Since Mother’s Day is fast approaching, I thought I’d share some stories about the strong women in my family. Everybody’s got a Mama or Grandmama story. And I’m no exception.
A few years back I was deep in the throes of a genealogy addiction. I’m happy to report that I’m in recovery now 🙂 . But at the time I made a pest of myself asking questions, sorting through old photos, and staying up way to late to troll through ancestry.com.
It was a fun pastime and it was also a great way to research for future historical novels. The thing I found most amazing was how true a lot of my family lore proved to be. A lot of that lore revolved around a rather shadowy woman born in the late 1700’s. Her name was Temperance Wingate.
Temperance was born a Hudson [ think the famous Henry Hudson]. Which should have meant a life of ease. But unfortunately, for her, her dad was the younger son in a looooong line of younger sons. By the time Temperance was born, they lived in genteel poverty in the mountains of North Carolina. Cue the Deliverance banjos.
And it didn’t help that Temperance was both strong-willed and very beautiful. By the time she was in her twenties, she had three boys and a missing Wingate husband. Nobody really knows if he was a ruse to make her seem respectable or if he just up and left, or if he died. There’s no record of him.
At the same time, Temperance and a Mr. Shirley were both read out of the local church for ‘conduct unbecoming’. His wife had left him and Temperance was his housekeeper. Apparently everybody in those misty mountains knew there was more going on than cooking and cleaning.
Another son for Temperance was the result. Mr. Shirley’s wife got wind of his shenanigans and hot-footed it back to North Carolina. Mrs. S agreed to raise the boy as her own. Mr. S decided to pull up stakes and get some of that lovely free land so recently seized from the Creek Indians in Alabama. Temperance was included in this relocation, now being a shirt-tail sort of relative. These kinds of kinship bands are very convoluted in the Deep South.
In any event, there was some type of falling out that occurred in Southwest Ga. Temperance and her other sons [the Shirley son went on to Ala. with his dad and step-mother] remained in Ga. They became pillars of a new community, though Temperance was never truly accepted because of her scandalous past. Then came the miracle….
At a very advanced age, a newspaper article put Temperance at over 90, the old lady decided she wanted to learn to read. And she wanted the Bible to be her primer. She was saved in the process. Upon the confession of her old misdeeds, she was accepted by the local church as a member in good standing.
In those days church discipline was a big thing. I’ve read the account of the sending of her confession to her former church. And then of her being added to the rolls of her new church as an old lady. Over a hundred years later my grand-dad was made a deacon in this very same church!
Her lost Shirley son returned to her. He and his family took her surname- Wingate. How’s that for a great HEA? It all sounds like an Inspy Romance, doesn’t it? I’ve thought about writing a fictionalized account of her life over the years, and I may write it yet.
So that’s my 1st Mama-Thon story. I’d love to hear yours. LNF, Grace