The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Coming Home

By Marjorie Tise Adams © 1989

Issue: September, 1989

This is a story of two lives, entwined around many more, and how they finally came together. This is a saga of the Appalachian Mountains. The threads of these lives are woven together after winding around like a spider's web; much like the back roads of our beautiful mountains. It is the story of my mother and father.

It all began when James Bruce, called the "Immigrant" came over from Scotland and landed on the shores of Virginia. His father was Robert Bruce of Elgin, Scotland. Sir John Bruce of Scotland was the ancestor of Robert Bruce and was the uncle of King Robert Bruce of Scotland. King Bruce had a daughter named Marjorie (that is who I am named after), who married her father's steward. This is where the name Stuart came from, which is the surname of the kings and queens of England. King James I of Scotland was the father of Mary, Queen of Scots and she was the mother of King James I of England, who had our present Bible written. He was also King James VI of Scotland.

The descendants of the "Immigrant" were his son, William Bruce I; then the latter's sons, Henry and George Bruce were born. George Bruce had a son, William Bruce II. From there, my grandfather, William Clark Bruce was born. He was reared around or in Independence, Virginia. I don't know the circumstances, but he married a girl from State Road, North Carolina and took her back to Independence, Virginia to live. Her name was Nancy Wright.

To William Clark and Nancy Bruce were born three children. The oldest was my mother. She was born August 26, 1882. They named her after her three aunts and her mother. She was named Susan Amelia Nancy Jane Bruce. She was called Amelia. Then another girl was born named Sally Adeline. Then came a boy who was named Richard Thomas, after Nancy's father.

Shortly after the birth of little Richard, Nancy became very ill with a type of heart trouble. William Clark decided to take his family to North Carolina so that they would be near Nancy's parents. Just as they were getting ready to take the trip, Baby Richard died. He had been sickly since birth. They wanted to bury him at Nancy's parent's home, so William put the little dead boy on a trundle bed and placed it under the bed that Nancy was lying on in the covered wagon. Very little was told to me about the trip across the mountains, but I do know that my mother was only five years old at the time. She remembered that the roads were very bad and it was cold. Just think of the condition of the little dead baby by the time they reached State Road, North Carolina!

Finally, they arrived at the home of Nancy's parents, Richard and Sukie Wright. Around town, they called Richard, "Dickie." They lived in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a large comfortable white house with a long porch on the front. It was back off the main road with a large barn located nearer to the road than the house was.

It was such a shock to Dickie and Sukie to see their daughter return to them in such a condition. They were further shocked to learn that their little name-sake grandson made the trip while lying dead in the trundle bed. They hurriedly put the grieving, sickly Nancy to bed after a nice warm bath and a hot meal. Later in the day, the rest of the family gathered around a tiny grave that held baby Richard.

Even after a few months of rest and good country food, Nancy continued to grow weaker. Oh how she missed little baby Richard. Well, God had left them with two beautiful daughters to love and care for.

One early summer day, grandmother Sukie told little Amelia to sit by her mother's bed and shoo away the flies while her mother slept. Later, grandmother Sukie peeked back into the room to see how Nancy was. To her dismay, she discovered that Nancy had died in her sleep, and little Amelia was still sitting there shooing the flies. She was unaware that her mother had died.

Mother grew up in a happy neighborhood with her sister, cousins and friends. There were the Cummings, the Gentrys, the Crockerhams, the Bauguess, and the Talberts, who were really the Taliaferros. They were descendants of Col. William Booth Taliaferro, a Civil War hero, who was born in Gloucester, Virginia and died in 1898. All except the Cummings were my mother's cousins.

Amelia fell in love with her pastor's son, Lindsay Hinson, and they were married when she was 18 in 1900. Lindsay and Amelia were a very happy young couple as they lovingly set up their first home together. Later their home was blessed with the birth of a daughter, Mary Dee Ette. She was a beautiful child with bright red hair, which she inherited from her father.

When little Dee Ette was 18 months old, she fell and hit the back of her head while playing. After that, she developed Spinal Meningitis and died. My mother always thought that the accident caused her death.

Six weeks after Dee Ette's death, Lindsay and Amelia came down with Typhoid fever. Dear Lindsay, husband of just over a year, died. Amelia, herself, was in a coma from the illness at the time of his death. Neighbors, afraid that Amelia would "come to" if they brought his body through her room, instead, carried him out through the upstairs window; leaving an unaware unconscious Amelia in the next room.

Slowly, Amelia recovered. She was alone. Her family gone; it seemed to be the end of everything for her. Her sister, Sally, had left home a year or so before, and had gone to work at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in Winston, North Carolina (later called Winston-Salem).

Amelia decided to join her sister in Winston. She got a job at P.H. Hanes making fifty cents a day; good wages back then. Both sisters had a room with the Tise family; one of the oldest and richest families in Winston.

And now we go back into time and weave the rest of this amazing story!

My father, Jonah Anthony Tise, was born in Winston in 1867. He came from a very prominent family in Winston. It was in the late 1800's when young Jonah went up into the mountains of the Blue Ridge and bought 100 acres of land at what is now Roaring Gap. He told me that he owned the top of the mountain.

Jonah was a carpenter by trade, and while there - built the first hotel at Roaring Gap called "The Roaring Gap Hotel." After building this beautiful hotel, he then built himself a home near the hotel up the mountain.

The hotel was not only a "home away from home" for travelers, but where the prominent socialized together. It was here that Jonah wined and dined a beautiful young woman named Mary Bauguess. Along that time too, the original hotel burned to the ground one fogy summer night. No one was hurt. The hotel owners built back on the same spot.

Jonah Tise and Mary Bauguess were married. It was a stormy marriage that soon ended in divorce. Jonah gave Mary 50 acres of land and the house. He sold his fifty acres and went back to Winston.

Mary lived the rest of her life at the house. She remarried, but her husband disappeared after two years. The local talk was that he left the country. More will be told about Mary later, as the threads of her life are once again woven into this story.

Even though Jonah Tise went home to Winston, the beautiful Blue Ridge seemed to draw him back from time to time. He had a very close friend up there named Dr. Joe Smith. Old Doc's place was exactly in the middle of the present dam and fish hatchery of Roaring Gap. It was a beautiful country home, sitting on top of a hill, with a winding road leading up to it. Behind the house, a path lead straight down to a large spring house, where the freshest and purest water flowed, on its way down the mountain. Jonah spent many a day there and around in the area.

My father loved those mountains and he loved to hunt. He hunted coons and bobcats with his dogs. He was said to have the best beagles and finest coon dogs in the area. Even after he left the mountains to be nearer home and his work, he still hunted possum with his dogs as fellow sportsmen joined him. I went with him one time, and I can truthfully say - that was my first and last time. After that, I left the hunting to the men folk.

My father used to sit around the fire at night telling us about things that happened when he was a boy, and of his many trips to the mountains. He told us about his father fighting in the Civil War, and after several years fighting, came home, and his own family didn't even know him. He looked that bad. My father was born a year after his father came home from the war. His family was very well-to-do, most of them very sedate in nature. His father was very strict with the children.

My father went to the boy's school at Salem, what we call Old Salem today. In early fall or early summer, father would play hooky from school to go fishing. As this happened many times, it was soon brought to the attention of his father by the school master. He was very angry at young Jonah. He told him that if he ever played hooky again, he would chop his head off. Young Jonah must have believed him, because he never played hooky again!

One of the funniest stories was about one of my father's best friends in the mountains. I know this man's name, but I wouldn't dare tell it. This man had a wife and family, and a nice mountain home. He also had a job with the government. He was a Postmaster. Somehow, things started happening, maybe over a great length of time, but finally he was caught up with, and accused of mismanaging a great deal of money. Of course the Federal people came after him, but never found him. Everyone in the mountains knew where he was, but, the code of the hills prevailed. Not a person would tell on him. My father would visit him and talk to him, and sometimes he would see him out plowing his fields with a team of oxen. The beauty of it was; he was a very small man, thin and wiry, and he was impersonating a woman, long dress, bonnet and all. This man finally moved away with his family, but they visited us while I was growing up, and he lived to be a ripe old age.

While at home in Winston, my father met Amelia Bruce Hinson, my mother and they were married January 20, 1907. My father was 40 at the time, and my mother was 25. I was born the next year, July 3, 1908. Then five more children were added to our family. I was named Marjorie Mariah. They were Ellen Louise, Charles Jacob, Marguerite Paulina, James Albert, and Richard Thomas.

Being a carpenter, my father was very active in his trade in the area. He built fine homes all over Winston; many now standing in the Buena Vista and North Winston area of town. My father used to tell me that when he needed extra money for one of his building projects, he would just go down to Wachovia Bank, tell them how much he needed, and they would shake hands over the deal. No papers were signed or anything like that. It was just a gentleman's agreement. My father said that he could go to the bank back then and get a million dollars the same way if he needed it. He was that kind of a man; a man of his word. If he told you something, you knew that it was the gospel truth.

My father continued to visit Dr. Joe Smith up at Roaring Gap in the mountains. He said that anytime you saw Dr. Joe, that if he wasn't doctoring or hunting, he would be reading his Bible. Read his Bible all the time! He used to sit, read, and chew. He had a big yellow cat that sat around too. Dr. Joe would spit off the porch and hit that cat every time, even at twenty feet. It got so that the cat would sit and watch Dr. Joe all the time, so that he would know when to dodge.

Dr. Smith and his wife had two sons, Glen and Worth. I can remember that when I was five years old my father started taking me with him. I really loved Dr. Smith's wife. One time when I was there, Mrs. Smith baked hog jowl for dinner. I thought I could never eat fat meat, but after the first bite, I thought that I was in hog heaven. Mrs. Smith was the nearest thing to a saint of anyone that I have ever met, then or now.

On one of our trips there, I remember my father bringing my oldest sister, Ellen Louise with us. Back then, the roads were almost impassable. They were like a big deep, old timey wash board. We had a T-Model Ford, but it had to go slow and pull so hard, that my sister and I got out many times and walked behind the car. We had no trouble keeping up with it. We were going along just fine, when suddenly, seen coming around one of those hair-pin curves, were a couple of men driving a mule and a wagon. Much to my surprise, passing posed no problem. The two men simply got out of the wagon, tilted it to one side and went by the car on two wheels.

I visited another home up there one time that was snuggled up against a high peak. As I went in, beside the porch, I noticed a long wooden trough built from high on the peak, disappearing into the side of the house. When I entered the kitchen, lo and behold, I saw perpetual running water. The people there caught what they needed in a bucket and then the rest flowed merrily on its way through the other side of the kitchen. What luxury!

Old Dr. Smith was loved by everyone. He was also a great story teller. The mountain people had the most beautiful accent that I have ever heard. My father said that it was pure Anglo-Saxon.

When I was about sixteen, Dr. Smith died, and my father and I went to the funeral. It was at Laurel Springs Church. While we were standing at the grave site, my father whispered to me, "Look over there. That's my wife." That was all that he said, and he never mentioned her to me again till years later, but I knew who she was, because my mother had told me about her. It was Mary Bauguess. She was a beautiful woman and dressed attractively.

There's one more incident to tell, and then my saga of the Blue Ridge will be finished. It was sometime in the middle thirties that the story came out in all the newspapers. Mary caught herself afire from her fireplace and was burned to death. The house was not harmed, but what made the news was - that the house was full of fine clothes and other objects that the hotel visitors had given her. (People liked her very much.) Money was hidden all over the fifty acres of land - in every nook and cranny - under rocks, in jars, just everywhere. A nephew came to town and took charge of things, so the sensation finally faded away.

But that wasn't all. Later, my father told me what happened. When he heard the news, he decided to go up there secretly. He said that when he built the house, he built a secret hiding place behind a brick area of the fireplace. Roads were hard surfaced by then, so he drove to the foot of the mountain and parked. He knew a path that led straight up the mountain to the house. He began the long climb. About half-way up, he saw an old man sitting on a dead tree beside the path. The man stood up when he came into sight. As he passed him, the old man asked who he was, and what was he doing on the mountain. My father didn't know who the man was. Father just turned his head away and walked on by him. When he had walked about another 50 feet, he looked back. The man was gone. He never saw him again and never did find out who he was.

It was that time of evening when the sun has set, but still there is enough daylight left to see. All was quiet on the mountain as he crept up to the house and went in. He went into the huge living room and straight to the fireplace. Kneeling on one knee, he reached up inside of the fireplace to where the secret hiding place was. There was nothing there - except a faded crumbling note. Still crouched there, he read: "If you read this note, you will know that I have been here too. The gold as well as my ashes will be spread among the Old Blues, (Blue Ridge Mountains)."

My father crept silently back down the mountain. Many things he pondered in his mind. "I wonder," he thought to himself, "could she have been reaching into the secret hiding place at the inner side of the fireplace when her clothes caught on fire? If so, what happened to the gold?"

Only the mountains know, as they know many tales of those - coming to and fro through the mountains "Coming Home" down through the ages!