Monday, June 19, 2006

People of the Mountains

We are making plans on spending this coming weekend in Franklin, North Carolina. We are going for two reasons: to attend The First Annual Reunion Descendants of John and Nancy Sumner Ray and to meet fellow bloggers Steve and Bird.

But something is not right. How can something be “The First Annual Reunion….”? It seems that next year, if it is held again, could be called “The First Annual…” because a year has went by since the first meeting. I mean it can’t qualify to be an annual even until it is an annual event, which will be next year. Oh well, it is just words.

Except for the “The First Annual Reunion” part of the title, the rest, “The Descendants of John and Nancy Ray Sumner Ray” part is the name of a family genealogy book by a distant cousin Thelma Welch Swanson.

Thelma is dead now. Before she died we communicated by old fashion postal mail about a dozen or more years. She helped me a lot in my continuing search for information on the Trammell family. Thelma was a retired school teacher and a widow. She was an active member and officer of the Macon County Historical Society and helped edit and publish the book “Macon County Heritage – North Carolina”.

The reason we communicated the old fashion way was she didn’t have a computer. The closest she got to owning anything like that was word processing machine which was similar to an electric typewriter and I suppose it had the about the same benefits of Word or Word Perfect.

One year, in the mid 1980s, during the school’s Spring Holidays Anna had to go to Ohio on business for a week. I took off a week to care for the boys.

We went with her as far as Knoxville (2 cars), then she went on northward towards Ohio and the boys and I drove down and toured the Smokey Mountains. We went to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, over the huge mountains of the Smokey Mountain National Park, and into the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

From there it wasn’t far from Franklin, so we drove into Franklin. We got us a hotel on the north side of town across from the armory. A family of Indians (Eastern) ran the motel. The whole area was saturated with the smell of steamed cabbage. We rode around a bit to look around and eat. At the foot of the hill of the road of our motel was the Little Tennessee River. Next to the road and the river was an very unique Indian Mounds. Well, I suppose all Indian Mounds are unique – but this one stood out. Mountain lore tales says this Indian Mound is the mound of the “Little People”.

Were they Leprechaun Indians hunting bison and gathering berries?

My g-g-g-grandmother Polly Hogshed, who was married to Jacob Trammell was a Cherokee Indian. She drowned in this part of the Little Tennessee River while tending to her fish baskets between 1850 and 1860.

Because that I am directly descended from Polly Hogshed Trammell I can legally do what other Indians do… like get shot by cowboys and walk around and have my picture taken with tourists in front of a teepee for a $10 tip per picture, not bad, not bad. But most importantly, I can legally hunt and fish on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, that you whiteys can’t. Now, if I can just get somebody to put the messy bait on the hooks for me.

The next morning we had a pre-arranged meeting with Thelma Swanson.

Thelma lived just a few blocks from Main Street. She lived in a duplex. She lived in one side of the duplex and her sister Polly (not the Indian) lived on the other side. Polly was also a widow.

They had a deck the with of their duplex in the back. It was very pleasant to sit on and get to know each other while Rocky and Adam chased each other, climbed trees, hung from the deck with both arms and dropped, and all other things kids that age do.

Thelma was then in her late mid 70s. We took her car because she was tall with long legs – she wasn’t sure, once she unfolded in our little Honda Civic there would be enough leg room for her.

Thelma took us all over the Burningtown Community of Macon County where most of our ancestors and their families and even present day descendants has pretty much infested the area.

We also walked over a number of cemeteries in the Burningtown area and downtown Franklin.

At the Burningtown Baptist Church Cemtery I found the tombstone for my great grandfather, William A. Trammell/Hunter’s old buddy Posey C. Wild. When I found his marker it was like meeting an old friend. I have read and deducted so much about this man and his family. He and William fought on Kennesaw Mountain together and Posey was with my William when he was shot. Posey ran and William played dead and they went chasing him, and ran by William.

Later William’s Trammell uncle’s son married one of Posey’s daughters – and one of their son jumped out of a hay loft onto a pitchfork and was killed.

Another of Posey’s daughters was mentally challenged and was gangbanged by the local “good old boys” and she became pregnant. According to the court records Posey carried the boys to court, but I never found the outcome of it all.

Climbing over these old cemetery plots, some with little brick walls and all kinds of obstacles to deal with Thelma did great for her age, taking big giant steps and all.

Thelma also took us to meet a Ray descendant, an 90 year old bachelor who was living in the house John Ray built back in the early 1800s. He was a very healthy alert gentle man.

We also found my great great great great grandfather William A. Trammell’s grave in the downtown First Methodist Church cemetery – I already submitted a blog on that.

We thanked Thelma for a lovely educational day and went on our way.

We continued our correspondence and she told me she had fell and broke a hip.

A few years later Anna and I went to Cherokee County and I played blackjack at Herrard’s Casino… I played four hours before I lost what I allowed, ten dollars. In the evening we also went to the outdoors play the Indians put on called “Unto These Hills”.

“Unto These Hills” is a rough play giving a rough diagram of how peaceful the Indians were through history and how the white man has gypped and mistreated them. It starts with Desoto’s men mistreating them and a brief outline with highlights.

One of the highlights was “The Trail of Tears” and a certain Indian and his family. This certain Indian was a real person. I just surfed Google trying to find out his name, I vaguely remember it was something like Tchuma. For the sake of this, lets call him Tchuma. The Cherokee Indians were uprooted from their homes and sent to Oklahoma. Tchuma’s wife was sick and a soldier hit her to make her move quicker and the blow killed her. Tchuma and his sons immediately killed the offending soldier. They ran for the hills and hid out. General Winfred Scott had his men hunting all over for them but couldn’t fine them. He wanted to punish them for killing a soldier. The General finally put out word saying if they came in and surrendered themselves the remaining Indians hiding could stay. So, Tchuma and his sons came in and were killed. General Scott kept his word and established the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

Now, keep the above paragraph in mind, Tchuma will resurface in a minute.

The next day we drove to Franklin and visited with Thelma. This time she didn’t look too good. She told us of one operation she had that didn’t go well and she still couldn’t walk well from her hip surgery. Before she was a crusty old dame but this time she looked really fragile.

We had a nice visit and we discussed our latest genealogy findings. I jokingly asked her if she was hiding out Eric Rudolph. She got very serious. She told me people around there knew Eric and some admired him. She said she used to teach Eric and his brother. She said Eric spent the first several years of his life in Florida but their family moved up there to some property they owned. She went on to say what a complex person Eric was, and she talked as if she knew him and his family well.

Then, she told us about her great-great-g(?) grandfather Welch hiding the Indian Tchuma from Scott’s soldiers. She said her progenitor hid Tchuma and his sons in his barn and he stayed there until General Scott put out word if they turned themselves in he would let the others Indians remain.

I don’t think Tchuma and Eric Rudolph are men with similar causes or axes to grind (wait! That was Eric’s brother!), about the only thing they had in common was their fugitive status.

About two months after our visit Polly sent me a copy of Thelma's obituary.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we stayed at that hotel back when we moved here in 1999.

1:12 AM  
Blogger ET said...

I forgot to say across the road from a motel was a school too.

2:01 AM  

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