People close to me will recognize the following as it was my blog for new years 2007, but I feel I wrote it so well that it couldn't be improved on New Years and Family History
(I realize that there are not many people besides my mama and my husband that will TRULY know what this means to me, but I'm going to put it down just cause I can lol)
LONG before there was a movie, and even longer before there was a book, way back to when I had a school project (and possibly before, but I use this as my mental touchstone) I grew up hearing the real story of "Cold Mountain".
I grew up hearing how WP Inman and his best friend John Swanger left the civil war and walked home only to be shot by the Home Guard not far from WP's father's house in Haywood County, North Carolina, causing his father to have to walk up Big Stomp Mountain to drag the bodies and get them buried in the cemetery he and his wife would eventually end up buried in. WP and John, both wearing union uniforms, were buried together high on a hill, seemingly forgotten but for the story handed down in the family for the next 133 years.
Mama and I had been to Haywood County to do research over the years but for some reason she and I never took the time to find the cemetery where he was buried, we spent our precious time combing the records at the courthouse and library. 4 new years weekends ago Dave and I drove up for the weekend and did just that. Our side of the family said he was buried in one place (to the left of where his fathers grave is), WP's 3rd great grand daughter said they were buried in between his mother and father, where we actually believe a young child of theirs is buried. This weekend we found out from my cousin Darrell that they are actually at the feet of Joshua and Mary. No tombstone to mark the place just a white stone that looks a little like quartz submerged into the groud, that this weekend was marked with a confederate flag.
I have talked on the phone many times with my cousin Darrell (who is about 67 years old now) but never got to actually meet him. Every time Dave and I would go to Waynesville he was always too busy with things on that particular day to meet us.
For this trip, I called him 2 weeks in advance to find out if he could make times with us to talk with me and show me some of his research, let us in our family chapel etc.
Darrell gave many interviews when Charles Frazier's book came out, most of them saying "The truth in that book would fit on a penny postcard with room for the address". Lots of the family was very put out with our cousin Charles for what he wrote, while the world adored him for it. I knew from our phone conversations he knew exactly where WP and John were shot and that the "foundation" of the house his father built when he moved to Haywood County in 1825 was still there. It became my mission in life to see those places and I was really hoping this weekend would be when it would happen.
I was not disappointed in many ways. This has been a very emotional and satisfying weekend (even if it has raised more questions for me).
I called Darrell when we were 20 miles from Waynesville to find out if indeed he would not be off bear hunting, or cleaning a cemetery or attending a funeral or something. Much to my surprise, he had time for me!! He said at some point he'd have to leave me to go load a dump truck with river rock but he would talk with me all he could.
He met Dave and I at Inman Chapel (much like the church built in the movie only it was built in 1902, not during the civil war and it was built by one of WP's brothers) and talked and talked and talked and then talked some more. Eventually I had a "duh" moment and got Dave to get our brand new digital voice recorder that we'd gotten for ghost hunting out of the car so we could record him.
Here are a few pics of Darrell and the church. He still has the original door key for the church lol
He then took me up one mountain to where my 4th great grandfather raised his family
the big mossy rocks are the cornerstones and chimney place of the homestead.
He has many letters written by one of WP's 7 siblings (the man who built the church) and from another brother he has "the story".
All 6 Inman boys...James (who built the church), Daniel Logan (my 3rd great grandfather), Joshua, William Pinkney (WP), Lewis Hezekiah (Hezzie, the man the story is told by), and Joseph were in the war. Joshua died of wounds suffered in battle in VA. James, Logan, WP, Hezekiah and Joseph, all ended up in a POW camp named Camp Douglas in Illinois. WP deserted the war many times, but from service records I can find he stopped doing that after November of 1862 until he switched sides in November of 1864 and became a union soldier. The story goes that the brothers were in Camp Douglas together, as evidenced from a letter written by James to his wife. Two signed the oath of allegiance to the North and were released (along with John Swanger). Logan did not and died Christmas day of 1864 of Erysipelas: Contagious skin disease due to Streptococci with vesicular and bulbous lesions (which would be curable when penicillan was invented). Hezzie walked north while WP and John, in their new Federal uniforms walked home to NC (from Illinois).
Sometime in December, WP and John arrived on Big Stomp mountain and were shot and killed by a home guarder named Teague, their bodies left in the snow at the home guards "hide out". Three families lived on that mountain and one of the women that lived there, found them and sent word to WP's father they were there. Joshua walked 3 miles in the snow with a horse and a sled to retrieve the bodies and get them buried. One only knows how long that trip took, but once he reached them, he loaded them on the sled and dragged them 1 mile to the Bethel Cemetery and dug the grave to bury them together. It took a very long time and its said he returned home "very late in the night".
Darrell told me he would take me there, but that we could only go so far in my own car, I would have to stop driving at one point and get in his 4 wheel drive and ride with him. Unfortunately this vehicle only had enough room for me, which meant I had to leave Dave with my car while Darrell and I trudged up Big Stomp. Its about a mile and a half from where I had to leave my car. Along the way Darrell and I talked of what it must have been like for Joshua to have to do what he did that night and tried to imagine what the mountain looked like in 1864, in the snow at night.
We rounded a bend in on the mountain (please keep in mind, this is not some traveled mountain road, this is a "road" made by a four wheel drive and VERY bouncy) and there it was. I got out of the car and walked to it, my mind reeling with what I was seeing.
After all these years, I was finally standing in the place my ancestor was killed. WP's and John's bodies were left in the place between the two big boulders in the front. I wanted to savor the moment, I wanted to stay there forever and soak it in. I immediately felt connected to this stand of rocks and it broke my heart to have to leave, but it was getting dark and Dave was alone with the car on property that belonged to someone else.
This is the view of Cold Mountain from the actual place of their death on Big Stomp
Darrell drove me back down and that was pretty much the anti climatic end of it for that day at least......
Darrell told me I'm one of a 1/2 dozen living relatives he's taken up there since he found it. It took him 20 years to find the spot described by Hezzie. Not even the "great" Charles Frazier himself has been there.
Dave is as into genealogy as I am and is such a tremendous help with research. He's learning as he goes and I'm having to teach him how to look for things and know what he's looking at etc. He enjoys our graveyard trips and loves looking at the graves. It absolutely broke my heart to be standing at their place of death without him because he's been into the history of it as much as me, and I had to leave him behind.
Darrell had told me that if in the future I wanted to hike it just tell anyone that might question me that Darrell had taken me there and what I was doing, so I kept that in the back of my mind Saturday while Dave and I did other research and drove to historic Cataloochee to hike around it and look at it (thats not family related, just historical) (continued below)