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.