Appalachia Through My Eyes - Mean As A Striped Snake
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Jacob Goleman Johnson September 16, 1921

The proctor graveyard

Last weekend, our trip back in the hills, took me and the girls across Fontana Lake to the Hazel Creek area. Details about our main purpose for the trip will come in a later post, but today I wanted to share something else with you.

Hazel creek proctor

Sunday was an off day for the usual decoration brigade of nice men who transport families and friends to the various graveyards found throughout the area-so that meant we were all walking once the boat let us off. Luckily our trip didn't require us to go very far.

While a few folks set up dinner, a few others-including me and the girls-headed up the road a ways to visit the Proctor Cemetery. We had been there before-but I had forgotten what a beautiful graveyard it is. Like many other mountain graveyards-you have to walk up an incline steep as a mule's face to get there-but once you do it's always worth the effort.

Goleman Johnson Sept 16 1921

As we wondered through the cemetery and read tombstones-I remembered or thought I remembered there was a really neat heart tombstone. I was right-its almost at the very tip top end of the cemetery.

I didn't remember the name at all-just that it was shaped like a heart. The photo above is from the first trip I made-since then the North Shore Cemetery Association has placed a newer marker in front of the old one which reads: Jacob Goleman Johnson Born & Died Sept. 16 1921.

Sometimes making a negative of a tombstone photo will make it easier to read-when I morphed the photo above-I could easily see 'Our Baby' just above Goleman. I didn't see Jacob anywhere on the stone-but I'm guessing the North Shore folks were going by census records.

Jacob goleman johnson sept 16 1921

I don't think I noticed the foot stone the first time I was there-at least I didn't take any photos of it if I did. Sunday I noticed it is another heart with a star enclosing the letter J.

I've pondered the 2 stones since last week. Right off I noticed the date Sept. 16 was coming up fast. I also thought of the love that went into making the stones-no easy task when you're starting with a rock and most likely using nothing but a hammer and chisel.

I tried to explain my thoughts to Chatter. Not to sound mean I said-but in those days loosing a babe on the same day it was born was quite common-not that it hurt any less-but it was almost expected to loose at least one child. Yet the parents of Goleman Johnson seem to take extra pains with his burial. I imagine it took someone-maybe the father himself-a good long time to carve the stones-I imagine it was an emotional day when they were finally placed. A sad sad day-but a day they felt they had done right by Jacob Goleman even though he had left them much much too soon.


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Tipper, this reminds me of the first child born to my maternal grandparents. My very young grandparents and new baby all had pneumonia. They were so sick that they couldn't care for themselves, much less the baby. The baby died and still deathly sick, my grandparents couldn't attend the funeral. Later, when my grandpa had recovered, he made the baby's tombstone. One of my uncles wanted to replace it with a new one, but the majority of the family wanted it just the way it is. Having my grandpa make it for that precious little baby just seems right to me.
I can't imagine losing a child, but to lose him because you were too sick to care for him would be more than anyone could bare. I believe this happened in 1919-1920.

tipper as always your posts are so thought provoking, and i have been one who loves graveyards and the stones and angels.. especially the older ones... you are so wonderful to visit the graves and remember the people and their losses before us.
sending big ladybug hugs... fall is in the air here... some leaves are turning brown.... sorta like my soul at this time of year :(
give those beautiful girls a hug for me... they are a blessing im sure to you and deerhunter

Hello friends of Appalachia
It is a pleasure to read your stories and comments.
I tell them that here in Argentina, in the province of Chubut, Patagonia, (where the world is ending), we also have a Fontana Lake with that name in honor of an Army Commander at the time of the fighting Indians.
It is a lake of more than 80 km2, in a very beautiful place, and similar to the hills and mountains of the Appalachians, with coniferous forests and lakes ..
It is very near "Cholila", (which also has a lake), and is the town where about 1900, were living Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and Etta Place, as peaceful settlers, Etta went to USA, and they were until they robbed a general store, and then fled to the north, and is believed to have been to Bolivia, having previously robbed a bank in the Province of San Luis, (which does not appear in the stories that have been written about them) .
They robbed the store, because they received from Buenos Aires, by an American living in Buenos Aires, which had landed two Pinkerton agents, and they must fly urgent.
This I knew because Mr Newbery told them, (that was the name he was living in Buenos Aires), he intended to form a colony of Americans in that area of Patagonia, and normally received all Americans who came here.
I hope you liked the story, Yours faithfully, JL.

Great post Tipper! I love it.

Oh wow, I love to visit old graveyards.. This one is very special for sure.. Like you said someone took great pains to make it.. I've so often wondered what people went through back then.. This is a great post.. My father in law died in 1978 at the age of 86.. He made all of the stones for his ancestors way back in the day.. I've got to get some pics of them soon.. You are a gem Tipper.. I never get tired of reading your posts..

When one starts walking cemeteries or digging through older records it is amazing the percentage of families who lost children whether stillborn or dying during childhood. One thing that jumps out is the number of children who weren't named until they were older, it appears that the parents were waiting to see if the child would survive. This high mortality rate was possibly due to poor health care for the mother and/or the children. Pre-natal care was rare and diseases we pay little attention to now due to advancements in medicines would result in the death of several in the same family. My Great Grandmother and her two youngest sons all died within days of the Spanish Flu in 1918 when the pandemic swept the world.

Oh yeah, one more thing, Tipper. The things that you do shows who you really are. Most have become aware of this but, for those new here it's plain that the endearing things you have on this blog from day to day explains why many have called you The Angel of Brasstown. Miss Cindy was the first that brought my attention to this. I used to have a mother-in-law like her and (like you and her) we were very close.

Morning Tipper,

The timing of your post is very interesting to me today. . . I noticed the star on the gravestone and I thought that you might like a reference site for various symbols on gravestones. This site lists the star, like the one on the foot-stone. Look down the page to find it. I also think that this marker is much older than the child's death. It could be one that was re-used.

As to the timing of your post and my finding it a bit serendipitous . . . Did you know that today or tomorrow is the Lord's Feast of Trumpets? It is also known as the feast that "no man knows the day or hour". It was the idiom that Yeshua (Jesus) used to tell his disciples when his second coming would be. The feast is the only one of the 7 Feasts of the Lord that relies on a sighting of the new moon and so it can start on one of 2 days.

paraphrased quote: "As Christians, we have separated ourselves over the centuries from our Hebraic roots causing misunderstandings of key Hebrew, biblical idioms. An idiom is also a figure of speech. When Y'shua (Jesus) uttered His famous words
concerning the Messianic Era in Mattityahu (Matthew) 24:26, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in Heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father", He used a common Hebrew figure of speech referring to a
specific Festival. In essence He was saying, "I am coming for My Bride on such and such a day! Keep looking up! " :)

Ed is right. The census records only record who is there on the day that the census was taken, which would have been sometime in 1920. They must have gotten the birth information from a family Bible, church record, or burial record, probably in the county archives somewhere. Could have even gotten it from a surviving family member still living who was around in 1921.

Tipper--Powerful, poignant, and moving in an exceptional fashion. Those stillborn or "blue" babies were all too common in the hardscrabble times of yesteryear, but that didn't mean they weren't mourned just as deeply and in a most meaningful fashion. Often the grave marker was nothing more than a flat field stone, but its erection bore mute testament to sadness and familial love.

In this case, I suspect that the child may have come rather late in life after the heretofore barren couple had been given hope only to have it dashed by cruel death.

Whatever the case, this is a remarkable feat of craftsmanship that shows abundant, abiding love and evokes heartfelt emotions.

Jim Casada

Wayne-I had the same thought-it looks like a backward S to me.

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Culture of Appalachia

Thanks for this post, Tipper. Someone loved Jacob although his life was way too short. What a beautiful memorial. I love to visit the old cemeteries, too and wonder about the people buried there.

Tipper, maybe it's my imagination; on the main stone, the letter S seems to be shaped like the numeral 2.
Also in the name, Johnson, a closeup look seems to show some extra chipping around the letter S.
What do you think?

When I hear of stillborn babies, I am always reminded of a great uncle and aunt. They had seven tiny graves lined up marked by simple fieldstones. It was always said that the problem was the RH factor. They did have two live births. I cannot imagine, but I'm sure there was a lot of sadness involved. Life could be unbelievably harsh!
That heart shaped stone stands forever to show the love for that baby. Very interesting and touching.

You have proven again just how much a person can learn by just walking through an old cemetery. The love lasts long after the body ceases to be.

I feel sure Jacobs mom knows and appreciates that you paid attention and recalled the death of her child.

I was born in forty and the older I get the early years don't seem like so long ago to me. I wonder if anyone has that feeling. To think my Mother would have already been seven or eight years old when the Goleman child was born...We have come a long way to taking care of our children..The incubator first used by French doctors in the late 1800's and health insurance just beginning in the 1920's...But then if you were a "preemie" born in the mountains, only God could help at that time..There were hospitals but far away, Asheville, Knoxville and local doctors a car ride, buggy ride and a horse ride away...I hope the Mother survived without sad..but the love of the heart endures...
Thanks Tipper,

September 16, what a beautiful thing you do Tipper. You honor the birth and death of Jacob Goleman Johnson on this anniversary of his birth and his death, and you do it with much love.
I have to believe that he sees this from wherever he is and sends you a special blessing in return.
Angel to Angel, so to speak.
We humans think we know so much, when in truth there is far more that we do not know than what we do.

The loss of a much anticipated birth is devastating to say the least for both the mother and father. Life was so raw and difficult back then. This appears to have been a very interesting walk of life's experiences so long ago.

I hate to take any wind out of your sail but the J on the foot stone is, most likely, for Johnson. The baby's name wouldn't have been on the census unless he was alive when it was taken in 1920. All we can hope for is a birth or death record from Swain County. Also it could be contained in a Johnson Family Bible somewhere. Anyone who took that much care to mark a grave would surely have put it there.
It is a rainy dreary morning here and I am stuck inside but your post has already got my genealogical engines revving. Jacob Goleman Johnson 16 Sep 1921.

The effort it took to make the stones is something that would forever etch the child's memory in their hearts. We don't have this grieving process today, nor do we accept that death is part of life as these people did.

That is very sad and very beautiful.

It has to be heart wrenching to loose a child of any age. By taking the time to sculpt that stone it seems as though theirs was broken.

When I think of the time and effort it must have taken to sculpt this stone it saddens me greatly.

I'm guessing a first child, and who knows, maybe their last.

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