Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nash County, North Carolina 14.7.91: Rolling Hills and Hint of the Sea

Thursday we drove to Raleigh, where I spent two days doing research on the Monk and Godwin families, then the next day we drove to Nash Co. I had found in the NC State Library a book that suggested to me that the Batchelors lived mostly in the west central part of the county, on the Franklin Co. line, around the communities of Spring Hope, Nashville, and Peachtree. So that’s where we headed.

When we got to Spring Hope, we saw two men selling vegetables by the side of the road. One was young, the other old—the young one lank and hippieish, the other sturdy and hale and hearty with curly gray hair. As we passed, I suggested we stop and see if they knew any Batchelors. We did so. The older man said, “You’re probably kin to me; my grandmother was a Batchelor.”

He was wonderfully entertaining—told us a story re: a cousin of his, a Batchelor, a generation or so back, who had a child out of wedlock. He said that his mother always referred to the child, even when he was a man, as “Jim Batchelor Boone or Jim Boone Batchelor—don’t know which ‘tis.” He spoke with a wonderful east Carolina accent—mellow, lilting, rounded vowels, no r’s, strongly English sounding in some ways.

And the landscape reminded me of parts of southern England, strangely enough—gently rolling hills with a hint of the sea not too far off. It has the feel of a place that has been long and peacefully and well settled. Everything is on a manageable scale, and that may be part of the secret to its being cared for. But it also seems cultural, the secret. As one drives west and passed into the Piedmont, into Chatham, Moore, Montgomery Counties, things have a wilder, more Celtic and less groomed, look.

Another of those surprising twists of life: meeting this distant cousin who looked so much like my Batchelor relatives, and meeting him and discovering this simply because I had the impulse to stop and talk to him.

Mr. Boone told my mother that she has the look of the Nash Co. Batchelors, and I think that’s so. He was barefoot, and after a moment or so, he said, “I am an educated man. I have an M.A. in psychology and was superintendent of schools in Nash Co.”

In the archives, I traced the Monk line back three generations on one side, two on another, to Nottingham Monk Jr. and Sr., Rachel Strachan and her parents George and Elizabeth Strachan. I’ve also easily traced the Nottinghams back to the immigrant ancestor Richard Nottingham in Northampton Co., VA.

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