The true story of a mountain girl continues

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By Charlotte Underwood

The mysterious mist-filled Smoky Mountains hold onto tales and traditions that have long been forgotten elsewhere.

These oral traditions are often passed from family member to family member and on occasion someone will write the story out and capture a moment in time.

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 Nannie newly and happily married to railroad engineer John Faulkner.

Mnt. Girl Installment 4

    But Nannie’s life wasn’t to be serene and happy.  Two months after they were married John contracted typhoid fever and a month later died of it.  While nursing him day and night Nannie also took typhoid and John was dead and buried and Nannie in a coma and didn’t know of it for several weeks afterwards.

    John’s three brothers had come from Knoxville Tennessee to bury John.  Lying to the neighbors that they were moving Nannie to Knoxville, they stole everything in the house- money, furniture, food, clothing, and left only a tick filled with straw.  They put it on the floor with Nannie upon it and a half filled glass of water and left Nannie to die.  The neighbors had offered to help them pack the spring wagon, never dreaming of their perfidy and thievery-so all friends and mourners had returned  to their homes and the Faulkner brothers had full sway to get their loot.  Their nearest neighbor s lived about three miles away.  Nannie could never tell it without heartache and tears and we would cry with her.

    She had no idea of how many hours or days she was alone, but when she became conscience she was so hungry she tried to work a straw through the ticking to chew on.  She was so feeble, she couldn’t even do that.  The half-filled glass of water was out of reach and about full of dead flies and as she said, she would have rather died than to have drank that. Then she mercifully fell into a sound sleep to be awakened by a rap on the already opened door.  It was their friend the preacher, who was on his way for a service and hoped to find a cup for some water.  He was startled at both the home and Nannie’s emaciated face-about all he could see was her deep seated big brown eyes, but he quickly said, “Mrs. Faulkner, you need a fresh drink of water- I will fetch it,” and grabbing the glass from the floor he made for the spring on a run.  He washed the glass in the spring branch with sand and leaves and rinsed it over and over and then filling it from under the moss grown rocks he carried it to her.

    By the time he got back, Nannie was wondering where she was.  There wasn’t anyone or anything in sight.  Just where was John, where were her things?  Where was her pillow? These questions she began asking the preacher and he said later, he was praying all the way to the spring and back “What can I say”?  Then when he returned he told her she had been very ill and that typhoid was very contagious as she knew, so she surmised she had been put away in a pest house as they did folks with the small pox.  He hastened to tell her he was going to her neighbors and would return for her.  He raced the three miles and told them the sad situation.  They returned to Nannie with their spring wagon bed packed with a feather bed, a fan and old brown umbrella.  She was so thin and smelly that they put the tick on top of the feather bed, drove slowly and the Halls took her in to their already crowded cabin and cleaned and cared for her like she had done many times for them.

    A few days later the preacher told her all the details he had been able to learn.  The lies and thievery of her three brothers-in-law, but assured her that when she was able she could get all her belongings back again.  The blow of John’s death was the hardest.  She would always say, “Why couldn’t I have stayed well to care for him.  He was all I had.”

    Look for the 5th installment of Nannie’s story in next week’s LaFollette Press.