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Installment 5 of the true story of a mountain girl

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By Charlotte Underwood

This is the continued story of a mountain girl named Nancy Smith. Recorded by Mary Ina Carr many years ago, the story recounts the real-life adventures, trials and successes experienced by Nancy. Lost in the woods as a little girl and adopted by a mountain family, Nancy then finds happiness in marriage only to have that snatched away as well, yet she continues on. It is a story of mountain strength and perseverance. The story recorded by Mary Ina Carr, is a piece of history experienced in the late 1800,s yet recounted and brought to life as if it were only yesterday. This story lay dormant for many years before being submitted by Carr’s granddaughter Mary L. Johnson.

The last installment found Nannie heartbroken from her husband’s death as a result of Typhoid fever. The betrayal of her brothers-in-law robbing her blind and leaving her for dead had almost broken her spirit, but Nannie’s story isn’t over yet.

Installment 5 of Mnt. Girl

It was during her recuperation that my mother heard of her through some Knoxville relatives of the Hall’s. Dad was a locomotive engineer on the E. T. V. & G Railway and mother had a great many customers she sewed for. Mother was expecting her third child and in those days before sixteen hour laws were in effect, my father was often on his trips for a week at a time- so my mother would need a nurse as well as company when Dad was away. So one day they boarded the train for the mountain village, hired a rig and found Nannie and the Halls. They persuaded Nannie to come and live with us. Mamma’s final appeal to her was that she had herself nursed my own father through nine weeks of typhoid and six weeks of a relapse of it and that Nannie should rest instead of trying to do any farm work. She also said that in Knoxville they could hire a lawyer and apprehend her thieving in-laws, so Nannie returned with them. Little as I was, I shall never forget those short red curls of hers and her big brown eyes.

True to their promise my folks hired a lawyer and with writ of replevin got some of her things for her. They, the brothers, didn’t have the gold nor money to replace it and they had sold John’s gold watch and chain, but Nannie got most of her furniture and her trunk full of clothes, her coverlets, blankets and quilts, and the three thieves got a year each in jail.

Nannie never learned to read or write but a smarter person never lived. She was attentive to reading and it was a nightly habit for my mother or us children when we could read well enough, to read aloud. The Bible, current ladies magazines, Youth’s Companion, newspapers, etc. Mother read the Knoxville Journal and Tribune (now Knoxville Journal) every morning to Nannie while she was clearing the breakfast dishes. She was included in everything we did, and seemed like an aunt instead of an outsider. We never treated her as other than on of the family and she made many friends her own age among our neighbors and friends. She was free to make any plans of her own-go and come when she liked and have her friends come and visit her.

She became a member of the Christian Church and would go to the evening service accompanied by my older brother and me. There was a widower who had buried two wives that started going to evening services shortly after Nannie did. His name was Mr. Schneider but my brother Harrod and I thought he was Blue Beard because he had buried two wives. He began walking home from church with us and we were scared of him, but my brother Harrod would flank Nannie on one side and I on the other so “Old Pop Schneider” as we called him would have to do his sparking over our heads.

Nannie would use his name as a weapon when we were naughty. She would tell us as she took her splint bonnet from its accustomed nail on the back door, “All right, if you will be naughty, I’ll go marry Pop Schneider” and often in tears we would promise and plead for her not to do that- we would be angels if she stayed with us and of course it was years later before we knew she never intended going farther than the barn for eggs or to a neighborhood grocery, but it worked miracles with our behavior.