SUBMITTED BY: Dean Rathbone
A message of hope and peace.
I never knew my great grandparents, Anderson and Bette Kirkpatrick Ledford, but I feel like I did. They lived with my Granny Hattie and Grandpa Charlie after Granny Bette had her stroke. My Mom still talks fondly of them, and just tonight, she shared a story about them that I hadn’t heard in years. It is one of my favorite stories because it exemplifies the strength, fortitude, and decent values of mountain people. I can still hear Granny say, “Oh what a time it was.”
Grandpa Anderson was born in the North Georgia mountains near Ellijay, Ga., just before the Civil War. His parents had a nice little farm and apple orchard there. Times were good for them before the trouble began. Grandpa Anderson’s father, Obadiah Ledford, was the only Union man in their community. At first, there was just spirited arguments with the Rebels, but the firing on Fort Sumter changed all of that. They were “churched” because of Obadiah’s politics, and then they started fearing for their safety. Obadiah rode off to join the Union Army, leaving his family alone, or so they thought. The next day Grandpa Anderson’s mother, Lydia, received a discreet warning that their home was going to be torched that very night. But, Obadiah had figured something like this would happen. He had written to Lydia’s cousin living in the Sandy Mush Community of Madison County, N.C. and asked him to move them to the mountains for safety. So, as they scurried around trying to pack a few precious belonging, a lone rider rode up to their house. It was Lydia’s cousin! He helped them finish packing, and then led them along a mountain trail to a secluded spot where they would wait for the cover of darkness. From where they were hiding, they could see their neat little farm in the valley below. They watched as the daylight slowly faded, and then they saw the mob galloping down the road towards their house. They were carrying pine tar torches. Grandpa Anderson watched as they cautiously circled the house and out building. He saw two or three men kick in the door to their house. There was a cheer from the men, and they all threw their lighted torches into the house and out buildings. The flames could be seen for miles. It was the last memory that Grandpa Anderson had of his North Georgia home.
Grandma Bette was born just after the Civil War, so she escaped the horrors of the war. Her father, Jasper Kirkpatrick fought for the South. She grew up listening to her parents talk about that terrible time. Her mother, Mary, had to bury their salt cured pork underneath the chicken manure in the chicken house to keep both armies, and bushwhackers from stealing it. When the North captured Saltville, Va., salt became scarce. They couldn’t survive without it, so Mary chopped up the salting boards in the smokehouse to boil the salt out of them. Still, they were starving. Jasper wouldn’t talk much about the war, but there was one image that haunted him until the day he died. As he readied for battle at Cumberland Gap, Ky., he sighted down the barrel of his rifle at the enemy. Directly in his sights were his neighbors, his cousins, and his daughter’s future father in law. He was facing Union soldiers from Fines Creek. As fate would have it, they didn’t have to kill one another. The South surrendered on the battlefield. But what might have been haunted Jasper for the rest of his life.
A few years later, times were still hard, but the hard feelings were easing somewhat. Anderson and Bette met at corn shucking one evening. They fell in love, and both their parents never stood in their way. They were married in the little Methodist church in the Hurricane Valley, just north of Fines Creek. The day Granny Bette’s first child was born was forever etched in her memory. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Lou Ellen. It was at this wonderful occasion that Obadiah and Jasper came face to face for the first time. Granny Bette said that the two men sat before the fireplace and talked well into the night. Not one harsh word passed between the two men. They both reckoned that the other army was a brave and tough foe. And they both reckoned that the heavenly father let them live so their children could love one another. Jasper said, “We was mighty willfull and reckless back then. But, our youngins turned out right well didn’t they?” Obadiah replied, “Yep, they’ve turned out right well. They’ve done us proud.”
Those two men, one for the North, and one for the South, are what has made this nation great. They had different views on how this country should be run, but they did have one thing in common. They had respect for each other. They were able to do it back then, even after a bloody Civil War. We should follow in their foot steps.
*Sorry for the choppy story, but I pieced together three stories to give you one.
Anderson and Bette Kirkpatrick Ledford