Although it’s not exactly a Thanksgiving story, it’s still appropriate in a way. It’s a vocal recording of my father’s half-brother as transcribed by his daughter. (All typos are mine).
Old Jimmy Stephens was born about 1765 or 1766, sometime along in there. Whether he was the only child or not I don’t know, but he and his family were living in South Carolina at the time of the Revolutionary War. South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina were pretty strongly Tory during the Revolutionary War and the Stephens family was pretty strongly Whig, which is anti-King [of England].
One day, a band of Tories stopped by the Stephens house and demanded the mother cook dinner. I suppose there must have been about twelve in this detail, all mounted, of course, and the mother started in and cooked a big dinner for these Tories. After they had eaten and satisfied themselves, they decided to leave, one of them said, “Let’s take this boy with us,” and that was my great, great, grandfather Jimmy Stephens, he was about twelve years old.
Well, they grabbed him to take him along.
His mother then grabbed him [Jimmy] and begged them not to take the boy away. One of the men picked up a rolling pin and knocked her down with it. Then, to intimidate the boy, they punched him in the breast with a horse pistol. The barrel of an old horse pistol like that was pretty thin around the muzzle due to the wear of the ramrod. Anyway, these Tories cut his breast up and he carried these scars to his grave.
The Tories took him with them and he, being a pretty smart boy, decided to get into the good graces of these Tories and watch for his chance to get away. To that end, he picked out the best and the fastest horse in the whole group. They made him feed, curry, water the horses, carry wood, etc., and finally they took him for granted. They never paid much attention to him, and one evening, after the men had a hard march and were just a little bit drunk, he left the watering of the horses until the last thing. When the time came, he mounted the fastest horse, drove all the rest of them away, and left this Tory band afoot. He made his way back to his home and they weren’t bothered anymore by the Tories.
I have often wondered if his father or any other men folks, his older brothers, were away at the Battle of Kings Mountain at this time; it would be interesting to find out.
When the Stephens family was still living in South Carolina, it’s unclear whether the person was Jimmy Stephens or not, but they were working at the edge of a clearing and heard their mother scream. The man looked around and saw an Indian up at the house. All he had was his axe, he let out and ran for the house. When he got up there, the Indian never moved, just looked at him and held out a bucket and pointed to the cow, so they gave him some milk and he [the Indian] left.
The sites of several old Cherokee towns can still be seen down around Ellijay, Georgia, on the creek bottom, and there is one old Cherokee townhouse there, though the timbers have fallen in. My friend, Lawrence Stanley, told me that the Indians would build a town and they would live in it until it got so dirty they couldn’t stand it, and then they would move on.
My grandfather told me that they started fires with flint and steel, he showed me one time how to do this. He took his pocket knife and with an arrowhead I had given him, struck fire with it. He told me when he was a boy, he used a flintlock rifle and about going barefoot in the winter time, and about not having any kind of a Christmas. Now all this was during the civil war when people almost starved to death in that part of the country.
Also, I want to insert something else: my grandfather used to tell about having to go out in the woods, chop down trees, cut up the wood, and chop the knots out of the planks. They had a box that they set by the fireplace, and when they wanted more light from the fireplace, they would throw a pine knot in. I suppose the same thing was done at my grandfather Stephens house, and all the other people, in that day and time.
[Family lore, transcribed by Barbara D. from audio tapes made by her father.]