myself. I just continued to eat my banana split.

Then I decided on plan B. I would finish the banana split, pay for it and leave. I would come back in about 30 minutes and eat. The menu also said they had a blue-plate special lunch for 75 cents. That is what I would eat if I was too late for breakfast. I picked up my ticket and was paying at the cash register when the split decided to…..well…..split. It came up into my mouth and I left a half dollar with the ticket and ran for the door. I made it to the curb. I left the scene on a run and I knew I would not go back. I took off running and didn’t stop until I entered the little bus station about 5 blocks up the street.

I stayed in that waiting room until the bus left about 2 hours later for camp. Once back inside the gate, I went at a fast trot and reached our mess hall just in time to follow the last man in line. The cook handed both of us our lunches in a paper bag. It had 1 piece of lunch meat, 1 piece of cheese, 2 slices of bread and an apple. Cold cuts!

I wanted to cuss or cry and couldn’t do either. I took my “eat out” lunch to the PX and purchased a tall Nehi orange drink, 2 packs of peanut butter crackers and went out into the beer garden. I took my time and ate my swell, elegant lunch.

As I left, I bought 4 more packs of peanut butter crackers. I always kept 2 packs of these crackers in my pocket at all times while I was in the army and could get them. I have never been back to Jacksonville, even after 63 years. Someone there might recognize me and laugh. I couldn’t take that.

 


 

John Silver
Genealogist & Editor
64S Fairfield Drive
Dover, DE 19901
302-697-1520
 
[email protected]

Barney Kaufman
WebMaster
7408 Lake Drive
Manassas, VA 20111-1960
703-368-9018 
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