The sky was clear and the breeze cooled visitors as they gathered at the Huntersville Confederate Cemetery for a special dedication ceremony during Huntersville Traditions Day.
The ceremony is the latest of several that honor Confederate soldiers who served during the Civil War. The Tennessee Order of Confederate Rose began the project to identify graves and to place stones to honor the fallen.
Order member Vonda Dixon’s tirelessly researched the history of the soldiers and was able to find information on all of them.
This year, Dixon and re-enactors in the West Virginia Military Academy, 22nd Virginia and 5th Virginia infantry, as well as the Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps and Jason Bauserman in character as Elder John Kline, honored the memory of four soldiers whose stones were placed Saturday.
As they dedicated each gravestone, Dixon read a biography of the soldier. She also spread Georgia dirt on three of the four graves as a symbol that the men were now resting in their home soil.
Private Roderick Manning McCraney, Company G, 14th Georgia Infantry
“Private McCraney was born 1849 in Worth County, Georiga, to Roderick Manning McCraney and Mary Eliza Williamson McCraney, being their second of six sons,” Dixon said. “He and brother, George, answered the call to defend their home and enlisted together at Isabella, Worth County, Georgia, on July 9, 1861. This company had a nickname, as many of them did, the ‘Yancy Independents.’
“The roll, dated February 1865, shows George present. Their brother Daniel enlisted in the spring after Roderick’s death. He named a son to honor Roderick and their father,” Dixon continued. “The 1850 census shows him and Pearson Brown as next door neighbors, they are still close. Pearson died just five days later at Marlin’s Bottom.”
Private David R. Dodd, Company E, 14th Georgia Infantry
“He was born in South Carolina in 1839,” Dixon said. “He relocated to Georgia in the 1840s as a child. He was one of five children – William, Albert, David, Susan and Mary Francis – of Nathan and Nancy Rusk Dodd, who were also all born in South Carolina. His mother only outlived him a few short years. In 1850 and 1860 the census shows he was living with his parents in Habersham and Worth Counties respectively. By 1870 their mother was also dead and William and Albert lie on either side of their father.
“On July 9, 1861, he and his older brother William both enlisted at Cumming, Forsyth County, Georgia for the duration of the war,” Dixon continued. “William survived and moved to Arkansas after the war. Younger brother Albert Dodd served in the Georgia Sharpshooters. He also survived and died many years later in Dawson County, Georgia.
“David, like others of his regiment, became ill after only a month in the army,” Dixon continued. “He died of disease only one month and ten days after entering the army. His father Nathan Dodd, the following year, filed to receive his pay. When Private David Dodd died he was only twenty-two years old.”
Private Jacob Chestnutt, Company G, 14th Georgia Infantry
“Born in 1825 in North Carolina to Charley King Chestnutt and Sarah Pew Chestnutt, who emigrated to Georgia before 1840,” Dixon said. “His father died when he [Jacob] was fifteen so it’s assumed he had to become the man of the house at that young age with an older sister and two younger brothers to care for.
“He also enlisted 9 July 1861 in Isabella, Worth County, Georgia, for the duration of the war,” she continued. “He was a member of Company G, the ‘Yancy Independents.’ Sickness certainly took a toll on this company. His brother Charles K. Chestnutt, Jr., claimed his pay stating Jacob had no wife, child or father; but he had two brothers and one sister. Her sister’s husband was the witness. On his record his death date is listed at 27 September, 11 October and 1 November. However the 27 September date is the one most often used.
“Only four of the soldiers buried here are over the age of 30,” Dixon noted. “He ties another as second oldest at 36 years old.”
Private John Henry Hutchison, Company F, 16th North Carolina Infantry
“William ‘Billy’ Hutchison’s sons proudly fought for the south in the War Between the States,” Dixon said. “Four went off to war: John Henry, Thomas, Samuel and Andrew, but only one came home, Reverend Andrew Jackson Hutchison. John Henry Hutchison was born on November 12, 1836 in Rockingham County, North Carolina, and died on October 20, 1862 – less than a month from his 26th birthday – in Huntersville, West Virginia (Northwestern Virginia). John enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private in Company F, 16th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in Asheville on May 7, 1861.
“On October 20, 1862, John died in Huntersville, West Virginia,” Dixon continued. “It is not stated in John’s records how he died. Huntersville served as a supply center for the Confederates, perhaps he was sent for supplies during the Sixteenth Regimen’s time of reorganizing and rest. General Robert E. Lee sent sick soldiers to various locations in the wake of the Maryland campaign, perhaps John was sick and died there.
“He was probably the only man resting here who saw battle,” she concluded.
During the ceremony, Dixon was noticeably moved by the stories of these men she never met. She explained that although she never knew them, they held a special place in her heart.
“These are my boys,” she said, wiping tears from her face.
Crafters keep traditions alive
Huntersville Traditions Day is a way to sneak a peek at the past in real time. Re-enactors and demonstrators have honed their crafts to ensure that the ways of yore continue into the future.
Nestled behind the Huntersville Schoolhouse is the cafeteria, where many of these crafts are brought to life by local artisans.
Quilters, a knitter, a crocheter and a bobbin lace maker gathered in the building to share their gifts, and a few fun stories, with each other and visitors.
Sandy Irvine is one such crafter who has demonstrated quilting for many years at Huntersville Traditions.
This year, as she used an antique Singer sewing machine to work on a quilt, Irvine explained that she didn’t always enjoy quilting and was more of a dressmaker.
“My foster mother quilted,” she said. “She hand-pieced everything and quilted. I’ve always liked to sew and I liked the history of quilts a long time before I started quilting. I didn’t like quilting too much when I started. I was a dressmaker. I didn’t like cutting little chunks up and making them bigger. I finally gained some patience and I really do like it.”
Luckily for the rest of the world, Irvine has come to love quilting. Many of her quilts were on display in the cafeteria and on several occasions, as visitors walked through, she had to tell them, sadly, the quilts weren’t for sale.
Irvine traded dressmaking for quilting and quickly learned that the color and pattern theory of making clothes is not the same as quilting.
“When you’re a dress maker, you don’t put polka dots and stripes and flowers all together in a dress – not normally,” she said. “That’s what I had the hardest time with when I first started. I was trying to use the same fabric pattern like you use in clothing and they looked flat. I got disgusted because of that. Sherry [Hudson] got me into taking some classes and things.”
“Cheryl [Taylor-Dean] got me taking classes,” Hudson said.
It seems Dean was the one to “blame” for both ladies taking quilting classes and honing their skills.
“I started with Pearl S. Buck [quilting weekend] I guess,” Irvine said. “Cheryl made me do it.”
“I’ve always loved quilts,” Dean said. “My mom wasn’t patient enough to teach me. If anyone knows Audrey Woods, I asked Audrey what I needed to do and I taught myself. She was a farmer’s wife and she manned the gossip line. She knew everybody.”
Much like Woods passing on the tradition to Dean, these ladies are passing on their knowledge to the newest generation of quilters. Joining them at Huntersville were Christy Sharp and Erin Lore, who have learned from Hudson and Irvine, respectively. The ladies were also joined by quilter Rita Kelly.
Joining the quilters were Marsha Beverage, who crochets rag rugs out of old sheets or material. Beverage explained that the color rugs could be used indoors or outdoors and “last forever.”
Rounding out the crafters in the cafeteria were mother and daughter team Linda Stewart and Suzanne Stewart. Linda, a knitter for more than 40 years, had samples of knitted hats, scarves and dish towels, while Suzanne demonstrated the art of bobbin lace, and had bookmarks and Christmas ornaments on display.
Much like when it was used by children who attended Huntersville School, the cafeteria was abuzz with stories, laughter and the mingling of history and plans for the future.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org