Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Charles Fletcher’s Grandpa Pressley

Today’s guestpost was written by Charles Fletcher.

Charles Wesley Pressley

Grandpa Pressley written by Charles Fletcher

Charles Wesley Pressley was my
grandpa. To all of his acquaintances and
friends he answered to the name of “Charlie”. If I asked the younger members of my family about their Great-Great Grandpa
“Charlie Pressley”, most of them would probably say, “Who was Charlie
Pressley?” Therefore, I am writing this
brief history of my grandpa’s life so that his descendents will know a little
about him.

Grandpa
Pressley was born in Haywood County in Western North Carolina on October 4, 1879. His father was Devoe Newton Pressley. His mother was Margaret Mehaffey. The two pictures that I have included here
are the only ones that I have of Grandpa.

Grandpa
Charlie Pressley married Mary Elizabeth Putnam in Clyde, North Carolina, in 1902. They had eight children. They were, in order of their birth,

  • William McKinley (October 17, 1903 – 1 September
    1974)
  • Margaret Ellen (April 1, 1905 – 15 August 1999)
  • D. Alvin (February 20, 1907 – 1997)
  • Oral Neomia (September 24, 1909 – April 28, 1927)
  • Charlotte (July 10, 1912 – March 8, 1989)
  • Doyle Bob (September 25, 1914 – July 7, 1975)
  • Vernon (August 3, 1919 – September 25, 1986)
  • Clifford W. (July 18, 1920 – January 14, 1982)

In 1999, Margaret Ellen, my mother and the last of Grandpa’s eight children, died. That was the end of Grandpa’s immediate family. Some of the grandchildren are still living. I am one of them, and I am ninety-one years old.

 

Ellen, Clifford, Charlotte Bottom: Grandpa and Grandma Pressley

Top: Ellen, Clifford, Charlotte Bottom: Grandpa and Grandma Pressley

Grandpa was a descendent of Dutch ancestors. He was not a large man in body, but he was a very hard worker. Life was not easy for Grandpa. He had to work long hours farming on a mountainside to grow food to feed his large family. His children started working to help with chores at a very early age. There was always something they could do to help around the house and in the fields regardless of their age.

In the early part of the spring of 1927, there was a death in the Pressley family. The youngest girl, Oral, 18 years old,
died suddenly. She was the fourth child in the family. The cause of her death was uncertain. (Her death certificate
says she had pneumonia.)

I was five years old at the time Oral died. I can vividly remember how Grandma and a few neighbors on the mountain prepared Oral for burial. My mom had taken me to the house where her sister was lying in a wooden coffin. There was only one way to bring Oral’s body to the Methodist church in the valley for the funeral and burial in the church cemetery. There was a long sled trail around the mountain leading to the house where Grandpa and his family lived. Her coffin was placed on a sled, and it was pulled by a horse to the church. All the family followed along except the twenty-year old brother, Alvin. He would not come into the house while the body of his sister was there, and he did not go to the church for the funeral.

A few days after Oral’s burial, Grandpa announced that he was selling his house and belongings and moving to Colorado where the land was flat and he could buy a real farm instead of scratching out a little patch here and there to plant crops to feed his family. Grandpa had been to Colorado several years earlier. In fact, his son Vernon had been born in Colorado in 1919.

Grandpa sent a telegram to his friend in Colorado and asked about buying land. He received a return message saying that there was land for sale. Grandpa bought train tickets the following week, and all of his family, except his daughter Ellen, went by train to Colorado.

Later Grandpa moved his family back to the mountains of western North Carolina. Grandpa was a humble, easy-going man who had never done any harm to any of his fellowmen. He was very strict with his five boys. He never used alcohol in any form. He did, nevertheless, tolerate Grandma’s having what she called her “medicine”, which was two big spoons-full of moonshine whiskey mixed with sugar and water before each meal. Grandpa’s chewed apple-flavored chewing tobacco. You would always see him wearing his denim overalls with his plug of apple tobacco in the pocket on the chest of the overalls.

I liked being with my grandpa, but as I grew older I saw less of him. I tried to visit him when it was convenient. I saw him even less often after Grandma died. He was seldom at home after she died. When weather permitted, he would spend his days sitting on a bench with some of his older friends in a park beside the main street in town. He had a lot in common with his friends. They all chewed tobacco and talked about the latest happenings and swapped knives every once in a while.

Whenever possible, I would find Grandpa and visit with him. However, as I grew older, I had less time to visit. I joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), I was in the US Army during WWII, and I got married and started raising a family of my own, so I very seldom saw Grandpa.

In 1953 I moved to Tennessee where I had found new employment, and I never saw Grandpa again. He died in 1953, the same year that I moved away. He was 73 years old. He was hit by a car while crossing the street in town, and he died at his daughter’s home several months later.

Grandpa Pressley was a hard worker, he raised a large family, and he was never afraid to venture out and seek a better life for his family. Charles Wesley Pressley was a great man, and I am proud to have been named after him.

Charles C. Fletcher — April 26, 2013

———————

I hope you enjoyed reading about Charles’s Grandpa as much as I did! Leave him a comment and I’ll make sure he reads it!

Tipper

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    November 3, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful man!
    Would that we had more like him in today’s world – where truly good people are so sorely needed, and are often found so far and few between.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    November 1, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Tipper: What a wonderful history of the family. I enjoyed reading through the times gone by.

  • Reply
    grannysu
    October 7, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    An excellent post, Tipper. People like him are the real heroes of our country–they did their jobs quietly, without notice, but with dignity. Thank you for sharing him with us.

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    October 5, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Mr. Fletcher, Thank you so much for your story. There is just something special about Grandpas. My Papaw was about your age. If he were still living, he would be 93. He joined the CCCs also and worked out in Oregon at Grant’s Pass and Crater Lake. He too didn’t care to venture out to seek a better life for his family. They moved to Washington state then made a short move to Ohio then onto Florida before moving back to North GA for good in 1969. I’ve always loved the fact that I grew up on the same dirt he grew up on, went swimming in the same hole that him and his siblings did. My Momma and Daddy built their house where his family once had their big cornfield so I slept every night where he probably spent many a days hoeing corn. I’m forever grateful that God gave me enough sense to make time and spend time with my grandparents, even during my teenage years. I’m so glad I did and I’m very blessed to still have both my grandmothers. 🙂

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 5, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Charles – I never had a grandfather. Both of mine were gone before I came along. Thank you for loaning me yours for today. It took all day to find how we were kin but I found it. 1st cousin 1x removed of wife of nephew of husband of great grand aunt. Your full name is Charles Clinton Fletcher and you were born in Gaston County, NC. Your father’s name was Dewey Talmadge Fletcher. (1900-199o)
    B.Ruth – We are all kin somewhere down the line. Your quandary got me to thinking. If I can find Charles, I can find you. If you can get me your grandparents names and dates of birth, I can find how you and I and how you and Charles are related.

  • Reply
    Jackie McClung
    October 5, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Tipper, Thanks again for the tickets to the Folk School Festival. We went up today, got there by 9:30 and there was already a crowd. We toured many of the booths, bought a couple of items, heard 3-4 groups and saw the cloggers. We left about 1:30 because the crowd was just too thick for my wife. She has poor balance even when I hold her arm. We did enjoy what we saw and heard as well as the scenery.

  • Reply
    Jackie McClung
    October 5, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    My father would be 95 if he were alive now. He too was in WW2. He left home at 14 to work in the timber cutting in Graham County. I sometimes wonder how many people he crossed paths with are still around. One ofhis cousins still lives in the Robbinsville area. I remember all 4 grandparents and a great grandmother and a step great grandmother. My mother’s parents were cooks in logging camps in NC and TN. Dad’s dad ran a sawmill.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Tipper,
    and Charles…I love this post!
    I strained and looked at every name to see if we could be connected in some way. The only thing I can connect is the fact that my Aunt and Uncle are buried between Canton and Clyde.
    I found a receipt in my Mothers papers she saved, saved and saved! What a trip thru those old receipts that was. Even a receipt where she bought her, what I call a “RA RA Boom Da Yea” coat which was a long raccoon coat of the era! Back to the subject: A man by the name of Pressley sold her an Electrolux Vacuum Cleaner in Marshall back in the late thirties or very early forties…I wish I could think of his first name. I don’t think I saved it…I wanted to, but my brothers and husband was watching everything I put in the save pile. LOL This was history to me not so much because it was my Mothers…Yep, and she died with that coat hanging covered in a bag in the attic…She wore it when she and Dad got married in 1940! I think Dad slipped and tossed the old vaccum years ago!
    I think I will try to do this very thing you have done for my Grandchildren. They knew their Great Grandmother but not their Great, great Grandmother or Grandfathers!
    Thanks Charles and Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Tipper,
    Thanks for posting Charles’ precious
    memories of his Grandpa. Now all the
    relatives will know where they came
    from. I enjoyed this alot.
    Charles wrote this on my birthday!
    …Ken

  • Reply
    Dan O'Connor
    October 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    This is a great story, thank you so much for sharing. You come from a good family.

  • Reply
    Charline
    October 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Thank you, Charles, for sharing this story about your Grandpa and his family- inspiring, as always.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    October 5, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Thank you so much, Mr. Fletcher. I always love your posts. Appalachia has such a wonderful history. Our ancestors endured a lot of hardship in order for us to have the easy life we have today. Keep their stories coming!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    October 5, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Grandpas needn’t be large in stature to cast a big shadow throughout generations. Of course in my young eyes my grandfather was towering.

  • Reply
    Tom
    October 5, 2013 at 11:14 am

    What a great way for Charles to remember his grandfather and introduce us to a great man. So important that Grandpa Pressley’s story is told.

  • Reply
    L.Dockery
    October 5, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Great story. We should all write stories down about the relatives we remember. If they die when we are young then the next generation just won’t know anything about them. And some day they (we) will all be gone…and with them their stories, unless we write them down!

  • Reply
    Quinn
    October 5, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I enjoyed reading about Charlie’s Grandpa very much – he painted a lovely picture of an admirable man. I wish so much that someone in my family had written such a record for the next generations to read and add to.

  • Reply
    NCMountainwoman
    October 5, 2013 at 9:32 am

    These stories are precious jewels to treasure and pass along to the next generation. Wonderful post!

  • Reply
    Shirla
    October 5, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Charles, I hope my grandchildren will write about what a great person I was. Your books are a real treasure. Each time I finish one, I feel like I know your family personally.
    Grandma Pressley did better than I would have with eight kids in the house-I would have has three spoons full.

  • Reply
    dolores
    October 5, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Interesting legacy! I enjoyed reading the short biography. Life was hard back then and, perhaps, that made people more appreciative for the things they did have.

  • Reply
    TimMc
    October 5, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Very interesting story, I enjoyed it very much. To stop and hear about the hardships that these folks went through kinda humbles me and makes me want to count my blessings.. we complain when the air conditioning goes out or our tire goes flat…

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 5, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your family with us. What wonderful memories you have.

  • Reply
    Bradley
    October 5, 2013 at 5:32 am

    Mr. Fletcher I have been drawn to your writing from the first time I read anything I saw in Tipper’s blog. It is quite evident how you loved your grandpa Pressley. I enjoyed reading this so very much this morning. I know I would have liked your grandpa because of one of the words you used to describe him – humble. That is a very desirable trait for people to have in my opinion. Thank you and Tipper for this today.

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