Recently, I wrote a piece for the site Appalachian History, sharing family lore. The story centered on my McGimpsey-Fullwood roots in Fonta Flora, a once-upon-a-time fertile farming community in western North Carolina disrupted by man-made Lake James.
“Like a descendant of exiles, I inherited a nostalgic yearning and inextricable ties to a time and place I will never see. Bequeathed and probably cellular too, my hand-me-down memories of Fonta Flora are treasures.”
While the site’s editor chose a different title, my working title for the story was Provenance. Defined as “the place of origin or earliest known history of something,” the word provenance epitomizes Fonta Flora to me. Documents going back as far as the early 1800s show Fonta Flora (at one time also known as Linville) was once home to virtually all my paternal forebears. Having stories, photos and visceral bonds that allow me the privilege of knowing my grandmother’s grandmother’s mother and more kin is a privilege I do not take lightly.
The “fonta” in Fonta Flora translates from Latin as “source” or “origin”. Thus, my provenance, my source is the source of the flowers and also the flowering for the McGimpsey-Fullwood family.
Ancestors and family are subjects I often write about. Like here and here. So I was excited when a reporter from The Charlotte Observer reached out last week for my input on a piece about Fonta Flora, the storied community of my paternal great-great grandparents.
“There once was a vale of peace and beauty in the NC foothills, the story goes, where crops grew tall and neighbors both black and white lived in harmony. Even its name sounded lush: Fonta Flora.”
The newspaper article includes an account from my family’s oral history that I shared. Below is an excerpt.
“Just the connection to the land and what’s under that lake is strong and really powerful for all of us,” (Valaida) said. “There’s also the sense of loss, in my mind. After the Civil War, for families that had been enslaved people, even though we didn’t have grand plantations like in other parts of the South, people still struggled to make lives for themselves in a new place, and work for decades. And then to be uprooted.”
The full Observer article by Bruce Henderson is found here, and it features a beloved family portrait from around 1903.
Pictured on the left is my maternal grandmother Lucille Geneva, who would have turned 99 years old today (November 2). She’s seated with sister Pauline on the lawn of the family home in Randolph County, North Carolina. Below is a photo her husband, my grandfather James who would have celebrated his 94th birthday on October 29.
During my time with them both, we shared grand times and a wonderfully grand love. Missing you two!
“Long before Hillary Clinton wrote a book, Mrs. Fullwood knew it takes a village to raise children. Her daughter and I became best friends in kindergarten, so Mrs. Fullwood has been part of my life for ages and she schooled me on many lifelong lessons.” — Lisa Moore, from the Giving Backstory “Mothering Teacher, Teaching Mother”
You can access and read Lisa’s full story via the QR code below. Happy Mother’s Day!
Soon after my elder cousin Nettie’s passing about two weeks ago, I spoke with my mom to arrange coming home for her funeral service. Later that morning a reporter from The Charlotte Observer called, requesting an interview on my family history and genealogy for a story he was writing.
While initially reluctant, I began to feel a heightened sense of legacy and responsibility to share a family history that Cousin Nettie committed her life to teaching me, her children, my cousins and the people of Burke County.
The Observer ran the story on Sunday, in observance of Black History Month, and I’m honored to have shared some fascinating aspects of my family, about the lost community of Fonta Flora and stories of my great-great grandfather Riley McGimpsey. Below is a link to the story, which also includes a family story from Giving Back photographer Charles W. Thomas, Jr.
Referring to my Lab’s name Bali, I used to quote John Donne (see below) and joke that while “no man is an island,” a dog can be. My work in the international field took me to the paradise isle of Bali, Indonesia on numerous occasions, and it became a favorite vacation spot and the place of many sweet memories. So when I brought home my six-weeks-old puppy a decade ago, her name had already been chosen years prior.
After naming her for an island, I soon learned she would become anything but. For ten years Bali and I were in essence inseparable, and today I lost a piece of me. A furry “clod” of the best kind has left my world…and tonight my heart feels shattered.
No Man Is An Island
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.