The Legend of Granny Dollar, part 2 of 2

Posted by | November 20, 2015

(continued from yesterday…)

When the Union forces first reached Atlanta, Callahan sent his daughter word not to go in for more goods, but to stay home with the children. From 30 miles away the loud roar of cannon could be clearly heard. She declared in 1928 that she would never forget the battle sound. Callahan was killed during the battle of Atlanta, after having fought for the Confederacy for several years.

After the burning of Atlanta, Sherman’s march took him through the Indian family’s cornfields, which were “in roasting ear,” and Nancy assumed full responsibility for providing food for the other fatherless children.

Nancy remained single for over 40 more years. In her seventies, she married Norman Dollar and moved to the Mentone area. Twenty years later, her husband died. She managed to buy his tombstone by selling her cow. From this time until her death eight years later, the legends grew around Granny Dollar. She enjoyed embellishing the stories told about her and encouraged their telling. She told fortunes and managed to survive by growing chickens and vegetables and by the generosity of friends and neighbors.

“Another race has taken our fields, our forests and our game. Their children now play where we once were so happy. The trouble with the white race,” she mused, “is that they lay up so much for old age that they quit work at 50 or 60 years. When they stop working, they get out of touch with nature; all wear shoes in summer which keeps them from God’s good earth; then they begin to fail, and soon they are dead.”

Her last years were spent on Colonel Milford Howard’s property. The ruins of her cabin are almost hidden from DeKalb County Highway 156, on the south side of the road a short distance east of DeSoto Parkway. The chimney still stands and vines have taken over the decaying ruins. Across the paved road a dirt road meanders up a hill to the former site of Colonel Howard’s Master School.

Colonel Howard is responsible for much of the legend surrounding Granny Dollar. In 1928 he wrote a feature story about her for The Birmingham News. He met Granny upon his return from a long stay in California. She had then settled into one of his cabins. Although his own financial situation was precarious, Howard agreed to provide for Nancy, which included a bit of fat meat in her greens and biscuits, her baccy for her ever-present corncob pipe, and rations for her “Injun” chickens and mongrel dog Buster.

Buster was very old himself, having reached the age of 20. He’d long served as Granny’s faithful guardian, ever ready to attack anyone who approached either him or his mistress. He had frightened so many people and had even bitten several children, Buster was despised by the neighbors as a mean, vicious beast, but Granny had loved him.

Granny Dollar with her dog BusterPreparing for her own demise, Granny had saved twenty-three dollars toward a tombstone, but the money was stolen from her. Three years to the day from the publication date of the Progressive Farmer article about Granny Dollar, the January 28, 1931 issue of the Fort Payne Journal announced her death.

People in the community arranged for her burial beside her husband in Little River Cemetery, and Colonel Howard delivered the eulogy.

After Granny’s funeral no one wanted Buster and he was equally unwilling to have anything to do with any prospective new master or protector. When neighbors went to check on the old dog, they found him gnawing the door, his angry snarl revealing the gums which once had held dangerous teeth.

After he refused to be coaxed or driven from his vigil, the mountaineers decided it would be more humane to chloroform Buster than to allow him to grieve himself to death or slowly starve. When Buster’s body was buried, another funeral was held with Col. Milford W. Howard, famous lawyer, congressman and author, eulogizing Granny Dollar’s faithful mongrel dog.

In 1973, largely through the efforts of Annie Young of Fort Payne, Granny’s tombstone was erected. The head of an Indian woman is inscribed at the top and “Daughter of the Cherokee” is written at the bottom, next to the dates “1826-1931″ (her exact birth date is uncertain.)


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