A twin-like experience

It had become Monday in the second week of the vacation (actually week second and a half, as we arrived in the US on a Thursday) and the first whole day in Lenoir and the surrounding area. The day was going to turn out to be more interesting than I had anticipated when I was planning it. The day before, I had visited the small, abandoned Fairfield Cemetery, where I had located one and given up on another of the two tombstones I was looking for. You can read about that in the article No more bubbles. The one I had found belongs to a man named J. W. Winkler, who testified at Tom Dooley's trial, and today I would go searching for another headstone in another cemetery. This time it was Mr. Winkler's wife and son (who have a shared stone). Mrs. Winkler is supposed to have been Laura Foster's best friend and according to family lore, almost a mother to her (which is doubtful as she was only 3-4 years older than Laura) and the son later married Ann Melton's youngest daughter, Ida. Confused? So read my pages about Tom Dooley, or better yet - buy my Tom Dooley book when it is - hopefully - published in the spring or summer of 2020. The cemetery I was going to visit Monday is called Bellview and it is still active, and not small in any way. In fact, it covers several square miles and there are over 4,000 graves.

View of Bellview Cemetery in Lenoir

I chose to take my car up there, though it was actually within walking distance; namely about half an hour's walk. When I chose to drive even so, it was partly because I had to continue elsewhere after the visit, but also because it was already 95 F when I left The Irish Rose at 8.30 and quite humid. I found a place to park at a church, St. Paul Ame Church close to the cemetery, which is owned and maintained by the city. After parking the car I went down to what I thought was the main entrance to the cemetery, and entered. Then I just had to locate the stone in question, and since I had no idea where it was, I simply had look around the cemetery, and see if I had any luck. The cemetery is located on two hilltops with a valley in between, in which runs a small stream. I started on the hill closest to the entrance, and walked around here for some time, but without finding the stone, so I had to grit my teeth and head down the hill and up again on the opposite side. I don't know what the temperature was, but at least it hadn't gotten any cooler since I left the B&B.

However, I did not find what I was looking for. but on the other hand, I found Robert Lee Isbell's grave by chance. Isbell served as a minister in Lenoir for more than 60 years, but more important to me, he was the son of Tom Dooley's avid persecutor, James Isbell (another reason to buy my book), and he wrote his childhood memories that I have used quite a bit in my research into the Dooley case. After walking around the entire cemetery and looking at all the tombstones - or so I believed - without being able to locate the right one, I decided to drive up to the city's local history museum, Caldwell Heritage Museum, to see if they should be in possession of any records of who was buried where. When I got up there the door was open and there was a car parked just outside. I parked my car in the official parking lot and walked into the building. When I came inside it was very empty, but I could see a lady sitting behind a counter, and as I got closer I could see that it was Cindy Day, the museum director, whom I had met during my visit in April (see Museums and exhibitions), and she remembered me as well - maybe because not that may Danes visit the museum. She told me that the museum was closed on Mondays, so I said I would come back the next day. She didn't think it was necessary though; I could just ask what I wanted to, so I did. She disappeared into a back room; probably their reading room which contains many exciting documents and books. While she was gone, an elderly gentleman, with whom she apparently had an appointment, entered the museum - and when she returned with a book in her hand, they also greeted each other nicely , and she introduced us to each other. He turned out to be Richmond Bernhardt (a well-known surname in Lenoir - one of the city's biggest companies is Bernhardt's Furniture Factory). In the book she brought, there were lists of all the people buried in the cemetery and in which section they were buried. In addition, there were maps showing where the individual sections were located. Here I found that the stone sought was in Section D, Lot 49, and I took pictures of both the relevant page of names and the maps, and then I had made ready to say thank you ans return to the cemetery.

Twin Poplars on the northern outskirts of Lenoir.

However, I did not get that far, because Cindy told me me that she and her husband were on their way to a very special place on the outskirts of the town. American towns are often spread over quite large areas and Lenoir is no exception. The place where Cindy and her husband were going, was a certain tree, which played a large part in one of the Cherokee legends, and she offered me to come with them? Since this tribe is also one of my great interests, I accepted with pleasure and gratitude. She just had to get her husband, Jack, who was in a back room and then lock the museum. When Jack had surfaced and the museum had been locked, we were ready to go, but it turned out they had so much equipment in their car that there was only room for one passenger, so we decided that Richmond should go with them I would follow in my own (rented) car. The place we were going to visit was called Twin Poplars, and it was a place that I would never have found on my own even if I had known it existed - not even with an explanation. Cindy and Jack led the way and I tagged along. The first long stretch I could have found on my own, as we were just heading north on US 321, also called Blowing Rock Boulevard, because it leads to Blowing Rock and later on towards Boone and even further - actually it ends somewhere in Tennessee. We followed this one on a stretch that I know very well, namely from the intersection with NC 18 in Lenoir to where US 321 intersects with the eastern terminus of North Carolina Highway 268, but from here I was lost. Instead of turning right on 268, as I usually do (to get to "Dooley-land") Jack turned left onto a smaller road called Warrior Road. After that we turned a couple of times on still smaller roads, and we actually passed a road called Twin Poplars Road, but Jack continued past that. Eventually, he turned up on something that looked neither like a road nor a path, and which I would never have dared take if I had been on my own. But it was actually a road or at least a driveway, leading up to a locked gate, so here we had to stop. However, Cindy has a key, so she opened the gate and we could continue some distance through the woods to an open area with a barn. Here we were able to park the cars before continuing on foot along a small path that split several times, and as it was important to choose the right branch each time, it is only for people with local knowledge - or a lot of time to walk all the branches. However, Cindy knew exactly where to go, and the rest of us just followed. When we reached the place where the tree was located, we of course had to take some pictures of the "party", but the tree does not show in the pictures, as it was down a steep slope. However, Cindy and I climbed down the slope, which was quite steep and also muddy, while Richmond and Jack stayed up the trail. It turned out that at the very bottom of the tree was a geocache, so here is a place for geocaching enthusiasts to visit. After we had seen and photographed the tree, we again climbed up the slope to Richmond and Jack.

So what's with this tree then? As, as the name suggests, there are actually two trees, two poplar trees, but what makes them special is that they have grown together, not down at the root as you often see, but well up the trunks. The two trees are actually seven or eight feet apart at the bottom, but 10 or 15 feet up the trunk they meet and become a single stem. According to the Cherokee legend, Cindy told us, the Cherokees had been at war sometime in the 18th century with the Catawba tribe (something that happened a lot). This particular war had lasted for a long time and been quite bloody, but eventually peace was made, and as a sign of the eternal friendship now existing between the two tribes, two young poplar trees were tied together, and now 250 years later, they have turned into Twin Poplars. Whether the story is true, or whether it is just one of nature's whims, I dare not say, but it's a nice story. When we got back up we chatted a bit more before walking back to the cars. Cindy then offered come with me to see if we could jointly locate the grave I had been looking for, and as Richmond would also like to visit the cemetery, where some of his relatives are buried (he was born and raised in Lenoir, but now lived in Greensboro), we ended up driving there in both cars. When we got there, we drove into the cemetery in the cars, what I hadn't in the morning. We probably wouldn't do that in Denmark, but I've seen it before in the US and Tim and I did likewise in 2014 at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, Rhode Island (see the article The final cemetery). Jack and Richmond went to look for the latter's family, while Cindy and I started looking for "my" stone. While we were busy searching, Jack took Richmond back to the museum where his car was parked as he had to get home to Greensboro, and right as we had found the grave, he returned to pick up Cindy. I thanked the two of them them for both the assistance in finding the grave and the experience they had given me. All this would not have happened, if I had not happened to visit the museum on a day when it was normally closed - and just the time when Cindy was there. Coincidence is great sometimes.

Richmond, Cindy and Jack

Thus once again, I had been confirmed that most people in this area of ​​the United States are extremely friendly and helpful, as the title of my first book suggests. "Land of Friendliness and Beauty - A Danes Guide to Western North Carolina and it is for sale on the internet so it can be purchased online from stores like amazon.com - maybe a late Christmas gift idea? Or wait for spring as an updated version is on it's way. More advertising here! When I said goodbye and my two hosts had left, I headed to Hickory, where there is a Barnes & Noble bookstore that I wanted to visit. Here I acquired a single book (a novel). I was on the look out for two more books, but one was not on the shelf even if their system said it should be, and the other they had never heard of (I have gotten both online at a later date though). From Hickory I then took the "favorite highway" (I-40) west past Morganton and Marion to Old Fort which I had visited the previous year, and I got a new picture of the 10 feet tall granite arrowhead, raised where the old fort, which gave its name to the town, used to be. From Old Fort I chose to use US 70 back east to Marion.

From Marion, I headed north on US 221 north to Linville Falls (the town, not the waterfalls of the same name). Along the way, I passed North Cove, where another of my acquaintances is a teacher at the local school. As it was during the summer holiday, she wasn't there of course, so I didn't stop. From Linville Falls, I drove quite a short distance (about 6 miles) on Blue Ridge Parkway, before taking NC 181 south, past Brown Mountain Overlook, without stopping on this occasion. When I reached the road where I got lost in 2015 when I was driving in the opposite direction (see Getting lost in the mountains), I took this one back towards Lenoir; and this time without any problems with my sense of direction. I got back to "The Rose" just before 6 pm, so I just went straight up to the room and refreshed myself, and at 6.30 I went out to get something to eat. I had already decided to try a new place that had opened, "The Salad Bar" - the name suggests what they serve. When I asked, they told me that the restaurant had only been open for two months, which explained why I had not seen it in April. As an appetizer you could choose from a few different soups and beside that of couse a salad and dessert buffet. The soup I chose was Barley and Beef and it was excellent. The same was the salad bar, although of course there are some who criticize it on Tripadvisor because the offerings on the buffet isn't exactly what they want. But I found it excellent and everything including a soda and gratuity amounted to less than $20. I skipped the dessert buffet - and I hadn't paid for it either! After dinner, I strolled back to "The Rose" where I had a brief chat with Rose (as usual in the kitchen) before heading up to the room to relax after a long day.
 

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