Monday, March 28, 2011

Who Do I Think I Am? Wow! part 16

Thelma Welch Swanson (1917 – 20000). You may have noticed that Thelma’s name has popped up several times when I mentioned my ancestors and other relatives that lived in Franklin, Macon County, North Carolina. Thelma and I are distant cousins through the Ray family. We are both descended from John and Nancy Sumner Ray. She has found a lot of Trammell documents in the Macon County deed office that she sent to me. She used the U.S. Postal Service for her mode of communicating. She did not own a computer.

Thelma was not related to the Trammells. She just loved to share.

She was one of the chartered members of the Macon County Historical Society. She helped get it started. She also wrote several books, one which I referred to many times is John and Nancy Ray Sumner Ray and their Descendants.

One time I visited her we walked through three or four Franklin cemeteries we had climb banks, walls, and other physical feats. She scurried up those steep banks like a mountain goat and I was panting behind her, trying to keep up. At that time she was in her late 70s.

Not long afterwards she broke a hip and suddenly became not so active, which I think done her in.

Anna and I dropped by to visit her on the way back from the Cherokee Indian Reservation, not long before she died.

While we were visiting we mentioned we saw the outdoors play UNTO THESE HILLS while in Cherokee. UNTO THESE HILLS is about the white men breaking treaties with the Native Americans, The Trail of Tears, and the Indians who stayed behind to fight. The play is a compilation of many facts. One fact is an Indian, Tsali, who, after being forced off his land saw a soldier kill his wife because she fell. He killed the soldier. He and his two sons fled to the hills and caused a movement of Indians to stay back and fight for their land.

That really happened in history. The soldiers hunted all over and couldn’t find him or his sons General Winfield Scott made a deal with him (through the grapevine), that if he and his sons give themselves up to be punished for the killing they did the rest of the Indians, in hiding can stay and not be sent to Oklahoma.. He did, and the remaining Natives Americans stayed in a newly created Cherokee Indian Reservation at the foot of the Smoky Mountains.

Thelma told me her great-great grandfather, a Welch, the same as her maiden name, hid the Indian hero Tsali and his two sons for the months in his barn. That is another example of my "near-kin" making history.

Also, almost on the same subject, a fugitive, hiding in the mountains of North Carolina, I mentioned the authorities believed Eric Robert Rudolph was hiding someplace in those hills. Thelma, a retired school teacher, told me she knew Eric Rudolph and his family well. She said they came up from Florida. She said she taught him in school. She went on to say that the people of the Mountains of Western North Carolina, “hide their own kind” and that Eric was something of a local folk hero. She looked me straight in the eyes as she was telling me and didn’t flinch. I wondered if there was something she wasn’t telling me.

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