Death comes for all of us, but I really thought Caroline Susan “Carrie Sue” Bondurant Culler might live forever. She passed away this week at the age of 107 years. Born on February 7, 1909. She was born seventy-six years and one day after James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart and it was General Stuart that led me to her. My “second father” Theodore Guynn was my source for Ararat history and if he did not know the answer, he answered my question with “Go ask Carrie Sue,” so I did.
A visit to Carrie Sue along the Rabbit Ridge was an experience. I started going in my 20s when I got the idea to save J. E. B. Stuart’s birthplace because Carrie Sue had inside information. Her grandmother or great-grandmother, I cannot remember which, knew J. E. B. Stuart, and she knew her grandmother. The Pedigos and Stuarts were next door neighbors. The Pedigo and Stuart children went to school together taught by a man named Monday in one of her stories.
She loved her Pepsi and Reese Cups. She could play a banjo and she loved to talk about local history. She especially loved to talk about true crime. Murder sells and Carrie Sue loved to talk about it. One of her favorites was the Lynch Hollow story about a man named Henry Walls, who killed a local girl named Sadie. A vigilante mob came to the home of Bob Childress’s brother, who was the constable, and relieved him of the custody of Henry Walls and put a rope around his neck and hung him on a tree in Lynch Hollow. Henry and Sadie are both buried in unmarked graves, I believe, at Hunter’s Chapel Church, where Carrie Sue’s funeral will be today, coming full circle appropriately I think.
One story about the man named Taylor who actually put the rope around Walls neck says per Carrie Sue that he executioner had trouble with his throat in some sort of psychosomatic reaction to hanging the man. Taylor, I think, was a relative of Sarah Taylor, the grandmother of Andy Griffith. Yes, Andy Griffith, who played Andy Taylor, who had an operator named Sarah had a relative named Sarah Taylor. I learned this from Carrie Sue.
In today’s world where everyone is offended by everything, Carrie Sue was not “politically correct.” She had an opinion and she was not afraid to express it and if you didn’t agree with her, don’t tell her. She was refreshing in a world where everyone is some sort of homogenous non-offensive world. She was a colorful character and that is one of the things about her I enjoyed. I didn’t agree with everything she said, but I enjoyed listening to her. She was from another time period and placing today’s world view on her was not fair to her and would make the world a lot more boring.
When she was born on February 7, 1909, Theodore Roosevelt was in his last month as President of the United States, not Franklin D. Roosevelt, but Theodore. Back then, we inaugurated Presidents in March and not January 20 as we do now. The next month, William Howard Taft became TR’s successor. Roosevelt could have run for his second term and the third he could have served since becoming President after the assassination of William McKinley.
She did not just talk about history, she wrote history. She kept a journal and I always imagine what she wrote about me when I made these visits. “That Perry boy came to see me. I wonder if anything he writes is true?” Imagine if you will, she was ten when World War One ended. She was a mother and probably grandmother when World War Two ended. When I was born, she was almost as old as I am today. By the time, I went to visit her, she was in her seventies. She was one of the people I wish I could have written about, but she would rather talk about others and not herself. I always tell people that if they want to know history, go talk to an older person. I am glad I did because I learned so much from Caroline Susan Bondurant Culler.