The legend of Granny Dollar, part 1 of 2

Posted by | November 19, 2015

She said she was 101 at the time of the interview in the January 28, 1928 issue of the Progressive Farmer, but she remembered the early days of childhood well.

There is no doubt that Nancy Emmaline Callahan Dollar, who came to be known as “Granny Dollar,” was what is known as a character. This friendly old woman, who lived on Lookout Mountain about nine miles from Fort Payne, AL, enjoyed reminiscing and talking to visitors.

Born in Buck’s Pocket (a five-mile-long gorge on Sand Mountain spanning DeKaIb, Jackson and Marshall counties) eight miles east of Coffeetown, Nancy was the daughter of a Cherokee father named William Callahan and a half Cherokee Indian, half Scots-Irish mother named Mary Sexton.

She enjoyed the games played by Indian children, including one called “dog and fox” and liked to pitch quoits, an activity similar to pitching horseshoes. She never attended any kind of school.

Granny Dollar with her dog BusterNancy’s father hunted game while the rest of the family raised corn and potatoes. On one occasion after having killed a very large deer, her father appeared to be very sad and unable to eat. The concerned mother, after persistent questioning finally elicited the reason for his distress. “I cannot eat my meat,” he said. “I fear my three poor little children in South Carolina are hungry. I have a wife and three children in South Carolina and I was forced to leave them there.” Nancy’s mother replied, “Go and fetch them. There is room and plenty to eat.”

Thus, Nancy’s family soon included another mother and sister and two more brothers. The Cherokees were allowed to have more than one wife and in Nancy’s family, at least, there appeared to be no dissension or jealousy. “My father’s hut was enjoyed by all,” she recalled.

She remembered that her mother appeared as happy over the new arrivals as did the children and had her big dirt oven full of baked potatoes and venison ready for the ravenous children. The two women labored together in raising the crops and caring for the family. Together, they had a total of 26 children, including three sets of triplets born to Nancy’s mother.

This large family ate wild turkey, deer and fish with vegetables, which included cabbage, pumpkin and corn. Their corn was roasted with the shuck on. Johnnie cake, sweetened with molasses and hominy, were also common foods. The oven used for cooking their meals was made of red clay and was used under a shed outside the home.

When most Indians left this area to join the forced march over the “Trail of Tears,” William Callahan avoided moving his family from their beloved mountain home by hiding in a cave. He did leave later, however, after an altercation with a white man named Jukes, during which the Indian, his temper aroused by curses and a false accusation, bit off Jukes’ nose and one ear. Fearing that the Jukes family might retaliate by burning his home, Callahan moved to Georgia and settled in Marthasville, near Atlanta.

When Nancy was about 21 years old she sought a way to make money in order to help provide food for her many younger brothers and sisters. One of the mothers was now dead (she did not specify which one.)

She began hauling goods from Marthasville to the country stores near her home, a distance of 30 miles. She made long trips over rough roads in a covered, or tar-pole, wagon drawn by two mules. The wagon axles were greased and the mules hitched, unhitched and fed by Nancy herself.

Slaves helped her load the goods at Kyle Brothers Wholesalers and storekeepers helped her unload the cases of molasses, meat, salt, powder, lead, gun caps, shoes, dishes and wagon tires which she hauled for some 15 or 20 years. She was never robbed or molested in any way during the many trips she made alone.

During this period she became engaged to a storekeeper’s son named Thomas Porter, but the Civil War ended this romance. Porter joined the Confederate Army and was killed in battle.

(continued tomorrow…)


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