Two days with lots of experiences and nice people
In the next two days, I was going to meet at lot of very nice and not least knowledgeable people who shared my interest in the Dooley case and who knew a lot about this and especially the people in and around the case and I would see some places, that I havr never seen or at least noticed before.
A lot of nice people
The day had come when I was to meet Charlotte and Bill Barnes for the first time. So far, I only knew them from our mail correspondence. We had agreed that we would meet at the entrance to Whippoorwill Academy and Village in Ferguson at 9.30. That meant I I didn't have time for breakfast at the inn in Winston-Salem as it wasn't served until 8 am, and at that time I should be underway. Google Maps estimated the driving time to Ferguson to 1 hour and 10 minutes, but it was morning and there would be a lot of traffic until I was out of town, and I had decided to have an early start, so I brought my suitcase and backpack to the car, checked out and then I was on my way. On this occasion I did not have to use the GPS as I knew exactly where to go, so I drove north on Main Street and left the historic district. Shortly after, I crossed I-40 Business, which was the road I wanted to get on to. There was no access to the freeway at this intersection, but I knew that from the day before. To get to the interstate, I had to turn left on 1st Street. Unfortunately that was impossible because it was blocked by road work. 2nd Street was a one way street, but in the wrong direction. 3rd Street was also a one way street but in the right direction, but it was blocked by a large truck unloading goods. 4th Street was once again in the wrong direction, but at 5th Street I managed to finally turn left. At the second traffic light, I had to turn left again to get back to the freeway. Or rather, I thought I should. Because when I reached the freeway there wasn't any freeway entrances at this point. I therefore chose to return and try the next road. 1st Street was still blocked on this stretch and 2nd and 4th Street still were one way in the wrong direction and 3rd Street ended at this street so I had to go back to 5th Street again. I turned left on 5th, then left again at the first traffic light and down to the freeway again. And this time I finally succeeded. There was actually an entrance to I-40 in Business going west. When I studied a map later, I could see that I could have been on the interstate a lot sooner, had I turned left at the first traffic light on 5th street instead of the second as I did in the first place. But in hindsigt everything is much easier.
Bill Barnes and Charlotte Barnes with Zelotese Walsh in his study.
I followed I-40 Business for a few miles. Along the way, it also became US 421, and then I had it made, as I should stay on that road for the next 55 miles, so I did. And about an hour later I reached Wilkesboro. From there it were only about 12 or 13 miles to the museum in Ferguson by NC 268 and at 9.25 I arrived at the museum entrance, glad that I hadn't had breakfast because in that case I would have been late. I had told Charlotte and Bill that I was driving a Chevrolet Malibu and they had told me they would be driving a Toyota Prius. After only a few minutes they drove up next to me. At that time it was starting to drizzle, but we got out of our respective cars and said our "hellos". Charlotte and Bill had planned for me to meet a lot of people this Friday. The first was a older gentleman named Zelotese Walsh, who lived in Ferguson and knew a lot about the families in the area. With Charlotte and Bill leading the way in their car and me trailing them, we drove a few hundred yards back towards Wilkesboro and up study on the second floor. The room proved to be walled with ring binders.
When we had been seated in the study, Zelotese asked me a few questions about myself and then told about himself and his work on gathering family data. He told, among other things, that he was 93 years old! and that he and his wife had been married for almost 70 years. During World War II he had been in the US Marines in the Pacific. He had only his left arm and an artificial right arm, but that had nothing to do with his war service. He told us that he had served in The Marines for 2 years, and had returned home without a scratch, after which he got his arm in a harvester and lost it. He gave me his business card, which said "Gatherer and Keeper of Family History", as he was not a genealogist in his own opinion. He didn't use a computer for his research an all his notes etc. were handwritten. He then showed us how he put a pencil into the hook off the artificial arm, and then was able to use it for writing. It was very impressive, considering the amount of data in the binders. All the binders on the many shelves contained data about his family and its branches. From these data it appeared that he was largely related to everyone in Ferguson and surrounding areas, and also in many other places in the United States and Europe. Such happens when the families in a rather small area, marries into to each others familiies. Sooner or later everybody gets related. We talked about my interest in Tom Dooley and his family, and he told me how he helped other people find links between their own and other families, including the Dooley (or rather the Dula) family. He also told a lot of other stuff that I shall not relate in this article, and he promised me that when I got back to the area again at the end of the vacation, he would like to show me around to the places where the events had taken place. Unfortunately that didn't happen as I couldn't get in touch with him when I tried to call to make an appointment. But I have his business card for my next visit. After approx. 1½ hour we had to say goodbye as Charlotte and Bill had more in store for me. I said goodbye with great respect; I had met a very interesting person, with great storis to tell and I love that kind of people. I always hoe that I can be one of those when I get even older (my children think that I am already old :-)). After the visit we drove back to NC 268. On the corner of Beaver Creek Road and 268 is a church and on the other side of the highway the cemetery. This is where my good acquaintance (and Charlottes good friend), Edith Marie Ferguson Carter is buried and Charlotte and Bill had promised to show me the grave. I paid my respect at her grave for a few minutes and thought of all the interesting conversations I had with Edith Carter, when I had visited the small but very interesting open air museum which she had founded and operated for many years.
From the cemetery we returned to Whippoorwill Academy where we were going to meet two sisters. The Anderson's Sisters as Charlotte called them because, although neither of them was called Anderson, they descended from the Anderson family, who also counted Tom Dooley's friend, George Washington Anderson. In fact, they were descendants of George W's brother, William H. When we got to the museum, the sisters' car was parked in the field used as a parking lot, and we parked our cars next to theirs. A woman, whom I did not know at the time, but later turned out to be Edith Carter's daughter, let us in. The museum is not open on Fridays, but she had promised Charlotte to letus into the Tom Dooley Cabin. She was busy arranging a family reunion for the Ferguson family, of which she would host around 80 family members the coming weekend, so she couldn't stay but I got to talk to her more the next week. We looked around in the cabin with its Tom Dooley collection for a short while, and then we sat down and had a nice talk. The two sisters were called Carolyn Keller and Faye Bell, and were indeed descendants of William Henry Anderson, brother of George Washington Anderson, Eliza Anderson and their other siblings. The two sisters lived together on their family farm in Granite Falls south of Lenoir. Faye showed me a book about the family history, written by the sisters uncle, but never published. In addition to a lot of famility relationships, the book also contained many interesting pictures. I later got a copy of the book from another source, but I will get back to that in a later article. We talked for an hour before we went on. Charlotte and Bill had arranged with John Hawkins, whom I had met some days earlier, that we should have lunch together in Lenoir. Carolyn and Faye were going to join us, so we took of, Bill still leading the way.
Bill and I later got to talk about the way that Bill's GPS had
shown us and was not the way either of us would have chosen on our own. Bill had
never gone this way before, but I had as we took
Grandin Road from NC 268 to NC 18, a route I had regularly travelled when
visiting "Dooley related places".
We found the restaurant easily enough as it actually was on NC 18 a bit outside
the center of Lenoir.
Here we were greeted by John Hawkins and Sam Mask, whom Charlotte and Bill had
Sam is descendant of Tom Dooley's cousin, Carson Dula, and he also knew a lot
about the case and his knowledge I would like to draw on, but unfortunately I
have not yet had time to get back to him - mostly because I haven't
had time in
the last couple of months to work on the Dooley case.
Hopefully, it will change within the next couple of weeks.
Once again it was a very nice lunch where we exchanged knowledge, and where I
learned more than I passed on, but I could tell a little, that not everyone knew
After lunch, I said goodbye to another group of nice and friendly people, whom I
am very pleased to have met and I hope to meet them all again.
I have always claimed that people in this part of North Carolina are very
welcoming and this was fully confirmed by this meeting.
My best friend in Statesville
On day two of my visit with Charlotte and Bill, Statesville was on the agenda. In the evening, Charlotte would talk about her book in Statesville Old Jail, now used for cultural arrangements, and songwriter and musician Rob McHale should perform with his band, which has released an EP titled "Tom Dooley and Friends". It's a "double show" that the two of them often do. Charlotte with her knowledge of Tom Dooley and Rob with his music. But that was not until the evening.
Steve Hill in the large room that houses his collection. At the table in the background Charlotte Barnes and O.C. Stonestreet.
The day began with Charlotte's excellent breakfast. I had brought a few presents that I had given her the day before including a package of "Læsø Sydesalt"; a special skind of alt from the Danish island of Læsø, and this was on the table for the eggs. In addition to eggs, there were bacon, bread, fresh fruit and more. Once again we got a nice chat while we had breakfast, and afterward Bill packed the car with everything that was needed for the evening's performance including copies of Charlotte's book, The Tom Dooley Files, if there should be any buyers present. Once more Bill led the way although I might have found Statesville without help, and this time Charlotte rode with me, so we talked a lot about the case in the hour that the trip lasted. We parked in North Center Street, a street I have often driven through, actually as late as my visit to Statesville two days earlier, but I had never actually noticed what I was passing. The building we parked the cars outside was housing Statesville Historical Collection, and Charlotte and Bill had made arrangements for me to meet the owner/manager Steve Hill. The place has a collection of memorabilia from Statesville and the surrounding area. The collection is open all weekdays between 12 and 17 and access is free. However, try the door if you pass by out of ordinary opening hours, and if it is open you are welcome to come inside. The collection was started by Steve Hill when he was 15 years old and he has collected for ever since, and today the collection has been made available to the public. Steve currently runs the place with the help of a volunteer organization, Preservation Statesville, so besides Steve there are also others who can take care of the collection.
Although it was only 10.30 and it was a Saturday, Charlotte had arranged that the place was open, and when we got inside, there were already two people who I was introduced to. One was Steve Hill himself and the other was retired historian, freelance journalist and author O.C. Stone Street. Before leaving, I had bought his book, "Tales of Iredell County", which tells exciting and interesting stories, some of which are unknown, even to people from the area. Steve showed me around the room; among other things he has a rather large collection about Tom Dooley, who was hanged in town in 1868. Among other things, he had an old record player and 46 different singles with different versions of "The Ballad of Tom Dooley", including Danish with the band Four Jacks from 1958. We listened to a few of them, in addition to the Danish, also a German version. Steve has asked people who own something related to the case, to send it to him if they don't want to keep it, and in that way he has gotten many things, some of them in the "odd" category. Among other things, from a bar in Colorado, he has received a rope that had been in the bar for some years. It was supposed to be "the rope used to hang Tom Dooley's horse". Ah, the things you have to do to draw in customers :-). While we talked and looked at the exhibition, it had become time for lunch, and while Steve stayed behind to take care of business, Charlotte, Bill, O.C. Stonestreet and I walked across the street to have lunch at the Twisted Oak Restaurant, which I had never tried before, but which proved to be excellent.
After lunch, we returned to Steve, where "customers" had arrived. A few people walked around and looked at the exhibition. They had obviously discovered that it was open even though it was Saturday. Steve walked around with them and answered questions, but returned to us later and we chatted some more. He showed me a T-shirt he sold with the text "Hang around Statesville - Tom Dooley did" and in the 'H' is a drawing of a man hanging from the gallows. I quickly agreed with myself that I had to own one of those. Unfortunately, Steve only had medium sizes left and it's a bit on tight side for a man of my volume. Steve, who looked like me bodywise, told me he had to order more for himself in size 3XL, the same size as me, and when they arrived, he would send one to me in Denmark. When I wanted to pay for it, he did not want money. It was a gift for his "best friend in Denmark", as he said. Of course I was very grateful for that, and I immediately appointed him to be "my best friend in Statesville" which he still is. A few days after I got home, the T-shirt arrived in my mailbox and Ik wear it with pride. I'm already looking forward to meeting Steve again when I hope to go back to Statesville next summer. Before we left, Steve showed me a couple of old aerial photographs of the area around the town's railway depot, where you could see where it had been located before it was moved in the 1970's. He also pointed out the place where Tom Dooley was actually hanged, a place I have tried to locate on several occasions. Then it was time for us to leave and continue our journey so we said a warm goodbye.
the Next Charlotte and Bill showed me around Statesville to some places that I had never seen before. The first stop was Sharpe House. Here, Colonel Silas A. Sharpe had lived in his time. He became the first mayor of Statesville in 1867 after the Civil War. The place is usually open to the public, but just that day there was some kind of event taking place in the house. The young man who was responsible for the event, and apparently was acquainted with Charlotte and Bill came out of the back door for a brief chat, but we didn't get inside. :-). Next stop was Vance House. Civil War Governor Zebulon Vance lived in the house for about a month after the Union troops had captured the state capital, Raleigh, in the spring of 1865, and during this period Statesville was the de facto capital of North Carolina and the Vance House was a "the capitol building". In April 1865, Vance was arrested by Union troops in connection with what is known as "Stoneman's Raid", and then Statesville's short period as "state capital" was over. The house, which has been moved from its original location, is today located in a quiet residential area, in fact, in the same street as Sharpe House. Also this house, which could do with bit of paint, is a museum, but as it was Saturday and rather late, it was closed, so we just looked at the building from the outside. Along the way to our next stop I was shown where the Vance House used to be. The next stop was Mitchell Community College, a local university opened by the Presbyterian Church in 1852 as a women's only university. At that time it was called Concord Presbyterian Female College, but in 1917 it got its current name, and in 1932 men also got access to the university. One of the sources I have used in my research of the Dooley-case, Margareth Reynolds, was a student at the college in the early 1860s. We looked at a few of the buildings from the outside and they were nice, but reminded me of many other university buildings from that time period that I've seen elsewhere in the United States. The story of the college is interesting though, and I always find it exciting to visit places I have read about. Next we drove back to the center of town, where I saw the "clock tower", a tower with a clock (not a bell) on the corner of a building that was originally a bank, but today holds a drugstore. The last place we saw was a house where the insurance company Edward Jones has a branch. Not that the building was particularly interesting but were it is today, once was the site of the prison where Tom Dooley was incarcerated from October 1866 to his execution in May 1868.
Rob McHale and band performing in Statesville Old Jail. Photo courtesy of Bill Barnes.
While visiting the Historical Collection, Steve and O.C. Stonestreet had told Bill where he could find the house where William F. Wasson, the sheriff who hanged Tom Dooley, had lived a bit north of Statesville. Here he had his own little "local jail", but why I never really realized. Maybe he didn't find the prison in Statesville safe enough? It was after all only a wooden building. Also Bill would like to see if he could locate Wasson's grave. He knew which cemetery it was, and he had previously found Wasson's father's grave. We therefore left the city heading north towards a small settlement called Harmony. Here we had no problems locating Snow Creek Methodist Cemetery; actually it was easy because Bill and Charlotte had been there before. Bill knew where the father, William Sr.s grave was, and thought William F.'s grave might be close to his fathers and it was. In fact the stone was just between those of his parents, but the inscription was very weathered and difficult to read. The first time Charlotte and Bill had been there, it had been very bright sunshine, and that meant that it was very hard if not impossible to read the inscription on the stone. This time however, it was definitely not a bright and sunny day, at least not anymore. In fact, very dark clouds began to gather above us. Before returning to Statesville, we also located the house where the sheriff had lived. Soon after the dark clouds evolved into a violent thundershower - even though calling it a shower is an understatement, as the rain kept on for five hours. We headed back to Statesville and The Old Jail. When we got back, Rob McHale and his band were already setting up their equipment, and I helped Bill and Charlotte carry some of their equipment into the building. Along the way I was introduced to Rob and the band who were also friendly like anyone else I had met, and before the evening was over, Rob had given me two CDs with his music, including the mentioned Tom Dooley and Friends.
The show began at 7.30 and Charlotte presented the story of Tom Dooley, her reseach and her book to the exclusive audience of 12 paying guests in addition to the band's family members, yours truly and Steve Hill, who had joined oue company once more. After Charlotte's speech, Rob and band came on stage and gave an hour and a half or so of their great music. Later, Bill told me that music is only a hobby to Rob, who earns his living as an airline captain for American Airways. After the show, we – or rather Bill and Charlotte, put everything back in the car - Charlotte had unfortunately not sold any copies of her book, but maybe everyone in the audience already owned one? When the packing was done we said goodbye to Rob and the band, and the guy who looked after the place and set the course toward Matthews, which we reached at about 11 pm. We hadn't had dinner but agreed that we didn't need any, so after having a glass of water and another chat, it was bedtime. At least for me, because I would leave the next day for my next goal in Cherokee.