…and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive.–Thomas C. Haliburton

Stone Mountain Missionary Baptist Church - picture from Find A Grave by Carroll

Stone Mountain Missionary Baptist Church – picture from Find A Grave by Carroll

I’ve spent the last week immersed in genealogy sites while becoming more familiar with my ancestors–both those I actually knew and those I didn’t. And after spending hours on the Find a Grave site, looking at the many “Elliott” tombstones at the Stone Mountain Baptist Church Cemetery, all I can say is Stone Mountain must have, at one time, been crawling with our relatives.One of the things I’ve enjoyed most while doing this research is the names. Names have always been a problem for me when I’m writing, especially for secondary characters. I’ve been known to agonize for hours over a name for one character.

With Whistling Woman, we were lucky enough to have the book The Season of Dorland Bell, written by our cousin, Jackie Burgin Painter who grew up in Hot Springs. Jackie, thankfully for us, did a tremendous amount of research on Dorland Bell, including a list of students’ names from the first years of the school. With that at our hands, all we had to do was look at the list and choose a name–we usually did this by picking a first name at random and then choosing another surname to go with it, instead of using the actual names of people that once attended the school.

With Moonfixer, I don’t think names are going to be a problem either–all we have to do is look at the tombstones of the Elliotts in Stone Mountain Church Cemetery (a huge thanks to the person who downloaded all the pictures to the Find a Grave site!) and that’ll be it. There are so many to choose from;  Doctor (no, that wasn’t his profession, it was his actual name), Daisy, Easter, Taft Commodore, Gemma Alephair, Mintie Jane, Dollie, Lura, and yes, even an Ellie Mae.

In addition to all those wonderful real names, we also have our Uncle Ken (Daddy’s half brother) who read and loved Whistling Woman and now is sending us stories he remembers Aunt Bessie, Uncle Fletcher or other relatives telling him while he lived on Stone Mountain with his mother (Francis Ann–Jack–from Whistling Woman) and her third husband, Boyd Elliott (a cousin of Fletcher’s).

And those stories are chock-full of nicknames (Daddy and Uncle Ken tell us the mountain folks were partial to giving nicknames to people for a particular trait or characteristic): “Stumblin’ Gilliam, “Buttermilk” Stroud, “Bad-eye” Bruce, “Cotton” Davis and his brother “Goober,” and, of course, Moonfixer, the name they gave Aunt Bessie because she was tall for a woman.

Given that, we’ve decided to use some of those unusual nicknames as the chapter headings, like we used southern sayings for the chapter headings in Whistling Woman. So, we have the chapter titles, a good resource for the secondary character names, scads of books and websites dealing with NC history, and most important, lots of family stories. Next up, finish writing the book!

(One interesting note about Aunt Bessie and Uncle Ken; when he was a child she predicted he’d grow up to be a scientist and live far away from North Carolina. He grew up to be a nuclear scientist and lives in New Mexico! You can bet Aunt Bessie’s “gift” will play a huge part in Moonfixer!)

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