The Arledges of Polk County and western North Carolina are known for their storytelling gifts.
The following is a very interesting set of letters written by my great-great-uncle, Yates Arledge, to his brother Roone Arledge (Sr), in 1951.
Both brothers were attorneys. Yates worked as counsel for Carolina Power and Light in Raleigh, while his brother Roone was a New York City lawyer.
Roone had received a letter from a Judge in Albuquerque named Richard Fair "Deacon" Arledge (whose family was from Charlotte, a descendant of George MacDuffie Arledge--anyone know of him?) about their common surname. Roone had asked Yates to share everything he knew about the Arledges.
These letters give a good indication of the state of Arledge genealogical knowledge in the postwar America of 1951, a time when the Arledges from the Green River Cove of Polk County, NC were just discovering there were other Arledges in other places, and wondering how they might be connected.
Some of the genealogical links are wrong, but what is wonderful about these letters is the local family folklore that is so rooted to one geographical place.
I've tried to retrace his steps, and actually finally found the old cemetery many years ago, but the houses are all gone, many washed away by the 1916 flood, and the land sold to Duke Power company so no one lives there any more.
This is the stuff that got me interested in family history--the colorful characters and flavor and traditions of a single family, the Arledges. And this is the stuff that keeps me going--all those charts aren't worth a thing without these kinds of stories. If anyone else has Arledge stories and letters to share, please do!
One note of caution: some of the genealogical and historical information contained in this letter is INCORRECT. For the most up-to-date knowledge of this family's history, click HERE.
June 29, 1951
I promised to send you a memorandum covering what little that I know about family history on the Arledge side. Dad, as you will remember, didn't talk much about family history. The most of that which follows I got from Nun Arledge. I expected to go back again and follow it up in more detail but never did do so. He is now dead.
two Nun Arledges. You probably recall Clem's Nun. The one I speak of, I
believe, was a son of Levi Arledge [PW: I
don't believe this is correct]. Curtis and
I went to Turner Shoals Lake fishing one Fourth of July about 20 or 25
years ago, and after fishing awhile without much luck we decided to go
up Green River into the neighborhood where Dad [John
Pinckney, or JP, Arledge] was born and reared.
We turned off the Mills Gap Road at Silver Creek Church and traveled about
3 or 4 miles and came to a big old house which was the home of Uncle Clem
Arledge. I had never been there before. Curtis, I believe, had been there
as a boy. This man Nun Arledge was living there with his daughter; I do
not remember her name. He was an old man with snow white hair and well
up in his eighties. I had never known him before. He took us on a little
trip up the river to show us the place where Dad was reared. We walked
about a mile or such matter and he pointed out to us the place where the
house stood in which Dad was born, but of course it was not standing and
had apparently been gone for a long time. It stood out at the edge of the
river bottom at the foot of a rather steep hill. As you know, the mountains
come into the river pretty close in that area, and while there are river
bottoms, they are narrow, but apparently very fertile. Grandfather Arledge
bought the Uncle Grayson place and moved there while Dad was small. From
there we walked to the river, possibly a half mile, and crossed by wading
at the place you have heard Dad speak of as Devil's Track.
Top: Arledge and Cochran Cemetery on top of ridge between Green River and Bright's Creek. Graves are unmarked.
Bottom: The Devil's Footprint
If you have never seen Devil's Track, and I presume you have not, it might be of interest to digress long enough to say it is a big track with a remarkable resemblance of a human track in a large rock jutting out into the river, but not under the water. The track looked to be about twice the size of a normal man's barefoot track and is about 6 inches deep and looks very much as if a man with a large bare foot had stepped into stiff mud and pulled his foot out and left a deep imprint. While it was weather worn, there were dim indentures resembling the print of toes.
After crossing the river we turned downstream and came to a place in the river bottom which Nun pointed out as the site of the old Amos Arledge house. Amos was the ancestor of the Polk County Arledges. Nun said there were two brothers who migrated into North Carolina from Pennsylvania, and Amos settled on Green River and the other brother moved on South, and finally settled about Edgefield, SC about 30 miles north of Augusta, GA. [PW: This is not historically correct, based on current knowedge of the family's origins.]
Amos was said to have been a thrifty old man and accumulated a considerable number of slaves. He raised cattle there in the mountains and drove them to Charleston, SC to market, as a means of getting hold of money. In those days I suppose there was very little money in that community. Finally he sold his slaves [and apparently his land, in Fairfield County, SC] for a considerable amount which, together with such money as he is reputed to have had, amounted to a considerable sum. Nun said he had a half-bushel measure of gold coins.
I recall right well some of the things Nun told us about the old story which you have probably heard about old man Amos' gold presumably being buried and still undiscovered in that section. He mentioned someone, and I have forgotten who it was, some of the family, probably Nun's father, who told him, Nun, that as a small boy he saw the old man Amos bring his money, which consisted of gold coins, down to the river, and scrubbed them in the sand on a sand bar to make them shine, as he evidently admired the looks of the gold very much. Most folks do, or did before abolishing the gold standard. He said he brought it in a half bushel measure and it was full. The mystery, of course, is whatever became of the money. There were no banks, and of course he had to keep it hidden or buried. The old man lived by himself in a log house there in the river bottom, and one night the house burned and he perished in it. Careful search was made in the remains of the house for the money, but they only found three or four hundred dollars in gold coin. This they discovered to be in parts of the logs which had not been completely consumed. He had bored holes in the log sills under the floor boards and placed the coins in the holes and had driven a peg in on the top of the coins. The log sills did not completely burn up and the money was found in the charred pieces that remain.
You have heard Dad tell the story of his grandmother or great-grandmother, who as a young married woman dreamed one night that Amos' money was hidden under a rock cliff on the side of one of the Green River mountains, near the old Amos place. She told her husband about it with great faith and tried to get him to go with her up to this place and look for the money. He hooted at the idea and would not go. She kept nagging at him and finally he gave in, as most men do under the constant nagging of his wife, and went with her, and there they found $2500 in gold coin hidden in the place she had seen so vividly in her dream. With this money they bought two slaves and thereby got started in the slave business. So far as anyone knows, that, and the few hundred dollars that was found in the burned house, was all of the old man's gold that was ever found. It was thought that he had much more than that. Nun said at that time people in the community were still on the lookout for the money which they felt was buried there somewhere. And occasionally evidence was seen whereby someone had been digging, probably by people who were not as accurate dreamers as was that ancestral lady.
From the Amos house site we walked out to the edge of the bottom and up on a knoll. There he pointed out to us the old family graveyard. Here and there was to be seen old grave stones made of natural granite, some standing, some lying on the ground. There was evidence of carving having been made in some of them, but time had erased its legibility. I could only make out a figure or a letter here and there. I presume that the carving was crude and shallow to start with, and time and the elements did the rest. He pointed out the grave of Dad's brother, Berry, who died as a young man. There was a poplar tree about two feet in diameter growing on the grave. In fact, the entire graveyard was grown up with large timber.
From there we walked on down the river and came to the John L. Jackson place which was nearby. You remember him and his large crowd of girls, of course. They were born there. We crossed the river back to the old Clem house.
All of the foregoing does not do much to give you family history, but thought you would be interested in the things I saw on that trip, as I doubt I have ever told you about that trip, and I also doubt if you will ever go there to see for yourself, and if you did there would probably be no one to point our those places and things.
Now, as I have stated, Amos was the ancestor of the family and I think he had a son named Jonathan, who was the father of a son named John, and that John was the father of Isaac, Clem, Levi, and Green Berry [Note from PW: this is not correct]. Green Berry was our grandfather. He was Sheriff of Polk County during the Civil War and for that reason did not go into the army. He died long before you and I were born. I think Curtis said he barely remembered him. I think John also had at least one daughters, the mother of Waddill and Berry Hill. I may be wrong about the number of generations from Amos to Dad, but I think I am right.
Isaac was the father of Zeb, Patton, and John Arledge, whom you remember lived in Hendersonville. Levi was the father of Nun, Grant, and Preacher John Arledge and maybe others, whom I do not know about. Clem had several children whom I personally knew, namely Patterson, Nun, Easor and some daughters. Easor, I believe, is still living. If so and I am ever back in that neighborhood, I am going to see him and see what he knows about the family history. Green Berry's children were Grayson, Dad and Berry, with two girls by his second wife, one of whom married Decatur Williams and the other married W. M. Justice, who for many years was the Superintendent of the Polk County Public Schools.
In reading Sadie Patton's history of Polk County recently I was interested to note the number of times the name John Arledge, Clerk of the County Court, appeared. His name appeared on many marriage licenses and other records recited in the book. I believe he was Dad's grandfather, and yet I am not certain. That was in the period just prior to the Civil War. Polk [County], as you know, was established in the late [eighteen] fifties.
There are Arledges in South Carolina, which presumably are descendants of the one who settled at Edgefield. I have heard of one in Sumter and often thought I would look him up when there, but was always in a hurry and put it off. I may do it yet. I remember some years ago I used to see John Arledge, an actor in the movies. He was not a leading star, but he did pretty well. But I have not heard or seen anything of him in a long time. I wrote him one time but never heard from him. I was interested to know where he came from. He must have had enough Arledge in him to give him the trait of procrastination when it comes to writing letters.
I have known in the most casual way of the family which lived in Charlotte from which Judge R.F. Deacon Arledge came, though I never knew any of them personally and always had the impression that they came from the South Carolina branch of the family.
I recall having heard Dad say that the Arledges originally came to this country from Ireland, they were of the group known as the Ulster-Irish. [PW: This account does not agree with current knowledge of Arledge family roots.] They probably came along with crowd of Irishmen who rebelled against the whiskey tax imposed by the Crown of England on the manufacture of whiskey. I never heard of their being manufacturers of liquor, though, they were most likely consumers and disliked having the tax added to the purchase price. Many of these people migrated to this country and settled in western Pennsylvania and there they engaged in the manufacture of tax free whiskey. After the constitution was adopted, and while George Washington was President, Congress passed an Act levying a tax upon the manufacture of whiskey, which was the cause of the Whiskey Rebellion. Washington called out the army to quell the disturbance. After that, many of those people in western Pennsylvania who had fled to this country to escape the whiskey tax began migrating south through the Appalachian mountains to get out of the reach of the government agents, and that accounts for a great deal of the migration from that area into the mountain sections of Virginia and North Carolina....Whether our ancestors moved south for that reason I do not know.... The only Arledge I ever heard of being involved in the liquor business was old man Grant Arledge. He got entangled with the Revenue Officers: way back yonder, I recall having heard Dad say. In fact, he is the only Arledge I ever heard of becoming entangled with the criminal laws in any way. Either they were law abiding or shrewd operators.
I have never had much curiosity about my ancestry, although as the years are weighing heavier on me I do have some more interest in my background, all of which doesn't amount to a "hill of beans" in fact. However, I wouldn't mind knowing the names and something of the experiences of those who are buried in that old forgotten graveyard. When you think of all the people who have lived and died ever since the intervention of man's interment in the ground, if the graveyards had not faded out as that old Arledge burying ground in the forest of the Green River Mountains, there wouldn't be much place for the living to occupy.
September 14, 1951
Today I went to see Easor Arledge at the home of his son Reese above Mill Springs, Polk County [NC]. He was in bed suffering from a heart ailment which seized him about a month ago. He was 88 in January, born in 1863, son of Clem Arledge, who was a son of Jonathan. His mind was bright and clear and his recollections seemed clear. I discussed family history with him. Of course, he had no first-hand information as to Amos or of his grandfather Jonathan but he seemed to know a great deal about those of his own generation and remembered what his elders had told him about the family background.
He said that Ellen Aiken--a daughter of Isaac (son of Jonathan) told him many years ago that Amos came from Fairfield County, SC. But he never heard how he came to be at Fairfield or any of the family history back of there, but had heard it was generally believed the Arledges came from Ireland. "Uncle Isaac" (he didn't know whether he was a brother of Amos or what relation) also settled and lived in the same neighborhood, one on one side of Green River and the other on the other, or the lower end as he called it. Amos lived in the "hackberry bottom" (named for a big hackberry tree which stood there). "Uncle Isaac" it seems had no children, but raised a girl, Harriet Jones (he thought her name was). He didn't know where Harriet came from or anything about her background, only that Isaac raised her. Amos had a son named Jonathan and a son named Greenbandy; they were half-brothers. Jonathan married Harriet and lived there on the Amos land, and Greenbandy went to Tennessee. If Amos had any other children, Easor did not know about it.
Jonathan and Harriet had the following children: Levi, Isaac, John, Clem, Green Berry, Eli, Mary who married Carson Hill, and Angelina who married Thornton Bradley, and another girl who married a McGraw (I didn't get her name). I did not go into detail about all of the children of Jonathan's sons and daughters but Easor named some of them:
LEVI--son Lis. There may have been others. Lis was Grant Arledge's father. I recently met Elbert Arledge, a young man who lives in Tryon; he said his father was Basil but didn't know his grandfather's name, but said Grant was his uncle. So Lis must have had another son at least.
ISAAC--sons John, Zeb, Patton, and two daughters--Ellen Aiken and Laura (unmarried).
JOHN--No mention of his family, but he was the first clerk of court of Polk County.
CLEM--Sons Patterson, Nun, Easor, Hamilton (Babe) and three girls: one married Riley Williams, one married Israel Higgins, and the youngest daughter married Bony Huggins.
GREEN BERRY--married Sarah Holbert, sister of France Holbert, and had sons: Grayson, John Pinckney (my father) and Isaac. Isaac died when a young man, unmarried. [G. B.'s] second wife was Rebecca Waldrop, and by her he had two daughters, Sarah Ann (Sallie) Justice (wife of W. M. Justice) and Ellen Williams, wife of Decatur Williams.
Eli told Easor that some of Greenbandy's family who lived in Tennessee used to write him occasionally but finally stopped and all trace of that branch of the family was thereby lost.
Easor explained how the land got out of the family. He said Isaac, the son of Jonathan, was sheriff of Polk County before he moved to Henderson County. After he moved to Henderson he became administrator of the Pitillo Estate, and Jonathan signed as surety on his bond. Isaac defaulted in some amount and they sued Jonathan on the bond and the [old] Isaac and Amos places then owned by Jonathan were sold under execution. Clem later bought back the lower part of it (the "Uncle Isaac" part). As to the Amos tract, I don't know how the chain of title ran, but John Jackson finally wound up owning it, including the "Hackberry Bottom." Easor said that Thomas E. Pace (who was John Jackson's brother in law) told him that John Jackson found Amos' pot of gold but never told it, and that is how he suddenly became well to do. Of course, I know John Jackson also sold his land to the Power Company about 35 or 40 years ago. But I don't think he got enough ($10,000 I always understood) to account for his apparent worth when he moved out of Green River Cove to Columbus. John was supposed to be worth considerable when he died at Tryon several years ago, but I think his worth was overestimated by public gossip.
Easor said it was Harriet, wife of Jonathan, who dreamed of where part of Amos' gold was hidden and found some of it--he said $1500. I failed to ask Easor the hearsay as to how Amos got his gold. No doubt he brought it with him, as I don't see how he could have accumulated much gold at that time in that section.
Easor told me about seeing a man in Asheville about 2 years ago, he doesn't remember his name, who had old newspaper clippings concerning many affairs of Polk in the early days when Isaac was sheriff and John was clerk, an article about the incorporation of Mill Springs. Otis Nelson and dad [JP Arledge] were incorporators, etc. Said his boys who lived in Asheville know the man: Ted R. Arledge and I forget the name of the other one operate the ABC Dry Cleaning establishment in Asheville.
Said Bess and Cling Aiken (daughters of Ellen) live at or near Brevard, NC. One of Patterson's boy's lives in Sumter, SC. He is evidently the Arledge I have heard of there. He is the agent for the Southern Railroad.
Easor also told me the story of a soldier named Arledge who came home with a McGraw boy during WWII for a visit. It seems that this boy was from Fairfield, or near there in South Carolina. He heard of the Polk County Arledges through the McGraw boy and came home with him--just to find out about them I suppose.
I talked to Easor about the old Arledge graveyard on the hill at the edge of Hackberry Bottom. He said that many years ago Green Berry Hill (of Henderson County, son of Mary Arledge and Carson Hill) told him that if he, Easor, could identify the graves of Jonathan and Harriet that he would have their remains moved to the Silver Creek Church Cemetery. Easor said he did a lot of investigating but was never able to identify their graves from others, and that under those circumstances Green Berry Hill said he would not do anything further about it. It seems certain, therefore, that time has obliterated all means of identifying their graves.
Easor reminded me of some legal services I rendered him soon after I started practicing law. I had forgotten about it. Easor ran a little country store up there where he lived. One day he got a notice from the Railroad Office at Tryon that a shipment of 6 pianos had arrived consigned to him. He hadn't ordered any pianos, and of course did not carry them in stock. In fact, I doubt he could have sold one in that entire township. I doubt if he could have fit two of them in the store at the same time. He was mystified as to why these pianos should be shipped to him. I suppose it was a dominant topic of conversation at his house. Finally his daughter, Arkansas, about 12 or 14 years of age, confessed to ordering them in Easor's name. She wanted a piano and had seen an advertisement in a magazine, with an order blank attached, and signed his name to it, ordering one half-dozen of them. I suppose the company investigated Easor's credit and found it good. Anyhow, the pianos came. I advised Easor that the safest thing was to pay the freight and them re-ship them back to the Company. That I felt would be safer than refusing to accept them and let them be sold for the freight and a possible suit against him for the pianos. A jury might not have believed that his daughter placed the order without his knowledge. Anyhow after much blasphemous correspondence back and forth, they finally quit bedeviling Easor for the account. Of course, it wasn't as funny to Easor 35 years ago as it was in his reminiscing today. And I suppose that before it was all over Miss Arkansas learned a lesson about ordering things in her daddy's name unbeknown to him, particularly such items as pianos by the half dozen.
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