I never stop, really. It would be like casting aside a good book that you just must know the ending of.
Sarah Ellender Winters Arrowood Miller's brothers and sisters lived in the area around Elk Park and the small community of Cranberry, in Avery County. Avery County is just several miles or so from Roan Mountain Tennessee.
We made our way up the highway, heading back to the mountains and heading 'toward home' for me. I was excited beyond words, once again. I guess you already had guessed that, my faithful reader. This stuff gets me going. The excitement and the possibility of finding what I seek are overwhelming.
I had info that there was a Winters family cemetery in the area of Elk Park and I was determined to find it.
And find it , we did!
In the town area of Elk Park , now, it's really small folks, we found an old fashioned type hardware store. We ventured in, and asked people we met about the location of a cemetery called 'Banner Cemetery'.
We have relatives buried in Banner, as well.
One man stopped and chatted when I asked him about the cemetery. He told me that it was just up the road on the right, surrounded by a white fence. I looked up, and sure enough there it was. In plain sight. He asked who I was looking for and I said the Winters family. He smiled and said, you know what? I bet we are cousins. And we are. His mother was a Winters and he said..Yep, The "Seven Devils" Winter family! Shaking his head with agreement, we both had heard all the stories about the Seven Devils.
It was one of those moments when you have to try and talk around a good sized lump in your throat and your eyes tear up to overfilled, even if you try hard not to. Dad would have been overjoyed with shaking this man's hand, but I was the one there to do it instead. He smiled and said, "Hello there, cousin"! He knew that his line traced back to William 'Billy' Winters, our ancestor , as well, buried right up the road alongside of Shell creek on Roan Mountain. I knew then, that we were for sure, cousins.
He told me a tale about a William Zebedee "Zeb" Winters, who was the constable (Sheriff) there in Elk Park. He said he was ambushed and killed in the line of duty and after a quick search, sure enough I found him! Zeb was the son of John Winters and Lana (Mary) Cook Winters.
William "Zeb" Winters. Died in 1922 from what I can tell. He left behind three children and a young wife, Charlotte Abigail Hollis Winters (his third wife). He is buried in the small cemetery up on the knoll overlooking the town of Elk Park.
Zeb, as the story goes, was on his way to investigate a murder and was killed while going to the scene.
Zeb Winters has a memorial page on a 'Fallen Police Officer' site, but there is no mention of the guilty ever serving prison time. I spoke with someone that knew the circumstances and he assures that Charlie went to prison for the crime. He even saw him when he returned home.
May poor Zebedee rest in peace ~ This story only gets more interesting, and it reads like a movie plot for sure. More info soon!
This Buchanan cousin, that we happened upon in town and spoke with, initially, came down the line from John H. Winters, (one of the Devils) and brother to our Sarah Ellen.
There along a knoll overlooking Christmas tree farms on the mountainside nearby, rests our Winters clan.
As I often do when I find myself in these old burying grounds, my mind wandered back in time to a scene that had to have happened, when someone was buried up this steep slope. A horse and carriage no doubt brought the person up, and what kept the poor mourners from tumbling down the mountain I will never know.
I had to watch my step carefully, as I took pictures, the hillside was such a steep grade. Amazing.
The descendant that we met, told us that his mother, Virginia, still lives in the old home place in Elk Park. We found the road and took a picture of the sign, of course.
Virginia is 99 years young. I know with her passing , sadly we will lose more family info. It is just the way of things. I would love to have her stories, to document and preserve.
Our family's history is steeped into this area along the NC / TN line. Just up the road is Carter County, TN and about 8 miles from Elk Park is Roan Mountain, where the mother and father of the Seven Devils are both buried. William "Billy" Winters and Eliza Shell Winters. What a brood they had!
This family of ours had it tough. The many graves of their children attest to that. I see them intermingled in the cemeteries, young lives cut short because of the hard way of life. I feel proud when I think of how they must have struggled to survive in those harsh winters, but they did survive. They were sturdy people, strong willed, too, no doubt . That makes me very proud to be a descendant. I know some of that determination and drive was passed down to me. Just ask my sweetie about my stubborn streak...Grin.
Finding the final resting place of our kin has become so important to me and I have wondered about it, myself at times.
What makes this quest so consuming? Why is it so important to me?
What is this about, really, and where does it come from exactly?
Is it the search and the just knowing, along with placing them among the rest of the family in their rightful place? Yes, partly.
It is documenting the information for those that are yet to come, too.
Many markers are endangered and won't be there forever.
There is a ton of reasons, I guess, but the main one is just because I love this so, and feel like it is what I am supposed to be doing.
I am over the moon when I find more info and another search in the making. I am carrying out my Dad's wish. I am going back to the beginnings of me, the beginnings of all of us in our family. I feel so connected to those that have gone before me and I feel closer to the mountains than I ever have.
Documenting it here for others to find is another way of preserving our heritage.
What I can't accurately describe here is the way I really felt while I standing on the knoll, overlooking the mountains and knowing that my family lies here, in hallowed ground.
No wonder we, as a family, all love being in the mountains.
It is in our blood.
It is who we are.
It has been a part of our family, for generations.
It is our home , plain and simple.