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The true life of a mountain girl continues

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By Charlotte Underwood

The oral tradition of storytelling has long been a staple of life and entertainment in the Appalachian Mountains. It is through these tales of mountain life and perseverance that we learn about the past through those who have walked these rugged mountain trails before us.

The story of a mountain girl named Nancy Smith, 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 young Nancy taken in by a kindly mountain family who treated her as one of their own.

Mnt. Girl Installment 3

She learned to milk the cow, help wean the calf by letting it suck her fingers in a pail of milk, fed chickens, hunted duck eggs, slopped the pigs and was happy as a queen.

The visits to the settlement were not often and when there was a letter it was a very auspicious occasion. If the preacher was there (he came once a month on horseback) he read the letter for them and if not the school master or old Judge Sevier. They would have gone further in order to learn what their son, Lloyd (who was fighting with those noble southerners for what they thought were their honest rights) was doing.

If John and Liza Tyson had opinion of the war, Nannie said they never spoke of it before her. She said she reckoned the Tysons thought she had enough to worry about.

As weeks and months rolled by no mention was made of her bitter past. On one trip to the settlement they bought her the first pair of shoes she ever owned. They exchanged eggs, tobacco, water, water ground cornmeal and other produce for calico, sugar and a small supply of medicines.

In time they gave Nannie things for her own, such as a little lamb to raise. I think the Tysons started the 4-H movement with Nannie. She carded, spun, dyed (from poke berry juice and other mountain flower seed) and wove on a hand loom a beautiful coverlet from her little lamb’s wool. This led to other things for every worn-out garment was torn into strips and woven into the well known rag carpets. She learned to knit, sew, can, preserve and pickle and many, many bushels of wild blackberries did she pick from those mountains and ravines, also blue berries, dew berries, wild plums and crab apples.

The years slipped by. Lloyd didn’t return. Sherman saw to that at Atlanta, but when Nannie was in her teens she was in demand in the entire county as a nurse, midwife, farmhand, cook and for any chore where an extra hand was needed. Sometimes she was paid in cash, other times with a pig or calf and just as often with a “Mighty thankful to you Miss Nancy” when folks were just so poor and so many mouths of their own to feed, “Love Suffered Long” but was kind in Nannie.

The war had taken its toll among the settlement folks and it was the heart breaking time of reconstruction even in the mountains. Nannie mothered and comforted everyone and made many, many friends.

Then came the time and much talk of the railroad E. T. V & G-later the Southern, double tracks up to Asheville, North Carolina. Clearing started, new three room “shot gun” houses sprang up- strangers moved in with their families to work with the section gang.

John Faulkner was the foreman in charge and he fell head over heels in love with Nannie and she with him. They planned their marriage. Nannie worked diligently on her weddin’ clothes, ruffled and scored, trimmed with laces, knitted and crocheted and her newly acquired horse hair covered trunk contained not only pretty chemises, petticoats and nightgowns but also home spun and hand loomed coverlets, blankets, pieced and quilted quilts as well as store bought sheets, pillow cases and pillow shams.

Also in her dowry was a feather bed she had made and a pair of goose feather filled pillows so when three months later their favorite itinerant preacher came to preach, John had the ring and license and they were married and moved into one of the new and unpainted plank shot gun houses on a clearing that had a huge mountain spring on it. It was summer and Nannie said they were so happy. She had only to go a little way to pick the berries and fruit and she canned, made preserves and jellies for the winter’s supply. John was paid in gold in those days and he had a little nest egg of one hundred dollars in gold when they were married and the furniture was all paid for and they “owed not any man”.

Look for the 4th installment of Nannie’s story in next week’s LaFollette Press